Saturday, November 08, 2014


Ten years ago I was looking forward to the Axminster Show. Sigh. Good times.

Mind you, back then I'd go online and be inspired to get into the workshop. These days I'm more likely to be inspired to throttle someone...

On which anger-management-challenged note, having finally crawled to the nice round figure of ten, I go no further and will be moth-balling this blog. The decision was up in the air for a while, but when even an on-topic post concerning a workbench goes unmolested methinks it's long past its sell by date! So thanks for your company over the years, and may your edges remain sharp but unbloodied. ;)

Au revoir.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Fountain Pen Day 2014

I believe I've mentioned this before, but you can't do this with a ballpoint.

Put the fount (and the ain) back into your life and pick up a fountain pen. Heck, a disposable one will do - they're really very good and zero maintenance. Look for Pilot V-Pens (or Varsities, if you're in 'Murrica).

Right, I'm away to drool over some inks and try not to give in and buy any. Good luck with that, I hear you perspicaciously remark...

Monday, November 03, 2014

Monday Stinks #15

In celebration of Friday's Fountain Pen Day, a brief return for Monday Stinkage. (Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the inkwell...) Evidently I still haven't got to grips with the best way to capture ink colour. Ah well.

J Herbin Café des Îles is not a remarkable ink, but a pleasant one, and it looks great on cream paper. It seems to go well in a Bedrock Flake Edison Beaumont, currently sporting a fine nib reground by moi to be a little italicised.

Pelikan 4001 Blue-Black has pretty much taken the post of everyday ink at the moment; you just don't have to worry about it, and it has a soupçon of water resistance which can be handy. Currently living in the M200 Pelikan, which boasts being one of the few pens I haven't butchered customised.

Diamine Ancient Copper does not photograph well, which is a crime. So much better in the flesh, and possibly just a bit too wet to bing out its best coming from the Indian Gama Airborne with substitute Onoto flex nib.

Diamine Bilberry I really didn't take to at first, but once you get used to more lubricated inks and sheen effects, it comes into its own. Arguably a Pilot extra-fine nib in a Kakuno is not the best way to show it off, but as writing experiences go with such a fine point, it's hard to beat.

Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-Peki seems to be pretty much the Iroshizuku everyone ends up with (if they end up with one at all), and it's nice enough. I'm not sure that the considerably cheaper Sailor range of inks aren't just as smooth flowing and well-behaved though, just not always so widely available. The restored cobalt blue and bronze button filler of unknown parentage is currently enjoying this particular tipple, because naturally the no-name battered old thing should get the premium ink...

Finally Pelikan Edelstein Garnet, an ink I dismissed as utterly without upsides (apart from being a free gift), until it caught my eye as I was chucking out a finished scribble notebook. What gorgeous glowing red is this? I exclaimed. Deduction lead to Garnet being the only possible answer, so I gave it another chance. Once you get your head into the idea that, where Pelikan is concerned, red will aways tend towards orange, it's better. (Their 4001 "Brilliant Red" is basically a day-glo orange with a hint of red that will sear off your retinas if looked at for more than 1.03 of a second. I'd ink something up with it and show you, except Fountain Pen Day is about encouraging FP use...) But it is not a great ink, despite its fancy perfume-bottle-like presentation. Currently dwelling in a battered Parker "New" Duofold (c.1953-61) whose nib was so worn to the previous owner's hand that drastic measures had to be taken to make it usable. Purists would, probably justifiably, frown. Purists may go away and stick their heads in a bucket. Probably by Montblanc.

Anyway, there we go. So yes, the pens are still getting a workout; zibaldones are getting finished at regular three month intervals, plus I'm attempting to learn/relearn/stop-mis-remembering some French, and there's nothing like writing it down to get it sticking in the memory, non? (Je dis oui.)

Friday, October 31, 2014

Bugs, Aliens, and Daleks

You know your blog posting is sporadic when the layout of the post composition page seems to have changed every time you log in...

I should put that on a t-shirt. By necessity, it'll have to be quite a large t-shirt.

So October was fairly disastrous; technology failed me, and me failed me. As always seems to be the case, despite having a social diary to rival an Olympic-grade hermit, I succumbed to that well-known ailment "There's a lot of that going about". Well it was going about, but then it decided it liked the amenities, so stayed around, moved in all its DVDs and toothbrush, and pretty much hasn't gone anywhere. Ho hum.

