Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Serene

The Waterman Serenité is a beautiful tool. As a pen, it certainly stands apart with its original non-straight shape. It is also substantial: 49 grams and 144 mm long when capped.


What is a lot less clear is whether this pen is really usable. It is well made, I admit. The nib axis is perfectly aligned with the curved pen so that it points down when writing. The cap posts tightly on the barrel, with the clip perfectly secured in an ad-hoc metallic depression.


Everything, I reckon, is designed to make this pen a real pen on top of a beautiful object, but I also have some objections. The weight is the main one. The beautiful shape has the disadvantage of making it hard to carry comfortably.

And, finally, the price tag—about €800. For that price there are hundred of pens. Most of them, more usable.


€800 should also buy a more striking nib. It seems that Waterman wanted to attract the attention by the general look and not by the nib. This makes me think this pen is more of a jewel than of a writing tool. A beautiful jewel, nonetheless.


An additional note. In some units of this pen, the ink converter does not fit inside the barrel. Apparently, the problem lies in the fact that roller and fountain pen have very similar barrels and can be interchanged. But the ink converter only fits in that of the fountain pen.

A number of Serenité fountain pens in the market have the roller’s barrel.

(Pilot Super 200 – Visconti Sepia)

Bruno Taut
(In exile, January 5th, 2011)
[labels: Waterman]

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Matching (VI)

The controversy is always there: Is that pen original or a copy of another? Which company did father that idea? Sometimes, the answers are clear…

In the history of Spanish fountain pens, that sad history of multiple frustrations, Inoxcrom is the most successful brand. It is still alive, albeit amid harsh financial conditions.

This brand started its activities in 1942 producing nibs for other manufacturers. Then the company continued by assembling pens with parts from other companies. Finally, in 1955, Inoxcrom released the model 55. Even though some of the models marketed in 1950s and 1960s were copies of the Parker 51/21, Inoxcrom also managed to create some original products like the model 77 and the rare luxury 88.

Inoxcrom Caravel II.

In the nineties, the model to copy changed. Now Parker had lost some of its past luster and the successful icon was Montblanc.

The Caravel was the Inoxcrom copy á la Meisterstück. It was a cartridge/converter black torpedo with a smooth steel nib.


In fountain pen fora in Spanish there exists the argument that this pen was a good quality copy and Montblanc demanded to stop its production under the threat of legal actions. A couple of pinches of salt can be added to this argument. First is the fact that Inoxcrom released two Caravel models. The initial Caravel dates back from the early 1990s and has a two-toned nib and a screw-on cap. In 1995, the Caravel II appeared: smaller than its predecessor, single-toned gold coated steel nib, and a slip cap.

So, would anyone release a second black torpedo under those legal threats?

Pilot Custom 74 (on top) compared to an Inoxcrom Caravel II.

The second point is the proliferation of torpedo-shaped pens all over and, in particular, in Japan. And those Japanese copies are really good quality pens!

Sure Montblanc might be acting against these Japanese companies, but the production of Pilot Custom, Platinum 3776 and Sailor Profit/1911 has not stopped in the last thirty years or so… Cannot Montblanc reach that far?

(Inoxcrom Caravel II – Waterman Havana)

Bruno Taut
(In exile, January 6th, 2011)
[labels: Montblanc, Inoxcrom, Japón, España, Pilot, Platinum, Sailor]

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Failure

Maybe I like Occam’s Razor too much, but I am not fond of new inventions unless they did prove to offer a real advantage. So, I have a hard time understanding the point of 24 K gold and 23 K palladium nibs. Or that of those titanium nibs in some Italian pens.

Out of the box.

Do they offer anything or they are just bricks in the wall of marketing?

Testing the Stipula T with a medium nib in titanium –the only one available on this pen—made me change my mind. This nib really shows some flexibility, and when dipped in ink, it performed nicely.


Therefore, here we got a flexible or semi-flexible titanium nib in a pen that accepts cartridges, converter, and that can be inked as an eyedropper. And, how does it work? How well does this pen perform?


To answer those questions a review is in order. But those two selling points—filling system and nib—need to past the test before analyzing the rest of features.

The titanium nib (by the way, how pure is this titanium? 100%? 75%?) is flexible and is capable to generate some line variation. But, as was pointed out on a previous chronicle (“Against Dipping”), there are problems regarding the ink flow. And those problems are connected to the filling systems.

Inked with cartridge or converter, the performance of this pen is the same—awful. The nib seems to never get enough ink. If pressed down, it starts railroading almost right away. A second problem is that the nib becomes dry very quickly during pauses on the writing, even if short.

In summary, a total disaster. Not usable.

Writing sample with the pen inked with the converter.

The third filling option is the eyedropper. In this case, the nib performance improves a lot. Now, the railroading problem is a lot less noteworthy.

The nib is very wet, almost uncomfortably so. But at the same time, it keeps being annoyingly quick at drying up and it is a very slow starter.

The gasket inside the barrel to seal it when used as an eyedropper pen.

As an eyedropper, this pen improves, but not enough to become a reliable and comfortable pen. Actually, the continuous interruptions in the flow make the writing experience a nightmare.

