It has been some time since we posted a comparison of black inks, something that is useful to do because there are always new inks available and in some cases, the manufacturers make changes in their formulae. In 2008, we had two posts on black inks – Black and Sorta Black Inks and also Black Inks (notice the catchy titles, eh!). Several personal favourites were noted, including Aurora Black, Noodler’s Heart of Darkness, and Mont Blanc Black. On the other hand, Private Reserve Ultra Black seemed to be the only ink that garnered negative comments – “soul sucking”, “evil”, and “you’d better have a W (presumably meaning a broad) nib because it doesn’t flow so much as it oozes”.
This post has several different black inks such as Sheaffer, Noodler’s Borealis Black and Dark Matter, to name a few.
The Noodler’s Borealis Black (a poorly disguised attempt at Aurora Black) and Dark Matter acquit themselves rather well when compared to our all-around champion of Aurora Black. What about you – do you have a favourite black and if yes, why that particular black?
Demonstrator pens were first constructed for use as sales tools, i.e., generally made for salespersons or the retailer to show how the filling mechanisms (that were hidden from view inside the pen) worked. Some of the demonstrator pens were made from transparent or translucent materials while others, called “cutaway” pens, had a portion of the barrel removed or cut away/out to show the inner workings of the pen. The transparent/translucent demonstrators functioned properly; however, the cutaway pens did not (obviously). Neither type was intended for sale to the public although they are sought after by collectors today.
The popularity of demonstrator pens is such that they are made by almost every manufacturer in a variety of colours, in some cases, and price points, in others. People are attracted to these pens for many different reasons, for example, some writers like to be able to monitor the amount of ink left in their pen while others like how the transparent material of the pen changes colour every time a different colour ink is used – it’s like using a different pen. Of course, there are always those that enjoy the chance to watch and understand how their pen works.
Demonstrator Fountain Pens by Various Makers
The demonstrator fountain pens from a recent pen club meeting as shown in the above photo are, from left to right, as follows:
- Lamy Vista(clear);
- Namiki Custom 823 (clear);
- Omas Ogiva Vision in Guilloche (clear);
- Omas 360Vintage Limited Edition (blue);
- Levenger Pelikan M200 (clear)
- Pelikan M205 (light blue);
- Pelikan M800 Etchings (clear);
- Stipula Etruria Nuda Limited Edition (clear);
- Visconti Van Gogh Maxi Tortoise (amber); and
- Visconti Voyager Anniversary (clear).
We’d love to hear from you – do you like demonstrators? what demonstrators do you own? what is your favourite demonstrator, whether owned or wished for?
One of our pen club members, Ben, recently returned from a holiday in sunny California – from San Francisco down the coast to Carmel and Dana Point and back up through Sequoa and Yosemite Park, returning to San Francisco. Of course, the weather was great and the scenery beautiful, but none of that mattered to Ben – he was on a mission, to scratch an itch that has been gnawing at him since first reading an article in the November 1995 issue of Pen World (reproduced below) about a stationery store called Gazebo by the Sea. In 1989, Ben and his son had driven along the Monterey Peninsula on the famed 17-Mile Drive by Carmel runs through Pacific Grove to the Pebble Beach golf course, from the dramatic Pacific coastline to the majestic Del Monte Forest. After reading the Pen World article and remembering his trip, Ben knew that he had to return their some day. On his return to Carmel, Ben found that Detlef was no longer in the Gazebo but had instead had opened Bittner Fine Pens in a more accessible location in Carmel. Finally, Ben had the chance to meet and pay homage to Mr. Detlef Bittner, the man who had fascinated him since 1995.