Meanwhile, my friendly neighbourhood aliens, BT Open Reach, have been playing silly bu- bothersome telephone engineer games and have left me to bask in such download speeds as 70kpbs and the like. Yes, that's Kbps. That's... slow. I can't recall if I've previously shared my theory about Open Reach engineers and the protective ring that is put about them so you can never actually speak to them directly? My assumption is that they are, in fact, all members of a telecommunicationally-gifted race of aliens who crashed landed on Earth, can't fix the spaceship (but their 'phone line to home is crystal clear), and have had to make their way in the world as best they can while they wait for spares to be delivered from the planet Lucas15. Alas, they can't actually converse in any way acceptable in public, so while BT were happy to hire some reasonable engineers on the cheap (even if their driving skills are clearly a bit iffy), they do have to ensure the general public never actually has a chance to speak to them and discover the hideous truth. I suspect further hideous truth involves entirely scheduled disruption to our contracted service, but as long as they don't actually tell us that they don't have to make any recompense. But then I'm a wee bit cynical that way.

While all that was going on I was fighting a desperate, and ultimately unsuccessful, rearguard action trying to save my 'puter from imminent death. I finally gave up the fight when the video display simply ceased to display and yet I could still hear the hard drive, which was the part that was claimed to be breathing its last, still merrily clunking away behind the blank black screen. Ah, technology, gotta hate its guts, haven't you? Still, now I truly know I am Old; instead of doing the happy New Computer Dance like all the cool kids, I have been steeped in misery whilst learning the new quirks and foibles. Friends, such is my advanced state of carpet slipper wearing, I would rather things just bally well worked and continued to so do until the end of time or when I've finished with them, whichever is later. Sigh.

On the plus side, I've now ascertained that the front screen of a late 2009 iMac may be readily removed with the aid of the common sink plunger, so now we know why the Daleks carry them...

Okay, that was October. Next Friday sees the first Friday in November, and thus Fountain Pen Day is upon us, so dust off those nibs and decant that ink in readiness. And the day after that the blog will reach its 10th birthday. Zoicks.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Cypriot Delight

My brother and sister-in-law just had a holiday in Cyprus, and brought back the folks a box of Cyprus Delight. They haven't opened it yet, but I am agog to know what Cypriots delight in as opposed to what delights a Turk.

What delights me is unexpected bench spotting, and Cyprus turned up this one, apparently doing duty as the breakfast sideboard.

 The board with the circular depressions is not connected.

 Nice wooden tail vice; nothing of great remark.

Another tail vice on the other end? Seems to have been added on, and isn't very convinced about staying that way. Now who or what purpose would want a tail vice at each end? 

Too bad they didn't get a shot of it front on, but I'm encouraged by getting the family as well-trained as this. Perseverance pays.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Events, dear boy. Events.

I was all set to be a good little blogger this month. i.e. Actually posting something. Unfortunately we had a little collapsing in the garden drama, ambulance action, and hospital visiting, which resulted in the Old Man getting unexpectedly equipped with a pacemaker.

Someone explain to me how its battery will last years without the need to recharge by plugging him in at night until his nose stops flashing. And why can't we use it for cordless drills?

Anyway, there we are. He seems a lot better for it, once they sorted out the clash between his natural samba rhythm and the newly installed 3/4 time... Frankly, though, it's a rather too stressful means of receiving BUPA-speed service via the NHS for my personal taste.

In the meantime, ponder the wisdom (or not) of Plymouth University splashing the cash on some Makepeace chairs. As an educational establishment, I can't help feeling it's a shame they're not encouraging a newly qualified furniture maker or student rather than the old guard. (And as someone whose experience of sitting in a Makepeace-designed chair for any length of time was a painful one, I can't help wondering if the faculty's collective behinds may rue the decision as the graduation ceremonies drag on...)

Friday, September 12, 2014


Hey, amazing news! I bought a tool.

I know what you're thinking. Swarovski crystal handle, hand-hewn from the crystal mines of... No? You weren't thinking that? Oh. You were thinking "What have you gone and done now, Alf"? Ah. Well, yes, fair enough. As it happens this elegant example of the screwdriver manufacturers' art was not the primary goal.

It was the 30-odd pieces of black plastic and an assortment of screws and springs.

Oh, and some instructions. In Chinese. Not Chinglish, for which I have an inexplicable fondness, but actual hanzi. Thank goodness for the interweb, where I could find not only the instructions in English but also several articles on and additional photos of the building process. The end result is this:

A 35mm Twin Lens Reflex camera. (Stick "Recesky" or "Garraflex" (or both) in Google and you can learn all about it.) It's something between an Airfix kit and an Ikea flatpack, both of which I have some experience with. Such as checking you have all the parts and counting the screws before you start; I had a couple of spare washer head screws at the finish, which could have caused worry had I not known they were extras. A couple of very similar parts were transposed in their tray locations too, which held me up a little. So no, I didn't make it within the suggested hour, but it was less than two.

