Archive for the ‘pens/inks’ Category

Thoughts on Change

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Or why the new Classifieds made me see red on FPN!

I just wanted to offer a philosophical take on the Classified Kerfluffle over at Fountain Pen Network. Certainly I, along with everyone who has either raved or ranted about the new selling format, has (or ought to have) a deep and genuine appreciation for the (volunteer) work on the project and on FPN in general. Nevertheless, I do see that a lot of folks reacted pretty strongly to the new format. If I’m being honest, I must confess my own inner curmudgeon came out swinging.

My apologies for that; that’s why I sat down and tried to determine why I had the gut reaction I did. I thought I’d share, for my own sake, for the sake of letting our tireless (and often unthanked) mods know what was up, and maybe, if what I have to say isn’t pure rhetorical fluff (and as an academic, I always acknowledge that’s possibility) it may be good to think about moving forward.

I think part of the problem is that the new marketplace format has gone from feeling like a community thing, like a farmers market, to feeling more like an institution. In this day and age, I think we (consumers, users, customers, members) are too used to having ‘new and improved’ shoved down our throat, will we or nil we, only to find, that “new and improved’ may indeed be the former, but is almost never the latter. We are also surrounded by incomprehensibly and excessively complex systems for everything, from calling our local bank to reading our phone bill. And in too many venues, “new” too often means “even less comprehensible, and even less useful.”

As it was, for all its flaws, the old selling forum was not complex, it was not rigid. It was simple, and relied on integrity and community goodwill to work. And, by and large, from where most of the members sat, it did. It was more of a conversation, a series of exchanges and interactions, not between vague entities, but directly between people. I think that is something we don’t have enough of, and I for one, cherished that on FPN.

Now? This is no longer feels as personal, it is not a direct conversation. Sure, technically, it still is – the same exchanges, the same interactions. Pens, PayPal, etc. But this classified format acts as an entire structure, an edifice, a simulacra of a storefront between buyer and seller that did not exist before. It occupies, I think, the same mental space as customer service phone menus and fine print. On a purely psychological, symbolic level, it creates distance by inserting complexity. I think people tend to rebel against that.

I do get the drawbacks of the old system; I really do. And I get that, in the end, it is rarely (if ever) possible to make people behave voluntarily. However, the freeform nature of the old sales forum was something I, for one, really valued for that specific reason, and was actually proud of. The casual, personal, ‘I’m dealing with a real human being’ nature of it was a big part of the reason I’d prefer to go here than eBay. I suspect the same is true of a lot of those who are objecting.

Perhaps we are overreacting. Likely, it will still be more personal and ‘real’ than eBay ever will. But will it be the same conversation? Will it regain its intimacy? Will the sense of ‘community’ overcome the distance? We’ll see, and I’m not the one to prognosticate. My purpose here is merely to reflect on what changed for me and why. If that proves useful to others, well, I’ve done far more than I ought to have hoped for.

Inks, two pens, and a great gathering!

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

Today I had the privilege of spending a few hours with a terrific (and gratifyingly large) group of fellow pen enthusiasts, courtesy of Kentucky Pen Collectors. While there I was gifted with a Noodler’s Flex Piston Filler pen, had one of my beloved Viscontis retooled, and got a couple pens-ful of new inks, which I have naturally fallen in love with!

So on to the reviews: I can’t thank Julie enough for thinking of me and bringing along the Noodler’s! She said she had had an awful time with it, and figured I might be able to do something with it (considering my love of flexy nibs). Well, right off, the nib looked like it was seated in a bit too far? So I took out the nib, cleaned it all a bit (not that it needed it, Julie takes great care of her pens!) and reseated the nib a good way further out. From my reading, it seems that you can control the amount of flex based on how you seat the nib; something I will have to experiment with later on. I did get it writing, and my first impression is… meh. I have a few scans below, and id does give a nice line variation. (In these scans, more so than my vintage Waterman, which is in part due to the poor quality paper, and the ink in said Waterman, which tends to be a lot wetter than that in the Noodler’s.) However, it writes a bit rough. That may smooth out over time and use, but I’m not sure it will have the chance, given that the flex it offers takes a bit of effort. At least I have no fear of springing the nib, but I can’t see myself using this comfortably for any length of time. I may see if I can smooth it a bit, and fiddle with the nib placement, and see if I can get a smoother, easier flex out of it.

