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I am like most new comers to the fountain pen hobby, as I have alluded to in the past. My path has carried a rather traditional arc, and when it came time for the vintage experience I was all in. For me it all started with an Esterbrook I had been given years ago by a very good friend just before he passed. It sat in a drawer for a long time because it had that odd but not unusual combination of being a cherished item, but also, one for which I had no useas it was not working . So I pulled it out, got on Google and learned what I could about it.
The first of the interesting and sometimes hobbling issues with the vintage pens, at least for me, is ambiguity and vagueness. To the best of my knowledge I have an Esterbrook J, with a #1555 Shorthand nib. It is in almost perfect shape. You can search for hours and find reams of information. That information is often vague and less than concrete, hence my 'belief' that I have a model J. It fits most of the criteria I can find listed and is the correct color for that model and in the end I really do not care which it is. Well that not entirely, or even remotely true if I am honest! It is a foible of my personality that if I decide I want to know something, it is expected that I will know about it in minute detail. Exact model, year of manufacture, color, yada yada yada. So while I do not know all of this information, yet, I have at least gotten the pen working and enjoy using it from time to time.
The next interesting tidbid that I hear voiced is the concern that they are fragile and breakable and prone to failure. I am not sure that generalization is really based on anything specific, as I have not found it to be true. What's more there are so many really good values in the older pens, in particular if you like to tinker with things. I fully concede that there are some really tricky fountain pens with fantastic filling systems that do require specialized tools. Truth be told, even those are not in the realm of impossible, but do require a commitment to that next level. But, for example, the Esterbrook J I restored is about as straight forward as it can get. With a little face time in Youtube or a forum, you can find simple steps to do the job. At most it's a replacement sac, J Bar, some special glue and talc. If your nib is bad or you want to get a different style, that easy as Esterbrook comes with the nib and feed all in one. Simple. So it is really simple to take a pen that is probably 75 years old and make it a daily writer, really. It is as robust and able to take the daily grind as most any modern pen. And lets be honest, for the most part, we all baby our fountain pens more than our other writing instruments anyway.
In keeping with the theme above, I am excited about getting started conversing with pen experts at the Triangle Pen Show next year. I have a couple pens that I would really like to get specifics on and I am sure there will be some folks there that can fill me in. I have covered my thoughts on asking questions at pen shows already, but in general I think it's about being polite, respectful and genuine in your interests and your approach.
"Too precious to use" is a phrase that I do countenance. I accept that there are pens that are rare and worth tremendous bucket loads of money, but the likely hood that I will have to concern myself with their use and care is remote enough for me to not consider here. I suppose as of even date I have a dozen vintage pens that are working and usable. I think only 1 or 2 did I buy as restored. All the rest I have purchased from as wide a variety of places as one can imagine. Then it's just a matter of cleaning, dis-assembly, buying parts and re-assembly. And it is a lot of fun. Please don't misunderstand though, there have been fatalities along the way. But that is more due to my ham handedness than these pens being any more fragile than a modern pen. I am in the midst of my two weeks of "Parker 51" only use and I'm lovin it! These are just a joy to use, a pleasure to look at, and quite frankly as good as any pen I own. I do not own a pen that I do not, could not or will not use. Sine die.
In the end, it easy to make the types of excuses I had and stay away. But keep in mind, that in their day, these were the Lamy AL Star's and Twsbi 580's mixed in with a few Vanishing Points. These were produced in the hundreds of thousands and in spite of not having a ready supply of nibs at every drugstore and news stand like in the day, there is very little needed to keep and use these pens that is not a google search away. Yes there is a nostalgic air to these, but that is very much in keeping with the whole 'throw back' vibe we each indulge when choosing to use fountain pens in the first place. So embrace your differentness, get a vintage pen and try it out. It is so worth the journey.
I find great joy and exuberance in the truly creative things I come across in life. I am not a creative myself, so it (joy and appreciation) comes easy to me, I like it or I don't, or I just don't get it. In most cases, things pass me by like mile markers on the interstate of life. But once in a while, every so often, something will catch my eye and I will marvel like at child at toy store. When it's right it's Write.
As seen above, the latest installment of the Write Notepads & Co. subscription arrived a few days ago, and it is awesome. The folks at Write have come up with a theme (Kindred Spirit /Charcoal), and worked it into this array of notebooks, pencils and packaging in the most perfect and interesting manner I have seen in a long time.