And it actually works. I put a test roll of film through it and got it developed yesterday in my local independent camera shop (Pause for a moment and dwell on the excitement that there is a local independent camera shop. Actually there are two. Amazing.) They all came out, all in focus, and no light leakage. Really pretty impressive, and bags of character. (That's code for "tiny area actually in focus" and "dark corners/vignetting") My previous camera use has been purely means to an end stuff; this is more "Have camera, what can I photograph?" Different experience entirely, and seeing the familiar through the reverse image viewfinder adds a Through The Looking-Glass aspect too. All in all a fascinating thing. Ridiculously satisfying too, especially making the shutter work. click click click click click


The scanner elected to make them a little redder than they should be, but you get the gist. The double exposure was unintended - although I did plan to try one anyway, albeit not quite like that... You know those Easter Island heads? Look at that sundial and tell me you don't see their extremely flat-headed cousins.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Arms and Legos

Zoicks! How can it already be the fourth of the month? Is it me, or has 2014 flown by on wingéd feet?

As you may gather from my helpfully numerically-equipped little plastic pals, some of that time has involved sorting through a very old box of Lego. (Sorry, not "old", but "classic", apparently.) It wasn't actually as horrific an experience as I'd feared, and I was mildly amused that my Lego collection accumulation is actually quite revealing. Although, no, I never actually wanted to be an astronaut or fireman... More telling were the following:

1. The alteration of production parts to fit own requirements is widespread. Cracked helmets have been carefully cut down to make bandanas, for instance. (I felt a tiny glow of pride in my younger self for that one).

2. One of the very first sets I ever had was the Fire Station. It has two pairs of rolling garage doors, which can only be described as little plastic tambour doors. So that's where the fascination probably started.

3. There are no fewer than three parrots. In real life arguably two have proved two too many...

4. Boats feature heavily. Fire boat, galleon, rowing boats, etc.

5. The only non-Lego thing in the entire box was... an ink cartridge. Honestly, I kid you not.

Alas, Lego has always rather shunned the woodworking fraternity, otherwise I'd have expected to find lots and lots of short brown flats, just too good to throw away but of no practical use for building anything... ;)

Anyway, all very well, but boy, was the stuff dusty. So a good deal of washing of bricks has gone on. Which is the easy bit; drying it all off again takes time. And in some cases, a towel:

Oh, how I loved these little Technic guys. Not quite the spookily mindless smile of the original mini figures, but also not the contorted gurning and grimacing of the modern figures facial expressions either. And flexible, too. Although, having said that, their ankles are a definite weak point, and worse...

Someone lend this poor fellow a hand.

Okay, so nice idea, but that's not going to work. More a case of a transplant (from an aforementioned weak-ankled colleague).

And ready for the slopes once again. But what are you doing, Trev? What's that? Haven't I seen the Lego Movie? Well, no, I... Huh? Cracked helmets are fashionable? Oh, for...

Right, right, sorry. Enough Lego. I apologise, but also fair warning - they may well return here and there, now I've liberated them from the box.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Devil in the Detail

In this brave new world where Big Brother doesn't just watch us but offers us recommendations on what to do next, it's true that my somewhat eclectic approach to Google can lead to some unusual suggestions. This recent one, though, I found just a tiny bit disturbing...

Inevitably, aside from the "Hang on, why are you recommending this to me?!" reaction, I find myself wondering what he/she did learn. At the very least presumably how he takes his coffee. Perhaps with a nice slice of Angel Cake...?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dread Scrolls See?

It's not good when a software update takes near 24 hours to download and install - not so happy memories of Windoze there, thanks, Apple. It's also slightly aggravating that apparently I now have to learn to switch from a horizontal email inbox layout to a vertical one. However, I can reach deep inside myself, forgive that ridiculously unnecessary change, and merely philosophically remark that I just need a few days of adjustment to get used to it. I'm not an unreasonable short-tempered technophobe, after all.

However, why in the name of all the gods does my scroll wheel now have to be scrolled up to go down the page?! It's going to take me forever to unlearn that one, you sadistic bar stewards!!!

Actually, that reminds me - my memory fails me on the detail, but isn't there at least one brand of Bailey pattern plane that elected to have the thread on the depth adjustment knob going the opposite way to "usual" (i.e. Not like Stanley)? I always felt that was a real argument for not mixing brands. Add in differences in cap irons (Record Stay-Set/Clifton, I'm looking at you and the Amazing Toe Hitting two part cap iron), lever caps (Millers Falls, you individualists, you), etc, and it's a minefield out there for the old tool user with a wide range of tools to choose from. As a result the clear-sighted user quickly realises that, for maximum efficiency, you clearly need one of each size in every brand you have*. Just to avoid embarrassing delays brought about by incorrect tool adjustment.

Tool justification? Apparently it's like riding a bike; you never really lose the knack...

* If I were to try implementing this I would be in so much trouble, it's not true. Not from The Management, but from the laws of physics. You simply can't put that much cast iron in one place without shifting the magnetic poles or something. Fairly sure the "Welcome to Earth" user's guide is very clear on not shifting magnetic poles about. Right between "It won't get better if you pick it" and "Leaving the room will always result in a goal".

