Posted in Pens, Uncategorized

Eco-Friendly Stationery, Pens & Pencils

Going green has not only become a hip trend, it is a way of life for many. Regardless of the politics, today I am focusing on environmentally conscious options relating to paper and notebooks. I sorta feel this is an underserved topic/community. With the gift buying frenzy upon us, I thought it is appropriate to mention the options. Never know who may be looking for unique or special eco-friendly gifts.

Disclaimer: For transparency, I have no relationships with any of the vendors listed nor have I tried their products. I was interested in the topic and found their products or websites interesting to me. I have no idea if any of the paper, stationery, or notebooks are fountain pen friendly. Also, I am relying on others so if the statistics are wrong or unagreeable, sorry I’m restating the claims of others – don’t shoot the messenger. Sounds like a potential future blog topic.

Eco-friendly stationery is way more than just notebooks and paper stock made of recycled newspapers. Going green now includes sustainable stationery, zero-waste (fully recyclable), eco-friendly pens and pencils, ethical stationery made from ethically produced materials like sustainably managed timber. So much for buying notebooks or paper stock based on paper weight (gsm), lined vs dot vs grid print, hard vs soft covers and pretty artwork.

Fun fact: traditional pens are not recyclable because they contain an assortment of metals, plastics, and chemicals so they can’t be recycled. Well, unfortunately neither can eco-friendly pens. Annually, 1.6 billion pen make it to the landfills, so next time someone smugly asks “why do you write with a FOUNTAIN PEN?” Now you have THE answer for them – “Fountain pens are a lifetime investment and won’t be joining their 1.6 billion cousins any time soon.”

I never knew! – Click each picture for purchase information

Eco-friendly pens and pencils: available in a variety of materials often tree-free and biodegradable, no polymers toxic-free. Often made of recycled paper, bamboo or other organics. Eco-Fountain pens like the Zenzoi (made from bamboo) while others are sustainably harvested wood from 70% certified PEFC forests.

Recycled paper pencils have no splinters, sharpen easily and come in cool colors, plus their erasers are latex-free and PVC-free. I even found an eco-friendly pencil called Sprouts, instead of recycling it stick the stub into a pot of soil and watch it grow into a plant. Available on Amazon.

Relying heavily on the American stationary blog post (included in the reference material) on this topic let’s walk through what eco-friendly stationery options are available.

Recycled paper: much like it sounds, recycled paper from 10% to 100% recycled materials. Using recycled stationery means less wasted energy, water usage, and landfill space.

Renewable energy paper: is paper manufactured from wind power and other renewable energy sources. This reduces air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants released into the atmosphere.

Chlorine-free paper: White paper is often made with chlorine as the primary bleaching agent, this paper is made from only environmentally friendly bleaching processes.

Sustainable Forestry Initiative certified papers: this paper is made solely from practicing sustainable forestry and land management. This is a direct response to the issues that face North American forests.

Tree-free paper: this paper is made completely free of trees. Instead of chopping down trees, other sources of fiber are found like cotton fiber and other non-wood fiber materials. This saves trees and prevents the demolition of forests.

Posted in Stories

The Genus of Ink

Whether you find yourself using a ballpoint pen, a gel pen, or a fountain pen, other than the color of the ink who really thinks about the ink?

This seemed like a good topic but once I got to researching the topic, reading the vast amount of information I decided this post would be an exercise in generalization and summarization. The amount of information is overwhelming and yes I am talking about ink for fountain and dip pens.

Fountain pen ink is water with dyes and other chemicals required for the proper function. The chemicals create the properties of the ink, including the surface tension or viscosity (wettability). While the saturation of the dyes provides the color. I know, duh!. Also, present are anti-bacterial chemicals so your ink doesn’t develop a life of its own while in the bottle. Of course molld does bad things to pens!

Types of Inks

There are many, many different inks for pens, so let’s group them as those for dip pens and those for fountain pens. Generally speaking, fountain pen inks do not play well with dip pen nibs. The ink flows too quickly off the nib, causing blotches.