I am not going to write a review of the notebooks or the pencils, that I leave to others. For me this is all about the thought and creativity that went into the project. First is the bag that contains the the other items (The subscription I have has 2 bags of bookette goodness) is so well thought out. The bag is a heavy sort of manilla or interoffice envelope type paper that is sealed with a black tape at the top, reminiscent of the black strip you tear off of a bag of charcoal. The printing is raised so it has a textured feeling.
I could not bear to tear mine open, inspite of the admonition above: TEAR HERE. I did the Lucy Ricardoish move and peeled the tape back ( like trying to steam the envelope with the kettle,for you non I Love Lucy folks)
Inside are three pencils, a two sided orange token, and a cardboard sleeve with the 3 bookettes inside.
In keeping with their chosen theme, the pencils are remarkably like wood matches, the red tip and the natural wood body. Write Cool.
The cardboard sleeve that the bookettes are ensconced in are as well thought out as the bag. The printing has the same raised feel, and includes printing on all 6 sides. The front is almost an exact replica of the bag front, the back lists the Kindred Spirit Limited Edition Notebooks, Series I - Volume II. This is a thicker material, slightly more orange than the bag, and folded very crisply and made perfect to house the 3 lined notebooks. I have become a fan of dot and grid formats, since they have become available, so for me the lines are another refreshing throw back.
The notebooks are the same color as the sleeve, slightly thinner material. You can see the ruling in the notebook is interesting, and appears to be a very light orange color. It is very readable and for someone who makes lists and checkboxes constantly, I think it will be great!
Finally, who does not like the special surprise, the orange token is a cross between a tiddlywinks piece and a poker chip. No matter how old I am I still think about my childhood and getting those surprises that came in everyday things. Of course there were Cracker Jacks, but does anyone remember when most cereals came with a prize, and how about laundry soap? Yep. It was a thing!. And growing up with two brothers it was a constant game of one upmanship, cunning and wile to work some new rule or requirement in an effort to gain the coveted "special prize" inside every box! So the token is just cool for cools sake.
In all, it is a really remarkable and memorable collection that I will enjoy.
How is that for a great opening line? "It was the best of times..." psshaw!
Actually I have considered dipping a toe into the blogosphere for a while now, so here goes. This past weekend I had the opportunity, as my title states, to meet an icon in the fountain pen world ( and buy one of his creations....shhhh don't want the other half to know yet). So here is my take away.
The Triangle Pen Show is my local event and this was my second year attending. As it is the only pen show I have been to I can't compare it any others. However, I can identify with certain aspects of shows such as this that I have read and heard expressed vis a vis their potential for 'overwhelmingness'. That is made apparent and palpable upon entering a relatively smallish room lined with tables that are heaped with pens of all vintages and paper and ink and ...Oh My, don't forget the people...so many people!
But here is the thing about it. To the person, these folks are all in their own unique ways smitten with the same affliction I am, ink, celluloid and pulp fibre.
I am aware of the undercurrent of debate afoot regarding young vs old and vintage vs modern, but I just don't pay it much attention. Here is why. My belief is that if any person regardless of how knowledgeable or how uninformed they are, need be equipped with only a few qualities to make a pen show or a flower show or anything else a success. Good manners, a lack of 'attitude' and a genuine interest.
I followed the advice of so many veterans and did the quick overview lap of the show to scope out the what's what. Then, with trepidation, wonder and awe reminiscent of...well you get the idea, I approached the Classic Pens table and saw Andy Lambrou there, in person! I thought I was likely out of my league. To the right of me a stack of the tomes that constitute the go to reference materials for pen aficionados and to the left of me a spread of the most beautiful pens imaginable. So what is an acolyte in this amazing hobby to do?
I asked "May I pick up your pen?"
Granted I left with the most striking Flame Red LM1 pen on earth, or at least number 151 of 500 amazing red pens on Earth. I digress. Andy spoke with me as if I were the only person at that show. All the time chatting with other passerby's, introducing me to the man who runs the DC show as if I were his oldest friend. Wow. I am sure he could tell I was informed but not particularly well versed, he seemed not to care. He described with a passion that is genuine and contagious, how the Saturn pen was crafted. He showed me his personal ballpoint of the material I bought and how durable it was in daily use. (serial number 000 by the way.!)
In the end I think that this fountain pen and stationary hobby is a lifelong journey. Where else do you get to meet the Captains of the hobby like Andy, the Anderson's and Scott and Jim of Franklin-Christoph? All in the same room, on the same weekend! To a person I did not meet anyone that was not polite and gracious and willing to chat. That is not particular to the Triangle Pen Show, but it is a result of how I approached it, I think.
That's all for now. Whew.