Posted in Pens, Reviews

Happy All Hallows’ Eve

I just thought this pen is the coolest.  Why? Well I have a fondness for black pens, plus I have a fascination for Día de los Muertos, and who doesn’t like pirates.  There are many “skull” pens on the market but this is the one for me.

The Company Line

Inspired by our childhood dreams of piracy and adventures. Rebellion and daring design is created for those who share the same ideals. Skillfully crafted by hand from glossy resin with its hand-friendly shape and black decorative ring the Classic Black BENU Skull Pen is a member of the Minima line of pens. Use a short international standard ink cartridge. Please note that due to the pen’s miniature size it CAN NOT be used with a standard size converter, only with mini converters that are no longer than 4.0 cm / 1.6 inches.

My Pen

I was super excited when I got this pen, and of course, I found a deal on it (40% off MSRP). I bought it for my birthday and gave it to my wife to give to me as a present (married life is great). This review will sound like I hate the pen and I am ranting, but really, I like the pen. I am highlighting how different this pen is.

Merely stating the obvious, it is a cigar-shaped black plastic pen covered with raised skulls and a screw-on cap. BTW, all the skulls are smiling. Since it lacks a cap clip it is difficult to determine which end is the cap and which end is not. If you take a minute to actually examine the pen, the cap is determined by the shorter distance from the cap band to the end or by the direction of BENU on the cap band. But really, who has time to examine the pen or read the logo each time they remove the cap. I only complain because I want the writing end of the pen in the hand I write with when the cap is removed.

The pen is made of resin which has a different feel and it sounds different. That sounds silly but it is the first thing I noticed when I held the pen – it feels different and when I ran my fingers along the barrel it sounded different. The next thing to note is that the pen is short and the cap cannot be posted, thus if you have a large hand or long fingers you will hate this pen.

It came with a #5, Schmidt, stainless steel nib with iridium tips. I choose the Medium width. Also included is a single short international cartridge. Benu recommends a “Kaweco Squeeze Fountain Pen Converter for the Sport & Liliput lines” if you prefer a converter. Plus Benu also states the pen can be converted to an eyedropper fill.

One final comment, this is a light pen. Benu says it weighs 18g, and with a fully charged ink cartridge installed mine only weighs 17g. I noticed no hand fatigue as I’ve used it consistently for a week.

After inserting the cartridge, it took a moment to start the ink flowing. It is a fairly wet nib, once the ink starts it likes to flow. The writing was initially a little scratchy but quickly smoothed with use.

Vital Statistics

  • Capped length: 125mm
  • Uncapped length: 114.5mm
  • Barrel diameter: 16mm
  • Cap diameter: 16mm
  • Weighs in at 17g
COPYRIGHT © 2021-2022 DANNY WATTS and CHRONICLES OF A FOUTAIN PEN.
Posted in Restoration

Stylograph Black

Stylographic pens, sometimes called “stylos”, have a writing tip made of a metal tube with a fine wire inside to regulate ink flow. Stylos were the first mass-produced fountain pens to achieve broad market success. Duncan MacKinnon, a Canadian druggist patented his “ink pencil” in Canada in 1875, followed by Alonzo Cross patenting his “stylographic pen” which held its own ink in 1880.

Company Back Story

The Inkograph Company aka Ink-O-Graph, is a pen manufacturer founded in 1914 by brothers Joseph and William F. Wallace of New York City. The company produced Inkograph stylographic pens, Leadograph mechanical pencils, and Wallace fountain pens. Their products were retailed primarily by F. W. Woolworth & Co. In the 1930s, the company introduced its own brand of open-nib pens under the Ink-D-Cator brand. After Parker released the “51”, Inkograph followed suit. Inkograph was purchased in 1952 by the Risdon Manufacturing Company of Naugatuck, Connecticut, continuing operations into 1962.

My Pen

Is a black celluloid Model 70-200 dating from the 1940s. It is a lever-fill model with a weighted gravity feed wire. When the wire comes in contact with the paper, it is pushed inward allowing the ink to flow. The wire assembly is weighted at the opposite end and should move freely, but it doesn’t move at all. Spoiler alert, this becomes an adventure.

