It's peculiar to be able to find so little on the internet about the 'India Fountain Pen Industry'. When one inquires about its status most doors seem closed. Its ancient history seems to be lost somewhere in the 4th century B.C., with little or no information, until one reads about a few of the better known internet India pen manufacturers of today. Maybe, there are no defining answers to questions about the status of the 'India Fountain Pen Industry', (Report Linker , Ravlon ball pen tips , Fountain Pen Revolution, Where Do I Find Pens ), since the subject seems too broad with local, regional, and national manufacturers. And, certainly Gandhi's vision of a 'village-dominated economy' may have finally caught up to the micro-industry of fountain pen manufacturing in India, more especially, with the recent sale of Camlin to Kokuyo, a Japanese company. I hope that posts about the India fountain pen industry will be forthcoming from the newly formed Pen Club Of India on FPN.
I often feel that too much analysis and minutia can get in the way of fountain pen principles, which dictate "how does the pen feel in your hand, and how does the nib perform with your unique style of handwriting". All of the other factors, including price, pen material, manufacturer, type of nib, design, weight, paper, etc., simply do not matter. I realize that most of us purchase, relying on marketing hype and appearance, while hoping that the pen will perform satisfactorily after it arrives. But, unless it's a piece of art, which incidentally men often find as one of their last forms of wearing and using as jewelry, then maybe we ought to start looking more at its purpose. Brian Gray, Edison Pens, wrote an interesting article concerning this type of approach towards selecting a steel nib over a gold nib, 'In Praise Of Steel Nibs'.
THE GUIDER PEN COMPANY
The Guider Pen Company in Rajahmundry, India, has been making Handmade Fountain Pens since 1946.
Although this pen company sells pens throughout India and the export market, it remains one of the many independent privately owned handmade pen companies in India. Some of that creative process which goes into the making of their fountain pens can be viewed on their website (manufacturing) with images of making their pens, and/also the company building. Many pen companies in India are regional, and one can imagine how many independent pen companies are unnoticed and still manufacturing writing instruments, today.
THE GUIDER MARALA FOUNTAIN PEN
I recently purchased the Guider Marala black ebonite, gold plated Fine Nib pen, with an iridium tip from FPR (Fountain Pen Revolution) in India. This is a lot of pen for the money with a few very minor handmade irregular faults, which lends to its authenticity and beauty. If you're looking for a great affordable pen that writes well, at well below US, Euro, and Far East market prices, then you might choose an Indian fountain pen. The Marala is an 'eyedropper', as are most India fountain pens, which I now find easier to use and rely upon, and especially when I'm not traveling by air. The Marala only requires a spec of silicon grease to secure the barrel from leaking, and a few eyedroppers full of ink to remain useful for an extended period of time or days. Refilling and cleaning/increase ink flow are a breeze.
The Guider Marala is a medium size fountain pen with a large roofed cap made of ebonite. It's handmade by craftsmen, using 70 year old equipment and techniques.
Its features include the following:
- eyedropper; The Nib Assembly Unit appears to have a ‘centered core plug’ which extends approximately 1/4” into the barrel for ink. It’s probably screwed into the assembly unit. The plug has two fine razor cuts spaced about 1/16” apart, on its side, which extend down into the nib area to feed the pen from the barrel.
- gold plated fine nib (gold micron coating; slight 'toothy' feedback; rounded modern style nib, not the older flat style)
- iridium tip "point" (possibly manufactured by Montex)
- ebonite body - barrel, cap, feed (sculptured?), and nib assembly (the light sulfur smell from ebonite when warmed during the break-in period is not noticeable and dissipates over time; this is a heavier ebonite pen than the machine tooled Edison, and the smell takes a longer period of time to break-in)
- colour - black (brown and green, also, available)
- gold plated clip and two gold plated bands to cap; generous size clip with enough expansion to clip on jacket pocket; complements cap size; easy to clip and fit to most large pen loops in leather or canvas; no manufacturer's mark on clip or bands.
I did not find the pen balanced, when the cap was posted to the barrel. I have a medium sized man's hand. Its total length when posted is approximately 7", and the cap does not seem to stay posted, unless pushed to secure in place. If you decide to post each time you write, it could eventually leave a ring to the barrel. I am a frequent poster of cap to barrel, and often prefer a snap cap to the screw on cap. However, the adjustment is a small one to consider when buying this type of quality fountain pen. The Marala is the type of pen you'd use at your desk or at a table in the library, and seems to stay inked and to write flawlessly.
