CALLIGRAPHY MEET

I joined a calligraphy group on Facebook called Calligraphy Spot about a year ago. I joined because I liked looking at other people’s calligraphy, not that I wanted to make my own. I know, it’s weird. My focus is on using fountain pens for regular writing, rather than using dip pens for decorative work. But I managed to convince my sister to join the same group.  She even attended a calligraphy workshop and bought all the starter materials – Zebra G nibs, straight holder, oblique holder, Desiderata Daedalus pen, calligraphy pads, walnut ink, you name it.  I feel a little embarrassed that I’m not as determined as her to make art. She’s progressed so much in pointed pen calligraphy in a couple of months since she started.  I still print in my journals, and wonder whether my cursive handwriting will ever improve.

There was a small calligraphy meet scheduled the other day, at a little crepe restaurant in the mall near our house. It was supposed to be a pencil calligraphy and watercolor art meet.  Normally people bring their materials with them, order a snack, and share tips about what materials work best with what style, about techniques, things like that. My sister was there ahead of me, brandishing her Desiderata pen. I already knew some of the people there, they were also members of Fountain Pen Network-Philippines, which I help moderate. My sister explained to them that I just liked looking at other people’s calligraphy, but they said I was welcome anyway, hahaha.

The conversation veered from what fountain pen inks were archival (I participated in that discussion) to pencils being archival, to what pencils were locally available that could work best in calligraphy (Staedtler 6B, Caran d’Ache 9B, Palomino Blackwing, etc.), to special mechanical erasers, to Desiderata Daedalus pens being used as eyedroppers vs. with converters, to regular Zebra G nibs vs. the titanium version, to what locally available papers were worth investing in (Elias calligraphy pads and loose paper by the ream, Craftdoodle calligraphy pads, etc.).  It was all fun and fascinating. I should have brought my fountain pens (even though they don’t flex) and paper and doodled around just for fun.  There were a few one-on-one sessions for pencil calligraphy and how to use a Desiderata pen. The watercolorists were doing florals.

We had to leave before dinner, but we dropped by National Bookstore to buy specialty pencils. I had fun, and met new friends, and bonded with my sister.  I’m game to go to another meet in the future.

TEMPTATION

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Nakaya Neo-standard in Unpolished Shu, from Nibs.com.

Today I found out that one of my friends is selling her Nakaya neo-standard in unpolished shu, with a rhodium-plated soft medium nib for just under USD500. Unpolished shu is a warm red, a very attractive color. And the nib is the size I’m interested in. It’s USD700 at Classic Fountain Pens (Nibs.com), brand new. What bothers me is that it’s still twice the price I’ve paid for my most expensive pen so far.  Nakaya pens are usually what a lot of people think of as grail pens. Sure, I can rustle up the money, but I don’t think it’s prudent to be spending so much.

There’s also a Montblanc 146 being sold with an EF bicolor nib, for a bit over USD300. It’s a good price, but I already have a 146 with a cursive italic M nib, which I got for lower, and on lay-away, too.

I remember the time I saw a Pelikan M800 brown tortoise being sold for a good price, but wasn’t fast enough to buy it. For a while I felt bad, but then again I already had a green-striped M800 that I was already enjoying.  I guess it was the thrill of the hunt that got to me.

For a year and a half I haven’t bought any new pens, thinking I’ve achieved a kind of inner peace. The two pens I mentioned above have almost seriously derailed that inner peace. Sometimes I think I have too many pens already. I really should enjoy what I already have, until a more reasonably-priced new pen comes along.

 

SHOPPING MY STASH

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Yesterday I was cleaning my desk, and I found a Sheaffer Skripsert, a vintage cartridge fountain pen from the late 1950s. It was a gift to me, from a friend in the US. I looked around some more, and found my three Sheaffer No-Nonsense pens in a previously mislaid pen wrap – translucent purple, translucent grey, and red. The first two were from the 1990s, while the red was from the 1970s. Since they were discontinued about twenty years ago, I guess you could call them vintage. The purple one, in fact, was the first pen I ever bought with my first salary. I hadn’t seen them in over a year – I guess it was time to use them again.

