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My Favorite Fountain pen

posted by xscot mcknight

I ranted about Bic pens and that 57 of those little basters (a favorite word in Maine) have sold every second since the 1950s. Then I had to offer something in its place — ranting without a constructive solution is just pent-up nonsense. So, I suggested thinking about a fountain pen. Now I’ve been asked by several of you to talk about my favorite fountain pen. That’s easy.
First, my favorite writer, though not thinker, is Mark Twain. As a boy my mom and dad took me to Hannibal MO and I saw his place and went through the cave, and his The Adventures of Tom Sawyer has been one of my favorite books. I don’t classify this book as fiction, but as boyhood mischief.
So, my second point. When I learned the history of fountain pens I came across the role Mark Twain played. Fountain pens have had a tough history: when you dipped your quill in ink life was easy; it was hard to get much of a flow for little more than a few lines and you had to re-dip. But, then Tom Jefferson and other clever fellas started thinking of ways to get more ink in quills, or their imitations, and the game was on.
Along came what is called an “eye dropper” fountain pen, which was little more than using an eye dropper filled with ink to squirt down into tube of some sort so the pen would have more ink. (Along the way, if you haven’t followed the history itself, the issue was always creating a vacuum and clogging the ability of a fountain pen to give off enough air so that ink could flow. Check those little ridges in your nib and you’ll see the result of someone quite clever.)
Then came pens with rubber “bladders” in the middle of the barrel that could be squeezed to draw ink into the barrel, and now we’ve got something that might hold the day. Well, they leaked and they didn’t always work that well so other solutions were sought.
I’m telling this story from memory, and may have some facts confused, but next came Mr. Conklin with the absolutely brilliant idea that one could form a “crescent shaped” ring in a barrel, that it could be squeezed easily and squeeze the whole bladder and draw in more ink. The issue was how to keep that crescent from squeezing when the person was writing, and the solution was yet another ring that could be shifted so as to permit squeezing or not permit squeezing.
All this to say, is that Conklin produced the Conklin Crescent Filler Fountain Pen and one thought the millennium was around the corner. Mark Twain fell in love with the Crescent filler, Conklin told the world about it, and Mark Twain and Conklin became joined at the hip — and that, my friends, is both enough of the story and tells you why it is that a Conklin Crescent Filler, of course a newer version but with dear Twain’s name on it, is my favorite fountain pen.
I’ll admit the thing is clunky and it doesn’t really sit on the desk very elegantly, but every time I touch mine, I say to myself, “Come Mark, sit on my shoulder and give me a good story to tell”. He hates my theology, and he stinks of cigars, but you have to put with such things to find a good story sometimes.
What is your favorite fountain pen? And we’ll have to keep those who believe in clogging up our rivers and dumpyard with cheap Bics from making obscene remarks. Just stories of fountain pens.



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Kerry Doyal

posted September 15, 2005 at 8:50 am


“Come Mark, sit on my shoulder and give me a good story to tell”. He hates my theology, and he stinks of cigars, but you have to put with such things to find a good story sometimes.”
Nice touch Scot, great image to muse. It made your closing slam against us Bic-ers forgiveable.



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Ephrem Christopher Walborn

posted September 15, 2005 at 10:17 am


Ok, so he hates your theology and that is probably true enough. But I’ll take the stink of a good cigar (or pipe with a good oriental blend) any day over the prettified stink of toilet water (eau de toilette).
Here’s to good pens and a fine tobacco stench.
Of course, once you start using fountain pens then you start getting picky about paper, too. Cheap, recycled paper isn’t very good — it bleeds, smears, and can clog the pen. Ampad Gold Fibre and Embassy legal pads seem to do pretty well. A bigger problem is having to be cautious with one’s habit of marking up books. With cheaper books (and bibles with thin pages) the ink tends to bleed right through to the flip side of the page. Do you change pens for marking books?



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Ephrem Christopher Walborn

posted September 15, 2005 at 10:21 am


Also thought I’d offer up this list of links for fountain pens: http://pw1.netcom.com/~danhle/links.html. Follow the links at the bottom to reach other parts of the site including a faq.



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Scot McKnight

posted September 15, 2005 at 10:28 am


Hoyo de Monterey Excalibur for me.
As for books with paper that bleeds through– let it bleed and embarrass the publisher, I say.
Here’s what I do: I use a pen until it runs out of ink, and then rotate to the next one in my case. I’ve got about a dozen. I use the fountain pen for everything — even signing forms at school that want a ball point in order to press through a carbon on the next page.



