Saturday, September 20, 2014

Feeds

The world of pens, nowadays, is full of reactionary obsessions. It could not be otherwise, for fountain pens are obsolete tools. Consequently, once this point is accepted and understood all cravings are allowed—ancient materials, old filling systems, outdated manufacturing techniques…

One of the debates involves the material out of which the feed is manufactured. Old pens, before 1950s, used ebonite (vulcanized hard rubber) and around that time different plastics made their way as the material of choice for feed it is today. Ebonite, though, is still used today on mostly high-end pens and this is often used as a selling argument (however, it might be worth to note that Montblanc’s flagship pen, the 149, implements plastic feeds). Many a stylophile are happy to buy that argument and swear by ebonite as the ultimate material to provide a good (and generous) flow of ink to the nib.

But, is the feed material that important for the final performance of the pen? Or, in other words, what are the differences between these two materials, plastic and ebonite?

The main difference lies in the way the ink interacts with those two surfaces. Ebonite is hygroscopic and favors capillarity and circulation of the ink along the ink channels.

On the other side, ink forms drops on plastic and its flow becomes more difficult. There are some ways to correct this issue: making the surface less smooth (“unpolishing” it) the surface of the channels increase and the ink smears along them. Another strategy was to add some hygroscopic layer to the feed.

But the final conclusion might be that due to that problem –the ink not wetting the plastic feed—ebonite should be the obvious option. However, ebonite carries its own problems to the production line—it is more expensive than plastic and needs to be cut. Ebonite oxidizes in the wrong environment, and its purity (or the presence of impurities in it) plays an important role in the final quality of the manufactured good. The final result is that it is not unusual to see deformed, bended or cracked pieces of ebonite, in feed or in other pen parts.


Ebonite feed from a Platinum pen from around 1935.


Section, nib and feed of a Super T Gester from ca 1960. This feed, made of ebonite, was bended and could not drive the ink to the nib efficiently.

Plastic, on the contrary, can be molded into the desired shape, and is very stable chemically. So, plastic is cheap, fast and reliable.


Two plastic feeds by Platinum from the late 1950s. The one on the left was misstreated, whereas the one of the right has never been used. Both preserve the original shape.

Well designed feed, on their side, do work well and are able to provide fairly big flows of ink. Case in point—the Nagahara’s two- and three-fold specialty nibs are attached to plastic (ABS) feeds. There are no complaints in the pen community about their reliability, and they show that a proper design does the job despite the limitations of the material.


Plastic feed of a cross-music nib by nibmeister Nagahara. But in fact, all feeds are the same for a given nib size in the Sailor catalog.

Some may argue that plastic feeds have not passed the test of time and that we cannot really asses whether they might degrade with time. And they go further into saying that we can also find perfectly preserved ebonite feed after many years of use or storage. But we also know –and that is the point here— that ebonite feeds are vulnerable.

After all these considerations personal preferences and romantic ideas come. And they are welcome, for writing with these tools is in itself romantic and anachronic.


Pilot Custom 74, music nibGary’s Red-Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, August 15th, 2014
etiquetas: soluciones técnicas

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Casa Hassinger

There was a time when there existed a production of Waterman ink in Spain. And maybe even more than just ink…


A bottle of Waterman ink produced in Barcelona.

A man by the name of Egon Hassinger acquired the license to produce ink from the American company Waterman. And the production was made in Barcelona, as can be read on the bottle. But the activity of the company Casa Hassinger might have included the assembly of Waterman fountain pens for the European market. The company imprinted a small H on clips and nibs to mark those units passing through their hands in Barcelona. Some stylophiles in Spain even suggest that some parts could have been manufactured locally, including the nibs. These could have been manufactured by Damiá Onsés Ginesta, a prolific nibmeister who provided units for mostly any Spanish pen company at one point or another.


A Waterman clip with the Hassinger mark. Picture courtesy of waltonjones.


The Hassinger's Waterman. Picture courtesy of waltonjones.

Casa Hassinger was registered in Barcelona at the address C/ Balmes 75. Egon Hassinger lived in this city between 1915 and 1948, when he passed away. The company was liquidated in 1990.

The bottle of Waterman ink marketed by Hassinger can be seen at the Gaudi’s Casa Milà in Barcelona. This is but one example of local production of ink of some well known brand. The cases of Parker and Pelikan had already been mentioned on these Chronicles.

My thanks to stylophile waltonjones for his pictures of the Hassinger’s Waterman fountain pen.


Pilot Elite pocket pen, manifold nib – Platinum Black

Bruno Taut
Nakano, September 10th 2014
etiquetas: tinta, Waterman, España, Barcelona, nibmeister Onsés Ginesta
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