Posts Tagged ‘caran d’ache’

holiday wish list

My younger daughter came home from school the other day with a copy of their school magazine. A page carried the holiday wish-lists of third-graders, which contained things like “a big car when I’m 18 and a private jet”, “a puppy because it’s cute”, and “for my brother to be well-behaved.” Aww.

So I tapped into my inner third-grader and came up with this list of mostly fun and frivolous things. What’s on yours?

iPad 64 GB – Steve Jobs and the rockin’ ‘n’ rollin’ design team at Apple have been consistently hitting balls out of the park with their latest offerings, with the iPad being a stellar device for Internet media consumption. It’s on top of many wish lists this season.

Fluevog shoes – with their funky styling and colors, what’s not to like?

Tokyo Milk scents and cosmetics – the names alone of their scents are intriguing. “Let Them Eat Cake” is a “touch of decadence: sugar cane, coconut milk, vanilla orchid, and white musk”; “Ex Libris is “an age-old tale: fig leaf, magnolia, bronzed musk, and cardamom.” From parfum to candles to kissing kits, indulge your love for fragrance and erudite vintage-inspired labels here.

For me to be well-behaved – because it all starts with the man in the mirror.

Caran d’Ache fountain pen ink – the colors are vibrant and alive and will crawl all over your paper! Choose from Carbon Black, Blue Night, Sky Blue, Saffron Orange, Caribbean Sea (turquoise), Stormy Violet, Grand Canyon (brown), Amazon Green, and Sunset Pink (more like scarlet red).

A supernova – like this one, a remnant in the Large Magellanic Cloud. A framed photograph will do.

World peace – because you can’t enjoy all these things if you were in a middle of a war.

J. Herbin sealing wax and a personalized signet ring – nothing else says “you’re important to me” with such drama and flair as when you send a letter in an envelope sealed with wax and your own crest.

2010 Mercedes Benz GL350 Bluetec SUV – because German engineering is still the benchmark for automobile quality.

Roots Canada Small School Bag – because everyone and her maid has got Vuitton, and because there are other brands of handbags in the world. Roots uses “tribe leather” which gives a worn and distressed look to the item. Perfect for writers who carry around pens, ink, notebooks, and laptops.

Sophie (played by actress Amanda Seyfried) carries a Roots Small School Bag in the movie “Letters to Juliet”. Image here.

Nordic track treadmill – pro version with gradient/incline and heart rate monitor, so I can exercise without leaving the house, rain or shine.

Crane personalized stationery – creamy cards and notepaper make it a joy to write letters and send them via snail mail.

A house with an indoor pool and water slide from the second floor – COWABUNGA! (Image here.)

World fish – another way of saying “end world hunger”. Because you can’t enjoy all these things if you were hungry.

I can think of more stuff, but I look around me and see that I have all that I really need. I’ll indulge my inner third-grader with a cup of marshmallow cocoa and a nap now.

Happy holidays!

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caution: pens at work

Because we fountain-pen enthusiasts can’t get enough of pen pron, here are more images of pens at the racetrack. These were taken at various times last year, some with a Nikon D-60, others with a Nokia cellphone camera, hence the disparity in image quality. Still, they will at least give a look at the context in which I usually play with my pens – when I’m commentating the Santa Ana Park races every other weekend.

The pink pen is a Sheaffer Agio from TAO, who saw it at a shop or flea market somewhere around this time last year. It’s got an F nib, and is perfect fit for me all around (thanks again, TAO!). It’s a reliable daily warrior. The blue is a Pilot Vanishing Point with a Binderized crisp italic nib from Leigh. A fascinating pen, it will have its own blog post later on. The same goes for the two urushi Nakaya Piccolos – the black from TAO, the reddish-black from Leigh.

The older models of the Pilot VP were called “capless” since this model doesn’t have a cap; the nib retracts in and out like some ballpoint pens.

A closer look shows where the nib emerges from. Since it is a crisp italic, it takes some getting used to, with the sharp edges snagging on paper. But with care and practice, wonderful calligraphic effects can be coaxed from the nib.

The black Nakaya and the Sheaffer Agio on a racing program.

The sharp, gold nibs of the Nakayas: the black on top has a medium nib, the kuro-tamenuri below carries a stock flexible fine.

A writing sample by Ik. The Vista she refers to is the Microsoft OS, not the Lamy!

My workhorses are the Lamys – a Raspberry AL-Star (top) and a Vista.

A close-up of the Lamy Raspberry AL-Star’s F nib.