For Dip pens

Art Inks

These are inks used for calligraphy and artwork or drawings. Types of inks that fall into this category include: Carbon inks like India ink and China Black made with fine particles of carbon or soot. And Pigment inks for colors (organic and synthetic).

Document Inks

For over a thousand years documents were written with iron gall inks. These inks rely on the chemistry of oxidizing iron. Usually, gallic acid is used to keep dissolved iron ions in the solution. When the ink is applied to paper, oxygen in the air oxidizes the iron producing a black oxide.

Writing Inks

These inks are not as robust, tending to fade with time. Aniline was one of the first synthetic dyes produced based on a solution of coal-tar dyes in organic solvents. Inks prepared from an aniline dye are dissolved in alcohol and bound with a resin.

For Fountain Pens

Dye-Based Inks

The aniline dyes used in fountain pen inks are organic in nature and subject to molding – just saying. These inks contain chemicals to wet the internal surfaces of the pen. The acidity of the ink has been adjusted to prevent the ink from drying out in the pen while quickly drying on paper.

Pigmented Inks

Traditional pigmented inks are hazardous to fountain pens, gum arabic, or shellac are added as a binding agent. Modern inks do not contain a binding agent and the ink particles are ultrafine. How fine you ask? So fine that molecular vibration called Brownian Motion keeps the particles in suspension.

Iron-Gall Inks

Most modern iron-gall inks should only be used in dip pens, they contain gum arabic. Other modern inks contain Ferro-gallic to increase the permanency of water-based inks. These chemicals are not as corrosive as gallic ink, but they increase the level of corrosiveness of the ink and can damage the nib and pen.

Cellulose-Reactive (Bulletproof) Inks

Bulletproof inks are based on dye technology, and cellulose-reactive chemistry to bind the dyes to the cellulose fibers in the paper or your clothes. Once the bond has been made to the fibers it cannot be removed – the ink stains the paper or your clothes.

Certified Document Inks

Pigmented, Iron-Gall and Cellulose-Reactive inks are all ‘Permanent’ but they are not legally certified to have those properties. De Atramentis Document inks and Mont Blanc Permanent Inks are certified permanent.

Expiration Date

Mont Blanc recommends replacing inks after 4 years because ink properties change with time due to gradual chemical reactions. Unless your ink has turned moldy in the bottle, there is no reason to stop using it.

Ink Staining Pens?

Inks in the red, violet, and pink range are more likely to stain the ink container and the nib section of the pen. The blue-tone inks are generally the least likely to stain. Ink transfers from the nib into the inside of the cap, then the cap is posted on the pen. Providing ample opportunity for ink from the pen cap to stain the body of the pen.

A good part of the “ink experience” is often summarized by how it flows. Always give your pen a good cleaning. Inks frequently leave residue in converters. If residue is in the converter, it is in the feed and nothing good is happening.

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Posted in Pens, Reviews, Stories

Airmail Wality 69LG Eyedropper

Company Back Story

Airmail Pen Company (Est. in 1951) is one of the oldest pen companies in India. Renown for producing the best Indian fountain pens. They market pens under 2 brands – Wality and Airmail both manufactured in Mumbai. Wality Pens are generally not readily found in the northern part of India. Surprisingly, even in Mumbai the availability of the pen is limited to select areas of the city.

Initially, Airmail manufactured completely lathe turned ebonite pens, thus continuing with tradition, the 69 is a completely lathe turned pen made of swirled Acrylic. The feed is made of ebonite and requires heat setting of the nib for proper ink flow. The quality of the acrylic used in this pen is far better than the other Wality pens, which are known to omit a pungent odor.

My Pen

My interest in Indian pens came about by accident. I was intrigued in eyedropper filling systems after I acquired the 2 Gold Starry pens. But my focus was now on Mabie Todd Black Bird eyedropper pens. Research on the eyedropper filling system quickly leads to inks and the necessity of eyedropper fillers because of the impact of weather (heat and humidity) on inks, then to Asian pens.

