Friday, December 16, 2011

My Favorite Inks: DeAtramentis Sherlock Holmes

Today marks the US release of the latest Sherlock Holmes movie starring Robert Downey, Jr. (I mention this on the off chance that you are not a Robert Downey Jr. fan. If you are unfamiliar with his work, start with Chaplin. Amazing. I think you'll be a convert.)

I thought I'd spotlight the DeAtramentis Sherlock Holmes today in honor of the film release. Plus, it's a really fun ink. (Though advance reviews of the movie aren't quite as admiring, I'm sorry to see.)

Until fairly recently, DeAtramentis ink was a bit difficult to come by in the United States. It's made by Tintenmanufaktur JANSEN in Germany, and was in very limited distribution in the US. Rumor has it that it's a relatively small operation; their website is about half in English and half in German. I see that Goulet Pens has started to carry some of the line, and I'm grateful for that, as based on my experience with this ink I think I will definitely need more! I hope they will be able to get some of the more esoteric sets, for example, those categorized under "Magic Boarding School" on the DeAtramentis website.

Why Sherlock, in particular? Well, the truth is, I was after the Mark Twain ink to go with Volume I of his autobiography last year as a gift for Christmas - only apparently everyone else had that bright idea a week or two before I did, because I couldn't get my hands on a bottle of the Mark Twain. Sherlock, alas, was a second choice. But it turned out to be a good one - see below.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My Favorite Inks: J. Herbin Poussiere de Lune

Hi pen friends! Here's another look at one of my favorite inks: J. Herbin Poussiere de Lune. I find myself coming back to it frequently, despite having dozens of colors in the house. Hope you enjoy it!

(The image is clickable, and I've done my best on a color-corrected monitor to make the color render true to life. I can't control what other monitors may do with this though! If in doubt about an ink color, I always recommend buying a sample first before committing further.)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

My Favorite Inks: Caran d'Ache Saffron

Hello pen friends! Here is the first in a series of handwritten ink reviews I intend to do. There are reviews that give a lot of technical information about inks - and I've seen them go almost to the level of chemical analysis - but what I'm most interested in is how the ink functions and what it's suitable for. The best way for me to judge an ink is to write with it; barring that, seeing a sample of writing is the next best thing - so that's what I'm going to do for you.

Without further ado, may I present - Cd'A Saffron!

(Note the review is clickable, and I've done my best to color-correct the scan. I can't guarantee, though, what your monitor may do!)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pen Review: Hero 5020

One of These Things is Not Like the Other

So, here's the story about my Hero 5020: I had a $6.46 credit on my PayPal account. This pen was $7.50 on eBay with free shipping. So, I figured, what the heck, and bought it, for $1.04 out of pocket. I'd been wanting to play with a Hero pen for some while anyway.

The pen arrived, and I pulled it out of the padded envelope. Gosh, that looks familiar...

Hero 5020 in rear, Parker Sonnet Cisele in front

I've heard rumors for years that Hero took over the Chinese Parker plant when Parker was forced to walk away from it and leave the country for political reasons. The story is that the plant was tooled up and ready to roll when Hero walked in. I have yet to find any documentation which substantiates this rumor, but it's been out there for quite some time. As with so many other rumors, I wondered at its veracity.

After examining this Hero 5020, I am beginning to believe it's true.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Sunday Post, October 16, 2011


Well, not really...but it is a bit of an explanation why it's been kinda quiet around here the last couple weeks.

Joe and I took a ten-day vacation to Maui. We stayed in a rather nice hotel, which charged us (among other things) $25 per day to park the rental car and for "high-speed" Internet access.

The throughput for their "high-speed" access topped out at 9.9kbs, by my calculations. Wow, my modem 20 years ago did better than that. Not to mention the connection dropped about every 90 seconds. Literally.

I quickly gave up on my idea of being a modern-day Hemingway, tapping away at my keyboard in tropical climes, enlightening the world with my musings...such as they are.

All I can say is this: if you get a chance to go to Maui, take it. We've done some traveling, though  not as extensively as some it's true. We have always enjoyed our vacations, but of all the places we've visited, Maui is the only one I'd go back to without a thought. Absolutely beautiful, the people are generally friendly, and it has a small-town feel to it. The microclimates are amazing, ranging widely over a relatively small area. I also learned a fair amount of history - which I didn't expect.