From the top: Aluminum AL-Star, Pink Safari, Vista, and Raspberry. The latter is showing up orange in this image; its true color is reddish.

Pens and writing samples.

Holding the pens up in front of the TV monitor displaying the races. Behind the TV are a broadcast camera and Kino-flo lights. On the left side of the picture is a Starbucks “Philippines” tumbler, most likely drained of coffee by the time this picture was taken.

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basic fountain pens 1: beginner’s guide

Wella - a friend from college who turned 27 some weeks ago (*wink*) - asked me to write an introduction to fountain pens as she is thinking of getting into them as well. While I don’t feel qualified to write a definitive and comprehensive beginner’s guide about this interesting and complex topic, I can at least share my personal experiences.

To begin with, as a writer and aesthete of sorts, I’ve always been fascinated by things that make marks on paper - all sorts of writing instruments, typewriters, brushes, seals and rubber stamps – and the things that make the marks – ink, paint, seal paste, and so on.

Over the years, I became more interested in vintage and antique things over modern things because of the historical  and aesthetic aspects. I find a fountain pen with its gleaming, pointed nib more visually appealing than a ballpoint pen, and found my interest concentrating on FPs.

Fountain Pens in the Philippines

However, in the Philippines, where I live, there isn’t much of a fountain pen culture. According to older folks who are now in their mid-50′s and older, usage of FPs was prevalent in schools until they were in high school, when ballpoints became cheaper and more readily available.

A 62-year old friend of mine told me of he and his elementary schoolmates stabbing the nibs of their Parkers and Sheaffers into their desks when they were bored. They eagerly embraced BP use later on as FPs, he said, “leaked, and my mom would get mad when I’d come home with ink stains all over my uniform.” (Apparently he never figured out that if he didn’t have the habit of stabbing his pen nibs into desks, perhaps his pens wouldn’t leak.)

FPs were also de riguer in some Philippine law schools and in some accountancy programs until perhaps fifteen years ago, though there are still a few law schools today, like Far Eastern University, that recommend FPs to their students.

Still, in the mainstream, few Filipinos have even heard of FPs, much less used them. I first learned of FPs as a child through reading and movies; I don’t recall actually seeing an FP being used by anyone in my family.

In college, I finally got myself an inexpensive Parker Jotter from National Bookstore. All I did was go to the pen section, browse, and get something I could afford.

But it wasn’t until a couple of years back that my interest really grew, when the choices of affordable FP brands available in readily accessible malls and chain bookstore expanded. Fully Booked began carrying Inoxcrom pens; they were made of plastic with steel nibs, and had colorful and attractive graphics.

The pink pens are Inoxcrom from the Jordi Labanda line; the red FP is a Pilot 78G and one of the best starter pens ever, available online for about $12. All three have steel nibs.

Enter the power of the Internet. After blogging about the demise of one of my early Inoxcrom Jordi Labandas, I received an email from University of the Philippines professor Dr. Butch Dalisay inviting me to a gathering of FP collectors at his home, the first such meeting ever.

Upon meeting other collectors, I was exposed to more brands, kinds of nibs, modern and vintage pens, and a wide assortment of ink. The more I learned about FPs, the more I wanted to collect, and because of my newfound knowledge, I was able to discover what I really wanted, which are vintage pens, mainly 1930s Sheaffers and Parkers; pens with flexible nibs, whether vintage or modern; and Japanese pens.

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Vintage Sheaffer Balances. All are from the 1930s except the red Tuckaway in the center. I love ’30s pens for their Art Deco design, flexible and responsive nibs, and lovely celluloid barrels.

Fountain Pen Facts

You need to know that:

1. FPs differ from BPs in that they have nibs. The nibs come in a wide variety of types. Referring to the width of the line they lay down, there are the extra-fine (EF or XF), fine (F), medium (M), and broad (B) nibs. Some brands such as Pelikan carry double-broad and triple-broad nibs. The nibs of Japanese brands such as Pilot, Sailor, and Platinum tend to be ”one size smaller” – their M is a Western F, their XF a Western XXF, and so on.

Nibs come in gold, steel, and other metal alloys and are generally pointed in shape and have a ball of iridium on the tip for strength. But there are other shapes. Stubs are nibs with the iridium gone because the shape of the tip is flat across. Italics are pretty much the same but with sharper edges; they are used mainly for calligraphy. Obliques are cut at an angle.

