Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy what you find here. Whilst you may not agree with everything I post, if you respect my right to my opinion I'll respect your right to disagree with it and we should get along just fine. :)

Disclaimer: the views expressed by the characters in these works may not necessarily represent the views of the author. Got that? Good.

Right then, on with the blog...

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

How To: Platinum Preppy Eyedropper with Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa (Iron Gall) Ink

I've been meaning to have a go at making an eyedropper-fill fountain pen for a while, ever since seeing similar pens on the blogs Unposted and Good Pens however, events have been conspiring to prevent me from having a go, namely:

a) My Preppy would just not run out of ink!
b) Locating plumbers' silicon grease in the UK has proved extremely difficult and,
c) I couldn't think what to replace the grease with until...

It was one of those 'Eureka' moments - what do UK plumbers use in place of the grease? PTFE tape, that's what! A quick trip to my local DIY barn and I've now armed myself with a roll of the stuff for just a couple of pounds; and the Preppy has finally run out of ink.

PTFE tape - also known as 'Teflon tape', 'Thread seal tape', or 'plumber's tape' is a polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) film cut to specified widths for use in sealing pipe threads. The tape is wrapped around the exposed threads of a pipe before it is screwed into place. Since the PTFE is malleable, deformable and impermeable, it acts a little like putty under compression, being forced into small gaps between threads in order to create an air- and watertight seal when threaded into a joint.

I was also hanging on as I've got this ink I want to test, but as it's an iron gall ink and I've read all sorts of horror stories about what iron gall inks can do to the insides of your favourite fountain pen, I was determined to wait and test the ink in something potentially disposable.

Well, here we are at last - a Platinum Preppy 0.3mm eyedropper fill using PTFE tape and filled with Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa ink. I'll discuss the ink shortly, first here's how I made the pen...

Should you decide to have a go at this conversion, you will need:

Yes, I forgot to include the syringe in the picture!

a) A suitable donor fountain pen, such as a Preppy
b) A roll of PTFE tape
c) A syringe or eyedropper, and
d) Ink of your choice

Step 1

Unless yours is a new (or previously cleaned) pen, remove the cartridge or filler and put to one side, we won't be needing them again.

Step 2

After ensuring your pen is thoroughly clean and dry, take the PTFE tape and wind tightly, but not too tightly, around the threads of the nib section a few times. Maintain the tension while you're doing this to ensure the tape sits well in the grooves of the threads - not too tight though, or the tape will stretch and wrinkle and may not form an ink-tight seal.

Step 3

'The Water Test' - if you know your way around PTFE tape, you can skip this step, other wise fill the barrel of your pen with water (ordinary tap water will suffice for the test) to just below the start of the threaded part (indicated by the red arrow in the photograph above). Assemble the pen and test for leaks. Depending on which pen you are using, somewhere between three to six turns of tape should provide a watertight seal.

It is worth mentioning that the tape should be wound anti-clockwise (with the nib facing to the left) so it remains smooth when the pen is screwed back together - wind it clockwise and it'll bunch up into an almighty mess when you try putting the pen back together!

Any time you re-fill the pen it is worth replacing the tape.

Step 4

Presuming the water test was successful, repeat steps 2 and 3, though this time fill with the ink of your choice.

Now I've got the pen working, let's talk a bit about the ink...

Rohrer & Klingner of Leipzig, Germany, has been manufacturing lithographic products since 1892, and now makes a range of eighteen tones of fountain pen ink, details of which can be found here. In the UK, Rohrer & Klingner inks are available from The Writing Desk, colour swatches of the range can be seen here; two inks in the range, Scabiosa and Salix are iron gall inks.

Stayed tuned folks, here comes the history/science bit...

Iron gall ink was traditionally made by combining tannic acid from oak galls with vitriol and gum arabic. It was the ink of choice during medieval times and was still in widespread use up to the middle of the twentieth century. Iron gall made a perfect travelling ink as the ingredients could be mixed dry and water added only when necessary. It was also indelible and difficult to remove from the writing surface, making it ideal for official documents.

