Posts Tagged ‘j. herbin’

pastel pink esterbrook

Ah, the age of fountain pens. While there are staunch FP users like myself keeping modern pen companies in business, my inner retronaut is drawn to the inescapable allure of the vintage, when materials were different and the nibs were better – or more interesting, at least.

This is a light pink pastel Esterbrook CH model “purse pen” from the mid-1950s. It is a “first generation” with two black jewels.

Pastel pink CH Esterbrook with a bottle of J. Herbin Vert Empire.

It’s a lever fill, with a miniscule capacity that requires frequent re-inking – not that I mind. I love playing with ink.

The plastic used for the pastel Esties was softer and prone to cracking and staining.

This pen came with a steel DuraCrome point 2668 nib, which is a “Firm Medium” for “general writing”. (Here’s a chart of Esterbrook nibs and their descriptions.) I’m not sure if the nib was modded somehow before it came to me, but it writes like an italic stub. It was scratchy so I smoothened it on an old brown kraft paper envelope.

The nib was so sharp it tore holes in the paper. 

Trying to rub out the sharpness by stroking it across rough paper. See the deeply-scored lines made by the nib.

After some effort, it writes much better.

Estie DuraCrome nibs were made without extra metal at the tip, so having less metal to wear away, I succeeded in getting it somewhat smoother, although I wore the point down at an angle instead of straight across. It works for me, anyway.

Writing sample with the smoothened nib. The Vert Empire ink mixed with existing black left unflushed from the nib and sac, so this is not a true rendering of the ink color.

Here’s another writing sample, this time with the same ink appearing in truer color. I love this nib!

There is a dark pink version of the purse Estie that I covet. Perhaps one day the universe will drop it into my lap.

All photos taken with an iPhone 4S, edited with Snapseed.

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sheaffer targa matte black

Knowing that I collect fountain pens, and that my favorites ones are vintage and those that belonged to other people, my stepfather sent me one of his.

It’s a classic matte black Sheaffer Targa, circa ’80s, with the distinctive  inlaid nib design executed in 14 karat gold.

The tassies at both ends are plain black. The weight and heft are just right, and the pen remains well-balanced even when posted. This is the regular-size version, not the slim, and is comfortable to hold and write with for extended periods.

According to this source, this pen could be a “Sheaffer Targa version 4, 1003 Matte Black second edition.”

The small photo above shows the parts: barrel; nib, section, and Skrip cartridge; and cap with clip.

The elegance of its design and the quality of materials used make this a timeless pen, one for all seasons.

But its superpower lies in its nib.

Writing sample of Sheaffer Targa matte black on Kokuyo notebook, J. Herbin Lie de The ink.

On creamy Kokuyo paper, the nib glided here and there like skating on glass. There were no skips, starts, nor hiccups at any point of the writing process. If there is such a thing as a nib that “disappears” into the writing experience, becoming an extension of your hand to convey your innermost thoughts onto paper, this is it – the Sheaffer Targa inlaid nib.

 All photos taken with an iPhone 4S, edited with Snapseed for sharpness and color.

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danitrio cumlaude

Danitrio fountain pens are handmade from rods of Italian celluloid (cellulose acetate), hand-turned on a lathe, and polished by hand for days. It’s available in two sizes – large and small – and comes with either an 18k nib or a steel (iridium) nib. They are well-made and most collectors try to acquire at least one.

Danis are a bit pricey, and I thought I’d never own one until I learned about their Cumlaude model. It’s the basic, entry-level Dani, and since I got mine on a “group buy” with fellow members of Fountain Pen Network-Philippines, I was finally able to afford one.

The pens we got were from the “close-out” Cumlaude sale, the last few stock left of this type of pen. (Dani no longer makes celluloid pens, concentrating now on urushi and maki-e from ebonite).

This is a large brown Danitrio Cumlaude, Fine nib. It also comes in blue.

Earlier Cumlaudes had markings on the cap band – “Trio Cumlaude” – and a metal section, according to Peaceable Writer. The clips of both types are marked with the brand name.

The “close-out” Cumlaudes have no metal internal parts. It has a converter fill system. I’ve heard it can be turned into an eyedropper fill, but the ink would stain the celluloid material and reduce the translucence.

When filling it for the first time, I chose J. Herbin Vert Empire and removed the converter from the barrel, in case of spills. I don’t want to stain the pen’s lovely marble-y brown body.

The large Dani is fairly fat. Although I have small hands, I got used to its size right away, as it requires less of a grip to hold on to it and manipulate it, unlike with smaller pens. It won’t exacerbate the focal dystonia in my right hand.