I paid $14 for the pen, which is a normal price for this pen. First impression, the pen felt solid, it’s a big pen but not too thick – just right. The section is made of the same acrylic as is the cap and the barrel. There is a large gold plate band on the cap with “Airmail Regd” engraved on it.

The clip is gold plate, with pyramided rectangle boxes running the length of the clip. The clip is attached to a gold plated ring and held in place by a blind cap.

It is an eyedropper pen. When I unscrewed the section it took 9 full turns to remove it from the barrel and the cap took 2 complete turn to remove. To prevent ink leakage, the threads on the section need a small amount of silicone grease to seal the pen or maybe the addition of a small O-ring.

It is called an “eyedropper” because you use an eyedropper to fill the reservoir in the barrel. If you don’t have one, a pipette or a straw if you are really cheap (wink-wink) will also work.

Generally the Wality nibs are known for bad behavior but this one writes well but needs to be heat set – ink drops form under the feed. But it still writes fine.

Vital Statistics

  • Capped length 148mm,
  • Barrel diameter is 13mm,
  • The cap diameter is 15mm,
  • Pen weighs in at 18g.


My only complaint which is not uncommon is how wet the pen writes – I need to heat set the nib. It is possible my ink flow issue is caused by the ink viscosity. This is expected at this price point. The tins on the nib are aligned and it writes well. Manually adding ink via an eyedropper (ok a straw who am I kidding) takes a bit of getting use to. I was hyper focused on keeping the open barrel facing up at all times while filling the pen. This takes some getting used to it, plus there is the fear of wearing the ink if a mishap occurs.


For this price, you can’t beat this pen. It is attractive, feels solid, writes well. Readily available on eBay in a variety of cool colors. And of course, it is wallet friendly!

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Posted in Stories

Plastic vs Ebonite Feeds


Plastic Feeds

Fun Fact: Contemporary plastic feeds are made from the same plastic used in the manufacture of Lego blocks – so I’ve been told – hmmm. I did not verify this with Lego.

Plastic feeds are now designed with specific surface properties to promote ink flow by capillary action, this was not always the case and for near-perfect air compensation. These plastic feeds are injection molded for economic and precision mass production, benefiting the bottom line, quality control, and user experience. Through injection molding, manufactures are able to attain such a tight tolerance as to eliminate heat fitting. In this fashion, everybody has the same experience and you can be assured that the next pen purchase will be as enjoyable if not better than the previous purchase.

Visconti switched to plastic feeds for two reasons, quality and performance. I’m hearing this 3rd hand but they claim the average quality of a plastic feed is much higher than a well-made ebonite feed. Through plastics they were able to better manage air compensation, permitting higher air pressure gap management. Don’t forget that 70 years ago commercial air flights were rare; therefore, air compensation was limited to weather changes and skyscrapers.


Plastic feeds, from what I have read, need to be treated with an etchant or something similar to achieve a similar effect. Remember it is not possible to tune a plastic feed. An engineer with Lamy, (again hearing this 3rd hand) said of plastic feeds, “it took a lot of different chemical treatments to make the plastic feeds as rough as the sawn (a past participle of saw) ebonite ones.” While others claim chemicals were never used on plastic feeds to make them wettable.

Plastic feeds need more time to properly function when the nib is applied to paper. The smooth surface of the plastic repels water and requires a rough finish to allow the ink to flow properly via capillary action. Thus if you manually adjust a plastic feed by cutting an ink channel, there is a chance the surface will repel the ink and the feed will no longer work.

Final thoughts

Ebonite pen feeds are handmade on a lathe and mill like vintage pens, the human element adds to the personality of the pen. Hard rubber (ebonite) was one of the first, if not the first plastic. Establishing a tradition! Along came ABS Plastic with the advantage that feeds can be mass produced using injection molding, a process not only much cheaper but more precise, delivering more consistent quality of performance to the pen owner.

BECAUSE, like so often with tradition, things are done the way they have always been done – BECAUSE. Ebonite feeds should still be machined from hard rubber but not BECAUSE, but for the novelty and to honor the tradition.

