Posted in Ink, Stories

Inky Fingers and Removal

I often read how people complain about inky fingers, especially (I assume) if they used fountain pens as a youngster and experienced ink “cross-contamination,” ie. getting ink everywhere. I can’t relate, I’m a child of the 70s, Bic Cristal baby.

“Inky fingers remind me of school days.”

~ Gray Summers

Getting ink on my fingers is not uncommon, it usually happens when I’m cleaning a pen or a vintage fountain pen is misbehaving. It doesn’t bother me. I’ve never gotten it on my clothes, and once dried it’s just a stain almost no one notices is there and washes off easily.

Some fountain pen users don’t mind a little ink on the fingers, regarding it as a badge of honor. Dried ink doesn’t contaminate anything else, and is generally non-acidic and non-toxic, which is a good thing as I often eat with my inky fingers.

When I open an ink bottle, I wipe the lip of the bottle with a tissue, then wipe the nib/section after filling. Next I use a wet tissue to remove excess ink from the bib/section followed by yet another wipe but with a dry tissue. If I skip the wet tissue step, and only use a dry wipe, it often results in a case of inky fingers.

Removing inky finger stains

I was reading this vary topic on Reddit and found it amusing to the extent some people go when faced with removing ink stains from their fingers. Grouping like solutions, here we go.

  • A pumice stone, fingernail brush or scouring pad, Lava soap, tea bags, or a mixture of rubbing oil and salt.
  • Various kinds of exfoliants, hand sanitizer, makeup remover wipes, alcohol swabs, or hairspray.
  • Dairy products like milk and butter.
  • A solution of chlorine bleach and hot water.
  • Degreasing soap like Dawn, Fast Orange, JOJO, Goop, or any mechanics hand cleanser.
  • Toothpaste, lemon juice, baking soda.

To be honest, I just embrace it. I will wash my hands once I’ve noticed the stain, just to remove any excess ink before I get ink on everything. It’s just a part of who I am.

My solution? Simple, I wait till the morning and wash my hair, it always works. Maybe it is the shampoo or the combination of my hair and the shampoo, it simply works great and shampoo was mentioned many times in the Reddit article.

Final thoughts

“It’s the nature of ink to permeate everything it touches and even ‘washable’ is only a relative term. There’s always the risk that a moment’s inattention can cause a horrible accident. That’s the price we pay for the pleasure of using fountain pens.”

What are your thoughts, or solutions for inky fingers?


Posted in Pens, Reviews, Stories

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

I started the month rotating in a Sheaffer Taranis. It wasn’t originally planned for rotation; however, as I inked it up for a review I just had to keep it in rotation. What a joy it was having this pen in rotation.

The usual suspects this month. I rotated out the Waterman Philéas and the Sheaffer Taranis. Replacing them with a Wing Sung 3013 (more on this another day). Still in rotation include the Pilot Prera, and the Wing Sung 601.

For April, I am rotating in an Esterbrook Dollar pen with a 9461 Ridgid Fine nib for “manifold” writing. Manifold nibs are intended to be used with carbon paper. This pen is 85 years old.

Did you miss any of the prior 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 March with a review of February. 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 did the pens from last month fared? Also included is a recap of the month’s posts.
  • Osmiroid Interchangeable Nibs Osmiroid produced regular writing nibs (Rola) and the popular calligraphy nibs are interchangeable with vintage Esterbrook pens. They made left-handed nibs and special-purpose nibs for writing music and sketching – wow who would have thought.
  • Parker “Instant Modern” Style Several years ago I purchased a Parker IM Special Edition Fountain Pen. I got to thinking, what does IM stand for, welp it could be “Instant Message” it is a pen…..
  • Blogiversary 2 Wow, it has been 2 years. I started the blog to connect with like-minded individuals who view writing instruments as a thing of beauty. At the time I assumed that there would be 3 like-minded people. Thanks for proving me wrong.
  • Ink Sac Talc and Asbestos Recently I stumbled onto a blogger who only posts once annually. The current topic is pen talc and asbestos. Funny how that little wisp of white floating out of a fountain pen lever slit now feels ominous, instead of satisfying.
  • Story of My First Pen What was the pen that got me hooked? Interesting question and a fun trip down memory lane. After trying several pens dumb luck saved the day. You have time – right?
  • A Vintage Pen Condition Rating System Often owners of pens only concern themselves with how the pen writes. For those who collect and use vintage pens, the shape and condition of the pen is also relevant. I decided to try and qualify each pen with a conditional rating system.

