Monday, December 30, 2013

Monday Stinks #7

Christmas - a time for many things, amongst them New Toys. While I don't actually "do" Christmas, I have no particular objection to New Toys...

My, but the Kultur does look very bright there - it's not that bad. It seems to like the new Bilberry colour (a good deal better than it liked the Prime of Commons, anyway).

I would have absolutely given my right arm for the Sailor about, um, 25 years ago, which may explain the impulse buy. Also it was an economical way to try out purchasing direct from Japan, given my predilection for the Japanese pens. Went very smoothly, actually. The only possible difficulty I can see is when the amount paid gets into the realms of the Revenoo Men, who, I gather, are being particularly assiduous these days. Now it's not that I mind paying the duty, but it gets to me that I have to pay a handling fee etc when if I'd have been able to, I would have happily paid the duty up front and saved them the terrible trouble of dealing with HM Customs that the post office subsequently want to diabolically over-charge for. Sigh.

Ah, but let us dwell on nicer things; to wit, the Platinum #3776. Not that much to look at, I know ("Classic" seems the best description) but with Platinums (beyond the Preppy) it's all about the nibs. They're good nibs and this is no exception. But the great big stonking win is that, unlike say, the Parker Junior whose nib I like a good deal, if worst comes to the worst and it meets with disaster/I lose it I can just go and get another one (finances permitting - this one was a bit of a steal). The gods alone know how many Parkers I'd have to get through to find another one like the one currently in my possession. Not that it wouldn't be fun searching, but I'm all about not becoming a collector here, kids. I'm a user. And a user likes readily available, in current production things so they can just get on and use.

(Did that sound convincing? I thought that sounded convincing. I was totally convinced.)

May your edges be sharp, your splinters few, your tines aligned, and your fortunes good in the coming year.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Monday Stinks #6

It's blowing half a gale out there and the gods have apparently left their sprinkler running. Nothing like watching the rain being forced past the window seals and splashing upon the fairy lights and there's nothing you can do to stop it; don't you just love this time of the year...?

Just the three inks on the go at the minute; the effects of the 13th were delayed a week here at Alf Towers, I had three unhappy pen events in quick succession this Friday instead, resulting in something of a glut of unscheduled pen cleaning. And bluer fingers than is quite usual... As a result:

A) I'm going to stop bothering to try to get along with the Hero 616 (Chinese Parker 51 knock-off homage), because it never returns the favour.
B) Cult Pens are very nearly the Lee Valley of pen retailing. (You may take that to mean they have excellent customer service and are likely to cause severe strain on the wallet. Not that they're Canadian. At least I don't think they are. I shall have to try subtly slipping ice hockey into conversation and see if they bite...)
C) Noodler's Prime of Commons is running out of welcome; being incredibly over-saturated is one irritating thing, not actually being blue-black can be viewed as an idiosyncrasy, but going through the incredibly dry Waterman Kultur like a dose of Syrup of Figs and throwing up into the cap of same? That's simply not going to make you friends here at Alf Towers.

Anyway, best of luck to all readers during this season of over-indulgence and social anxiety
Yuletide Felicitations to you all. 

I'll see you on the other side, or maybe even in the middle somewhere.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Moving Home

Looking for a new home is fraught with complications. You start out with a good solid list of all the features you want in your new abode, and then you launch yourself at the market to seek your dream. And gradually it gets chipped away and chipped away until you feel you've done pretty well if you get two "essentials" out of ten. Like, say, a roof.

Not that I'm moving house. It's much more traumatic than that; I'm going to have to move notebooks. The current incumbent is nearly finished:

Earlier this year someone described this blog to me as a peek into "Alf-world". Ah, no. This blog is a greatly restricted peek through the smallest possible keyhole into the heavily edited Alf-world Lite. This book is much closer to the chaotic mish-mash that is truly Alf-world. Possibly you imagine the closely written pages of a proper journal? Well, yes, there are some of those.

But not many. Mainly there's... stuff. All sorts of stuff. Stuff stuck in, stuff drawn (badly), reminders, quotes, ideas, and absolutely no rules about which way up the book has to be when I write in it. There's a rather good Italian term for something of the sort beginning with Z, but I can never remember what it is and besides I don't think I can aspire to snazzy Italian terms any more than I think it warrants being called a journal. So as the English explanation used the term "hodge-podge", I seized upon that instead.

