Tale of a Vandal Pen User: Continuing to Evolve

Current state of the fountain pen hoard

There are always fountain pens that call out to one’s attention. Some provide a shorter attention span than others. Some pens stay around for longer periods of time. None of them have to stay permanently, although that is always the hope.

“Round and round she goes, and where she stops nobody knows…”—from The Original Amateur Hour

Spring weeding continues to have an impact on my pen hoard. I remain committed to a small collection of pens. Letting go of pens I’ve admired and enjoyed was extremely freeing. Before Spring weeding began I decided to focus the collection on Visconti Ragtimes and vintage Wahl-Oxfords. My attachment, however, to that idea of my collection has been challenged in my mind, and not without difficulty. Ragtimes have defined me as a pen person. Without Ragtimes in my collection will I be like the hole in the donut?

1950's Omas Extra Jr. in brown celluloid

Letting go of many pens afforded obtaining three other pens: a vintage Omas Extra Jr. and two urushi pens: a Danitrio and a Nakaya. I have always loved Omas nibs and everyone should try a vintage Omas nib, eh? The Omas came in my favorite pen palette. Brown. It’s a beautiful, sweet fountain pen. More about this pen in a later post. Let me just say, “should” is a word that does not belong in conversations about fountain pen collecting. Unless it’s, “You should not put India ink in your fountain pen!” Otherwise, talk about pens you “should have” steals joy and desire away from the hobby. In my hobby anyway.

Japanese pens were among the first fountain pens I coveted. I was put off, however, by the lack of piston fillers among them. Acquiring the Edison Huron and filling it eyedropper style, opened up possibilities in my mind’s eye about other pens. A pen that can be filled with an eyedropper holds a ton of ink!

Fountain pens are my tools. They provide a little shift in the creative brain much like a change in writing locale or music or fresh air. Fountain pens are a means to an end: first drafts, edits, re-writes, tweaks of the final manuscript.

Fountain pens and their accoutrement also provide a surprising, delightful respite from worldly troubles. Those of us who share the collection-passion wax on and on and on about our pens, pen hunts, pen envy, ink, new releases, bad buys, great deals and unusual paraphernalia. As a pen pal recently wrote me, “there are much worse things in this life we could be obsessed with.” Indeed.

Some people continuously try to classify and justify fountain pen choices. Are you rich, poor, an Esterbrook or Montblanc snob? Who cares?! It’s vexing, this human need to constantly categorize and define. You would be surprised to know my life story if you believe fountain pens are made as jewelry for the upper class. I do not, cannot, live according to your light or definition of the world.

My own prejudices have revolved around ink and paper. These are everyday consumables. I have a very hard time justifying $20 for a bottle of ink or notepad. Even still the unforgettable Quo Vadis Habana has made its way into usage, as has the No. 18 Rhodia notepad, alongside the much cheaper fountain pen friendly Staples Bagasse notepads.

Ah, in two words: I digress.

Edison Huron yellowstone acrylic

The pen hoard shift began—quite unexpectedly—with the aforementioned Edison Huron. That was a pen acquired when I inexplicably fell in love with the Bexley yellowstone acrylic material and, fortunately, Brian Gray could accommodate with a pen just for me. (Although, if you must, you too can have his Huron in the yellowstone. You just can’t have mine!)

Some time later, I acquired a Danitrio fountain pen: a short octagon model in a Tame-murasaki urushi finish. Torn between a Danitrio and a Nakaya, the Danitrio won out because, unlike the Nakaya with its brass threads, the Danitrio could be filled “western eyedropper” style. (You fill the barrel with ink and use a bit of silicon grease on the barrel threads to prevent ink leakage. A true modern Japanese eyedropper uses a shut-off value.)

Yes, ink capacity remains a criteria. It’s an important element in a writer’s tool! Capacity, however, is not the only element for choosing a pen. Why a Danitrio? Sleekness. Simplicity. Beauty. All subtly presented via centuries of artisan lacquer tradition.

I have written before about fountain pens that urge me to hold on to them and keep writing: the Edison Huron, the Bexley Submariner and the Danitrio short octagon. Those three pens remain the core of the pen hoard with the Nakaya now included among them. These are four pens I cannot imagine parting with. (I cannot write the words “never part with” because, in my life, “never” usually comes ’round. ‘Tis bad luck. Much like saying the name “Macbeth” in a theatre.)

Top to bottom: Danitrio Short Octagon, Nakaya Piccolo. These beautiful pens elude my camera.

The Nakaya, I confess, was all about the heki-tamenuri urushi; brown combined with hints of green. The Nakaya’s brown shares a superficial resemblance to the Danitrio’s tame-muraski finish. The Danitrio, aka my Chocolate pen, glints of purple in a deep eggplant shade. The Nakaya’s converter requires near daily refilling while the Danitrio writes on for a week or more. (Referring, of course, to times I am in daily writing mode.) The Nakaya lacks an artist’s signature. The Danitrio boasts the signature and red seal of the artist, “Kosetsu.” The true pleasure of the Nakaya, beyond its urushi finish, is the stub nib ground by John Mottishaw. He took a bold nib and ground it into a lovely, smooth medium nib that makes me smile often. It is that nib that makes the Nakaya an equal companion to my Danitrio, Edison and Bexley.

There is a fifth pen I can’t imagine giving up: the green-striated Pelikan 400 from the 1950’s. The nib on that pen is a joy. A sixth pen provides sentimental value because it was a birthday gift from my Beloved: the Levenger Golden Tortoise.

That leaves more than half of my collection as possible re-homing candidates. I think. I’m still processing and trying on the idea. They are great pens. I love them. Yet there may be one or two pens I’ll love writing with even more. There certainly are two or three more pens I’d like to acquire. There’s a brown ebonite I’m hoping to see made into an Edison. Perhaps a custom urushi pen in either a Danitrio or Edison/Hakumin Urushi Kobo fountain pen.

All of these pens show me it is possible to have great writers along with those personal aesthetics that draw you to a pen. A great looking pen, we all know, is only as good as its nib. A great nib, however, is a greater writing pleasure with the right package. The one that works for you.

Left to right: Bexley Submariner, Edison Huron, Danitrio short octagon, Nakaya Piccolo

In No Particular Order, A Few Items to Read

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