In the News

Update, I bought a box set of Ronald Dahl’s books prior to their censorship and sanitization – yeah me! In case you forgot… ‘Fat’ and ‘ugly’ have been cut from Roald Dahl children’s books. Future editions of the beloved children’s books Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Twits, and The Witches will be sanitized.

The sanitization of books continues, this time it is Agatha Christie and Ian Fleming. I really don’t understand the difference between banning a book because the content is offensive to some or editing a book because the content is offensive to some. It is all about intent. If the author intends to publish hate – ban the book. If it is common for a time (ie the 1930s) or character development then a particular thought or choice of words is appropriate. Removing it is censorship. In Death on the Nile, the character Mrs. Allerton complains that a group of children is pestering her, “they come back and stare, and stare, and their eyes are simply disgusting, and so are their noses, and I don’t believe I really like children.” The new and improved version reads “they come back and stare, and stare. And I don’t believe I really like children.” I am not feeling the depth of depravity nor is my disdain for the character the same in the sanitized version. Used bookstores here I come.

A school in Martin County Florida has banned Jame Patterson’s novel Maximum Ride, one of a series of young adult fantasy novels. The school district officials claim the novel is “radically” unfit for children even though not one of the school board members read the book. When asked for comment Mr. Paterson replied, “If you are going to ban this book, then no kids under 12 should go to any Marvel movies.”

CNN reporting from the Manila Pen show; “6 people with seriously swoon-worthy handwriting.” Speaking as someone who has horrible handwriting, “the sight of other people’s neatly spaced writing can still take your breath away. Here are some people whose handwriting can inspire you to pick up the pen and practice your way to becoming the scribe of your dreams.”

Blog Announcement

I’m occupied with a major home improvement project that is consuming nearly all my free time. I normally publish 7 times each month; however, in April I will be scaling back to no more than four posts. I hope to have things back to normal in May.

Posted in Collection, Stories

A Vintage Pen Condition Rating System

This is not really applicable to those not interested in vintage pens. For those who do collect and use vintage pens, the shape, and condition of the pen is relevant. Some pens we own for the joy of ownership while others are owned with the expectation of using them. A few of my pens make up the first category (my Gold Starry 59 is an example) while most are working and expected to take their turn in the rotation. Though working, these pens are not all the same. Some are well aged while others are near perfect (cherry as I would say).

As you have learned, I keep track of my pens, nibs, and ink usage using software called Airtable. This is the third of four posts discussing how I use Airtable to manage my collection. Actually, this was the post that made me add the 2 back story posts. As a recap, Airtable is an online software database for dummies (like me). Each base is divided into tabs, the first tab contains the pens. On this tab, I have created a column called “Rating.” This field contains a list of rating options that I assign describing the condition of the pen.

The Rating System

The real challenge, develop a rating system. I have an advantage there, I’ve designed and configured several Quality Management systems, thus the concept of rating codes, etc. was very easy to come by. I opted for a design with quality categories and a standardized series of “defect” codes.

What is simpler than the ABCs of quality. Ok I made that up, but you have to agree the following categories work well:

  • A = Amazing
  • B = BEAutiful
  • C = Common (appropriate for the age)
  • X = Yuck
  • N = New

Defect Codes

Associated with each quality category I have assigned a standardized defect code ranging from 1-9, where 1 is a significant defect and 9 is minimal. Shhhh, I don’t want to hurt their feelings but every pen has an issue, no 10s in my collection.

Standardized Defect Codes

Now an established uniform rating system (Quality category+Defect code) I can compare pens to pens. This makes it easy for me to determine which pens are exceptional and which ones are well, not.

For those of you who own vintage pens, do you give any thought to the over condition of the pen?

Posted in Pens, Stories

Story of My First Pen

This was originally posted in mid-April 2021. In honor of the blogiversary last week, it is “remastered” and ready for a new audience.

