Posted in Pens, Stories

#ThrowbackThursday

Oops, I’m doing it yet again, welp I guess this is going to be a semi-regular featured post, but still only when I’m feeling uninspired (or lazy), then I will dig up and share an original post from yesteryear. In honor of consumerism, let’s flashback and look at the “extensive research” conducted by Sheaffer determined that there is a market for a pen designed exclusively for women. I wrote this in the spirt of 1958, yes it could be considered sexist, but I took inspiration from advertisements of the time. Making amends for spelling and grammar issues I present the Lady Sheaffer. Click the Ping Back to read the full story.

The Lady Sheaffer “writes like a dream…refills like her lipstick”

Excerpt

“Results show that women generally considered pens made for them were nothing more than scaled down reproductions of men’s writing instruments while their fashion interests were centered in fabrics, costume jewelry and accessories. The results was a new line of cartridge pens named ‘The Lady Sheaffer’ developed to include all these features. The Lady Sheaffer Skripsert fountain pen debuts in April 1958, offering 19 models with patterns inspired by fine fabrics, like tweed, corduroy, paisley and tulle.”

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

Dippity-Do-Da PEN?

In this post, I thought I’d introduce dip pens. They are most often associated with calligraphy, though correct, it is not the only application. I use dip pens primarily for drawing, rarely as my choice of writing instrument.

Dip pens are pens you dip in ink – they hold ink in the small yet deep grooves in their nib or there is an over-reservoir. As you write it is necessary to dip the nib every few words or sentences. So why would anyone still use these antiquated pens when we have pens that are so much more efficient? Welp, here are a few reasons:

  • It’s super easy and quick to change ink colors – dip the nib in water, wipe on a tissue, and be ready for the next color.
  • Some specialist nibs are only available for dip pens.
  • They can use inks that can’t be used in fountain pens, including pigment inks and ink with shellac added for shine.
  • Then there’s the nostalgia, some people just enjoy the experience.

They are often used in Calligraphy. Dip Pens have certain advantages over fountain pens – they can use waterproof and pigmented inks or even traditional iron gall ink which would corrode fountain pens.

Example of damage by ink done to a fountain pen nib. No, I cannot take responsibility for this damage.

Dip pens work best with thinner fountain pen inks because the thin grooves don’t allow the more viscous calligraphy ink to flow well. Plus thicker pen ink lies in the tip and dries, making it difficult to clean.

Types of Dip Pens

Most dip pens are a handle into which is inserted a nib, most are wooden, some are glass, and others metal. Then there are glass dipping pens – the entire pen is made of glass. They can be elegant and often art pieces unto themselves. Glass nibs are not new. I have several Spor glass nib pens made in Japan prior to the war. It is said, the first glass pens were created in the 17th century on Murano island in Venice, Italy.

Glass pens on display at the Nagasawa Bungu Center in Kobe’s Chuo Ward (Yoshiaki Arai)

Nibs

Nibs for dip pens are available as vintage or new, this market primarily services the needs of calligraphers. New nibs are readily available in craft stores, Amazon, and specialty pen/stationery stores.

Nibs for dip pens come in a variety of types, manuscripts, drawings, and calligraphy. My preference is for vintage Esterbrook Drawlet pens.

Vintage Esterbrook sales nib board

Using a Dip Pen

Writing with a dip pen is odd, their nibs are often extraordinary shapes and patterns. It can be intimidating. I write and so most of my drawings with round nibs as they look and feel like a fountain pen.

As I am a bit accident-prone, I made use of a plastic storage box and converted it to hold pens, nibs, and ink. For storage and security while in use. I like to use ink samples, let’s face it, they are an accidental spill waiting to happen.

Homemade Handy-Dandy Dip Pen, Nib, and Ink “box”

I drilled holes into the lid large enough to hold an ink vial secure and using leftover pen sleeves, I was able to layer pens and nibs. No thrill and No spill.

