Until recently if you had asked me if I was allergic to anything I would have said, ‘bullets, sharp knives and roving gangs of disaffected youth’, but now I have another thing to add, unfortunately: latex gloves. After many years of using latex gloves in pen repair (the cool, black-coloured tattooists’ gloves), my skin said “that’s enough!” and revolted. So now if you were trying to identify me in a crowd, I’d be the one scratching my wrists.
Thankfully there are alternatives, and nitrile-skin is the one I have settled on. Nothing is as good as latex, it has to be said, but nitrile-skin comes second. Not a close second, but an adequate one.
This isn’t just a girly concern about keeping the nasty ink off the well-manicured fingers, it’s much more than that, and in fact I would say that rubber gloves are the most important tool in the toolbox. More important than the knock-out block, the inner-cap puller or the section pliers, gloves enable you to apply all the force that your fingers are capable of, and believe it or not, that’s just about all the force you’ll need to repair pens. With an appropriate application of dry heat, patience and determination you have no need to apply such things as section pliers. Gloved fingers will do the job.
Not all the time, of course. There are instances where pens are so deliberately and perversely awkward that you have to have a little leverage. But for the most part, the extra grip that gloves give you is enough to do the job while protecting the fragile pen.
The final consideration with gloves, and it’s a small one for me but it may be greater for others, is that we deal with a lot of strange and mostly-unknown chemicals in the various cleaning and polishing agents we apply. Skin tends to be something of a two-way street and stuff goes in that’s probably better kept out. Frankly, I must admit that health and safety is an unintended bonus so far as I’m concerned. For many years before I took to rubber gloves, I suppose I must have absorbed all sorts of noxious substances through my pinkies. Which may go some way to explaining the additional head that is beginning to grow out of my shoulder.