What was the pen that got me hooked? That is an interesting question and a fun trip down memory lane. You have time…right?

Every story has a beginning and mine began as a preteen growing up in the 70s. No story about the 70s would be complete without a mention of Bic Cristal pens. I don’t know about you but I went through these by the hundreds. The first thing I always did was remove the “plug” or end cap from the end of the pen and chewed it up. I have no idea why. Once the end cap was gone next came the cap. Then lastly, the barrel itself.

The Institute for the Psychology of Eating (really there is such a place) says chewing on stuff is a “natural outlet for inborn aggression.” Or maybe there could be a psychological disorder characterized by an appetite for stuff that is non-nutritive. Or Sigmund Freud blames this type of inclination on being bottle-fed as a baby. My guess is just a kid doing dumb stuff.

The pen cap was lost within a month and I always carried the pen in my back pocket. Invariably writing on my jeans and who could forget the phrase “my pen exploded.” The ink was thick and sticky. You never heard anyone say the Bic glided across the paper. I had to press the pen to the paper in order to write with it, the ink tended to blob (too thick to the pool so you got blobs) and smear and the ink gave off an odd odor.

Bic Cristal, aka the origin of writer’s cramp, is credited as the reason for my horrible handwriting. Only teachers got to use a Bic with ink other than black or blue. Yup, my tests and papers were graded using a Bic with red ink, it was clear which answers were wrong and ya know I didn’t grow up too maladjusted. Wait I author a blog about pens ….. oh and one more thing, did you know that the Bic Cristal pen is included in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and the Centre George Pompidou in Paris?

Bic Cristal – makes a tasty snack

The first pen that I can recall having a real appreciation for was a Cross Chrome 3501. I was just a kid in middle school and the pen was a gift. I was thrilled to own something other than a disposable Bic. It was an attractive pen, with no ink blobs, no smears, and the ink didn’t smell. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to enjoy the pen for long. One day in science class some punk stole it and the teacher didn’t want to cause a scene…. times haven’t changed much from the late 70s have they?

Fast forward to 2007 while on a business trip to Hong Kong. I peered through a jewelry store window and spied a display case of Montblanc fountain pens. A Meisterstuck caught my attention, so I went for a closer look. It was a big pen, a thing of beauty, black with gold trim, very elegant and it had weight to it – a pen of substance. As my father and his father before him would say, it’s not good unless it was “battleship built” and this pen was that.

After some haggling, I got the pen for $20. Yes I know this is the most counterfeited pen of all time, I harbor no delusions about its authenticity. It turned out the pen wrote well, but it had a medium nib, and I wasn’t happy with the prevalence of poor-quality paper. The search continued.

Faux Meisterstuck

Months later I stumbled across a Waterman Philéas and it was love at first sight or maybe it was just infatuation. The pen is named after the character Phileas Fogg in Around the World in Eighty Days. The pen is styled after 1930s Art Deco. Keep in mind it is an intro-level pen, made of plastic and not nearly as large or as heavy as the HK Meisterstuck, but the barrel had roughly the same girth. This pen was surprisingly inexpensive so I bought one with a fine nib and a second with a medium nib. Can’t say I enjoy pens with wide girths, something about “fluffy” pens that doesn’t feel right to me because I have short stubby fat fingers. The love affair didn’t last.


In short order, I stumbled upon the pen I would use for over a decade. I was on eBay and on a whim did a search for Waterman fountain pens, I found a green-marbled Hemisphere. Unlike the Philéas, the Hemisphere is brass and very thin, about the same size as that dreaded Bic, to me, this is not a bad thing. I really enjoyed the feel of this pen, it wasn’t bulky, and it was a bit slippery because of the finish but I liked how it felt and how it wrote. I soon ordered waterman green ink cartridges to supplement my bottle of black Quink and writing bliss ensued.


This Hemisphere was the pen I’d been searching for. I was so impressed I bought a second one, a medium nib, and a ballpoint model. Reviews of the Hemisphere are usually anything but good, nearly all bash it because the style is minimalist, even boring yet review after review declared that the pen writes flawlessly and is “strangely endearing.”

The story continues on “Why, You Might Ask?

