Thursday, December 8, 2011
Christmas Came Early: My New Fountain Pen
When Dale and I were first engaged I was encouraged to pick out my china pattern and my silver pattern. It seemed a little odd for a girl who had grown up in central Wisconsin in a house without plumbing or central heating. I dutifully picked a silver pattern, and my wonderful grandmother gave me four place settings. Someone else gave me one iced tea spoon.
As for china, I didn’t bother. I think I had a better grasp on reality as to who I was and who my friends were than did my mother and grandmother. But a little of their proper Bostonian background slipped in. I bought one bone china tea cup and saucer. Seven dollars in 1964! I knew Dale wasn’t going to sip tea with his little pinkie in the air so I didn’t buy two. I didn’t realize the razzing he was going to get from his buddies. They thought a $7 teacup ought to be a ticket to visit the queen, or at least make its own tea.
I just bought another, wildly extravagant item, this time with his knowledge and this time with a valid justification, I hope. Just a few days ago my worth-its-weight-in-gold pen arrived. Well that might be an exaggeration but I felt as though I was spending that kind of money.
I’ve spent many years carefully drawing with a bottle of India ink and a dip-nib (you dip the pen point in the ink). I almost always used a very flexible Gillott 290 nib or a fine and flexible point from Hunt. I was spoiled! A flexible point gives life to the line.
But sketching with a bottle of open ink doesn’t lend itself to sketching on my lap, standing, or in the car. For that I used a variety of pens: ballpoints, Uniballs, Sakura Pigma Microns – all throw away pens and none with a flexible point although I could switch pens to get a heavier line. I thought a stiff pen is just the price I’d have to pay for sketching in the field; and I thought fountain pens were something that went out with crank telephones.
I trotted down to Staples and bought an inexpensive fountain pen. I loved how smoothly the ink flowed. That translates to ‘how rapidly I could sketch with it;’ but their pen had a fat line, too clunky for me. When I finally got to the big city, I dared to buy a better pen with a finer point. I was hooked.
Life isn’t as simple as I want it to be. I promptly lost the pen from Staples – no big loss. But I miss-placed the much better pen for longer than I care to admit. Over my lifetime I’ve left a trail of lost throw-away pens. Could I be retrained? By now I wanted two good pens, one for permanent ink and one for ink that bleeds. I kept thinking about the joy of sketching with a fine and flexible point. I found my miss-placed pen under the couch cushions and bought a second, good pen, from Richard Binder. I now had two decent pens, one for each ink; but I wasn’t ready to pay for the real treasure, the fine and flexible. I promised myself if I could go a full year without losing a fountain pen, I might dare to take the plunge. The clock started ticking on July 27, 2010.
July 27, 2011 finally arrived, but I still felt a guilty about spending so much money. Now comes the funny part. About that time our bathroom faucet decided to leak and Dale couldn’t fix it. Lowe’s wanted something like $75 to install a new one I wriggled and squirmed and convinced myself I was up to the job. I announced to Dale I’d fix it and use the money towards the pen of my dreams. I was excited! BUT he realized the other faucet was starting to show the same symptoms as the first, and that cabinet is a real bear to wriggle around in. I threw in the towel and had Lowe’s come. This is where I start smiling. By now Dale realized this pen is no bone china tea cup. He encouraged me to go for it. It isn’t that we can’t afford it, we just like to spend money wisely.
It was time. I ordered a pen from Richard Binder at www.richardspens.com, a Pelikan pen with a Pelikan xxxf nib, customized for full flex -- a lot more expensive than one bone china tea cup.
I do hope my inner nurturing device will apply to my new pen. I only lost a daughter once. Well once she really disappeared and got whisked away by mall security and once she hid in tall cloths racks for just long enough to give me a panic. It didn’t help that I had twins running in two directions at once. When it was really critical I never lost track of them. Dale was on a soils survey in Alaska. We stayed in a little cabin, miles for any road, for two weeks. Long, fall grasses filled the opening near camp. I harnessed the little imps while I washed diapers in the nearby stream. I tell myself if I could keep track of them, I can keep track on my new pen.
Hmmmm … I kept track of our twins, but my wedding ring lies in the bottom of the little stream where I washed diapers.