As it's Christmas and a time for ghost stories and other scary things, have a heavily edited glimpse into the dark underbelly through the medium of the smallest possible keyhole:

Okay, you can open your eyes again now.

All of which makes finding a new home a little tricky, because it's part written, part scrapbook, part sketch book. Throw in the requirement for it to be fountain pen friendly that I now have, and you're immediately crossing off many, many options. And who wants to glue bits and bobs to decent (and therefore often expensive) FP friendly paper anyway? Then there's the hand-falling-off-the-bottom-of-the-page problem you get with these thicker notebooks which drives me nuts, but would a thinner exercise book type stand up to my scrapbook tendencies? Ruled paper is totally out, owing to the lapses into writing at right angles, but square grids can be over-bearing. The fashionable dot grids are a possibility, but that's a whole new world of limited options. Throw in the truly eye-watering price tags some of these notebooks command, and you end up going in a lot of circles trying to make a decision.

Or at least I do. But then I've never been terribly good at making decisions. You may have noticed.

But still, (almost) finished notebook - that's essentially going to be a completed project, isn't it? Okay, so its joinery is rudimentary (packing tape may have been called in to hold it together at this stage in its life), and the finish is decidedly patchy, but it represents some hours of creative endeavour. It's a project. Yup.

Yes, it is. Look, you can tell it is because now I'm dithering over starting another one. If that's not a classic symptom of Alf Has Finished A Project I don't know what is.

At least, as far as I can remember...

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Gift 'n' Mix

Even though any lingering affection for Axminster has drained almost entirely away these days, largely because they seem to be spending lots of money on being not as good as they used to be, I can't help but thank them for the unintentional amusement their Daily Christmas Deals have given me. For instance, nothing says Christmas like...

...a cement mixer.

A little challenging to wrap and lamentably late for some otherwise useful Christmas pudding stirring duties, but I suppose it could be worse. They might have put tinsel on it.

Rutlands, on the other hand, caused me much disappointment. "Gifts for Men" it said. I was hoping for manly Marigolds for doing the washing up, and maybe "101 Ways to Ask For Directions". It was all knives and hammers and axes. Which is really worrying, because I have knives and hammers and axes and last I checked, I am not a Man*. Do I have to turn them in to the authorities in exchange for a needlepoint kit and, worse, shoes?!

Okay, enough with the sarcastic gender stereotype stuff. I made the mistake of wandering into the toy aisles of the supermarket this week, and the clear delineation between pink and blue, fairies and spacemen, it depressed me. It hard enough being human without all these arbitrary ideas of what you're supposed to like based on your chromosomes. Also, they've totally ruined Lego. I was looking at the kits, and the number of task-specific blocks is so high a ratio I don't see how it would allow your imagination to wander very far from the original model. Not to say I wasn't briefly tempted to buy one in order to see for myself. Just in the interests of research...

*Although in fairness at least one pen purveyor thinks I'm an "Esq" and another extrapolated all the way from Al to addressing an envelope to Alan. What if I'd been an Albert, Alfred, Alastair, or Aloysius? I might have been really offended...

P.S. Apologies to Ralph; his comment on yesterday's post may have inspired me to, er, tweak it a bit. So when he joked, no it wasn't. But it might be now. (Oooo, mystery.)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Duck and Recover

My progress through the virtual newspaper this morning was halted in an abrupt manner by an advert for Asprey, the jewellers. More specifically, an ad featuring a duck-footed silver egg cup. Not a retailer who can boast my custom, I have to admit, and on this evidence I don't see that changing if even if I do ever win the lottery.

Now I have nothing against the novelty egg cup. Arguably the boiled egg needs any help it can get in the presentation department. But whereas this kind of duck-footed egg cup rendered in ceramics is somehow quite acceptable, and even, dare I say it, cute.

This is, frankly, slightly scary.

