Sunday, February 6, 2011

Speaking of Script: Fountain pens (and that scratchy kid stuff)

Here is a preview of some pens, inks, and paper:

 So, the pens from left to right are: Pelikan M215 (rectangle pattern, fine nib), red Lamy Safari (extra fine nib), ocean blue Lamy Al-Star (medium nib), white Lamy Safari (1.1 italic nib), black Caran d'Ache Dunas (medium nib), TWSBI Diamond 530 (fine nib), and pink Lamy Safari (fine nib). 

The inks are various boxes of Pelikan 4001 ink cartridges (in purple, green, turquoise, and pink), and a few 30ml Diamine inks (I ordered these cheaply from an excellent Swedish webshop at that ships worldwide for free). 

These are A4 top-bound notepads: Clairefontaine Pupitre with blank 90g/m2 paper, Rhodia with yellow lined 80g/m2 paper, and Canson Sketchbook with blank 120 g/m2 paper. Thorough reviews and more pictures to come later. 

Oh, and here is that Olivetti ad I mentioned, taken from Google Books:

Now, how about that? I sense some friendly competition brewing...


  1. Yes, indeed, typewriters and handwriting tools co-exist just fine. These are instruments for recording thoughts.
    Perhaps it's my French background- but I've always been a big Waterman fan. These are very easy to find in and around Paris- even in those bureaux de tabac, that are in all the neighborhoods. My favorite model is the Lauréat (it appears a lot in my blog), as well as the Expert, and the Hemisphere. Great to travel with, having a large ink chamber (which I call the "gas tank"), and very reliable. Their inks are also fantastic- nice and saturated.

  2. Yes, but Waterman was originally a US-based company.
    Here's an abridged history of Waterman:
    Waterman inks are much better than Pelikan's, but if you plan to put a pen aside for a while after using it with Waterman ink, please make sure you flush it well, for otherwise it will stick to the feeder section (this can be remedied, but it is far easier to avoid it before it actually happens).
    Diamine inks are truly great inks that can be used with (almost) every type of paper, but beware of some of their colors, as they tend to stain some materials used on vintage pens (translucent celluloid being the most obvious case).

  3. Look at all those Lamys! I love it! And I really like that typeface...

    My first decent fountain pen was a basic Waterman cartridge pen I bought in France--just a steel-nibbed school model that doesn't exist on this side of the pond, but a great fountain pen start. I'll always have a soft spot for them as a result.

    My very favorite pen, though, is a Lamy 2000. They've gone up in price considerably in the last few years from what I can see and are definitely a luxury now...but oh, I love the thing. And I love the fact that it doesn't *look* like a fancy pen. Understated awesomeness.

    Looking forward to more fountain pen posts! I don't have any Diamine or Herbin inks at the moment, so I'm especially interested in hearing your thoughts on those.

  4. speculator: I still need to read up on Waterman, but I have heard good things about their pens. I am smitten by the ultra-sleek Waterman Carene - what a looker! I do wish they had a piston-filling model, though. Now I'm looking forward to my next trip to France so I can hunt for Waterman bargains.

    Ruy - I like colorful inks, and I have quite a few Diamine bottles to go through, so I might not be getting around to Waterman inks soon. However, I just dipped a Pelikan m100 in J. Herbin 1670 and now my shiny nib is a rust-red color :( I hope it'll wash off eventually, but for now I don't dare in case I pour all my ink down the sink!

    LFP - The Lamy 2000 is on my wishlist, although at the Swiss retail price ($200), it will be staying there! It looks really cool and futuristic. I look forward to putting up more fountain pen posts too, I'm in a full-on love affair here :)

  5. Adwoa: Lamy pens are great for everyday use. They forgive our faults and behave like Panzers, epitomizing their sound German build quality :)

    As for the 2000, LFP is right: it is such a great pen that noboby in the company thought about "updating" it, being such a happy mix of Lamy's usual quality materials and beautiful, timeless design, made to last a lifetime. I think you can still get NOS condition 2000s for lesser prices than new ones (it is just a question of hunting for them in the right places).
    But to be honest, why don't you approach fountain pens under the same light as typewriters? Modern fountain pens lack character...

  6. Don't worry Ruy, I'm done buying all the new fountain pens I wanted. *Mentally checks wishlist* ... yes, pretty much. I think there are two main arguments in favor of buying vintage/ used fountain pens: 1) it's more friendly to the environment, and 2) more history thus more character.

    I agree with the first wholeheartedly, but the second, which is your argument, is hardly true. For one thing many of the pens being produced today are based on classic designs, and from what I have read, there is little decline in quality when compared with their vintage counterparts (I could be wrong). The market for vintage fountain pens is overwhelming and I know nothing about fixing them, so for my first pens I just wanted something affordable, dependable, and highly recommended like the Lamy Safari.

    Anyway, I could get a whole post out of this topic if I went on... but suffice it to say I have considered some vintage pens as well and just today have been writing with a NOS Pelikan 100 from the 80s unearthed on eBay... very nice. I'm not about to buy a Lamy 2000 at the present-day inflated price, and I'm fine with not having one for the moment (I have looked for NOS 2000s and I'm confident they're no cheaper - online - than store bought).

    A pen like the TWSBI, in my opinion has a lot of character because it was crowd-sourced and I love the story behind its conception. To be honest, if there were modern day typewriters as sturdy and reliable as a '50s Hermes 3000, I think we'd all have at least one.

  7. Adwoa, believe me, the decline in quality (especially in what pertains to nibs and feeders) is considerable, even in some of the most expensive pen lines. But then, the apex of the development of fountain pens was reached more than half a century ago… On average, the nibs fitted to many vintage pens were much better also (simply because gold was preferred over steel). People could also buy lots of almost disposable low end fountain pens with weak steel nibs for almost as little as what a regular byro costs nowadays, but quite understandably, such pens were swept away by the ballpoint.

    Yesterdays' pens in mid-price ranges were capable of much better performance out of the box, so to say, than most of their counterparts being sold today (in equivalent price ranges, though): one of the things I like the most about Lamy is the fact they remain true to these principles, producing solid, well-made and affordable pens, very much unlike a certain over-publicized German luxury pen brand that owns much more to status-seeking than to the actual performance of their products. Ah, and the Lamy 2000 surpasses almost everything being sold (in most cases for ludicrous prices) by the said manufacturer, but I do agree it does not come cheap. I could be wrong regarding the prices of NOS 2000’s and stand corrected… It has been some time since I last flirted with the idea of getting one.

    When I mentioned the character thing, I wasn't just thinking of historical significance, but of sheer mechanical ingenuity and build quality; besides, many vintage designs aren't complicated, over-engineered machines - take for instance the many models sold by Parker in the post-war era: most of these used a simple, no frills, aerometric filling system, that consisted of a simple translucent plastic sac with an aperture and a pressure bar. To fill the pen one just needs to squezze the pressure bar against the sac and release it kindly. A permanent filling system is also desirable in terms of environmental impact (no more empty cartridges).

    You are absolutely right about the market for vfp's being overwhelming! Thank goodness, the typewriter collecting arena is much less crowed and coveted machines can still be had, comparison-wise, for much less.

    Hmmm... as for your last comment, I think we live in a different world today, and what you wrote about the Hermes 3000 also fits pens: no matter how much we enjoy, as users and collectors, the sturdiness and reliability of certain vintage goods, most of the industrial processes that made such products possible in their heyday are no longer profitable. Some might also argue that such dependability/longevity is not profitable either, for it provides customers with goods that last too long, preventing sales of newly-made ones...


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