Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ode to the Humble Pen

As you know, my dear and long-suffering readers, I like to write as much as I like to read. Those who like to read always look for book stores and libraries, while those of us who like to write always know where the stationery stores are...where to buy the writing paper, notepads, envelopes, and other tools of the writer's trade, like pens.

This past Sunday the Washington Post ran a front-page article that paid homage to one of the most widely-known and used, and yet most invisible symbols of the US government: the humble, durable, Skilcraft ballpoint pen:Those of you who live outside the US may not recognize or appreciate it, but if you have ever been in a US government office, mailed a letter at a post office, or served in the military, chances are you have used the iconic, blind-made, Skilcraft ballpoint pen. Being made for the government, the pen is designed to a very detailed set of specifications, which are summarized in this chart from the Post article:

The amazing Skilcraft ballpoint pen is like a Christmas fruitcake: indestructible and long-lasting.

For my writing taste, though, this pen is just a bit too short for comfortable writing. For day-to-day use, I prefer the Pilot G2 fine-point rolling ball pen with blue ink and rubber grip:

I buy them in boxes of 12 at the local office supply store.

For writing personal letters, though, I enjoy writing with a nice dip pen. Here are a few of the dip pens from my collection:

These pens, except for the blue glass Murano pen (second from the top), are characterized by a body which can accommodate various nibs to produce various styles or qualities of lines. I prefer a fine-point nib for most of my writing. Here are a few close-ups of some of the nibs in my collection...

This one is called, for obvious reasons, an "Eiffel Tower" nib. Also shown is one of the spiffy pen holders I use to keep the ink-loaded pen off the desktop. I found this particular holder in a stationery store in Montreal during our trip there for our 20th anniversary...

This is a closeup of the nib of my Murano glass pen...

This is an absolutely beautiful pen, but I don't use it quite as much because the point is a little too large, and it produces a fatter line than I usually like.

Of course, if you use a dip pen, you need ink...

As you see, I keep three colors of ink in my nifty bottle holder, but I prefer to use blue for my writing.

I also have a fountain pen that uses ink cartridges...

This is a nice pen, but the barrel is a little too fat for comfortable writing...it's best for writing signatures (when you don't have to press to make 16 copies, which is death on the nib).

So...

Everything you ever wanted to know about my pen collection. If you would like to have a personal letter, written with a genuine dip pen and bottled ink, send your snail mail address to bilbo_the_blogger (at symbol) yahoo dot com, and I'll send you your very own letter. There's just something about getting a nice, handwritten, personal letter in the mailbox that e-mail and text messages just can't match.

Such a deal! Act now...because of the amount of time it takes to write a long letter with a dip pen, only the first five respondents can be accommodated.

Pens. They're low-tech, simple to operate, and will always work when the power goes out. Don't leave home without them.

Have a good day. Write more. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

6 comments:

KKTSews said...

I'm surprised you don't also have the barrel-fill type fountain pen. Mark has started a collection of this type pen (much like the cartridge, but messier because you fill it with bottled ink). The cartridge pen you have is indeed a bit fat, but they come in narrower styles, too. Warning! Pen habits can be addictive.

Mike said...

So if you don't get any requests will you write me 5 times?

Bilbo said...

Katherine - I don't like the barrel-fill pens so much, for the reason you stated. And yes, pen habits can be VERY addictive!

Mike - nice try.

Amanda said...

Interesting collection.

When I was in Primary School in Malaysia, we HAD to use fountain pens and I had to be one of the unfortunate ones with the kind that you had to refill from the bottled ink. Imagine my 8 yr old fingers and hands....

Nicola Dawn said...

Hi there
I was just wondering where you bought your green murano glass dip pen with the brass nib

All the best
Nicola

Bilbo said...

Nicola, The green pen with the brass nib isn't a murano glass pen ... it's turned and polished wood with brass fittings and the Eiffel Tower nib. I'm not certain any more, but I think both the pen and the nib came from the store in Montreal's Old Town where I also bought the hand-shaped pen rest ... it was long ago, and I'm afraid I've long forgotten the name of the store. Not much help, I guess, but I hope you're able to find another one!