Posted in Pens, Stories

My Favorite Quote: Handwritten (Happy New Year)

Let’s have some fun, what’s your favorite quote, saying, or wish for the new year. Write it down and share with the world. It doesn’t matter if you use a fountain pen, ballpoint pen or a #2 pencil – write it down. Typing is so blah and impersonal, enjoy the effort and create something worth sharing. And don’t worry about your handwriting, mine’s atrocious.

Pens:

  • Esterbrook SJ, 9556 Firm Fine nib
  • American Pencil Co #1156, Esterbrook Drawlet nibs #3 & #5
  • Hero 395, Fine nib
  • Conklin All America, Medium nib

Inks:

  • De Atramentis – Fog Grey
  • Scribo – Chianti Red
  • Waterman – Serenity Blue
  • Pelican – 4001 Black
Posted in Restoration, Stories

To Wax or Not to Wax, Maybe Just Polish

People frequently confuse polishing with waxing or use the terms interchangeably. So why wax your pen? Well, the wax would appear to offer protective benefits for hard rubber and casein-based plastics (never apply it to celluloid) by creating a relatively impermeable layer to protect against moisture.

Spoiler Alert: from what I’ve read, waxing is not recommended for any pen, now let’s determine why!

The preferred method of restoration or cleaning is to polish a pen’s surface – please don’t ever use a buffer. I use a Sunshine cloth on everything. Some pen materials, such as celluloid, need to breathe and be stored in a place with good air circulation to avoid “celluloid rot”.

What’s the problem with wax?

Waxes have not been shown to benefit hard rubber, while they can damage celluloid by preventing the escape of the acidic gas by products celluloid naturally produce. The wax seals the celluloid, preventing the nitrocellulose gas from escaping, it is retained in the celluloid hastening decomposition. As waxes age, they harden requiring extraordinary measures for removal. This is even more prevalent with hard waxes like Carnauba. Also, the wax will “yellow” or become cloudy with age impacting the pen’s appearance. Even the best microcrystalline waxes are subject to these same issues. Synthetic waxes are even worse, they are almost impossible to remove. Waxes that were once thought to be “museum grade,” such as Renaissance Wax, are now known to be no better than other waxes.

Renaissance wax was developed by The Britisch Museum to protect the items in their collection. A study showed that Renaissance wax is especially difficult to remove without harsh solvents. The wax is no longer used in museums.

The point to waxing is to clean (surprise), wax makers know this and their recipes contain more hydrocarbon solvents than wax. Neither the solvents nor the wax is beneficial or appropriate to use on a pen. There are products out there that have neither solvents nor waxes that do an excellent job in polishing plastics.

At one point I thought Danish Oil would be a good ebonite protectant until I read the small print, the oil I was using is 70% toxic solvents and resin ester. I now use 100% mineral oil and a Sunshine cloth. The mineral oil is a cleaning agent on ebonite only. Guess what, it is distilled petroleum and petroleum does not play well with some rubber (I know – “loser”). Sticking with oils, REM and 3-in-1 oils have also been shown to accelerate the gas deterioration process.

As mentioned, I do not use wax at all, I do not use a buffer and the only polishing I do is use a Sunshine Cloth. I am considering a polish that contains only a micro crystal abrasive in a water suspension – no wax or solvents. Micro-Gloss Liquid Abrasive appears to be a good choice. I bought a rare Esterbrook circa 1932. When the pen approved it was clear the seller had applied a polish, I immediately got out 7,000 grit paper and did the best I could to remove any wax or polish residue on the pen.

  • Carnauba wax
  • Renaissance Wax
  • Johnson’s wax
  • REM (gun) oil
  • 3-in-1 oil
  • WD40
  • Mineral oil
  • Danish oil
  • Jewelers’ rouge buffing and polishing compounds

In Conclussion

I learned a lot and found out some of the things I have been doing could potentially cause harm long term. One of the purposes of this blog is to help others learn from my mistakes. Celluloid is not a concern for vintage pen collectors only. Montegrappa and Visconti are making beautiful pens from celluloid today.

Posted in Stories

Blogging: More than sitting around a coffee shop making up crap

A couple weeks back I reached the 50th blog post (Genus of Ink) – Yah me! Some of the reasons why I’ve been blogging is explained to the interested on the “Why you might Ask” page and on the “Seinfeld” post. Today I thought I’d highlight the processes and the effort that goes into each post. I imagine most people skim the post, not bothering to actually read it (I know this to be true).