As Ben tells us - I recognized Detlef immediately because he had hardly aged from his photo in Pen World and was dressed as sharply. I was treated royally and allowed to write with some very expensive pens. … The least expensive pen I was tempted to buy was approx. $300, which is not a problem for some of his customers such as Pierce Brosnan and Clint Eastwood (Editor’s note – Ben, such shameless name dropping!). I put in a good word for our pen club and provided him with the address of our website, which his main employee Bob immediately checked out (verifying my credibility since I looked like an Iowa farmer dressed in a plaid shirt and ball cap) (Editor’s note – I can see that). Bob commented that it was a good looking website. …Detlef was very kind to compose a kind greeting to our club in beautiful script on his personal stationery and endorsed with a wax seal of what we presume is his coat of arms (reproduced below). … The store was FULL of Rhodia stuff and it is one of the few papers that he endorses – he couldn’t say enough good things about Rhodia. He does not carry Noodler’s Ink because of too many complaints from customers re: pen damage. Detlef said that his store sells good quality pens and does not want his customers’ pens ruined by the wrong ink (Editor’s note – those are Mr. Bittner’s opinions, which we respect;however, they do not necessarily represent the views of the London Pen Club or any of its members.). The store does carry Private Reserve and the traditional ink brands too.
Thanks for sharing your adventure Ben, you must be a happy guy now that itch no longer needs to be scratched and thanks for being such a great ambassador for our club (although we really do need to have a talk about the club’s dress code while traveling!). Finally, a very special thank you to Mr. Detlef Bittner for the hospitality that he showed to Ben and for showing us the art of writing!
It appears that the Vancouver Pen Club (VPC) is at it once again. It wasn’t that long ago that they were posing for centerfold of Pen World magazine (well, not actually the centerfold, it was a page near the center of the magazine). Now they are celebrating another accomplishment as they get ready to hold their 50th meeting (to be held on August 16, 2012)! Voltaire said, “The biggest reward for a thing well done is to have done it.” To which I think it is quite appropriate to add, “So keep on doing it!”
There are many members who have played a great part in the life of the VPC – just read the VPC website to see their numerous contributions. First and foremost, let’s give all credit to Tim Conklin who had the inspiration to start the VPC in the fall of 2006 – you can read about it here. Second, many, many thanks to Maja who has so graciously shared her experience and ideas so that we could make the LPC better. Congratulations on this achievement and thank you to all involved in the VPC, you have set a standard for all clubs to aspire to!!
P.S. Save me a big piece of cake!!
We decided to use a different type of theme for November 5 and 12, 2011 – “Pens associated in some way with the number 100″. Now there are the obvious choices like those pens with “100″ in their model name., e.g., a Conway Stewart 100 or a Parker 100. Having said that, we challenged our club members to think about this one, confident that that they are all a bit smarter (and creative) to come up with a pen or pens with a model number of 100. For example, they might consider pens that cost $100 or are a 100 years old or are number 100 of xyxyx or number xx of 100? Maybe they have used a pen 100 times or a pen that is now worth $100. I think you get the gist of what we are thinking.
One perhaps obvious but still interesting idea was a combination of two pens, in this case, a Parker 25 matched with a Parker 75 in similar finishes – stainless steel and black. Nice thinking!
Of course, let’s not forget one of the obvious choices, a Parker 100, in cobalt black.
Now in the tray of pens below, there is a veritable potpourri of “100″ pens, mostly modern with a few vintage mixed in for good measure!
From left to right, are the following fountain pens:
- a blue Waterman Charleston (that is based on the Waterman 100 year pen);
- a Waterman LeMan 100 Opera Series pen in black acrylic resin over brass and carved with a unique chased bargello stitch pattern;
- a limited edition Waterman Liaison “Cobra” fountain pen with black chasing that makes it ‘look’ and ‘feel’ like snake skin (the Liaison replaced the Man 100/200 as Waterman’s “top of the line” pen c. 1994);
- a black & gold Waterman Exception “Night & Day” fountain pen (I knew that there is a connection to 100, I just cannot remember what it was that I was thinking!!);
- a special edition Conway Stewart “Garner 100″ model in Patriot Stripe, #12 of 100 (Tommy Garner was one of the co-founders of Conway Stewart);
- another Waterman Liaison except this one is in woodgrain ebonite (As noted above, the Liaison model was one of two flagships of the Waterman line, at least for a time. Waterman had a practice of offering two models that represented the peak of the pen-maker’s art at the timee – one classic and one avant-garde. The Liaison was a classic model.);
- a standard 3-band model (vintage) Conway Stewart 100 (the top of the line 100 was launched c. 1955 and was available only in black);
- a limited edition Levenger/Conway Stewart pen in green whirl, #009 of 100;
- a vintage Mabie Todd Swan Self-Filler (S.F.) 100 in woodgrain ebonite; and finally,
- a vintage Pelikan 100 (the Pelikan model 100 pens were launched c. 1928, featuring a revolutionary piston pump ink filling mechanism and a transparent section that allowed the user to view the amount of ink remaining in the pen. The Pelikan 100 series of fountain pens are cherished by both Pelikan and vintage pen collectors alike.).
