Posts Tagged ‘fountain pens’

blue and yellow pelis

Once upon a time, in a country far far away from where it was made, a blue Pelikan M205 Traditional Series demonstrator came to roost on a Yeah! notebook.

The blue Peli’s fine steel nib has a bit of flex that makes it a joy to write with, yielding good line variation because of its springiness.

It was joined later by a limited edition Pelikan M205 in Gelb (yellow) from Germany.

Its nib is even bouncier than its blue fellow’s.

The clips of both pens are pelican beaks with eyes, the better to see what they are writing.

The ink window mesmerizes; one can gaze at that ink bubble and derive amusement from watching the ink flow here and there as you tilt the barrel.

An ink window is handy for seeing how much ink you have left. You’ll never run dry in the middle of a sentence anymore.

The Yeah! notebook is inexpensive but well-made.

Its paper is smooth and takes fountain pen ink well with little show-through and no feathering.

Interesting pens, notebooks, and inks for doodling make me happy. What are the little things that bring you happiness?

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chitofied pens

Modification of fountain pen nibs is done by nibmeisters, savvy pen users who can grind plain vanilla or rough nibs to make them smoother or more interesting in terms of line variation or flex.  Fountain pen collector Chito Limson is one such gent, whose ‘chitofied’ nibs are prized by his pen friends, among whom I am fortunate to be counted.

He recently modded three pens for me. All came with stock fine nibs. From top to bottom, a Wality marked ‘Airmail’ from India, a Chinese-made Bulow, and a custom made pen from Rob Beers in Iowa.

After smoothing with micromesh and magic, the Wality is now a crisp italic. Not for daily notetaking, it is toothy and sharp at the edges of the nib to create lettering for special occasions. And doodling.

The Bulow is blingy, heavy, and best wielded unposted.

From a vanilla fine, it is now a sweet cursive italic that yields some line variation since the nib happens to be semi-flex.

The Iowa pen, says Chito, was the easiest to work with and is now a deliciously smooth stub that glides over paper.

It bears a two-tone nib with the edges smoothed to a stub that is wider than a fine, which it was previously.

Nib modification is an option to take stock nibs to the next level. Thanks to Chito and his magic hands, these pens have been transformed and given more character.

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cheer up pens

Pen friends show each other love with – pens. Leigh and TAO cheered me up with these pink beauties, both unavailable in Manila.

Rotring is a brand familiar to many Filipinos. Countless engineering students buy their drafting pens and related products. This German brand also makes reliable school and workhorse fountain pens commonly used in Europe.

The Rotring Altro (from TAO) was released in the 1980s and came in pink, yellow, burgundy, and other colors. Its ribbed barrel is non-slip and sturdy hard plastic, able to withstand flinging into a rucksack after a day at school. This one has a  medium nib, but writes like a Parker fine, and glides smoothly over paper. The nib is steel, and rigid as a concrete nail.

It can take a small cartridge and have room for a spare. A long Waterman cartridge would fit, for those who want more ink than a short cart can store.

The cap bears “Rotring Altro” and “W. Germany” markings. The clip is metal wire, like a bent paper clip with a tube of plastic on the tip. The pen looks coral in these images because of the low light conditions, but the actual color is Barbie pink.

Herlitz is another German brand. Founded in 1904 and based in Berlin, it manufactures paper and school and office supplies, among them a line of fountain pens. The my*pen line comes in cheerful two-color combinations – fuschia and orange, light and dark blue, light and dark green, and this pink and white baby.

Another friend, Clem, calls her white Lamy Safari her “Stormtrooper” pen. This one (from Leigh), on the other hand, reminds me of Hello Kitty Darth Vader. Like most, if not all, affordable modern pens, the nib is steel without a hint of flex. The pink inset is soft rubber and makes gripping it easy. This one has an M-nib, but lays a  juicier and wetter line than the Rotring Altro, much like the M-nibs of other brands.

The rest of the barrel is ridged hard plastic. The cap has an unusual design that reminds me of, well, Hello Kitty Darth Vader’s helmet.

The Rotring Altro and Herlitz my*pen are dependable road warriors that will complement any pen fancier’s lineup for daily use.

