Conklin Mark Twain Crescent Filler 
2007.09.13 14:17 - Toys, Pens
My most recent pen purchase has been one of Conklin's Mark Twain Crescent Filler fountain pens. Conklin has been making pens since the end of the 19th century, and, early in the 20th, they notably acquired an endorsement from Mr. Twain for their particular filler design, the crescent filler. I'm too lazy to produce the exact quote, but I seem to recall that he called it a 'profanity saver', as the crescent on the side of the pen kept it from rolling off his desk and onto the floor.0

A few years back, Conklin decided to capitalize on this all over again by resurrecting the distinctive filler mechanism for a pen with Twain's name on it. I can't recall the details, and it may have happened before I waded into pen collecting around 2003/2004. In any case, the modern Crescent Filler is probably far from identical to any one of the vintage models, from the large, spring-loaded clip engraved with the manufacturer's name to the comparatively stiff, modern nib. That's not all bad, though, as I'm really not prepared to try caring for a vintage Conklin just now.

The modern version of this pen has, as noted, a large, stiff, spring-loaded clip, weighted cap and a nib that is, I think, slightly oversized. The round-topped cap's got a broad band with Twain's signature engraved on one side, and the company's name on the other. Clip and cap band are sterling silver. Not sure what the crescent is made of.

The eponymous crescent filler is probably the most distinctive part of the pen, as the crescent is an arc of metal stuck in the side of the pen over a bulging ring. Inside the body of the pen, the crescent is attached to a metal plate which squeezes the air and ink out of the rubber ink-sac inside the pen when the crescent is pushed in. The bulging ring under the crescent prevents it from being pushed in unintentionally, so it won't vomit ink all over your shirt, pocket, or the page you're writing on. Filling the pen requires that the right be rotated around the pen until a slot in it lines up with the crescent.

In practice, the filler seems to work reasonable well, if neither especially better nor worse than some similar mechanisms. The nib is smooth, and slightly wet. It starts easily and my only complaint is that I should probably switch to Noodler's Black from the 2:1 mix of Eternal Brown and Black that I'm using at the moment. The cap posts fine, though it makes for a relatively long pen. The balance when posted seems just fine, though. Size-wise, it's a bit large, but not so absurdly outscale as, say, the Stipula Da Vinci nor so awkwardly proportioned as the Namiki Bamboo. I find it a comfortable size, actually.

On the whole, I'm pretty satisfied with this one. It remains true to both the critical aesthetic and critical internal bits of the pens it recalls, it is distinctive in appearance, and, perhaps above all, it works. I think it would probably hold up okay as a daily writer, though there are more suitable (and less expensive) choices that would be better and more appropriate. As power-jewelry, it's less flashy and impressive than some of my other pens. As a pen, though, it's one of the best.

0. And, of course, Conklin has the story here. So, there you are.

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Parker 100 
2007.09.12 14:50 - Toys, Pens
Parker has been making fountain pens for a pretty long time, and I've already proclaimed a certain fondness for them, but, alas, I find the 100 disappointing.

From 1941 and into the early 1970s, Parker manufactured a pen known as the 51. Now, the Parker 51 has an excellent rep for its robust and reliable design as much as its appearance, and so Parker put out a couple pens designed to recall and capitalize on this nostalgic goodwill. One of these was a limited edition marketed as the Parker 51, and the other, the Parker 100, which looks like a 51 given a contemporary restyling.

I have a couple of vintage 51s, a Vac-filler from 1948, and an Aero-filler from 1952 (I think). They're both excellent writers, though the the Aerometric-equipped pen needs to have a cracked hood repaired. They ran around $100 each, if I recall correctly. The critical thing is that the internals of each pen, even aside from the filling systems involved, is substantially different from the internals of either the 2002 limited edition or the currently-available Parker 100. I won't bore you with the hows and whys, but if you poke around the Internet a bit, you can find all you want to know. Suffice to say that the internals seem to be one of the reasons the original 51s write so well. Anyway, I really like the styling on the Parker 51, and the Parker 100, being an update of that, likewise appealed to me. Given that I've had good luck with cheap, contemporary Parkers, and given that I've had good luck with expensive, vintage Parkers, I figured that the 100 was a safe bet, even without the under-the-hood0 similarities to the 51.