The New Design of the Marala fountain pen, with a flat slightly rounded roof cap, keeps the pen from rolling by its substantial weight and generous smooth functional style clip. The cap and clip are designed to complement the barrel and its slightly rounded end. I find nothing much original in the design of modern pens from India, except for the Camlin SD Executive fountain pen. The Marala pencap is similar to the Dunhill Sentryman cap, but not in manufacture or price.
The Dunhill Sentryman cap is inspired by the English postal pillar box and has a precision engineered functional spring clip. Here the British influence, also, shines through in the Marala design. However, the Marala's barrel is not stepped like the Sentryman for posting, but provides a less ostentatious slightly rounded end to compliment the slightly doomed top of the cap. I prefer the Marala's less complicated concept over the Sentryman's style.
A couple of small minute irregularities or inclusions present themselves in the hand turned barrel, as seen in one of the photographs. They appear the size of a small pen tip and probably occur during the hand turning. Some small areas on the barrel were not completely buffed to match the pen, although these areas may be due to oxidation - from air freight.
Kevin at FPR states,
"He never used any compounds on ebonite to polish, but have found that it can be polished up pretty nicely with a good set of micromesh sanding pads. I typically start with 8000 (or 4000 if the scuffs are more serious) and move up to 12,000 for finishing. I have tended to use Carnauba wax for other plastic pens, but I have never actually tried it on ebonite."
A FPN post, Caring For And Maintaining Ebonite Pens,
provides suggestions on protecting and polishing ebonite pens, but no definite solution has been provided.Other solutions to protect and refurbish your ebonite pen can, also, be found on the FPN site.
The threads on the barrel of the Marala cap are high enough up from the grip area so that they do not interfere with placement of the fingers. The Marala does not require a great deal of screwing to secure the cap to the barrel. While the Edison Ebonite requires some additional screwing to secure the cap to the barrel, it is a more finished and complete seal than the Marala, as would be expected from a machine tooled pen.
THE MARALA NIB & ASSEMBLY PIECE
The nib gold plated steel in a rounded modern style which states 'Guider Fine India' with 'G' circled symbol beneath the lettering on the lower part of the nib. Mr. Rao, Guider Pens, uses a standard sharped ebonite sculptured feed. This shape is found on most India pens.
Kevin, FPR, states,
"I have heard that the ebonite feeds are manufactured in Kanpur. The rumor I hear is that most all of the FP companies have their feeds made by the same manufacturer. I actually have a personal goal of getting to Kanpur myself to investigate and research the best feeds made in India."
An iridium tip was positioned on the nib, as seen through my 10x Belarus French jewelers loop. I doubt if this India gold plated steel nib will deteriorate before my time, but in case of an accident FPR (Fountain Pen Revolution) will send you a replacement at a minimal cost, or you might prefer to order a back up with your order. You may, also, like to review 'In Praise Of Steel Nibs', as referenced above in this post.
A fellow FPN member, 'raging.dragon' states the following about iridium nibs:
'Iridium is commonly used as a generic term for the small ball of hard metal welded onto the tip of the nib. Before WWII grains of natural Iridium-Osmium alloy were the most commonly used material for this. Since WWII industrially manufactured Platinium-Ruthenium alloys have been the most common tipping material. This is partly because industrially manufactured alloys are more consistent and thus easier to work with, and also because Osmium is extremely difficult to separate from Iridium and endangers the workers grinding nib tips (Osmium Oxide is very toxic so regularly inhaling even minuscule amounts of Iridium-Osmium dust is a serious occupational health and safety concern).'