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the rain falls mainly on the train

This is what it looks like on the train on a rainy day.

Fat drops of water pelt the windshield glass;

through the blur, people are color in motion.

The train doors whoosh open and shut

as the people of color hop on and off,

on their way to home, work, or secret destinations.

Some will find money or lust or murder  when they arrive;

others will be lucky and find love.

Those who only have lonely gray thoughts peer out the window

and wonder when the rain will stop to let sunshine in.

Below the train are streets filled with cars traversing

the city roads that wind, slick with moisture,

stretching time and the trip to wherever.

Yet the journey each one makes in their mind

is longer, more torturous in its windings,

more cunning in its twists and turns.

Far more devious are the journeys of the heart

and the color people cram the train cars hanging on to life

even as their hearts break and beg for another day, another hour

with the beloved.

Still the rain comes down relentless

washing away the doubt the sin the pain

until all that remains is the blur of love lost and gained

and beating hearts looking for the way home.

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the pelikan demon

Pelikan is a German brand of fine writing instruments established in 1838 by chemist Carl Hornemann, who initially concocted and sold inks and pigments in 1832. Another chemist, Gunther Wagner, took over the company in 1871 and adopted his family’s emblem, the pelican, as the company symbol in 1878.

In 1996, most of the company shares were acquired by a Malaysian holding firm. However, Pelikan pens are still made at the company plant 30 miles east of Hanover, Germany.

Pelikan continues its centuries-long tradition of quality and craftsmanship with the creation of limited edition pieces such as the 205 Traditional series Blue Demonstrator.

The Pelikan 205 Traditional series Blue Demonstrator (center) with a Sailor Pro-Colors Violet (top) and a Pilot Custom 74 Demonstrator (below).

Demonstrators, as their name suggests, allow you to see the mechanisms of the pens, as well as how much ink you have left, ensuring that you won’t run out in the middle of a sentence or a particularly effusive flourish.

Peli 205 blue demon writing sample in a Yeah! notebook with Diamine Cerise ink.

The pelican-beak-shaped clip, fittings, and ornamental rings are chromium-plated, with a built-in converter-style fill system, also called a plunger mechanism. It’s comfortably sized at 4.14 inches long capped, 5.13 inches long posted.

Available nib sizes are EF, F, M, and B. This one’s an F. The nib is hand-crafted and hand-polished stainless steel, strong and robust, yet with a hint of spring that allows a bit of play in line variation.

Pelikan pens are not distributed in Manila. Try buying online.

The pen is filled by dipping in an ink bottle and twisting the plunger mechanism from the bottom. This makes ink stain the section (the area just after the nib), which is why many collectors, such as myself, dislike inking demonstrators. But it looks pretty when filled.

The blue Peli demon rests on a Yeah! notebook, purchased at National Bookstore in Rockwell. A Moleskine knock-off – see elastic along the side – it is inexpensive and well-made, the paper creamy with no feathering and minimal show-through. Yeah!

The blue Peli demon and a Parker Jade Duofold rest on a Green Apple notebook (review to come in a future post) as they survey the shelves at the Boni High Street Fully Booked store.

The Peli’s clip is beak-shaped and has eyes (left). The Parker Duofold’s nib is gold and flexy. More on that next time.

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why i prefer antique waterman pens

Author Stephen King called the Waterman fountain pen “the world’s finest word processor”. He used one to write the first draft of  his novel Dreamcatcher, after an accident on 19 June 1999 that left him unable to sit in front of his computer for the four to six hours (or 2,000 words, presumably whichever came first) that was his daily self-imposed writing discipline.

Intrigued by this assertion coming from one of my most admired fictionists, I acquired a Preface and a Hemisphere. Both are handsome and well-made pens, reliable and robust; but the modern Watermans don’t compare to the antique models of this brand.

Take this Waterman #52 1/2V. Made circa 1910-1920s, this one’s made of black hard rubber and has a  lever-fill system, state-of-the-art during that time. The cap is adorned with a decorative gold band that has space for the engraving of the owner’s initials. The deep-cut flourishes are art nouveau-inspired, a genre of art that sends me into paroxysms of delight because it is rare and otherworldly.

