Fountain Pens

Love fountain pens? You'll like this blog devoted in full to collecting, repairing and enjoying these fabulous writing instruments. Waterman, Pelikan, Parker, Mont Blanc, Cross enthusiasts share their experience and knowledge about vintage and modern fountain pens.
Friday, August 17, 2007
The new Optima Aurora has remained true to its unmistakable look and its charm to become the cult object for men and women that know how to choose.

The resin version of the Optima range has been created using handcrafted acrylic resins and features hand-finished trims with great attention down to the smallest detail. The cap and barrel in all Aurora Optima resin pens are made of acrylic resins, with gold or chrome-plated trims.

The fountain pen features a solid gold nib and the traditional piston refill mechanism and hidden reservoir. Matching roller-ball pen and twist-action ballpoint pen is also available.

The Optima resin pens come in a stylish velvet presentation case.
Monday, August 06, 2007

A Book about Fountain Pens

This deluxe second edition has been expanded and reformatted to be almost one third larger than the first edition, a book that is already regarded as one of the most authoritative and entertaining books on the subject of pen collecting. Outlining eight major manufacturers and their classic model pens, the book is colorfully illustrated with photos and advertisements. You will find current collector values; new photographs including hundreds of additional vintage and contemporary writing instruments; new tips on buying, selling, and trading; and a new 'Collectibility Status Chart' identifying over 100 brands and models of fountain pens and their relative values. In addition, there are new sections on individual artisans and their unique creations and a revised section on contemporary manufacturers, double the size of the first edition. Discussions are included on building your collections, storage and display, refurbishing and repair, paper and inks, and valuing your pens. 2004 values. REVIEW: This book is a revised edition with current collector values and new photographs and catalog reprints. It contains valuable facts and insight from Frank Fenton himself. This book looks in-depth at the regular line production of Fenton's major patterns over four decades. It is divided alphabetically into four major chapters covering the specific patterns - Coin Dot, Crests, Hobnail, and Spiral Optic. Each chapter is also divided into the various colors in which the pattern was produced.
# Many teachers say they don't deduct points for bad handwriting in class, but Graham says that is not what the research tells him. When adults are given the same composition written in good handwriting and poor handwriting, they give lower grades if the text is less legible, he said.
# While only 15 percent of students wrote their 2006 SAT essays in cursive, 85 percent of students who did use cursive had higher test scores than those who printed their essays.
# When researchers recently discovered a poem, they were able to determine that the poem was written by Robert Frost because it was written in his handwriting. But what if Robert Frost had typed his poem on a computer? There would be no way to prove if the poem was his, the researchers noted.

More About
Fountain Pens

Many years ago, writers used feathers or quills as writing tools. They dipped a sharp end of the quill into ink. Some noticed that a “reservoir” of ink welled up inside the end of the sharpened quill, so they tried to create a manmade pen that would hold more ink and not require frequent dipping into a bottle of ink. People tried to create such an invention as early as 1702. In the 1880’s an insurance salesman, upset after ruining a sales contract with a leaky pen, created a fountain pen much improved over its predecessors. That man, Lewis Waterman, added an air hole in the nib (point) and three grooves inside the feed mechanism. Waterman gave birth to the modern-day fountain pen!

Revisit the Anticipation Guide at the top of this lesson; ask students to respond again to the statements in it.
# Handwriting is an important skill to learn.
# People who write neatly are smarter that people who have sloppy handwriting. (Hopefully, discussion of this point will result in an understanding that neat handwriting might equate to a person who takes more care, but does not reflect “smartness.” You might mention that many very smart people have poor handwriting.)
# Students should get more handwriting instruction in school than they get now.
# People judge others by their handwriting.
# I should work hard to improve my handwriting.
Did your students’ opinions change at all after reading the article?

Discuss the Think About the News question that appears on the students’ news page. This might be an ideal question to pose to students as an opinion/persuasive essay question. Students must decide how to answer the question and provide two or three strong supporting ideas to persuade you to their point of view. If you teach younger students, you might help them to organize their ideas:
# Create a 2-column class chart. Label one column Handwriting is very important and label the other column Handwriting is not very important.
# Have students share ideas on both sides of the debate. Write their ideas in the appropriate columns.
# Let students draw ideas from the chart as they write their essays.