I'm pretty sure that one would actually walk off with your boiled egg, and probably trample the toast soldiers to death while doing it...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Short Story

Fountain pen enthusiasts seem extraordinarily keen to bring a Dremel to bear on their assorted writing implements. Speaking as someone who would hesitate to bring a Dremel to bear on anything more important than a rusty nail, this terrifies me. But sometimes they have a point (sometimes medium, sometimes broad, occasionally oblique), and this is one instance that I mentioned I'd tell you about.

Take the rotring Artpen. Please, take it... At least that's been my feeling about the things for many years. I've had a couple of them since my school days, but could never really like them. They're a bit stingy about letting any ink out at all, the rotring ink itself is pretty Meh (the only time the black seems truly black is when it's all over your fingers), and the length of the thing is inconvenient and makes the pen unsuitable for anything but arty-farty posturing.

Of course, now I've learnt how to make fountain pens give of their ink when they're reluctant do to do, that's point one solved; as far as ink goes, as I seem to have one or two assorted bottles of that, and have joined the insane ranks of the syringe-wielding ink cartridge refillers, so that's that thoroughly solved. Which leaves the long, tapering length of the thing. Which is a pain in the proverbial. Its little white rabbit tail waves about in the corner of your eye, it won't fit in your pocket comfortably, and you absolutely cannot use it in public without drawing attention to yourself. If only something could be done...

Somehow, it had never occurred to me to cut a few inches off it. What can I say? My modification of tools came after my Artpen years, and it simply never crossed my mind. But now? Nurse! The screens, the Dremel and the cut-off disk. This won't hurt a bit.

Take one Artpen body, thusly. Wrap some tape around it at the point of cuttage, to give you an outside chance of getting a straight line. If you want to use a converter, make sure you allow enough room for it. (Okay, confession time - I probably cut it a little shorter than advisable, but I so hate that taper I wanted as much of it gone as possible.)

Fire up your Dremel and cut. Confounding all previous experience, I seemed to luck into a cut-off disk that actually wanted to stay in one piece long enough to use it. Amazing.

With the magic of image manipulation, you can see the ghostly trace of what once was there. Woooooooowooooo. Spooky. Or not.

Application of a suitable graduation of abrasives will clean and polish up the cut end, but you do get left with a bit of a hole. I tried "popping off" the white end of the cut off bit to fill it, but it's reluctant to "pop". I got there eventually, but another time just cutting the white bit off with the black plastic still attached would be easier. Don't know what adhesive rotring uses to adhere those white scuts, but it's good. Popping the newly liberated white blob inside the barrel and pushing it up into place worked fine, and a blob of my less nuclear-bomb-proof epoxy keeps it in place.

Eh, voila, a rather less conspicuous pen, and one that will actually fit in your pocket if you feel the need to be arty on the go. I also rubbed off the Artpen logo on the side to make it a little more grown-up; either meths or white spirit did the job - can't recall which.

As it happens, I have two - one a medium and one an italic 1.1 - and can swap them between the original body and the new portable version as inclination strikes me. I'm not absolutely sure why I'm keeping one body original, to be honest, except for a nagging feeling that I ought to. This circumstance may yet change.

Now why rotring themselves won't offer a shorter body for the Artpen is something that has puzzled pen users through the ages. Lots of people don't like them as they are (and had the wit to chop the end off a lot sooner), but other than that they're actually a jolly good pen for the money, and now I like mine considerably more than I did before.

And that Dremel cut-off disk is still in one piece. Which, frankly, I find a good deal more disturbing than pen surgery...

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Got the Sac

So last week I shared my haul-ette of venerable-ish writing implements and how, like an old war horse, my nostrils flared at the whiff of rust removal and tool redemption.

Now the two Parkers were a simple task; they just needed cleaning. Those aerometric sacs Parker made are, I won't say indestructible, but very resilient, and they proved to be sound. So after a lot of flushing with this 'n' that, thinking I'd got it clean, then finding another gob of ink had worked loose, and so forth, I go them inked and writing. The green Victory benefited from a light nib smoothing and now writes very nicely with a generous ink flow, while the Duofold Junior is a joy and feels like an extension of my hand. I can rather see why people like Parkers now; clearly the old uns' are entirely different animals from the ones of my previous acquaintance.

