Hindoo Red Ink

The stoneware bottle is 185mm tall.

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Ink Woes

I’m not a pen collector but as many of you will know I have a shameful addiction to old ink bottles – all the better if they contain ink. Last week I bought a couple of large bottles: a very old Hides (or Hydes) Hindoo Red in a stoneware bottle and Parker Superquink Blue/Black. They both arrived today. The Superquink was well packed in a large box with plenty of bubblewrap and the bottle was contained in two plastic bags. The ball had a rubber stopper/pourer that didn’t really close the bottle. The seller wrapped the top with parcel tape a couple of times and regarded that as an adequate job.

It wasn’t. As I opened the layers of packing ink began to appear. By time I got down to the final layers it was everywhere. I donned rubber gloves and finished unwrapping the bottle very carefully to contain the ink. It was a waste of perfectly good ink and I had to wash the bottle and dispose of the soaked packaging. Not a dreadful disaster but very annoying.

I contacted the seller to make him aware of the problem. The appropriate response would have been an apology but that’s not what I got. Here’s the conversation that took place:

You made a pretty poor job of sealing the bottle. The packaging was full of ink. I am left with a considerable mess to clean up.

The bottle was sealed in two bags wrapped in packing tape. Then placed in ots original box in another book with a second box placed within that box to secure it?????

That is how you wrapped the bottle, not how you SEALED it. There is no ink left in the bottle – it leaked out into the plastic bags, and onto my hands and my table when I removed the bottle from the bag. The ink obviously came out of the not-well-secured top of the bottle. I have photos if this is unclear to you.

Exactly so how you opened item is your issue should i have left instructions on the box?

You are very rude and defensive. It was your resposibility to ensure that the bottle was sealed properly for mailing. Once the ink was out of the bottle and into the plastic bag, it was a disaster waiting to happen. There was no way that the package could be opened without ink escaping.

If stating the obvious is rude and defensive thats just your observation. I will say again the bottle in its box was wrapped in two plastic bags and sealed with brown packing tape. Then placed in a carboard box and another small box wedge in to stop it moving. How you opened the parcel is not my responsibility. I have carried several of these bottles around to fairs and events ovet last few months with no issues.

You aren’t reasonable. There’s no point in communicating further.

Had the seller been sensible I wouldn’t have pursued the matter. I wasn’t looking for a refund. I just wanted him to be aware that he had caused me a problem. As he was so unreasonable he got a negative, his third in a year, and goodness knows how many before that. He seems to have an inability to communicate without being rude and unpleasant.

By contrast the very much older bottle of Hindoo Red is completely full and arrived in perfect condition. I can’t find any reference to it online. I guess that it’s very old, at least 1930s and may be older. I haven’t opened it to see the condition of the ink yet.

I often scan the old inks on offer in eBay. There are so many varieties. At the end of the Victorian period and into the 20th century almost every town must have had its ink works. Here in the UK Stephens, Diamine and latterly Parker Quink dominated the market and all those smaller manufacturers gradually faded away.

A Mabie Todd Swan 200

I don’t use modern eyedropper fillers. I don’t see the point, really, when there are so many good and adequate filling systems around. I love old eyedroppers, though. I’m particularly fond of the Mabie Todd Swan 200, which I have written about before. Use that search box at the upper right if you want to find it.

This one, though a little worn, is a very fine example of the model. It even has Mabie Todd’s accommodation clip, “The Clipper”. The clip is blackened to blend with the black hard rubber of the pen. The BHR is a tiny bit faded to a pleasing, very dark brown. The engine turning and barrel and cap imprints are clearly visible.

The barrel/section threads are good and it holds ink safely. The over and under feed has survived in this pen. They are often retrofitted with ladder feeds. This pen was made in England but at that time Mabie Todd was still importing gold nibs from the US. As is so often the case with these older Swans we have an extraordinary nib. It’s a stub, medium with an appreciable amount of flexibility – semiflexible, I would say.

Looking back at these old pens now it is a temptation to think that they are not quite comparable with our modern pens. One would not expect an over and under feed to give as good ink control as our later multi-finned feeds. That may even be true at the margins, but judging by the gentle wear of use on the barrel of this pen, it served a more than practical purpose for many years for its first owner.

This pen is a century old. I feel fortunate and privileged to handle and use such a beautiful survivor of a time long gone.

This Passing Year

It has been a mixed year, to say the least. This time last year we were driving 1000 miles a month for dialysis. That didn’t leave a lot of time for pen restoration or writing and the stress of driving on unpredictably icy roads didn’t help. Then we had to leave our beloved Helmsdale and move here to Wick, a mammoth task. When I say we have accumulated a ton of books I’m not exaggerating. The entire pen restoration workshop was another colllection of boxes. It took weeks to get back to where we had been.

