Issue#12 And into the rabbit hole we go!

Vintage pens, Ink wetness, Namisu Ixion

Issue 12 | 30 July 2023

Here we are with a round dozen! Welcome to Issue number twelve! Karthik writes delightfully about his vintage pen adventures, Nandini’s doodle goes all Spidey, and I cleaned my pens!

One of the things I always like to know about any ink I am looking at is how wet it is. Trying to find answers is usually fraught with the dependability of random Internet answers. But here is a list of 111 inks that is quite well-researched and should be an authoritative source for that question of the ages - is it wet?

InesF on the Fountain Pen Network has meticulously done the legwork, and has been maintaining this list since 2021 - the latest update is from earlier this month. So hit up that link and navigate to the last page of the thread and you can find the latest info.

The Vintage Pen Rabbit Hole

Karthik Subramaniam

As with many other beginning fountain pen enthusiasts, my knowledge of, and ability with said objects of desire has been fairly limited and my means to support my hobby slightly less so. Thankfully, my enthusiasm and curiosity are far more unfettered, limited only by the vagaries of my day job -- which exists, in the spirit of the egg and what it begat (or perhaps the other way round), to support the stomachs of mine and myself, and my hobbies as well. A small number of years ago, when I started wetting my toes on the shores of the vast fountain-pen ocean, I was drawn to nibs that made one's writing look better than it actually was -- among them stubs, italics, and flex nibs. I was able to get my fill of stubs and to a lesser extent italics, but a good flex nib always proved elusive. The affordable ones in steel should have occupied pride of place in a bodybuilder's arsenal, for they needed a good amount of muscle power to get them to write just a little wider. They put me off the idea of flex nibs for a good while. This, however, did not stop me from salivating at the beautiful lines written by expert wielders of flex nibs.

In more recent times, I found my eyes popping out of their sockets every time Hari Warrier posted pictures of their handwriting in a hobby group. I found that their equipment was frequently either a vintage flex pen, or a vintage flex nib hermit-crabbed into a more modern body. While my handwriting is not very good looking (nor very bad either), I found myself possessed by the desire to write with a vintage flex pen. Hari was kind enough to respond to the questions of a beginning enthusiast, and pointed me in the direction of Kartike Anand (@Manofadventure on Telegram), from whom I acquired my first vintage flex pens - a lovely Waterman 52 BCHR, and a wonderful Pelikan 400 Merz & Krell, both of which were within my means of acquisition.

As luck would have it, while the dynamic duo were making their way to my residence via India Post, I snagged another vintage flex pen from the inimitable Arpit Pangasa, whose writings have graced this column earlier. This pen arrived first, and served host to a few mysteries. It had no known brand, except an engraving on the barrel, which informed the reader that this pen was either made by, or had been the property of "THE HOOD", was a Lever Filler, and was Made in England. The nib bore the stamp of the "US Fount. Pen Co., New York, USA", and was a 14 Kt No. 3 nib. Enquiries were made on the internet, which revealed that the U.S Fountain Pen Co. had at one time been an OEM for Parker nibs, and had even sold pens under their own name for a short period of time in the early decades of the last century. How such a nib came to grace an England-made fountain pen was still a mystery. "The Hood" rang no bells anywhere on the internet. In desperation, yours truly even wrote (shamefully, by email - not on paper) to purveyors of fine spares for vintage pens, based in the U.K, who were kind enough to consult a few reference books, but wrote back that they unfortunately could not find any information on such a penmaker. They did helpfully mention that the pen could have been made by a stationery store or similar, such things were not uncommon in the days of yore.

No matter, I was going to ink the pen! My curiosity got the better of me, and I wanted to inspect the sac before I inked this lovely instrument. I proceeded to disassemble the pen, and managed to rupture its sac in the process. Woe was me, but thank goodness that the pen was unharmed in any other way. A few frantic phone calls later, a small number of silicone ink sacs were on their way to my home. I was determined to fix up the pen with a new ink sac. A corner of my mind did raise a few doubts about caution and ability, or the lack thereof, which in this case had resulted in the present condition I was in. And so, I set the ink sacs and the pen aside, for the moment.

In the meanwhile, the Waterman 52 and the Pelikan 400 arrived. I was determined to handle them with great care, and not indulge in any practice foolhardy enough to damage the nibs. With copious help from my elders and betters, as well as from that cesspit of wonderful information that is the internet, I managed to learn to write with pens from a more civilized time. Being occupied with learning to writhe (with apologies to Charles Lutwidge), I postponed the resacking of The Hood.

Completely by chance, I was made aware of the existence of a master of the craft of pen maintenance and restoration in the heart of good old Bengaluru. I did not want to pass up the chance to witness a master in action, and so I packed up a few of my pens, took a Monday off, and made my way into the rabbit-warren of buildings that is Avenue Road. I eventually found myself in the presence of Mr. Krishnamurthy, of Meenakshi Stores, and I duly presented my pen-with-the-sac-that-I-broke to him. The Master took a look, and fixed things up in the blink of an eye, before I could ask him what he thought could be done. Yours truly was floored. I thanked myself for having had the curiosity and the stupidity for messing up the sac, which resulted in my making the visit to Meenakshi Stores. On impulse, I asked Mr Krishnamurthy if he had any vintage pens for sale... and I ended up buying a beautiful Parker Vacumatic in Celluloid from him. The bonus? It sported a Waterman W-2A nib that flexed!

Thus began my descent into the rabbit-hole of vintage flex pens. As yet, my collection numbers four. Yours truly is very happy with this state of affairs, and will likely descend further into the depravity of vintage fountain pens.

FP Doodles

Nandini Ramchandran | Instagram

Everyday FPness

A momentous happening came to pass this past week - I cleaned out all my inked pens! I discovered I had 34 inked pens in the process, and currently have zero inked pens. Many hours were spent flushing out pens with water. Thankfully, I had to bust out the pen flush only for one of the 34 that I cleaned.

I started out by dividing the pens into batches so that I could have smaller dopamine hits as I went through them. However, this did not last, as I rapidly changed course while cleaning - pulling out all the nib-unit-and-convertor combos and doing a production line on them.

This resulted in all the cleaning being completed in two long sessions over three days. Four nib units alone were left soaking at the end of it - which should all be done by now. I realized this is the first time in 9 years that I don’t have any pens inked at all!

The current plan is to keep one pen inked every week according to a rotation list, with an additional wild card option to select any pen I wish. This plan has already been seriously threatened because in today’s monthly pen meet I borrowed a custom pen from Shreyas - but more on that in the next issue as it will be with me for four weeks.

I was inspired by a fellow FP enthusiast who had shared a beautifully styled photograph of a pen on one of the groups I am on. I hope to be able to share their work in future issues of FPW. I got on the bandwagon with Vidya, my significant other - she did the styling and I did the shooting. Here’s the first pen I am putting into rotation - a Namisu Ixion in blue and brass with a Bock Fine nib - for your viewing pleasure!

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