Posts Tagged 'Pens'

Four Things I’m Digging

1. Multi Pens

Okay, so maybe I’m not as ecstatic about multi pens as The Pen Addict, but they’re damn convenient for my new job. I owned the Style Fit a while ago and really enjoyed it, but apparently not enough to prevent losing it sometime during the move across the country.

I ordered the Uni Signo MF3 and the Uni Jetstream 4+1 from Jetpens. The Jetstream was an attempt to branch out from gel ink, but after having played around with it a bit, it’s just not living up to my expectations. Plus, the barrel is enormous.

I was so tempted to buy a Zebra Sharbo X, but I have yet to invent a good justification for spending that much money…

2. Glazing With Acrylics

Acrylics, you say? As in, those mediocre craft-quality paints from high school art class? Oil paints for a poor artist?

…Yes, I mean those. And I am a poor artist, so I decided to paint in acrylic when I needed to fill a lonely blank spot on our apartment wall.

It turned out to be a totally pleasurable experiment. Maybe because acrylics aren’t as “serious” as oils, I was able to have a little more fun with them. I had painted with oils for my AP art portfolio in high school (and damaged my health in the process by turning my bedroom into a turpentine-fume bubble… but that’s another story).

The idea when glazing with acrylics is basically the same as glazing with oils, but it dries in a fraction of the time. Click on the image to the left to view a close-up detail section.

I finished this piece in one day, and I’m moderately happy with it. It’s no masterpiece, but I was able to experiment with a lot of different methods which I want to explore more in the future. The green stripe across the top was a last-minute addition, and I think it really completed the piece.

3. How Pretty Art Supplies Are

Yeah, you heard me: I’m digging my own art supplies. This is such a failing of mine– to see my art supplies as works of art in themselves, rather than as tools for making art. Although both views have their merits, there is also a crucial distinction between them: seeing art supplies as just beautiful turns you into a consumer, while seeing art supplies as tools for making art turns you into a producer. And I don’t want to be a consumer! I wanna produce. Produce beautiful things, that is.

I was reading about DIY watercolor palettes last night, and several different articles warned that you might spend more time creating your palette than actually using it. Oh, sigh, alright.

So, despite how much I enjoy the sunlight glinting through the bristles of my Robert Simmons Sapphire brushes, my goal for next week is to create a piece of art outside of the apartment every day.

4. Cherry Season

I especially love cherry season when they are free from my friend’s back yard. These sour cherries are better for baking than munching, so I’ve been experimenting with cherry tarts and crisps, all with great success. My friend’s family, though, is making cherry vodka –which also happens to be reason #11 that local foods are badass.


Nib Grinding, in Brief

…it scares the crap out of me.

But also, I have a pipe dream of apprenticing some day under a local nibmeister. Let us only hope that I don’t giggle at the term “nibmeister” in his presence.

It seems that there are less women in the pen world, similar to… well, just like most other trades (there are less women tattoo artists, less women metalsmiths…). Anyone who says feminism is over and women have achieved equality in the workplace should take a look at the stats. And well, it would rock to make some money off pen grinding/making in the long run.

But for now, I successfully turned my skipping, dry-writing Parker 45 M nib to a smooth-writing stub. Which, I think, is one step closer to being a Hot Pen Babe.

I didn’t completely get rid of its skipping problems; it requires priming every so often (sliding the converter to push the ink up the feed). But it’s a hell of a lot smoother, and more of a stub than it was before. Overall, I’m very satisfied with this little experiment…

A more recent writing sample

Pen Review: Parker 45

I posted recently about the Parker IM, which I bought for a friend through the ebay seller lewertowski. Of course, I took advantage of the opportunity to test out a Parker for myself, so I also purchased a blue Parker 45 with a medium nib.

The Parker 45

Parker 45 in package

Interestingly, the (gold-nibbed) Parker 45 came in cheaper packaging than the steel-nibbed IM. I guess I always assume that a gold nib means higher quality overall, but that’s certainly not true. The IM came in a solid plastic case, almost like a glasses case, while the 45 came in this thinner clear plastic case. I appreciate less packaging as a general rule, but the plastic is wasteful in both pens’ packaging.

Cartridge included

So the Parker 45 includes both a converter and a cartridge, while the IM came with only a cartridge. However, the cartridge included was one of those pull-catridges, as opposed to the twist (piston converter) that I’m used to. I also have no idea what the little metal ball is for– does it help with the physics of the suction, I wonder? If anybody has an answer, I’m curious to know. In any case, I ended up purchasing two higher-quality piston converters, one for the IM and one for this pen.

