Materials, Colours And Patterns

I’m sorry that I’ve been writing so little here recently. Life continues to be hectic and distracting and, to be frank, I struggle to find subjects for discussion when I have no pens passing over the repair bench. Any suggestions will be welcome!

Long ago – in the 80s – remember them? – I was a collector. It was mostly Conway Stewart, Swan and De La Rue. There was a strange notion back then that the best example of each model was a plain, black pen. They tended to be cheaper than the more colourful examples so I had drawers of shiny black pens.

It took quite a while, but it eventually came to me that colours and patterns had greater appeal. Gradually and expensively I began to replace my black pens with patterns, especially among the glorious Conway Stewarts.

I do enjoy the colours and patterns, and so, clearly, do most other users of fountain pens. In the early days it was plain black hard rubber, a machined finish or gold or silver overlay in wonderful finishes that have never been surpassed. Colour came with red or mottled hard rubber and Waterman brought in other colours in their admirable ripple finishes. The rosewood hard rubber that Wahl Eversharp produced was another beautiful pattern.

Celluloid transformed the market, both in the USA and Britain. Throughout the thirties, especially, colours and patterns were produced by particularly Waterman and Conway Stewart that were works of art. Parker’s thrift pens, too, were made in inventive and outstanding patterns. Waterman’s geological celluloids and Conway Stewarts wonderfully inventive patterns like Tiger’s Eye, Cracked Ice and Herringbone were, to my mind, the apex.

Which modern pens are most colourful and inventive? I’m asking because I don’t really know. There are some bright and beautiful acrylics around but I think that material lacks the subtlety and depth of celluloid and casein. I have no doubt that in time modern technology will come up with materials, colours and patterns as good as, or better than, our wonderful historical examples.

A variety of patterns gives the collector something to aim for and it gives the writer an opportunity to find an example that suits his/her taste and personality. There is more to the fountain pen than the practicality of good writing. A pleasing colour pattern warms the heart!

One thought on “Materials, Colours And Patterns

  1. hello Deb – please, there’s no need to apologize -we more than understand your difficult circumstances……….. but like most of us penophiles it’s the wanting to chat about our favourite subject that brings us back time and again.
    Perhaps because I’m a little older than some, I’m still quite a fan of black pens…….. a really well polished, smooth example with gold plated wide bands can be a very attractive – but then I also have many very colourful examples, including some with lizard skin and herringbone patterns – they are also very highly prized.
    Don’t think I would want to restrict myself to one or the other – I’m a collector and tend to acquire just about all sorts, but everyone to the own. For me, I love old things and as a good collector get a buzz finding something of value for peanuts, although it doesn’t happen often enough.

    Some colours, Osmiroids for example can be off-putting to say nothing of their shrinkage problems, and although I have a few pricey examples in red ripple and red wood grain effect, can never quite make up my mind if I really like them. Quite like the ‘cracked ice’ decoration on some of the 1930s examples – makes me think of art deco – something else I’m keen on.
    Not really a fan of Parker’s plain early ‘big reds’ or for that matter their much later plain coloured Duofolds – although they are very well made and practical pens. Not too sure either about some of the rather strident CS colours – many are good lookers, but some can seem a tad too lurid perhaps.
    Mentmore did some attractive colours and I’m a big fan. Regret to say I know less than nothing about modern pens, so can’t comment on their colours or abilities, although just possible that some are going back to overlay and filigree styles, rather than plain colours….. there seems to be much more metalwork on show on many of them.

    Maybe the whole thing is a fashion issue combined with personal taste – let’s not be too introspective – just enjoy them.

    Sorry you don’t have any tales of repairs to treat us to – am sure things will change before too long.

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