Sunday, March 18, 2012

Custom pens.

I recently was admiring my friend Duncan's handiwork on the internet, as he makes pens. I looked over some of the gorgeous pens he was building in his shop. He makes pens out of Zebra wood, Buffalo horn, Bird's Eye Maple, Acetate, and other materials. (As an aside, I'm going to try to find him a nice piece of soapstone from our property soon if I can find a block that is good enough quality.)

First I was intrigued in his materials supplier, as at the time I had a friend who was building guitars. This led to a conversation in which I asked him if he could build pens with any size nib. The motivation was that seldom do I find a fine nib that I like, as most manufacturers make a 'fine' nib that is more akin to a 'medium', and a true 'fine' or what some call an 'ultra-fine', is nearly impossible to find. That said, the sizing is not universal, and I have many different nibs that I like to write with for different purposes and different reasons.

Zebra wood (left), and Buffalo horn (right)
I wanted a larger 1940's style pen, an American rather than European style design, with weight to it. Something that was not going to break if dropped, and could take a bit of wear and tear (I am hard on pens) ... and Duncan obliged in taking up my challenge.

Several weeks later, I received in the mail two gorgeous pens, having faith that they would be replacements for the ones I use for my novel writing. They did not disappoint. First of all, they are beautiful. I chose wood that Duncan suggested, as it had sat in a bog in England for four thousand five hundred years. Yes, the wood in them is twenty-five hundred years older than Jesus. It is dark, with a gorgeous grain, and a real old feel to it.

What I also love about these pens is that they are designed and built with writers in mind. Well, actually, with THIS writer in mind. The thickness of the casing makes them heavy in the hand, and helps with my wrists because it gives me much more control than the elegant Waterman or Sheaffer. Elegance I believe comes at a price. These are one of a kind, custom ordered to exactly what I want out of a pen. I specified a larger 1940's style head, which is easy to clean, one trimmed in gold electroplate, and one trimmed in titanium, because Duncan suggested the colour scheme is 'sexy'.

These pens are not just beautiful, but practical, with their easily unscrewed ends, (called, for the purist, a 'blind cap') They are a breeze to refill, without having to remove the outer casing. Just like so:

Why this is important to me is I tend to go through a lot of ink on a project. On a 'normal' pen, like this Sheaffer I use for my red ink editing, the entire casing has to be taken off to refill the ink, which is where the majority of spills happen. With the new reservoir that I bought for the Cross, I discovered its annoying little habit of using a spring in the casing to unscrew the reservoir and release all the ink when you unscrew it to fill it. It was to be my daily lug around and take damage pen, but it was definitely not designed by a writer.

In filling the reservoirs, you need some ink left so that when you unscrew the plunger, to expell the air, you hold the ink at the bottom. Then, when you then flip it to draw the new ink in, it has no air left and the reservoir becomes completely full.

I also love that the caps screw on, instead of just clipping on. When they are this portable, having a screw on cap is a bonus for many obvious reasons.

I took a look into a Mont-Blanc shop in Orlando, where were weren't allowed to take photos. I spied a pen made with a ceramic casing that was about the same size and weight. The price tag? $2800. For that price, it had better damn well clean up the ink and wash my hands afterwards. There is no way on God's green earth that I believe that mechanism is $2700 better than any that I've written with. They are simply bilking people who want them as a status symbol.

At any rate, Duncan has a website, and if you want something unique, and built with care, that will be special and last a lifetime, I suggest you contact him. He doesn't bite, and he's super excited about bringing back real craftsmanship to everday objects, something that we have lost in our modern throwaway world. If you need a list of reasons to convert over to fountain pens from regular pens, there are too many reasons to list here, not simply the elegance and the way they are so good to the environment.

My earlier post about pens can be found here.
Fountain of Couth.

My wife, Jennifer's, blog can be found here:
Cleverly Disguised as Cake

This, also, is a site I stumbled upon about fountain pens, and I find it very useful for understanding their care, construction, repair, and any questions I need answering. Richard's.

And my first novel, squeakyclean, here:
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Kindle US
Kindle UK
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