I hadn’t bought a pen in a long time, because I (think I already) had all the significant pens in my usual price range, and couldn’t find any new ones that fascinated me. But seeing my old pens after a long time got me all thrilled all over again – I guess this is what’s called “shopping your stash”.

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The No-Nonsenses still had their original squeeze converters, but I was thinking I would buy modern Sheaffer twist converters in case the rubber in the squeeze converters eventually failed. I asked a friend how much the converter was at National Bookstore, and was astounded that it cost Php500, or roughly USD10. In contrast, a Faber-Castell (standard international) converter from Everything Calligraphy costs only Php120, or USD2.40. Another friend told me I could try fitting a standard international converter in the pens. Alas, while the nipple fit the diameter of the converter opening, the entire converter was too long for the barrel of the No-Nonsense. The modern Sheaffer twist converter from my Prelude fit it perfectly.

The No-Nonsenses have some of the best steel nibs I have ever experienced. I told myself this is the year I’m going to let these humble pens shine.

Daily Prompt: Shine

COLLECTING FOUNTAIN PENS

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Writing with fountain pens is a joy – the pen writes on its own weight, there’s no need for me to press down hard on the paper, and I can use any color ink I want. I have about eight pens inked in different colors at any given time, and use a different color each day when I write in my journal.

I have been collecting (or should I say, accumulating) fountain pens since 2008, but have been using them since 1986. I have about 35 pens of various ages, makes and prices. I don’t really have a focus, I just buy pens based on features that I like (eg.piston-filler or converter, German fine or Japanese medium nib, favorite brand, others). There was a time I was actively buying on eBay, even while worrying whether my pens would safely arrive in the post. Several brick-and-mortar and online stores for fine writing instruments have since opened in my country, which made shopping a lot easier. I joined online fora and Facebook groups catering to my hobby (I even moderate one), where everyone enabled everyone else on their purchases. For some people, the retail therapy can be addicting (“I must have ALL the colors of the Lamy Safari!”). Fortunately, that isn’t the case with me.

I stopped buying on eBay, because the retail stores that opened locally allowed me to handle pens I was curious about. I also didn’t relish the idea of customs fees being charged “creatively” at the post office for purchases made online (after having heard all the horror stories). I stopped buying the cheap and cheerful pens, opting to upgrade to better-made, higher-quality ones. I even sold off a lot of vintage pens, just to be rid of the maintenance required.

I still haven’t broken the USD 250 ceiling. To me, any pen beyond that point may have more expensive materials and be more decorative, but may not guarantee a better writing performance. I’d also be worried about using such an expensive pen outside of the house, where it may be lost or stolen. Still, that hasn’t stopped me from admiring my grail pen, a Pelikan M910 Toledo. I get to handle it whenever some friends of mine and I have a pen meet. I admire it, but I don’t feel bad that I don’t own it and can’t afford it.

The last pen I bought was an Edison Pearl in Cumberland ebonite, with a 1.1mm stub, the 7th anniversary pen of Fountain Pen Network-Philippines. That was in 2015. I haven’t bought anything since then. Apart from a self-imposed moratorium on spending (2016 was the year of expensive dental work), I couldn’t find any pens in the USD 100 to 250 range that I didn’t already have, that I wanted. I finally achieved (as we liked to joke in FPN-P) “inner peace”. It’s 2017, and so far I haven’t been tempted by any new pen, except perhaps for the Faber-Castell Ambition in coconut wood.

I’m not in any rush to get a new pen, so far I have been enjoying the ones that I have.