Friday, August 22, 2014

Kerb Kerve

For years I've admired a kerbstone in the city of Truro. I can't honestly say that's normal, but there it is. Yesterday, I finally managed to get myself, the kerbstone, the camera, and some sunshine all in the same place at once.

Look at that shape. (I dunno, would we call that an ovolo with quirk?)  It's granite, for the love of Mike. How ever long did it take some unknown artisan to shape that thing so cleanly? And, more to the point, why? But 'tis a thing of beauty, and thus I share it with the interweb.

A little way down the road, a view of the cathedral ended up, quite by chance, with a rather apposite shop sign in shot. Made me chuckle anyway.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Lack of blogging confession? Ack, take that as read. (Hello to anyone still out there, by the way. Clearly I still aten't dead.)

No, this is something that's been weighing on my mind since November, and now that September is nearly here, I feel the need to unburden. It's simple really, and goes something like this:

Old catalogue covers make great fodder for homemade custom made notebook covers.

The emphasis being on old. No longer current. Not, say, from September 2013 - 2014 inclusive. To my horror, I went to grab an old copy of the LV catalogue in order to liberate its gorgeous cover for a notebook and somehow, I know not how, I only realised it was the current one after I'd sliced the cover off. Nearly a whole year as a naked catalogue. I hardly know how to look it in the index. I'm sorry, Lee Valley catalogue, really I am. Forgive me. But you do make a very lovely notebook...

And while we're talking of mistakes, an aberration in Photoshop yielded this result, which I couldn't quite bear to discard. I think I want all my maps in white on black now, please...

Thursday, June 19, 2014


Now I don't want to shock you or anything, but just for fun, some tool-related musing. Two things caught my eye that amused me, and there's a remote chance they might amuse someone else.

First up, I thought Amazon surprisingly frank in their product description when they describe this Am-Tech duo as a "double blister".

Then, as we head towards kick-off, this Official England Toolkit caught my eye. The very thing for hasty rebuilding of defences at half time, one presumes.

Of course being a football kit, they'll probably have another one of a slightly different design for sale in a month's time...

Monday, June 09, 2014


Tool purists may want to look away now. Pen purists ditto. So-called "upcyclers" might like it though. Yes, it starts out pen-related, but woodworking happens. Just a little bit.

A few months ago I fell across a Parker GB "Slimfold" sans cap, but with a rather nice gold nib. I figured I might be unbelievably lucky and find a cap, or at least find another home for the nib, so divvied up the necessary lettuce and took on custodianship. Well it turns out the nib on a Slimfold is insanely small. I mean really, it's minute. Does the job in its intended body, but finding another donor body for it? Not outside another Slimfold. Another learning experience.

Of course there was nothing actually wrong with its existing body; to all intents and purposes it's a working pen, just without a hat. So then I started to think laterally and wonder about desk sets. You know the things; usually a pen-holding trumpet (or two), usually empty, sometimes with an ink well, sometimes with a calendar, clock, or some kitsch ornament of something or other. They're everywhere and no-one wants them.

At least they're everywhere right up until you consistently take a cap-less Slimfold in your pocket on the off-chance you'll find a suitable set and can see if the pen will fit nicely in it. The things all vanished from sight overnight. It was uncanny.

Time passed. Tired of the gods trifling with me (again), I finally decided to at least find out if my lateral thinking wasn't off the wall so much as up the wall, and threw one of those pen holders marketed to the turning fraternity into an order for something else. It turned (!) up and, well, let's say it's very shiny. At the moment. Not sure how long the coating will last, but hardly surprising at the price. However, it fit the Slimfold like a flaming glove. If I didn't know better - and the cap threads didn't totally give it away, not to mention it being rather short for a desk pen - I'd swear it was made for it. Excellent.

Buoyed by this progress, I got out the atlas and looked up directions to the workshop. A few false turns later and after evicting the new civilisation that had evolved under the Maxi26, I was staring at my stash of exotic off-cuts for inspiration. Rosewood? Something turned? Something incorporating that old boxwood rule? I'll just move this battered old mortise gauge head aside and... Oh, that's heavy.


So one split rosewood (An outside chance it might be ebony, but unlikely I fancy) mortise gauge head with an inevitably chewed-up clamp screw, but the brass escutcheon and wear strips in place and good order. Appears to have been used to hammer in small pins at one time and several areas where wood has split off. Not wildly promising, now I came to look at it, but I cleaned it up anyway and gave it the knackered wood equivalent of a swipe of lippy and some blusher. Shiny. Let's call it "Vintage" - that covers a multitude of sins.

