Posted in Collection, Material, Pens, Stories

Ebonite; Mottled, Woodgrain and Ripple

What is Ebonite….
The name “ebonite” comes from “ebony” and is black in color (duh). Yet it is clear brownish-red in thin-film form and brownish-red in powdered form. Also known as Vulcanite, it is warm to the touch, a durable medium, and provides excellent electrical insulation and machinability. Great, I’ll remember that next time I’m working with live electrical wires. Ebonite is sometimes called “hard rubber,” manufacturers in Germany and Japan often distinguish ebonite that is hardened with fillers from “natural” hardened ebonite.

Eco-friendly benefits of ebonite, it is manufactured with natural rubber collected from gum tree sap, and the tree is not cut down. Gum trees have a high absorption rate of carbon dioxide.

Ebonite is produced by a chemical reaction of combining rubber and sulfur molecules in a process known as “vulcanization.” Ebonite may contain from 25% to 80% sulfur and linseed oil. The process is accelerated by applying heat and pressure of steam for several days. The result of the process is low-elastic, very firm vulcanized rubber Interestingly, soft ebonite prior to vulcanization becomes ultra hard rubber afterward. When the surface of ebonite is polished, it gives a beautiful, lacquer-like gloss.

Why do I love ebonite pens, especially those that are dyed or mottled, etc. Welp, when the surface of ebonite is polished, it gives a beautiful, lacquer-like gloss. Secondly, the pen has a natural warmth to the touch, unlike contemporary acrylic, plastics, or vintage celluloid which are cold. I am particularly fond of ebonite which is mottled – mixing colored rubber with standard rubber in the vulcanization process.

Following careful mixing formulas, ebonite rods can be drawn in a spiral fashion to produce a variety of appearances and styles.

Mottled

As the technique gained popularity, pen makers in the 1920s produced elegant woodgrain pens.

Woodgrain

Expanding the woodgrain design, in 1926 Waterman introduced a flow pattern, called ripple. The only other company to produce a true ripple was Platignum.

Ripple

Ripple in still water. When there is no pebble tossed. Nor wind to blow
~ Jerry Garcia

Ripple was immensely popular and available in a variety of colors such as olive, rose, and blue-green. Contemporary mottled ebonite rods available to indie pen manufacturers come in a fantastic range of colors. The rods are readily available from manufacturers in India, Japan, and Germany.

Unfortunately, black ebonite is susceptible to sun and water damage. I have not encountered this with mottled, woodgrain, or ripple ebonite pens. Maybe I am just lucky. Please feel free to leave comments detailing your experiences with mottle ebonite, etc.

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

The 1950’s Parker Parkette

The Parkette

A family of pens manufactured by Parker, but generally considered a third-tier pen. Evolving from the Parco, Parkette produced began in 1932 and ran through 1941. The pen was Parker’s answer to inexpensive competition while providing the Parker name and mystique. The Parkette generally lacked the quality of flagship Parker pens of the time (Duofold, and Vacumatic).

The Parkette was Parker’s first pen to make use of a lever-filling mechanism. A common option amongst other manufacturers but not one Parker pens ever would regularly embrace. Eventually, the lever-fill mechanism would find its way into other “third-tier” Parker pens, including the Duo-Tone (not to be confused with Duofold) and the Writefine.

The 1950s Parkette

It is a common practice for pen companies to reintroduce former names as a means of adding nostalgia. Parker introduced one last model to the Parkette family in 1950. The new pen included a lever-filling system and contemporary styling (a metal cap and a hooded nib). The newest Parkette did not fare well against period Parker’s.

My Pen

I have a grey 1951 Parkette. It is in very good shape, without any bite marks, or scratches, but it leaks. I know grey is boring but I like it with the shiny metal cap. It appears to have the same “defect” other hooded Parker’s shared – a gap between the hood and the nib. While researching the Parkette, it seems this pen is not favored amongst collectors and is considered cheap and not worthy of the time and effort to repair it – got my attention now.