For pens, we took one six-pen case and were each allotted three slots. I took my Ivory Levenger True Writer, the Danitrio Moon Shadow, and a Laban Mentos with a broad nib reground to a stub by Oxonian (this pen hasn't yet been featured here...hmm). Joe took a Rotring 600, a Levenger Sea Glass (he said it suited the beach), and Levenger Kyoto. My kids gave me a lovely journal by Orange Press for my birthday a few weeks ago which was eminently suited for vacation journaling. Rather than worry about bottled ink in the luggage, I bought a sampler of cartridges from Levenger to take with us. I am fairly certain that Private Reserve makes Levenger's ink. I'll have more to say about the Levenger ink in the next couple of weeks; generally speaking it was unobtrusive, and unremarkable, in performance - which was just fine under the circumstances.

Joe comments that he didn't write nearly as much as he usually does because we were so busy doing things. By contrast, I felt I wrote more than usual, since I had so much more time than I generally do. By these statements I think one can tell who is retired in this household, and who is not. Hmm.

We got home late Thursday night, and ever since, I've heard Israel Kamakawiwo╩╗ole's famous version of "Over the Rainbow" in my head, and I've spent an inordinate amount of time looking at ukuleles online and wishing I had the time to learn how to play one. I may yet buy one, at least to add to the collection of musical instruments laying around the house that I don't have time to play.

I'll leave you with a few snapshots of Maui. I opted not to take my big Nikon with me, only a Panasonic point-and-shoot; I now wish I'd decided differently, but these didn't turn out too badly.

Aloha from Seattle...

Friday, September 16, 2011

A quick apology

Hi pen friends,

I'm sorry for the dearth of posts here. Things have been rather busy with the family over the last few weeks (kids moving, burglaries, family gatherings, and other assorted Life Occurrences) and it's taken much of my time and energy. I am working on a new pen review and am nearly done; stay tuned...and thanks for your patience!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Sunday Post: September 11, 2011

Joe and I are going to his annual family reunion today. This requires a 3-hour drive each way, and is held in the picnic area of a public park in a small town in Eastern Washington. It is always very hot. With a few exceptions, the attendees are people that I met at our wedding 19 years ago and see at this event - and nowhere else.

As I think a good spouse should, I go every year. I go for Joe's sake. And secretly (well, not so secretly now) I'm usually a little cranky about it. Long drive. Way too hot. Chock full of strangers.

I don't know why, perhaps to torment myself with it, I jumped online this morning to check the weather report for our day's destination (100 and sunny, by the way).

And it was only then that I realized what day it is.

Most of us have particular memories of that day ten years ago, when the unimaginable happened. Mine are mainly of bewilderment and then horror when I realized what was happening.

The most vivid memory I have of the World Trade Center is a small one: the sight of a woman, in a blue skirted suit and white blouse and navy pumps, clutching her purse to her body as she leapt to her death from one of the upper floors of the World Trade Center. Of course I cannot know her mind, but I imagine that she had realized she was going to die and decided what she thought would be the best (whatever that means!), and was clutching her purse to herself so that her body could easily be identified.

To this day I pray regularly for her, whom I will never know - not even her name. And I pray for all of us affected by the events of ten years ago. And I don't know anyone who was unaffected at least to some degree.

We didn't lose any friends or family members that day, though I spent some hours trying to locate a staff member who was on vacation in New York. We are very fortunate in that.

I think I'm more grateful for that park full of "strangers" than I was earlier this morning.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Sunday Post: August 21, 2011

An Introduction

It occurs to me I've been remiss in not introducing you to the third member of the household. And, depending on one's viewpoint, he may well be the most important member. (Just ask him.)

This is Gandalf. He is a quaker parrot, and came to us as a rescue in 2003. This photo was taken shortly after he came to live with us; as you can see, he is fond of bathing in the sink.

The story of his arrival is a bit fun. Well, the first part isn't - I had a lovebird for 14 years, who died of liver cancer in late 2002. After a month or two, we got in touch with a woman locally who takes in and rehomes birds that people don't want or can't keep, and offered to give her my bird's cage and some other supplies we had, since we no longer had a use for them; we figured she could give the cage to someone else that couldn't afford one.