Okay, so a gauge head has, by its nature, a large hole in the middle of it. I decided this was where the pen holder would go, screwed to another piece of wood that I could cunningly hold in place with the clamp screw. That way no permanent damage caused, should the world run so utterly short of old mortise gauge heads that this one ever became desirable again... A dive into the Even-Smaller-Exotic-Off-Cuts yielded a suitable piece of Muhuhu, and a file made reasonably short and accurate work of shaping up a suitable plug. And yes, a file; don't start on me. It's not only small, but a cross-grained evilly-minded piece of wood, and a file was the best tool for the job. Apart from having to grind a brass M4 machine screw down to the required length, the rest was a boring as drilling a hole might be expected to be. A trio of non-slip little rubber feet completed the thing, and behold! The old tool and fountain pen lunatic's ideal desk pen?

Once the freshly cleaned brass has dimmed down a little again, it'll knit together better. Anyway, you see what I meant by battered; that poor gauge suffered horribly.

Anyway, there ya go. Not to everyone's taste, I know, but I like it. Very tactile, and I'm pretty sure, unique. Now we just wait to see if the pen is up to the task; I imagine leaking and/or drying out are both possibilities, but as both the pen and myself are novices at a desk pen existence, I really have no idea. Oh goody, another learning opportunity...

Monday, June 02, 2014

Pencil Ponderings

"Oh no," I hear you cry. "She's going nuts for pencils now. Where will it all end?!"

Well, no, this is actually more of a woodworking post. Although... okay, so I may have been looking at pencils with more than passing interest. Just looking.

So, if everyone would please turn to page 62 of their copy of “De Rerum Fossilium Lapidum et Gemmarum Maxime, Figuris et Similitudinibus Liber” and look at figure 7.5. What d'you mean you haven't got your textbook with you, Crapforth? Share with Binns Minor then.

Not having a copy either, I don't know exactly where it may be found among the pages, but in 1565 (or maybe 1567), a Swiss gent called Conrad Gessner (or Gesner) had his book published, and apparently as all students of pencil history know, gave us the first description of a pencil:

"The stylus shown below is made for writing, from a sort of lead, which I have heard some call English antimony, shaved to a point and inserted in a wooden handle."

Thus more of a lead holder than what we might think of as a pencil, but let us not quibble. Not much to go on regarding construction from Conrad, but some bright German sparks have come up with a modern take on the thing; the Cleo Skribent Der Gessner Pencil:

Okay, so at this point I got interested. All wood, including the "clutch" mechanism. I went on a search for more images:

Some other useful angles here and here. And with some Photoshoppery magic, created this:

Initial measurements (and some of the pics) came from the fascinating Dave's Mechanical Pencils Blog, and from there I worked out what I think are some of the other key dimensions (could be a mm here and there - they're a handmade thing anyway) and gathered all the salient facts together.

Lead diameter: 5.6mm
Overall length: 154mm
Barrel diameter: 12mm
Barrel flared end: 15.5mm
Barrel materials: Cherry, or Swiss Pear, or Maple, or Spanish Broom
Clutch holder overall length: 34mm
Clutch holder collar (large) diameter: 9mm
Clutch holder collar length: 11mm
Clutch holder shaft (small) diameter: 8.5mm tapering down to 8mm
Clutch holder material: ?

Thoughts on the best choice of species for the clutch holder are encouraged. I wondered about beech; it looks beech-like here. But I presume it has to be able to give slightly, and perhaps beech is too hard. 

Anyway, there ya go - someone go forth and make one. Lead of the right size is readily available online, and a handmade workshop pencil might be something different for folks seeking ideas for Secret Santa. There are only so many marking knives, gauges, and screwdriver handles you can gift before you've saturated the market. Then come back here and tell us about it. 

Before you ask, yes, I'd have taken a crack at it already if my tailstock didn't need the strength of ten to wind it in and out - I've disassembled it, I've squinted at it, I've greased it, and I still have no idea what its problem is. Heck, if squinting at it doesn't work, I'm all out of ideas.

Of course all of the above presupposes that there hasn't already been one or more in depth articles on the making of same already, all of which have eluded me entirely. In which case, apologies; I'm so out of touch I could be a High Court Judge...

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Monday Stinks #14

No, it's not Monday. I do know that. However, as I left them out in the Big Ink Up before, I thought I'd toss in a one-off:

Wednesday Quinks!

I can hear your little hearts going pitty-patter in sheer excitement. Try and contain yourselves.

I should add the Vector is of UK manufacture and for some reason it's giving me more trouble getting comfortable with its italic nib than any other calligraphy pen I've ever tried. I believe it may be traced to its slim and somewhat slippery metal section; my grip allows the pen to swivel and all is then destined for disaster. Very early days yet though, so with luck I'll overcome it. The Soyuz, meanwhile, tends to make me write such things as The Superior Red Bear Jumps Over The Lazy Capitalist Dogs. Even my mother, when she tried it, ended up writing Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as Russian snow, and everywhere that Mary went the KGB was sure to go. Not sure we'll ever overcome that. 