Marala Ebonite fountain pen (left) & Pearlette Ebonite fountain pen (right)
PEN DIMENSIONS COMPARED - MARALA, SENTRYMAN, PEARLETTE
Guider Marala Dimensions:
Length capped: 14cm / 5.5 inches
Length posted: 16.8cm / 6.6 - 7 inches
Width from grip to widest: 1cm / 0.4 to 0.5 inches
Ink capacity: .0845 ounces / 2.5 milliliter
Dunhill Sentryman Dimensions:
Length with cap closed : 14cm / 5.51 inches
Length with cap posted : 16.7cm / 6.57 inches
Edison Pearlette Dimensions:
Cap Diameter 1.30cm / .515 inches
Body Diamater 1.30cm / .515 inches
Length Capped 13.1cm / 5.18 inches
Length Uncapped 12.065cm / 4.75 inches
WEIGHTS COMPARED - MARALA, SENTRYMAN, PEARLETTE
Guider Marala black ebonite fountain pen
capped 8 ounces / 226.7 grams
uncapped 5 ounces / 141.7 grams
Dunhill Sentryman fountain pen
Weight : 1.4 ounces / 40 grams
Edison Pearlette ebonite fountain pen
capped 0.63 ounces / 18 grams
uncapped 0.42 ounces / 12 grams
USING THE MARALA FOUNTAIN PEN:
There are quite a few pens of this size or larger, which require you to slow down your handwriting. Some of these have the large flex nib pens. However, I don't find this pen to be one of those that slow down my writing style. I have not noticed any skipping or tiring of my hand during a few hours of writing, although I cap frequently. I have what is considered a light hand for a man. The ebonite barrel seems to warm to the fingers, and is not foreign to hold. The pen and nib work wonderfully to my style of writing, which is created by my hand and wrist (unfortunately not by using the arm), which results in a quick half print script. Although this is a reasonably expensive pen in India, and although I care for it as such, I find myself, not only looking forward to using it, but using it more frequently than some of my expensive pens from the USA and Europe. After all, that's the purpose of a good fountain pen.
The small micro inclusions, mentioned previously in this post, are not noticeable and do not detract from the appearance of the pen. I felt it added to the handmade quality and appearance.
The cap hole, found a 1/4" beneath the clip ring, does not require filling. You might consider filling this hole if you are in a high dry altitude. I, also, filled the pen with Private Reserve Midnight Blues ink, which is considered a 'wet' heavy ink. I feel that the initial filling of a new pen should be made with this type of ink since it usually provides a flow which is not conducive to leaking. I've had the Marala pen inked and in use for three weeks, with only an occasional wipe on a partially wet Viva paper towel to encourage ink flow and keep the nib clean.
I seem to be using twice as much ink with the Fine India Marala nib (Western Medium nib) on its initial flow as compared to the Japanese Fine nib (Western Extra Fine nib), which is expected. The 'eyedropper' provides a consistent and reliable flow, but one must, also, consider the climate, humidity, and type/weight of paper in considering your results. I enjoy hearing the light noise from the tines crossing the paper. Like typewriters of old, the occasional noise of the nib provides a cadence to my writing, as if someone were guiding my hand towards an ending. Overall, while I'm learning its nib distance from the paper and pressure, it's an optimal performer with a nice fine line.
COMPARING INDIA NIB LINE WIDTHS
I've found the India 'Fine' nib line equals a near Western 'Medium' nib line; unless, here they are referring to 'Fine' as being an upgrade in the pen, or as being 'Finely' made. The 'Fine' India nib has a smoother flow and with possibly more direct nib contact to paper than a 'Medium' Western nib. The India widths are still a little larger than the Japanese line, and a little closer to a Western line in comparison. I believe the USA Edison 'Very Fine' nib line is closer to the 'Fine' India dimensions. In comparison, the Lamy German pen nib line is more of true western Euro width or a little larger than its designation. And if that's not confusing enough, there is no international standard set to widths of line, or nibs, and probably not even that within any one given country! It's similar to the international postal system.
Kevin Thiemann, Fountain Pen Revolution, offered the following about the Marala Fine nib.
"Actually, the Indian 'Fine' is typically closer to Western 'Extra Fine'. However, the Guider nibs tend to have a lot of line variance. I personally smooth each Guider nib before sending them to my customers, as they can tend to be scratchy. I have informed Mr. Rao at Guider about these issues, and/also, that my additional smoothing can cause a bit of width. I am currently working on higher quality Indian-made nibs manufactured to fit the Guider pens in order to provide more consistency."
INKING THE MARALA FOR THE FIRST TIME
I followed these steps before inking the Marala fountain pen for the first time. International shipping debris and the time it takes for a package to arrive from India can necessitate some form of cleaning.
