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 Nibs, Stories

Pen Nibs, More than Just A Type, its Geometry

If you have ever used a fountain pen, you know they write in a variety of fashions. Some have firm nibs, they write clean crisp lines while others have flexible nibs, their lines vary in width as the letter is laid down. This is normally attributed to the nib material (gold, steel, titanium, or some alloy), and the width of the tip (fine, medium, broad, etc). However, there are additional factors, time to grab a pen and your high school geometry books.

The nib’s essential functions:

  • Transport of ink
  • Regulate ink flow
  • Start and stop ink flow
  • Vary the line width/style based on the writing

The four essential functions are to control by these actions:

  • Placing the tip of the nib on paper and lifting it
  • Moving the nib across the paper at a varying speed
  • Spreading the tines with varying writing pressure

The line-of-bending is at the back of the nib where the nib extends past the section, which means the tines would never separate when equal pressure is applied (the nib would bend at the section). To address these two things happen, 1) a slit is added to the nib (the breather hole merely allows air displacement and prevents the slit from well … continuing), 2) the nib is arched/bent along the line of the slit. As pressure from writing is applied, the slit widens.

Many contemporary nibs (Namiki or Lam for example) has an arched body around the feed which transitions to flat tines, so how do these nibs work?

As the nib angles inward to form the tines, the line-of-bending moves forward from the junction with the section to the breather hole where the slit ends (X-Y to b1). The bending line b2 will follow the shortest cross-section from the termination of the slit (at the air hole) to the outer edge of the tine.

The red lines illustrate where the bend line is achieved when pressure is applied to the nib. The bend lines b2 enclose an angle with the line of bending b1. As the angle between b1 and b2 increases, together with the flatness of the tines, the nib becomes more responsive to writing pressure and variations. Sounds like a flex-nib to me.

The degree of tine separation depends on several parameters:

  • The angle of the longitudinal bend (along the axis) of the nib
  • The angle between the lines of bending
  • The length of the slit within the area where the tines are able to bend
  • The profile of the tines (thickness and curvature)

A standard nib deflects under normal writing pressure for only a few tenths of a millimeter. In material physics, deflects is a “deformation within the range of elasticity.” After the pressure is taken off the nib, it will return to its original shape, unless too much pressure is applied resulting in the extension of the tines beyond the normal range of elasticity, resulting in a permanent distortion. The nib will not return to its original shape and in layman’s terms is “jacked up,” and rendered useless.

Reference Material

For an amazing dissertation on fountain pen engineering, I recommend the following links, without which this post would not be possible.