And, what pen got you hooked?

Posted in Material, Restoration, Stories

Ink Sac Talc and Asbestos

I have to admit I was surprised to learn (years ago), that over the last 100 years pen manufacturers have made use of talc or chalk as a lubricate. This should not have surprised me, I’ve done lots of hiking and backpacking and welp let’s just leave it with I take a little bottle of baby powder (talc only) when I hit the trails.

Recently I stumbled upon a blogger, who only posts once annually, and that one time this year was last month. The topic was pen talc and asbestos. That got my attention.

Apparently, in March 1976, the New York Times published an article warning of the talc/asbestos connection but it got no one’s attention. Researchers found 10 of the 19 baby powders tested contained upwards of 20% asbestos. Got your attention now – right!

Talc is a naturally occurring mineral composed of magnesium, silicon, oxygen, and hydrogen. Chemically, talc is a hydrous magnesium silicate.

Asbestos is also a naturally occurring silicate mineral. When mining, both are often found in close proximity, hence the problem, there is a potential to contaminate the talc with asbestos. There are those (lawyers involved in class action lawsuits to name no one) who contend talc is naturally contaminated with asbestos.

Risks associated with talc powder stem from the toxic effects of talc dust contaminated with asbestos. Contaminated talc tends to contain highly carcinogenic forms of asbestos such as tremolite or anthophyllite. Which are more carcinogenic than chrysotile, the most-used type of asbestos. The chances of contracting cancer from a wisp of talc dust emanating from a fountain pen are minimal. However, that little wisp of white floating out of a lever slit now feels ominous, instead of satisfying.

Assuming a talc/asbestos mix is not for you, 100% pure talc (USP grade) is still available. Alternatively, how about graphite powder, a form of carbon (CAS Number: 231-955-3) is readily available everywhere, or precipitated calcium carbonate (CAS Number: 471-34-1)? This powdered chalk produced from limestone has been used for centuries in bookbinding and shoemaking. (credit: Restorer’s Art). You don’t need much, 100 grams (3.5oz) of any of these choices should be enough to last for years.

As my wife stockpiled baby powder made with talc when manufacturers announced no more talcum powder (think Seinfeld S7E9). They replaced talc with corn starch which is for soups and stews. Having a never-ending supply of talc, I will continue using unscented baby powder when I replace ink sacs.

Reference Material

Need 100% Talc? Try these Suppliers

  • Fifteen Pens (CA); Talc
  • Indy-Pen-Dance (US): Talc
  • Pen Dragons (UK): Chalk
Posted in Stories

Blogiversary 2

Wow, it’s been 2 years. Last year I could not believe how successful the blog was. This year, welp all I can say is am flabbergasted (in the very best of ways).

Thanks to all who have viewed, liked, or commented on my blog, plus a special heartfelt thanks to those who follow the blog. I appreciate you all.

Year in Review

I don’t often bang my own drum, it is the blog’s birthday, altruism be damned, shamelessly here we go….

Last year I mentioned I had ideas for the next year, I am happy to say I followed through and added a variety of new themed posts. For the most part, my bright ideas were very popular. I created 2 Fountain Pen Mystery Theatre posts (The Blue Diamond and The Jade Pen), and 5 event-based posts celebrating (Nurses Week, Library Week, Ancestors Day, Halloween, and the Chinese New Year). I wrote a tribute to the pens of the TV show Madman and took you down memory lane with a variety of Throw-Back-Thursday. I enhanced my “New Month” posts to include a review of the prior month, added all the news worth mentioning about pens or ink, plus an occasional comment about dumb book banners. I published a couple ink-based articles (Majorelle Blue and wine based inks). Then finally I published well over 15 articles on educational or how-to topics (my favorite BTW is Nib Geometry).

Next Thursday to commemorate the blogiversary I am republishing the story of my first fountain pen. That post has been “remastered.”

“Today, a majority of fountain pen users write with fountain pens primarily for reasons related to writing comfort, expressive penmanship, aesthetics, history and heritage.”

A couple years ago I stumbled across this quote. I have been looking for a way to incorporate it into a post. Here we go. I use fountain pens for historical and heritage reasons, primarily. I make no secret to having horrible handwriting and I thank Bic for that. There is also the desire to be different – I’m not very good at following trends and have zero interest in popular culture.

