Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Trying to Rescue a Fountain Pen

"They don't know what they're doing down there."

This response sounded arrogant to me, but, along with the impressive before and after pictures, it gave me hope that the man who spoke them would be able to restore my fountain pen to its luxuriously-writing capability. I had seen his before/after pictures of injured fountain pens. I was impressed and had called to ask him if he thought he could help my fountain pen, which I had stupidly allowed to have a topless adventure in my man-bag. The adventure had bunged the nib up pretty badly; it would not write. I 'fessed up that I had taken it to a stationary/pen shop and the owner had helped, but the nib still was "not right."

I have told you in a past post
( Writing is Hard ) that I enjoy using a pen, especially a fountain pen. I am here confessing that I may be addicted. I have many and varied ballpoint and gel pens, and fountain pens that number more than I will ever need. I toyed with fountain pens as early as grade school, but didn't appreciate a truly fine pen until much later.

I was heartsick when I realized the damage done to the nib of my fountain pen. I took it to a favorite stationary store where I knew a pen doctor resided. The pen doctor no longer resided there, but the owner also knew a thing or two about fountain pens, so I spoke with him. I was looking for advice about where to send it for repair, or perhaps he would send it and charge me for his service.

Nope. He got out his magnifying glass, inspected the nib, put the point of the nib to the top of the glass case we were standing at, and pushed. He inspected it again, put the nib back to the glass and adjusted. He did this several times, got some ink, dipped the pen, tried it, adjusted a time or two more, tried the pen again, adjusted, tried it, and handed it back to me. "What do you think," he asked.

I tried it. While I wasn't sure it wrote like it did before it got lost in my bag, it seemed to write well, which was a significant improvement over its condition when I walked in. "I'm not looking for a freebie," I said.

"Thanks for stopping in," he said. "No charge."

My excitement that the pen wrote at all soon gave way to disappointment that it did not write as it had; now it didn't seem to write well at all. It would skip, it would write well for four words, then hardly at all for the next. And it scratched. I could have gone back to the stationary shop, but I figured they had already done the best they could; and I could hardly complain as the pen did write and they charged me nothing for the service.

I remained disconsolate ( I am sure I am exaggerating my mental state here ).

But then I found the pen fix-it shop and the arrogant-sounding man who ran it. Excitedly, I went to his shop and gave him the pen. He got out his magnifying glass, inspected the nib ... and did nothing. He got some paper and wrote with the pen. It wrote well for him; no skipping at all.

I tried, and it wrote like it had been doing ... OK, not great, varying line widths. "Your touch is much lighter than mine," he commented.

"Well, yes, that's what I like about fountain pens," I replied, "no pressure."

"There is nothing I can do for this pen."

You were so sure when I spoke on the phone with you!

"The hooded nib has a flange inside which makes it impossible to take the nib out without getting into all kinds of other trouble.

Isn't that what you do here? Your before pictures showed some awful damage ...

"I could heat the feed, but that could ruin it altogether. "

Of course I would not want to risk that!

"You might try cleaning it good ... soak the nib section overnight in water with a couple of drops of dish washing soap. It doesn't look particularly dirty, but somewhat. That might help."

"Well, thanks," I said, stuffing my disappointment, "I have had it since the early 80's and never cleaned it good."

I have not done that yet, and will, perhaps, report when I do. For sure I will if the results are dramatic. Until then, however, I am left with a pen that only reminds me of a high-functioning, luxuriously-writing instrument.

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