Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Fountain Pen Day

My wife offered me the greatest gift for my birthday: a fountain pen day. This means that I get to spend the day reading and writing with and about fountain pens! Recently, a friend of mine asked me why I like fountain pens so much? So, what is the reason? I had to think about the answer at first, and then it dawned on me: fountain pens represent resistance against technopoly. Not just resistance against technology but the recognition that faster is not always better. Easier isn't always best. We are living in an age where drive-through tellers, restaurants and pharmacies are normal. Face to face contact is less common and less valued. Even though I am an introvert, I used to enjoy striking up conversations with the cashiers - it was a pleasant human activity. Now, the cashier is constantly pointing me back to the debit pin-pad and it is impossible to have a conversation. We are no longer running the machines; the machines are running us. I would like to return to the world where there is time to sit inside a restaurant to eat lunch; where the banker and grocer know who I am and I know who they are; where you do business face to face; where signmakers paint signs with brushes rather than computer cut letters; where people have real paintings in their homes rather than posters; where people play boardgames; where we are more concerned about what politicians say versus what they look like and where people write letters on actual paper. So, fountain pens represent a lifestyle and a pace that is rapidly disappearing. Taking the time to write with a fountain pen is an act of resistance but it is also recognizing that writing is a unique human priviledge. Conveying ones ideas and thoughts on paper with a fine pen becomes an act of thoughtful leisure. Using a beautiful and well-made fountain pen produces the same kind of rewarding satisfaction that I experience using one of my grandfather's woodplanes to trim down a piece of fresh pine. Technopoly is deadening our senses. Tools that allow us to use more of ourselves in their operation - that require more of our time and concentration - also keep more of our senses alert and awake.

Levenger True Writer Sketcher Pencil

Many of my favorite writing instruments are from family and friends because they all know of my affection for them. This mechanical sketching pencil from Levenger was given to me by my friend and co-worker June. The Sketcher has a thick 5.6mm graphite lead. It comes in a zippered tin and includes a variety of colored leads. The sketcher operates and looks similar to the narrower clutch-style mechanical pencils made by Kohinoor for sketching and drafting. The larger diameter of this pencil makes it really comfortable to use and the barrel is a rich resin. This is my favorite sketching pencil - the large diameter forces you to sketch. You won't be tempted to write or do detailed drawings. It is perfect for large, bold and quick sketches.
The good news is that Levenger has this item on sale now. The bad news is that means they are discontinuing it. Too bad.

Cross Townsend Titanium Ball Point

I have always had a fascination with any tool that would make a mark on paper or canvas: pencils, chalk, crayons, pens, brushes, charcoal, anything. When I was nine years old I determined that I would be an artist and began practicing through all the various tools and media for hours every day - I was obsessed. So, my interest in writing instruments came very early. My first fountain pen (non-disposable) was a Pelikan 120 broad nib made for artists. In my teens and twenties I used Rapidograph technical drawing pens for detailed pen and ink drawings. Sometime in my thirties, my wife's grandfather sent me a birthday check of $25 and I found myself at the local stationer shopping for pens. I purchased a red torpedo-shaped Reddington rollerball to use in my new executive position, after seeing my superiors using their Mont Blancs, the price of which was and is outside of my budget. Not long after that, my good friend Bruce introduced me to his new Cross Townsend Titanium Ball Point Pen. This introduced me to a quality of writing instrument that seized me by the lapels and has hold of me ever since. The rest of the story of this great pen must be told: the color, the weight and the quality of writing from this pen led me to purchse one of my own. However, not long after that Bruce lost his while riding his bike. Knowing how much he valued that pen, I decided to give him mine. That was more than seven years ago. A couple of weeks ago, I had the joy of having lunch with him and his wife Helen and he informed me that he had a present for me. In fact he had been holding onto this present for the last seven years. I couldn't imagine what it would be and then he handed me a Cross pen box, informing me that he and the men from our former church's men's group had purchased that for me as an ordination gift. What a great gift and it writes just as well as I remembered.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Ink Quality

One of the complimentary joys of using a fountain pen is using bottled ink from which to fill the pen. Sure, it is messy, time consuming and frustrating - my fingers always get stained. Today, a drop of black ink even fell into our light beige carpet. Shhh . . . Don't tell my wife! And that is all worth it, if your pen produces the kind of rich line and dark black or deep blue (or whatever color you like) that you expect from a fine pen. All of that is background to my first woeful experience with my Libelle Epic F.P. After the cartridge that was packed with the pen was used up, I installed the converter and filled it with Shaeffer "Skrip" black ink, which a sales person had assured me was quality ink. It worked okay on a yellow legal pad but when I used it in my moleskin journal the ink was grey, rather than black, and it bled badly. Initially, I was disappointed with my new pen until I realized my other pens wrote well on the moleskin paper. So, purchased a bottle of Waterman black ink and filled the Libelle F.P. and it worked great - nice smooth rich black lines - the way it is supposed to be.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Lamy Fine Point Fountain Pen

I promise that I am not getting "kick backs" from fountain pen manufacturers or distributors.

But folks, this is too good to ignore. Goldspot has this Lamy "Studio" fountain pen on sale at an incredible price - in all colors (black, blue & stainless) and nib sizes (ball point, too). I am tempted to buy another one.

While it might not look very interesting in the photo due to the German minimalist modern design (Bauhaus influence, maybe?) - it handles and writes wonderfully. Not too heavy. Not too light. The ink always flows when needed. Some "nicer" pens I have, constantly have to be primed before use, which is very frustrating - not so with this pen. I have the fine nib, so a converter full lasts a long time between re-fills. Best of all, the nib writes very smoothly - almost as smooth as my gold-nibbed Namiki Vanishing Point. I don't know about the other colors, but the black Lamy fountain pen has a very comfortable matte finish that keeps it from slipping in your fingers. The clip actually holds the pen in your shirt pocket. (I have dinged up a couple of heavier pens with loose clips when I bent over to pet my dog - ouch!) All around, at that sale price this is by far the best fountain pen for the money that I have seen. Even at list price the Lamy "Studio" fountain pen is worth it.