The Blackening Rant

We’ve discussed the ethics of pen re-blackening on a previous occasion. Let’s now look at the practicalities. Unless there is a system so secret that we don’t know of its existence, re-blackening doesn’t work. Anyone who believes that a pen painted with Syd Saperstein’s noxious potion looks like black hard rubber did when it was new is suffering from a specially virulent strain of terminal self-delusion. The only difference that I can see between a pen re-blackened with that stuff and with boot polish is that the boot polish looks better. It does tend to smell of boot polish and come off on your fingers, but it looks better.

I would like to say in the liberal airy-fairy vacant-headed way that so many do that your pen is your own and you can do with it as you wish. You’ve got a fine old Waterman 52 that’s a tad brown. If you decide to re-blacken it, it’s nobody’s business but your own, n’est-ce-pas? Well, no. It may come as a shock to you but you’re going to die one day, and that Waterman 52 will go back into the Great Pen Pool and come back around to be a nuisance to someone like me. So I’m not going to be that wishy-washy liberal oh-so-fair-minded person. Indeed, what I would rather say to you is that if you have the least notion of re-blackening a pen, go out your front door, turn sharp right, turn sharp right again and beat your head on the wall until the idea goes away, or the proposition becomes impractical due to your vision being affected by the blood in your eyes and the onset of concussion.

Of course, most pens that are re-blackened aren’t re-blackened by innocents for their own pleasure. They are re-blackened by grasping, avaricious crooks, devoid of morality or ethics, just to make a few bucks more regardless of the damage that is done. I spent an hour tonight removing, as best I could, a heavy application of Syd Saperstein’s gunk from an otherwise excellent Swan Safety Screw Cap No2. It looked unbelievably dreadful, as re-blacked pens always do. It looks a lot better now, but nowhere near as good as it did before the paint-happy cretin went to work on it. The notion that you can completely remove re-blackening is a fallacy. Pens with chasing and with the scratches of a century of use will retain blackening, do what you will, to their detriment. Re-blackening a century-old pen of such a high quality as this is simply vandalism. It’s utterly inexcusable and anyone who would do such a thing is no pen lover.

In conclusion, in case you missed it, don’t re-blacken your pens. You are only their temporary custodian. Most of the pens I’m talking about are already older than you and they will outlive you. Treat them with respect. Polish them carefully, with good, appropriate polish. That will make even the most faded pen look more attractive. Use them. The more they are handled, the more they will darken, and the better they will look.

Old things are meant to look old. It’s one of the places where their charm resides. If you want a new pen, buy one and leave the old ones to those of us who appreciate them.


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