Infographic 70-200

The pen looks good in this picture, all accents – cap clip, cap ring, and lever are gold plated showing little to no brassing.

Refurbishment

I made an effort to ascertain if it was made of celluloid acetate, celluloid nitrate, a resin, or even ebonite. I’m settling on celluloid nitrate as there is a faint tell-tale odor. Using a Sunshine cloth, the pen received a good surface cleaning. The gold plate polished up nicely without removing any finish.

After a working the cloth, I realized the “stuff” on the pen was still … on the pen. SURPISE! It appears to me that the finish has been damaged resulting in a pitted surface and discoloration. +#$%&*

Since the wire is stuck and protruding from the tube, I removed the tube/nib assembly from the section. Discovering that the weighted wire structure is broken free of the weight which is lodged in the section. It is possible that by removing the tube/nib assembly I am responsible for the damage, but there was no other way. I removed the wire from the tube, it is bent but repairable.

Next, I removed the section from the barrel. SURPRISE! Someone had installed an ink sac that was a fraction of the length needed to reach the pressure bar. Not to mention it was rotting. With the ink sac removed, access to the weight was easy.

Using a thin screwdriver inserted into the section from the ink side I pushed out the weight and SURPRISE! The weight was coated in a plastic shell, which had split repeatedly and now gave off an odor reminiscent of vomit. Fortunately, a little soap and water eliminated most of the odor. I was successful in sanding down the malformations created by the splits in the plastic coating. The weight was not perfectly shaped but almost free-flowing within the section. SURPRISE, a large portion of the plastic covering broke off. @#$%&*

What all this means is I have not finished my refurbishment. I will probably leave the surface issues as is, but I am considering recoating the weight. Here lies my issue. What do I coat it with that I can be comfortable will not damage the writing wire, dissolve in ink, or damage the section? The latter I believe is celluloid acetate or a resin.

Vital Statistics

  • Capped length 119mm
  • Uncapped length 111mm
  • Barrel diameter 12mm
  • Cap diameter 13mm
  • Weighs in at 16g
COPYRIGHT © 2021-2022 DANNY WATTS and CHRONICLES OF A FOUTAIN PEN.
Posted in Refurbish

#ThrowbackThursday

Oops, I’m doing it again. I had a different topic planned but I’m not feeling inspired (or maybe it is lazy). I’ve dug up and am sharing an original post from yesteryear. Don’t worry, I’ve corrected the spelling and grammar issues, plus I polished up the story a bit but only just a bit.

This Throwback Thursday post is going way, way back. I’m presenting my Waterman Ideal 52 vest pen – it is 97 years old. (Click the Ping Backlink to read the full story.)

Waterman Ideal 52 Vest pen

It is made of black chased hard rubber (BCHR) and shows significant signs of sun damage plus the nib appears to have some damage. The nib is an oddity, the pen came with a #2 Mabie Todd opposed to a Waterman #2 nib. The nib is over a Waterman feed with what appears to be the letters “ST” above the numbers “17 16.” I determined that this design is detailed in patent 1,201,951A and the mysterious markings are the patented date Oct 17, 1916.

It looks really ugly above, but it cleaned up nicely. Just click the link to read all about the process and see the refurbished pictures.

Comments have been turned off. If you feel so inclined please comment on the original post. Thank you!

COPYRIGHT © 2021-2022 DANNY WATTS and CHRONICLES OF A FOUTAIN PEN.
Posted in Pens, Stories

Celluloid – Real, Fake & FIRE!

In this last discussion of my favorite vintage pen materials, I am presenting celluloid. Why do I like celluloid you ask. Unfortunately, that is a detailed answer you see. There are two kinds of celluloid; one made with cellulose nitrate and another made from cellulose acetate. I have both but I prefer the cellulose nitrate. It has a warm feel, much like ebonite, and a pleasant camphor fragrance. It’s much easier to generate vibrant colors and interesting patterns.

Cellulose nitrate (Real Celluloid)

The primary ingredient of celluloid is cellulose nitrate. Cellulose is the most abundant organic polymer on Earth. Obtained primarily from wood pulp and cotton to produce paperboard and paper. Nitrating cellulose through exposure to a mixture of nitric acid and sulfuric acid produces highly flammable cellulose nitrate.