This seemed odd to me, when I removed the ink sac I found the pen had a breather tube (more on these another day). A breather tube is used in better pens when the filling system fails to completely fill the reservoir with one cycle of compression and vacuum. This is a feature commonly not found in cheap pens and I would know, I have 3 Arnolds.

Refurbishment

I replaced the too-short ink sac, being careful not to remove the breather tube. I tried to remove the hood but found it is held firm by glue. I made a valent effort to remove it but when all options failed and applying solvents was the only choice, I stopped. The cap retention ring thingy was a little tarnished, nothing a Sunshine cloth could not remedy. The only real damage is a minute amount of brassing on the cap clip.

Not wanting to leave the feed, nib and breather tube as is, I used a bulb syringe to flush them out. I was surprised to see flakes of dried ink accumulate in the sink. My concern appeared warranted.

All done and ready to ink up and give it a go.

Welp, I’m happy to say it writes well. It is a fine point nib which is not one of my faves but this one does very well. The nib is a little wet but that may be excess ink from the filling fixing in the hood.

Vital Statistics

  • Capped length. 132mm
  • Uncapped length. 121mm
  • Barrel diameter 11mm
  • Cap diameter 12mm
  • Weighs in at 16g

For a “cheap” pen not worthy of my time, the only complaint is a manufacturing defect (in my opinion). The cap is secured is pressure the cap retention ring thingy. The pen lacks a clutch ring as found in a 51, thus the cap is not adequately secured. I picked it up one day by the cap and the pen went flying. Luckily I made a good catch.

Posted in Collection, Pens, Stories

Country of Origin

Sorta kinda continuing from the Blogiversary post where I made mentioned my pen collection. What should I say about it? Should I highlight the “special” pens, or the number of pens? As the number of pens in my collection is an admission of personal weakness – I suffer from a condition known as BSO (Bright Shiny Objects) syndrome I decided against that.

I decided to focus on the country of origin of the pens. Make me seem like an international man of mystery (yeah right). Again, I started overthinking the task. I immediately thought, contemporary vs vintage, but suppose the manufacturer has contemporary pens made in China, while their vintage pens are made in the US – clearly overthinking a simple task.

Getting past the obvious insanity, I began stressing over should I count the number of pens per country or just the number of manufacturers per country? I have a couple pens from Yafa (Conklin and Monteverde) and contemporary Esterbrook pens, all of which I have included in the US manufacturer total, but we all know the pens are made in China. The same is true for Scriveiner claiming “Designed in London” and we know that means manufactured in China.

I decided on simplicity – Country and Manufacturer. Keep in mind most of my pens are vintage and the manufacturer has been out of business for decades.

  • France – Gold Starry and Waterman
  • England – Mabie Todd, Conway Stewart, Esterbrook, Osmiroid, Mentmore, Scriveiner
  • Turkey – Scrikss
  • India – indie, Airmail
  • China – Hero, Kaigelu, Zenzoi
  • Taiwan – TWSBI
  • Germany – Montblanc
  • Japan – Pilot, Spor
  • US – Esterbrook, Parker, Sheaffer, Worth, Arnold, Inkograph, Keystone, Ambassador, Conklin, Heath, Monteverde

Then I got to thinking about where did I purchase my pens. A vast number of pens were purchased from US sellers. As I am an equal opportunity purchaser, I also acquired pens from sellers in Canada, England, France, Germany, India, Japan, and the most unusual locale of all – the Greek Island of Kos, where I have purchased 2 pens.

Posted in Collection, Pens, Reviews, Stories

The (Wish) List

I usually acquire pens based on impulse and circumstance (i.e. dumb luck), which has introduced me to a variety of odd pens. Some contemporary, some vintage, but all speak to me. The pens on this list are not pens to finish my collection. Nope, these are pens that have caught my eye, struck my fancy, and now I have a penchant for owning them. Oh and BTW, I love lists. Without further ado, in alphabetical order, let’s start the new year with a wish list ….

