This is my first post in the Pen History forum. I hope it is at the right place. This may not be clear, as it's a meandering post, a post that has been prompted by a conversation I had with obnubilator via PM. He of course agreed that I post it. Since it's a conversation, I will to preserve a conversational tone.
This conversation started because I was reading one of obnubilator's Classifieds ad, and thought of sending him a note of appreciation:
Just a note to let you know that your ads are, as always, a joy to read. One day I might bite at one of your offers, but right now I got to pay for that Edison I just bought. There's also the fact that I know nothing of vintage pens.
What would be your suggestion as an ideal vintage pen?
Since the question was quite open-ended, I received a question in return:
Thanks willard, glad you like them. As far as the ideal vintage pen..... it depends on how you want to use it, and on how much you want to spend.
I then tried to clarify what I meant, at the expense of getting away from the first question, and at the risk of exhibiting more ignorance than might have been required:
Well, I thought we were into vintage pens were for flex nibs. While I appreciate my Snorkel, it's still just a very good XF pen. We can buy Japanese pens like that.
I know there are good Waterman nibs, but I have no idea what is the best flex nib. Or what is a good flex nib. All I have is writing samples like what I can see in your ads.
eBay is insane: everything gets traded at any price. The knowledge base that justifies all this is far from obvious to me. And I say that as someone who does online research in my work.
In any case, my question was about what you would consider the main archetype, the main icon of vintage pens. What is the dearest pen in your collection?
The idea of an archetype conveys better what I had in mind. As a pen nut, I try to gather pens that can be used as an outline of the history of pens. Since I have not infinite resources, I tend to focus on what's considered the most iconic, although I do have pet pens that do not fit this bill.
obnubilator's reply is what prompted me to write this post:
There's other reasons than flex to be into vintage. In fact I'd say it's pretty certain that the majority of vintage collectors don't care about flex. I have several buyers who only want Account, Rigid, Manifold, etc nibs....stiff.
If flex is the objective, it's nevertheless the case that a pen which is perfect for Spencerian is going to be terrible for copperplate.
Flex is complicated and has many parameters: How much variation, how much pressure to achieve a given distortion, how fast do the tines rebound, what is the shape of the curve when you graph pressure against constantly varying elasticity, then there are a lot of other factors which are equally important to the process and the product, such as how fine are the hairlines, how scratchy or smooth is the nib, are there flat spots, how does the flow keep up with the flex, etc....all of these attributes are important, all are a bit challenging to convey accurately without some way of defining terms, which has its own pitfalls, for example few people have an intuition for foot/pounds per square inch......the angle at which you hold the pen with respect to the paper, the amount of rotation that you use or don't use as your wrist travels laterally, and many similar factors, have complex multidimensional interactions that can make the nib that works great for you an unpleasant chore for me, and of course vice versa.....
You can't acquire the knowledge base without hands on experience...that's literally why I started selling pens. I've been able to try many hundreds of old pens over several years, without spending any money (though time is a totally different matter.) And the net result of all this experience is that I avoid talking about flex much, because I don't want to oversimplify, and it's hard to find the time and words to do it justice.
All quibbling aside, the iconic pen for me would probably be a Waterman's red ripple #7 with a "black" keyhole nib.
I'm sure I'll never see one.
But my approach to pens is a little unusual: I don't really have a collection; I just have a couple of pens that I use for a while, then replace. Right now I'm liking a beat up old bhr Belmont.
So, besides an answer to my naïve question about flex pens, we have a suggestion of an icon of vintage pens.
The Waterman Red Ripple #7.
This answer led me to search for a video. Here's one:
The conversation continued, but I'd rather stop here for now. This kind of conversation ought to take place more often, in my opinion. If you like it, I could post some of the follow-up, although it got into a tangent.
Finally, at least for now, obnubilator has expressed his intention to start to blog about all this "in a more organized and thorough way", as he says. I wished him good luck and told him I could give him a hand about the information architecture and a minimalist approach to design.
Edited by willard, 14 April 2014 - 23:33.