Science. Now that students have some idea of the history behind the fountain pen, have them choose another object and explore its history. Have them share what they learn about the object’s history with their classmates.
Before reading, ask students to agree or disagree with each of the statements below. You might poll students and record the number of students who agree and disagree with each statement. (Note: After reading this week’s news story, you might take the poll again to see if students’ opinions change.)
# Handwriting is an important skill to learn.
# People who write neatly are smarter than people who have sloppy handwriting.
# Students should get more handwriting instruction in school than they get now.
# People judge others by their handwriting.
# I should work hard to improve my handwriting.

# fountain pen -- a pen that contains a reservoir of ink that automatically feeds ink to its writing tip (If this is your students’ first exposure, you might share with them one of these pictures of fountain pens.)
# old-fashioned -- something that is characteristic of a past era (period in history)
# cursive -- a type of handwriting that flows smoothly across the page; not printing

# Bryan Lewis, principal at the Mary Erskine and Stewart's Melville Junior School in Edinburgh, Scotland, says using old-fashioned fountain pens has helped boost the academic performance of his 1,200 pupils. Out in the real world, he says, students still need to have proper handwriting skills. “The pens improve the quality of work because they force the children to take care, and better work improves self-esteem,” Lewis told ABC News.
# At his school, students begin to use fountain pens as young as age 7. By the time they reach age 9 (grade 5), they write mainly with fountain pens. Ten-year-old Cailean Gall told ABC that it was hard to learn to write with a fountain pen because he kept smudging, but now he finds it strange to use a pencil. He says he likes using the fountain pen because it makes him concentrate much more on his work.
# Students at the school still do their math work in pencil.
# Is cursive handwriting a dying art? In 2006, handwritten essays were introduced as part of the SAT college entrance exams. Essay-graders noticed that only 15 percent of students wrote their essays in cursive handwriting.
# Many of today’s students have not been taught to write cursive style; they struggle to read cursive too. Instead, they are taught keyboarding skills starting as young as kindergarten. In the upper grades, many students take notes on laptop computers.
# Writing experts say that students who have weak handwriting skills produce simpler, shorter writing samples. Children who don't learn proper handwriting find it harder to write by hand, so they avoid it. Data shows that the better students are in penmanship, the more they write. And the more students write, the more they are able to improve as writers.
# A 2003 survey of primary-grade teachers found that most now spend 10 minutes a day or less teaching handwriting. The goal is to produce legible handwriting instead of perfect handwriting, teachers said.
# Researcher Steve Graham did an experiment with first-graders in Maryland. At the start of the experiment, the students could write 10 to 12 letters per minute. After nine weeks of handwriting lessons (three times a week for 15 minutes) the kids had doubled their writing speed, were writing more complex thoughts, and had better sentence construction skills.
Brothers Walter and Eric Kornfeld, who escaped from the Nazis in Austria, established a factory for the manufacture of fountain- and mechanical pencils in Ramat-Gan, a suburb of Tel-Aviv, in 1938. The factory was located on 30 Bialik Street on the second floor of a two-story building. They were not connected in any way to the writing equipment industry but nevertheless established a successful business, trading under the name of KATAB. The name, as written in English is not a Hebrew word but rather Arabic and the meaning is either "wrote" or "a written document", while in Hebrew the word as spelled may mean, as a verb, "has written" or again "a written document". If the Kornfeld family had only aimed at the Jewish customers, they would have written KATAV.

By using KATAB they had in mind the Arab population, which at that time was at least twice in size as compared to the Jewish population. Many of the Arabs were illiterates, but those who could afford quality pens would have liked, and still like, nice objects - preferably incorporating gold metal. Therefore, the very first KATAB models were of very good quality, with gold plated accessories, in particular a small embossed golden seal on the screw cap, about where the clip ends. Examples of these pens are very rare.

During WWII, raw materials were scarce so the family re-cycled used plastics and managed to continue production. Obviously the recycled plastic pens are not of the best quality.