Traditional iron gall ink starts out as a pale grey solution, which darkens gradually to an intense purplish-black on contact with oxygen. Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa is a delicate shade of purple, somewhat reminiscent of Diamine Damson. In my tests it tend to come out of the pen as a pale purplish-lavender, then darkens to a rich purple as it dries. There is a small amount of shading even with a fine nib, though I imagine much more shading would be possible with a wider or flex nib.

All in all I've been very pleased with this pen and ink combination, and have yet to notice any adverse effects to the Preppy from the iron gall ink. Over the past week there has been a small amount of ink-creep along the threads, though the PTFE seal has held so far. I daresay a few more turns of tape will cure that, so things are looking good for a more long-term test.

At a Glance:

Pen: Preppy available from JetPens in the US, Cult Pens in the UK
Price: JetPens $3.00; CultPens £3.99
Ink: Rohrer & Klingner ink available from The Writing Desk in the UK
Price: £3.90 per 50ml bottle.
Tape: PTFE tape available from all good DIY stores in the UK
Price: £1 - 2
Overall: 4* out of 5

* until I completely cure the ink creep.

You may have noticed the Preppy in some of the photos is not the 03mm nib version mentioned in the text, the original pen was in use when the pics were taken, which necessitated the use of its stunt double, my 0.5mm Preppy! ;)


Thursday, 20 August 2009

Review: Noodler's Eel Lubricating Ink

I was struggling with a very dry-writing Parker 61, admittedly with an EF nib, when the chance of a trade with my good friend Jackie (@Jafferty on Twitter) from the blog Letters & Journals came up. Jackie's blog has some great posts about letter-writing, journaling, pens and stationery, as well as detailing progress of the magazine she is setting up, due for launch at the end of 2010, or the beginning of 2011. If you can help with Jackie's magazine surveys, please head on over here, it will only take you a few minutes.

Jackie asked if there was anything she could send me as the US part of the deal and I plumped for some Noodler's eel lubricating ink in the hope that might cure the 61, it was either that or the Parker would have to go off somewhere for a bit of a professional 'talking to.' Also, as far as I know, Noodler's eel inks are not available in the UK yet; at least nobody I asked stocks it.

Emails and packages duly exchanged, I am now the proud owner of not one, but two bottles of Noodler's eel ink in Cactus Fruit (pink/purple) and Gruene Cactus (green); Jackie, I thank you for your generosity, and for this awesome postcard which preceded your package.

Lily pads, Moose Lake State Park, Minnesota

The plan was to wait till I had plenty of time and to approach the whole rinsing, filling and testing procedure with some form of calm and precision - like that was going to happen! Having had mediocre to poor results teaming my Parker 61 with Private Reserve Sonic Blue, Parker Quink Black and J Herbin Eclat de Saphir, the latter of which was a surprise as I have found J Herbin inks to be quite free-flowing normally, I couldn't wait to try the Noodler's eel and so rushed off to change the ink almost as soon as I had Jackie's package open.

I decided to try the Cactus Fruit first, and can honestly say this stuff is nothing short of amazing! My Parker 61 is like a different pen, starting first time without protest and laying down smooth, wet, extra fine lines as I had always imagined it should.

Cactus Fruit is an interesting colour which I'll do my best to describe - it's kind of a deep cerise pink with a hint of purple, though under some lighting conditions there appears to be a slight blue cast to it, meaning that I would have to classify it as a 'cool' colour. Either way, it's certainly eye-catching and is a pleasure to write with. Gruene Cactus is more of a bright, mid green and I plan to try that one out when the current fill of Cactus Fruit runs out.

From what I've read, Noodler's eel lubricating inks were developed to counter the effects of detergents in some modern inks which can, over time, leach away the lubricants from fountain pen pistons and seals, leading to stiff filling mechanisms. A side-effect of the formulation is the super-smooth writing effect and improved ink flow I am now experiencing in my Parker.

At a Glance

Model: Noodler's Eel Lubricating Ink
Colours: Cactus Fruit, Gruene Cactus, Polar Black, Blue, Turquoise and Rattler Red.
Available from: Noodler's and Noodler's dealers
Price: msrp $12.50
Overall: 5 out of 5


Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Giveaway at The Pen Addict

There's a giveaway at The Pen Addict which you really, I mean really ought to check out...


