There Are Giants in the Sky

If you’re a fan of Stephen Sondheim’s music, you know where the title of this post comes from. Sondheim himself is now a glorious giant in the sky.

Stephen Sondheim wrote his music and lyrics with pencils and his correspondence with a typewriter. Before he died, he was writing a new musical with playwright David Ives titled “Square One.” Hope we get to see it in whatever form it remains.

If you haven’t seen this 90th Sondheim birthday celebration from last year, it’s delicious:

Meanwhile, on Unimportant Matters

My Montegrappa Chile Pepper and Leonardo Momento Grande represent the only steel nibs in my tiny fountain pen hoard. Intrigued by the Leonardo’s steel nib paired with an ebonite feed, I wondered if an ebonite feed would help the Chile Pepper.

Montegrappa Chile Pepper LE, Leonardo Momento Grande Sand

If left idle for a day, the Montegrappa’s feed would need priming with ink. Some inks faired better than others in this pen, but pen fussing is so-so-so overrated. A pen that doesn’t work correctly tends to remain unused. But I love the Chile Pepper pen and refuse to abandon it.

The Montegrappa model I have uses a JoWo steel nib, feed, and housing. (I believe the pen is based on the Fortuna.) I thought a gold nib might fare better, but even a generic gold nib’s expensive.

Chile Pepper Pen

Santa Fe 21st Anniversary Montegrappa Chile Pepper Fountain Pen

Enter Flexible Nib Factory.  The company makes flexible nibs as well as acrylic and ebonite feeds and housings. A lot of my friends use FNF products produced by the man behind FNF. Some friends put Pilot or Platinum nibs in other pens using various FNF offerings. Other friends flex nibs like crazy. FNF ebonite feeds keep the ink flowing.

I purchased the JoWo housing and feed—Flexible Nib Factor JE6. You can’t just buy an ebonite feed as it won’t work with the original JoWo housing. If you examine the photos below, you’ll get clues as to why.

The JE6 includes both ebonite housing and feed for replacing the JoWo original. Read more about that pairing here on FNF’s website.

The replacement was straightforward. The ebonite housing screwed into the Montegrappa section as if it were the original housing. While slimmer in profile than the original feed, the ebonite feed seated perfectly with the Montegrappa steel nib.

ebonite feed, steel nib

ebonite feed

Left to right: FNF ebonite feed & housing, JoWo feed & housing

Left to right: FNF ebonite feed, JoWo feed

Left to right: FNF ebonite feed, JoWo feed

The end result has seen

So much happiness
So much love.

—”Happiness” from Passion, music & lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

(Forgive me, ay? Especially Sondheim lovers. His music keeps playing in an endless loop in my mind, you know?)

As an experiment, the Montegrappa was left inked and idle for several days. Still, the Chile Pepper wrote as a pen should, every time nib took to paper. What a relief.

The FNF JE6 is more expensive than a JoWo steel nib unit ($10-$25). But at a little over $30, the FNF JE6 costs far less than a replacement gold nib ($150 and up).

If you’ve been struggling with a steel nib that won’t write (and you’ve eliminated all the other factors), you might try an ebonite housing and feed. Bear in mind your pen will write wetter.

☮ →Note: The Leonardo Momento Grande developed some flow issues. The nib’s tines had become misaligned. Once I realigned the tines, the flow issues disappeared. Here’s a quick primer on what to look for at RichardsPens.

Hmmm…. could ebonite feeds paired with good steel nibs make me like steel nibs? More to be revealed as I write along…

A couple of resources for troubleshooting fountain pens:

In Case You Haven’t Heard

Newton Pens is selling some fountain pens in select materials at a discount. Reason: to raise money to purchase an additional lathe, among other things, to grow business. Shawn stands behind every pen he makes. Read all about buying one of these pens here.

Well, dear friends, I hope you are staying safe through these strange times. Wishing you all the best through the holiday season.

As a gift to yourself, listen to some Sondheim music. There are wonderful examples available on YouTube. Especially listen to Take Me to the World, embedded in the first part of this post.

Thank you for reading.  Sending much love. Stay kind and curious!

See you in the New Year,
JD