Not a bad list, all things considered. Now it’s your turn – what obvious and not so obvious pen or pen(s) have we missed or can you outthink us? Do you have an idea for “100″ pens that no one else could possibly think of?
Thanks for reading!
Our good friends, the Michigan Pen Collectors, held the 21st Annual Michigan Antique & Collectible Pen Show on October 14 and 15, 2011 at the MET Troy Conference Center in Troy, MI. A group of LPC club members attended on Saturday, October 15 and thanks to our club photographer Rick, we are able to present the following photographs that capture the vibe of the show:
Show Chairman, Lih-Tah Wong of Parker75.com , and MPC President, Eric Fonville
LPC Members Rafal, Mark and Stan check out some of the pens for sale
Our good friend & MPC Collector, Ralph Stillwell
Some Esterbrook pen holders & various pens
Even more Esterbrook pen holders and desk sets
Esterbrooks gone wild!!
Yep, even more Esterbrooks!!
Our good friends and the owners of all the pictured Esterbrooks, Lisa & Brian Anderson of http://www.andersonpens.net/
The theme for our Saturday, October 24, 2011 meeting was “Iconic Fountain Pens”.
What makes an item, such as a pen, iconic? When most of us hear the word “iconic” we think of people, places or things that are famous, well-known, widely-known, celebrated, renowned, fabled, legendary, notorious, infamous, illustrious, or perhaps even “the one”. At least, those are some of the words that come to mind when I think of something that is “iconic”.
The theme for this week was for our members to share their thoughts on those fountain pens that were icons from their perspective as well as the reason(s) for their selections. We asked them to think about whether it was a popular or well-known pen? Was it something to do with the pen’s design or looks? Maybe it revolutionized the look, function of pens or even how pens write? Has it developed a bit of a cult following? Perhaps it is not famous but infamous? Is it inexpensive or does it cost a small fortune? Was it made by one of the “iconic” brands or do you have trouble pronouncing or even remembering its brand?
If you were to build a collection of pens based on an “iconic” theme, what would you consider to be the “must-have” pens? These hypothetical exercises are great – there are no limits, e.g., you are not restricted to modern or vintage pens, etc. You don’t have to own the pen, have ever owned the pen or even want to own the pen! Heck, you don’t even have to have any money! Although, I don’t want to suggest that a pen’s cost necessarily influences its status as an icon. I can think of very expensive pens that I would not be surprised if many thought of them as an icon, or conversely, others thinking of one of any number of inexpensive (dare I say, “cheap”?) pens that could easily fit the bill, e.g., Lamy Safari.
Enough of my dribble, here are several groups of pens (with photos) that different members of the LPC view as being iconic and why:
1. Sheaffer Balance. 1930s. The Balance began the tradition of streamlining the shape of pens with tapered caps and barrel ends, along with the use of plastics in colours not seen before.
2. Parker Vacumatic. 1930s. Striped plastics, ink stored right in the barrel rather than a sac, and an “interesting” filling system – the Vac is still what I think of when I think of vintage pens.
3. Parker “51″. 1940′s. A hooded nib. “Writes Dry with Wet Ink” to quote the advertising of the day. Introduced in 1939 and in production until 1972, the Parker “51″ sold in the millions and is of the most successful fountain pens of all time.
4. Sheaffer Snorkel. 1950′s. The Sheaffer Triumph nib (also known as the wrap around nib or conical nib) was continued on the Snorkel filler. One of the coolest and most complicated of the filling systems, the Snorkel was made in a multitude of colours and finishes.