How about you? Do you agree with the quote? What do you write with and why? Don’t be shy.

Posted in Pens, Reviews, Stories

Parker “Instant Modern” Style

In 2004, Parker introduced the Vector XL and Vector 3-in-1, predecessors of the IM. Soon afterward these pens are combined into the IM (US model) and the Profile (UK model). In 2009, Parker redesigned the IM, replacing the stylized arrow clip with a modern version of the iconic clip. The following year, production was moved from Newhaven, England to the Waterman factory in Nantes, Frances, and to Shanghai, China. The model conspicuously does not contain a “made in” imprint.

What does IM stand for, welp it could be “Instant Message” (it is a pen) yet in the Parker print catalog (2012) I read “Instant Modern” style when discussing the IM model.

The IM is available in two distinct tiers: the standard version and the ‘premium’ version. The standard IM comes with a plastic section with plastic threads and a metal cap making the threads a weak point in the design. The Premium IM is of a brass body and cap, a plastic section with the same plastic threads.

Both versions are of a clean, conservative design, with subtle colors that work well in any professional environment. The nib on the IM is a significant departure in shape and style from the narrow nib designs used on the Urban or Sonnet pens. The IM nib resembles a traditional fountain pen nib yet is noticeably squat.

My Pen

Parker IM 2019 Special Edition Red Ignite Fountain Pen Medium Nib. “This IM Special Edition is inspired by the passion that propels us to achieve greater heights. The striking red and black patterns expose the intense and uncontrolled explosion of energy and illustrate the vast potential simmering within each of us.” Yeah right.

The cap snaps securely to the barrel with a loud click; however, there is more to it than just a clutch ring. Notice at the end of the section near the nib is a raised rim (I’ll call it the “nib rim”). This nib rim firmly sets inside the inner cap prior to the clutch ring. Below, the picture of the nib and section inserted into the cap (right side) illustrates the point where the nib rim sets inside the cap prior to the cap securely attaching.

The IM is a cartridge pen, requiring the skinny “long QUINK ink cartridge or convertible to ink bottle filling.” The proprietary Parker twist converter (S0050300) and possibly the Parker piston converter supports the IM. As I have neither….

The pen requires a slim cartridge and I only have one so I dipped the nib. This medium short nib writes very smoothly. There is no flex, and it is not a wet nib. I wrote this (copied from the Park website) on that horrible moleskin paper, the letters did not feather. The ink did produce a slight shading.

The IM impressed me. I favor metal barrels, the finish on this pen is matte, not slippery and fit very comfortably in my hand, and the nib is impressive for the price. Speaking of, the price is right, I only paid $24 for this pen.

Vital Statistics

  • Capped Length: 137mm
  • Uncapped Length: 117mm
  • Barrel Diameter: 11.5mm
  • Cap Diameter: 12.5mm
  • Weighs in at 24g
Posted in Nibs, Stories

Osmiroid Interchangeable Nibs

Osmiroid produced regular writing nibs (Rola) and their well-known calligraphy nibs. The nibs associated with Osmiroid 65 and 75 models are interchangeable with vintage Esterbrook pens as well as the Esterbrook Renew-Point nibs. The later Osmiroid models are totally different as they have the nib integrated with the section. I will not be discussing these.

The Rola-Tip refers only to the nib type — these nibs don’t have a hard tipping element (like “iridium”), but instead, have a tip formed by rolling over the material of the nib (ordinary steel) prior to plating on the gold. The lack of hard tipping means the tip can actually wear out within our life – provided it is used frequently. Rola nibs were available in the following styles: Fine Hard, Medium Hard, Medium Soft, and Broad. I assume soft provides flexibility and welp I only have a hard one.

Except for the nipple (extended butt) on the Osmiroids, the nib/feed assembly of the Osmiroids and Esterbrooks are the same. But, the Osmiroid Italic nibs are shorter than the Osmiroid Rola nibs. That may make a difference in whether or not the nib tip collides with the inside of the cap.