Oh, and the other colour is my Pelikan Turquiose/Blue-Black mix.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Crusty the Clown

So I knew all about Ancient Copper's reported occasional forays into crustiness, but my first experience of The Thing From Beyond The Inkwell is, in fact, Rohrer and Klingner's lovely golden Helianthus.

Eeek! It's Alive!

Well, no. Despite appearances I don't think it's actually eating the pen; it wipes off readily enough. But then this is the advantage of the Cheap Pen; it's not a disaster if it does get ate. Most likely this is actually as a result of one of the disadvantages of the Cheap Pen - many of them dry out frustratingly readily, and orange dyes in particular seem to like to grow crystals as a result. I was actually deliberately leaving them all unused for a few days to ascertain which were the worst culprits, and already had a strong suspicion that these Oliver Exam piston fillers were habitual offenders. It's a shame, because they're really not bad little pens, but along with the drying out is the hideous truth that they have the most pungent example of "pong-y pen syndrome" I've yet come across. Seriously; seventeen-babies-have-all-thrown-up-simultaneously-into-my-pen-cup whiff-o-rama. Not good.

Still, this is kinda fun in a strange, twisted, mild pen-suffering way. Sort of like growing your own cheesy Wotsits.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Bleached Whale

Fairly sure, as I splashed on the bleach, that this poor piece of paper (Clairefontaine 90gsm) was starting to wonder what it ever did to make me hate it so...

Waaaaay, too saturated. Seriously, I have no idea why it looks so dark once it's been uploaded; most aggravating. Anyway... Both Pelikan 4001 Blue-Black and Rohrer & Klingner Salix have kissed goodbye to what remained of their blueness, Diamine Sapphire Blue still defies all the odds by turning into yet another (slightly paler) shade of blue. I am never putting that stuff in a demonstrator ever. Amazingly Waterman Serenity Blue and J Herbin Violette Penseé still haven't been utterly obliterated either. Ignore the Deep Dark Brown; it's not nearly as legible as the scan suggests.

The clear winner, utterly unmoved, is Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa. Slightly surprising, but maybe because it always looks like it's already been washed out the difference is less noticeable?

But what of Noodler's Prime of the Commons? Still there, albeit not nearly as saturated as it was (or as the scan suggests). But for me it's a disappointing failure. Let us take at look at the claim for it:

"If bleach is added to the ink when dried, it will turn a bright blue colour to show that a forgery has been attempted."

Now, personally, I consider that's about as bright blue as the original colour is blue-black. Pish and tush; no fun at all.

Also pish and tush because I have no idea why I persistently miss out the "The" in its name. Somehow I got it into what passes for my brain that it didn't have one. Ah well. Do I care? No. If the ink lived up to its blurb, maybe. As it is I shall happily embrace the much more readily acquired European inks with easily-remembered names such as Fernambuk, Rouille d'Ancre, and... Hypnotic Turquoise. (Huh? "Watch the bottle of ink. Round and round it goes. Watch the ink. You are feeling sleepy...")

Can't think of any more ways to torture this paper now, so will retire it to keep as a salutary lesson on transient nature of most inks and to remind myself to take care about the ones that aren't going to readily go away. i.e. Do not write New Year's resolutions in Scabiosa...

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Washing Day

So I have a page with an example of all my inks on, right?

Does this, or does this not, appear to be an unrivalled opportunity to find out which ones are water resistant and which are not? I believe it does.

Behold! The Catastrophic Beverage Spillage Reenactment Experiment:

And in the Water? What Water? Category, the winner is...

Well, a totally unsurprising four-way split between:
Noodler's Prime of Commons. Well, duh - it's advertised as waterproof, and will also change colour if you try to tamper with it using bleach. (Oh, bleach test. Might have to try that too...) Mind you, it's also claimed as a blue-black, when it's clearly green-black, so take nothing on trust.
Rohrer & Klingner Salix and Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa. Both iron gall-based inks, like wot woz used in Days Of Yore, only less acidic these days. (i.e. We suffer less from the troublesome results of the ink surviving but eating the paper around it. And possibly the pen. Iron gall is why gold nibs were the desired thing; a bias that survives to this day, even though in actual writing terms the basic metal of the nib is irrelevant.)
Pelikan 4001 Blue-Black. The One That Might Be Iron Gall. If it looks like a pelican duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck... But Pelikan are not helpful; people ask them "Does it have iron gall in it?" and sometimes Pelikan say "Ja, it has a little" and sometimes Pelikan say "Nein, it does not". Possibly it depends on the day of the week or phase of the moon. Or whether you speak to Gerta or to Heinrich. I feel compelled to note that both Lamy and Montblanc have altered their blue-black inks so they no longer contain IG, and they're still, as far as I'm aware, available in the USA. Pelikan have not altered their recipe, and it's not available in the USA any more. You may, perhaps, draw conclusions from this; I really don't know.

