Posts Tagged ‘luis store’

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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“pilot 77? never heard of you.”

From Luis Store comes this unusual fountain pen – a Pilot 77.

Terrie and Rose Pua, owners of Luis Store, say that this pen was part of Pilot’s budget line during the ’60′s. As always from Luis, their vintage pens are “new old stock”, brand-new, never been used, tucked away for decades after being purchased by their father, Luis Pua, who founded the only store in the country devoted to fountain pens in 1943.

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The pen has an unusual nib; triangular, supported by a plastic base, marked simply “Pilot” in all-caps. The tines are very close together and seem almost one unit.

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Markings on the barrel say, “Namarco Pilot 77 Made in Japan”.

A search of the Internet yielded no information on this pen. One might tend to doubt its authenticity – could it be some sort of fake using the Pilot marque?

But a comparison of the fill system with a Pilot E from the ’70s shows that they both have the switch-fill system invented by Pilot and, far as I know, used only by them.

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The cap is some kind of inexpensive metal, colored gold, marked “Pilot” on the base.

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It also comes in a soft peach coral and robin’s-egg blue, colors reminiscent of the ’60s and ’70s and a valuable clue to dating this pen.

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While not a terrific writer, the nail nib does give some line variation, making it interesting enough to use daily as a “road warrior” with pizzazz.

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well-balanced sheaffers

Back from the talyer (AKA Luis Store, 375 Escolta, Manila) are two Sheaffer Balance fountain pens from Leigh. Various Internet sources say that these particular models – the Jet Black Lady (or Junior) and the Golden-Brown Striated - were released in 1936-1939.

Upon the nib of the Jet Black pen are engraved the words “Sheaffer’s 3 Made in USA”; it is a very fine nib, perhaps an extra-fine. The Golden Brown Striated Balance bears a Sheaffer’s Lifetime nib with its own serial number; I’d say it’s a fine nib.

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The nibs of both pens are in good condition;; I just brought them to Terrie and Rose Pua of Luis Store for sac replacement as these pens are lever-fills and the rubber sacs had expired over time.

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Manufacturer’s information on the barrels

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Not all pens bore the trademark white dot

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“Visulator” windows are close to the nibs; threads are for the caps, which screw on

At seventy years old, these beautiful pens still function, and are a marvel of classic and timeless design with their tapered caps and tails. As links to the past, they evoke images of ladies in bob haircuts or marcelled hair and gowns with low-cut backs, lounging in Art Deco settings, smoking cigarettes in holders, or penning love letters to their swains.

Women, perhaps, like my own maternal grandmother (Beatriz Ledesma Lacson), shown here in a photograph from the 1930s. I can just see her with one of these pens in hand, dashing off acceptance notes to amigas for a supper or carnival ball invitation or inking dedications on the back of photos like this.

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This is why I collect – and use – fountain pens. Would you keep a Bic for seventy years? Could you still use it? Would you want to?

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horses and hopia at escolta

Tuesday, Feb. 12, was the big day of this week – the day that I picked up the vintage gold Parker 75 Milleraies from the talyer!

A friend received the pen as a gift in the ‘80s and passed it on to me. It was in very bad shape inside. So we took it to Luis Store along Escolta, hoping they could fix it.

Terrie Pua, daughter of store founder Luis Pua, assured me that yes, they could replace the entire inner assembly of the pen. She told us to return after ten days.

So we went back to Escolta last Tuesday. Before picking up the pen, we had lunch at Savory Restaurant on the corner. My friend remembers attending banquets there on an upper floor back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. I didn’t see any access to an upper floor; all the diners were seated at round tables on the ground floor. The décor was seedy Chinese-resto, but had the aura of age and history giving it authenticity. The Savory Fried Chicken is delectable and tender.

Right next door to Savory was a lotto outlet, where we stopped to buy tickets. Beside that was an OTB (horse racing off-track betting station), still closed as weekday races don’t start until 6pm. Not too far away, several college students were squatting on the sidewalk; one was reading the Dividendazo. We looked over his shoulder when we spotted the familiar layout of the racing form.

After lunch we dropped by Polland Bakery next door. The façade is the usual concrete box with glass windows, but the doors boast a pleasant surprise – rough old wood with dragon-head brass knockers serve as handles.

Inside, chinoiserie scattered here and there lend the place a special charm. The shelves are filled with tikoy (for the Lunar New Year), hopia (ube, red mongo, pork, other flavors), lowa, peanut cakes, haw flakes, and other baked goods.

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Along Escolta Street, past and present exist side by side, with horse-drawn carriages rolling along beside Toyotas.