Therefore, given these circumstances, who cares about the looks, the construction quality and the rest? The first thing a pen needs to do is to write reliably. And this Stipula T does not do that.

(Stipula T as eyedropper – Parker Blue)

Bruno Taut
(In exile, January 4th, 2011)
[labels: Stipula, plumín]

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Against Dipping

This is the second time I go through this. An interesting nib, a modern flexible —or at least semi-flexible— nib that seemed all right in the shop... Then, at home, it turned out to be a total failure.

Pilot Custom 742, falcon (FA) nib, size 10.
In the shop. At home.

The first conclusion is clear: dipping the pen is not the same as inking it.

Dipping does not make the ink to go all the way through the feed from the ink deposit. Dipping only makes the ink to arrange itself along the ink-lines in the feed. Therefore, not much is known about the flow the feed provides. And if the nib run dry, more dipping is in order in the assumption that there was no more ink available, which is not necessarily the case.

Stipula T, titanium nib.

Filling the ink deposit (or attaching an ink cartridge) is, of course, the real McCoy. The ink must really go through the whole network of channels at the right speed to provide the right flow, as demanded by the nib.

Few merchants, however, allow this real test. Any alternative? Check the internet in search of pen reviews and references on those objects of desire. In the meantime, I fully distrust any modern flexible or semi-flexible nibs. The art of making proper feeds seems to be lost.


(Pilot Custom 74 SM, Atelier Yamada – Pelikan Turquoise)

Bruno Taut
(In exile, January 3rd, 2011)
[labels: Pilot, Stipula, plumín]

Monday, January 3, 2011

Reputation

Some personal opinions today:

Fountain pens, as we know them today, are an American invention. The first relevant patents on these devices were filed in the US, and the main successful companies belong to that country—we all know Waterman, Parker, Sheaffer, Conklin…

Two Mabie Todd: and American lerver filler, top, and an English eyedropper.

Some American companies created branches in Europe –Mabie Todd, Parker, Waterman—while some European companies started their activities—Simplo, Osmia, Pelikan… But the reference in quality was still American.

A Japanese Swan no. 5, not affiliated with the American-British company.

Japanese pen companies, on their side, became active in those same years, albeit with a less relevant American influence. And after nearly a century of manufacturing, these companies are among the most active in the world.

Pelikan M1000.

Nowadays, American companies have lost most of their luster after years of decline, and their past prestige in now in the hands of European, and mostly German, companies. It is worth to notice, too, how independent nib manufacturers are now German and how American companies buy them for their pens instead of looking for nibs in their own market.

Montblanc 114.

In the meantime, Japanese companies continue making some of the most interesting pens, with the widest variety of nibs, in the market.

Three different music nibs by two different Japanese manufacturers: Platinum and Pilot. More information on chronicles Ongaku and Encore.

So, from my point of view, the reference of fountain pens has shifted from the US to Europe. But it should have moved in the opposite direction—to Japan.

(Súper T Olimpia – Diamine Acqua Blue)

Bruno Taut
(In exile, January 2nd, 2011)
[labels: mercado]

Sunday, January 2, 2011

BCHR

BCHR is the acronym for Black Chase Hard Rubber. In other words, a description for many a pen from the end of the nineteen century and beginning of the twentieth. Hard rubber –ebonite was a commercial name— is a polymer formed by the vulcanization of rubber and sulfur. Its hardness and its ease to being mechanized made it suitable for pen manufacturing. Finally, embossing was the typical procedure to decorate the otherwise black material.


This pen is a BCHR whose only identification is the engraving on the barrel: “THE QUEEN / YOUNG MFC. CO. FITCHBURG, MASS”. Nothing I have found about this company.


This seems to be a rather usual pen from the early years in the twentieth century. The basic eyedropper filling system contrasts with the modern looking nib—a springy 14 K gold warranted with no additional brand. Dating it more precisely is beyond my knowledge.


This pen is in perfect working condition and shows no abrasion on the chasing.

(Waterman CF – Sailor Red Brown)

Bruno Taut
(In exile, January 1st, 2011)
[labels: The Queen]

Saturday, January 1, 2011

ED (II)

The final point of the previous chronicle was that a number of cartridge/converter pens could easily be transformed into eyedroppers. And some people, myself included, have made that transformation with some pens.


So, if that is so easy, why do pen companies not market such pens directly? Well, there is at least one such pen in the market—the Stipula model T.


This pen fulfills all three conditions—tight thread with a sealing gasket, no holes in the barrel, no metallic parts in contact with the ink. And this pen can use cartridges and converters. Therefore, as some fellow Fountain Pen Network member said, this pen combines THREE different systems, because not all pens using cartridges accept converters!


This simple strategy certainly raised some eyebrows among pen enthusiasts—it increased the appeal of a pen whose nib is indeed interesting. But that will be the topic of another chronicle.

(Pilot Super 200 – Visconti Sepia)

Bruno Taut
(In exile, December 31st, 2010)
[labels: soluciones técnicas, Stipula]
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