This post is not directed towards bloggers, it’s for those who scoff at blogging, to educate and provide insight into the process. Maybe the muggles will gain an appreciation. This is not a “how-to” post, though 99% of help and tips does come from other bloggers. For me, it’s about something I’m interested in and I’m having fun, let’s look inside the creative process (stop laughing).

Technology

I use an iPad and a couple apps throughout the process, from tracking ideas, to research to first draft. It’s a little embarrassing that I write a blog about fountain pens and never pick up a pen.

Ideas

I use Evernote . As ideas come to me I pull up the app, open the “Future Blog Ideas” and create a new topic line with the idea plus maybe an explanatory sentence. If I’m walking the dogs and the idea hits me, I pull up Evernote, click the note and use the dictation function. Ideas are fleeting and will be gone in a matter of moments. Then as I start researching the topic, I simply add to the note until I am ready to write the post.

Writing

I use the Chronicle app, free in the Apple App Store. I bought the multiple journal upgrade as I also use the app to journal vacations and as a daily journal. The app exports directly to Word Press, saving the post as a draft.

Writing is the easy part, the typical post goes through +30 changes before it is published. I recently decided to avoid adverbs – thanks Stephen King.

Schedule

Many “successful” bloggers will tell you, maintain a regular posting schedule so I picked Monday. Then every other Thursday, we’ll sort of. On Thursdays I have a new post or a TBT repost on FB only. Gotta maintain a work-life balance and I have other interests. I keep a schedule of posting ideas in the Numbers app (I started with Excel). It is easy to reorder topics plus I like to keep some basic statistics. I use the Word Press feature to schedule a publication based on date and time. Also, I don’t write and publish in order, I’ve already written a post for Sept 26, 2022.

Spreadsheet Posting Schedule

Photos

I use a couple photo apps on my iPhone, Camera+2 and ProCamera they do a good job providing macro (close up) images. I air dropped the photos to the iPad where I make edits as needed using the Pixelmator Photo editor app.

Blogging Software

As you have discerned, I am using Word Press. I choose this software in part because, it was so popular, it is so easy to use thus I figured it would be easy for the “old man” to set up the blog and get help. Depending on what I want to do, some things are super easy on the iPad app, some are easy as the Chrome App and other times it is easy using the web version. Having some insight into html has also been helpful – I had to make changes in html. The software comes with tons of options and the instructions are clear as mud, but I manage. Oh and BTW, free is not free in the world of blogging.

Side note, I just made a “photo box” to improve my photos and eliminate the need to coordinate picture taking with the available sunlight. Besides I love projects.

Posted in Pens, Reviews

The Hero 395

Company Backstory

The Shanghai Hero Pen Company has been manufacturing high-quality fountain pens since 1931. They began as Wolff Pens but changed their name to Hero in 1966. Hero pens are popular with users in China and India.

My Pen

This is not my first Hero pen, I was impressed by the Kaigelu 316A (which resembles the Parker Duofold Centennial). As a general rule, the Chinese do a good job imitating American and European products – including pens. Often these imitations have a tacky appearance and suffer for quality. This pen however is a legitimate original design with some interesting aesthetic considerations.

The pen has a metal barrel and cap, heavily patterned, copper or brown in color with a very subtle lacquer or antique finish. The pattern is either imprinted or acid etched and is intended to make the pen look aged.

The cap clip has a wave to it and attaches to the cap with the company floral logo imprinted on it. The barrel ring has “395,” “Doctor,” the company floral logo, and Chinese characters etched on it. The blind caps as well as the clip and barrel ring are finished to appear as “aged” metal. I assume they are made of stainless that has been treated to appear aged. Vinegar or a chemical wash or heat staining are options to age stainless. I can’t put my finger on it but the quirky end of the pen is very aesthetically …. well …. pleasing.

The pen comes with the stiff press bar converter filling mechanism – hated by many. I agree it is stiff, and with my fat fingers, depressing the bar is a challenge, but I managed.

The stainless nib has a gold plate center, with scrollwork etching including the company flower logo. Put nib to paper and ink begins flowing without delay. The nib is not a flex nib, or is it stiff – it is semi-flex if there is such a thing. I like it better than any flex nib I’ve ever run into.

Vital Statistics

  • Capped length 133mm,
  • Uncapped length 122mm,
  • Barrel diameter is 12mm,
  • The cap diameter is 12mm,
  • Pen weighs in at 29g.

