Wednesday, February 5, 2014

His Nibs

Life for the past five days or so has been a whirlwind as my older child and wife both came down with a nasty respiratory flu, leaving me ostensibly in charge of meals, laundry, homeschooling, and also juggling work and starting our youth team's track practice. I've lost a few days in there, but as my beloved is slowly getting back to health -- and the youngest child spikes a fever, sigh -- I'm getting my head up again, and going "Holy crap, it's February already" and "it's ITAM, I should type something."

Today was my first day back in the office after that unexpected bout of home-care, and while I try to fend off the coughing from my coworkers* I made the pen decision that got postponed. The final purchase was... a Pelikan M205! As much as I covet the vanishing point, I realized that I'd be sad if I didn't check out a pen that's so highly praised, that requires no fuss to refill, and is designed to be modular -- don't like the nib? Unscrew it an pop in a new one. That's pretty awesome.

It should be here in a week or so, and I had enough left over to pick up a Safari, too. Also highly praised, it meets my criteria for being durable, carryable, and not so precious that I'll freak out if it's dropped (cough Speegle cough.) Also, when our local Borders books was on the verge of closing down, they had about a few boxes of Lamy cartridges in a clearance bin that have been waiting patiently for a pen to juice up. I'm just as excited about this as the Pel, honestly.

Finally, when I managed to get the household stabilized enough this weekend to run out and pick up some groceries, I swung through a consignment store that's dangerously close to my house. Most of the wares are not to my taste or wildly overpriced but what's that down there in that cabinet?

Sheaffer jade flat-top detail

So, to recap -- set out to pick one pen, wound up with three. Seems about right.

This is an old Sheaffer "flat top" Lifetime pen. "Old," since it's likely from the 1920s-1930. "Flat top" because, well, the end of the cap is flat:

Sheaffer jade flat-top

It's also ink-stained, noticeably brassed in places like the knob on the clip, and the sac literally tore in my hands. What was once a bright green "jade" color is now a mottled pea-soup, which are all known issues with these guys. I also really, really like it. It's grown on me, and with a coat of the same carnauba wax that's so effective on enameled typewriters, it's regained some of its old lustre, if not its color. And soon: it'll have some friends to join it.

* Seriously: stay home if you don't feel well. There are no medals for being the office martyr to the plague. Stay the hell home. I get completely germophobic at this time of year.


Unknown said...

I just bought two fountain pens online a few days ago and have managed to spend $20 on ink samples and the pens haven't even arrived...

I hope I don't have to start collecting pens because I think I'm already going to be spending enough on this new hobby of mine.

Good luck with your new pens!

Bill M said...

Glad everyone is back to feeling well.
Congratulations on the pens.
I've added a few over the past year and hope to add some this year.

mpclemens said...

@Nick: It may already be too late! The Pelikan will be my first honest-and-truly (and working) "real" pen. I can't see myself trying to get all colors for a model, though. Like the typewriter collecting, I prefer workhorse machines to shelf queens.

And if you do... well... pens are smaller than typewriters, at least.

@Bill: Pics! Maybe we'll do a pen-appreciation month after ITAM. :-)

Richard P said...

That Sheaffer is a beauty. I wish I understood how to restore pens.

mpclemens said...

@Richard: The Fountain Pen Network forums should be a bookmark for any pen-lover's browser. I've learned a ton there, and there's so much more to go.

In the case of the Sheaffer, it's a very simple lever-fill design, meaning that the gold bar on the side (the lever) hinges up and presses against a rubber ink sac via another flatter bar inside the barrel of the pen. Dead simple, as long as the sac is in good shape. The rule of thumb, I think, is not to trust any sac in a "found" pen, remove the old one, and shellac on a new one.

The key is to buy the right size, but there's pretty comprehensive lists. I'm down to this step -- looking for the right size for this pen and another, and then ordering the parts.

I have the nib and feed portions soaking in a path of diluted Speedball brand pen cleaner, meant for loosening and removing drawing ink from art pens. I see that some particles of ancient ink have settled out of the nib overnight, as the solution is now blue. Like old typewriters, you may not know where they've been, but cleaning them up again for service is part of the fun of ownership.

teeritz said...

Congrats on the 205 and the Sheaffer. The Pelikan will be worth it, and the nib on the Sheaffer should have some pleasant flex in it.