Crack!

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Beautiful pen, isn’t it?  Green lizard – or is it snake?  I’m never sure unless it’s numbered and this one isn’t.  It’s unrestored.  I can brighten up the metalwork.  But wait…  What’s that?
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Could it be a crack?
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Yep!  It’s a crack.  About the size of the Grand Canyon.  I can’t believe the seller didn’t see that, and yet he was happy to take my £48.90 and £2.60 postage!  I’ve contacted him and he’s going to refund me in full including return postage, so that’s not so bad.  Some sellers blow up the minute you mention that there’s a fault, and the claim becomes very confrontational.  I’ve never had an occasion where I didn’t get my money back for a damaged pen but I’ve had a few threats.  I take those with a pinch of salt and  the husband growls, “Bring it on!” from his armchair where he sits sharpening his machete and flipping through Classic Arms & Militaria magazine.

I’m negotiating a major upgrade of the sales site and a move to a better web host.  If I get my way, there won’t be any change to the site, either in appearance or function.  The one or two things that don’t work now – like the routine for forgotten passwords – will finally be fixed but otherwise I’m not looking for change.  I hope to keep downtime to an absolute minimum.  Anyway, it’s early days and the changes probably won’t happen for a few months.

It will be nice to get away from the miserable bunch of crooks I’ve been stuck with for so long.  I won’t name them here but you will see their name on the sales website.  Avoid at all costs if you value your sanity.

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Omas Limited Edition Phoenix Plated Fountain Pen With Diamonds

Have you seen this $48,000 Omas pen?  It’s reduced from $60,000 so I suppose that makes it a bargain.
$48,000!  Google tells me that’s £28,742.50.  That’s a lot of money when you can buy a perfectly good  Pilot V-Pen for £7.76.  I could buy a really snazzy car for that or, more to the point, a whole stable of hot motorbikes.  Or even enough used pens to fill my workshop to the roof.  I’d have them but I couldn’t work on them because I couldn’t get in.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, they say, but for me that’s one very ugly pen.  It’s bulbous, the colours are garish and the clip looks like the handle of a teapot.  In the sales-speak blurb they say “The highly original clip is inspired by movement and harmony.”  Yeah?  Well so’s my dog’s hind leg, the one he lifts at every lamp-post.

There are some comments on the page that are highly amusing.

Is this kind of thing good for our hobby or does it expose it to ridicule?  What do you think?

The British Parker Duofold Aerometric

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Throughout the fifties, there can be little doubt that the Duofold Aerometric was the most popular pen in Britain.  Hardly surprising, given its high quality.  The aerometric system made for easy, clean filling and the streamlined shape was not only satisfying in itself; it was influential right up to the present day.

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The beautifully cast arrow clip with its cowling and “jewel” sets off the cap perfectly.

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The chevrons make the cap ring instantly recognisable.

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Duofold nibs are usually inflexible – the time of the flexible nib had finally passed by, even in Britain – but they are reliable and the pen writes every time.  If British Duofolds have a fault, it is that the material they are made from is a little soft and the barrel imprint is often faint or missing.  A perceived fault these days is that they are bland.  Perhaps, and perhaps what is seen by some as blandness is just classic perfection.  Pared down to the essentials, with the only decoration being in the gold-filled trim, the modern eye isn’t always suited to such understatement.

These are great pens.  Everyone should have one.  The Fifties Duofold is the baseline against which you judge everything else.
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This one (in case you hadn’t noticed) is red – the deep red of fresh blood.  For me, this is the best Duofold.

The rest of today, for me, will be pen restoration.  My assistant says she will lend a paw.  Or two.

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Philip Hensher: The Missing Ink, How Handwriting Made Us Who We Are

This is a book about writing rather than pens though there is some stuff about fountain pens toward the end.  It’s a persuasive argument for the preservation of handwriting but it doesn’t go so far as to say it will survive.

Hensher takes us through the history of writing in his own inimitable way.  He’s quite emphatic in his beliefs about the subject and he doesn’t spare those that he regards as foolish.  The book really isn’t for the faint hearted.  He can be pretty explicit at times.

His central concern is that handwriting is generally not taught in either Britain or the USA with the result that kids grow up without the ability to write legibly.  Keyboard skills are all very well but they don’t help you when you are faced with a many-page form as happens in all sorts of circumstances.  Of equal concern is that kids can no longer read their elders’ cursive writing.  It’s a bit of a bind when Mama leaves a note on the fridge and it makes as much sense as Arabic to the kids!

The book is scholarly, funny and quite convincing in its central argument.  It’s also a very good read and I recommend it to everyone.