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Being taga-karera, anything to do with horses fascinates me. This one’s a nativo. Put this carriage driver beside a thoroughbred and he’d just come up to its withers.

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At Luis Store, Terrie, Rose, and their mother Mrs. Pua proudly presented me with my refurbished Parker. “Blue or black ink?” asked Terrie. “Blue, please,” I said, and watched as she dipped the pen nib-first into an ink bottle and squeezed three times. “Wait five seconds for the ink to rise into the sac,” she instructed. She also advised that any bottled ink I own be filtered through a fine cloth every six months to remove sediment.

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When the sac was full, Terrie wiped the nib on a tissue and handed me the pen. With a new 14-karat extra-fine gold nib, clip, top tassie, grip, and aerometric fill system, it writes like a dream. “Use it everyday,” she said. “That way the nib will conform to your writing style.” I promised to do so, and before we left, Mrs. Pua pressed candies upon us.

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It was a sweet day.

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a very fountain pen day

Learning of my new fondness for fountain pens, a friend gave me one of his, acquired in the early ’80s.

The pen is gold-plated with a pattern of closely-spaced parallel lines. It was in horrible shape – no nib (my friend had taken it apart when he had spread the tines pressing too hard), the aerometric-fill system was leaky, and the grip’s threads were loose. No nib. The clip was broken in half. The top and bottom tassies were discolored and showed brassing. No nib!

So today we took it to Luis Store at 375 Escolta. (Call them at (02)241-3484) I first learned of the shop from Leigh’s old blog and immediately wanted to visit. I asked my friend for landmarks; I was surprised when he told me he actually knew the shop founder and used to buy and have pens and lighters repaired there forty years ago. “Nandoon pa ba ‘yon?” he asked.

This friend of mine remembers going to the store when he was in high school (early ’60s) when all Mang Luis Pua had was a stall beside the road. Today, Mang Luis’s widow Mrs. Pua and their daughters Terrie and Rose carry on the business, now housed in a fairly new building; the shop is a haven for local pen connoisseurs in the know.

Once there, Terrie uncapped the pen, and went, “Where’s the nib?” My friend shrugged. “Lost,” he said. Mrs. Pua then came along, took a look at the pen as well, and said, “Where’s the nib? Gold ‘yun!” By that time he was red in the face and mumbling, “Saan na nga kaya ‘yon?”

The shop is a dream for collectors. They do adjustments and repairs, and have vintage and new stock of Parker, Sheaffer, Montblanc, Waterman, and others. I saw a Parker 51, which I really want, also a vintage Sheaffer ballpoint similar to what my mom has (she says it belonged to her mother, my grandmother Beatriz Ledesma Lacson).

So we left the pen for repair, mainly nib replacement. We asked Rose and Terrie a good place nearby to have lunch. “Turn right at the corner and look for the French windows,” they said. “Order the grilled pork chop.” Same thing they told Leigh. I’m glad I took their advice. The pork chop was great, along with sides of fried egg and potato salad. The place is called 9 to 6 Foodhouse, along Tomas Pinpin corner Escolta.

9to6_meal

Back at the office, I checked Lih-Tah Wong’s excellent online reference Parker 75 Fact Book and found out that the pen is a Parker 75 Milleraies, made in France. (Milleraies is French for “a thousand lines”).

My friend has another Parker 75 which he identified as a Grain d’Orge (barleycorn pattern).

He says he used to own a Parker 51 which he found really annoying to use (it was skipping) so he took the nib apart. He couldn’t put it back together again the way it was so he stopped using it. (Rose and I, in unison: “Where is it?!”)

My friend is amazed that the pens he used when he was younger and took for granted as “just pens” are now worth a fortune. Well, a small one anyway. Luis Store’s cheapest Parker 51 is P28,000. ”And to think my classmates and I used to stab our pens nib-first into the tops of our wooden schooldesks,” he said. As I looked at him in horror he said, “Eh matibay naman kasi eh.”

Later that same afternoon, I visited Leigh ‘s office to pick up the Platinum and Sailor “21″ pens. It was our first meeting and I was so happy as Leigh is so sweet and friendly. The pens are in beautiful shape, and she even gave me a black Platinum Preppy and a Platinum pen box.

The highlight of our encounter was when she showed me her lovely pens (Omas, frog Danitrio) and let me try out her Piccolo Nakaya and gold Danitrio with a cursive italic nib, both loaded with lovely light brown ink. Now I feel that I have seen and tried out real pens, and know what I should be collecting.

Yay for pens!

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