She said she'd be delighted to take whatever we could give her, so we gathered up some things and went over to her place.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Pen Review: TWSBI Diamond 530 with Pendleton Butter Line Stub

There have been a lot of reviews of the TWSBI Diamond 530 since it was released in early 2010. The pen was the result of collaboration with, and feedback from, the fountain pen community with the Taiwan-based designer and manufacturer, known on most pen boards as "Speedy." I won't go too far into reviewing the pen itself, since others have done a marvelous job of that already; examples can be found here and here.
TWSBI Diamond 530

This is about the nib. And here's the story.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Sunday Post: August 14, 2011

Sometimes It's the Little Things

I'm sure all of us are aware of the upheaval the world seems to be in at the moment. In light of all the serious things going on, how can I maintain a simple little blog like this?

I am certainly not unmindful of the many troubles out there; I see this blog as a little bit of peacefulness. I just want to bring a little enjoyment and beauty to others.

And, speaking of enjoyment and beauty, Joe and I just got back from a few days away, and I thought I'd share a few pretty pictures with you. Hope you enjoy them! These were taken over the last few days in Langley, WA.

 Here is a link to an album with the individual photos.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Expanded horizons

Life Beyond Fountain Pens

Joe is a true fountain pen fanatic. In fact, when we recently were signing some legal documents, I was very proud of the fact that he actually didn't make a fuss when he was asked to sign with something other than a fountain pen. Usually such occasions elicit protest from him. (Of course, he was somewhat pacified when I loaned him my Retro 51 Cioppino rollerball.)

Yes, I know there are bulletproof inks. The truth is, sometimes it's just simpler to go along with the attorney/escrow closer/whomever than to fight that battle.

I also work in a busy office with a lot of different people, most of whom don't know what do to with a fountain pen when presented with one. The reactions generally fall into two different camps: either they're afraid of it, almost to the point of not wishing to touch it, or they get aggressive about it: yank on the cap, press hard while writing.

In either case, offering a fountain pen to a coworker doesn't end well.

A few of my Retros,  from L - R: Copper, Dreamcatcher, Cioppino, Bamboo
 For these reasons, I've got a few non-fountain pens in the collection. As you might tell from the mention above, most of them tend to be Retro 51s. I find them to be of durable construction, well-balanced, comfortable to write with, and much less intimidating to the general public. People still tend to be careful with them because they're "nice pens;" I haven't had to go chasing after anyone trying to walk off with one, and yet they know how to use them.

For work, my strategy is to keep the fountain pens near me, and out of easy reach of visitors to my office. I keep a Retro or two front and center for others to use - as well as for me in those situations where a fountain pen wouldn't really work well.

I am of course always happy to delve into the joys and mysteries of fountain pens, should anyone ask; those inquiries seem to be few and far between within the general populace, however.

I'd love to hear in what ways others have expanded beyond fountain pens in their daily lives too!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Pen Review: Guider Jumbo Clipless

(as always, all photos are clickable)
I bought this pen in February. It's now the end of July, and I'm just getting around to writing this review. Why?

Well, yes, I am busy, but so is everyone else, and I've managed a few other posts here between February and now.

Truth? I was afraid of it. Really.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Sunday Post: July 24, 2011

A Kodak Moment: Whose Memories are These?

Joe and I recently took a day trip  to a local town. We did the tourist thing - walk through the shops, stop for coffee and pie at a local restaurant, go digging through the antique stores.

In one of the stores, I came across a basket of old 35mm film canisters.

(as always, all photos are clickable)
I think I've mentioned before that at one time I did a fair amount of film photography. My grandmother was president of the local camera club, and bought me my first SLR at age nine. I did nearly all of the sports and "color" photography for my high school paper and yearbook during my last year of high school. I had thought of being a professional photographer, but a year of lugging two big, heavy Canon SLR cameras around with me everywhere cured me of that desire.

And then I got through college, went out into the working world, and put the cameras away pretty much completely. It's only with starting this blog that I've gotten back into it at all. Things have changed a lot since the last 35mm SLR I got, whose claim to fame was a built-in light meter! In some ways I'm having to learn all over again due to the many advancements that have been made.

The film canisters brought back memories for me; they were older than most of what I'd worked with, but still similar enough for nostalgia. I picked one up, and was surprised to see it had a roll of negatives in it.

