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Why German Penmakers Don't Use Celluloid?


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#1 kauloltran

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 08:58

I'm wondering why the offering of celluloid pens is mostly restricted to Italian brands, since they all (with the possible exception of Aurora) produce some variety of celluloid pens in their current production runs. How come the big German penmakers like Montblanc and Pelikan don't offer celluloid in their modern ranges, not even the limited editions?

Edited by kauloltran, 29 September 2012 - 09:02.


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#2 Bo Bo Olson

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 09:13

Cost.
Need to age celluloid for some three years; and warehouse space is some $75 a day per square yard for a book keeper. Need to work it differently. Too much hand work.

German vintage '50-70 semi-flex stubs and those in oblique give the real thing in On Demand line variation. Modern Oblique is a waste of money for a shadow of line variation. Being too lazy to Hunt for affordable vintage oblique pens, lets you 'hunt' for line variation instead of having it.

www.nibs.com/blog/nibster-writes/nibs-germany      Info on Bock nibs

 

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#3 mirosc

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 09:51

Why should they?
The pens are selling well enough without, so there's no need to start another production line with machines, processing sequence, storage,... That's just too much cost for something that almost no one is demanding.
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#4 Jerome Tarshis

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 11:40

The above two replies, by Bo Bo Olsen and mirosc, are profoundly and even ludicrously unresponsive to the question Kaulotran asked. As I think both respondents will have understood, the time it takes to age celluloid would be the same for German as for Italian manufacturers. If it costs extra money to use celluloid in Germany, and require extra machines, the same thing would be true in Italy. Nevertheless, in the face of similar considerations of cost and human effort and sales possibilities, Italian manufacturers choose to do it and (it is asserted) German manufacturers don't.

Does anybody have an answer based on specific historic knowledge rather than hand-waving?

The reason may be nothing more complicated than inertia: it may be that for Italian manufacturers making celluloid pens is continuing to do what has been done in the past, no problem, and for German manufacturers omitting to make celluloid pens is also, precisely, doing what has been done in the past. (But surely I've read about celluloid pens made in Germany?)

If it isn't just inertia, it could be interesting for FPN readers to know what it is.

#5 Paddler

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 12:44

I'm wondering why the offering of celluloid pens is mostly restricted to Italian brands, since they all (with the possible exception of Aurora) produce some variety of celluloid pens in their current production runs. How come the big German penmakers like Montblanc and Pelikan don't offer celluloid in their modern ranges, not even the limited editions?

Maybe because they coated the Hindenburg with a mixture of celluloid and thermite. It didn't work out well.
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#6 eric47

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 13:18

Because you can't injection mold celluloid.
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#7 mirosc

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 13:22

The above two replies, by Bo Bo Olsen and mirosc, are profoundly and even ludicrously unresponsive to the question Kaulotran asked. As I think both respondents will have understood, the time it takes to age celluloid would be the same for German as for Italian manufacturers. If it costs extra money to use celluloid in Germany, and require extra machines, the same thing would be true in Italy. Nevertheless, in the face of similar considerations of cost and human effort and sales possibilities, Italian manufacturers choose to do it and (it is asserted) German manufacturers don't.

Does anybody have an answer based on specific historic knowledge rather than hand-waving?

The reason may be nothing more complicated than inertia: it may be that for Italian manufacturers making celluloid pens is continuing to do what has been done in the past, no problem, and for German manufacturers omitting to make celluloid pens is also, precisely, doing what has been done in the past. (But surely I've read about celluloid pens made in Germany?)

If it isn't just inertia, it could be interesting for FPN readers to know what it is.


Congratulations for having found long and complicated sounding words for telling the almost same thing as we did. But contrary to your statement German manufacturers in fact were making celluloid pens in the past, but hardly anymore. They just don't start it again (like I have written) due to cost factors; it's just not profitable enough to start with it, just like it's no more profitable for Pelikan anymore to produce OB, OBB... nibs

If you are looking for historical answers (which I don't see asked in the opening post, just contemporary - he is asking about "current"), that's quite easy.
Celluloid is flammable, almost explosive and thus should have been prohibited (initial production and certain endproducts like film) since April 1, 1940. But the second world war made this regulation impossible, because the replacement products were needed for war efforts, and so celluloid was made and used until the 1950s. Then, during the "Wirtschaftswunder" the use of celluloid was officially restricted very much - in an attempt to ban it (and also other materials were more fashionable in Germany), Montblanc switched to other materials and also the other pen manufacturers, but if I remember correctly Montblanc was first. Today celluloid isn't banned anymore (at least not in Germany - we still produce tabletennisballs, for example), but it's just not cost effective to start with it again. Just read again what I have written above: machinery, processing sequence, storage (think of the safety regulations!),...

Edited by mirosc, 29 September 2012 - 13:28.

Greetings,
Michael

#8 EP Tech

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 14:14

Correct me if I am wrong but aren't the bodies of the Souveran line made of celluloid and the caps acrylic. If not they sure have the look and feel.

#9 mirosc

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 14:31

Correct me if I am wrong but aren't the bodies of the Souveran line made of celluloid and the caps acrylic. If not they sure have the look and feel.


IIRC the Silver Screen special edition has a band of celluloid, but not the others.
But what is "celluloid"? The real celluloid (as we understand it here in Germany) is "Zellulosenitrat" (not sure about the correct English term), but the modern version is "Zelluloseacetat" which is used by Pelikan for the striped version.