But the button filler of mysterious manufacture was always going to be more of a challenge. As I said, I'd already managed to straighten the seriously bent nib tine - not at all a professional job (there is now a "wrinkle" in the nib) but entirely functional, which it certainly wasn't before. But the sac had ossified and needed replacing (Good word that, isn't it? Ossified. Not one you get to use often), so suddenly I had a shopping list: sac of the correct size, shellac to stick it, French chalk to dust it and keep it moving freely against the pressure bar and interior of the barrel. Order(s) placed. I ended up having to go to two places - I thought I was okay for the shellac, but when I realised how old my shellac is now, I got cold feet and decided it was better to remove possible adhesive failure from this learning process.

So yesterday I was finally all equipped, and set about my task. The "nipple" was already cleaned of old shellac (and you know what fun crusty old shellac is...), so I lined everything up to work out how long I had to cut the sac. They come over-long, and you trim to size. I erred on the side of caution a bit, I suspect, and then trimmed a bit more because I thought I could get a straighter cut. I couldn't - rubbery ink sacs, it turns out, try to bounce knife blades right off rather than be cut to pieces. Who'd have thunk it? So I probably needed around 60mm, and probably got 58. But that's okay.

I expected the actual sac fitting to be fraught with angst, like any and all glue-up jobs ever attempted in the history of man, but it was laughably simple. Beginner's luck? Now it's probably worth mentioning I got the sacs before I had the shellac, so I trimmed the sac to length and left it in situ overnight, which I think helped to give it the idea of what it was expected to fit round. The shellac comes in a nail polish-a-like bottle, so a quick swipe of the (not-overloaded) brush round the nipple put a nice even film of shellac in place. Then just come at the thing at a slight angle so you get one edge in place, hold that, and flip the rest on. The liquid shellac acts as a bit of a lubricant, so it's actually easier than the dry runs I did. Make sure the sac is in line with the rest of the pen and it's evenly stretched and 'tis done. I'd been worrying about doing this for days, and it took twenty angst-free seconds, tops. Huh.

While I had the shellac, I also masked off the loose cap ring and syringed some shellac in there to get it to stop spinning. Seems to have worked okay.

Then you have to go away and not fiddle for at least half an hour. Anxious not to mess the job up, I was über cautious and gave it several hours. But the call to ink was very great, and eventually I had to succumb and get to the reassembly stage. First dust the sac for the aforementioned purpose of stopping it sticking to pressure bar or lever; darn stuff gets everywhere. Also, why do I always seem to end up with hobbies that require having to buy suspicious packages of fine white powder...?

At this stage, reading up before hand is about to pay big dividends. You'd naturally assume that you slide the pressure bar in, slide in the sac attached to the section, and screw the section up tight. And... no. That's apparently A Bad Idea. So first I screwed the section closed with the sac in place. Bye bye, little sac. Please work....

At the other end of the barrel, the blind cap was off and I'd already removed the button with some padded needle-nosed pliers (another nervous moment). Now in goes the pressure bar, through the buttonhole. Clever, huh? Also important to put it facing the right way so the bar will press against the sac correctly. In this instance I'm cautiously sliding the pressure bar in with the sac in front of it, nearest the camera.

Then comes the button, which slips over the top of the pressure bar and is a press fit into its hole. A cautious press, and the definite breathy sound of a squeezed sac. Yip! (Early days to be a full "Yippee")

Now at this point I should have pics of completed assembly, maybe the filling with ink, and such like. But the need to get the thing filled and to try it was too much, and I rushed on, camera forgotten. And, happy day, she works!

A nicely generous flow of ink, and I was greatly chuffed that, unsolicited,  my mum declared it to be "smooth". She rather likes it, actually; I may have to watch that... I'm still tentatively going with a medium stub as the nib type, although I do seem to often view as medium nibs that others happily designate as fine.

So there we go; my first pen repair. As with tools, I seem to favour the lived-in look rather than all shiny and new. But heck, the thing has survived a fair few years; it can show them with pride, can't it?

And yes, I'm absolutely certain doing this is addictive. No cheap, unloved fountain pen in need of rescue will be safe...