The factory owners were quite innovative and made pens that used bottled ink or cartridges (their own standard). The filling systems were chiefly button fillers but they also made lever fillers and twist (piston) fillers. Katab was basically a good manufacturer due, most probably, to the skill of its workers and the serious attitude of its owners. The nibs were always made of 14 Karats gold with iridium tips and carried the letter K. As far as I know, they were all imported, though I have heard that some nib manufacturing (or repair) was taking place locally.

I have in my collection examples of several designs - although not of the very rare and expensive ones which can cost as much as 10,000 Israeli Shekels (approximately US$ 2000)! Middle range models are available for about half that price and the third category can be found for about 2,500 Israeli Shekels.

Two knowledgeable gentlemen still live in Israel. One is named Moshe Hacohen of Tel-Aviv who followed the Israeli (Palestinian) pen manufacturing industry more closely than I have, being engaged all his life with pens. However, since he expressed his desire to write himself on Katab, I got only some pieces of information although I offered to compensate him for his time. The other is Mr. Yair Nachmani of Haifa who maintains a pen shop in partnership with his son Avraham, from whom I bought several unused Katab as recently as January 2003! Those pens were made in Israel for a period of time just before the closing of the factory. Incidentally, Mr. Yair Nachmani was good enough to give me, free of charge, all his junk of pen parts he collected during the years. It was in that junk that I discovered the Katab ball pen refill. These pen parts still hide a lot of information, which I intend to write about in the future in updated issues of my article. In addition, the son of Yair Nachmani who is an expert in repairing pens, seems to find new lots of pens every so often. Unfortunately, Yair Nachmani's memory is not too good, so I get from him only little information. Nevertheless, his contribution to my knowledge is substantial.

Some pens can still be found in their original cases with a label of "Mass Knia" (Purchase Tax) or "Mass Motarot" (Luxury Tax!). If the small label is intact, or if a pen bears the original price tag, I consider it never to have been used.

As the ball pen became so popular, during the early fifties, the Katab Company wanted to go into ball pen manufacturing. Actually I found one ball pen marked “KATAB” and also a brass ballpoint refill marked “KATAB”. However, the young State had its own ideas on private industries, which were not to the likings of the Katab owners. Thus, I assume, the ballpoint pen was manufactured for Katab by another firm. The family left for the U.K. and the factory closed its doors in 1954. Its last location was on Bialik Street in Ramat-Gan on the second floor of a two-story building, with shops on the street level. The form and shape of both the pen and the refill are very similar to the Globus ball pen refills, thus, I presume, it was manufactured for Katab by the other Israel ball pen manufacturers and indicated Katab's intention to go into ball pen manufacturing.

I could not find as yet any printed information concerning the Katab factory, except two advertisements attached at the end of this article. The verbal information from the two sources sometimes varies. Thus, for instance, Mr. Hacohen claims that all Katab pens had nibs embossed with the letter K (there is one little exception to this) while Mr. Nachmani senior claims that not all pens had gold nibs and not all the nibs carried the letter K. I saw one example of a genuine Katab nib, which was not made of gold.

Once the war ended in May 1945, they continued production. After the State of Israel was established (15th of May 1948) there was a big shortage of foreign funds (ships loaded with grain for flour waited outside the harbors until their cargoes were paid for). The Katab factory had to adapt once again to a further shortage of raw materials but managed to continue production. The obvious difference in the products was the inscription:
A Moleskine (pronounced mo-leh-skeen'-eh) is a small pocket size blank book with black cloth cover textured to resemble leather, a permanently attached ribbon bookmark, a pocket on the inside back cover and elastic band to hold the cover closed when not in use. Moleskine pages are thread-bound, and this allows them to lie flat.

Moleskines are made by Italian manufacturer Modo & Modo, and are based on a style of blank book which used to be made by several manufacturers until the last one ceased operations in the mid 1980s. These blank books were called "les carnets moleskines" and were apparently popular with artists and writers -- some quite famous -- for two centuries, so the story goes. Modo & Modo began manufacturing the current version in 1998 and registered the name Moleskine as a trademark.

These feel classy, and are less conspicuous than a big spiral bound sketchbook when sketching around people since they will most likely assume you are just reading a book or making journal or calendar entries.

