Saturday, 30 June 2012

Waterman Ideal Fountain Pen 1909 Rescued

Great excitement reigned at Palimpsest’s upon the discovery of a fountain pen lying in a state of neglect in an old box of calligraphy supplies. Of a dirty dull orange and greenish grey mottled appearance with a rusty clip on and a damaged nib, the pen (on closer inspection) is a Waterman. What’s more: the nib is a flexible nib. A great moment for Palimpsest who until that moment has been a flexi-nib virgin.

The barrel is marked: “Patented Aug 9 1906 Waterman’s (Ideal) Fountain Pen. Canada Feb 9 1909.” Number 13 is inscribed on the tip of the barrel. The original design of the pen is revealed under the cap which has protected it against environmental ravages: swirls of a warm orange/brown colour against a black background. The nib with its heart-shaped vent is marked “Waterman’s Ideal New York” and is noticeably damaged curving downwards like the bill of an ibis. But oh, the writing! Who would have imagined that a battered old pen such as this could have offered Palimpsest such a writing experience?

Eager to include the old Waterman in Palimpsest’s daily pen arsenal, cleaning operations were scheduled. Having established the pen to be an eyedropper with the aid of Palimpsest’s Flickr and Twitter friends, the Waterman was immersed for a few seconds in warm water which resulted in the barrel coming finally unstuck from the section. It was thoroughly dried, silicone was applied, and a converter was used to fill it with Waterman Havana Brown ink. And lo! Palimpsest was able to experience the flexi-nib experience be it from an old and scratchy nib but oh so pleasurable.

The pen still suffers of the ailments of old age. It also stinks - a peculiar chemical smell. The flow is intermittent. It runs out of ink sooner than expected. But it rests content that in its final years it made a flexi-nib virgin happy.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Parker 51 for Father's Day

I remember my first fountain pen today, on Father's Day, though celebrations of such Days are not part of my personal calendar. I was 16, I think, when my father - now long dead- gave me a Parker 51 - black with a silver cap. I remember the smooth, sleek,  black lucite body, and the hooded nib, and the bottle of blue Quink ink that came with it. It was the aerometric version and I used to enjoy dipping it into the bottle of ink to fill it, and it wrote smoothly - a grown-up pen for me, for at 16 I was deemed a grown-up by my father. Did I ever get to say thank-you? My mind was not on fountain pens at the time and I lost my Parker 51 and it was replaced and I lost it again.  And some years later I lost my father too, who has had an unhappy life and was met with an unhappy death. He was never replaced. 

Saturday, 9 June 2012

A Squeezer from the Old Calligraphy Box

The old calligraphy box all dusty and rich with used up ink bottles and blackened nibs yields yet another treasure: Mudie’s Squeezer Pen. It is a pointed flexible italic nib with a half-moon vent hole. It is made of copper. It is marked Mudie’s Squeezer Pen 115 New Bond Street W1. In the 19th and early 20th century, many businesses ordering their own nibs from steel pen manufacturers required their names to be inscribed on the nib and it seemed that Mudie’s was not an exception. But who was Mudie?

English publisher and founder of Mudie’s lending Library comes to mind. Charles Edward Mudie established a stationery business in Bloomsbury, London, in 1840 and went on to open the famous and very successful lending and subscription library in New Oxford Street, near the British Museum. The Squeezer Pen is probably not connected to Charles Edward Mudie as it bears a different address from that of the Library. Is it possible that there was a branch of Mudie’s in New Bond Street?

A box of Mudie’s Squeezer Pen “Fits Every Hand” is part of the National Trust Collection. As with other steel pen manufacturers Conway Stewart produced custom-made nibs. Looking at the Book of Conway Stewart The Official Number Book, the list of custom made pens and pencils includes Mudie’s Scholar Pen 115 New Bond Street W1. Is it safe to assume that Conway Stewart was the creator of the Squeezer Pen? Interestingly that same pen is included in the Imperial War Museum Collection as part of a group of items associated with Winston Churchill. Was the Squeezer one of Winston Churchill's writing instruments of choice?

Mudie’s Squeezer Pen has been cleaned and polished and tested by Palimpsest on Sennelier calligraphy paper and Rhodia paper using J. Herbin’s Lie de Thé. It is a pleasant flexible italic nib, quite wet and comfortable to write with. Palimpsest likes the history and the mystery surrounding it. 

 Mudie's Squeezer Pen on Rhodia paper

Mudie's Squeezer Pen on Sennelier calligraphy paper

UPDATE Oct. 2017: Volunteering at the OXFAM bookshop I came upon this label stuck at the back of a book cover:

Friday, 1 June 2012

In Praise of PILOT Pluminix

A design tribute to the plume or dip pen, the PILOT Pluminix is as cheap as they come. You take it apart and it looks like flimsy pieces of nothing. 12.5 cm posted, a mere 12cm unposted. And yet and yet the Pluminix is a small wonder.

Perfect size for small bags and pockets, lightweight (actually featherweight), takes any old cartridge, has got a great ergonomic grip and an italic nib. Palimpsest has many a time grabbed a Rhodia No.10 (the tiniest size) and a Pluminix when there was simply no time to pose the age-old “which pen – which pad” question of the nerd. When the camera bag was the only bag possible, the Pluminix was there. When the jeans’ back pocket was the only available storage, the Pluminix fitted fine. An evening out with the tiniest of handbags? The Pluminix will keep its place inconspicuously.

A translucent green it resembles a small-sized dip pen with its wider middle section and narrow tip – or a quill (a feather, a plume). The finger grip which creates a sort of dent on the section has prompted others to liken the Pluminix to a marine animal, a squid – let’s then call it a squill, if you wish. It won’t perhaps suit a writer with large hands but Palimpsest finds it quite comfortable to hold and enjoys the firm, rough nib with its pleasant italic writing.

Even the most mundane of writing looks important in italic. Pluminix’s 1mm italic nib gives good definition and is quite satisfactory coming as it is from a…squill. Shopping lists become a pleasure, scribbled notes important statements, and a signature looks simply regal. Even that first chapter of that novel looks like it may be the final version. One does need a bit of delusion in one's life. In praise of Pilot’s Pluminix, Palimpsest is a proponent of the issuing of Pluminixes to the general population to replace BICs. Call them Squills. See if it catches.