Thursday, 29 March 2012

Noodler's Ahab Fountain Pen Review (with Inky Fingers)

I write this with inky hands. All was well ‘till I've decided to fiddle with the feed. Let me start from the beginning: Noodler’s Ahab.

Presentation is good. I like paper packaging as opposed to metal or plastic boxes, and Noodler’s does not disappoint. The Ahab comes in a simple box adorned with sketches of fantastical animals, like the auspicious catfish dragon, and writings like “whale of a catfish and a whale of a pen!” and “Yankee whaler, the first global citizen.” Inside the box is a full A4 drawing of a scene from Moby Dick, only the legendary Ahab has a filler in place of a wooden leg. At the back of the drawing the pen’s parts are all illustrated and explained.

The Ahab is a very substantial pen with a smooth surface and I am a fan of substantial pens as opposed to slim lined ones. Its size is deceptive because this is in fact a lightweight pen. It is easy to write with either posted or unposted, but I prefer the latter option. The cap is a twist-on cap which I find slightly annoying (it takes more than 2 turns to come off) but I’m getting used to this. I understand the inspiration behind the clip design (hump of the Right Whale and all that) but it doesn’t do so much for me. However, I can accept the hump in combination with the Lapis colour swirls – it has a kind of seafaring look.

I happily cleaned the pen prior to use and inked it with Pelikan 4001 Turquoise. The Ahab has a pump fill system. Dip nib fully into ink and two pumps of the plunger are enough to fill the reservoir with ink, a lot of ink. I didn’t find the nib as flexible as I had expected but let it be noted that I am a flex fountain pen virgin and the only flex nibs I have used are in dip pens. So I did not know what to expect but I have expected more. The nib is very large compared to other pens, not super smooth perhaps but comfortable enough and this is, mind you, a $20 pen. I’ve had an enjoyable writing experience, with a good ink flow, the nib happily sliding along and the Ahab sitting comfortably in my hand. Until the devil convinced me to adjust the feed.

 The feed of the Ahab, let me note, is made of ebonite and both it and the nib are friction fit and can slide in and out. If the pen feels too dry, push the feed in by one or more fins. If it’s too wet, do the opposite. So the common wisdom goes. And thus, the inky fingers I’ve spoken of at the start. I have fiddled with the feed. And I didn’t find it so easy (feed and nib did not slide in and out so effortlessly as expected ) and in addition the Ahab now presents some erratic writing. Every now and then it would need a good shake for it to start writing again. And I have not even attempted to add fins by means of (God-forbid) a razor.

I have now only 7 fins exposed and the pen is wet enough for my liking. If you are sitting at the edge of your seat waiting for a final verdict on the Ahab don’t. I haven’t got one yet. There is also this unpleasant plastic odour the pen leaves on the hand after use. The leaflet informs me that the Ahab is made of a celluloid derivative aka “vegetal resin” and I suppose it is this resin that gives out that smell. Some find it pleasant. I don’t subscribe to this category. It is something that I can see will be put me off in the long run, should it persist.

Despite all these drawbacks I find myself using the Ahab increasingly these days. It is an inexpensive pen, a substantial pen, a comfortable pen. Its large circumference appeals as does the smooth barrel and the pleasant flex of the nib. I seem to be getting fine with the last fiddle of the feed and maybe, just maybe, the smell will go away. Then, Ahab will be a real winner.

Noodler’s Ahab reviews:

An excellent review in PenInkcillin


Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Writing Instruments are the Voice of Desire

Signifying the potential of creating, idle writing instruments are the voice of desire. As such, they give the life of the idle writer an imaginary dimension. The idle writer lines them up, sharpens them, fills them up with ink, sorts them by colour or shape or maker or date of manufacture, augments their number by purchasing more (rarer instruments, slenderer nibs, novel inks), and spends time to look at them with longing. The idle writer converses with the pens - and this is a self-addressed discourse, says Jean Baudrillard. A discourse essential for the continuity of life.

As objects help us cope with the irreversible movement from birth towards death, the idle writing instruments help the idle writer to face the fact that she will produce no inscriptions to mark her presence in this world. The writing instruments represent her own death but because she possesses them she can transcend death. She looks at the pens, cleans them, puts them away, takes them out again in an endless hide-and-seek. The reality of death - of oblivion - is dispelled by the writing instruments' potential. The idle writer keeps them close to his heart. They seem to guarantee life after death - at least, the potential of - at least, the control over.

The desire to write is embedded in these objects - the writing instruments. Desire keeps the idle writer away from insanity. "If dreams ensure the continuity of sleep, objects ensure the continuity of life."

Thanks to Baudrillard for the words. All one needed to know about objects can be found in: Jean Baudrillard, The System of Objects (first published 1968).


Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Lord Byron's Quill

Oh! Nature’s noblest gift – my gray goose-quill!
Slave of my thoughts, obedient to my will,
Torn from thy parent bird to form a pen,
That mighty instrument of little men!
The pen! foredoom’d to aid the mental throes
Of brains that labour, big with verse and prose,
Though nymphs forsake, and critics may deride,
The lover’s solace and the author’s pride.
What wits! what poets dost thou daily raise!
Condemn’d at length to be forgotten quite,
With all the pages which ‘t was thine to write.
But thou, at least, mine own especial pen!
Once laid aside, but now assumed again,
Out task complete, like Hamlet’s shall be free;
Though spurn’d by others, yet beloved by me:
Then let us soar to-day;  no common theme,
No eastern vision, no distemper’d dream
Inspires – our path, though full of thorns, is plain,
Smooth be the verse, and easy be the strain.

Lord Byron
English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, A Satire (1809).

Sunday, 4 March 2012

From Petroski to Andrei Bely (via Twitter)

Social media moves in mysterious ways. Or how material and non-material become each other's footnotes or references.
A quote by Henry Petroski has been written (by pencil) on antique paper and the paper has adorned the surface of a pebble. The quote reads like that:

"The pencil the tool of doodlers stands for thinking and creativity and at the same time is the toy of children, it symbolizes spontaneity and immaturity. Yet the pencil's graphite is also the ephemeral medium of thinkers, planners, drafters, architects, and engineers, the medium to be erased, revised, smudged, obliterated, lost - or inked over. ... Ink is the cosmetic that ideas will wear when they go out in public. Graphite is their dirty truth." 

The resulting object is a Pebble Paperweight Pencil the Tool of Doodlers, listed on Palimpsest’s sister site Inklinks on Etsy.

Whilst informing the good Twitter tweeps of the existence of said pebble, Palimpsest’s eye falls on a tweet by openculture about Nabokov Names the Great Books of the 20th Century. This takes Palimpsest back to Nabokov’s many references to the pencil and a perusal of said references ensues. Which leads back to reading Nabokov's list of great books of the 20th century and coming across Andrei Bely and his novel Petersburg, written in 1916 and revised in 1922. Which is followed by the “looking inside” the book on Amazon and lo! Another literary pencil to add to the collection of literary pencils:

A pencil that was lying on the table struck Apollon Apollonovich’s attention. Apollon Apollonovich took resolve: to impart to the pencil’s point a sharpness of form. Swiftly he approached the writing table and snatched up... a paperweight, which for a long time he twiddled in deep reflectiveness, before he realized it was a paperweight he was holding, not a pencil. 

Which quote take Palimpsest back to paperweights. Full circle. (I do believe in Twitter, I do I do.)

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Sam Weller's Walentine

Extract from Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, written on Crown Mill paper with Ahab fountain pen M nib and Pelikan 4001 Turquoise. Read the letter of Sam Weller to his Valentine here.