Reference Material

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

Fountain Pen Day 11 Haul

This year I was planning on just buying a new ink, which I did but then I stumbled across a special offer on a Sheaffer Prelude. The pen was being offered (FPD only) at the bargain price of $25. Amazon offers it at $65. I hummed and hawed for several hours. I wasn’t in the market for this pen, or any pen really, just some ink. It got the better of me.

Of course, when checking out, the seller was nice enough to remind me that for a couple dollars more I would qualify for FREE shipping. That’s right FREE shipping. There is a sucker born every day. The next thing I knew two inks, and a Kaweco short converter has joined the pen in my cart. But I got FREE shipping.

Sunshine Orange

Gorilla Deep Maroon Red

Werewolf Grey

The ITF technology used by Monteverde is an additive to improve ink flow – I’ll let you know how that works out. Additionally, all three inks are due based inks, they are not waterproof, and lack sheen.

I was in the market for the converted – the Benu Skull pen uses short ones and I needed a couple more dollars on the order for FREE shipping! Looking back at this ordeal, I came to realized that FREE shipping cost me nearly 4x what I would have paid for standard shipping. My wife, being the compassionate soul that she is, reminded me that I am a gullible loser. Yeah, but a happy one.

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

Fountain Pen Day 2022

Happy FPD11, it has arrived. For those who don’t know, Fountain Pen Day was established 11 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.” YES, proof that I am not the only weirdo out there.

As a “penthusiast,” this is our special day to proclaim to the world that we use fountain pens. On this Fountain Pen Day, take your pens with you wherever you go. Show them off in a public display of penthusiasm. Indulge the curious, let them hold your pen and write with it (if you feel comfortable of course).

This Fountain Pen Day, I have gone back to Papier Plume and selected another limited edition ink. The ink is no longer available and not connected with FPD, but I bought it on the last day it was available (November 1st) so close enough.

Papier Plume offered up a limited edition ink to commemorate Halloween, naturally, I indulged. The ink which is called Rougarou, is depicted in Cajun folklore as a man with a wolf or dog’s head, closely resembling a werewolf.

How to Celebrate Fountain Pen Day

  1. Start a personal collection of pens. This is a good day to begin your collection of fountain pens. Create a suitable budget for purchasing them, and begin your journey as a ‘penthusiast’.
  2. Write a letter to someone with your favorite fountain pen. Words written with a fountain pen surely resonate differently than words penned with a ballpoint pen or typed. Compose a letter to a friend or relative with one, and let them feel special.
  3. Share your collection of fountain pens and inks on social media with the tags #fountainpenday & #fountainpenday2022
  4. Buy a journal, and start writing. Exercise your pens, choose cool inks and make everyday fountain pen day.

If you’re a person who loves to write, draw, and create, but you’ve never used a fountain pen before, then this is the perfect excuse to try one out. The reason why the love for fountain pens exists in the first place is that they are way-cool tools of self-expression. I wrote this with a pen embossed with skulls. Go and ask anyone you see writing with a fountain pen and they’ll tell you how much more fun it is to create with a fountain pen.

Special, Deals, Events

Just to name a few

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

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

Last month I reviewed the Kaweco Student Demonstrator. I really enjoyed the pen. I liked the feel, how it writes, and the pen aesthetics but the cap clip worries me. The cap is a screw-on and I’m probably a little overzealous when tightening the cap but each time I remove it the pen clip bends to the left or the right. How easy the cap clip blends worries me.

I’ve mixed up the usual suspects this month. The Pilot Prera and Parker Duofold are still inked. I have rotated out the Monteverde Black Tie. Replacing it with the Benu Skull pen.

