A Glance Down Memory Lane

Occasionally a thing will happen that highlights the revolution we have lived through. This morning among the packages of pens the post-lady delivered was a letter (remember them?) handwritten by a retired gentleman who, I think, wishes to revisit his youth in the form of a Swan pen. He was given my address by a customer of mine and enquires if I have a leaflet or brochure of the pens I am offering for sale. No computer, you see, and no ability to peruse the website.

Considering the retro technology that we favour here, the old gentleman shouldn’t be deprived of the ability to pick and choose among my pens just because he doesn’t have one of those pesky new-fangled computers. It’s a challenge, however. He does have a telephone, though, and I believe I’ll give him a call and try to get an idea what age and type of Swan pen he’d like.

Once I have a general idea, I can knock up a brochure of a dozen or so pens quite easily. Only black and white, though. Normally the only printing I do is the record-keeping of the business and I have no call for colour. I got rid of my expensive-to-run scanner/printer/make-the-tea device quite a while ago because I was tired of paying Hewlett-Packard’s annual wage bill in colour cartridges.

It’s all a little reminder of how we did business not all that terribly long ago – writing to the manufacturer or retailer for the latest catalogue or brochure of goods, picking one out to order and awaiting delivery of the item some time later. It’s easier now – or should be – with digital photography and the World Wide Web, but maybe it lacks some of the excitement and anticipation of the distance shopping of long (is it really that long?) ago.

A Wyvern Nib

Just because it’s such a beautiful nib.

This nib belongs to a fairly shabby blue marbled Wyvern 60C. I haven’t tested it yet but it seems to me I detect some flex there, and a flexible Wyvern nib is one of the best you’ll get.

Whether this nib will stay with the shabby blue 60C or be grafted onto a better pen, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Conway Stewart 479 Red Amber

Conway Stewart 479s turn up with some of the best colours of the pre-war pens. This one is in the pattern that Jonathan Donahaye called “red amber marble”. That’s a pretty good description. I’m not sure that these photos quite manage to fully capture the glowing colour, but they give you an impression, at least.

I’m one of those dull people who think pens are things that you write with, and if a pen writes well I do tend not to notice what colour it is, but even I look at that pen and go, “Wow!” It writes more than adequately well, as it happens, with a consistent fine line, but my goodness, isn’t it pretty!

This is one of the few occasions where I would consider buying a pen purely for its looks.

Well, almost.

This And That

It has come to my attention that the “Contact Me” button on my sales website isn’t working.  I’ve notified the developers and I hope to have it put right quickly.  My apologies to anyone who has tried to raise a query that way.

I hear tell of a clip-filler Wyvern.  Interesting.  So far as I know all the clip fillers were American made but I’ll be happy to be proved wrong.  It’s my belief (I read it somewhere and can’t bring to mind where) that the earliest Wyverns, like the first Conway Stewarts, were American-made imports, re-badged.

Info, anyone?

Respect Your Repairer

I don’t repair pens for other people, and what I’m going to write about today is part of the reason for that.

Perhaps the biggest threat to our hobby is that pen repairers are giving it up. Nobody’s getting rich fixing pens. Many repairers do it on a part-time basis, with the day job paying the rent and putting food on the table. It takes years of experience before one can offer the full range of repair and restoration and, frankly, there’s not much in the way of financial return for making the effort. Most repairers do it for love, love of the craft and love of the pens.

Then there’s the problem of the public. Most people who send pens for repair are reasonable in their expectations and delighted with the outcome. I repair the bulk of my own pens but there are many more complicated repairs that I just can’t do. I know my limitations! I am repeatedly astonished by having pens that I thought were beyond repair coming back to me in working order, looking good. Not everyone’s the same, though. There are those who cannot recognise that the pile of junk in their hand is beyond the capability of anyone on earth to repair. There are those who haggle and nickel and dime the repairer over every last penny. There are those who return pens time and again for imaginary failings that they accuse the repairer of not having fixed. The pen world’s a small place. We all know each other. We hear the horror stories.

I can only offer the variety of pens I do because there’s a repairer who can get any filling system, no matter how recondite or abstruse, back in working order, who can repair a delaminating barrel, make a no-longer-available replacement part or any of the other pen-fixing tasks that are beyond me. Without such people I’d be limited to lever and button fillers, aerometrics and bulb fillers, because even if I had the skills (which I don’t) I assuredly don’t have the time, given the other demands of pen selling.

I’m not making a plea for tolerance of bad work or high prices. That’s not it at all. What I’m saying is: respect your repairer. Value your repairer like the last of the Giant Pandas, because they are becoming that rare. Treat them well. Don’t demand that they do the impossible and don’t try to screw their price down to the penury level. The workman is worthy of his hire, and in this case the repairer is already selling his skills and his time pretty cheap.

Make it “Be Nice To Your Pen Repairer Week” every week.

Edited to add:  Lest  be misunderstood, this post is a general point, neither a vilification nor a defence of individuals.  The problem, as many will be aware, is a widespread one.

Newhaven Parker Duofold Demi

There’s something strange about the plastic that Parker used for its green Aerometric pens. Do what I will my camera sees them as blue. I’ve adjusted the colour a bit in these photos but it still isn’t right. Think British Racing Green and you won’t be far off the mark.

In the early fifties Parker Newhaven seemed to have one basic design of pen, but they appeared to want as many versions of it as possible, and in 1953, among the other types of Duofold, the Demi appeared. It’s the same girth as the standard Duofold and the same length as the Slimfold. This makes a pleasantly stocky pen, but it’s hard to see what part of the market Parker was aiming for. It had a five-year production run but I suspect that its sales didn’t live up to expectations because you don’t see all that many of them around nowadays.

This one’s unusual in that it has a semi-flexible stub nib, not a thing you see a lot of in Parkers. When I bought it, I didn’t think much about it – just another ho-hum Aerometric Duofold, but I confess it has grown on me. The nib’s really exceptional, not at all what we’ve come to expect from a Duofold, and the stubby design works well. Also, it has most of its plating in place and is in really good order, apart from the worn barrel imprint which is pretty much expected with the soft plastic that Parker used in these pens. On the good side, being a soft plastic it takes a high gloss shine very readily.

Additions To The Sales Site

I’ll be uploading this lot to the sales site just as soon as I can get the photos and descriptions done. Tomorrow, probably.