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.

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