So Glad That’s Over!

My final communication with my website builders:

Dear XXXXXXX,

I am immensely relieved that the creation of my website is finally over – or nearly over as you will see from the accompanying email. As usual, there is a foolish fault that shows once more that no-one is checking their own work, nor is there any form of quality control in place.

A very simple website that should have taken less than a fortnight to create has taken three months. That was three months of miserable frustration for me, as I spent hour after hour listing the careless mistakes that first the execrable Jugoslav and later Marija constantly made and equally constantly maintained had been put right when they evidently had not. Very little was corrected the first time I pointed out errors, and most things took up to five times before they were truly put right. In what world is that good business practice? It was also three months of lost sales for me, a small fortune that has been sacrificed to the incompetence, carelessness and total indifference to the interests of the customer that is your company’s hallmark, as further evidenced by the negative and condemnatory comments that are all over the Internet.

I understand that you use foreign workers because they are cheap. In the cases of the two who worked on my site, I hope they’re very cheap indeed. They would need to be if you’re going to get value for money. Frankly, I don’t care who does the coding, but you might have provided English-speaking oversight to avoid some of the worst time-wasting linguistic errors. Zoe, apparently, was supposed to supply some form of oversight but never did. You might consider whether her salary is well spent.

I note that you have added your company’s name to my website. That’s up to you. All my customers are well aware of what has been going on, and the almost farcical level of incompetence I’ve had to deal with. I didn’t name you, but if you want to out yourselves, that’s up to you. I would suggest that you don’t use my site in your gallery of sites you have made, listed on your website. If anyone contacts me I will be scrupulously honest and comprehensive in my opinion of your work.

In the survey I had to fill in before the site would go live, I was asked for comments. These are those comments but in case you missed it over there on the survey, I will repeat that this has been the worst experience of my business life. I still cannot believe how awful your company is, and how often a supposedly finished site was presented to me, only for me to find it was laughable in its dereliction, except for that fact that there was nothing funny about it. You managed to make me hate my own website. Bravo.

It would certainly be kinder to those hoping to put their business online if you were to find other work. There are many openings commensurate with your skills; there are ditches to be dug, garbage to be collected and burgers to be flipped. Go on, pack it in and get a job you can do!

Regards,
Deborah Gibson

It Lives! It Lives!

My website is finally online, but I’m not publishing the URL just yet, as I’m still in the process of populating it with pens. Swans, Blackbirds, Conway Stewarts, Stephens, Summits and many, many more! Bargain Corner! Uncommon and unusual pens! Low, low introductory prices! Flexible nibs!

Watch this space!

A Feast Of Kingswoods

Some time ago Simon (Waudok) and I had a discussion about Kingswoods and I asked to see some of the examples he has collected. Good as his word, he sent me these pictures the other day and has kindly allowed me to reproduce them here.

These button-fillers are, I think, quite uncommon. Looking at the patterns of celluloid used, I would have little difficulty in believing that these were made by Valentine, sharing the same material they used for their own pens. I think there can be little doubt that Valentine is the source of most, if not all of these pens. That said, there are Kingswoods that are very Summit-like and share that company’s materials too. I have no doubt that the sleuthing of our dedicated researchers will, one day soon, solve the puzzle of the origins of the various Kingswoods.

These zig-zag patterned pens are outstandingly beautiful. They’re very reminiscent of Conway Stewart’s herring-bone patterns, though they employ a different celluloid.

Among the lever-fillers there are some that I haven’t seen before, notably the burgundy marble with no cap ring and the black three-ring example. It would be useful to establish a time-line for all of these pens but it’s a bit beyond me. I’d hazard a guess that the pen on the extreme right, missing its clip and with a pierced cap band, is later than the rest. It’s quite a common pen and I’ve had a few examples in different colours. Simon believes this pen was made by Unique.

There was a time, not so long ago either, it seems to me, when you could pick up Kingswoods for very little. Though they’re still by no means expensive, they have a stronger market now. Appreciation of the excellent Eversharp nib contributes to that, I have no doubt, together with the realisation that these are sound pens with a fascinating history.

My thanks to Simon for his generosity in allowing me to share these beautiful pens with you.

Applying The Clue-Bat.

I’m easily amused. For instance, it’s a great source of chuckles for me to note the differing methods of applying discipline in Fountain Pen Network and The Fountain Pen Board. If you make a nuisance of yourself in FPN, an admin will have a severe word in your shell-like ear. If you persist in your peskiness your offending posts may be disappeared and you’ll be booted out without further ado. Seems fair to me.

The Fountain Pen Board was set up, in part at least, in protest against the perceived heavy-handedness of the moderation in FPN. Much is made by the board’s owner and moderator of the absence of interference in the dialogue. That’s a very good thing, and the discussion in FPB is of a high quality, due, to some extent, to that very freedom to say whatever you want to say without fear of censure. But what do you do about the out-and-out pest who ruins everyone else’s fun with their hidden agenda, their inanity or their general peskiness?

Brutality seems to be the answer, carefully crafted verbal brutality of a high quality. So far, I would have to say, it hasn’t been especially effective in driving away the pestilential or making them mend their ways, but it’s in there with a chance and it’s hugely entertaining. Of course, it’s only likely to work well if the pesky don’t have the wherewithal to fight back effectively. The mod, to be fair, has a good left jab of sarcasm and a mighty roundhouse right of invective, but it doesn’t matter how good a fighter you are, someone bigger and better is just around the corner. If someone like that turns up, I suspect the group will become a blood-soaked battlefield with little room or time for pen discussion, but until that time draw up a chair and pass the popcorn.