Yet this pen’s crowning glory is the gold flex nib that gives a wide range of line variation, from very thin to very thick.

The nib is a marvel of metallurgy; they don’t make them this way anymore.

The clip is also heavily engraved.

It’s fortunate that many pens like these have survived to the present time, for us to enjoy as functional art. Stephen King would have liked this one, I think, to marvel over and write into one of his stories, if not draft a best-selling novel with.

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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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vintage and modern pens at the track

On alternate weekends  I sit as anchor of the cable television live coverage of horseracing events at the Philippine Racing Club’s Santa Ana Park in Naic, Cavite.

There are usually 12 races on Saturday, 13 on Sunday. They start at 2:00 pm and are held at 30 to 40-minute intervals. I’m on-cam at the opening and closing of the show. In between, only my voice (and that of my co-host) is heard to introduce the entries at the post parade, give the pre-race and post-race analyses, read announcements, race odds, results, and pay-offs, and crack jokes. There are no scripts, it’s all ad-lib, and it’s pretty free-wheeling as long as you stick to the sequence.

I’m stuck in the studio the entire day, unless there are awarding ceremonies to emcee, which isn’t often. To amuse myself between races and spiels,  I doodle and test fountain pens and ink.

I play!

Last weekend I brought along these babies to the track and put them through their paces.

From the top, a Lamy Purple AL-Star EF; a Lamy Coffee AL-Star EF; a Parker Ringtop; a Sailor Pro Colors 500 in Geranium Red, originally a medium and modified by nibmeister Chito Limson into a stub;  and a Wahl 3 Greek Key.

Along with pens, ink gets tested too. Pilot Iroshizuku has a wonderful line of ink based on colors found in nature, in the earth and plants and trees of the Japanese countryside.

The Sailor running Pilot Iroshizuku tsutsuji (azalea).

Once a fountain pen is altered from its original state, the practice among pen collectors is to mention all changes made to it. In the case of nib modifications, a word is coined that refers to it using the nibmeister’s name. In the case of this Sailor, it is “Chitofied”.

To give a few more examples: “Binderized” (Richard Binder), “Mottishawed” (John Mottishaw). To use in a sentence: “Sorry, kids – your only inheritance is a Pilot Vanishing Point with a Binderized cursive italic nib.”

Most fountain pen nibs in gold and steel are tipped with “iridium”, a term that refers to metal alloys that are long-wearing and protect the softer gold and steel tips. In less expensive pens, the tip of the nib may just be turned back on itself to create the characteristic bump on the tip.

A nibmeister creates a stub nib by patiently grinding away the “iridium”, often by using abrasive pads like Micromesh. He may leave a soft-edged tip, or grind a straight line with rounded edges – a “stub”. If he sharpens the edges a bit more, he comes up with an italic nib. Sharpening even further, he creates a “crisp” italic nib.

Stubs and italics offer more line variation than the usual kinds of nibs (extra-fine, fine, medium, broad). They are more interesting to write with.

To obtain more variation and fancier effects, nothing comes close to vintage flexible nibs. The best, to my mind, are gold flex nibs from the 1930s and earlier. Below is a gold-filled Wahl 3 Art Deco pen from the ’20s.

Wahl 3 inked with Waterman Havana Brown. To see a Wahl (and a Nakaya elastic fine and flexible fine)  in action, watch this video at Leigh Reyes’s blog.

Lamy is a fantastic brand that marries contemporary design with reliability and performance. Here’s their Lamy AL-Star, which looks the same as their popular Safari model, except that the AL-Star’s barrel and cap are made of aluminum while the Safaris are plastic.

Lamy comes out with different colors of their AL-Star and Safari every so often and discontinuing them after each production batch, making each new color a collectible. This one’s called “Coffee”, rendering it irresistible to me. It lays a striking line when paired with gentle-for-pens Waterman ink in Havana Brown.

Modern steel nibs are “nails’ – they are unyielding and sturdy, making them suitable for daily road-warrior work such as note-taking, writing drafts and long letters, and defending yourself against muggers. (That’s a long story. Tell you next time.)

