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.