Yes, the Osmiroid nib (B3) is dirty, I’m a slacker and should be ashamed of not taking better care of my stuff.

Nib reciprocity

I have 4 Osmiroid nibs all are interchangeable; three are calligraphy and one is a Rola. I bought these because I wanted calligraphy nibs and as I have many vintage Esterbrook pens I could double up on the enjoyment.

Osmiroid nib in an Esterbrook J

The calligraphy nibs write very similar to the Pilot CM nib (it is a calligraphy nib). They do not have a normal tip writing surface which means the angle of the nib to the paper is very important. They do not write well on textured paper and will dig into smooth paper if the angle is wrong.

I do not own an Osmiroid 65 and 75, but I do have a nice selection of vintage Esterbrook Dollar and J series pens. Let’s show off my nibs. From left to right is Rola Medium Hard, Italic Fine Straight, B3 calligraphy, and Italic Broad Straight.

I inked up an Esterbrook J with Waterman’s Serenity Blue and got to work. Except for the Rola, the other three nibs provide some flex/variation to the letters. It is interesting to note, I simply replaced each nib without emptying the pen. One of the advantages of a screw-on nib I guess. As an added bonus, I managed to minimize inky fingers and did not spill any ink as I changed out nibs.

Having 32 Esterbrook nib options plus an additional 25 Osmiroid nib options it is nearly impossible making a decision. I only need one pen and can write with all 57 nibs in a single day – way more options than any simpleton like myself can manage. This is great!

Unique Special Purpose nibs I wish I had

Osmiroid made an interesting Left-Hand series of nibs available in Rola and Italics styles. I’m right-handed but have considered acquiring one of these unique nibs just to give them a go.

Left-hand Osmiroid Nibs

I came across two Sketch nibs, one with a reservoir on top and one without. Also in their repertoire is a Music and Copperplate special purpose nib.

Pretty cool don’t you think? I think it is safe to say, vintage fountain pens exciting. Especially when compared to gel, felt-tip, and roller-ball pens. Even contemporary fountain pens are boring in comparison.

Posted in Pens, Reviews, Stories

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

I start the month rotating in a pen that hasn’t been in rotation since 2007. I pulled out a blue Waterman Philéas. For those not familiar, the pen is named after the Jules Verne character Phileas Fogg (Around the World in 80 Days).

The usual suspects have changed. I rotated out the Kaweco Student, replacing it with the Shaeffer Taranis. Still in rotation include the Pilot Prera, the Wing Sung 601 and the Waterman Philéas.

For March I am rotating in my Sheaffer Taranis. In part because I inked it up for a review last month and it is just a nice pen to write with.

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 February with a review of January. 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 did the pens from last month fared? Also included is a recap of the month’s posts.
  • A Journal of Pens, For Pens, About Pens Do you keep track of your pens? Maybe with Excel, journals, index cards, or the ever favorite – nothing at all?
  • A 1950s Esterbrook Deluxe LK Model Esterbrook manufactured two “Deluxe” models. The SM model was introduced in 1949, followed by the LK model in 1955. The changes between the two models were dramatic.
  • Pen Organization in a Digital World Back story 2. For collections to truly be considered a “collection,” there needs to be some basic level of curation or organization, otherwise, it’s just clutter. I mentioned my adventures using a journal to organize and document my pens. Now I am presenting my digital solution.
  • Flat-bottom pens make the journaling world go round Fountain pens come in just about any and every size and shape imaginable. I have a preference for flat-top pens. I know “flat-top” means the top is flat, who cares about the aft end? ME, that’s who. I prefer both the cap and the aft end horizontally.
  • Jetpack, Addition through subtraction This is off-topic but I needed to vent. WordPress is going through some major changes and Jetpack is taking over. This is my experience with the conversion and welp, it hasn’t been good.
  • Sheaffer Taranis (Celtic: “Thunderer”) The Sheaffer Taranis is named after the Celtic Storm God of Thunder. This pen elicits some strong feelings polarizing the fountain pen community. The lines along the section/grip to the nib remind me of a ‘57 Chevy Belair.

In the News

Australian universities to return to ‘pen and paper’ exams after students caught using AI to write essays Australian universities have been forced to change how they run exams and other assessments amid fears students are using emerging artificial intelligence software to write essays.

