Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Why I love Rohrer & Klingner

I am not the world's biggest ink collector by a long way. I have a few inks, but I'm not a collector.

I'm not all that conservative with my ink choices either. I like purples, oranges, lime greens, post box reds, lurid fuchsia.

I have one bottle of Quick blue-black. I probably won't get through it in my lifetime. I regard blue-black as a loathsome confidence trick. It's not black, it's not blue, and it's one of those kinds of compromises which makes life utterly unlivable. "Even in the face of Armageddon, never compromise."

But I also find it difficult to give up a wad of money for an ink. I have a few Pilot Iroshizuku inks that I love dearly, but a price point of 30 plus euros for a bottle makes me uncomfortable.

And I like my inks wet. I like my pens to write like fire hoses. I use broad nibs and love them. I find a lot of really lovely inks annoy me by writing dry. (Jacques Herbin I'm looking at you.)


So I love Rohrer & Klingner. It's got everything I want.

  • Strong colours; Solferino a wonderful purple, Fernambuk bright reddish pink or pinkish red, Cassia a deeper purple, Smaragdgruen a more subtle green than many I use, a forest green. And Alt Gold-Gruen, which I love more and more the more I use it - a sort of green tinted with golden yellow, like drying moss or the yellowy green of very old brass.
  • Easy flow: none of these inks have yet caused me a problem in my Platinum 3776s, which are very choosy about which inks they get along with. And when I use them in my broad and Italic nib Pelikans, oh wow!
  • Four euros a bottle. How can I not love this? Nice ordinary bottles, nothing fancy. 
Actually I really like the bottles. They have wide enough mouths that I'm not worried about dipping my chunkier pens, and they're good and stable, and in nice heavy glass that doesn't threaten to tip over while I'm filling. They're probably third in my affections to the hexagonal-ish Waterman bottle and the gorgeous (but oh so expensive) Iroshizuku big bottles.

(Actually, make that fourth to my incredible one litre Waterman blue that I found at a flea market!)

I must get some more. R&K doesn't have the most extensive range - certainly not compared to Diamine - but I really do like its colours. I just wish I could find it here in France!


Monday, 20 July 2020

Necessity is the mother of invention

I blame Brian Gray.

He blames covid-19.

Anyway, Edison couldn't get enough of their stunning Rock Candy material for the Collier, one of my very favourite fountain pens. Which is annoying, as so far I've held off buying one of the Rock Candies, and I really want one, but a few Pelikans and Platinums this year had nearly run me out of pen budget.

But then Brian thought of the darndest thing.

Instead of just picking another material to run with, he put it to a vote.

I voted for subtle. That's fairly unusual for me, but I liked the 'Juniper'.

I thought one of the more vivid colours would wing it.

Oh, blimey. Juniper won. So I've been over to La Couronne du Comte and pre-ordered one.

I really like the way Edison does business. This was an innovative and fun way to bring customers into the decision. It also introduces what is in effect a rather intriguing random element to a special edition, because no one knows how many of these pens will be made - production will stop once the Rock Candy material is available again.

And now I'm off to find a real rarity - elastic, which you can't get for love or money in this part of France.

Sunday, 19 July 2020

New pens! First sortie after lockdown

In France, we've been 'unconfined' for a while now and mid sized outdoors events are beginning to occur.

Which means sales! Hurrah! hurrah!

But Thiron-Gardais, a little village in the middle of the Perche, produced no fountain pens. It did produce a couple of nice things, but no pens.

And two hours of searching at Breval today produced an Egyptian statuette (Louvre miniature), two Burmese monks in gilded wood, some really good books and a small pestle and mortar for the kitchen.... but no pens.

I was coming up to the last alley, where the path from the forest turns round and opens up on to what used to be a field and is now a quite nice little housing development, and I saw there were a couple of professionals set up there. Okay, let's have a look.

Oh boy. Look at those Parker 45s! Such bright colours they put the little Pelikano in the shade.

I have a ton of Parker 45s. About 80% of them are in black. Some are flighters. I've never run these cute colours to ground before. Even better, the Pelikano came along for the ride.

