Thursday, 4 February 2016

Things I love in a pen

Having published 'things I hate in a pen' I thought I'd better put on the record what I love.
  • Colour. I can cope with black. Nothing at all wrong with black. (Come on, I mean, I collect Lamy 2000s. And they come in one colour, which I think you can guess.) But I love colour. Mandarin. Big Red. Jade. Koi celluloid. Blueberry, capuccino, lemon meringue.... I love it. Even pink has its place. Best pen? Edison Collier Persimmon Swirl.
  • Pattern attracts me strongly, whether it's the brickwork effect of a Vacumatic, the stripes of a Pelikan Souveraen pen, or the marbling of 1930s and 1940s Waterman pens. I have a Bexley Corona in the 'blueberry' acrylic, which is wonderful - stripes that are just delicate smears of colour on a creamy background. Best pen? A Punto Rosso 'Vacumatic' celluloid with gold filled cap.
  • Wood. Handled right this is a gorgeous material and I've a number of wooden pens. The Japanese seem particularly good at producing really stunning pieces, and of course Faber Castell and GvFC have a huge number of lovely wooden pens. The one I'm really looking at right now is a lovely Gimena - just beautiful dark wood and nothing to spoil its glimmer and wonderful feel but a simple leaf clip.  Best pen? So far, the Platinum 3776 Briarwood.
  • Which gets me on to something else I love in a pen: feel. A pen has to feel right. It has to be something I want to hold, to caress, to play with, to weigh in my hands, to turn end over end, to fidget with. Wood always does it for me. Brushed makrolon, and the bakul effect on ebonite, are nearly as good as wood... Celluloid and ebonite feel good, and the less furniture there is to get in the way, the better. Cheap plastic? Nope. Metal? No, really not. Pens that are stupidly heavily or ridiculously light, nope. Rubber sections like the Rotring Core? Run away! I want a pen I can recognise with my eyes closed. Best pen? Lamy 2000.
  • Keep it simple. I love pens with simple design. Parker 51 and 45, Lamy 2000, my little Merlins, the original Waterman Patrician - they're all simple and strong designs. There's a reason that two of them have become "icon" pens. That design has to be consistent with itself; one of the nicest little touches, for instance, to the Croxley pen is the use of the chevron motif on both clip and lever (and the same goes for several models of Bayard). Best pen? Lamy 2000, Faber Castell Ondoro, ASA Nauka.
  • I'm not a flex queen. I tend to like cursive italics. But what I really love in a pen is a good generous nib; one that gives a little, that bounces a little, that's wet, and smooth, and willing to bend the rules for me. There's a feeling of amplitude and springiness in some nibs that you just don't get with others, and if a nib gives me that special feeling, I will love it for ever. Best pen? Lamy 2000, Pelikan M600.
  • Good fit and finish. Clip caps that  clip snugly. Sections that don't start working loose while I'm using the pen. Cap rings that don't come loose. No wiggle if you post a pen. Converters that don't come loose or only fill half way. If you're going to live with a pen it needs to do the basics properly, or however pretty it is you'll end up hating it.
  • And there's one other thing I love. I don't mind cartridge/converter pens (though I don't like it when the cartridge doesn't come as standard, unless the pen is very cheap), but I really love a good piston filler,. And Vacumatics, and vac-fillers, and aerometrics. Lever fillers don't really do it for me.

On entirely another track - Canetas e coisas has just put up a great photo-essay on the Waterman Phileas and 'Harley Davison' pens. Fascinating comparison, and I think it's also a good reference case for a redesign that was properly done, rather than just sticking a corporate logo on an existing pen.

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