Parker Vacumatic and Duofold in Celluloid

It was initially used as guncotton, a replacement for gunpowder. Cellulose nitrate was also used as a low-yield explosive in mining. So naturally, it should make a great medium for manufacturing pens – once it is plasticized with camphor, celluloid’s other essential component.

Spontaneous combustion is always a possibility; however, the most common failure of celluloid occurs as it ages. Exposure to the environment allows the camphor to sublimate at room temperature, reverting the celluloid to Cellulose nitrate. Another sublimation associated with exposure to excess heat affects nitrate.

Cellulose acetate (Fake Celluloid)

“Cellulose acetate is most commonly prepared by treating cellulose with acetic acid and then with acetic anhydride in the presence of a catalyst such as sulfuric acid.”

Onishi Seisakusho Celluloid Acetate pens photo credit Jet Pens

Cellulose acetate was made by dozens of companies with different brand names and formulations. According to Lambrou’s Fountain Pens of the World, there are four different cellulosic plastics used in fountain pens:

  • Cellulose Nitrate (real celluloid)
  • Cellulose Acetate
  • Cellulose Propionate
  • Cellulose Acetobutyrate

I ask, is cellulose acetate, etc. real celluloid? It is still being manufactured and called celluloid. Or is the determination of celluloid made because of cellulose?

Now for the bad news, both nitrate and acetate are classified as flammable substances, and subject to transportation restrictions plus storage and handling regulations. For this reason, contemporary celluloid pens are very uncommon; however, Italian companies, Montegrappa and Visconti manufacture pens from celluloid as does Onishi Seisakusho in Japan.

Fun Facts

  • Early billiard balls made of cellulose nitrate were known to explode occasionally.
  • Cellulose nitrate-based film has spontaneously ignited and that which has not burned has in a large part decomposes to red powder.
  • Allegedly a prisoner explodes a deck of celluloid playing cards to facilitate his escape.

How can I tell?

The simplest way to determine if celluloid is real is to take a whiff, it is all about the fragrance. Wet the pen and rub hard creating heat. It will not smell like plastic but like camphor. Honestly, I have no idea what camphor smells like but I can tell you a celluloid pen does not smell like a petroleum product, or a solvent.

You can also test by burning shavings. Acetate will have a vinegar smell and burn yellow while nitrate will smell of camphor and burn white. Yellow vs white seems like an inconclusive test.

For those with access to a microscope, place a shaving and lace on a glass slide. Add a droplet of acetone. If celluloid, it will promptly dissolve; casein, Bakelite, and acrylic will be unaffected. This test won’t tell us if the celluloid is real or fake.

Waxing

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.

In conclusion, I test by smell. I like real celluloid because it has a warm feel and it smells good. To me, the aroma is earthy with a medicinal undertone.

Reference Material

COPYRIGHT © 2021-2022 DANNY WATTS and CHRONICLES OF A FOUTAIN PEN.
Posted in Pens, Reviews

Kaweco Student – School Days, Dear Old Golden Rule Days

The Kaweco Student made my 2022 wish list, though my interest was in the Student pen with the green cap. As we all know, I am a sucker for a deal and stumbled across a Student demo model at a really good price. I couldn’t say no.

Company Backstory

Kaweco is a German brand of writing implements, originally introduced by the Heidelberg Pen Company for its dip pens line in 1889. Kaweco became a public limited company in 1921, with an annual production of 130,000 fountain pens.

The company went bankrupt in 1930, Knust, Woringen & Grube (KWG) purchased the Kaweco company name, machines, stock, and patents. After the death of Frederik Grube, the company languished indeterminate until another bankruptcy in 1981. The brand was acquired in 1994 by the cosmetic company H&M Gutberlet Gmbh.

My Pen

As mentioned I purchased a Kaweco demo Student pen not the green one on my wish list. The pen is made from polished injection-molded acrylic with brass metal parts that are chrome plated, a stainless steel iridium-tipped nib, and accepts standard universal cartridges or converters. The pen is inspired by a design from the 1920s and ships in a retro gift tin. Ok, it’s not vintage but it is vintage-inspired.