These are not high end Viscontis or Omas. These are school pens and a bit better than school pens. But both Pelikano and Parker 45 share qualities that I love - they're well made, well designed, and incredibly usable pens. And I know I'm not going to have any trouble with them - a bit of cleaning up (the Pelikano section is black with dried ink!) and they'll be ready to go.

And then on the next stand, a Parker 75, pristine, with the French lozenge poinçon (hallmark) for 18 karat / 750 gold. It came to me for a lot less than it should have cost and I have managed not to scratch it on the way home.

The thing I love about the 75 is the very nerdy feature of a nib orientation device. It's a bit like the Eversharp flexing device, it's probably more interesting in nerd terms than it is useful in practice. And it eventually disappeared, and the thick bank with its marks, reminiscent of a gear or an indexing device, was replaced by a thin gold band. But this pen has got it. Hurrah!

Altogether I'm ridiculously happy with today. I may not have found many pens, but the ones I did find were absolutely lovely.

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Needing some sun in your life?

It's grey here.

Grey every day. Sometimes, I can hardly tell dawn from a slightly less intense version of night. Grey fields, bleached stumps of colza; grey skies, with grey clouds; grey roads, grey everything.

I need some sunshine in my life.

Cue two pens that have brought it over the past few weeks, alongside some fine joyful inks like Diamine Autumn Oak, Papier Plume House of the Rising Sun, Roher & Klingner Fernambuk, and Herbin Orange Indien.


Platinum 3776 special edition 'Apricot' (tarumi) demonstrator for Nagasawa pen shop of Kobe, Japan. I managed to secure this fine implement on eBay and it came with a crisp italic nib. A real delight.  The gold plated clip, cap ring and tail ring are exactly what's needed to pick up this gorgeous colour and make it glow.

Even nicer, it has a little rooster on the nib - Nagasawa's house symbol, the weathervane, and the date 1882 instead of the usual '3776' (height of Mount Fuji, a cheeky homage to another mountain and another penmaker).

I have a mini collection of 3776s. They're adorable pens, and until recently prices were eminently affordable. Unfortunately the price points for some of the special editions are now rather ambitious... but this one I had to have.

And here is the Edison/Goulet Nouveau Premiere Tequila Sunrise, with a glass of white rum since I didn't have any tequila in the house. It's actually a bit more orange than the picture shows, with more and less intense areas of colour and incredible chatoyance. It's just a bit more summery in feeling than my Edison Collier in Persimmon Swirl, another bright and happy feeling pen from the same stable.

I really adore Edison pens - it's a pity they're not well represented in the EU. Super pens, without bling, in really gorgeous acrylics (and sometimes ebonite). Every one a great little writer. I'm primarily a user, not a collector, and these are pens that I reach for time and again when I need to ink up and get writing.

And this one brought me a lovely dose of Vitamin D just when I needed it.

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Mending some Bayards

I love Bayard fountain pens - but they used some very shrinkage-prone celluloids.

Yes, they're very colourful and characterful celluloids. But they shrink.

Quite often you'll find a little bump around the lever axle. That's not a problem.

What is a problem is that the lever won't actually close any more.


There are a few things that help.

  • First, take any rust or dirt off the sides of the lever. Micromesh or very fine (500+) sandpaper can help, but go very gently. Not recommended if you have a nice plated lever, but if it's brassed and rusty, do what it takes.
  • Secondly, with a fine pair of pliers, if the lever is still not fitting properly, close down the 'ears' at the top end a little. They have bumps on them to ensure the lever stays flat once engaged, and that may be what's stopping the lever lying fully flat.
  • If you still can't make the lever flatten nicely, it could be the other end that's the problem. You can generally work that out by just feeling where it's sticking, as you move it around gently. In that case, the lever slot needs to be a bit longer. Take a thin jeweller's file, or make a sanding stick by supergluing fine grit (300+) sandpaper to a cocktail stick / toothpick. Then file the 'nib end' of the lever slot till the lever fits positively.
I got all my Excelsiors working nicely. Hurrah!

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Resacking and other repairs, and a lovely little Swan

I've finally managed to make some time for pen repairs, and I've been busy pulling pens apart, and in some cases, getting them back together again.