Monday, 17 August 2009

Oh, That's Just Great!

There we were, on our way back from hospital visiting at the weekend when I drove over a speed hump* in the road and something under the pen-thusiast mobile went, 'twang!' Cosmic! Pulling over revealed the exhaust (US: muffler?) hanging off at a jaunty angle and every time I drove over a speed hump as I nursed the mobile home, the exhaust was catching on it, threatening to rip itself off altogether. Great, just great!

*for those not in the know speed humps, bumps, sleeping policemen or 'traffic calming measures' as they are referred to in language you can use with your maiden aunt in the room, are raised areas in the road, designed to cut vehicles' speed as they negotiate them. Most are ramped at both sides though some, like the one in question, resemble the north face of the Eiger and would be better tackled with crampons and climbing gear rather than by car. IMHO they are an absolute menace - this is the second time my exhaust has been ripped off by one, both times whilst driving well within the posted speed limit.

Of course, by the time I limped home the local exhaust centre had closed for the weekend so all I could do was sit and fret about the amount of money (that I didn't have) it was going to cost to fix come Monday morning.

Picture copyright HiQ

So first thing this morning, the mobile and I picked our way gingerly down to HiQ and explained the situation to Chris, Walley and the guys who almost instantly set about fixing the problem. While I was there I figured it was about time I replaced the back box of the exhaust as my mechanic tells me the baffles have gone. Do what?! All I know is that, when the engine is idling passers-by stare at the mobile like they're wondering how I got a Sherman tank engine in there in the first place, all the while listening to the wonderful symphony coming out of the back end - which sounds like someone gargling with a bag of rusty spanners!

How long can you hold your breath? Well, I've discovered I can manage it for about as long as it takes for Chris to ring his exhaust supplier and give me a price! Credit where it's due, the new part was delivered within the hour and shortly afterwards I'm back on the road with the exhaust so quiet I have to keep checking the mobile hasn't stalled! Hat's off to Chris, Walley and the guys for the excellent service; that's why I've been going there for years.


Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Giveaway at The Pen Archives

There's a great giveaway over at The Pen Archives which you might want to check out...


Monday, 10 August 2009

Guess where...

...this pen-thusiast took a trip to? Head on over to Quo Vadis Blog and find out here!

While I was there I picked up this beautiful little pot for only a couple of pounds.

It was hidden in among a display of bric-a-brac in the tearoom, which is run by volunteers, proceeds from the sale of these items goes towards the building's running costs.

As far as I can tell, the pot is made of steel and is approx 73mm in diameter by 50mm deep, making it the ideal thing to hold all those loose ink cartridges I seem to have lying around. It has a soft, fuzzy black lining, which suggests I am not using it for its originally intended purpose, though I have no idea what that purpose is - answers on a postcard please...

All I do know is that it was cheap, ideally suited to life as an ink cartridge pot, and the proceeds from the sale went to a good cause.

Thanks to Leah and Karen for featuring my trip in their blog's 'Where To Go' spot.


Saturday, 8 August 2009

Cold Comfort

The latest installment of 'What I Learned From...' over at Middle Zone Musings will feature lessons learned from plants, so partly because of that and because Future; Nostalgic's introductory blurb mentions my interest in herbal medicine, I figured it was about time I posted something on the subject, and what better than a short account of my introduction to the world of plant-based medicines...

Flowers of Black Elder (Sambucus nigra Black Lace)

I wasn't feeling too good, not good at all - this was a few years ago and I was in the grip of one of those persistent colds that just won't shift, no matter what you throw at it.

You know the sort of cold I mean - it's the one that single-handedly keeps your local pharmacist in business and gives the shareholders of tissue manufacturing companies a nice warm glow when they contemplate next year's dividend! My doctor had made all the right noises, but paracetamol, fluids and keeping warm just weren't cutting it, I was getting through cough medicine like a hardened wino, all the while anticipating the onset of a secondary infection that would require at least two courses of antibiotics to deal with when a friend passed me a copy of a book on herbal medicine.