Nibs may also differ as to whether they are flexible, semi-flexible, or firm. Modern nibs are usually very firm – “nails”, in collector parlance – since users most likely will have grown up as members of the BP generation. Some modern nibs are flexible – pens from Nakaya and Danitrio, and Pilot’s Falcon nib come to mind.

Semi-flex nibs give a bit of line variation – examples are the Pelikan M1000 and the Sailor Professional Gear -  but the best results in that regard may be had from true flex nibs. Many vintage pens, especially those from the ’40s and earlier, have flexible nibs because they were often made of 14K gold, and gold nibs tend to be more flexible than steel. In addition, antique pens were designed to flex to accommodate use of the Spencerian and Copperplate styles of handwriting.

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Two of my favorite flexy pens – a Moore vest pen, and a Sheaffer black hard rubber ringtop, meant to be worn by ladies around their neck on a chain. Notice the line variation with the Sheaffer.

2. FPs, unlike BPs, are refillable with ink from a bottle. For green advocates, they are a better choice as they are not disposable. Modern fill systems use a cartridge - a plastic tube pre-filled with ink is snapped inside the pen – or converter - also a plastic tube but with a twister-thingy that allows you to draw ink up through the nib. A converter is better since it is re-used over and over, but a cartridge can also be refilled using a syringe. Vintage pens have a variety of filling systems ranging from lever-fill, button-fill, etc. Stick to c/c (cartridge-converter) pens at the start for less mess.

Collecting Fountain Pens

If you would like to start a collection of fountain pens, you might want to:

1. Ask friends or family for their old fountain pens. Chances are there are pens gathering dust in some drawer or box somewhere, and your relatives and friends will only be too glad to pass them on to you.

2. Check out the fountain pens for sale at office supply stores. In the Philippines, try:

a) National Bookstore for the Parker Jotter, Vector, and other models that might catch your fancy. They also carry Aurora, Waterman, Inoxcrom, Cross, and Rotring. Inoxcrom make the most affordable kinds – plastic cartridge-fill pens suitable for children, or for anyone looking for a sturdy daily road warrior.

b) Luis Pen Store is the only fountain pen store in the country. Established in the late 1940s, it’s still near its original location on Escolta Avenue, Manila, near Sta. Cruz Church. There you’ll find NOS Parkers, Sheaffers, and Pilots from the ’70s, as well as newer models of those brands and Cross and Mont Blanc. They also do FP repair, do engraving, and sell Parker Quink ink.

c) Office Warehouse has cheap and fun Schneiders – the Zippi and other models.

d) Fully Booked carries Inoxcrom.

e) Office supplies stores in Recto, near the university belt, carry NOS (new old stock) Pilot Japanese pens from the ’70s – terrific buys for their reliability and beauty, and the antique factor as well. You might also find Lamy pens.

Try checking fountain pen sellers online for modern pens, and eBay for vintage pens.

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Three 1940s Parker Vacumatics with their pretty striped celluloid barrels; a Parker 51, iconic for its hooded nib; a Parker 45; a (restored) Parker 75 Milleraies, the pen that started my collection; a Parkette; a red Esterbrook; and a gold Wahl set of refillable pencil and fountain pen.

3. Research online about fountain pens and join collectors’ forums. Wiki has this informative article on fountain pens. Check out Fountain Pen Network and join the Fountain Pen Network Philippines Yahoo! groups. For more information and pictures, visit Leigh Reyes’ blog, My Life as a Verb; Thomas Overfield’s Bleubug; and Dr. Butch Dalisay’s Pinoy Penman.

Getting Started

Getting started is easy. Just go to your favorite pen place and get the pen that you like best that you can afford.

I’d suggest you start with something inexpensive  – say, a cartridge-fill Parker Jotter or Vector with a steel nib – to get used to the nib and the way it lays ink on paper, which is different from the way you’d use a BP. FPs need very little pressure to lay a dark line (this is assuming you are using dark ink), whereas for BPs, you have to press hard to achieve  a darker line, making FPs terrific for writing for extended periods. In addition, FPs don’t score the back and succeeding pages of your notebook, unlike BPs.

You also need to find out what width of nib you prefer – F, M, or B? Get an inexpensive one of each kind, or try them out in the store first before buying. Testing an FP is done by “dipping” – dip the nib for a few seconds in ink, and doodle on paper.

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A Lady Sheaffer from the ’70s; various Pilots, including a Pilot E Script pen, a Pilot 77 from Luis Store in Escolta, a teal Pilot from Recto, and a red Pilot 78G from Shanghai; an orange Sailor Professional Gear Colors; and Japanese long-shorts from the ’70s – a Sailor, a Pilot, and a Platinum.

