Thursday, 28 November 2013

Ratnam 'vacumatic'

I saw this pen in Apsara Pens, in Mumbai - fountain pen central of India - and I just had to have it. The bright, translucent purplish celluloid - there's a lavender tinge to it in natural light, which doesn't quite come out here - the classic looks of a Parker Vacumatic. It was in the case with so many other lovely vintage pens, but it far outclassed them all.

Then I opened it. Heck, what's going on? This is a Vacumatic - but it's got a Sheaffer Triumph nib! I wasn't expecting this!

Of course, being an Indian pen, it is not a vacumatic filler - no diaphragm, no button to push. Nor is there a vacuum-fil system. It's an eyedropper. Simple.

So my first breathless passion for this pen has now settled into an amused love of a beast that looks like one kind of pen, pinched the nib design off another, but is actually something else entirely. A typically Indian mix.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Kultur vulture

My nine Kulturs. Eight FPs and a rollerball.

These are cheap pens. You can get that transparent red one in Carrefour supermarkets for about ten euros. They're related to the Phileas, the US version of the pen which has more metal furniture and looks generally a bit more expensive (and fetches ridiculous sums on eBay), but they are basically entry-level Watermans.

And I love them. I love their size - unlike most cheap pens, which are skimpy, skinny little tubes that hurt your hand, these are generously proportioned, curvaceous beasts. They have a certain deco feel, and there's that wonderful black dome on the cap.

The nibs are big, too - great big steel nibs filled up with quite a lot of design, usually in F or M, that write very readily and, in my experience, quite wetly. (Though the cap is not airtight, so unless you use the pen regularly, it's prone to drying out.) Again, for an inexpensive pen, you get an awful lot - contrast, say, the Parker Vector which gives you a horrible little nib which is just a perfect nail.

I love their variety, too. Look at the green glitter one. I've got the case for that one, a plastic translucent green glitter case that looks as if it should have sunglasses in it. There's the purple and red marbled one with extra 'gold' bands - I love that one; it looks like an astronomical picture of far away galaxies. My least favourite is probably the one on the right, which has a horribly clingy, rubbery texture. It may be robust if you drop it, but it's about as appetising as a half-eaten dog chew. There are demonstrators, there are glitter pens, there are metallic versions.

There are some special (not limited) editions, too. I've seen a French World Cup football ballpoint, though I don't know whether fountain pens were included in that edition; there are at least three different Lara Croft versions (I've only ever seen the rollerball in the flesh), and there are a bunch of Kulturs done up for Harley Davidson with flames or chequered flags.

Unfortunately prices seem to have got a bit crazy. Certain auction sites are selling the school pens for five euros more than the supermarket! But when I see one at a good price I grab it. They are really quite lovely pens.