Now I confess, up until that point in my life, I'd always been skeptical of such 'new age' nonsense however, a flick through said book suggested there may be something herbal I could try. What was even better was that two of the three ingredients grew in our garden, and I knew where the third could be obtained (legally, I hasten to add!), so it wasn't long before I was sipping a hot tea concocted from elderflowers, yarrow and peppermint, sweetened with local honey and you know what - it really was quite pleasant.

Within a day or two of starting the tea therapy I began to feel better, dramatically better, so it must have had some sort of effect over and above that of a placebo. It still took another week before I was back to my old self, but for the first time in all my *cough* years, the expected infection never materialised and I was able to remain antibiotic-free.

I bought the book!

[edit: the latest WILF (What I Learned From...) is now up and you can read all 16 entries here.]


Thursday, 6 August 2009

The First Carnival of Pen, Pencil and Paper

For all the latest news and reviews, don't forget to check out The First Carnival of Pen, Pencil and Paper which is on now over at Notebook Stories.


Monday, 3 August 2009

Review: Linex 404 Safety Compass

And now, with apologies to Monty Python, for something completely different...

It usually takes quite a bit to get me enthusiastic about what I would term 'school supplies,' you know the kind of thing - maths sets, protractors, that sort of stuff, but Linex has managed it with this little gem.

Whilst out shopping for back-to-school supplies for my darling daughter the other day at Staples, I happened upon this Linex 404 Safety Compass:

It was one of those, "got to have that!" moments, just look at it! A compass that looks like a pen, great! So, what do I like about it? Where do I start...

For one thing there's the fact that is does look just like a pen, and so shouldn't take up much room in my, darling daughter's pencil case. Then there's the cap, which protects the compass point and lead and should stop the sharp bits sticking in me, darling daughter when it's in her school bag.

The compass is of all-metal construction, apart from the end caps, which are a matching shade of hard plastic, and I do mean matching. Both the top cap and lower sections of the compass arms feature green rubberised grip sections, making the 404 very comfortable in the hand. The metal barrel is pleasantly heavy in the hand, not too heavy, just enough so it feels like the quality product it is.

The top cap is threaded, and unscrewing it gives access to a lead compartment containing three replacement 2.0mm leads. These are not just thrown in mind you, oh no! Linex has thought about this and the lead holder is shaped into a sort of clover leaf design so as to hold each of the three spare leads securely so it doesn't rattle around; I only wish the replacement leads came pre-sharpened (and yes, I'm being picky!)

Dimensions are as follows:

Length: 160mm
Weight: 43.9g
Maximum radius: 155mm

Moving right along, there is a green rubberised disc at the top end of the 404 which is removable to reveal a tightening screw in case the compass becomes a bit loose through use; I have the feeling a lot of design time went into the 404 and nothing on this compass looks like it was included for purely aesthetic reasons - everything has a function, but it does look good too!

Next we move down to the business end, which as I've already mentioned is covered with a removable plastic cap, which even has a pocket clip. The clip is strong enough to hold the 404 securely in your pocket - I know, I've tried it! The end cap reminds me of the one on my old Rotring Skynn fountain pen, and if there had been a matching green insert in the rectangular depression on its very end I would consider the design on the 404 to be flawless; as there isn't, it's 9.9 out of 10, must try just a shade harder for Linex!

The compass end of the 404 features a fixed point and adjustable lead holder, the wheel of which fits into a cunningly designed recess when the compass is closed.

When the compass is open, also visible is the locating hole for the adjustment wheel's spindle, to allow the compass to keep its pen-like profile when closed; it's just another of the small design touches that make this such an excellent product.

In conclusion, the Linex 404 Safety Compass has got to be the most innovative take on a classic design that this pen-thusiast has seen in a very, very long time. Outstanding design, coupled with magnificent build-quality make the 404 by far the best compass I, darling daughter has ever had the pleasure of using.

At a Glance:

Model: Linex 404 Safety Compass
Available from: Staples in the UK; Linex stockists abroad.
Price: £4.99 at Staples
Lead size: 2.0mm
Overall: 5 out of 5

Oh alright, I'll go and buy my darling daughter one too!

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