Don’t forget to buy bottled ink! Available in Manila are Parker Quink, Waterman, and Aurora inks (at National Bookstore). Online, look for J. Herbin, Private Reserve, Noodler’s, Diamine, Caran d’Ache, and Pilot, especially their Iroshizuku line.

And as you become more enamoured of using FPs, you’ll also need to look for “fountain-pen friendly paper”. (Fully Booked has a nice assortment of Moleskine, Paper Blanks, Grand Luxe, and Miquelrius. For local brands, Corona and Cattleya are great – smooth paper, won’t snag your nib, no ink feathering.) Happy hunting!

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best tricks with favorite things

I spent a couple of hours at Starbucks (Yupangco Makati branch) waiting for my sister to finish lunch with friends. It was her last day in Manila; I was to take her to the airport in the late afternoon so she could catch a flight back to Dubai, where she has been based for the past ten years.

I had some of my favorite things with me to pass the time productively.

The coffee is a Double Tall Dark Cherry Mocha nonfat, no whip, one Splenda. (“Are you sure you still want the Splenda, ma’am? The syrup is very sweet…” I always add one Splenda when I take an extra espresso shot.) The caffeine jolt is necessary to jump-start my brain.

The book is the ninth edition of Theories of Human Communication by Stephen Littlejohn and Karen Foss. It is one of the bibles of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication. It explains around 126 theories, give or take a few. I read and re-read chapters when I have free time.

The mobile phone is a year-old Nokia 5310 XpressMusic. They didn’t have the pink one when I got this one, which I would have bought for the color. I prefer skinny candy-bar phones, which I can easily hold in one hand for texting. I dislike clamshell and slider types, because the more moving parts there are in a gadget, the more parts there are that are likely to break.

The fountain pens are my daily road warriors. Lacking a proper pen case that can accommodate the six or eight pens that I rotate on a monthly basis, I use a plastic Waterman case that the red Hemisphere came in. Yes, I know, it’s not the best thing for the pens, they’ll scratch each other, but it’s only temporary, I promise.

The purple leather two-pen case is a Christmas gift from my friend Leigh.It’s adorable, just as she is.

Armed with these things and in between downing gulps of coffee, I wrote entries in my ”communication diary”, a large Scribe (Moleskine knock-off) notebook covered with olive silk. The diary is homework for our Communication Research 201 class with Dr. Joey Lacson and must be entirely handwritten. I used a different pen for each entry, so the words pop off the pages in a whirl of colorful inks – Private Reserve Naples Blue, Caran d’Ache Sunset, J. Herbin Cyclamen Rose, Pilot Iroshizuku asa-gao (morning glory blue).

I also texted the entire Board of Directors of the company I work for, telling them that it was a year since they hired me and thanking them for giving me the opportunity to work with them. After that I cleared my messages and deleted unnecessary files, freeing up valuable storage space for data.

I snapped photos of my pens using my mobile phone camera to use as my phone screen wallpaper.

From time to time I would jot down meetings and other reminders in my planner, while at the same time listening to too-loud conversations of other patrons rather than tuning them out. It’s not eavesdropping because they are talking loud enough for others to hear. As a communication student, it’s one way of observing communication behavior in the field.

One young woman, a self-proclaimed frequent traveler, complained to her friend in the colegiala accent of privileged female private Catholic high school students about losing her baggage on a flight to Paris. “It was the first time, and I never though such a thing would happen to me,” she said. “Don’t take anything for granted.”

At another table, an elderly man sitting with eight friends was telling them about a recent golf tournament he played in. “I played eight holes then almost collapsed,” he said. “I wasn’t feeling ill or anything. It just shows that anything can happen, even the least expected.”

My two hours at the coffee shop were well-spent. I completed several important tasks, relaxed in soothing surroundings, and was reminded by others of an important bit of wisdom – “Never take anything for granted.”

Multi-tasking with things that are chosen carefully with functionality foremost in mind helps you be more productive. Find out what things work best for you given your own particular way of doing things. What’s good for someone else might not be what’s right for you.

Once you’ve found out what kind of tools you’re comfortable with and make you more effective, stick with them, while still keeping an open mind on new things. It’s not a case of old dog, old tricks, but rather old dog, best tricks.

When my sister texted that her lunch was over and she was on her way to meet me, I packed up my favorite things, drained my coffee cup, and walked out the door with a sense of accomplishment. Now that felt good.

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