This is a Fine steel nib. It is a nail with very little give. Here’s a writing sample.

While the nib is smooth and buttery once it gets started, I had problems with the initial flow and with doing curves – it skips on the upstroke of a cursive “J” or “N”, and the top of “S”.  I don’t have this issue with other pens, like my equally new TWSBI, for instance. This problem was resolved when I used a different ink – Waterman, which flows well and is a “default” and safe ink for many FP users.

I find it also messy and blotty sometimes – see what happened when I unscrewed the cap the other day. I have yet to observe whether the change in ink will eliminate this particular issue.

Overall, the Danitrio Cumlaude is a handsome pen and an interesting and welcome addition to my collection.

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a collection of j. herbin inks

“La Perle des Encres” – “The Jewel of Inks”. Thus now are known the inks first created in 1700 by sailor-entrepreneur M. Herbin in his atelier in the Rue des Fosses Saint Germain in Paris. The company, known as J. Herbin, has been in existence since 1670; they began as a purveyor of fine sealing waxes.

Using inks in fountain pens and sealing wax in correspondence is an enjoyable visit to a splendid age, when the educated people of that time wrote long letters on thick paper in an elegant hand, carefully sealing them afterward with colored wax, an impression from a seal or a ring, and perhaps a kiss.

It is a marvel that we today can enjoy these same things. J. Herbin still makes fountain pen inks from natural dyes; their neutral pH is fountain-pen friendly. Here’s my latest haul of J. Herbin, from Scribe Writing Essentials in Eastwood Mall.

The packages are very chic, a designer’s dream.

The ink bottles are also beautiful, as are the labels. And the names of the inks, in French, will make you fall in love. Je t’aime.

The bottles are of glass and come with plastic caps.

There is something so very satisfying about a well-made and well-designed product.

The bottles are a special shape – the caps are set slightly back to give space for a groove that functions as a pen rest.

The bottles are works of art in themselves.

Even the bottom of the ink bottles are lovely.

These simple writing samples show how spectacular these water-based, lightfast inks are. Can you imagine using one of these colors in a pen to write a letter to someone special? Or using several colors to create a watercolor artwork?

This new year, make it a resolution to tap in your own creativity. What is it you enjoy doing – writing, drawing, singing? Express yourself through that channel, do whatever it is that makes you happy, and renew your spirit in words, color, or sound.

Photos taken with a Nikon Coolpix L21 at PICC Complex, Pasay City.

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j. herbin anniversary ink

For Christmas I treated myself to a bottle. Not of wine, nor perfume, but of a headier and far more potent potion – fountain pen ink.

J. Herbin of France was founded in 1670 by a sailor, Monsieur Herbin, who brought back from his travels to India formulas for sealing wax that made him his fortune. Some years later the company also began manufacturing ink, and thus they are “the oldest name in ink production in the world.” They made ink for the Sun King, Louis XIV, and a black ink for the sole use of author Victor Hugo.

To commemorate the company’s 340th anniversary this year, they released a limited edition ink – the “1670″.

J. Herbin calls the color rouge hematite, described as a “dark red color and earthy tone”. The hue recalls the color of  the company’s logo, while the use of red wax to seal the cap is a reminder that the company also makes wax to seal the grand cru wines of Europe.

The bottle is a different shape from their usual, being a heavy glass cube. The cap is of aluminum, sealed with red wax; the neck is strung with gold cord sealed to the bottle with gold glue-gun wax.

The ink goes on blood red but dries in gradations and with flecks of gold here and there. The color is warm and saturated. It has depth and complex layers of shades that make it more suitable for use in pens with flex or calligraphy nibs.

Writing sample made with a Waterman 52-1/2v, circa 1915, with a superflex gold nib.

Read these excellent reviews of “1670″ at Inkophile, Rants of the Archer, Biffybeans, and Lady Dandelion.

“1670″ is available online and, in the Philippines, at Scribe Writing Essentials store, Eastwood Mall, Libis, Quezon City.

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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!

taste more:

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.

DSC_8426

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.

DSC_8440

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.

DSC_8430

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.

DSC_8427

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!

taste more:

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.

taste more:

bulletproof vs. non-permanent fountain pen inks

Fountain pen inks are water-based and different brands make them with varied characteristics as to color, permanency, and others. The non-permanent kind are more numerous and available in a rainbow of colors, from plain black and blue to scintillating scarlets and greens.

There are fewer of the permanent concoctions, but one of the most popular is Noodler’s “Bulletproof” line. Developed by chemist Nathan Tardiff, these inks are said to withstand everything from household bleach to airplane degreasers.  (Check out Fountain Pen Network for ink reviews and tests.)