Of course, hardbound sketchbooks, even black ones, have been around for a long time. Moleskine does have an advantage over many other hardbound journals and notebooks because it is thinner and more portable. It will actually fit in your pocket, although it might not be comfortable unless it is a coat pocket. Its small size makes it the perfect traveling companion. Now you can carry a nice a sketchook with you everywhere, which means sketching may happen in your life more often. And most importantly, the Moleskine pages do lie flat when open, which I think is their biggest selling point. It's much easier to draw on a perfectly flat surface.

Modo & Modo have expanded current Moleskine line to include a variety of formats including ruled, unruled, and grid ruled notebooks, sketchbooks, address books, weekly planners, musical notation books, story board books, and even offer them in a larger version.

For line drawings and dry media (pencil, pastel, etc) most sketchers prefer the Moleskine sketchbooks or plain (unruled) notebooks. Some artists also favor the grid ruled notebooks. For watercolor sketches, Modo & Modo has recently come out with a Watercolour Notebook Moleskine. They call it a notebook instead of a sketchbook I suppose to keep it distinguished from their regular sketchbook. Also, they put a "u" in watercolour, so I will do the same when referring to the product, but not the media (watercolor) since I am in the habit of using the American spelling.

Apparently this new addition to the line up was in response to all the complaints that the regular sketchbook paper was very difficult to work with watercolor. Let's look at those problems to see why a new product was necessary. First watercolor beads up on the regular sketchbook paper. Then if you rub it a bit with a brush it settles down. It's still unpredictable and hard to control, but some artists might actually like the effects it gets. Another option is using watercolor pencils (the sketchbook was created with pencil in mind after all). Here are the results of an experiment:

On the left page I brushed on Winsor Newton watercolors with a waterbrush. On the right half of these swashes I worked the watercolor into the paper by going over it with the waterbrush until it stopped beading. It took about 4 or 5 successive strokes before the color settled down. If you stroke too many times, the paper surface will start to break up, and you'll have new problems. On the right page I scribbled with Mitsubishi UNI watercolor pencils in similar colors to the Winsor Newton paints. I went over the right half of the swashes with water from the waterbrush . These only required 1 or 2 strokes to convert the pencil strokes to a smooth wash. You can see how the color from the watercolor pencils actually behaves well.

For watercolor sketchers this was the best we could do until they came out with the watercolour notebook.

There was great excitement and anticipation when this new addition to the lineup was announced. I had to wait a bit longer than many of my artist friends, since these products usually don't show up in Japan until several months after their debut in the west. There were mixed reviews about these. For one, some people loved the landscape format (binding on the short end) while others were disappointed that they didn't stick with the traditional vertical book format. Also there were a lot of complaints about the perforated pages which made this version less "Moleskine-like" than its predecessors since the pages could now be easily torn out.

I recently received several of these watercolor notebooks from a friend in the west and was finally able to try them out myself. The first thing I noticed to my surprise (and delight) was the absence of perforations on some of them. The packaging used the term "detachable pages" on all the notebooks but some were not perforated. You can tell without opening them which ones are perforated because they are clearly visible on the side of the pages. The pages lie flat when you spread them out, which as I have said is their best feature, and one that Moleskine imitators don't seem to understand. The paper itself worked great with watercolors, and I found myself unconciously emphasizing the watercolors rather than line work in my sketch. So now there is truly a Moleskine for watercolor sketchers, and this looks like it will be my main sketchbook finally since I do love watercolor.

The watercolour notebook even took fountain pen ink very well as one would expect since it is intended for wet media. Those who like to sketch in ink may have difficulty with the regular Moleskine sketchbook, depending on what type of ink they use. Of course if your ink tool of choice is a ballpoint pen, then you can sketch on just about anything. Pigment pens such as the Micron also work fairly well, as do gel pens. However, those who sketch with a fountain pen will find that most inks will bead up in the regular Moleskine sketchbook. The only fountain ink I've used successfully with the sketchbook is Platinum's Carbon black ink, and even this ink does feather slightly, and doesn't go on as black as it should.