Benu – Silver Skull

“Silver Skull Fountain Pen is 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 shining decorative ring the Silver Skull Pen is a stylish accessory and a real pleasure to use.” – Benu Pen.com

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 Muertos and who doesn’t like pirates. There are many “skull” pens on the market but this is the one for me.

Benu Silver Skull

Irish Pens – Black Carbon Fiber

“At 66 grams, Rhodium and Titanium wrapped in Black Carbon Fiber and with a Peter Bock nib at the business end this is a serious fountain pen, a fountain pen that will feel at home in the most exclusive boardroom, business setting or in your personal writing space, its gravitas will not go unnoticed whenever it is used. When the written words really matter! this is the fountain pen to use.” – Irish Pens.ie

Irish Pens, an Irish indie pen company specializing in pens made in County Cavan, Ireland of Irish native woods. I originally was drawn to their pens made from bog oak, but I saw this one! You have to admit, it takes your breath away. No surprise, this pen is the most expensive on the list.

Irish Pens Carbon Black

Kaweco – Student Pen

“Nostalgic fountain pen in soft green with golden details made of precious resin. The Student 60’s Swing impresses with a soft and organic green. The combination of green and golden elements is harmonious and underlines the series’s nostalgic, bulky shape. It matches the motto of the Swinging Sixties: Harmony and peace. The Student fountain pen with its curved pen body made of high-quality resin guarantees a haptic and visual writing pleasure.” – Kaweco Pen.com

Germans are known for their over engineering not for their simplicity, this this pen is the exception. The design, aesthetics, complimentary colors of ivory and green – beauty in simplicity. I do wish the section was not gold, but rather the same color as the cap.

Kaweco Student

Parker – 51

“When it introduced the “51” in 1941, the George S. Parker Company knew it had a winner. The pen was stylish but not flashy, durable but not clunky, and reliable but not overengineered. Over the next 31 years, the pen proved itself immensely popular. Tales are told of people who, unable to afford a whole pen, would purchase only a cap to clip in a pocket, giving the appearance of a complete pen.“ – Richards Pens.com

Parker 51 is the one vintage pen everyone should own, or so I have been told. After reading tons of accolades, this pen is worthy of the distinction. It is an attractive pen, unique in design. I am looking for an acceptable 1941 pen but they are not common. I fancy the Cedar Blue color but as mentioned I’m sure dumb luck will prevail and I’ll get what I get.

Parker 51

**** Update, a 1941 or maybe it’s a 1944 (more on this at a later time) is in the mail and of course it is not Cedar Blue.

Scrikss – Heritage Black GT

“Launched in 2014 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Scrikss company, the Heritage range is intended to be emblematic, a flagship of the brand Scrikss. The painstaking design is a combination between traditional and modernism, having as inspiration the aqueducts model that surrounded the old city of Istanbul in the past. It is created by the Turkish designer Kunter Sekercioglu.” – Scrikss Pen.com.tr

I stumbled on this pen after I bought a Scrikss 419. A lovely metal pen, with laser etched scrollwork. I feel like there is an elegance inspired by Instanbul. I have not found a US dealer as yet.

Scrikss Heritage GT
Posted in Collection

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

What is old is New again.

Let’s start the new year off with an old friend, we’ll sort of. I’m inking up the Waterman Lauret I, which is new to me in 2021 but is 30 years old. By old friend, I mean this pen feels just like the Waterman Hemisphere in hand. If you recall, the Hemisphere is the pen that got me started down this rat hole. Also, I adding a little excitement and opened the Papier Plume ink Cafe Diabolique which I picked up on Fountain Pen Day.

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.

What did Santa bring you?

Posted in Collection, Pens, Stories

Building a Collection of Pens & When to Say Enough

Earlier this month, I was in a meeting with my work colleagues where I diligently took notes. Throughout the meeting I got odd looks …. as I was writing with my 1928 Duofold. The discussion eventually turned to my pen. I gladly passed the pen around for each to examine and use. None could believe the pen was 90+ years old. I explained that collecting and refurbishment of vintage fountain pens is a hobby of mine. That I bought this pen, restored it and since it was personalized researched the original owner.