For November, I have inked the Benu Skull pen. Look the skulls are smiling. I just published my review, and I’m enjoying it. BTW, 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.
  • Kaweco Student – School Days, Dear Old Golden Rule Days The Kaweco Student made my 2022 wish list. I stumbled across a Student demo model at a really good price. It did not disappoint.
  • Celluloid – Real, Fake & FIRE! In this last discussion of my favorite vintage pen materials, I am presenting celluloid. Celluloid comes in a variety of formulas, and all are flammable so why would I like it as a pen?
  • Stylograph Black Sometimes things look better in the picture than in person. SURPRISE! And what a surprise it was. Did I mention it also smelled?
  • Happy All Hallows Eve Not all pens are created equally. Some are inspired by our childhood dreams of piracy and adventure. Sound exciting matie?
  • #ThrowbackThursday From time to time when I’m feeling inspired (or lazy). Today it was lazy, so I will dig up and share an original post from yesteryear. This time I am going back 97 yesteryears and presenting a Waterman 52.

In the News

Conid Pens of Belgium is back and selling their bulkfiller fountain pens with the aid of new business partner Penworld who will be operating the retail front and worldwide sales.

Cosmo Air Light paper being discontinued Nippon Paper, manufacturer of Cosmo Air Light, has announced production termination of a number of papers, by March 2023. Demand for these papers has become so small that it is difficult to meet the minimum lot sizes required for production.

Book Banning

Florida’s Official New Book-Banning Council Was Quietly Packed With MAGA Moms. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “curriculum transparency” agenda, the Florida State Board of Education hastily assembled a council to create new restrictions for public school libraries and librarian training. Nominees with years of teaching experience were snubbed for self-nominated candidates including Michelle Beavers, the local chapter of the MAGA group Moms for Liberty.”

GOP candidate slammed at debate for obsession with book-banning. Michigan Governor candidates were asked how they would balance student access to inclusive literature with parental and teacher concerns. GOP candidate responded, “I stand with those parents that want to make sure we go back to the basics of reading, writing, and math in our schools.”

George M. Johnson’s young-adult memoir All Boys Aren’t Blue has become one of the most banned books in the U.S. The book is about growing up Black and queer. At least 29 school districts have banned the book because of its LGBTQ and sexual content. “Any time you write a book where you write about your truth, there are going to be people who want to silence that truth,”

Musings

During this holiday season, I was sneaky. For those of you who don’t understand, my daughter and I enjoy playing Halloween pranks on each other. She got me with spiders last month so I retaliated by decorating a doll to scare her. Dolls and clowns are some of the scariest things.

This year I used a porcelain doll. I placed it in her car, on the passenger floor. She puts her stuff on the passenger seat. I’m adding a before picture of the doll just to appreciate the transformation.

So I ask, would you be startled or scream if you found this doll in your car?

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, 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.
Posted in Pens, Stories

Fountain Pen Ancestry, A Story Waiting to be Told

Good morning, yesterday.
You wake up and time has slipped away.
And suddenly it’s hard to find.
The memories you left behind … -Paul Anka

Tomorrow (27 September) is Nation Ancestor Appreciation Day – yes there really is such a thing. To commemorate, I am highlighting the ancestry of three of my pens. Maybe I have an overactive imagination, or hopelessly sentimental, both I’m sure, but each holds a story waiting to be known. So without further delay allow me to present the ancestral story of each pen.

1928 Parker Duofold Jr. (1921-1934)

Ellwood Arthur Leupold was born in 1906 to Gustavus & Paulina (Padorf) Leupold (first-generation German immigrants) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

When Ellwood landed his first “real” job as a draftsman for the telephone company he also invested in a decent writing instrument. He bought a Parker Duofold Jr (circa 1928). This investment cost him $7, equivalent to $105 today – a significant investment for a 22-year-old.

Ellwood subsequently accepted a job clerking at the Corn Exchange National Bank; I’m sure his Duofold followed. In 1945, Ellwood (39) married Mary T. Cuta (31), the daughter of Basil and Stella Cuta of Poland. The couple set up house with his parents in the Olney neighborhood of Philadelphia, where they remained for the remainder of their lives. By 1950, Ellwood accepted a new position, this one with the Bureau of Water as a draftsman. Sadly, the couple did not have any children. Ellwood died in August 1985; Mary survived him by 31 years, passing in 2016 at the age of 102.