You will have more success with the fountain pen if you use either the regular Moleskine notebook or the watercolour notebook instead of the sketchbook. With the regular notebook, the challenge is finding a fountain pen ink that is compatible with the paper since many inks will bleed through or feather terribly on the paper.

There are several fountain pen inks which do work well on regular Moleskine notebook paper. I've found Platinum black ink and blue black ink work very well. Noodlers black also works well, and it becomes waterproof when dry. I haven't tried Noodlers' other colors. It also helps if you use a fountain pen that writes on the dry side, or one with a fine or extra fine nib. I'm sure there are other fountain pen inks out there that work well with Moleskine notebook paper, but since I have found two brands that work so well, I stopped searching. Over the past few years I've also filled several Moleskine notebooks with written notes using fountain pens one of the above mentioned inks and have had no problems at all. Remember, if you want to use these inks, you will need an ink converter for your fountain pen, which will allow you to use bottled ink instead of a cartridge, unless you are using a Platinum pen, in which case you can just use their cartridges.

Sometimes I sketch with a brush pen filled with either Platinum Carbon black ink or Kuretake ink for brush pens. Brush pens work great on Moleskine notebook paper since the line goes on relatively dry.

The paper in the regular Moleskine notebooks - and most other hardbound notebooks and sketchbooks for that matter -- is fairly thin, so you may want to just draw on the right hand pages when using ink. Even if the ink doesn't bleed through, drawings on both sides of one page can compromise each other's impact. You can save the left hand pages for notes (done preferably in light pencil).

So if you are primarily a pencil sketcher then the sketchbook will suit you fine. If you are an ink sketcher, either the notebook or watercolour notebook will be your choice, and if you use watercolors, then the watercolour notebook is your obvious choice.

The Moleskine in its past and current incarnations has enjoyed a long history of association with famous artists and writers, and its image has been greatly enhanced in recent times from a very effective marketing campaign. The current Moleskine is well made, and being used all over the world by dedicated fans. It has become a classic - an icon - and can often be seen in coffee shops and subways where they are recognized and acknowledged by other users as if they belonged to some sort of universal secret order. When you open a Moleskine, you do feel somehow connected to a great family of artists and writers from the past and present. For these reasons the Moleskine has taken on a magical quality, and its very apperarance seems to thrill and spur us on to greater creative activity. That little psychological "jump start" may well be the deciding factor in how big a role sketching plays in your life.
We used photolithographic microfabrication techniques to create very small stainless steel fountain pens that were installed in place of conventional pens on a microarray spotter. Because of the small feature size produced by the microfabricated pens, we were able to print arrays with up to 25,000 spots/cm2, significantly higher than can be achieved by other deposition methods. This feature density is sufficiently large that a standard microscope slide can contain multiple replicates of every gene in a complex organism such as a mouse or human. We tested carryover during array printing with dye solution, labeled DNA, and hybridized DNA, and we found it to be indistinguishable from background. Hybridization also showed good sequence specificity to printed oligonucleotides. In addition to improved slide capacity, the microfabrication process offers the possibility of low-cost mass-produced pens and the flexibility to include novel pen features that cannot be machined with conventional techniques.
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Why would someone wish to buy an old fountain pen? Simply because they are beautiful writing instruments made of such high quality that would be uneconomical to produce nowadays. A restored fountain pen quickly becomes one of our most prized possession.

The first fountain pens were first created in the 1890's after L E Waterman had devised a method for allowing ink to drip down to the writing nib as and when it was needed.

Arguably some of the best vintage fountain pens were produced in the period 1900 up to the Second World War. The earliest pens were made from black hard rubber and then red hard rubber and then 'red rippled' which was a mix of both black and red.

By the mid 1920's a new product called celluloid used for making pens first saw it's appearance. The celluloid meant that fountain pens could then be manufactured in many colors. The Parker fountain pens ( just to name one fountain pen maker ) of the early 1930's are stunning.

Of course the detrimental effects of the 'Depression' years and the Second World War were nothing to the major impact of the ball-point pen in the late 1950's. Those fountain pen companies who took this new innovation into their business plans managed to survive but the fountain pen manufacturers who saw the ball-point pen as a fad quickly declined and ceased production.