February 17, 2012 § 1 Comment
The principles of the fountain pen have been established and refined over the last 150 years. Put simply, an ink reservoir feeds ink into a delivery tube, through a series of capillary tracts, through to the tip of the nib, where contact with the writing surface causes the ink to be deposited. Although a fairly crude process by comparison to the writing technologies of today, the fountain pen, either because of its idiosyncrasies or in spite of them, remains the most rewarding way to put words onto paper for others to read.
Much has been written about the attributes of different styles of nib fabricated from almost every conceivable type of resistant material but, ultimately, beauty remains in the eye of the beholder. At PenFountain, what is very clear is that the current trend towards one-size-fits-all ‘medium’ nibs is eroding the very market that the fountain pen works for.
When asked for advice about pens with alternative nibs, sizes, and formats, the conversation invariably contains the caveat ‘without spending a fortune…’, to which only one reply is currently available, Lamy. Regular readers of my blog will be familiar with my faith in Lamy’s interchangeable nib system with its low cost and reliability. However, even with its greatness, the design of the Lamy pen range can be a little too contemporarily radical for what may be described as an inherently conservative market. In an ideal world, perhaps the solution could be to put the Lamy nib system into pens of a slightly more conservative style such as, Waterman. Keep the price below £50 and you could have a commercial winner. While we’re designing the perfect commercial fountain pen, the range could possibly be extended to include some oblique nibs. We have been surprised at the number of fountain pen users requesting italic and oblique nibs and, even with Lamy’s ‘calligraphy’ pen nibs, which are technically italic, the 1.1mm nib does not offer sufficient variation between major and minor line widths and yet the 1.5mm major line width tends to suit people with larger writing. Conversely, the broad italics and obliques from the other major players tend to be neither wide enough and, being predominantly18ct gold, too expensive.
We understand the issues associated with production costs, tooling, and economies of scale but surely in the age of CNC manufacturing it would be possible to develop a digitally controlled tool to create a range of nibs that meet the fullest market requirements without prohibitive cost?
Would this be your ideal solution? Please let us know.
January 28, 2012 § 1 Comment
Buying a pen, particularly a fountain pen, can be a very personal experience. The price, the style, the nib and even the presentation can be a determining factor. At PenFountain, we are currently experiencing the Rolls Royce for a Mini price scenarios on the retail front. A £5.00 pen in a velvet lined cardboard veneered case so that it the looks the business (but it’s a lie!).
For fountain pen users, without a doubt there are some fine ‘gems’ to be found below £10 – without the presentation case but, for collectors, these are often the little extras for selection from a pot of pens on the desk. When it comes to buying the more serious pens, is it hearts vs. heads on price and appearance or is it all in the brand?
We are conducting a short poll – please feel free to complete the poll and comment.
January 12, 2012 § Leave a comment
Waterman has a penchant for subtly revising the style of their products. The styling change can be difficult to identify for the average user, particularly without the alternative style for comparison. In terms of nomenclature, whilst at best the company adds a suffix denoting the year of the revision (helpful only if you’ve kept the original slip case) and, at worst, not even telling their colleagues! Customers love and cherish their pens and, from time to time, may require a new nib but have the devil’s job trying identify which model they own. A couple of recent cases confirm this scenario.
The Waterman Hemisphere enjoyed a facelift towards the end of 2010 – the model helpfully known as the Hemisphere 10. The barrel was slimmed down by about ½ a millimetre and with its revised profile making the pen appear more slender than its predecessor. Move forward a few months and the demand will start to rise for replacement nibs. The nib units between the original Hemisphere and the 10 are incompatible and therefore we need to identify which is which and ensure that the customer receives the correct nib. In this case, the decorative band on the 10 is significantly wider than the earlier model making life a little easier. Replacement nibs for both types are now available (subject to stock) in a range of widths and either chrome or gold plated finishes on PenFountain.com.
Hemisphere (top) and Hemisphere 10 compared
However, there are models that, without the help of comparative illustration and key differentiators highlighted, for the occasional user identification of their pen can be something of a nightmare. At PenFountain we have produced a guide showing some of the different model features to help identify Waterman models.