Cons

My biggest complaint has nothing to do with the pen. As always, I bought it used. The previous owner must have loved it, the dark antique finish on the barrel is worn to a light color while the cap retained the original coloration. Then there is the filler mechanism, it is a PITA if you have fat fingers but it can be replaced.

Opinion

I am impressed by this pen, it is a great pen and at a mere $14 it is a steal, but wait, the same pen is on eBay now for $11 and the antique finish is not worn off on the barrel.


Posted in Restoration, Stories

“All have their Worth and each contributes to the Worth of the others.” J.R.R Tolkien, The Silmarillion

I came across a pen, a cheap gold-plated metal one with the name “Worth” etched on the clip. The nib needed lots of attention but the barrel and cap are in reasonably good shape – plus the price was right – ok it could have been a couple dollars cheaper.

Back story

I set about researching the “Worth” name on the pen. Pens typically bear the names of the manufacturer such as Parker, Sheaffer & Esterbrook, while some also included names of large retail chains (“big box” stores). House-brand pens as they are known, are not favored by collectors but they are often attractive and on occasion of high quality. Could this be a department store pen, maybe Woolworth’s or possibly the French fashion shop House of Worth? I doubt it, so what’s next?

Are you familiar with Eclipse Pens? I’m not but wouldn’t you know it, they offer a metallic pen with a very similar design of gold-plating. Eclipse was a Canadian Pen manufacturer known for their celluloid and BHR pens. I assume that they contracted with a third party for the metalwork and the service provider probably had a catalog of designs to pick from. Finding two pens with the same design by different manufacturers is not a surprise.

Eclipse fountain pens were originally manufactured in the United States from about 1903 until the early 1930’s, manufacturing moved to Canada from 1925 to 1960 when the company shuttered. Maybe, maybe not, next!

Then I stumbled upon a dip pen manufacturer in NY marketing “Worth College Pen” nibs. These nibs are readily available on eBay and Pinterest. I tried researching the nib manufacturer but to no avail. I also posed questions to the Fountain Pen Network and Fountain Pen Geeks, and no one is familiar with “Worth” pens.

The Restoration

Ok let’s be honest, the nib is gross. There is ink gunking up the feed. The section is easily removed from the barrel. I put it in a cup of water for 24 hrs. Oddly enough the water did not change color based on the dried ink. I guess the gunk isn’t ink or it is not a water based ink (more likely the case). Anyway, the nib and feed easily separated from the section with a gentle pull and I set about working on the tarnished nib with a Sunshine cloth.

When the old dried up ink sac was removed, it was grey primarily, making me think it dated back to the 1960s. The section was showing signs of abuse, sandpaper removed the marks and some accumulated yuck.

As you can see the barrel and cap are in good shape with the exception of the chip missing from the lever – oh well. A Sunshine cloth removed the accumulated dirt and grime, restoring a very nice luster to the pen.

I installed a new ink sac, a #18 fit very nicely without being cramped inside the barrel.

All cleaned up, nib shows no sign of damage, we’ll see if it needs any smoothing but it has what appears to be hard water stains. The stains could be caused by overzealous cleaning with alcohol or an acetone, or fountain pen unfriendly inks.

There does not appear to be any corrosive damage to the nib. I found several options to address the stains, including micro mesh, silver polish, car polish, tooth paste, an emery cloth, so I opted for 7,000 grit paper. If anyone has other suggestions on how to remove the stains don’t be shy.

How does it write? Well, it is scratchy, can’t say I am a fan. If the angle is too steep the nib digs into the paper causing holes. Also, it needs to have the nib and feed heat set (my fingers are blue now). Considering what it looked like when I got it, I guess it writes well.

Vital Statistics

  • Capped length 127mm,
  • Uncapped length 119mm,
  • Barrel diameter is 10mm,
  • The cap diameter is 11mm,
  • The Pen weighs in at 14g.

——————————- Reference Material ————————-


Posted in Pens, Reviews, Stories

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

Wow, a new month upon us again heralding the last month of the year. This month I thought I’d give the Ambassador a-go. If you remember the pen impressed me when I completed the refurbishment so now it gets the opportunity to prove me right.

Just did a quick check and I have 6 pens inked up, about twice the norm. Which ones you ask, well there is the Duofold, Esterbrook SJ, the “fluffy” Conklin All American, Airmail Wality 69LG, and Lady Sheaffer Skripsert VI. It’s good to have options.

So what are you writing with this month?