1950 Philadelphia Census

Esterbrook Dollar Pen (1934-1942)

Doris Isabelle Stirratt and her twin sister Donna, were born in 1922 to Chauncy & Theresine Stiratt of Crookston, Minnesota. As the Great Depression drew to a conclusion so did her days in high school. Doris landed a job as an assistant teacher in the Beltrami County, Minnesota school system as part of the “New Deal” National Young Administration School Project.

You can’t start your first professional job and not be prepared, around this time Doris purchased an Esterbrook “Dollar” pen.

But teaching was not her thing, in 1947, Doris accepted a position with the Beltrami County government. A couple years passed and she met a charming young doctor just starting his practice (Grant “Bob” Garlock, MD), they were married in May of 1950. The couple managed 3 children before Grant was recalled to active duty in the US Army, commissioned a Lieutenant, and deployed to Korea.

Doris had artistic talent, to supplement a Lieutenant’s pay, Doris agreed to illustrate a science textbook for Professor Alfred M. Elliott, of the University of Michigan. Zoology was published in 1952, crediting Doris Stirratt Garlock for her wonderful drawings and unbound patience with him.

Of the many drawings in the textbook, this one caught my fancy as it included a slide rule. I’m sure everyone knows what a slide rule is.

After Grant’s return in 1953, their 4th child is born and Grant accepts a position at State Hospital for the Insane in Fergus Falls, Minnesota. This apparently did not go over well with Doris and Grant remained in Beltrami. He announced his intent to take the position in Fergus Falls the following year but this also did not happen (happy wife, happy life). In the summer of 1969, two of the Garlock children join or took over the medical and surgical practice their father was associated with in Beltrami.

Doris is elected Beltrami County Treasurer in 1965, a position she holds until her retirement in 1977. This is where things get odd. At her retirement, the local newspaper quotes Doris as saying her husband “Bob” died in 1976 yet he clearly did not. He was living in California.

It appears Bob moved to Ojai, California in 1969, hence the reason their children entered his practice? After her retirement, no more Minnesota winters for Doris, she joins her husband in California, living first in Napa County before heading south to Ventura. Her husband dies in December 2009, and Doris survived him by 6.5 years.

Sheaffer Snorkle (1952-1959)

Iris Imo Simmons was born in 1904 to Erwan & Rosa (Banner) Simmons of Le Roy, Illinois. Unfortunately, she never got to know her mother, as her mom died several months after her birth. Subsequently, the family moved to Missouri, thus beginning her Odyssey. Imo, as she preferred to be known, attended school in both Livingston & Linn counties. Imo, her sisters Bebe and Edith left Parson Creek, Missouri by 1930 for Le Roy, Illinois where Bebe and Imo taught in the school system while Edith finished high school. Imo completed 2 years of college by 1940. She remained in Le Roy until the early 1950s, moving to Bloomington where she enrolled at the Illinois State University, graduating in 1956, having earned a Bachelor’s degree in Education.

Bursting with pride, deserving a reward for all the hard work or maybe it was a gift. Either way, Imo became the owner of a Sheaffer Snorkle fountain pen.

She remained in Bloomington until the early 1970s whence she retired to Memphis, Tennessee. Thus, reuniting Imo with her sisters, Bebe and Edith.

After her sisters passed, Imo moved to a nursing home in Wheeling, Missouri in 1992. A year later during the Christmas holiday, she passed. At the age of 89, Imo had outlived all her siblings (4 sisters and 1 brother). She was laid to rest in Meadville, Linn County Missouri.

Old stuff is not so boring after all.