The job is complicated by the fact that so often, you think "easy, that pen looked fine, I'll just resack it" - only to find that it's missing a j-bar, missing a nib, got a crack in the barrel, a cracked nib, the lever has come adrift from its bar or c-clip, or there's some other little fault that means you'll have to put in some time on the lathe, order more components, cannibalise another pen...

So I now use the pulling-apart stage as a form of triage. I have boxes marked

"need nibs"

"CRACKS"

and

"need sections". They are filling up much too quickly for my liking.

And then I have the box marked "ready to sack". It's rewarding when more than half of the pens go into that box!

Then there are also the pens that go back into the box because they still won't come apart. I have a couple of gorgeous Parker Modernes that simply will not separate. I just give them a go every time I'm working. One day I will, I'm sure, feel that little sideslip that means they're ready to give...

This is the nice thing about restoring only your own pens. You can leave them as long as it takes. I'm really glad I don't work on other peoples' pens; I can run a batch processing system like this, and no one is going to ask me why, for instance, I haven't done their piston filler, because this is lever fill month...

Batch processing means those pens needing new sections or end tassies or blind caps will all be put away till I get the mini lathe out, and then they'll all be done at once. All the safety pens will be done at once.

It's also useful because it means I never work on a pen that's above my current level of skill. The Vacumatics can wait! By working on the easy stuff first, I've got reasonably good at taking pens apart, I've got good at resacking (only one disaster, an Edacoto where I managed to shellac the channel in the feed closed, and had to knock out the feed and nib to solve the problem), and I have got started on a few pens that needed their nibs knocked out, straightened and reinserted. (The reinsertion is the hard bit.)

Anyway, I did get a few pens all the way through the process, and I've been using one today. It's a sweet little Swan, just 12cm long, with a nice flexy nib. I think I've underestimated Swans in the past - this is a delight of a pen, in 'snakeskin' effect spiral wrapped celluloid. I did a little extra work filling in the swan engraving on the black cap top with gold pencil (yes, it probably should really be white, but I'm keeping this pen for myself, so never mind authenticity) and cleaning up the rather inky threads.

I was about to see if I could remove the scratches on the section when I realised: those aren't scratches! "SWAN" is actually engraved across the section (with the double quotation marks), just in case you had missed the swan on the cap top and the three-line barrel imprint, again with the little figure of the swan. Branding gone mad.

Apologies for the rather poor photo - my compact camera is out of action so I had to resort to the Nexus 7.
I've been trying to improve my handwriting with this nice flex nib. I think my pen restoration skills are some way ahead of my copperplate.


Friday, 15 June 2018

New Chinese pens - rekindling an old flame?

It's been a long time since I ordered a Chinese pen.

I started out with a bunch of Chinese pens - Jinhaos and Picassos. They were fun fodder for nib grinding, and they didn't cost much, but I soon found myself tiring of them. Quite literally in some cases because of the very heavy, brass-based build.

But the Chinese pen industry has been changing and a recent post on FrankUnderwater's blog got me interested again. Two wooden pens - the Moonman M5 and the Delike Redwood - made me break into the Paypal account for the first time in a while.

I don't know what they'll feel like when they arrive. They might not feel as good in the hand as they look on the screen. The nibs might not be great (I ordered a 0.6mm and an EF fude). But they do look rather stylish. They don't seem to be outright copies of another pen manufacturer's work (there's a Faber-Castell Ondoro clone out there, but then I have the Ondoro in bog oak and orange, so I don't need a clone) and they're wood, which is a material I love.

Probably neither of them is going to replace the Waterman Man 100 briar in my heart (particularly since neither of them comes with a Waterman Ideal 18 carat nib), but I'm looking forward to a pair of parcels arriving... and of course I'll write the pens up once they arrive.

(I've also been interested by the PenBBS pens I've seen featured; there are some really quite amazing acrylics available. But then Bexley and Edison feed that lust quite nicely, and if I really want to go premium acrylic it'll be a Kanilea or Carolina Pen Company, probably, or maybe a Fred Faggionato...)