The Brooklyn Public Library gives every teenager in the U.S. free access to censured books. School districts across the United States continue to censure. Remove books from school libraries that don’t align with conservative school board’s visions of the world. Books like Art Spiegelman’s Maus, The Illustrated Diary of Anne Frank, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird–just to name a few.

‘Fat’ and ‘ugly’ have been cut from Roald Dahl children’s books. Is it inclusive or censorship? Future editions of the beloved children’s books Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Twits, and The Witches will read differently. Following consultation with sensitivity readers, publishers Puffin and the Roald Dahl Story Company (acquired by streaming service Netflix in 2021) have made a series of changes throughout the books to remove language deemed offensive or insensitive to modern audiences. The changes primarily relate to descriptions of physical appearances.

Posted in Collection, Pens, Stories

Flat bottom pens make the journaling world go round

Ok, this is really about Flat-Top pens, I couldn’t pass on an opportunity for a Freddy Mercury parody.

Fountain pens come in just about any and every size and shape imaginable. I have a preference for flat-top pens including those referred to as “baseball bat” & “tube” pens. Contrary to the “Balance” style pens aka torpedo or cigar shape.

Flat-top pens are characterized as having a larger, prominent cap and a smaller body. There is a noticeable step between the cap and the pen body when the pen is capped, while the cap and the bottom end horizontally. I know “flat-top” means the top is flat, so who cares about the aft end, welp I do. Ever look at a cigar before it is smoked? Flat on one end and round on the other.

Little Flat-Top History

The Sheaffer Pen Company produced Flat-Top fountain pens from 1912 until some time after the middle of the 1930s, possibly as late as 1940. It is important to note that the name flat-top (or flat-top) is a collector-coined name for the earliest Sheaffer pens. Sheaffer never referred to them as such.

The Sheaffer Pen Company produced Flat-Top fountain pens from 1912 until some time after the middle of the 1930s, possibly as late as 1940. It is important to note that the name flat-top (or flat-top) is a collector-coined name for the earliest Sheaffer pens. Sheaffer never referred to them as such.

Aesthetics of a Flat-Top & Bottom Pen

My interest in vintage pens is well established and yes Sheaffer Balance is the progenitor of torpedo or cigar shape pens and it is vintage but no. For me, it is aesthetically pleasing to see sharp angles created by the flat ends (maybe I should have named this post “Flat Ends”?). They provide a pleasant contrast to the curved tapered body of a Balance-style pen.

When I was a young man prior to attending university I was interested in architecture. I enjoyed trips which offered an opportunity to view historic architecture. Yes, I love arches but my real enjoyment was always the angles of a structure. “Good design is about the beauty of line.” A flat-top pen is all about lines. Yes, a Balance-style pen has smooth lines but I find them boring as the pen gradually begins and fades away.

Apparently, I am not in the majority. Balance-style pens are more popular, they sell better. I came across a thread on Reddit that is interesting. The contributor preferred round-end pens because “geometrical discontinuities lead to jumps in the stress of a body [pens in our case] under load or in the event of impact [drop the pen].” Interesting rationale but these are pens, not bridges.

My Pens

As mentioned, my Flat-Top pens can be categorized into two groups; fo-real Flat-Top pens and what I’ll call hybrid Flat-Top pens. Sheaffer doesn’t have a monopoly on Flat-Top pens. I have pens manufactured by Sheaffer, Parker, Osmiroid, Esterbrook, TWSBI, Pilot and Inkograph.

My pile of Flat-Top pens, according to me

Hybrid Flat-Tops are more prevalent thus I have excluded them. Pens in this category include Mabie Todd, Gold Starry, Conway Stewart, Waterman, Geo W. Heath, Esterbrook, Worth, Hero, Kaigelu, Pilot, and Sheaffer. Can you imagine the size of that pile?

Why own something that reminds me of a banana (shape not color), a torpedo, or cigarish when you could have these beauties? As is evident, my idea of a Flat-Top pen is broad. These pens have soooo much more personality and appeal – to me.

Oh, and BTW, I own Balance-style pens; however, I do not own a Sheaffer Balance pen.