Whose memories did I hold in my hand?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Sunday Post: July 10, 2011

Favorite Places to Write

In good weather, this is one of my favorite places to be.

entering from the west side of the house
We have a postage-stamp-size yard. That was actually on purpose; at the time we bought the house, we were both working long hours and wanted something that would be lower maintenance.

from the east side of the house (looking back up the critter highway, BTW...)

Because of its small size, the back yard is the ideal outdoor room in summer. It's to the south of the house, and largely shaded by a bank of cedar trees just behind us. It feels very private, and it's comfortable on hot days. (Not that we've had any of those yet this year.) On summer days, there's nowhere more pleasant I can think of to be than sitting on my back patio, with pens and journal and a cold drink.

The view from my favorite chair
I also happen to think it's pretty. (This despite the fact that I still haven't planted the pots for the summer...and it's July...oh well.)

Where's your favorite place to write?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Ink Drop review: July 2011

It's so true that one's perceptions are colored by one's experiences.

The Goulet Pens Ink Drop theme for July 2011 is called "Flashlight Tag." It consists of four different specialty inks, a Platinum Preppy highlighter, a plastic squeeze pipette for loading it, and a tiny blacklight flashlight. The card accompanying the Drop cites a  summertime game that Brian and Rachel enjoyed playing as children, called - you guessed it - Flashlight Tag.

They're in Virginia; I live (and grew up) in the Seattle area. I've never heard of flashlight tag in my life. I've asked friends in this area; no one I asked has heard of it either. I had to look up how to play it.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Notebook selection: the bane of my existence

I must admit it. I was one of the people who lamented loudly the demise of the Quo Vadis Habana 1.0. For those unaware of this situation, the Quo Vadis Habana as sold in the United States was a bright white, 90g Clairefontaine paper with a fairly wide ruling. That is, until a few months ago, when the makers decided to standardize the Habana worldwide, and went to an off-white 85g paper with a narrower ruling.

Preferences are a funny thing. I've been struggling with what to say in this post for weeks now. As I was thinking about it on Saturday morning, I realized that I was trying to formulate a neutral approach to blogging about a journal with cream-colored paper that I dislike - I want white paper for journals - and yet I was writing a letter to a friend on Crane's stationery that is essentially the same color, with which, for correspondence, I am quite content.

As my mother always said - there's no accounting for taste.

All confessions aside, here are photo comparisons of some differing journals that are currently fairly popular. I hope this helps you in choosing a journal.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A New Adoption

You know me and old Duofolds. Well, maybe you don't, but you're about to learn.

I like 'em.

So I bought another one. This one's a little different from your average Duo.

(all photos are clickable, as always)

I picked this Junior-size Duo up off of the Bay the other day. It's an interesting pen, even beyond the candy company name on it - three bands on the cap, which seems a bit unusual for a Junior; it's really dirty and the nib was full of dried blue-black ink (as is the cap), but other than one hairline crack on the cap that I'm not even convinced goes all the way through it seems to be in good shape.

And then there's this:

I found a NOS Duo set for sale with nearly an identical tag on it; I'm convinced this is the original price tag - though why there should be a price tag on a pen that has a company name engraved on it, and was clearly used, I don't know.

So now I have a dilemma: do I leave the tag on, or remove it? If I remove it, do I try to save it?

The pen is not in working order; needs a new sac at the very least, and given (a) my previously stated ineptitude and inexperience in restoration and (b) the reputed brittleness of yellow Duofolds, I am going to send it off for restoration fairly soon. Stay tuned for more!

Oh, and here's a current family portrait of the Little Old Men Duofolds:

More photos of the new pen can be found here.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Reports are Greatly Exaggerated...

With apologies to Mark Twain, here is today's blog post, brought to you by:

Danitrio Moon Shadow - Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-Peki
Montblanc 149 - Diamine Violet
1920's Parker Duofold - Caran d'Ache Amazon
1990's Parker Duofold - Noodler's Ottoman Rose
Levenger True Writer - Caran d'Ache Caribbean Sea
Clairefontaine Triomphe paper

Please click on the image to view.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pen Review: Sheaffer No Nonsense

This sure takes me back. I am in grave danger of saying something like, "Yes, those were the days..."

I had a pen just exactly like this in high school. That was more than few years ago now.

