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bear by san

March 2017



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bear by san

Day Nine: My coughing was keeping the cats awake, and the boy's snoring and the dog's running dreams were keeping me awake, so I decided I might as well take a shower and do something more productive than lying in bed gagging on my postnasal drip.

Other than that, honestly, I feel fine.

So, seeing as I'm up three and a half hours ahead of schedule and already showered and dressed, I probably have some time to neep a little while the tea water boils, don't you think? And seeing as how I promised a couple of people a post about fountain pens, here it goes.

I come by the fountain pen thing genetically. My mother's been using fountain pens all my life, and I started with them in high school. And they are, unmistakably, a superior creature. I spend hours every day writing--long-hand and keyboard--and at one point I did nearly all of my fiction writing and poetry longhand. Back in the dim mists of history, lo, when I didn't even own a word processor.

I also have grip strength and fine control deficits in my hands--in part because of the time I spend on a keyboard, in part from lingering damage from a car accident about five years ago (I got broadsided at a stop sign, and was fortunate to walk away with mostly nothing but soft tissue damage, but I have never quite regained my grip strength), in part because of a bad fall in 1993 that screwed up my left shoulder pretty good (separated shoulder that wasn't diagnosed until I had the spinal X-rays after that car accident--we did mention I have a high pain tolerance? I, um, didn't notice, and my GP chalked the pain I developed a couple of years later as bursitis from a desk-job), and in part because of other things. I'm fortunate not to have developed any serious RSI (yet), which considering I've been a reporter, a typesetter, a fiction writer, a documentation geek, and a news summarist, and most of my relationships are carried on largely by email because I loathe telephones, is pretty amazing.

None of which explains why I like fountain pens so much. But they're all contributing factors.

jdparadise asked if I understood why somebody would spend $2,000.00 for a pen. And, frankly, I don't. But I do understand why somebody would spend $100.00 for a pen. The same reason you'd spend $100.00 for a good kitchen knife: because it makes a difference. Because cooking with a good knife or writing with a good pen is not a matter of conspicuous consumption (which is not to say that you can't be ostentatious with your knives or pens, because of course you can, and every time I see a high-end ball point I flinch, because dud, you spent how much money on a pen that writes like crap for why?) but is about work carried out with balanced tools that are aesthetically satisfying.

I spend a lot of time with a pen in my hand. I may as well enjoy the experience.

I'm generally not interested in ostentatious fountain pens anyway. The ones encrusted with whatever, or signed by whomever, or limited edition this, or platinum-plated that. (Though there's a silver filigreed Cross, I think it is, that I've seen in catalogues recently that's a thing of complete beauty, but what would I do with the damned thing? Stick it in my jeans pocket to get banged up on my keys? Not likely.) What I do like is a good, heavy, preferably metal-barreled pen with a comfortable girth (not these great big wonking things, but not a skinny little pen either) and a flexible nib with good ink flow and regulation and a crisp, dark line.

What I like about fountain pens is the textural variation of the line and the kinetics of using one--the glide of the nib across the paper, the responsiveness of the ink flow, the attention to pressure. They feel good to write with, and the writing they leave on the page is beautiful. I like a good, hard-working pen that can stand up to a little abuse. (See above, stuffed in pockets.)

Of all the fountain pens I've owned (and I did used to tend to lose them, though I have thankfully grown out of that mostly--now that I don't work in a big office or cart them around a college campus) the ones I've liked best have been Crosses, Watermans, or Mont Blancs. I've never owned but have gotten to use a Pelikan once or twice, and as I mentioned to docdad2 in comments recently, I currently am coveting their M215 model, which is a not-terribly-expensive pen that has all the qualities I admire in a fountain pen. As I was saying to hernewshoes, I may buy myself one when the check comes in (Actually, they're going for pretty reasonable prices on ebay right now from somebody in Germany). *g* (I have a one-fountain-pen-per-novel-sale deal worked out with myself. What the hell: it's a concrete reward, and suitably symbolic. And I don't get Christmas bonuses in this business. Which means I could theoretically buy that, and the Levenger Titan, and still owe myself two pens...)

Anyway, on to the neep, since handworn asked what I use.

I inherit a lot of slightly damaged pens from my mom, and the ones I can repair, I get to keep. And I buy most of my pens secondhand, or discontinued. So this doesn't represent quite the financial outlay it might seem--and amortized over twenty-five years or so, it's not all that bad. (God, am I really that old?)