In the You Can Read Me Easily, But I'm Feeling Off-Colour Category we find:

Diamine Sapphire Blue An intensely annoying ink, because it goes down as a gorgeous rich purply blue, and then dries to And then it gets wet and goes to... another blue. Which does explain why it's a bane to clean; it will not die. I love it not, however legible under water.
J Herbin Violette Penseé How an ink with such a pale presence and low saturation still survives so legibly, if more bluely, I do not know. Remarkable. I only have cartridges of this and didn't like it at first, but I'm warming to it. Maybe not enough for a bottle though.
Diamine Syrah Bath night brings out its purple side, it seems. Now it looks more like Violette Penseé looks pre-bath, which is oddly disturbing. A Liverpudlian Franco-phile?

The others are much of a squint-and-you-can-just-make-it-out muchness, although I'm surprised how much Waterman Serenity Blue still remains, but then we get to the real losers. The scan is generous, so you can at least make out a haze where Rohrer & Klingner Helianthus and Diamine Blaze Orange once were (Oh, they may be aqua-phobes, but such lovely colours). Diamine Denim is virtually a no-show and the idea of actually trying to read Rohrer & Klingner Fernambuk, Diamine Bilberry or Waterman Absolute Brown (which is apparently only absolute if laid on with a trowel, it seems) is laughable, however the

Dr Richard Kimble Prize for Most Fugitive Ink goes to: Diamine Kelly Green

Unfortunately it couldn't be here to receive its award... Truly, a lovely spring-like green with super shading, but it comes as no surprise it vanishes at the sight of a rain cloud on the horizon because it's the easiest ink to clean out of a pen ever. People caution you against the staining properties of purples and greens in clear demonstrators and white pens. but I would but DKG in any of them without a moments qualm. Just don't commit your life's work to paper in Kelly Green if you like to write in a coffee shop. pub, tea room, during meal times, in the shower, anywhere outside the Atacama Desert, etc...

Conclusion? This is right up there in scientific analysis terms with, oh, a Fine Woodworking Tool Test. But I had fun. Now where's that bottle of bleach....

Monday, May 05, 2014

Monday Stinks #12b

It's Bank Holiday Monday and it's raining. Must the weather be so clichéd? Ah well, can't mow grass in the rain (Yay!), so instead I bring you a cautionary example of what happens when a) You have way too many different inks, and b) You have a crazy fondness for insanely cheap pens. Yes, you get an idea to put every ink into as many cheap, not-the-end-of-the-world-if-it-dies pens as you can. The end result is this:
If you're feeling competitive, you can play Guess The Most Expensive (in the pot) - careful though, remember I do love to hunt down a bargain and all that glitters is frequently tat... Three of the pens listed below aren't Pot of Inky Doom dwellers; the iron gall inks Salix and Scabiosa are pretty much permanent in their pens anyway, and Serenity Blue is generally inked up in something old (such as the Parker 45 currently), so no point in duplicating. Besides, the pot can only hold so many...

Oh, and I confess I have failed to have a Quink Blue cartridge on the go (Because, well, bleurgh) or the elderly pot of Quink Black (Because it's, well, also pretty bleurgh. It's only claim of distinction in the modern world is it being old enough to be avec Solv-X)

Colours are fairly accurate on my monitor in terms of how they relate to each other, but they're way too saturated. And is it actually possible to ever do Syrah justice in pixel form? Apparently not. Shame. Although on the flip side of the coin it's been very generous to Garnet.

Now excuse me while I go away and write "No more pens and positively no more ink" one thousand times in the hopes it might actually stick . And hey, it'll use up some ink... 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Problematic Pistons

On Monday I shared a pic of a piston filler suffering a little seepage where it should not, and given the resulting flood of interest...

Er, yes. Anyway, I thought I'd give the interweb the benefit of my experience in the fixing of Indian-made "Serwex" brand piston fillers. The interweb doesn't want it? Too bad. It's a saga, I warn you.

So I fairly recently took delivery from India of a "new" model of pen from the Fountain Pen Revolution line of pens - the "Guru". In truth it's a slightly tweaked Serwex 162, but with a clear demonstrator model available I was an easy mark for it. FPR make Indian brands of fountain pen available outside the domestic market, and commission models of their own, and this is the latest (and cheapest) entry. They're big draw is a modern, affordable flex nib, which is really not half bad for the coinage. Add in the fact that they set up the nib for you and the darn thing flows beautifully even at full flex, and it's a steal quite honestly. So anyway, I order one clear flex Guru and about a week later it drops on the doormat. And it writes like an angel. Happy days.

