Thursday, May 19, 2016

Pen Requiem

A ship is not made to be in a harbor.

Last time I shared with you my find of eleven vintage pens, eight of them fountain pens, when going through some “stuff” my wife had unearthed in her on-going organizing the house effort.

I did some quick messing around and found that one of them, one of the Esterbrooks, actually still works: the lever on the side moves up and down without making a sound like breaking very old, dry, no longer supple rubber; the working of the lever still moves liquid ( water, in my case, initially ) into and out of the pen; the old ink may have been dry and hard but, when exposed to water, was dissolved into the water and the pen would write with the very diluted ink; this quite excited me.

After making sure there were no leaks, I emptied the pen of water and, not wanting to pollute a good bottle of ink with dissolved ink from the sixties, I used a syringe and a needle to fill the barrel of the pen with a modern ink. I screwed the barrel back on and, viola …

… it writes! Reasonably smoothly and it feels pretty good in my hand.

Do not mistake my delight; this is nothing compared to any of my beloved modern pens. What is delightful is that this pen, which was new around 1955, which I can actually believe I had in my hands and wrote with some fifty years ago, still writes in a somewhat pleasing way.

“What about the other seven vintage pens?” you ask? Well …

The pens on the top of the box are the ball-point pens I found with my stash of fountain pens. They still write, which surprises me still, but that is of significantly less interest than the status of the fountain pens, which are in the box.

Each, as you can likely see but not read, has a small sticky note affixed to its barrel. After further investigation, I determined that the pen I’ve already discussed is the only fountain pen readily able to write. Each of the others has a significant flaw ( puddles and spits when full of ink; not sure how to fill; … ) that prevents it from delighting me as the Esterbrook did. The sticky note documents the flaw.

My wife gave me the box for the purpose of having something in which to display my pens. Sad to say, but it is quite likely that adorning the inside of that fine box is the way my vintage pens will live out their days. 

There is a saying, "while a ship is safe in a harbor, a ship is not made to be in a harbor;" similarly, even if I manage to make the display of pens as nice-looking as the box, "fountains pens are not made to adorn the inside of a box."

Perhaps what I will do is develop a ritual and execute it with these pens. That way, at least, they will go to their final resting place after a solemn ritual commending them to it.
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