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

#ThrowbackThursday

Oops, I’m doing it again. The good news still – this isn’t going to be a regularly featured post, only when I’m feeling inspired (or lazy) I will dig up and share an original post from yesteryear. I opted for an unusual pen, from a manufacturer not known for their pens. They made beautiful overlays. 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 George W Heath lanyard pen. It is 90+ years old and there is a lesson to learn. Click the Ping Back to read the full story.

Geo W Heath before I “restored” it

This pen has the phrase “Blue Bird Ring” prominently imprinted above the company logo. In the 1920s, Stein & Ellbogen of Chicago used the trade name “Bluebird Diamond” to market their bridal line of rings. Could this pen belong to the Stein & Ellbogen company? Can’t you just imagine a salesperson helping some nervous young man pick out the perfect engagement ring. Afterwards using this pen to write up the sales receipt?

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

Casein “the most beautiful of plastics.”

Casein aka Galalith (from Latin caseus, “cheese”) is a milk-derived plastic, susceptible to moisture. A synthetic plastic derived from 80% of the phosphoproteins in cow’s milk, and formaldehyde. It is rarely seen in American pen production; however, it is more commonly found in UK pens.

Identifying casein can be done by appearance and smell; rather than camphor, casein smells like antler, horn, or ivory, or vaguely like scorched hair. It appears more dull than celluloid and the curing process creates wavy striations. Alternatively, try the feel and color test. Is the pen a Conway Stewart model, highly colored and has an irregular colorful pattern? If the answer is yes to all these, it could well be casein. Hold the pen in your hand, does it feel warm to the touch? Yes – chances are it is casein.

Casein has been described as “the most beautiful of plastics.” It takes a wide variety of colors including delicate pastel shades, pearls, and mottles, and can imitate tortoiseshell and horn.

Do’s and Don’ts

Never, ever, never soak a casein fountain pen in water to remove ink stains or dried ink. Casein will expand by about 10% and become very soft losing its shape in as little as 2 hours = damaged beyond repair.

In his memoir, Walter A. Sheaffer recounts how Sheaffer once produced a line of colored casein pens which proved quite popular until the Midwestern summer caused the casein to swell and the sections fell out. The heat was identified as the cause. But I’m willing to bet the high humidity was most likely the cause.

Casein does not seem to be the ideal material to make fountain pens but it does produce BEAutiful pens. How about these three?

Photo credit: MVBurke.com
Photo credit: Peytonstreet pen

Conway Stewart is the manufacturer most often associated with casein pens. They only recently (by 2010) shuttered their casein pen production. Their remaining casein pen blanks were sold off to independent pen manufacturers.

Photo credit: Peytonstreet pen

Make you own

There are people who make their own pens. Some do this for fun, while for others it is a vocation. Both invest in equipment and supplies. I have found casein “blanks” as well as casein look-a-like blanks for pen manufacturing.

Some of the Conway Stewart casein blanks are absolutely stunning. The point is if you make pens, you can use this material (I would really enjoy owning a casein pen – just saying).

Casein is a “compressed form of the primary protein from milk,” what should the DIY pen guys consider when working with this material? I found a very informative thread on the International Association of Penturners (IAP) website, which I will summarize.

  • Working with casein is not always the easiest, it is not very strong.
  • At all times keep the material cool, use a spray bottle of cool water with each step.
  • Do not drill or turn at high speed – use a slow speed.
  • Use sharp carbide tools.
  • Slow-speed sanding or the casein will burn (turn brown) and smell like burnt milk!
  • The most important word of advice… be patient…take your time.

If you have small kids and enjoy home science projects, welp, I have a project for you. Make your own casein.

Owning a casein pen comes with responsibilities. As an owner, it is imperative you gain an appreciation for the qualities that make this pen unique. I do not own one but one day I will find a Conway Stewart casein pen that wins me over.

If you own one please chime in, I’d love to learn of your experiences.

————————-Reference——————-

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