Why demonstrator, welp the transparent design lets you see the internals, how much ink is left inside, and I think they are cool.

The clear acrylic barrel is crisp and clear while the chrome trim makes it pop – setting off its beauty. Not everyone likes a chrome or metallic section, that includes me but this demonstrator is the exception.

The barrel is not straight, it slowly tapers out to about mid-way then tapers inward to the end of the barrel.

The pen comes with 2 ink cartridges, of which only one is full. Good thing I have a syringe to refill the cartridges. I did find a converter at a really good price but I have put it off until refilling the cartridges becomes a problem or I simply get fed up. The pen accepts standard universal cartridges or converters but I’ve read reviews claiming this is not true. So make sure the converter is clearly approved for the Student.

The Kaweco logo is found on the end of the cap, the nib, and the feed.

The nib is stainless steel iridium-tipped nib. It is decorated with an etched scroll, the company logo, and the nib size, BB.

Time to insert the Royal Blue ink cartridge and give it a go. Compared to the Pilot CM nib the Kaweco BB is a pleasure and I like the CM nib.

Der Kaweco Student Demonstrator ist ein wunderbarer Stift. Ich habe einen neuen Favoriten und eine Lizenz zum Schreiben.

Vitals Statistics

  • Capped length, 131mm
  • Uncapped length, 119mm
  • Barrel diameter, 13mm
  • Cap diameter, 14.5mm
  • Weighs in at 26g

——————— Reference Material —————

Posted in Restoration

WTH Happened – Beware of Your Ink Choice

Back Story

The Waterman Expert was introduced circa 1995, as a lightweight plastic-bodied pen featuring a distinctive two-tone, beveled steel nib. The Expert I nib has a little piece of plastic going through the nib which maintains the nib in relation to the feed. The trademark “W” is aft of this plus “Waterman Paris” is engraved on the underside of the nib diameter.

On the cap between the trim rings is their trademark script “W,” with “Waterman Paris” on the opposite side. The jewel atop the cap is solid plastic embossed with “W”. The first generation of Experts had a much more robust and durable snap cap system than its predecessors.

Circa 2000, Waterman introduced the second-generation Expert. The body is now made of lacquer over brass much like the Hemisphere which dramatically increased the pen’s weight. The Expert II also sported a redesigned yet inferior nib. The clutch was also redesigned in the cap however, it failed to engage the barrel securely.

My Pen

Is Bordeaux in color (sounds so much better than burgundy) with gold trim accents. When I acquired the pen the nib was heavily crusted with dried ink, but the barrel and cap were free of scratches and tooth marks. Plus, there was no brassing of the cap rings or the clip.

The feed used in generation 1 Experts is unique. There is a small piece of plastic that protrudes through the nib, henceforth known as an anchor block. This piece of plastic sits atop of the fins of the feed. In this picture, the anchor block is facing in the wrong direction. It is so small I could not determine which direction it was facing. It is very easy to lose, especially on a carpet – experience speaking x2. The anchor block is about the size of an uncooked grain of rice.

Now things get interesting, where do I begin? I bought the pen knowing the tines needed some TLC. The tines bowed outward yet coming together at the tips. This I could correct and I did.

But when I removed the nib and feed from the section – SURPRISE! The diameter portion of the nib was heavily damaged. It appears the owner was an ignoramus having inked the pen with some sort of gallic ink and failed to clean the pen.

Damage caused by Gallic Ink

Welp iron-gall inks should only be used in dip pens, they contain gum arabic or maybe Ferro-gallic to increase the permanency of water-based ink. These chemicals are corrosive and both increase the already corrosive level of the ink. Resulting in damage to the nib and pen. I’m now looking for a gently used Expert I beveled steel nib and a feed.

With all this damage, I suspect the pen will have issues holding a vacuum inside the ink reservoir. However, I am considering making a go at repairing the nib using silver solder – what do I have to lose? The lesson to learn is this, Gallic ink is bad, while the pen is good. The previous owner used the wrong ink, did not clean the pen, and welp I now have one or two new topics to blog about. I look forward to the day when I can use the pen.