I've never had a Waterman I didn't like. Anybody looking for a First Fountain Pen (gateway drug!) could do a lot worse than a Waterman Phileas. They're inexpensive, attractive, comfortable in the hand, write beautifully... and, unfortunately, do not have the most durable nibs or bodies around. One good whack on something at the wrong angle, and it's all over. (Please note, my definition of "a good whack" includes activities up to and including using the pen for self-defense. Yes, I have done this. They're a very nice size for it, and most mean people will leave you alone if you whack them in the sternum with a blunt object.)

But man, nice pen for the price, though I do not have one currently. And I cannot fault Waterman's customer service.

I really like the Waterman Laureat, too. I'm on my... third one, I think, and it's my favorite of my current pens. They're just about indestructible, but they will get stolen off your desk like nobody's business.

I have a Waterman Silk, too, which was one of the pens I bought myself when I sold the trilogy. It writes beautifully, and it's a lovely size and just an all-around beautiful pen. (I wish I'd gotten the fuchsia one rather than the green, but I didn't know about the Scardown cover colors yet when I bought it. *g*) They've been discontinued, I think, and I bet I know why: the first one I bought came with a hairline crack alongside the nib that bled ink all over my hands, and the replacement (no questions asked--see "customer service" comment above: they also replaced a Laureat I had many years ago when the lacquer bubbled off) developed a similar crack within a couple of months. Being too lazy to call up and complain a second time, I patched it with a dab of Superglue. (Owning fountain pens is also good for your mechanical abilities.) It's worked fine ever since, but I could also complain that the barrel is the wrong shape for most standard converters, or long-standard cartridges. It takes a Mont Blanc cartridge fine, though.

And did I mention how beautifully it writes?

I had a Waterman of some sort--a black skinny metal barreled pen--that saw me all the way through college before I killed it. It was sort of a zombie pen: it spent a lot of time clipped into notebooks and tossed in backpacks, and bits kept dropping off. I think I still have the corpse around somewhere. Probably next to the undead Mont Blanc. (see below.)

I've had three Cross pens too (the first one was a gift from netcurmudgeon, a green Townshend, I think, and I still wish I new what happened to it. It seems to have vanished when I was moving. Oh, I mourn that pen.) and loved them all. The one I have now is a brown lacquer ATX, I think the model is called? The new one, that doesn't look like a Cross. It's a brass barreled pen with a steel nib, beautiful ink flow, and the one I tend to carry around in my pocket everywhere despite the fact that Cross cartridges are a pain in the butt to find in Vegas (fountain pens hate this climate; they dry out regularly), and that it has a tendency to leak when filled with a converter. (fountain pens also have personalities.)

If I ever needed, Walter-Mitty-like, to replace a piston in a lifesaving piece of a equipment such as a respirator, this is the fountain pen for the job.

I've had...two Mont Blancs that worked (one a graduation gift that I lost when I was tossed off a Morgan gelding one fine September day; I also popped my hip out, but it was the pen that hurt) and one that's in a drawer around here somewhere that I've never been able to fix. If I find it, maybe I'll send it to them and see if they can save it, because it's beyond my means. (It looks like the nib got slammed in a door. Sometimes they can be wiggled back into functionality when they get bent--I had a secondhand Waterman that had, no kidding, plier marks on the nib and which wrote just fine--but this one was beyond my means.) Both the pens that worked were the skinnier version of the Meisterstuck (forgive my lack of umlauts), and I do not like the fat ones, frankly. I have big hands for a girl, but they're still girl hands, and a pen that's three quarters of an inch thick or whatever they are is uncomfortable.

Mont Blancs cost a fortune, though, and I'm frankly not sure they're enough nicer than Watermans to justify the difference in price. They're nice, all right. But not that nice. Although sometimes you can find them cheap, secondhand.

I have two Parkers right now, and like neither one of them as well as I'd like to like them, to paraphrase my birthday hobbit. One is a pen I bought new because I loved the green and copper mottled body, but that's given me nothing but fuss, though it seems to be perhaps finally breaking in a year later--though the nib still scratches and I'm threatening to give it to truepenny if it doesn't learn to behave--and the other one is a hand me down that's lovely and writes beautifully for about a page before drying up and having to be capped and whacked against the notebook to get the ink flowing again. There's an obstruction inside the nib somewhere that I can't seem to get rid of, though I've taken it apart and soaked it in everything from white vinegar to soapy water to jewelry cleaner. (That biodegradable stuff that smells like bananas works really great on fountain pen nibs.)