Aesthetically, the 100 is fine: the lines are right, the trim looks nice ... It's a really nice-looking pen all over. Most of the high-end modern pens that I own tend to be a bit heavier than their vintage counterparts, and the 100 is not really an exception.1 The cap doesn't post very securely, but it's no worse in this regard than my Pelikan m100 or the Parker 51s I own. Weight aside, the feel of the pen in the hand is fine, as they've adapted the 51's shape pretty closely. So far, so good.

Where the 100 falls down, and it may just be that I've got a lemon, is that it doesn't write especially well, and I suspect that this flaw is a result of the hooded design. The nib seems to be sufficiently smooth and, once started, it writes just fine. Starting, however, is the problem. Nine times out of ten, the pen just doesn't write the first time it's put to paper. It's not out of ink, and it doesn't seem to matter whether it's feeding from a cartridge (of Parker's blue ink) or it was filled from a bottle (of Montblanc's blue-black). Few pens give me this kind of trouble, and I can't recommend any of them. While I like the 100's looks, I think its performance and price tag, combined with its utterly un-novel internals, keep me from recommending it, or even being wholly satisfied with the purchase. Too bad, that.

0. A pun, but a small one.
1. I think this is because they're intended more as jewelry than as writing instruments. Especially so when so few people do any serious writing with a pen and paper any more.

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Overpriced Trinkets 
2007.05.06 20:47 - Toys, Gadgets, Pens
So, I spent a good chunk of the last week in Chicago, visiting Mr. and Mrs. Pikafoop0. I'm told that a fun time was had by all. It had been previously agreed that I needed to visit a pen shop in the nearby shopping mall, so that became a prime destination on Saturday.

While I was hemming and hawing over the purchase of a Parker 100, the 'foop was perusing their selection of clearanced items, wherein he found the Bettoni Graphica, which really is a hardcore geek/engineer/guy-who-works-with-his-hands sort of pen. So I had to have one, too. It's a sickness, really. I'm a little worried that one of my immediate family way appropriate while I'm not looking, so I'm keeping my eye out for it as gift fodder later this year.

The good news? Bettoni seems to be a brand made exclusively for promotional giveaways, so the pen is probably available if one knows where to look. The bad is that, so far, it doesn't look like anyone on the Internet accepts orders for fewer than twenty-five of them, which is just a few2 more than I need for gifts. So, uh, best of luck finding one, I guess, unless you happen to be near the Woodfield Mall in Chicago (in which case, give Executive Essentials a look).

I'll confess to paying a bit more than twenty dollars for one of those, though. I don't think that was a bad deal, except in light of the usual pricing on it.


0. Not their real name, but I can never recall what the policy is on real names and teh Intarweb this week.
1. It won; I am now contemplating sending it to Janesville3 for a nib swap before inking it and putting it to use.
2. Where few = twenty-two, in fact.
3. Janesville, WI is home to the US service center for Parker, Waterman, and Rotring pens. Engineers should really give Rotring's pens a look; you may find either the (discontinued/soon-to-be-discontinued) 600 or (new, replacing the 600) Newton series pleasing to your aesthetic sensibilities. I've mostly preferred Parker, though.

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2006.02.04 00:52 - Miscellanea, Toys, Pens
Or: I Am A Klutz, And Cannot Have Nice Things

I mentioned a while back that I had purchased an Ohto Super Promecha. I just knocked it off my desk, and bent the tip.

Let me repeat: I have just rendered non-functional a thirty-dollar drafting pencil by breaking a five-cent part.


[Update: Seems to be fixed. I am now a happy(er) monkeyman.]
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Pens! Also, Pencils! 
2005.12.02 10:59 - Toys, Pens
I think I saw this place get mention somewhere else a while back, but I heard about them over at The Rambling Snail. JetPens sells, well, pens. Well. Writing instruments in general. Mostly. Their inventory is almost exclusively Japanese stuff that has no US distribution--Pilot Hi-Tec C gel pens, for instance.

I bought an Ohto Super Promecha a little while back. Haven't got much use out of it (I'm not drawing so much at the moment), but it's a very nice pencil. You have to get it in your hand to see what I mean, but I think it's great. (And expensive, but we'll leave that aside for now.) I've got a second order coming at the moment, which contains a couple of Pilot Petit1 fountain pens. If they write as well as the Pilot Varsity, they're a steal at five dollars. Especially if they'll take standard Namiki cartridges (which are less expensive than the ones for sale through JetPens--colors are less diverse, though) and converters. If these work out, and I'm employed, I'll probably have some of them to throw at people around homecoming. I mean, they're cheap.
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