See the difference between the Wahl 3 and the Lamy.

Lamys at the track: Purple AL-Star, Coffee AL-Star, Aluminum AL-Star, Pink Safari. Save for the Aluminum, these are LE (limited edition) colors.

I bring at least four Lamys with me everyday, inked with different colors. But I also bring a flex pen or two to play with, and another vintage favorite is this Parker Duofold Jade ringtop with gold-filled cap trim from 1929 or thereabouts.

Pilot Iroshizuku momiji (autumn leaves) gives gradated effects when used in a flex-nib pen.

The Parker Duofold’s nib is glorious; I can do calligraphic tricks with it, creating thick and thin lines and all kinds in between by altering the pressure on the nib.

Doodling in between races with pens old and new, using inks of rainbow hues, relaxes me after each task and clears my head, so I approach the commentating of each race with undiminished energy.

“Aaaaand they’re off…!”

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potent potions of purple and puce

From last year’s Pilot Iroshizuku line of fountain pen inks – tsukushi (horsetail) and yama-budo (wild grape).

With a name like “horsetail”, I was bound to love  it. Tsukushi is a reddish brown in the bottle, but dries to a shade like milk chocolate that melted in your hand.

Yama-budo is a subdued purple, yet vibrant in the light, like a good red wine in a glass. It dries to violet-red. The notebook is by Te Neues; it feathers.

Pilot has got “quiet elegance” right, from the understated yet attractive colors to the handsome glass bottles that, on first glance, might be mistaken for perfume vessels. The silver cord around the neck and the elliptical shape of the bottle with the heavy glass base add to their subtle charm. It’s a pleasure to fill pens with these hued potions.

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christmas pen

Sometime in late December last year, our high school batch came together for a reunion. For many of us, it was the first time we had seen each other again since graduation day. From all over the Philippines, North America, and Australia, more than twenty of us, almost the entire batch, trekked back to the place where we spent most of our waking hours for ten of the most formative years of our lives.

It was a notable event in many ways; I’ll tell the story some other time. Suffice to say that it would not have happened if not for our class president, Amerlon Enriquez. He’s now a physician specializing in pulmonary and sleep disorders, based with his family in Iowa.

You can take the boy out of the Philippines, but you can’t take the Philippines out of the boy. Amer might live and work in America, but his heart and soul are pure Pinoy and will remain so. Memories of school days played a sentimental arpeggio on his heartstrings, and, recalling a milestone for our batch was nigh, took time from his busy schedule to organize a reunion.

After rounding up as many stray sheep as he could, this shepherd cajoled, guided, asked, reminded, and pleaded with classmates to prepare for the event. (He didn’t scold – he’s too nice to do that.) It was a huge undertaking, involving much effort on the part of the Manila-based organizers and expense on those abroad who flew over. It took a year or so, but Amer pulled it off.

I knew there was a reason we landslide-voted him class president – every single school year.

Finally we come to the point of this post. Amer and his wife Eva’s pasalubong for me, when they came to Manila last December, was a custom-made fountain pen.

The pen comes in this handsome pine box. A ‘Q’ is laser-cut into the lid, with a backing of etched plastic inserted into the other side.

Inside was the maker’s card and a pack of ink cartridges. The pen was made by Rob Beers of Quill and Nib in West Des Moines.

The pen is hefty; the metal trim is engraved with lovely detail. Grape leaves adorn both bands.

Grapes cover the clip.

The barrel is hand-turned, cut from a resin rod. The color reminds me of fresh purple grapes held up to the light.

This long part at the bottom allows the pen cap to be posted, although for me it’s too heavy to write that way. I don’t post this pen.

The nib is a two-tone medium nib marked “Iridium Point Germany” – perhaps a Bock?

Writing sample with grape-violet Waterman ink. The pen has a converter and can take standard carts.

With care, the pen will last many lifetimes, to be passed on to my daughters and their children to come, along with the story that goes with it. For the pen is more than iridium and resin and plastic;  is a sign of that which is greater and stronger – the friendship, the concern, and the love of the Enriquez family. For that, they have my endless gratitude and the blessings of a friend who wishes them the best of everything always.

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