The included (lower-quality) cartridge

Old converter (top) and newer converter (bottom)

So here’s the catch. I was under the impression that the standard Parker converter would fit the Parker 45 (maybe I mis-read something in the ebay description). And certainly the newer converter fits, but I don’t think it fits quite perfectly. It seems to “plug in” fairly well at the very top, but then leaves a gap between the cartridge and the body of the pen, which leads to it seeming a bit loose. I think you can see in the picture below:

That slight gap causes a "wiggly" converter

Nonetheless, the converter worked– I’ll have to switch them out in the future to see if the other converter performs any better. On to the writing experience…

Parker 45 nib

Ah, a lovely semi-hooded nib. I don’t often write with medium nibs, so this is a bit of a new experience for me. I’ve found that I have to adjust my handwriting, because otherwise a medium nib obscures all the smaller letters. Still practicing! But this nib makes for a lovely writing experience, not flexible but definitely soft enough to have some nice line variation. The medium nib almost has some stub-like qualities, with the downstrokes being wider than the cross-strokes. and it leaves a wide enough line for some lovely shading. I also found that this nib allows for a big difference between writing at a low angle and at a more upright angle (with the pen being more perpendicular to the page).

The only drawback I’ve found is that, compared to the Parker IM’s steel nib, this nib sometimes has trouble starting up at the beginning of a stroke. I can’t tell if I’m rotating the nib, or if the flow just goes dry, but it is a bit obnoxious in any case. You can see an example of this in the last picture.

Pelikan 120

So I found a Pelikan 120 at my father’s office yesterday– he’s an architect, and I’ve been raiding his toolkit for as long as I can remember. Despite having sat around for a few years, it needed nothing more than a quick flush before I could ink it up and test it out. I used Lamy black because it’s the only bottled ink I have at the house right now. As it turns out, the quality is still pretty good! It lays down a crisp, fine line and flexes nicely (click on the image for a closer view).

The Pelikan 120 is a lower-end version of the 140, and apparently came in three versions: from the looks of this one, it seems to be the 2nd version which was picked up by many artists and architects.

The only flaw is that the nib is a bit scratchy on strokes to the right… I drew a circle on the sample page to show where the scratchy section was. After a bit of research, I found that you can smooth a scratchy nib on kraft paper, so I did that (very carefully) and it’s much smoother now. Certainly not buttery, but it doesn’t catch the paper now. Hooray!


New Tools!

New Tools

I cashed some paychecks yesterday, so I decided to purchase a set of water-soluble color tools. Little did I know how overwhelmed I would be by the choices.. so I ended up holding off my purchase until I could read some reviews online. Instead, I bought a few individual items to try them out.

From left to right: Kuretake water brush, a Derwent watersoluble Graphitone in 8B, 3 Derwent watercolour pencils, 2  Derwent Aquatones, and a pencil that isn’t shown in this photo but is included below.

Derwent Watercolour Pencils

I was deciding between Derwent, Prismacolor, and Faber Castell watercolour pencils. And then I saw Derwent’s ink-tense pencils, and some watercolour crayons, and decided to opt out of the decision. The Derwent pencils were the only ones available individually, which is why they came home with me. I bought a light color (Turquoise Blue), a bright color (Magenta), and a somewhat dark color (Bottle Green)– just to test a range out.

Derwent Aquatones

Kuretake Water Brush - Medium

I really like the water brush technology, though I don’t want to give up my brush roll for the sake of convenience.

Derwent Graphitone - 8B

I don’t know how I feel about the graphitones. I need to play around more with them. Here’s a test that I did to try the 8B out:

Koh-I-Noor Hardmuth Triograph 1830 pencil

Koh-I-Noor Hardmuth Triograph 1830 pencil

I’m totally into this pencil. It’s huge, but not childish. The triangle-shape reminds me of carpenter’s pencils, which I fell in love with this summer while working construction on an apartment (the pencils are angles either flat or triangular so that they don’t roll off a roof). PencilTalk tells me that it weighs 11.2 grams. And, like the Pencil Talk review, I keep noticing the attractive wood finish. It feels expensive, like a real wood stain, which is something I was most struck by in the process of whittling my own pen a few months ago. This pencil also requires sharpening by knife, which I find super-therapeutic (too much information?]

(using all tools except the triograph)

J. Herbin Rouge Opera


"Show Must Go On" by Alselon

Ohh, I realized the color! J. Herbin’s Rouge Opera is the color of those plush velvet seats in old theaters. Or, a less intense version of various scenes in Moulin Rouge. So, that makes sense.

So, I received this from the ever-generous Karen Doherty through the Quo Vadis blog’s Bastille Day Giveaway. I tried this ink in three different pens: a Lamy Safari with a F nib, a Lamy Al-Star with a 1.1 italic nib, and a Pilot Prera with a F nib, which is the equivalent of an XF nib in the U.S. I read a review of this ink that said it looked better in a fine nib, so I figured I’d cover all the areas.

This ink is not very saturated, which is a general trend with J. Herbin inks. As a result, I tend to like their colors that are intentionally light, like Diabolo Menthe, and disappointed by their deeper colors… like this one. But it does have a bit of nice shading in the italic and the F nibs. In the Pilot XF nib, the ink was much too washed out and became a sort of dusty floral color.

