Saturday, November 18, 2017

This Baby's Bottom is not about a Baby

"Must be the newness."

 I'm a pen freak …  I'm addicted to fountain pens. Because of this addiction, I was the proud recipient of a new fountain pen for my birthday. This is a workday pen, affordable, the same model as one I already own. I had also gifted this model to a friend ( attempting to ensnare him in the addiction ). I was very pleased …

… until I wrote with it.

Some pen aficionados advise swishing a new pen with water before filling it with ink, to make sure any potential contaminants left over from the manufacturing process are removed. Others, not so much. I have done both, but usually come down on the side of 'not so much,' usually because I am eager to write with the new pen and don't want to take the time to wait for the swished water to completely dry before inking and writing.

Of course, I would not put a pen with any moisture into a bottle of ink to fill the pen; that risks ink contamination. My perfectionism compels me to believe that. So … I just filled my birthday pen without swishing, and it didn't write particularly well the first time. It was a bit hard to start and it skipped a little bit. It didn't feel quite right … the nib on paper provided neither the smooth gliding action nor the clean line that are the reasons for using a fountain pen.

"Must be the newness." I figured the entire thing was new, and it needed a little time to get used to my hand, the angle at which I write, all that sort of stuff. So I continued to write with it ( real stuff like notes to myself, my journal, notes of important telephone calls, and just horsing around with the pen ) and it improved. But it was still not right. Five quick downstrokes, for example, would yield four nice lines and one with a skip in its middle. My signature has a long arc above the name from about the second letter to the second last letter of my last name; this inevitably had a noticeable skip in it.

What did I do? Duh! I cleaned the pen, running water through it a hundred times ( not really, it only seemed like that many ), sucking water with the converter and pushing it out, in and out. Then I ran water just out, with a rubber syringe, intended for ear-washing, pushing into the nib assembly from the back where the converter normally goes. Then a few more cycles with the converter. The water ran clear; I was sure I now had a clean pen. Writing would be proof.

It wrote much better, but still not quite right. And my signature's long arc still failed to be perfect. Darn! I tried one other trick I have learned about nib maintenance; the results failed to change.

The pen's nib is replaceable by its user ( me ) and I have another pen just like this one. I thought I should try swapping nibs to see what happens. "Yeah, I should do that," I thought several times. As a natural procrastinator, I easily put this off.

I finally found an appropriate time to do the experiment; I swapped nibs and the problem followed the new nib to my original pen. The older pen with the new nib had a flawed writing performance … while the new pen, with an older nib, wrote perfectly. Alleluia!

I am a pen addict, I happened to have a spare nib of this type, replaced the underperforming nib on the older pen and all's good in my pen world.

Upon close inspection of the new nib, it appears to possibly have a problem known in the trade as a "baby's bottom" and, someday, I may try a fix for that condition. There is no rush, though, I'm happy.

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