I wanted to see for myself the difference between permanent and non-permanent fountain pen inks, so I made my own simple experiment, with Alex’s help.

The inks we tested: (B = bulletproof, NB = non-bulletproof)

NOODLER’S: Heart of Darkness (B), Socrates (B), Rachmaninoff (B), Habanero (NB)

PRIVATE RESERVE: Blue Suede (NB)

WATERMAN: Violet (NB) and Green (NB)

J. HERBIN: Rose Cyclamen (NB)

“SECRET SAUCE” (my own ink cocktails): “Inkdigo”, a mix of Parker Quink Blue and Black (said to be waterproof), and Waterman Violet (W); and “Cherry Red”, a mix of PR Black Cherry and Noodler’s Red (both NB)

I wrote on a sheet of notebook paper with a variety of pens and nibs, and allowed the page to dry for 30 minutes. Alex then squirted water on the page for ten seconds, and let it drip-dry. We checked it after five minutes, and again after the sheet had dried.

Here’s what happened:

When Noodler’s says one of their inks is “bullet-proof”, they mean it! When you use a bulletproof ink, your only worry about the immortality of your written work is the physical integrity of the paper itself.

In the photo above, the “Cherry Red” is still dark because the pen I used to write it with, an Aurora Idea, lays a superwet thick line, but you can observe how the ink “ran”. The J. Herbin ink in Rose Cyclamen, on the other hand, did not run but it did fade noticeably, perhaps 50%.

The Noodler’s bulletproof inks did not run, fade, or change color. It’s a faithful ink, the kind that will never leave you nor forsake you for another.

I’m in love.

taste more:

ink in the blood

It was the first-ever, as far as we knew, meeting of fountain pen collectors in the Philippines – at least, of this batch of friends belonging to the online communities Fountain Pen Network and PhilMUG. For years, several of them had contact only by email or on online forums discussing their particular mania. On July 5, Saturday, in a peaceful home in UP Campus, they gathered with their pens and ink to meet and share.

Fountain pens are virtually unknown now in the Philippines – ask any person below the age of twenty and you’ll get a glazed stare – but before ballpoints came into being, in the 1940s to mid-1950s, FPs ruled.

I belong to this peculiar tribe for whom the process is as important as the end result. It is easier to write with a ballpoint, but nothing compares to the feel of a pointed steel or gold fountain pen nib sliding over the paper, laying down ink almost like a brush. The words seem painted on, elevating the mundane activity of scribbling notes into an art.

Older collectors remember using FPs in their youth, mostly Parkers and Sheaffers; for them, it’s often a matter of nostalgia and reliving the past. Younger enthusiasts are drawn to vintage artifacts redolent of a history they never experienced; for them, old is new and for that reason, desirable. Using FPs in this age of gel pens sets one apart. How many people do you know still use FPs everyday?

One of them is University of the Philippines professor Jose “Butch” Y. Dalisay Jr., PhD. Host of this penmeet, he is a multi-awarded writer of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama, and screenplays. He has won, at last count, 16 Palanca literary awards. Perhaps a hundred or more pens reside in his pen cases and “junk box” (a red felt-lined wooden chest).

“Welcome to the first Philippine Fountain Pen Collector’s meeting!” Seated: Beng Dalisay, Carlos Abad Santos. Standing: George, Robert, Butch Dalisay, Leigh Reyes, Eliza, Pep, Jay, Chito, Butch, and Iñigo.

Another enthusiast is Leigh Reyes, creative director of  a prominent advertising agency. Her collection is unrivaled, containing premier brands Nakaya, Oldwin, Visconti, and Omas, to mention just a few.

I had met Leigh several times before, to acquire ink and vintage pens from her stash. The last time I saw Butch was in 1985, when I was a student of his English 5 class at UP Diliman. (He was one of my three favorite professors – the others were Dr. Michael Tan, anthropologist and columnist; and the late Rene O. Villanueva, also a Palanca-award winning writer and literary icon.) I received my invitation to this gathering from Butch. It seems he had Googled “fountain pen Philippines” or something similar and was led to this blog.

It was my first time to meet the others. After the initial frost had thawed, they welcomed me with genuine warmth into their circle, pressing pens into my hand to try, passing bottles of ink for my inspection.

Caloy_smile

Pep says something to Caloy that makes him smile: Leigh examines a pen’s nib; others “test-drive” the pens lying around.