Monday, December 02, 2013

Monday Stinks #4

Now how on earth did it get to be December so soon? The festive season will soon be upon us (may the gods have mercy on our souls) and the merry sound of ripping paper and "Oh, you got me socks. Again," will ring through the chilly air.

Now if I'd remembered it was December, I might have chosen festive colours - red I have, but green is lacking. You've no idea how long it took me to bite the bullet and put the Syrah in the Dubonnet  Red Esterbrook; finally decided that if it was going to stain, at least it won't show. But frankly that rich red spilling from that red pen is such a satisfying thing, to hell with the caution.

As expected, the Umber was kicked out of the Serwex flex and the copiously flowing habits of Cult Pens' Deep Dark Brown is proving very successful, and doesn't it shade rather nicely? My opinion of this ink has spun on its head simply by putting it in a different pen. Actually the first three colour/pen combos are starting to feel like keepers.

Yes, the Preppy is still going - but that's another one sporting the Sapphire Blue. I suddenly fancied having another go at a nib grind, so took the 0.5 nib to a cursive italic (It's like an ordinary italic, but its language is appalling...). Now I should have started with the 0.5 size really, but trust me to go the wrong way round and do the more tricky 0.3 first. Ho hum. Anyway, I'm moderately pleased with the result; it's taken a rather dreary and blobby medium and made it a much more interesting writer.

And yes, we do have something of a preponderance of blue on the go at the moment. That is mainly what comes of having several old pens inked and not wanting to risk anything more exciting in them. If the sacs on those two "new" Parkers aren't as sound as they appear, I'd rather they leak something fairly tame and easy to clean...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

It's rust removal, Jim

...but not as we know it.

You know how I said I absolutely wasn't going to get into old pens in a car-boot-sale-scouring way? Well, a lucky break in an antique shop doesn't count, does it?

A black Parker England Duofold Junior with, astoundingly, a soft-ish fine nib and aerometric filler! It may be love. Bit scratched up, but apparently that's their fate. Am hopelessly confused by the Parker timeline (Think of when you first tried to type a Stanley bench plane. Yeah, that bad) but I think it may be from the 60s. Possibly. A later one, anyway.

I think I also said I wasn't going to buy any Parkers, didn't I? Well if you're going to break a resolution, I always say you might as well go big and do the job properly. Another English one with aerometric filler; this time a Victory with a less lovely medium nib. I may grow to like it, you never know. If not, the box may help it find a new owner. This one has a Parker date code, which is supposed to be helpful. Not to me it ain't. But someone did write "25-1-55" on the box, which seems to fit as a likely date of purchase as far as I can tell.

Now that Conway Stewart box. Yeah, about that... Here's the actual Conway Stewart bit in it; a "Nippy" pencil (with five spare leads - handy). I'm not a big posh pencil person, but it's kinda nice, isn't it? I could easily take it as a sign that I need to find a matching pen. Any excuse.

Conway Stewart still makes pens - or rather a new company uses the name and makes pens. They're not cheap, and they're in Devon, so that's two good reasons why I shall likely never own a modern one. ;)

And finally the mystery pen. Utterly unmarked blue and brown marbled button filler. Judging by the rather poor quality bent metal clip (loose) and the three-rings-in-one-piece cap band (also loose), this pen may well aspire to be by a third tier maker. Funky colour scheme, no? Wouldn't have chosen it myself, but it grows on you. Like mould.

Poor thing had suffered in a water attack on that Conway Stewart box (you may have noticed the staining) and lost a good deal of its wafer-thin plating to the resulting oxidisation. Once again I indulged in the heady excitement of crusty rust removal and, I suspect, as a result may be hooked by pen restoration. Dammit. What is it about taking the unloved and unusable implement and making it work again? I just love it. 

Anyway, "Button filler"; meaning you unscrew the end cap and press the little button which pushes on the bar that flexes another bar out to push against the ink sac to squeeze it closed so when you put it in the ink and let go of the button the ink is drawn in. (Clear as mud? How about a demonstration using a cutaway pen here on YouTube.) Except, funnily enough, ingenious though this system is, it doesn't work so well when your ink sac looks like this.