Something You Don’t See Every Day…

Last week I bought a small job lot for the sake of a couple of Parkers and a Croxley but there was a pink marbled New Bond Easiflow there as well.  When I unwrapped the pens it was apparent that the cap of the Easiflow didn’t fit too well.  When I removed it I saw why.  Someone had forced a much too large Scroll nib into the section.
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I put it aside to be dealt with later, and when later came along I had another look at the nib at realised that there was more to this than had at first met the eye.
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Someone had cut two curving slits in the nib, probably with a hobby saw.  Whatever other effect this might have had, it most obviously made it a nib that would flex.
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Before you start ripping into your Montblancs with hacksaws, be aware that this only half works.  The tines part like a good flex nib but they don’t snap back together when you release the pressure.  In fact you have to turn the nib over and press down to return them to their original position.  I think I have a warranted nib of the right size for the rather pretty Easiflow and the Scroll nib can go in the bucket.

The FPR Triveni Acrylic

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The only Indian pens I’ve had have been two Walitys, a medium-sized piston-filler (good) and a large eyedropper filler (dreadful), so I thought I might try something else from there as the pens are so inexpensive.  After looking through the plethora of pens available I settled on Fountain Pen Revolution and and chose their Triveni Acrylic.  According to the blurb: “The Triveni Sangam is a confluence of 3 rivers in India.  The handmade Triveni accepts 3 fill methods (converter, eyedropper, cartridge).”   That makes sense.  The pen cost me the princely sum of $45 (around £28 – £29).  It arrived this morning.  First impressions: it’s very long at 14.7cm.  The red and black acrylic is translucent and very beautiful.  The black tassie and blind cap set it off very well.  (These serve no purpose other than the aesthetic)  The fine nib is a nail.  The pen takes two and a half turns to close, which feels like a lot.  The chrome-plated metalwork is good.
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The syringe-type converter takes up a mere two-thirds of the barrel length, so the excessive length seems to be catering to modern tastes rather than serving a practical purpose.  The pen would be much better if it was 2cm shorter.  Thankfully Indian manufacturers seem to work honestly with their materials, unlike the Chinese who often bury lumps of brass pipe in their pens.  This pen, then, is the combination of the acrylic and a little thin metal, so it’s very light indeed, perhaps even at the lower end of acceptably light even for me, and that’s saying something.  The section is black plastic at the top.  That’s where I’d grip it and it feels comfortable.  Further down it’s metal.  Aesthetically, that seems like a mistake and I’ve known metal sections to corrode severely when in contact with ink.  The nib seems well enough made but it is noticeably scratchy.  I think that’s a function of the shape of the tip which is quite angular.  A spell on the micro-mesh may well cure that.  However, as I said above, the nib is an absolute nail.  I’m inclined to feel that with a nib like that, this is the pen for the person who wants no more from a fountain pen than he gets from a ballpoint.
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Another thing about this part of the pen: though this is a normal-sized nib, similar to a Swan No 2 in size, the excessive length of the barrel makes it appear very small and out of proportion with the rest of the pen.  If the pen is to be so very large, a bigger nib would look better.  The feed appears to work well but I haven’t used the pen enough to be sure.

I’ve been critical of those things about the pen that I don’t like, but overall this is a well-made pen.  All the parts fit together perfectly with a much finer tolerance than I’ve seen on much more expensive pens.  For instance, if the Sheaffer Intrigue of less than fond memory had fitted together as well as this pen, it wouldn’t have turned out nearly the bow-wow that it, sadly, is.  With some nib work it will probably be more pleasant to write with and I believe that FPR supply a flexible nib, which might be the way to go.  I can’t see this pen becoming one of my users, but I bet there are plenty of modern pen buyers out there who would find it impressive for the small amount of money it costs.  Finally, almost anything could be forgiven because of that delightful acrylic.  It looks good in blue or orange as well.

Handwriting

Since my far-off college days I’ve been a keyboard kid, both for work and for leisure, though when I write I do it with a fountain pen.  Given that most things I write go into a word processor or a spreadsheet, is handwriting still necessary for me?  The answer is emphatically “yes”.  I’ve never been able to make use of those computer note-taking programs or screen sticky-notes.  They just seem like a lot of work for something I can do in a more straightforward way – pick up a pen and take a note!  There’s always an A4 tablet – ruled or plain, whatever’s cheapest – by my keyboard, and a page may last a day.  I can’t work, indeed I can’t think without taking notes.

Then there’s lists – “to do” lists, lists of pens to be uploaded, lists of pens I’m watching in eBay today; they’re all done with pen on paper.  I know that clever people have created software programs to handle your “to do” lists but they’re wasted on me.  Then there’s correspondence: all correspondence with pen people is done with a fountain pen.  It would be a bit weird not to.  One thing I seem to have less call for these days is invitations and place settings, which gave me a chance to play with my flexy pens.  It’s about time someone was getting married!

A few years ago I spent some time educating a teenager in the use of his computer.  He was a very smart kid and didn’t require all that much of my time, but one thing I noticed: he had a pad at the side of his keyboard and took notes as he went along.  Admittedly, he was using a ballpoint and his writing was like a drunken hen staggering in the snow, but he was handwriting.  Perhaps all these scare stories we hear about school children being unable to write are not entirely true, or not true everywhere.  I suspect that handwriting will survive.