Daily Prompt: Tempted

PEN STAND BY DAN BROWN

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I received this pen stand a year ago from a very generous friend, whom I had helped with a fountain pen purchase.  It’s a two-pen stand of walnut wood, with a space specifically made for a Pilot Iroshizuku ink bottle, with my name on it.  It’s made by Dan Brown (not the author!) of East Wenatchee, Washington. He can make custom pen stands to order (you may prefer a different ink brand bottle stand). His work (under account name Komitadjie)  can be seen on the Fountain Pen Network forum. Unfortunately, I have no idea how much this costs, because it was a gift.

PLATINUM BLUE-BLACK

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Last Saturday, at the Fountain Pen Network-Philippines Christmas pen meet, I won a bottle of Platinum Blue-Black ink.

This is a dye-based ink, as opposed to the pigment-based ink that Platinum also produces.  Pigment-based inks have bigger particles, making it necessary for one to clean their pen often so it won’t clog.  Dye-based inks usually clean easily with water.

This is also, according to Platinum, a ferro-tannic ink.  This means it’s iron gall ink, whose main claim to fame is that it’s reasonably water-resistant. As the blue dye eventually fades away with time or exposure to the elements, the part that is ferro-tannic remains black and stays on the paper.  Some people don’t really want to call it a blue-black, just a dark blue, but the color is sufficiently attractive and sober enough to be used in many official situations.

I wish this was a review of the ink, but the Platinum 3776 Century Chartres pictured above is full of Pelikan Blue-Black ink. I will direct you, however, to the very reliable review by the Peaceable Writer, JD. JD explains that if you don’t clean your pen well after using Platinum Blue-Black, it may mix with your newly-filled ink and refuse to write. Here’s a more recent review over at the Goulet Pen Blog, which mentions one has to use and clean the pen regularly – long, unmonitored exposure to iron gall inks can cause corrosion on steel-nibbed pens or fixtures.

My last iron gall ink was the old formula of Lamy Blue-Black, which I enjoyed using. It did flake off a bit of the gold plating on my Pelikan M200 steel nib.  I plan to use the Platinum Blue-Black in the Platinum 3776 Century, which has no decorative trim rings on the section that can be corroded, and whose gold nib and feed are easily removed for cleaning.

 

 

FABER-CASTELL ONDORO IN SMOKED OAK

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Founded in 1761, Faber-Castell is one of the oldest manufacturers of pens and pencils in the world. The company has been in the family for 8 generations, now run by its chairman, Count Anton Wolfgang von Faber-Castell. Its premium writing instruments are made in Stein, Germany. Faber-Castell products were introduced in the Philippines in recent years by Crown Supply Corporation.

The Faber-Castell Ondoro is a fountain pen with a six-sided barrel and matching stainless steel cap. It comes in orange, grey-brown, graphite black and smoked oak. My pen is of smoked oak; I bought it primarily because I was fascinated by the beautiful wood finish. The cap is heavy and has a sturdy clip, so I don’t post it at the end of the pen when I write.

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The Ondoro’s nib (mine is a medium) is one of the best steel nibs I have ever experienced – smooth, firm and wet. This is the same nib in the other Faber-Castell pens (Basic, Loom, Ambition). There is a dotted design on the nib and no breather hole. The grip section is metal, but curved, so the pen isn’t slippery to hold.

The pen comes with a converter. There was a concern that if you filled the pen the usual way (by dipping the nib up to the section into the bottle), it would stain the wood. Fortunately any ink that gets on the wood can easily be wiped away immediately with a wet tissue, without any staining. Since some inks are more saturated than others, I’m being careful and fill the converter with a syringe, and just dipping the nib in the ink to prime it.

The smoked oak Ondoro costs a bit more than the resin ones, but to my mind it’s worth it. The design is classic and timeless. It performs well out of the box and is a reliable writer.

Faber-Castell fountain pens (and other products) are available at selected branches of National Bookstore and online at Design Pen Faber-Castell Philippines. I am not affiliated with the company or its distributors, except as a customer.