(as always, all images are clickable)

I thought myself the ultimate in fashionable as a sophomore with this fountain pen - a translucent one, mind you, and in red. See-through! Look! You can see the cartridge! How cool is that?

A few weeks ago, I posted about another style of Sheaffer school pen. That plastic-bodied, metal-capped model was succeeded by the No Nonsense pens, which were wildly popular for years both as fountain pens and as ballpoints and felt tips. I had several of them. Because they were so popular, there are still a lot of them around, and they're fairly easily obtainable. I picked this one up for a very reasonable price.

The nibs of both the "school pen" and the No Nonsense echo past Sheaffer style

At the same time, I got what's a fair rarity. In fact, until the last couple of years I never knew they existed. They're practically made of unobtainium now - or are at least relatively priced as if they are, often costing more than the pens. That is (drumroll, please...)

The converter.

The converter consists of a relatively small rubber sac inside a metal tube, with a squeeze bar. As you can see, one end is perfed to take the metal feed end of the nib.

Of course, the first thing I did for these shots is throw a cartridge in the pen; I'll have to wait to play with the converter later. I'll report back if I get a chance.

The No Nonsense also featured front and center in a number of calligraphy sets marketed by Sheaffer; one of the most common sets consisted of a pen body (usually black) and three Italic nibs, F-M-B, along with a small handbook, some practice paper, and several cartridges of differing ink colors (black, blue, red and green as I recall). Although I have one of these around the house, I really wanted a pen that was just like my high school one, down to the nib.

No Nonsense pens are all over the Bay and various seller sites. I do recommend them if you are looking for a basic, reliable pen. Note they take Sheaffer's proprietary cartridges, still available; workarounds for "use your own ink" include the converter if you can find one, as well as flushing out a cartridge and refilling with the ink of your choice.

Interestingly enough, I recall a much broader line than this pen actually delivers, although I'm certain what I had was an M nib. The pen is quickly responsive; the nib is pretty much a nail, and a tad bit scratchy (keeping in mind it's new old stock and not worn in at all). The line is quite uniform. This would have been an excellent pen for note-taking, and that's exactly what I used it for.

 All in all, a good, reliable basic user's pen.

Did I mention it's translucent? And red? That is so cool...

Here's a quick comparison shot of writing with the No Nonsense M and the school pen F.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Sunday Post: April 24, 2011

Boy, that Easter Bunny is one smart rabbit.

In most households in the US, the Easter Bunny brings eggs, or sweets disguised as eggs (plastic eggs filled with treats).

Not for me. Not in this household.

What did that bunny bring? Why, a clip for a pen, of course!

The Easter Bunny knows me well. He knows, for instance, that I've been trying to find a clip to fit this little Duofold for years. And so he's been looking.

Granted, it's a reproduction clip. I'm not worried about that. I'm glad to have a clip on the pen. And, honestly, it looks like a completely different pen to me now!

I'm headed back to Easter celebration preparations now; just wanted to share the fun!

Happy Easter. Happy Passover. Happy Sunday!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Sunday Post: April 17, 2011

The Pen Whisperer

It's funny how people assume you're an expert in something because you have an interest in it.

I have never successfully repaired a fountain pen. My one attempt, many years ago, involved a vintage jade green Duofold which needed a new ink sac. I succeeded in getting the pen apart, put the new sac on with clear nail polish (don't do this, I beg you), and then couldn't get the section all the way back in the barrel no matter what I tried. I didn't want to force it too much due to its age and fragility. I finally sent it off to someone who knows what they're doing, who kindly did not mention my pathetic and ignorant attempts to "restore" the pen, undid what I had done, and sent it back in working order.

Now that I've confessed this travesty, it makes the next statement all the more ludicrous by contrast.

People at my office have begun referring to me as The Pen Whisperer.

The assumption seems to be that, because I like fountain pens, I can solve whatever woes someone may have with any given pen. Regardless of writing mechanism.

In an odd way, I have contributed to this myth.

My first contribution to it involved some old fountain pens that a coworker's mother had dug out of her desk at home. My coworker brought them in and asked me what I could tell him about them. Well, one had been an early Duofold; it was missing the blind cap and part of the pen cap and clip, and had been extensively chomped on to the point that we joked he'd used it when teething. Nothing to be done there. The next was a Sheaffer Skipper that appeared to be in working order but I didn't want to try inking someone else's pen as an experiment - those touchdown filling systems are complex and I couldn't be sure it would work.