I used to have my workshop outdoors in the shed but that’s not convenient here. I have all the tools and supplies used for restoration set out in the den and I bring them through to the kitchen, which becomes a temporary repair workshop for the session. It’s not entirely convenient but I’ve got used to it.

By the middle of the year everything was as back to normal as it was ever going to be. I was able to carve out time for pen repair and writing. I managed to find some good and interesting pens this year. The oldest pens are becoming harder to find but there’s always something new to write about. Prices have risen a lot. I’m buying three pens where before I would have afforded five.

I think that I have written more this year than ever before. As well as this blog which is central to my writing, I undertook, along with several other people, to provide some signal in Fountain Pen Geeks to balance against the noise of all the sales activity. It turns out that some of my opinions are more controversial than I realised and debate has descended into argument in some posts. That’s okay. I’ve never been averse to a little controversy.

Not for the first time, someone has suggested that this blog should be published in book form. While I appreciate the kindness of the suggestion, I don’t think that it’s possible or advisable. Vanity publishing is too expensive and no publisher would invest in a book that would sell very few copies. I also have a concern that book publishing might give my inexpert writings a spurious validity that they do not merit. There are real experts in this field, many of whom I could name. I am not one of them.

Finally my dear assistant had a hard time adjusting to our new residence. Though she insists that she is a person, she is actually a cat and cats are territorial. At 10 years old it was hard for her to carve out a new territory but she did. She fought all the local cats and drove them away. No other cats come near our flat. She leaves by the window every morning, patrols her territory and returns to be fed and pampered. She regrets that this leaves little time for pen restoration.

A Frankenpen Puzzle

Here is a mysterious Frankenpen. I bought it as a Wyvern but, searching through Google images, I could not find another that looked even remotely like it. It was referred to a Wyvern collector. He confirmed that it was not what it appeared to be and suggested that the clip, which bears a Wyvern image, had been filched from some other pen. Taking it from there, I found that the donor for the clip was probably a Wyvern Consul of about 1949. The cap soon revealed itself to be from a Mentmore 46.

The rest of the pen has so far defeated me. I would be grateful for any suggestions. The nib is unhelpful, being a “warranted 14 carat.” I feel sure that I have seen that short, flush section before but I cannot for the life of me place it. Most annoying.  There is no writing on the barrel.

It is of course, a complete Frankenpen, but well put together from disparate parts. Somebody has done a good job and created an attractive pen.

ETA: It has been suggested that the section looks like a late Blackbird.  I see the resemblance.

Allan’s Father’s Pen

Many years ago our friend Allan gave my husband a fountain pen. It had been his father’s.

It’s a Conway Stewart 85 and it clearly hadn’t been used much. The gold plating is great and it had its original brown Conway Stewart sac. Unfortunately, though the nib is the original, it’s just an uninteresting nib to write with. The pen was set aside and lay in a box for many years.

Some time ago I got a Waterman that had an Esterbrook Relief nib shoehorned into it. Luckily, I had an appropriate Waterman nib and swapped them over. Looking for something else today, I came upon the Relief nib. A little light bulb came on over my head as it does in the cartoons.

Though the Relief nib is slightly smaller than the original nib from the 85, it slotted in quite well and gives good ink delivery. The Relief nib lays down a much nicer line. Allan’s father’s pen will be used a lot more!

Tropen Scholar

The Germans make good pens even when they are built down to a price to suit the pockets of schoolchildren. There have been many manufacturers of these pens, some better-known than others.

This is a Tropen Scholar, a product of one of the more successful manufacturers. I believe this is a late example, perhaps from the 1980s. It appears to be made of injection-moulded parts, a technique Tropen pioneered as early as the 1930s. The material is light and takes a good shine. There are no obvious seams or flashing.

The tapered clip bears the company name and the cap band conceals the cap lip. The imprint “Tropen Scholar” on the cap is in two different writing styles, which looks a little odd to me. The cap is also imprinted “Made in Germany”.

Though this is a low-cost pen quality remains high. The joint between the blind cap and the barrel is nearly invisible. It conceals the turn-button that activates the piston. The pen takes a good draught of ink which can be seen through the green ink window. The section is tapered, then swells to a “stop” making a comfortable grip. The pen has its original plated steel nib.

Tropen was a very prolific pen maker and the school pens were turned out in many thousands. The equivalent, perhaps, of the cheaper Conway Stewart or Parkers, these pens are better appreciated today than they were when new. Then as now, they are great high quality pens at a low price.