I also have a Sheaffer (I've never liked Sheaffers, except for one I had in high school ages ago) that was a hand-me-down. It's a nice enough pen, but meh. I hate their cartridges. And the pens use too much ink, too fast, and it feathers like mad on even slightly absorbent paper. And I have a banged-up plastic "Diplomat" (never heard of them; some company in Germany?) with a cracked cap that writes okay, but I hate the way it feels in my hand. Also, a beautiful old Empire that was a gift from tanaise, that might someday write again, if I get the corrosion off the nib and get the stuff inside that rattles when you shake it out, and replace the bladder.

So no, I really don't need more pens. But I will probably keep collecting them. (Is nine seven a collection?)

Anyway, that's what I use. And as for why I use them--well, if I'm going to use a tool three hours a day, it should be a tool I like (I still do a lot of note-taking and even bits of drafts in longhand) and that gives me pleasure to handle. And it makes infinitely more sense to me to buy a good tool than a tool that kind of sucks and isn't nice to use. (Like a ten cent Bic. I mean, have you tried to write with those things? Uniball roller balls are okay, though--they're real ink pens, if cheap, and they write like real ink pens. Ball point ink is the evil.)

And oo. That looks like lightning. I think I'll post this now.


In other news, I found it really interesting that everybody who commented on the "justice" links commented on the Mississippi civil rights murder trial, and not the boy scout recovered alive in Utah after a critical case of adolescent dumbass.

Kids. To the parents out there, I salute you, each and every one, and I have to say it's amazing you get any of them to adulthood, considering how hard they try to thwart you. Go team preservation of the species. Rah.


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Yes, that Pelikan. Isn't it pretty? Shiny shiny and just the kind of size and shape I like. And it's cheap, as Pelikans go. (I'm really not much of a consumer, but boy do I love fountain pens.)

Just as a chef has a set of knives, a writer has a set of pens. So therefore I am justified in getting more!

Besides! Levenger had twelve colors of ink. So obviously a girl needs... at least twelve pens. Right? Right. I knew you'd agree.

And yes, the Cross ALT. I blame the fact that the tea water hadn't boiled yet. *g*

It's a very nice pen.

Re Ferraris. Yeah.

I mean, don't get me wrong--Mont Blancs are nice, and I'm keeping my eye out for a cheap second-hand one (I should really see if I can get this one here fixed even if it's not the body type I really like) but the Watermans write just as well, and dude, a Phileas is thirty bucks and every bit as much fun.
Okay, now I have to shuffle around in the roll-top desk and find a pen or two. Old Parkers, probably.... Wonder if the antique bottle of ink still sloshes?

On kids -- ours inflicted moments of pure terror and stark rage, but they're out and gone now. Well, almost gone -- one walks by the house every day on the way to and from work. He even stops in now and then, proving that the ancestral refrigerator still hath its charms. I can't say that I'd recommend parenting to anyone, but it can add depth to your writing...
*g* Experience still being the thing you get when you didn't get what youwanted.
I love pens, but since college haven't been able to afford a nice one. My only remaining working one is a glass dip pen - my baby, reserved for writing letters to close friends. I've been meaning to browse pens for a happy bday to me present soon. *G* and look! recommendations! preemptive browsing not my fault! ;)
My wife collects old dip pens -- the ones with gold nibs and mountings and things like carved ivory or mother-of-pearl or narwhal tusks for bodies. They came in fitted velvet-lined cases...
I love pens.

I have to say that a good ballpoint is far better than a cheap one. Right now I'm using a Rotring Trio pen, in which I replaced the 1 mm blue with a 0.7 mm black refill, for the greater "fine point" feel.

I also own two Waterman pens, so I can keep one filled in black ink and one in blue. And I have a Lamy fountain pen, a gift from my wife.

I hear you about pens getting damaged. When I carry them around, I use single-pen leather cases so they don't get damaged. Tends to impress people for some reason.
Rotrings are niiiice pens.

I like rollerballs a lot--but not as much as fountain pens. In general, I think I'm a liquid ink kind of girl.