The third was a 1980s Cross. The only thing wrong with the pen was that it had been put away with ink in it. I happen to have an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner, so I took the pen home and ran the nib and section through probably 15 cycles, then flushed it extensively with an ear syringe, using the classic water/Windex/dish soap mix and then clear water. I flushed out the cartridge that had dried ink in it, filled it with my standard test ink of Waterman Florida Blue, and wrote Pat's mom a nice note with the pen so she could see how it wrote.

I then took it back to work and gave it to him (having flushed it clean again). To my horror, he offered me money for the "repair." Which I did not accept; I don't take money from friends for favors, and in my mind I didn't really repair anything. But the story went around the office that I'd "restored" his mother's pen.

Then, a few days ago, someone I was in a meeting with was having trouble with a retractable ballpoint; another attendee said, "give it to the Pen Whisperer!" and I was handed the pen with an expectant look.

Well, the thing simply wasn't screwed tight together, and one or two bits had worked their way out of alignment. A little fiddling, a little tightening; click-click! "There you go, all better now."

Look, magic!

Um, no.

Heaven help me if someone ever hands me a pen seriously in need of repair; my cover will be completely blown. In the meanwhile, however, I am enjoying the Pen Whisperer rep, however undeserved.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pen Review: Sheaffer “school pen”

(Note all photos are clickable)
I don’t know that these pens ever had an official name from Sheaffer. There were several generations of similar pens from Sheaffer, from the 1960s into the 1990s. They don’t currently make anything that’s quite the same. I think that’s a shame.

From the packaging, I’d say this was made in the mid-1960s. My reasoning is thus: The Sheaffer address on the pen packaging does not have a ZIP code on it. The packaging for the ink cartridges does, but the state name is spelled out in its entirety. ZIP codes were introduced in the US in 1963, and became mandatory for certain mailings by 1968; the use of the two-letter state code came into vogue at about the same time. So, it appears this pen was made – or at least packaged – during that transition time.

I had several of these in high school in the 1970s and the design was identical, so these were made for many years. They overlapped the No Nonsense line during the 1970s, and then were largely replaced by them.

These pens consist of a plastic barrel, a steel nib, and a metal cap. They are cartridge-only pens, and take a proprietary Sheaffer cartridge which is basically a closed tube of ink which is pierced by a sharp metal fitting on the end of the nib section. This cartridge design is still available. It was a bit shocking to see the 49 cent price tag on the box, and realize that now a 5-pack of these cartridges sells for $5 – 7. Just a bit of inflation, eh?

The “unbox” of this pen, if you could call it that, was kind of interesting. In its plastic bubble package it was much more accessible than things in bubble packaging these days. No risk of slicing one's fingers off here.

You can see that the ink cartridges have largely evaporated over the years. I ended up flushing one out and refilling it with Sheaffer Red ink for initial testing.

The first few sentences were pretty scratchy, and this is definitely a fine nib, unlike most modern US "fines" which are somewhat of a thin medium to me. The more I use the pen, though, the more it's breaking in. And for a pen that's probably 45 years old, albeit unused, I can't complain about its performance. Started right up, keeps on going, doesn't dry up between uses. I don't think I can ask for much more.

So, if you're looking for an inexpensive pen, consider picking up one of these. They were easily found in their day, which means there are a lot of them left out there. eBay is a good source. The one downside, as noted above, is that they are cartridge-only, but if you are at all adept in refilling cartridges (and it's not that hard - consider Private Reserve's cartridge refill syringe for the job - link here is to Goulet Pens, but it's readily available) you can use whatever ink you wish, as I did.

I had fun with the nostalgia aspect (for me) of this pen. And I think I'm going to have fun using it too!

Monday, March 28, 2011

A perspective

Collect? Or accumulate?

One man's trash is another's treasure, as the old saying goes.

Another thing I collect is rosaries. I have probably ten or twelve of them. Just as with the pens I have, there is no real theme other than "ones I like." That theme is good enough for me. If that tags me with the "accumulator" label, so be it.