*Shudder*. So I see a steep and exciting learning curve of button removal and sac replacement in my near future. Another one, because I've already tripped the light fantastic on the bent-nib-straightening curve when I cleaned the crusted on ink off the nib of this thing and found unhappiness. But I managed that hurdle okay, and a dip test shows it to be a rather nice medium - I think- stub with a bit of give to it. Very pleasant to write with, so worth getting it working again.

Incidentally, guess what I'll need to stick a new sac on with, kids? Shellac. Hmm, now do I have any of that around here, I wonder...

My initial impressions notes and scribblings while dip testing the three pens

Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday Stinks #3

I would like to think I'm getting better at capturing the full majesty (or not) or some of these colours - but it seems not. The Ancient Copper has not fared well, which is a shame. Anyway, here we go.

I don't think the Umber will stay in the Serwex for long; it's proving to be a little too dry to keep up with the improved flex. Huh, just think, short months ago I'd be going "What the heck do you mean, dry ink?!"

I seem to be in my orange pen phase, here; shocking pink and orange is not a good combination. The orange behemoth, incidentally, was a car boot purchase. Yup, I'm already slipping. It's truly hideous and pretty badly designed, but the ink flows from it in just the right amount, and it's surprisingly smooth. Better than the Waterman, actually.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Small plane, big ticket

Ah, planes, tickets. You going on a long journey, Alf? I hear you wonder. Don't be daft. No, I mean planes. Proper planes. With soles and blades and handles I can complain about.

Belatedly I've remembered that this year's miniature tool from the Lee Valley elves should be about the place, so I went to have a look.

Ooo, it's an ickle spokeshave. Schweet. Darn it, and here's me with a fountain pen-sized hole in my finances where a miniature spokeshave should be. Oh well, my own fault for failing to plan ahead; will have to start saving.

And, you know, I can't help wondering if those handles are customisable...

Financially speaking, it could be a lot worse. I could want one of these:

8mm high (that's, what, 5/16"?) and 14k gold. Well, gold is expensive at the moment, but still - £190.06 (plus delivery!) One hundred and ninety Earth pounds?! (And sixpence). I goggled a bit, I must admit. It's not even than attractive really, is it? I mean it doesn't even appear to have that rounded bit behind the blade to make for a more comfortable pushing experience. Tsk. And the edge holding properties of 14k gold are, I suspect, poor.

Still, if you've just got to have a continental-style hand plane rendered minutely in gold hanging round your (or your best-beloved's) neck, then there you go. Your needs are met. No, don't thank me...

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday Stinks #2

Technically Sunday Stinks, because I'm writing this on Sunday evening (and that's why the lighting is appalling). Oh, and the paper is Q Connect bank paper; small notebook and I ran out of room. Let us not dwell on what style of handwriting I was trying to employ; I clearly failed.

The Kakuno, incidentally, appears to be of the same nib family as the MR/Metropolitan/Penmanship/Plumix/Prera/78G - Pilot's popular group of nib-swapping pens. So in theory you could have a perfectly respectable-looking MR or Prera, quietly sporting a smiley-faced nib under the cap. Which, as someone who's stuck goggly eyes on a hand plane, appeals to me beyond all reason.

(By-the-by, it belatedly occurred to me that not everyone is familiar with their basic Cockney rhyming slang so just in case: Pen and Ink = Stink. See what I did there? Impressed? No, didn't think so...)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Zen and the Art of Graphscribeology

Amongst the comments here, JW asked an interesting thing concerning the effort to improve my handwriting. Viz:

      "Do you find yourself slowing down and thinking more clearly, even just to match pace with your hands? What other effects has it had on you?"

Well, I'd like to say I'm now a more considered writer, thinking through what I'm writing before I commit it to paper. But, um, not yet. Truth is I'm still very much a schizophrenic graph- scribe-, um, handwriter; there's the writing style you get when I'm writing, and then there's the, ha-hum, "style" you get when I'm actually writing. For instance:

On the left is the "nice" writing; I feel like I'm actually making some progress with that now. Tweaking a few things to suit me better, notably some of the upper case, but on the whole it makes a pleasant page to my eye (even in that colour). And I think it's legible.

