This is a love story. It spans from the early 1970s to here. But today I will tell only the latest part of it.
It is about my passion for fountain pens. I wrote something earlier here, but today I introduce a new batch.
How they got here is a story of twists and turns.
I suppose the first salient fact is about my right wrist, which I broke in truly spectacular fashion in the early 2000s (see the X-Ray image). This forever changed the way I could hold and guide a pen. The principal difference was that I have to grip a pen higher up than I used to, and I am no longer able to make smaller loops to shape my letters. This gives my chicken scratch the appearance of being the illegible scrawling of a small child.
Tangent: I was a latecomer to online shopping because, as an IT professional, none of the payment methods offered convinced me I couldn’t hack them myself. Long story short, I did like the model eBay developed in the 2010s (the earlier incarnations were so bad I wondered whether they were the work of confidence tricksters).
One day last year I tried to buy a Parker fountain pen online, and came across a range of Chinese fountain pens so cheap I thought there was some scam going on. But cheap enough to chance my arm. I ordered two. They took six weeks to get here. They were perfect!
Over the next few months I added on to other online purchases more of the fountain pens by the same Shanghai company. My latest batch, ordered in January, arrived this week.
All of the pens were selected to come with converters, meaning I draw my ink from a bottle rather than using cartridges. They arrived without any frills, in a plastic postage bag to carry the customs declaration, and containing within it only the cellophane-wrapped pen. No bubble wrap or presentation box. The cheapest pen was $3AUD, the most expensive $5AUD!
They are delightful! The ink flows well. The nibs are broad and as I like them. The craftsmanship compares very favourably with the European and American pens, selling for ten to a hundred times as much money. I suspect the Chinese stole the designs from more expensive manufacturers elsewhere in the world. And are able to make them much more cheaply. But if these pens last only a couple of years, they will have been worth the money.
I have been disappointed how badly my much more expensive pens have deteriorated, mostly because Cross, Parker, Shaeffer, and Waterman scrimped on their cheapest parts, making them perish, and undermining the entire utility of their pens within two to five years.
It remains to be seen whether my new flames will last longer and more reliably!
I was so delighted that I also bought a bottle of blue ink from Shanghai. It arrived unbroken and, so far, compares very favourably with ink twice its price here (by ‘so far’ I mean the test of ink is how it fades over time).
My only disappointment has been that I have not been able to find a pen with a fine enough nib to pass on to a close friend who is a draughtsman, designer, and incomprehensively small handwriter. Not yet. But I will continue to look.