I once had occasion to meet a man who had collected rather nice examples of all of the 1920s Waterman ripple "color nib" pens, one of each ring color. Once I'd gotten over the idea of the cost involved in such a collection, I wondered at the concept. So, one collects them simply for the privilege of saying one has a full set? The owner of these pens told me he actually didn't care for some of them, finding the nibs not to his liking, so he didn't use them. That seems a shame to me.

This also reminds me of some of the "limited edition" pens that I see for sale, years after their initial release - new in box, never inked.

We have a family term for these. Beanie Babies.

People can certainly do as they wish - but my focus is always going to be on pens I enjoy and will use, regardless of their age, manufacturer, or even condition. I won't buy an expensive, unused collector's pen because I would want to use it, and that doesn't seem fair to those that would value it as a collector's item in its unused state.

To me, the pens are tools to enjoy and use for expressing myself. Not decorations to be put on a shelf to admire, or in a safe so I can say I own them.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

My Accidental Acquisition

(all pictures are clickable)

I'd like to introduce you to a couple of friends of mine. Here are my oldest pen, and my newest pen.

But it's not what you might think.

The Black and Pearl Parker Duofold was the first fountain pen I acquired as an adult. I had used fountain pens in high school and college (mostly to be "different"), but set them aside once I graduated - until I met my husband, who used them. He bought me the black and pearl one year for Valentine's Day before we were married, I believe in 1990 or '91. It was a new pen at the time.

Thus began a twenty-plus-year love of Parkers, and particularly of Duofolds - old and new. Some of my other Parkers are the highlight of this post.

The burgundy and black Duofold is my latest acquisition - now fondly known as the Accidental Duo. This pen had been on eBay, and I decided to place a snipe bid (yes, I know some consider snipes unethical, cheating, etc. Fact is, if someone else is willing to pay more than I am, they'll still win. Truth. It's happened, more than once.)

Well, I didn't look too closely; I thought I was sniping in US dollars, but it was British pounds. At that time, one British pound was about equal to $1.75. A bid of 100 British pounds would be $175. So if I put 100, thinking it was dollars, and it turned out to be $175, imagine my surprise.

We were out for dinner, and I checked the listing on my Blackberry and saw it was over what my high bid was going to be (in dollars - if it had been in dollars!). I commented to my husband that I wouldn't get it - then, ten minutes later, got an email - "You've won!"


I am fortunate in two things on this: (1) The bidding didn't go close to what my snipe was - I would have paid way too much for the pen; and (2) It's a great pen. From various markings I believe it was made between 1931 and 1935. It has one or two flaws, but overall it's in great shape. I expect when I'm 80 or so I'll have more than a few "flaws" myself!

The ink on the nib, by the way, is Diamine Syrah

I did a few comparison photos of the pens. It's fun to see the similarities and differences. There are several photos of the two pens here.

The burgundy and black Duo is a "holy grail" color for me; I've wanted one for years. I'm very pleased this pen joined our family - even if it was an accident!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Where is that confounded woman?

Hey guys -

Sorry I've been so incommunicado recently; had family in from out of town AND apparently have developed a meniscus tear in my left knee. Yes, we have all manner of fun here!

Working on a new post for you all; here's a quick preview of what I think I'll call the Tale of the Accidental Duo. (Or is that the Dueling Duos?)

See you soon!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Sunday Post: March 6, 2011

49 Bottles of Ink in the drawer,
49 bottles of ink
If one of the bottles should happen to fall...

I've had this little variant of the classic 99 Bottles of Beer running through my head all day. We finally sat down this morning and made an inventory of all the bottled ink in the house.

There are 49 bottles. Somehow, that seems like more than a lifetime supply.

Blues weigh most heavily in the collection, at twelve. Odd, since I don't much like blue ink. Joe does, though, and until recent months he's been the one buying most of the ink.

Blue is followed by red (8), green (7), and purple (6 - and here shows my influence!).

Am I tempted to buy more? Oh, not a doubt of it. But somehow I feel compelled to use up a bit of those 49 bottles already stashed away in the old oak secretary in the bedroom. Sooner or later it'll fill up and then where will we put it all?

Besides, how much is enough?