Posted in Pens, Reviews, Stories

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

Last month I reviewed the Monteverde Black Tie. I liked the feel and enjoyed how it writes but hated the pen. The cap would not stay securely attached resulting in an accident whereas I bent the tines. It’s a nice writing pen that cannot be trusted.

I’ve mixed up the usual suspects this month. The Pilot Prera is still inked and in use but I have rotated out the vintage Esterbrook J, and the Scrikss 419. Rotating in the Black Tie and the Duofold.

For October, I have pulled out the Kaweco Student Demonstrator. This pen made my Wish List for 2022,

Did you miss any of the past month’s blog posts? Welp, here is your chance to catch up…

  • It’s a new month, what’s in your pen cup? Let’s see how I started September with a review of August. It’s a new month and time to shelve your current choice of pens in favor of new pens or those that may be long forgotten and feeling neglected. Also, let’s review how the pens from last month fared and recap the month’s postings.
  • Conklin Crescent Model 50 My pen is a Crescent Model 50 (aka S5) with a #5 nib and surprise it was in working order when I purchased it. The pen dates from 1918-1920. Looking good for her age.
  • “Black Tie” Optional I decided to delve into the Monteverdi catalog of pens finding the Black Tie. Unlike many pens, this one is made of carbon fiber and lots of chrome.
  • Casein “the most beautiful of plastics” Casein is a milk-derived plastic used to manufacture pens in the 1920s. It was very popular in England but never found an audience in the US.
  • Fountain Pen Ancestry, A Story Waiting to be Told I am highlighting the ancestry of 3 pens inscribed with their owner’s name. Maybe I have an overactive imagination or am hopelessly sentimental, each holds a story waiting to be known.
  • #ThrowbackThursday From time to time when I’m feeling inspired (or lazy), I will dig up and share an original post from yesteryear. This time I am going back 90+ yesteryears and presenting a pen by George W Heath – bet you haven’t heard of him?

In the News

Beyond the keyboard: Fountain pen collectors find beauty in ink, The Washington Post sends a Philistine to the DC Fountain Pen Super Show. “Billed as the world’s largest. Display areas … teemed as pen enthusiasts made their way along aisles, testing nibs with calligraphical flourishes and holding the barrels of pens carefully in their hands….”

‘Oh God I hate this’: King Charles expresses frustration over leaking pen, “The new monarch was shown signing a visitor’s book in front of cameras at Hillsborough Castle, near Belfast. He reacted after the pen he was using leaked on him….”I can’t bear this bloody thing … every stinking time,” Charles said as he walked away.”

Book Banning

Featuring book banning stories on Books of Brilliance.

Book Banning has Gotten Out of Control in the United States

“Book banning has been around for a long time but over the past year or so, it has increased tenfold. Many parents don’t want their kids to be reading certain books in school or libraries…. From July 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022, 1145 books have been banned in school districts all over the United States”

LeVar Burton is not a fan of Book Banning

“I’ve been very, very, very clear about my position. And I’ve been very vocal. Read the banned books, ya’ll. If they don’t want you to read it, there’s a reason why. So read the books they don’t want you to read…”

Girls Who Code Founder Shocked By Book Being Banned

Pennsylvania’s Central York School District banned Girls Who Code without providing a reason for the ban. “They don’t want girls to learn how to code because that’s a way to be economically secure.” Reshma Saujani, the book’s author.

Musings

I have been searching for a vintage Conway Stewart casein pen and I may have found a couple. One includes the original manufacturer’s instructions which clearly specify “do not soak the pen in water,” but the color is meh. Another has colors that are impressive but the clip is heavily brassed. The search continues.

The Fall Equinox has come and gone thus begins the “holiday season.” The other morning I awoke to discover our kitchen had fallen victim to an infestation of plastic spiders. Last year I put 100 plastic spiders in our daughter’s bed – between the sheets. I did this one night when she working late at the hospital. We enjoy the Halloween season.

Also during the previous “holiday season,” I made up a doll to resemble Annabelle.

I crept into her house and strategically placed the doll on the back edge of the tub so that when she looked into the mirror she would see the doll behind her in the reflection….

COPYRIGHT © 2021-2022 DANNY WATTS and CHRONICLES OF A FOUTAIN PEN.