My collection, to the amusement of myself, “is not a collection” as I don’t collect pens (lying to myself). Initially, I would not admit to collecting pens, but as fountain pen people know, they have a way of accumulating – it just happens. My collection generally hovers around 40 pens after periodic culling. So how did it all begin?

Glad you ask and truth be told, I do not know how it happened. At first, I owned a couple inexpensive Waterman and all was perfect. A decade later, I inherited a couple inoperative Esterbrooks, taught myself how to repair and restore them. BAM, I was hooked. Magically, my interest expanded to include French, and English pens now most recently, Turkish, Chinese and Indian pens.

There are three primary types of pens: 1) dip pens which are dipped into an inkwell, 2) fountain pens with a self-contained ink reservoir, and 3) ballpoint pens with a little ball that allows ink to flow out when the pen is put to paper. All three types are available as contemporary or vintage pens. Vintage pens are highly collectible and come in a wide variety of colors and styles, ranging from those with elaborate gold casings to simple plastic cigar-shaped designs. Contemporary pens are readily available with lazer etched designs, amazing color schemes, custom designs or simple plastic designs.

Vintage, Modern or Both

Keep in mind, collecting pens is not a good investment, I do this for fun. The people who collect vintage pens tend to be history nerds or enjoy nostalgia, which is why my wife calls me a “loser.” There is nothing stopping you from including both vintage and contemporary pens in your collection.

How does one make a decision and not break the bank. For starters, I focused on pens a little off the beaten path, something odd just like me. Do not let anyone tell you what you should or should not like. When you’re first starting off or simply focusing on a small collection – every choice counts, and to me I’d think twice before looking at “boring” pens because someone told me I “had to have it” in my collection.

To me dip pens are interesting, ballpoint pens are boring – I primarily focus on fountain pens. A couple pointers that may help you skinny down that list of potential pens:

  • Aesthetically pleasing or unique
  • Something with everyday comfort
  • Something fancy and shiny
  • Cool filler system
  • And always consider the nib

Acquiring Pens

Let me begin with once you find and acquire pen #1 it’s not long before you find another one to lust after. Even worse, you develop FOMO (fear of missing out). With that warning in mind, contemporary pens are readily available at Amazon, Jetpens, Pen Boutique, Vanness, Etsy, even Kickstarter plus the better stationary stores – the internet provides many options. Vintage pens are more for the individuals who enjoy the chase. A good place to search for fountain pens is at flea markets and some antique shops. Be aware some dealers may expect a premium that is not justified by quality. eBay is also a popular destination, the pen will most likely not be functional and don’t forget the ever present “buyer beware.” As with contemporary pens, the internet is a good place to acquire refurbished quality vintage pens, like David Nishimura’s VintagePen.com, and Tim’s Vintage Pens. A fun option is a pen show, where both contemporary and vintage pens are available.

Not so much about acquisition, but look for a local pen enthusiast group. Most often they can be found on Facebook. These groups are an invaluable source of information and support.

How Much Should This Cost?

Chinese pens can cost as little as $5 while premium pens can sell for over a $1,000. I do not buy expensive pens, I enjoy the challenge of finding inexpensive pens that write well, so 90% of my pens cost under $50. I recommend before making any purchase, take the time to research selling prices. And lastly, always stay within your budget.

Final Thoughts

Our expectations disappoint us, not our collections. There is obviously nothing wrong with having goals and dreams but don’t expect to achieve them quickly or reach those goals within a small or specific amount of time. – New-Lune.com

I’d rather buy a variety of inexpensive pens than a single expensive pen. This allows me the flexibility to explore options without feeling guilty and to enjoy myself. Also, it is easy to sell inexpensive pens. So be yourself and have fun.

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