The leather cases are a good idea. I find I clip them to my shirt collars a lot, but then I worry about losing them--or having them driven into my thoracic cavity bu the seat belt during a car accident. (What? It could happen!)
I have a Waterman Phileas that I haven't used in ages. I have the nib and refillable cartridge mostly de-gunked (is it possible to buy replacement cartridges?) and just need to get some ink so I can use it again. I can't remember if it's a fine or medium nib, though.

I've been lusting after a Pelikan, any Pelikan, for years now. I used to get the Levenger catalog and just be consumed with envy.

Here at the Corporate Behemoth, I use el cheapo ballpoints that I don't have to pay for. And for the amount of longhand writing I do, they're sufficient.
I am addicted to Pelikan, and Omas, and those amazing German school pens (often Pelikan). Whenever I find myself overseas (in some civilized country like Italy or Germany, that uses fountain pens in schools), I stock up on kids pens. Awesome. Cheap, indestructible, small (I have small hands).
Are the higher-end fountain pens more consistent? I've avoided buying any for the last few years because every time I do, I end up with one very good pen and one that can't write. But I buy them from Staples.

Do you happen to know if a pen is supposed to have ink all around the nib? Like, if you stick a paper towel corner into the leeeetle space between nib and thing-the-nib-sticks-into, should ink show up? If it's supposed to be dry, or at least not papertowelable, will clear nail polish work to patch it? I have my own zombie pens, you see, and that one's the light one that gets dry and clogged after a day.

I love pen posts. They make up for everyone at school thinking I'm weird.
If you've been using like the five buck Sheaffer ones, yeah, they're ass, and even the cheapest Waterman will work much, much better.

And usually, anywhere the nib is in contact with anything else, there will be ink flow. This is a design feature, because they work by capilary action. Ink all over the surface of the nib and your fingers, though, is a problem.
I have that green Cross Townsend. I picked it out as a graduation gift when I got my undergrad degree, and it's still my favourite piece of jewellery.

I had a Parker throughout high school and university and I still keep it for the very few times I want to use blue ink. I got the Cross because I wanted a thicker barrel and a finer nib. I'm finding it terribly hard to get Cross ink in a bottle, though, which I prefer.

I do have an RSI, and I've found that a fountain pen is much easier to use than any other; the large size and light pressure needed are less stressful.

The last benefit of fountain pens that I can think of is the built-in excuse for not lending them to other people. I grew tired of people borrowing pens and not returning them.

Re: one last q

That's the stuff.
Part of the comment disparity may have been that the first link required registering.

Did it? How odd. It just clicked straight through off google news for me.
Thank you. I was considering asking for a fountain pen for my birthday, and this has helped immeasurably.
I found it really interesting that everybody who commented on the "justice" links commented on the Mississippi civil rights murder trial, and not the boy scout recovered alive in Utah after a critical case of adolescent dumbass.

I suspect that has more to do with the fact that the dumbass boyscout story required registration to read and we're all too lazy to do that. :)
Wow. I've never given fountain pens more than a flitting thought. Always a Bic for Rae. But now I see what I've been missing! You've opened a whole new world to me!!!

*wipes tear*
You're a cartridge person rather than a bottle-filler? Any preferences as to ink, or do you simply find the product of the pen company and use that?

I agree about the "pretty" pens. I got a Cross Townsend back in '95 which was and is a thing of beauty-- a deep rich lapis lazuli which looks like the night sky. It's just too heavy, and I've never liked the ink flow. My 1930s Wyvern writes much better. And I bet the Mont Blancs are like Rolex watches, which don't keep time so incredibly much better as to even come close to justifying their cost.

I'm going to try to find a place where I can test-drive a Waterman Laureat. I like the look of that.
I use cartridges or converters without prejudice, which is why I mentioned both in the entry. And I'm not overly fussy about ink; I haven't found any real differences over manufacturers, except in tint and price. I suspect they all buy it from the same vast faceless chemical company.... *g*
I had a Phileas that got lost in our most recent apartment move, and I've missed it ever since. Hmmm... I've got a birthday coming up. Maybe I should replace it.

Have you ever tried Noodler's Ink? I heard about it when Moleskinerie linked to this post by a guy who's a big fan of it.
haven't tried it. *g* Someday I probably will...
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