FOUNTAIN PEN

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top: My dad’s fountain pen, probably from the 40s, maybe older or younger. The lower one was a surprise. I have no memory of seeing it before a couple of days ago. I have searched for exactly such a pen on Ebay.

I began using fancy pens when I was in college as an Art major. Mostly I wrote with a 0000 stylus fountain pen—a Kon-i-noor Rapidograph. The tip of such pens is a tiny tube, thinner than a crow quill, and notorious for clogging. The 4×0 tip makes a line 0.18mm wide. I used a 3×0 later, but eventually, the pens would always clog, freeze, and I would need a new one every 2-3 years. I learned to write carefully because the pen must be pretty much perpendicular to the paper to flow at all. While I have never been successful at calligraphy, my handwriting, which had been even worse than my typing is now, improved. I worked at it.

I also illustrated catalogues and magazines, designed logos and other advertising, and drew portraits of famous dogs. A German kennel came across an illustration of mine and was using it for his logo. By the time I found the image on his website, I was no longer making a living as a designer. He offered to pay me, but I told him he was welcome to it.

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Eventually, I shifted over to Rotring Rapidographs, which were easier to find and cheaper. Around the time my children began walking, I gave up on Rapidographs entirely.

In the ’90s, my husband gave me an expensive fountain pen, a Pelikan 600, with green striations, and I have been using it daily every since. My dad’s fountain pen, the green striated one above at top is from another maker and was always loaded with blue-black ink. My pen generally has green or purple ink. Just now it is loaded with a Japanese green ink that is not quite olive enough. I am tempted to fool with the color by adding some orange to the bottle. I’ve mixed ink colors before.

My Pelikan fountain pen has served me well for over 20 years, During that time an occasional student was inspired to try a fountain pen after admiring mine. They wanted to try it, but my dad always insisted that no one should ever, ever use an other person’s fountain pen. I have tried the Pilot Metropolitan, which is a very cheap pen (about $20) and allowed me not to cry when it was ruined at school. My Pelikan remains the one I carry everywhere. If I ever win the lottery, I would be tempted to buy one of the crazy-expensive Maki-e or Souveraen pens from Pelikan. They don’t even list prices online. So, yes, the lottery. 

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This is just to say that I love fountain pens both as artful in themselves and in use whether to make art or a shopping list. 

When they have been used, as my dad’s pen was used, they become almost like family.

In unpacking my grandmother’s desk, I found a stash of fountain pens in a drawer. Two tiny ones with ink reservoirs held in place by the nib, two Esterbrooks (black and gray marble from the 40s or 50s), and two Shaeffer’s pens. I put most of them in that desk drawer myself perhaps 30 years ago before my dad died. Since it came to me, my dad’s Shaeffer’s pen has floated about the house, in places where I could pick it up and hold it. The original owners of the other pens include a fancy gold-bound one with the initials of my grandmother’s second husband’s brother, and small serviceable pen my step-grandmother Genevieve used as a nurse. There is no certainty about the others. I have been able to clean two Esterbrook pens, and I am using the marbled one with purple ink.

The mechanical pencils in that drawer? . . . well, that’s for another day. I use a Y&C Grip500 0.5mm mechanical pencil. After losing several, I found they were discontinued. I bought a box of six old stock 10-15 years ago, and I have managed to hold on to four of them. (Whoops! found another one, which means only one has been lost.)

Tools are precious things.

The two pens in the photo up top are going to a repair person in Arizona tomorrow. I am not optimistic about what he can do for my dad’s pen. My dad used his pen for nearly 50 years. It took him all through the war to France and Germany, and the nib is quite bent to suit him. Late in life Daddy “customized” the pressure closure because it was no longer holding, and I doubt that can be corrected. But there is a chance both pens will return to me in a few weeks, and at least one will be serviceable.

I have felt loyalty to my Pelikan for over 20 years, but I respect the two small Esterbrooks for still working, after a lot of flushing, despite benign neglect for decades. The gray marble one has seen hard use. Both its “jewels”, the black plastic button on each end, are damaged, but the gold nib still flows nicely. I might load vermillion ink in the black one.

Perhaps, if I am particularly brave, I will try cleaning my old stylus pens. It would be good to use one again. Doing that would also convey an obligation in my mind to return to drawing. I have the idea of illustrating the owl story.

I do not know what happened to the original illustration. Here is the fuzzy version I found on a German website. Ch. Mecca’s Falstaff and Wita Rosie van de Oranje Manege

 

2 thoughts on “FOUNTAIN PEN

  1. I’ve been experemanting with fountain pens. At first I got a small 3 pack disposable. Got the general knack of it. Now I have one by pilot.

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    1. Once you have written with a genuinely good pen with a gold nib, there’s no going back. There is certainly some degree of status or stature with the better pens, but they are also smoother and more comfortable to use. I went to a pen store and tried out pen before Gary bought me the Pelikan. It looked a little like my dad’s pen, but I went for feel—length, weight, the construction of the nib, how fine, how flexible. It makes a difference. Of course, hardly anyone actually writes these days. 😉

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