About two or three weeks later, I take the thing apart to clean it thoroughly (a drawback to clear demonstrators is, of course, they can look cruddy pretty quickly if you don't stay on top of the pen hygiene), and find to my unhappiness that the piston seal has split in two. No seal, no suck. No suck, no ink. No ink, no write. Well, darn.

Now as it happens, back when I made my first order with FPR, they threw in a Serwex 162 free, gratis and for nothing. Which wrote very nicely, but had a tendency to dry out quickly, so I rather consigned it to the Box of The Damned. Or rather the Box of The I'll Do Something About That Sometime, The Gods Know When. But hey, the Guru is just a 162 in Emperor's Clothing, right? I'll swipe the piston seal from that and away I go.

Well, double darn. The piston seal on that had split as well!

Okay, maybe this is not such a good buy...

But undeterred, I look speculatively at the piston and think "Self, might not an O-ring or two go on there and maybe, just maybe, work?" Well, I'm a fairly recent convert to the all-round usefulness of O-rings, but it seemed Self might be onto something. And so it proved. A couple of O-rings a piece later and I have a functioning pair of piston fillers again. Huzzah.

But I was worried. I'd found no anecdotal evidence on the face of the interweb that the Sewex piston seals were prone to this. Was it something I was doing wrong? Was I...  a fountain pen killer?! So, just to be on the safe side, I emailed Kevin at FPR to check. His verdict? He's seen it a couple of times but I'm incredibly unlucky to have two in two.

Oh, that figures.

Anyway, he reassured me that I'm not a pen killer and kindly sent a replacement Guru, even though, as I said, I'd fixed it. Which is pretty decent service when it's got to come all the way from the sub-continent and even in the low-ticket world of Indian pens it's right down in the bargain basement section. But a week or so later, it dropped on the doormat. With another flex nib (which wasn't strictly necessary). So that was cool.

Except, er, you know that "incredibly unlucky" thing? Um... the barrel of the replacement had a crack along its length. Well, darn again. Okay, that's fine; really it's only the piston I need anyway and everything else is just icing. But, well, you can't just leave a pen to die like that, can you? I can rebuild it; I have the technology.

So it won't have bionic capabilities as a result, but also it doesn't cost six million bucks. Most importantly it won't leak. Happy days are here again. Up until this point, where we came in:

Sighing just a little (at this point I feel a little sigh was forgivable) I decided I'd cut to the chase and replace the thing straight away with the O-rings. So I went to remove it.

And then I became a fountain pen killer.

That darn thing would not shift. I resorted to dunking it in hot water for a while to make it more pliable and then attempted to twist it off.

And twisted off the entire end of the piston.

Well, darnation with a cherry on top. What a muppet. I was, and am, mortified.

Pausing only for an hour or so to berate myself for being a heavy-handed fool, I looked at what I had left. A piston shaft, but instead of a stop on the end, a gap about two O-rings wide, and then another stop, I had a shortened piston shaft with a stop on the end and nothing to keep any O-rings in place.

Am I going to let this thing die now? Like heck I am; I'm invested in its continued good health and working ability. We'd been through solvent welding together, dammit. All I needed was a new stop to put the O-rings between. So, not for the first time, I dug out the bag of parts salvaged from my old VHS tapes, and selected one of the plastic guide spindles. Turns out a Japanese saw does a good job of splitting these things in two, and with a liberal application of a two part epoxy, I have... a bodge.

Top is the pen barrel and piston knob; next is the full length piston with O-rings; then the split original seal; finally the truncated piston with a new stop and a spacer to stop it going too far into the piston knob and failing to advance again.

Close-up you can see a) It's not pretty (but then neither is the unmolested one), and b) The built-up bead of epoxy just to give the O-rings a little more to bear on.

The reassembled pens, and honestly, it's a lot better than I deserve. Of course you wouldn't do such a bodge on a Pelikan or the like, but with the normal appearance of these pens prizing function over aesthetics anyway, I think I got away with it okay in this case.

As I prize function over appearance too, the important bit was whether it would work. A careful first run of soapy water to test for leaks was successful, and it's now been inked-up for nearly a week and no trouble yet.
Writes really nicely, actually. On this experience I couldn't honestly say they're a great pen, but they have a naive charm that I find irresistible. Actually I've yet to try an Indian pen that hasn't made me smile. And unfortunately, in many cases, swear a little. But that's half the fun.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday Stinks #12

So neat and symmetrical is the date today, I felt compelled to Stink. Terribly sober colours here, and nothing finer than a medium. What the dickens...? All four have been interfered with too; Alf Towers is no place to be a fountain pen if you want to remain factory-fresh.
On the other hand if you arrive on the doorstep and start letting your piston seal widdle ink all over the place, you've come to the right place. People don't always like the clear demonstrator pens, but in this case I'm happy I can see what's going to happen before it actually does...