To close, lets answer the question of which material makes a better fountain pen feed. Applying Sherlock Holmes’s deductive reasoning, ebonite is hard rubber which is considered plastic. Whereas, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene is plastic and considered plastic thus feeds made with either material is made with plastic, argument solved!

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Posted in Stories

Ebonite vs Plastic Feeds

The inspiration for this post hit me when I was reviewing a vintage Arnold pen, it has a super cheap plastic feed. Once I got to researching the topic, reading the vast number of opinions and thoughts it became clear this was going to be a long post. How was I to organize it: fact vs fiction, plastic vs ebonite, pros vs cons… It quickly became obvious that I needed to split the topic into 2 posts so I can stay within the 600-word self mandate.

What is ebonite? It’s a vulcanized natural rubber used as an inexpensive replacement for ebony wood. What is ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) plastic? It’s an inexpensive replacement for ebonite. Now that we have established both are cost saving solutions to a manufacturing challenge we can move on.

The Feed

Let’s start with a quick primer on fountain pen mechanics. The feed is the part that sits under the nib and supplies ink from inside the pen. Contemporary feeds are usually made of plastic, while vintage feeds are made of ebonite. Feeds contains 1 or more ink channels to draw ink from inside the pen using capillary action (thank Leonardo da Vinci) — the nib’s ink slit draws the ink from the feed to the tip. Most feeds have distinctive fins to hold excess ink thus regulating the ink flow.

For the feed to work, it needs to be sitting flush against the underside of the nib, free of clogs in the ink channel or fins. These tiny channels allow air to flow into the ink reservoir while ink flows down. Ink flow depends upon the width of both the ink channel and air channel. The ink also needs to be of the correct viscosity for capillary action to pull it through the feed, this means NO India ink in fountain pens!

The Physics

Wetting or wettability – is the ability of ink to maintain contact with a solid surface (the feed). Adhesive forces between the ink and the feed cause the ink to spread across the surface of the feed via capillary action. Capillary action is when a liquid automatically draws itself into thin tubes. The most common example of capillary action is water spreading across a paper towel. For more in-depth discussion on fountain pen physics I recommend this article on Ravens March Fountain Pens.

Ebonite feed

Ebonite is favored because it is easily wetted with ink and it won’t bead up on an ebonite surface because it is textured. The milling process naturally leaves micro scratches on the feed which are required for capillary action. Machining ebonite is a difficult process, the tools need to be kept sharp. Each ebonite feed is made on an individual basis by hand – workmanship.

With ebonite, you can make adjustments to the feed as needed. The feed can be sanded, milled, or bent to increase or decrease ink flow. The Noodlers flex line of pens uses an ebonite feed for this very reason. Those pens often require adjustments to correct their ink flow and this is only possible with an ebonite feed.


Each Ebonite feed is hand cut and finished, making them subject to quality issues and expensive. The milling process is also a strike against ebonite as ebonite feeds cannot be created by a laser. It’s time-consuming work on a lathe and mill, using metal tools some as small as .015mm in diameter. The ebonite is very abrasive thus the tooling has a very short life, adding to the cost. The ability to repeatedly cut the same-sized groove is nearly impossible and groove size impacts ink flow.

Besides, have you ever noticed how long it takes to wash an ebonite feed?

To Be Continued ……

Posted in Stories

Fountain Pen Day 2021

Happy FPD10, I knew this was coming but procrastination is a wonderful thing. Anyway, for those who don’t know, Fountain Pen Day was established 10 years ago, it is celebrated internationally on the first Friday in November. The day was established “to help embrace, promote, and share the use of fountain pens in day-to-day life, as well to help revive handwriting as a whole.” Proof I am not the only weirdo out there.

I did not plan to post today but after all the emails I received and some comments on Facebook I felt compelled. Our friends at Well-Appointed Desk mentioned an ink that totally got my attention. I am so gullible (yup a sucker born every minute) and immediate went to their website and purchased a bottle along with a bottle “Bayou Nightfall.”