5. Sheaffer Imperial/Lifetime. 1960′s. I don’t have a Sheaffer Pen For Men (PFM) so I am including my 1963 Lifetime with the famous inlaid nib. The PFM introduced the now iconic inlaid nib that Sheaffer continues to use on their pens to this day. The Imperial, Targa, Intrigue and Valor models all have the inlaid nib.
6. Parker 75 in Sterling Silver cisele pattern. 1960′s. A classy looking pen. I am still waiting to see one on the TV series “Mad Men”.
7. Lamy Safari. 1980′s. The Safari was first introduced in 1980 and hasn’t changed in 30 years. A great starter or school pen that is available in an array of colours and nib sizes.
Another member’s group of “Iconic Pens”:
- Aurora 88. An elegant Italian design that functions perfectly and has a hidden cache of ink, if needed.
- Sheaffer Targa. Simplicity and variety. One could spend a lifetime collecting these classic fountain pens with the inlaid nib. Just check out one of the best pen sites on the internet – sheaffertarga.com
- Pilot/Namiki Vanishing Point. Many people think this pen has a cult following but I disagree. How many people do you know that own at least one Vanishing Point? I would not be surprised if 3 out of 4 pen owners have one – that’s not a cult, that’s a club!
- Delta Dolce Vita. Ah, the sweet life! The first time I saw this pen I thought it was a bit much, I mean, who has the nerve to use a bright orange pen like this, especially a conservative business man like me. It did not take too much longer before I owned one. Actually, I have the double desk set as well!
- Conklin Crescent Filler. Even non-pen people know this pen, it’s the one that Mark Twain uses – because it won’t roll off of a table.
- Lamy 2000. A wonderful example of design and functionality. A simple design, the pen is made of black makrolon and is a piston filler, holding a ton of ink. The flagship pen of LAMY.
- OMAS 360. The non-conformist’s fountain pen because of its unconventional triangulated form. It’s the type of pen that you either love or hate. I happen to love it. Unfortunately, OMAS screwed up its original design when it redesigned its line of pens. If you want one of these, get the older “vintage” model.
- Pelikan M800 Souverän. I loved this fountain pen from the very first time I saw its green striped barrel at Sleuth & Statesman in Toronto. While I actually bought the black-blue model with silver trim first, I just had to have the original black-green model with gold trim. In my mind, the green striped barrel makes it the quintessential fountain pen!
- Parker Duofold. Not a big surprise that the Duofold is on this list, although most people would probably cite the vintage “Big Red” model. Most people would put the Big Red as one of a dozen or so pens in a core collection of pens. I like the blue ones myself, especially this remake of the “True Blue”.
- Waterman Edson. A legendary and elegant pen.
- Conway Stewart #28 “Cracked Ice”. Colourful plastics have been a signature of Conway Stewart. The names of many of these colours, such as this one in Cracked Ice, have been adopted by collectors over the years. Other personal favourites include Reverse Cracked Ice and Tiger Eye. Truth be told, my favourite models are #27 and #60 – I just grabbed the first Cracked Ice that I came across so please forgive my oversight!
One more member’s quartet of Icons:
From top to bottom:
- Parker Vacumatic. Hey, it’s a Vacumatic, what more is there to say?
- Sheaffer Autograph. The Autograph has a much wider cap band than the Sheaffer Signature and used to be one of their most expensive models. It has the clip and the cap band made out of solid 14K gold. In fact, you could send the pen to Sheaffer along with your signature and they would engrave it on the cap band. This cap band has yet to be engraved.
- Esterbrook. A classic double jewel J (full sized).
- Parker 51. This aerometric filler with gold filled cap is Cocoa in colour, while not as rare as Nassau Green or Plum, is fairly uncommon.
A different view of the same quartet:
And finally, the best part of every pen club meeting – writing with someone else’s iconic pen – in this case, a Parker 65 Flighter!
Maybe you agree with these selections, maybe you have your own views. We would love to hear from you! Let us know what your iconic pen is and why?