Saturday, June 18, 2011

Anatomy of a Fountain Pen

Once you find a pen you are happy with, it is easy to collect more of the same. For me, that has meant that I have collected several Levenger Truewriters – they are good writers, well designed at a reasonable price. Similarly, I have come to enjoy the variety, quality and style of Laban pens. 

 I appreciate those high quality pens in the $200.00 plus range, but frankly I can't afford many of those. Most of my collection comes out of the $40 - $100 range pens. And, I especially enjoy finding pens on sale. So, about a year ago I snagged a couple of Laban Celebration pens from Ebay. One was an Oyster Pearl Yellow Celebration with a custom ground needlepoint nib, and the other was a black Celebration with a standard medium point nib.

Fountain pens are like people, you have to spend some quality time with them before you know their true character. In the case of these two Celebrations, I discovered that I hated the needlepoint nib and loved the medium nib. However, I preferred the oyster pearl resin over the black resin. I wanted to swap the two nibs, but didn't know how to do it. So, I posted a query on the Fountain Pen Network and one officianado who was much more experienced than me told me how to do it. I gently wrestled the nibs out of the sections of the two pens, cleaned them, and then swapped the nibs and re-assembled them. Now one of the pens that I rarely used is one of my favorite pens.

It is funny how something can seem such a mystery until you dive in, and then once you have done so, you enjoy a confidence in that discovery. Hence, the "Anatomy of a Fountain Pen".

Once I pulled the pen apart, I examined all of the components, so that I might understand better how it works. I thoroughly enjoy writing with fountain pens, but I also like to know how they function. The feed was the part that I realized I knew the least about. It is the conduit between the cartridge/converter and the nib. This is rather obvious once you see the feed outside of its housing. The feed includes the nipple at the top that receives the ink, which flows betwixt the feed and the nib to provide ink to the nib tip. This strikes me as that which is so typical in life: that here is an unseen or forgotten element in our lives that acts as the conduit for that which we most value. One rarely sees mention of the feed in reviews on fountain pens, and yet the pen would be useless without one. The great surprise for me once I disassembled my fountain pens was the complexity and utility of the feed. It supplies both ink and vent: blood and oxygen.  The feed is the conduit between the ink supply and the practical action of the nib. Not something that I give much thought to, but essential to the function of the pen.

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