Ask me after the next bottle. Ink, not beer.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pen Review: Levenger True Writer

The Little Pen That Could

From the top: Sea Glass, Ivory, Kyoto

(Please note: all pictures are clickable)

I just jumped over to the Levenger website to take a quick look at what they have to say about themselves, and was surprised to discover the company was founded as late as 1987. I have a leather portfolio, embossed with my name, that I had thought was gifted to me before that date - though it might have been as late as 1990. I was intrigued, also, to find out they started as a lighting company.

Over the years, I've purchased several items from them, and generally been happy with them all. I had heard a lot of not-so-good things about their True Writer pens though - flow issues, nib issues, construction/quality control issues - you name it.

Well, they must have either had a bad batch of pens at one point, or they got their act together, because we now have three of them and we're quite happy with them all.

The True Writers are resin bodied, with rather stiff German made (Schmidt, I believe) steel nibs. The nibs screw in, not unlike an old Esterbrook, and are thus interchangeable. Levenger offers fine, medium, broad and "signature stub" nibs. All three of these have fine nibs. Levenger offers extra nibs for sale individually or as a set of four.

Every one of the three True Writers we have were purchased on the secondary market, either on Levenger's eBay Outlet store as a returned item, or from a private party. They are not inexpensive, but they also don't cost as much as a lot of comparable modern pens do. And of course buying them the way we did makes them less expensive!

The first to join the family was the Sea Glass. The catalog photos of the pen do not do it justice. There is a vibrancy to the colors that is hard to capture; the pen is almost translucent. There is depth to the different blocks of color as well.

The second pen we acquired was the Ivory. This model is no longer offered by Levenger. I had wanted an ivory-colored pen for some time, but hesitated at buying vintage for fear of possible staining. I have not had any staining issues with the Ivory, and I like the vintage look and feel of the material.  I also like the yellow gold (plate, I'm sure) furniture and two-toned nib; again, a bit of a retro look to me.

And the last to join us was the Kyoto. This material is rather interesting; it reminds me a bit of the material that was used for the Sheaffer Balance Aspen. At first glance it looks like a tortoise-shell design, but a closer look reveals accents of blue and purple as well. This, too, is a difficult pen to photograph.

Each one of these has proven to be a reliable, unfussy, uncomplaining writer. The writing sample below was written with the Ivory pen, which currently contains Diamine Evergreen. I haven't used the pen in several days; I just picked it up and started writing with it, with no issues at all.

writing sample

I'm pleased with each of these pens. And I still have that leather portfolio; it's still in daily use, and other than some great age and use patina it's in marvelous shape, some 20-plus years into the corporate game. I have every hope these pens will turn out as reliable.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Sunday Post: February 27, 2011

Bloggin the Oscars

For some people, it's all about the Super Bowl. Not in my family.

Tonight, we're gathered at my aunt's house, over hors d'oeuvres and then dinner, to watch the Oscars. We're all rooting for our favorites - though, this year, it appears we're all rooting for Colin Firth in the King's Speech.

And of course, all of the women are discussing the dresses, the jewels, the hair, the makeup...on the TV. Not ours.

I'll be putting together my list of must-see movies after tonight. I used to go see each Best Picture nominee before the Oscars every year, but since they've gone to ten I've quit doing that.

Hope everyone had a great weekend! Working on another pen review that I should have up this week!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pen Review: Reform 1745

This pen is a Reform 1745. These were German-made student pens. I bought mine as new old stock from a seller on the Fountain Pen Network for $7.50.

The 1745 is a piston filler. The nib, the clip and the cap ring are metal; all other parts appear to be plastic. The design is a bit of a Pelikan knockoff. The pen is very lightweight, and just a bit more slender than I find really comfortable - though it's probably a "standard" size pen, at 5 1/8 inches capped, 4 3/4 inches uncapped.

I didn't flush or otherwise prep the pen in any way; I just threw some Waterman Florida Blue ink in it - which is what I almost always use as my initial test ink in a new pen (or in a pen new to me).

And it just - worked.

Much less fussily than pens ten or even a hundred times its price sometimes are.

I'm sure the nib is steel - but, interestingly enough, it's got just a touch of flex to it. It's nice to write with - a good amount of feedback, smooth but not too smooth, and just a little bit springy.

And I'm very impressed at how nicely it started right out of the gate.

Overall, I'd say I got my $7.50 worth - and then some.

(clickable) Draft of this review, written with the Reform 1745

This is one in a continuing series of reviews of inexpensive fountain pens.