The second type of model revision alluded to in the introductory paragraph is represented by the Waterman Perspective. On this model, presumably for production reasons, the threaded portion of the front-end nib assembly has been lengthened rendering it incompatible with the majority of barrels in circulation without notification to anybody outside the customer service area. The replacement nibs were simply withdrawn and then eventually replaced with the newer, incompatible versions!
After further enquiries, we have identified that if a customer requires a replacement nib, Waterman will replace the barrel section as well, at their discretion. This becomes a very time-consuming process requiring the complete pen to be returned to Waterman for ‘refitting’ of the nib. Therefore, we have had no alternative but to withdraw the Perspective replacement nibs from our standard offering. However, if you have a perspective requiring a replacement nib, please contact us and will explore the options with you.
January 5, 2012 § Leave a comment
When Parker put their minds to a limited edition it is often worth watching for. The Duofold Senior Brown is a case in point. From the images available from their launch event, the pen’s colouring looks a little dowdy but on opening our stock the pictures didn’t do the pen justice. This is not an ‘in yer face’ styling but a sophisticated understatement in terms of presentation and colour and, by Parker’s own statements, an homage to the Duofolds of the 1940s. Anyone owning this pen is making a statement: ‘I’ve got style and it’s in spades’!
The Senior Brown is essentially Duofold Centennial in size. The grip, barrel and cap are finished in fine rectangles of dark browns and blacks with just enough variegated pale greys to lift the colouring. The darkness is contrasted by trim in broad bands of polished palladium plated metal and a bold, polished Parker arrowed clip. With the patterning continuing along from the grip through to the cap gives this pen a continuity rarely seen in modern fountain pens. It is quite a sizeable pen at 172mm posted and 50 grams in weight.
The nib is an 18ct gold unit over-plated with palladium in a standard medium format only. It is unlikely that other sizes will be available given the exclusive nib decoration. However, taking a pragmatic view, there is a significant range of alternative nib sizes and styles in the standard Duofold Centennial range which are dimensionally compatible. However, keeping the original nib would be essential to maintain the pen’s exclusivity and value!
In keeping with the Duofold Senior Brown’s £900 price tag, the presentation case is a stylish affair with a piano varnished wood veneer finish and chrome fittings. Each pen is numbered with a global production run of just 900 units, 1 of which goes to the Parker heritage collection. The certificate of authenticity is kept in the accessory tray beneath the presentation insert in the case.
Would I want one? I think space in the collection cabinet may be tight but I could certainly squeeze this handsome devil in!
The Parker Duofold Senior Brown is available from PenFountain either on-line or from our concession store in Beales, Worthing, West Sussex.
December 1, 2011 § Leave a comment
Having opened our new concession shop in Beales department store, Worthing, we continue to learn how different the environment is from our previous individual shop. The concession offers limited space but encourages creative thinking when it comes to finding room for new products.
We have also had the the privilege of being asked to provide a window display in the main shop frontage on South Street.
November 28, 2011 § Leave a comment
The retail sector is very tight with high street retailers offering significant discounts to entice customers to spend. Very often the offers are on either stock items or special purchases and if you are prepared to compromise on model or brand you can grab a real bargain.
The pen market is even tighter both online and in the retail sector. There are bargains available at present but if you fancy a flutter on whether prices will take a further plunge in the final run-up to the big Day, be careful! Speciality lines such as pens, are being short stocked by both retailers and their suppliers. At PenFountain.com we have already experienced some surprising lines being placed onto back-order with our wholesalers because of stock optimisation and, as Christmas draws closer, the chances of replenishing supplies will become more precarious.
At PenFountain.com we will be removing our usual alternative nib options on our fountain pen ordering in the run-up to Christmas purely on the basis of it being difficult to maintain stock levels in the high volumes of pre-Christams sales. Therefore, if you want a specific pen with a specific nib, we would recommend buying sooner not later and it is highly unlikely there will be a sudden unloading of stock just before Christmas!
October 28, 2011 § Leave a comment
There is an increasing trend among fountain pen manufacturers to reduce nib options, even on their core pen products. This year has seen Cross discontinuing production of the broad nib option from their range, although stock remains available at the time of writing.