A Late Ormiston & Glass Camel

Among the pioneers of fountain pen making in Britain is the firm of Ormiston & Glass. The company was established in 1868, probably as a manufacturer of steel nibs, among other stationery products. In 1902 the company was incorporated as a limited company and began the production of fountain and stylographic pens in that period. They were an innovative company and provided a wide range of fountain pens and stylos. In later years, probably after 1915, the company stopped making fountain pens and continued with a varied range of other products.

One of their most famous pens was the Camel, and I’ve tried to get my hands on one of these pens for several years without success until now. This is a late version – possibly a No 7, though it’s hard to tell as the barrel stamp is indistinct.

As a lever-filler it cannot, I would think, be earlier than 1912 when Sheaffer brought out the first of this type of filling system, and indeed even 1915 would show the company as being quick off the mark, though it is possible. Waterman brought out their box lever in that year and this pen copies it very closely.

In style – straight-sided with a very slight taper at the end of the barrel, chased black hard rubber, flat-topped with a gently concave section – it would not be out of place in 1915, but I think we might consider a slightly later date as at least a possibility. The riveted clip might be original or an after-market addition as it bears no imprint.

The name “Camel”, one would imagine, implies a pen that contained an exceptional amount of ink but this one doesn’t. Indeed, it’s a quite ordinary pen, though well-executed. I’ve seen a hint somewhere that the Camel range of pens had something special about the feed but I’m denied the opportunity to see that here as someone has been at the repairing before me, and employed a wholly inappropriate Swan feed and an even more inappropriate (if that were possible) Waterman Skywriter nib! I have no idea what a Camel feed looked like or whether Ormiston & Glass produced their own branded nibs or used warranted ones. Perhaps someone can tell me.

The black of this pen is unfaded and the chasing and imprint remain razor-sharp. Though not in any way outstanding, this is a high-quality pen and one that was well worth the wait.

A Mottled Hard Rubber Fleet Pen

I wrote about the Fleet pen back here http://wp.me/p17T6K-iC. Much of the interest in this pen comes from its cultural context, but not all, as I discovered recently. I had thought that the two models I have often seen – a BCHR eyedropper and a BHR lever filler – were all there was in the way of Fleet pens.

Then this example appeared in eBay a few weeks ago. Sadly, it’s missing its original clip, which would have been interesting to see, but the medium cap band and lever show very little wear. The construction is still essentially two straight-sided tubes, with the same concave section as the BHR model, but the colourful Mottled Hard Rubber improves the pen’s appearance no end. What a difference a change of material can make! The nib, as before, is a medium-sized warranted one, roughly equivalent in size to a Swan No 2. It has a useful degree of flexibility.

Though doubtless still aimed at the school pupil market, this is a better pen with its gold trim and medium cap band, and it must have cost a bit more. The adverts I have seen make no mention of gold trim or a cap band. Perhaps this one is a little later and I may come upon advertising for it yet, or maybe this slightly more prestigious pen was sold in a more conventional way, though I’ve seen no trade press adverts yet either.

Scarcity, Demand And The Conway Stewart International 350

I made a remark in FPN this week about the difference between rarity and desirability. It sank without trace. I suspect that it may not have been what the original poster wanted to hear, but it’s a valid point all the same. Scarcity of a particular model doesn’t always influence value. In fact, the rarity of some models or makes of pen acts in the other way; they’re so uncommon that hardly anyone knows they exist, so no-one’s looking for them and they will barely sell.

There are, of course, serious collectors who will pay whatever they need to pay to acquire a scarce pen to complete a series. However, as the average buyer knows little and cares less about many of these uncommon pens, there’s little competition for the privilege of acquiring them and the price remains low.

Take, for example, the distinctly uncommon Conway Stewart International 350. It’s close to the range of numbers occupied by the common black hard rubber Scribes, the 330 and 333, which it closely resembles in size and appearance. Indeed, some 350s even have the threaded barrel end in common with the Scribes. The main difference between them is that the 350 had a short production run and is seldom seen now, whereas the Scribes are very common, having been the basic clerk’s pen of industry. At times you’ll hardly sell a Scribe 330 or 333 (the colourful 336s are in a different league) but surely the International 350 must be more valuable by virtue of it rarity? Nope. Not in my experience.

It is worth noting, though, should an International 350 ever come your way that it may well be a better pen than the Scribe. Though there are exceptions, most Scribes seem to be nails. The few 350s I’ve owned have all had some degree of flexibility.

This whole area of scarcity and demand illustrates a difference between the British and American markets of yesteryear and collection practices today. It wouldn’t be too hard to name a dozen rare and very expensive Watermans, Parkers and the like, pens that are hotly pursued by many collectors and change hands, when they appear, for more than the price of a nearly-new Honda VFR1200F. I just can’t make a similar list for British pens. Yes, there are some moderately highly-priced Swans and Onotos around, but there are very few – if any – British pens that will have collectors re-mortgaging their houses. It’s not rarity that sells pens here. It’s utility, I believe, and colour. Stick with the Tiger’s Eyes, the Cracked Ices, and the Floral No 22s and leave those grungy old rare pens to me.