Sunday, 31 January 2016

Things I hate in a pen

Like many collectors I need a little help not to grab every single pen that comes my way. I need some rules. I need focus.

Some of that focus comes in the form of self-awareness; knowing what I love. I love bright celluloid. I love colour. Not that I hate black pens or demonstrators, but colour really makes me happy - the saturated Chartres Blue of the Platinum 3776, the lurid mixes of some Gold Starry and Bayard pens, the rich mahogany, red and gold of some of the early Waterman celluloids, or the cracked pearl and lapis Duofolds.

The wonderful yellow of a Duofold Mandarin would also make me happy, but fat chance.

There's the negative side, too. What I hate in a pen.

  • Too much metal. With a few notable exceptions (the Waterman CF, Parker 75, and Parker rolled gold pens) I really hate metal pens. My hands are delicate. I don't want to be holding a metal thing all day. And I'm afraid metal implements remind me of trips to the doctor, or the dentist, or the gynaecologist. The shinier they are, the worse it gets. Metal pen? no thanks.
  • Bling. When I got started I looked at pictures on the internet and I thought: I need Italian pens. Bright colour, flashy design. Then I went to a pen show, and Oxonian got hold of me and showed me boring Parkers with amazing swishy nibs, and little German piston fillers with attitude, and I saw the Sailor King of Pen and wondered at it, and rekindled my love of Waterman... and realised the Italian pens were just too blingy. Too much clip and cap ring and writing and decoration all over them. Not for me. I do have a few Italian pens, but they're Aurora 88s, which come in one colour: black.
  • Too thin. I have a couple of Sheaffer Fashions. One of them is okay. The other is a 'slim'. It's a pain to write with. I don't necessarily need a Rotring Core, but in a full size pen I really do need something to get my fingers around.
  • Meanness when it comes to nibs. I reserve especial hatred for the Wyvern 303 (written up on Goodwriterspens) for its tiny, stingy little nib. I don't even want to try using it; it's just horrible. If you're going to have a tiny nib, hide it away decently like the Parker 51 or Pilot VP. The Waterman Charleston just gets away with having a nib that's a bit small - because it's a very cute pen; it's a fine line between a bit small, and stingy.
  • Cheap plastic. You can't see this in a photograph but as soon as you get it in your paws, you know what's going on. The plastic feels too light and too brittle (even if it doesn't actually crack). Or it looks like plastic; I mean the kind of plastic they make seaside buckets and spades out of, or food packaging. It's the plastic that puts me off the Lamy Vista - it seems so much lower quality than the material used for the Safari.
  •  Pens that don't work. I don't mean pens that need repair; I'm happy to buy a nibless classic and find a nib for it, or a pen that needs a new sac or a new piston seal, or a bit of fettling and whittling. I mean pens that have design faults. Pens that have filling systems that break and can't be repaired, pens that have really bad nibs (there are fewer of those around than there used to be, thank goodness), pens that have clips that fall off, caps that don't fit.
  • "Clever" pens. I want a pen that is a pen. I want it to write with a nib. I don't want it to tell the time, remind me to take my pills, write with a separate ballpoint insert, have a tiny mechanical pencil inside, or be able to fix my car with it. I particularly don't want it to tell the time if it costs over $100,000 just because it's so clever. I like the cleverness to be restricted to designing interesting nibs (Sailor) and filling systems (Conid) and not making a pen that's also a microwave and a superhero.
  • Sections that bite. Prominent threads that bite into my fingers. Sections that are so short my fingers end up over the nib. Sections that are metal (which I hate already) so my fingers slide off, or that have metal threads which slice the sides of my fingers. A pen that will not sit comfortably in my hand is a pen I hate. You, of course, might like it. Strangely, I have no problem with triangular section Safaris or Pelikano ribbed grips, perhaps because Lamy and Pelikan did some basic work on ergonomics before launching them.
  • Proprietary cartridges that you can't get, and no converter option. Waterman CF, Kaweco Sport, I'm looking at you. (And I know: I hate this, but I still collect them. This is illogical, Captain.)
Now then... what do you hate in a pen?


Postscript: another take on similar issues - "I know what I like" at That One Pen.

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