1. Minute sediments remained in the barrel, and needed to be removed with water; used cotton tips.
2. Blow out any remaining unseen debris with cool setting on hair dryer till dry.
3. Make sure no fine fibers are present on the interior or exterior threads of the pen.
4. Apply a few drops of silicon grease to interior and exterior threads with a toothpick; test to make sure no excess appears; do not use paper towels or cotton tips. They will leave minute fibrous remains to the threads and often lodge themselves in the barrel.
5. Fill Ball Sponge syringe (2 ounce) with cold water and blow out nib assembly and nib to assure a clean flow of ink.
6. Fill the barrel with ink to the area just below the threads, so that when you screw nib assembly to barrel there is no ink oozing from barrel or nib.
7. Point pen down and encourage initial flow by holding nib to a Viva paper towel or blotting pad.
After using the pen for several days, I've found it helpful to bleed off some ink from the nib with a wet paper towel. This encourages a new flow, and allows the pen to regenerate itself until you decide to perform a thorough clean. I infrequently take the nib assembly apart to clean, due to realignment issues on some pens. Another member on FPN suggests how to realign the tines, tank the nib, and feed out for cleaning.
TESTING THE MARALA PEN TO PAPER
Without getting into a lengthy discussion with descriptions of paper weight, finish, absorption, and inks, I will show my choices, from Poor to Excellent (1-5, 5 being Excellent). Testing Marala fountain pen to paper with Private Reserve Midnight Blues ink.
- Moleskine, worldwide, 60g (rating 3+): medium weight paper, cream lined, bleed to verso of page, Medium reply to 'Fine' line, smooth, feathering, medium dry time
- Rhodia, France, 80g (rating 4): heavy weight paper, white dot pad, smooth, Medium reply to 'Fine' line, smooth, longer drying time
- Clairefontaine, France, 90g (rating 4+): medium/heavy weight paper, white lined, Medium reply to 'Fine' line, smooth, faster drying time
- Midori's Traveler's Notebook, Japan (rating 4): light/medium weight paper, white, Medium reply to 'Fine' line, smooth, medium drying time
- Banditapple, Vietnam (rating 3): light/medium weight paper, white, Medium reply to 'Fine' line, slightly toothy response, rough, quick dry time
It was developed originally to replace expensive ebony wood. A lot of pen manufacturers around the world adopted it as an alternative to metal pens back in early twentieth century. It was the first synthetic material that was impervious to ink, allowing the use of internal ink storage.Ebonite/Vulcanite was actually discovered by Eduard Penkala and used during the early 19th century to WWII.
PROTECTING EBONITE PENS
No one seems to have the definitive answer to protecting and polishing an ebonite pen. The following FPN link by 'sjldaniel', "Caring For & Maintaining Ebonite Pens" may be helpful. Other fountain pen manufacturers may, also, have an answer. Use of the pen will certainly add a certain amount of natural oils and acid from your hands.
Brian Gray, Edison Pens, states that they use large buffers and compounds at their manufacturing facility. He has no problems in suggesting the products Simichrome and/also Hut Ultra Gloss. "But honestly, my recommendation is just a lint free cloth for cleaning and maintenance. If you ever get scratches or of the finish ever dulls, you can always send it back to us to use our large machines that will get it right. We would only need return shipping covered.
RELATED LINKS TO FOUNTAIN PENS IN INDIA:
- Times Of India - "Vintage pen lovers find a fortune in old city" by Pritha Charkrabarti, 5 March 2012 - Discusses some of the history of the ebonite pen in India.
- "A case in point - The next time you are in Andhra Pradesh, buy a pocket-sized piece of Indian history", 19 August 2011, by Nitian Pai.
". . . a manufacturer of fountain pens in Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh, whose products were said to have been used by national leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, . . . "
***A 'heads-up' to all fountain pen manufacturers and retailers who export their pens. Some of the pre-siliconed pens which have arrived from India have shown signs of silicon corruption and/also drying. This might be caused from shipping by planes flying at high altitudes.
PREVIOUS POST - MARALA & SERWEX PENS
You can, also, view my previous post about these pens, which includes a partial review on the Marala Guider Pen: 'SERWEX 101 & GUIDER MARALA INDIA FOUNTAIN PENS/ Entry Level Serwex, A Great Bang For The Buck'.
VERY BEST WRITINGS TO YOU, coffeetoofull
Edited by coffeetoofull, 07 September 2012 - 18:23.