Here’s a detail shot:

And for contrast:

In a brighter note, I had the nib on my Visconti VanGogh retooled, courtesy of Pendleton Brown, the well-known nib-meister of ‘Pendleton Point’ fame! It was such a pleasure to meet Pendleton, and he gave a wonderful talk & demo of his retooling process. We all learned quite a bit, and Pendleton himself is a fantastic fellow to talk to. Right before my very eyes, my rather dull Visconti steel medium was transformed into a Pendleton ‘Butter-line Elegant Stub! I’m in love with this pen all over again! Sadly, I don’t have any ‘before’ images, but really, you’re not missing much. Here’s the sexy ‘after’ scan:

And a detail:

Needless to say, I am very pleased! In addition, Pendleton, along with several other folks, were kind enough to have a few inks up for sampling. I got a sample of Noodler’s Blue Ghost UV ink, which I will review as soon as I figure out how to photograph it! But my Soyuz Soviet pen was allowed to sip a fill of my first Pilot Iroshizuko, in Yama Budo, or Wild Grapes. Here’s a scan:

Overall, I really love this ink. I haven’t used it enough yet to confirm it’s good behavior, but everyone I talk to raves about the quality and performance of this ink. I will say that I like the color way more than I expected to! It’s a purple/fuchsia/pink/burgundy/red-ish. Yeah, it’s kind of hard to pin down, which may be what I like about it. I know it’s not too red, not too pink (a big one for me; I simply don’t do pink), and it’s not too purple. It’s bright without being washed out, and saturated without being too dark. It’s a purple that doesn’t scream purple, and I like that about it. It has some subtle shading, and when it gets on really heavy, it does an interesting color shift, showing a deep, blood-red tone that is nowhere to be seen in lighter strokes…. Here’s a close-up:

Overall, I dub the day a fantastic success! Thanks again to all who helped organize this event, and I’m really looking forward to getting together again in July!

Current Mood: (cheerful) cheerful

Pens and such!

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Finally got together with a few o the pen folks again, and had a lovely time. One person has some stunning Japanese pens – these may have to go onto my wish list, if maybe not shopping list for this poor professor. Another had several really lovely Pelikans, which only confirms a Pelikan as my next big pen purchase. And I say big purchase both in size – I love big pens, and price – they don’t come cheap (well, for me, anyway! Seems some folks out there have snagged some enviable deals!)

All in all, it’s got me back to being fired up about fixing up some of my project pens, and maybe (gulp!) thinning my collection down a bit. First step will be fixing what can be fixed, deciding which of those to keep, which to sell, and which to simply give away with full caveats. Then, perhaps I’ll turn my eye to thinning the regular collection! (Can you believe that I really miss taking notes in classes? I don’t get to use pens anywhere near as much!)

Four new inks added

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Got four new inks added to the Inks page: Claret, Monaco Red, Burnt Sienna and Imperial Purple, all from Diamine. I think that Monaco is going to be a favorite, and will require a large bottle to be obtained directly…. Thanks for John from FPN for arranging the volume purchase! if you’re not careful, you’re going to end up our designated group buyer!

Also recently added two NOS Visconti inks, Aquamarine & Ruby Red. Both lovely colors, though I am a little leery of the Ruby Red – it seems a little too frothy, but I’ll let it settle a bit and see. I have plenty of easily flushed pens I can try it out in first to make sure it’s still good. The Aquamarine had leaked a little in transit, so I’ve had blue fingers for the last two days.

Which reminds me, a giggle for all of you pen-fiddlers out there, with which I am sure we can all identify:
Never mess with a fountain pen

Local Pen Lovers’ Meeting

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

So I went to the first ever local Pen Club meeting. It was a small affair, in a branch library, and I must say it was lovely! There were about 8-9 people there, though we ended up with four die-hards, myself among them, staying longer than the rest. Everyone brought pens and inks, and we got samples from a web-based pen retailer, so we all got to try out lots of new things. I will be keeping in touch with new friends, and looking out for some new goodies! We will definitely be doing this again!

Pen Review: Visconti Opera Special Edition

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

I just got this pen, and it is GORGEOUS! Made by Visconti in Florence, Italy, this is a real gem of a writing instrument. The fact that I am a bit of an Italian history buff just adds to my love for these pens. The Visconti family was one of the most powerful of the medieval Italian merchant banking clans, and continued on under the Sforza name when the direct Visconti line failed to produce an heir. (Sidenote: in the Middle Ages, the Visconti coat of arms was a basilisk devouring a child. Ghastly, right? But even today, you can see that greedy serpent on the front of any Alfa Romeo. True thing!)

Visconti Opera, Ruby Red

Visconti Opera, Ruby Red

In any case, this pen is pen lust embodied. It’s weighty, especially with the cap posted, but I like that in a pen.I inked it up with De Atramentis’s Dante Alighieri, a vivid ruby red (a fitting choice, I thought) and tried it out. The nib is an 18K G M, and as you might expect from an 18K nib from Visconti, it writes smoothly, putting down a clean line that’s steady but no too wet. The De Atramentis inks have performed very well in every pen I’ve had them in, and this is no exception, but it’s easy to see that this pen is beautifully made. I can already tell, this will be joining my Cardinal Townsend as a perennial favorite!