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Scot McKnight

posted September 15, 2005 at 10:29 am


Is there anything quite like writing a short note on a nice piece of paper with a fountain pen?



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Ephrem Christopher Walborn

posted September 15, 2005 at 11:15 am


“Hoyo de Monterey Excalibur”
Excellent! That happens to be my favorite as well. My cheaper cigar of choice would be any of the Te Amo *ion cigars (contemplation, relaxation, there’s a bunch and those might not even be actual examples). At about $1 per, they’re not bad and don’t break the bank. But, yeah, I love the Excalibur. I’ve tried a few pricier cigars and haven’t been impressed — the ones I’ve tried were rolled too tight.
My favorite pipe tobak is Frog Morton from… McClelland (sp?). It’s a nice, rich, soft perique blend.



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marko

posted September 15, 2005 at 11:42 am


i’m confused: you answered “hoyo de monterey excalibur” to the question “what do you use for marking papers?”. but ephrem interpreted your answer as i would have, since the hoyo excalibur is a cigar (and a rather large and spicy one, at that!). i know several cigar makers also make nice pens (or have pen-makers brand a pen with their name) — davidoff, dunhill, s.t.dupont, among others.
i had a mont blanc fountain pen for years that i loved, until a cleaning lady at the church stole it. now i have a mont blanc rollerball and a mont blanc fineliner. i have a couple cheaper fountain pens (a waterman); but none of them have the right “feel”. there really does seem to be a difference between the cheap ones and the nice ones.
were i a wealthy man in search of a collection as a hobby, fountain pens would be my thing.



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marko

posted September 15, 2005 at 11:49 am


here’s the fountain pen i’ve been coveting for 4 or 5 years: the s.t.dupont fidelio coat of mail . a man can have his dreams.



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Anonymous

posted September 15, 2005 at 11:56 am


ysmarko

[...] dang that scot mcknight. he got me thinking about this all over again with three posts about fountain pens! No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Leave a comment Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong> [...]



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Gregory Pittman

posted September 15, 2005 at 1:27 pm


Caught red-handed on the paper issue, Ephrem! I recently started using (again) my Waterman fountain pen. Inexpensive by fountain pen standards (but no one should argue an $80 pen is cheap). And the notepads I use? Docket Diamond. They used to be available here at OfficeMax, but they no longer stock them. So I generally buy two or three boxes (2 pads each) at a time and that lasts me for a while. 25% cotton, 24 lb. stationery quality. I love these pads!



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Scot McKnight

posted September 15, 2005 at 3:24 pm


Marko,
Those Mont Blanc pens are both nicey and pricey. Someday, I tell myself.
That Dupont pen is a gem. I’ve observed it sitting there for years. It is medievalish manly.



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Stacy

posted September 16, 2005 at 4:17 pm


What do you know about the Parker 51? I think my mom is sending me a package containing a 51, a Cavalier (?), an Eversharp, and a Venus. These all belonged to my grandfather. There is also a brand-yet-to-be-determined pen that belonged to his father, which was found in an old family farmhouse.
I’m pretty pumped!



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Jinny

posted September 16, 2005 at 7:19 pm


Did you know Charles M. Schulz liked only one brand of pen for his Peanuts strip (you know, Charlie Brown, Snoopy, & the gang), so when that company was going out of business, he bought EVERY last one they had? That was hundreds of boxes! It was the 914 Radio (see Peanuts: the Art of Charles M. Schulz. I can’t give you a page number because Pantheon didn’t add any!).
FYI, Robert Short has done a series of books on the Gospel, Parables, and Short Meditations in Peanuts. They were supposed to come out with a Gospel According to Snoopy, too, but so far, no sign of it.



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Dana Ames

posted September 16, 2005 at 11:00 pm


I like the finest point I can get. Not too many companies make an extra-fine, so I enjoyed my Rotring for a long time. Something happened to it and it keeps clogging, and I just haven’t sent it to be fixed.
But then- I discovered Pilot. The Japanese make an extra-fine that is even more slender a line than the German pens produce. Ha! Right up my alley. My mom left me some money when she died, and the first thing I bought was a Maki-E Chrysanthemum. Truly a work of art.
Pentifica has really good prices for the stock they carry.
Dana



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Scot McKnight

posted September 17, 2005 at 12:00 am


Dana,
Pretty “fine” tastes, and good ones, too. I used to have an extremely fine point Rotring (0,2) that I used in marking my Bible, but it eventually wore out. Never replaced it.
I haven’t seen or used a Pilot, though I’ve looked them over in a catalog. Isn’t the Maki-E a pen with limited editions?



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