Papier Plume‘s special FPD ink: Cafe Diabolique which was blended to be an exact match for Cafe Brulot, a trance-inducing after-dinner coffee ritual which is still being performed by a few old-school waiters skilled in the flaming at-table ritual.”

Posted in Stories, Uncategorized

The “Seinfeld” (a blog post about nothing)

Going a little off topic but hey it’s my blog. Anyway, I’m 45 posts in and I feel it’s time to request constructive criticism, to question the Blog, to evaluate it, to figure out what works, what doesn’t and for that, I need YOUR input. I would really appreciate a comment or two – don’t be shy.

You may ask why am I doing this at posting 45, I plan my posts in advance, I try to pair related posts and have topics planned all the way into August 2022, so now is where this topic hits. I considered making this posting number 42 (as it is the meaning of life) but I wanted to coordinate the Esterbrook Pastel refurbishment with the how to start a pen collection.

Some fun statistics about the blog: this is the 45th post, to which I’ve made 26 revisions. Overall, the blog contains nearly 27k words. My posts have been shared on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Tumblr and Pinterest. The average post takes me upwards of 10 hours to research, write, edit, etc before it is published. My posts have been visited by +620 visitors from 23 countries excluding the US, generating +1000 views, 81% of my viewership comes from Facebook and I have 16 followers. The surprising thing, the blog is about pens!

What am I doing? Why am I doing this? Is it worth doing?

I have NO interest in becoming an “influencer” or receiving free “stuff” nor do I judge my success or failure by “likes” and “followers,” this isn’t about inflating my ego. The blog is all about creating content that I hope others can use or find interesting. When I told my daughter I was blogging she told friends and they all got a good laugh. Was it because the “old guy” is blogging or the content or both? Can’t tell you how happy I was to hear this…..really. There are millions of blogs focusing on book reviews, movie reviews, food, travel, or feelings. Which is great and some I follow, but I was looking for an outlet for my experiences, maybe I could help others, and hope someone may learn from my mistakes. So I started creating content that bucks the trend. In an era when everything is disposable, I’m refurbishing pens that would otherwise end up in a landfill. There are no special skills necessary, so hey look the old guy is doing it.

Tell a good story.

Spike Lee

How many people do you know have or can create home DIY nickel electroplating? Better yet, how many do you know would try, including construction of a project box (I so miss Radio Shack). Actually, I found building the box and doing the electroplating was a blast and I wanted to tell someone, hence the genesis of the blog. Also, I am a bit sentimental, when I write with these vintage pens I try to appreciate the stories these pens might tell if they could talk, or the history they’ve seen, or the joy and the heartbreak they’ve realized on paper. Some pens are personalized, naturally, I research the owner and include their story in the blog. “I’m just trying to tell a good story and make thought-provoking” content.

You have to create content that they want to read.

Personally, I find it challenging to read long blog postings, I usually skim them more often then not and I should know better as I am quite the wind bag. Early on, my typical post was +800 words so I decided to limit the future posts to 600ish words. To accomplish this I’ve split topics into multiple posts and I’ve added more pictures (worth a thousand words).

A Penny for your Thoughts”

Sir Thomas More (1535)

Please feel free to comment on the following:

  • Are the posts still too wordy?
  • Is the style ok, I prefer conversational like I am speaking directly to you
  • Is the content ok?
  • How about the theme, is that ok?
  • Any thoughts, likes or dislikes.
Posted in Restoration

It’s a new month, what’s in your pen cup?

Now let’s finish up business from last month when I mentioned that a Parker Parco was going to be inked up and used alongside the Duofold. The relevancy is the Parco was constructed with leftover Duofold parts. I thought this would be a neat comparison. My only complaint with the Parco is the nib. It was scratchy and I had to hold it closer to straight-up, at 60 degrees. This is awkward for me as I normally don’t hold the pen by the section. I hold the pen by the barrel just behind the section.

On to new business and a new month and as you just saw, the Parco is cleaned and back in storage. This month I thought I’d give the Scrikss ago. The pen impressed me during my review so now it gets the opportunity to prove me right.

Anyway, what are you writing with this month?