RougeOperaThis photo makes it look a bit more saturated than it is in real life– it’s not nearly so neon.

Some inks look sort of cool when they’re washed out, but in this case it just looks too pink. And, um, I don’t dig pink ink. I’ll bet that it would look a bit better on cream or ivory paper, instead of the bright white. Perhaps using a wider italic nib than the 1.1 would also serve this ink well. Biffybeans reviewed this ink, and it looks much more purple than mine, especially on the ivory paper.


This ink also had a dry start when I first tried it in with the italic nib. Which might have been a fluke, because other J. Herbin inks have worked just fine in that pen. I think I should have requested Rouge Caroubier, which is supposedly a bit more of an orange-red instead of a pink-red. Ah, well!

Is Your Writing Disposable? Didn’t Think So.

So, here’s the thing

My interest in fountain pens is not the same as, say, a car enthusiast’s for cars. I don’t necessarily believe that more expensive is better (although that can be the case; for example, a gold nib will generally be of higher quality than a steel nib). I do feel a certain excitement at the prospect of trying new inks, but never to collect more than I need (“need” here being used loosely).

There are two primary reasons that I started using fountain pens: 1) they’re far healthier for my carpal tunnel, and 2) they’re sustainable, re-usable, and environmentally friendly!

I know that “sustainability” is being thrown around these days till it’s nearly lost its meaning, but I really do believe in its original conception: that the things we do (and buy, and throw away) now shouldn’t jeopardize the next generation’s ability to live healthily and comfortably in the future. Thus, I rarely buy new items, and prefer to shop at Goodwill. Not only has this saved me a ton of money, but I’m pretty proud to have a unique wardrobe at a school where ten girls own the same $100 dress.

The Epiphany (without the beam of light)

screen-captureBasically, the epiphany occurred one day after buying a handful of new pens (yes, even though the fountain pen fetish is new, the office supply fetish goes way, way back). I suddenly pictured landfills absolutely stuffed with thrown-away pens, pencils, and office supplies. This moment was sort of akin to the day when I learned how many pads and tampons end up in the landfill (ahem, 14 billion?!)– and the thought of all those piling up somewhere made me a little sick.

2958701281_34fcc15976Anyways, take a second to think about it: almost every single item in the school supply aisle ends up in the trash after a year. Multiply that by the number of stores that carry school supplies, even just in the US, and that’s a pretty overwhelming number.  Even if you don’t lose your pens (bless your little heart), you still throw them away when the ink is gone– because they’re designed that way. Up until a hundred years ago, all pens and pencils were reusable because, heck, they were expensive! Better yet, if you lived in a time that used quills, you weren’t putting any pollution into the environment through the production of your pen. That Shakespeare knew his natural recycling, aye?

Rick Conner has a good history of the pen on his site, which documents the transition from quality pen-making to a disposable industry based on cheap labor, high production, and chic packaging. The industry often promotes economic inequality through the quest for cheap labor, puts a ton of pollution into the environment, and hey! all of the goods end up right back in the landfill. Seems like a stupid plan in the big picture, right?

The fountain pen community offers lots of opportunities for frugality, despite the actual pens costing up to hundreds of dollars. For example, Fountain Pen Network members can swap pens or even ink samples on the site’s Trading forum. There are several good online resources that specialize in pen restoration, so a broken fountain pen never means that it’s lost forever. I feel fairly confident saying that most fountain pen users would never throw away a fountain pen.

What Prompted This?

So basically, I got a little peeved when The Pen Addict reviewed a disposable fountain pen. Of course I’m not peeved at the writer, or even the blog in general (which offers great reviews, and which I totally read). No, mostly I was annoyed that disposable fountain pens seem to be increasing in popularity, and let’s face it: they make no sense. They completely collapse the distinction between a quality-made, environmentally-responsible pen and the cheap, disposable pens that are destined for the dump.

I was also annoyed at myself, for being curious about how the pen would write. Most of the time, my political and social beliefs align with my small-scale interests, i.e. I eat a delicious heirloom tomato because I believe in preserving healthy agriculture. But in this case, I’m most certainly at odds. Disposable fountain pens defeat the purpose of a fountain pen. And certainly, they give us one more excuse not to invest in the future, but simply to buy for the moment.

281659324_d511fcf23fAnd hey, I know that it’s a little silly making a whole post about a pen. There are “bigger political battles” out there, after all. But quite frankly, I’m not going to end sexism or racism or big industry on this blog (though I can help confront it). The bright side is that making small decisions–like not buying a disposable fountain pen– helps me create a more sturdy, more genuine, big-picture belief.

Recommended reading:

The Non-Consumer Advocate

Disposable Containers for a Disposable Environment

Refillable vs. Disposable Pens

Flickr image credits:
Real Quill Pens by GeorgieR
Trash Slope by Roadchubbs
Fountain Pen by Bright Meadow

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