Lamy then followed suit announcing the demise of the extra fine nib across their range. They treated their customers rather differently, announcing the discontinuation after stocks had been exhausted preventing retailers from stock piling these niche nibs to prolong the availability a little longer.
At PenFountain.com, we pride ourselves in our nib range and believe that one of the great things about fountain pens is the joy of different writing experiences afforded by a change of nib or pen. It is a great disappointment when, presumably for production-cost reduction reasons, these nibs are discontinued. However, pens retailers in general are becoming more focused on the supply of medium, one-size-fits-all, nibs and are therefore contributing to the demise of the great variety fountain pen choices.
September 22, 2011 § Leave a comment
The art of fountain pen ink manufacture probably hasn’t really changed in the last 100 years or so. It was already a ‘green’ product before the term (and even possibly the colour) was widely used. If proof were needed of the retrospective aspect of ink production, on the Diamine inks website they acknowledge 1864 as their date of establishment and a subsequent move to a ‘state of the art’ manufacturing facility in Liverpool in 1925 but there is no suggestion of a later move from this site although they have moved production since.
On the positive side, Diamine produce a fabulous range of high quality inks which, with planned additions in the next 12 months, will extend to more than 100 different colours. As part of this expansion, 5 new colours have been added this summer which are: Wild Strawberry, Macassar (dark brown/black), Denim (dark blue), Meadow (rich pale green) and Eclipse (black/brown). In keeping with our track record, we have now added these to our offering at PenFountain.com and can be viewed on our Diamine colour chart or in our Cranleigh shop
September 19, 2011 § Leave a comment
The victims were delivered, not in the usual body bags, but in a Jiffy bag. They were pulled onto the bench for examination. It was not a pretty sight. Not 1 but 2 victims, Hemisphere front-end assemblies dismembered in places that there should not even be any joints. The witness claimed that he had not seen any violence towards these sad examples of fountain pen-dom. But close examination suggested otherwise. The SOCO identified similar patterns of damage but, using conventional wisdom, the only explanation could be demise by aggression.
The team looked for further evidence and fortunately, the witness could produce the complete pen from where the cadaverous nibs had come with a pristine nib still in situ. Further perplexed, as a precaution before elevating the evidence to the specialist forensic laboratory, the SOCO checked for evidence of fluids in the pen. Yes, there was fluid in the converter – ink, but not as we know it. The converter was removed and flushed but, he noticed a gnarling on its normally clean, round mouth.
Forensic experience was required here and the evidence was bagged and despatched to the secretive clean rooms found only in the Waterman complex located just to the west of Nantes, in the West of France. Time passed and a brief phone call requested further information about any inks and cleaning materials used. The witness was questioned further and, under interrogation, he revealed that he had used an unnamed registrars’ ink and proudly announced that the pen had not seen any solvents, in fact it had never been cleaned-out!
The final piece of the jigsaw was in place. The acidity of the registrars’ ink having lain in place for some 18 months without disturbance had attacked the nib assembly and converter mouth from within. The structure of the resins used in the components had failed resulting in fracturing during assembly and use.
This is not a victimless crime but a lesson in the importance of taking precautions when using iron gall registrars’ ink, one of the oldest inks known to man. Wash it or lose it.
The Diamine Registrars’ ink that we offer, whilst formulated for fountain pens, needs to be treated with respect in terms of its use in pens. Damage on the scale reviewed here is very unusual and the result of unfamiliarity with the product. At PenFountain.com we advise customers of the requirement for cleanliness, both on the web page and on the ink’s outer packaging. However, whilst acidic, Registrars’ Ink does not represent a threat to health and is of a strength similar to that of vinegar or a cola drink.
September 1, 2011 § Leave a comment
We have been advised today that Lamy are discontinuing their Extra Fine nibs in all but their high-end pens. In effect, the superb stainless steel nib range is being reduced to fine, medium, broad, and left-handed, in the core products with 1.1, 1.5, and 1.9mm in the calligraphy type nibs. The steel nibs are renowned for their ease of changing.
The 14ct gold inlaid nib in extra fine will continue to be available for the foreseeable future.
At PenFountain.com we are disappointed to learn of this change because it was a popular nib for the finer characters used in many Asian scripts. We will maintain stocks of the steel nibs for as long as possible.