2012-04-19

My life in pens

I have always had a special relationship with lines, my art being one way of expressing it, as well as my love of sleek designs, and passion for fine writing instruments.

Ever since my grandfather gave me one of his old fountain pens when I was still a kid, I have been writing with nibs and ink almost exclusively. I made my share of ink-spilling messes, smears, and tore and scratched a bunch of paper before mastering the skill of writing with a fountain pen. By the time I was in high school, I switched away from ballpoints for good.

A red Sheaffer Viewpoint with a broad nib served me until graduation, and I kept using it on almost daily basis until 2009, when I lost it somewhere, never to be seen again. Even though Sheaffer has a proprietary cartridge and converter system, I used it with the good old "international" cartridges that are so popular in Germany. Because it was not a fancy pen, I don't have a picture of it anywhere, and had to avail myself of the photos in the internets.

That pen was very generous with the ink, and could easily go through a whole cartridge in one day. I used to enjoy the beautiful dark lines it made, along with the smooth feel of the tip gliding over the paper with ease.

For my high school graduation, my parents bought me my first fancy pen, a Parker 75 Cisele in sterling silver, with a medium-fine nib. That was a troubled piece of kit from get-go, leaked all over the place, and also really not my style with its light and almost diminutive design and nearly baroque appearance. It was too fragile (and expensive) to take to college every day, plus it kept staining my fingers, so it was archived for better days. Eventually, years after I was done with college, it got repaired and has been trouble-free since, but it remains its dainty self, and sees very little use, despite being a fine pen indeed. I have it to this day, and use it occasionally, mostly out of sense of duty.

Over the years, my mom acquired a matching mechanical pencil for me, and a ballpoint pen for herself, which she has promised to bequeath to me. Maybe I should give her the pencil and the pen, and have them reunite without a solemn occasion. They will look nice together, and besides, she likes dainty things.

When I was done with my "Vorstudium," which I would say is an approximate equivalent of a Bachelor's degree, and marks the first half of the studies required to get your Master's, I bought myself a Rotring 600 in silver finish, with a broad nib. Machined out of solid brass, the body of that pen exuded an air of industrial quality and heft that I have yet to find in another pen. It served me well through the end of my degree, but due to my silly experimentation with inks that were not designed for fountain pens, the inner seals degraded, and the pen started to leak over time. I abandoned it, and went back to using the Viewpoint as my workhorse.

An attempt to repair the 600 was made a few years back, but the service shop did not have the parts and returned it, along with a consolation prize in form of a refurbished Rotring Newton in black with medium nib. Lighter, more diminutive, and lacking all the knurled detail, that pen never was able to fill in the void left by the 600. To add insult to injury, it had constant ink flow problems, which resulted in very light-colored line, and frequent need to shake the pen to get the ink to the tip. Needless to say, we did not become friends quickly, but given the Newton's similarity to its heavyweight predecessor, I got used to it over time. It was fine for writing about half a page's worth, so it saw some use until I got frustrated and archived it together with the 600. In their separate Rotring gift coffins--err, I mean boxes--they lay for a couple years.

Meanwhile, after losing my beloved Sheaffer Viewpoint, I decided to replace it with something that had a similarly free ink flow. The Sheaffer Prelude in nickel trim with a broad nib was the answer, and has been serving me faithfully for the past three years. It is a neat pen, nearly indestructible with its stainless steel body and nib, and certainly has some character and heft, but lately I have been longing for my 600, with its Bauhaus lines and industrial feel.

While it does everything you'd expect from a good fountain pen, the Prelude offers little in the refinement and uniqueness department. In an act of desperation, I sent my two dead Rotrings to the official Parker-Waterman-Rotring service center, and after examining them they said that nothing can be done for these poor relics that have been out of production for a number of years by now.

The letter from the service center included an offer to sell any of the pens from the current lineup at a steep discount. Which got me thinking. Do I want to go and buy a used (or maybe even mint) 600, or spend about the same amount of money and get... (drumroll) THIS?

Meet Parker Premier Black.

Let me geek out for a second. The body is finished in vertically brushed metal, coated in nickel-palladium alloy, and overlaid with black ceramic for more scratch and dent resistance. The nib is made of springy gold and coated in ruthenium for the black color.

As if all the unusual materials weren't enough, ruthenium derives its name from Rus' -- the ancient name for the region and peoples inhabiting current Ukraine and western Russia. Symbolism galore!

The only downsides to this pen are its price, which may not be that much more than buying a mint 600, and the fact that they do not offer the Black series with broad nibs.

Anyways, here I am thinking whether I should make a step back or forward.