On the right is the second page of a first draft for this blog post (Whoops - spoilers!). The first page started out... better. But then you get into the flow of thoughts over the flow of your hand, and this ensues. A common problem. The goal is to reduce the gap between the two, and that means lots of practice with the "nice" writing.

Now that has had an unexpected benefit. The classic method to concentrate on how you're writing over what you're writing is, naturally enough, to write out someone else's words. Back in school we were set to copying out recipes, it being an all-girls' school with a curriculum that probably dated from the 1920s... With my own choice of text before me, I started out with poetry; but once I was word-perfect on The Jabberwocky, I felt in (urgent) need of prose. At the moment I'm scribing my way through Good Omens, which should keep me in unusual names and sufficiently amusing jokes to stave off boredom for a while.

I'm trying to spend forty-five minutes to an hour in the evening just writing it out, and I'm finding it's really rather relaxing. The cats and parrots are all abed, the household in general is pretty peaceful and dozing over the crossword, so I don't even need to plug myself into some headphones to be able to focus and get "in the zone". It's rather like sketching or doing watercolours, without needing any grasp of perspective; the formation of the letters becomes the only important thing. And the extra benefit? It's way better than a mug of Horlicks for winding down to go to sleep. Honestly, it is. Perhaps that's just me, but I find it terribly helpful in getting my brain to switch off and stop churning over this 'n' that as it is otherwise wont to do.

So, I'm slowly stacking up the Séyès ruled cahiers with all this practicing, and really by now the gap between legibility and composition ought to be smaller. Except I complicate things. Potential graphscribeologists, learn from my schoolgirl errors:

1. Settle on one pen. Do not introduce fifteen different pens into your arsenal, especially ones that are, by their nature, designed to make you write completely differently. F'rinstance, if you're not learning an italic hand, do not dig out your italic nib:

1(b). Also, do not get side-tracked by different inks, paper, filling systems, etc...

2. Stick with one style of handwriting (see above). Do not randomly make it start sloping backwards and think "Ooo, that's curlier. I might work on that." It Does Not Help.

(Ceased? Seized, dammit. Oh well, it was late...)

2.(b) Do not get side-tracked by how your handwriting is effected by different inks, paper, filling systems, nibs, or wondering if it's possible to have a pen from every pen-making country in the world and still be solvent (Did you know the Turks make fountain pens...?)

3. Basically, don't do it my way.

4. And Pelikan 4001 Violet is pink, whatever anyone says.

May the force be with you your nibs flow sufficiently damply and you ascenders and descenders remain at more or less the same angle throughout.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Putting the Cr and Feh into Art

Another bout of tidying suddenly came upon me.  Not for long, thankfully, but long enough to happen across a postcard from an good friend sadly no longer with us. As ever, she'd found an apposite and interesting postcard to send; an Italian cabinet in the V&A.

All the info on it is here on the V&A's page. You've gotta love the 50s, despite the bum rap they so often get; there was a lot of innovation that went on. Yes, a piece of hand-cut marquetry on a cabinet would be my first choice if the option was offered, but this is actually pretty cool, isn't it? Really worth hitting the link to see it with the doors open too.

Can't help but notice the actual maker gets third billing on the info page. So it goes. But at least there's a mention at all. I may have already told you this story, but by curious by-ways I've ended up hearing tales from a workshop that is employed, amongst other things, by artists to realise their artistic vision. Thoughtfully these incredibly skilled welders and joiners often get invited to the previews of said artist's exhibitions - on strict condition that they don't reveal that they were the ones who actually made the stuff...

Apparently they don't mind, as long as the drinks and nibbles are up to standard. ;)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Monday Stinks

This is mainly for my benefit; rather like listing tools used. If I keep a record of what pen and inks I'm using every week so often, I can see what keeps cropping up, and whatever vanishes from sight can be disposed of.

See? I'm totally going to stay on top of this thing from the start.

Yes, I am.

Should a flicker of interest flare briefly in anyone and they want further illumination of any aspect, speak up.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Have notebook; unlikely to travel

Apparently they reckon four million tablet computers are going to be sold in the UK between now and Christmas. Four million. My mind, she boggled. But then I'd failed to take into account that, apparently, many of them will be for the kiddies. Sheesh. When I was an infant I could whine for the latest trendy gadget 'til I was blue in the face and I'd end up with... a blue face.