Beng Dalisay (Butch’s wife) is not an FP collector, but remembers using them as a young student. “We used Parkers and Sheaffers,” she recalls. An accomplished artist, she prefers watercolors as her medium. Beng also restores and maintains artworks in museums and private collections. “We will soon be working on the Botong Francisco mural in Manila City Hall,” she says. A collector too – of tins and bottles – she knows the fierce and often uncontrollable craving that can overcome a  true enthusiast, and nods indulgently as we debate stiff versus flexible nibs, bulletproof against water-based inks.

Junkbox

Leigh answers a question while Butch roots through his mahiwagang junk box.

There is a particular etiquette in this culture that we instinctively practice, or it could be a result of years of “good manners and right conduct” teaching about respect for another’s property. It is this – that pens are passed to another person almost reverently,as if they were religious objects. If the pen is heavy, like Jay’s silver and tan herringbone patterned Faber-Castell, two hands are used to present it to another. Infinite care is taken when removing the cap – it could be the kind that screws on, and fie on the one who tugs! Pens removed from a case are, after careful use, returned to their proper slot or passed back to the owner. They are not left lying around unless by the owner himself. Ink bottles, too, are painstakingly opened; ink has a tendency to pool in the cap, and no one wants to spill a difficult-to-obtain twenty-dollar bottle of French-made J. Herbin.

Leigh_caloy_duo

Iñigo watches Leigh write in her flowing calligraphy; Caloy surveys a feast of fountain pens.

At some point during the festivities, several of us pull out our Moleskines. Caloy asks Leigh to customize his with her elegant lettering. Elai and I clamor, “Mine too!” Leigh good-naturedly picks up a fountain pen loaded with light brown ink, and writes quickly, without hesitation. Our names, embellished with swirls and flourishes, float from the italic nib and lie like butterflies on the creamy yellow paper.

Pens_butch

Leigh’s pens, notebook, and inks; Butch smiles as he uncovers more pens.

“Jenny.” I hear Butch’s voice and snap to attention. “Sir?” My response is reflexive; he will have my respect as my professor no matter how many years have elapsed since we were in a classroom. He hands me a pen. “For you, since you were my former student.” It is a black vintage Sheaffer Balance dating back to the 1940s, he says. I melt. My hands close around the pen and I stammer my thanks.

Butch does not realize, I think, how special the gift is, how his sudden impulse has profoundly stirred me. Not only because he is famous, and it will be a treasured souvenir from a literary lion; but because he was my teacher, the gift is significant as a reminder of a shared past and a mentoring that deeply influenced my writing.

One blue-book exercise he gave us was to describe a peso coin. “Be more specific and imaginative when you describe something! Look carefully at both sides and write down all you can discern.” His instructions forced me to use not just my eyes but also the vision of the mind to explore objects and concepts, employing uncommon words to provide the reader a fresh experience. “Resist cliches!” he said, so since then I have avoided them like the plague.

Pens_galore

Part of Leigh’s carefully-selected collection includes fountain pens by Nakaya, Sailor, Platinum, Pelikan, Oldwin, Danitrio, Stipula, Visconti, Omas, and the ubiquitous Parker and Sheaffer. She also owns ink in a vast array of colors, with brands like Caran d’Ache, J. Herbin, Private Reserve, Noodler’s, and Diamine.

George talks about his other passion – collecting and restoring vintage typewriters. I lean forward to listen; anything that makes alphabet marks on paper is interesting. George speaks: “Royal, Blickensderfer, Underwood,” and Butch nods sagely.

I look around and see that everyone has ink marks – on their hands, forehead, temples. Leigh rubs my chin. “Ink?” I ask, and she smiles. Caloy has a streak of green on the right temple; George, on the forehead. Butch’s fingers are a riot of color, as are Jay’s and Iñigo’s. We are true FP fanatics, I think, the stains worn as an emblem of pride. No one tries very hard to remove the marks.

Penfriends1

Front: Leigh, Butch, Jenny; Back: Iñigo, Jay, Eliza, George, Caloy.

One by one the penfriends depart. Chito is first to go. Butch from Baguio follows, saying, “I have a long drive. See you again soon.” “When is our next meeting?” George asks, almost plaintively. “Next month?” Butch says, “How about in six months, or when we have something new to show?”

I ride to Katipunan with Caloy. A well-traveled intellectual who is a PhD Economics candidate at UP, he offers to share shipping costs from PenGallery if I order. We have just met; but the ink in his veins calls to mine and thus we are no longer strangers.

We all look forward to the next meeting, the next sharing of custom-ground nibs and the latest colors of ink that are “not black!” as Leigh says. Anyone who is enamoured of the same is welcome to join. May the tribe increase!

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