Mind you, the latest trendy gadget at the time was a Filofax, and the lack of business contacts to keep track of and international conferences I was attending age ten-ish does, in hindsight, seem a reasonable argument by my parents. Undeterred though, I naturally turned to the DIY option instead. A cannibalised ring binder, some cardboard, and lots and lots of sticky tape later and I had... a not very good DIY Filofax. But it got the thing out of my system at zero cost (apart from the ring binder), I learnt that sticky tape is not the answer to everything, and generally it was a Good Thing, so that was all right.

Probably a bit much to ask the tablet-seeking youth to DIY themselves a printed circuit board and so forth, unfortunately. Perhaps the modern equivalent would be a Raspberry Pi?

Anyway, moving on some *tumpty-tumpty* years, recently I seem to be reliving those glory days of desiring the Trendy Thing, having the financial Powers That Be say "Nope" (The voice of conscience in this case), and turning once more to the DIY option.

The Trendy Thing is the Midori Traveller's Notebook, which is essentially a Filofax but with more elastic. Like the Filofax (and many another Trendy Thing), it promises much; your horizons will be remorselessly broadened and you will likely become a world traveller to rival Alan Whicker just by buying this notebook. Much like the beguiling idea that you'll become really organised by buying a Filofax. Well, no, you won't. But how appealing that it might possibly be so.

What's not appealing is the price, and particularly the cost of the (oddly-sized, and thus next to impossible to get from anyone else) "inserts". Or "notebooks" as the less broadly-horizoned stay-at-home such as myself might call them. So very like a Filofax then.

But it had hooked me despite my better judgement and the Wisdom of Age (yeah, right), and these days with the effects of the aluminium pans kicking in, I really need to make notes of things then and there or they will be utterly lost to me. Plus I find I need a diary; having to keep track of the folks' appointments for this'n'that really wasn't working on my iPod's calendar, because they won't believe it's true unless it's written down on paper...

Anyway, many excuses justifications later I went forth to a) DIY it, and b) Make it a more useful size, and c) Find lots of other people had got their first and the web is littered with instruction on making your own, and inserts to go with it. Huzzah!

I went with the info at My Life in One Place; there is much there, and a video somewhere that I can't currently find going through it all step by step. A general Google search will find lots of info, videos and etc. The 90mm x 140mm notebook size means it'll take notebooks by all sorts of manufacturers (Rhodia, Clairefontaine, Calepino, as well as Field Notes and the over-hyped but readily available Moleskine), but actually I ended up making my own notebooks as well.

Idiot that I am; shoulda put the knot on the outside. It's a learning process. Also had mediocre success with printing out a diary - it works, but the size won't come out quite right. But hey, wide margins for notes are a feature, right?

The cover itself is rescued from a chisel roll that I have always hated. I pretty much still hate it - the split leather effect is not great, and the colour is... well, yeah - so now I've ascertained this system does seem to work for me, I'm considering actually purchasing some leather that I like to make a replacement (*swiftly gags the voice of conscience before it points out the likelihood of spending more on the DIY version than it'd cost to buy the real thing*). Elastic is 2mm round, widely sold to the beading fraternity. 1.5mm seems to be okay too, but 1mm I found a little too thin.

For this pocket sized version, hair bands - yes, hair bands - make excellent extra elastics for joining notebooks together, and have a neat joining metal crimpy thing, thus eliminating a need for knots. Something other than neon orange would probably be preferable, but that's all I could find at the time...

Still very much a work in progress (it's already changed from these pictures), and some improvements needed. Not wildly happy with the current pen holder, f'rinstance - and not just because it's ugly as hell...

Anyway, all good fun and useful. Oh, and an excuse for some tool use; aside from a leather punch, an in-canel gouge makes a neat job of rounding the corners, and an awl unexpectedly found itself plucked from obscurity and re-designated as a bookbinder's tool. 

Bookbinding; now there's a whole other slippery slope... No. Nope. Not going there.