Edited by mirosc, 29 September 2012 - 14:34.

Greetings,
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#10 Bo Bo Olson

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 14:46

Right after the war, Lamy bought plastic exclusion machines from Artus, who still makes those types of machines.

The US as far as I can tell followed the plastic excluded P-51 also, in it was cheaper, to exclude fresh plastic than store and age celluloid and then drill it out by hand. Less machining ... less hand work, which costs more per unit.

It's the same reason that excluded plastic feeds replaced the better hand cut hard rubber feeds, cost.

Some Italian pens, not all, kept doing it the traditional way* so they still have celluloid pens.
There was an old Italian company, that stayed old fashioned. It got bought up over a decade ago, and I think the new owners went modern. The Granddaughter I believe after a few years left to form her own company; to make pens like Gramps made; with celluloid.

Perhaps the Italian market NOW wanted a flashier more colorful pen, and got it.

I am not up on Italian pens, but my 1950 celluloid Columbus is one of my top 5 for pretty pens.


Some new firms like Delta went back to a material with more color. The new firm Visconti also.
Italian design has it's own flare, a brighter more 'sunny' sparkle.

The Italian Aurora, a very old company makes plastic exclusion pens; the 88...I don't know if they still make celluloid pens.

German vintage '50-70 semi-flex stubs and those in oblique give the real thing in On Demand line variation. Modern Oblique is a waste of money for a shadow of line variation. Being too lazy to Hunt for affordable vintage oblique pens, lets you 'hunt' for line variation instead of having it.

www.nibs.com/blog/nibster-writes/nibs-germany      Info on Bock nibs

 

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#11 jjlax10

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 14:54

I have been told by Rick Propas (someone with actual knowledge) that colored pens did not sell as well as black pens in Germany. That being said, Sonnoecken (spelling may be wrong) had some beautiful celluloid pens.
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#12 hari317

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 14:59

From what I have observed, the German firms like MB and Pelikan tend to stick with a good design and a proven material once it is perfected. Celluloid as a material has some dimensional stability and age related deterioration issues. MB and Pelikan know about these problems too well having made pens from these when no other material was available. Once they mastered the art of injection molded PMMA to make really well finished pens(at least MB, IMO) I think they are loathe to go back.
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#13 Jerome Tarshis

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 15:00

Edited to withdraw what little I had to say; since I made my earlier post, various members have addressed the matter from both the Italian (yes to celluloid) and German (no to celluloid) positions, in the ways I was hoping for. The original question was really about both Italian and German manufacturers.

Edited by Jerome Tarshis, 29 September 2012 - 15:15.


#14 OldGriz

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 15:02

Let's look at a real simple and uncomplicated answer...

THEY DON'T WANT TO... THE REASON IS MOST LIKELY DUE TO MARKETING STUDIES...

Why over complicate the answer...
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#15 Bo Bo Olson

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 15:04

It is hard to find colored German pens on German Ebay, they cost 1/3 more than the common black and gold.
Many German companies exported colorful pens.

Esterbrook in the US stopped making pretty celluloid pens in 1960.
Yep, all I had as a kid, was the ugly pastel excluded plastic ones, with a metal top. :headsmack:

German vintage '50-70 semi-flex stubs and those in oblique give the real thing in On Demand line variation. Modern Oblique is a waste of money for a shadow of line variation. Being too lazy to Hunt for affordable vintage oblique pens, lets you 'hunt' for line variation instead of having it.

www.nibs.com/blog/nibster-writes/nibs-germany      Info on Bock nibs

 

The cheapest lessons are from those who learned expensive lessons. Ignorance is best for learning expensive lessons.

 

 

 


#16 jar

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 15:17

Celluloid is very hard to work with in high volumes under today's health and safety rules and in mass automation as opposed to manual turning and labor today is cost prohibitive and expertise (training, intern and apprentice programs) virtually nonexistence.

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#17 eric47

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 15:20

IIRC the Silver Screen special edition has a band of celluloid, but not the others.
But what is "celluloid"? The real celluloid (as we understand it here in Germany) is "Zellulosenitrat" (not sure about the correct English term), but the modern version is "Zelluloseacetat" which is used by Pelikan for the striped version.

You're most likely looking for the difference between celluloid nitrate and celluloid acetate. I can "see" it in German. "Celluloid" generically used can refer to either one. Indeed, modern Pelikan use celluloid acetate.

Some Italian pens, not all, kept doing it the traditional way* so they still have celluloid pens.
There was an old Italian company, that stayed old fashioned. It got bought up over a decade ago, and I think the new owners went modern. The Granddaughter I believe after a few years left to form her own company; to make pens like Gramps made; with celluloid.

The Italian Aurora, a very old company makes plastic exclusion pens; the 88...I don't know if they still make celluloid pens.

From that extremely vague description of the old Italian company, it might be Omas. Omas never switched to injection molding or extrusion (it's extrusion not exclusion) at least on their flagship pens until 2004-5. They made celluloid pens at least until the 1960s, turning them. When cellluloid stop being readily availabe, Omas continued to turn them using resin as they did with modern "Arte Italiana" series of the 1980s. Later once modern celluloid nitrate was available again in the early 1990s, they started turning celluloid pens along with the resin ones.

Omas still has celluloid nitrate stock, so still makes celluloid pens today, turning them. They have other resin models too, I have no idea how those are made.

I believe the last Italian manufacturer of celluloid nitrate no longer produces it in Italy -- EU regulations make the production of celluloid rather difficult from what I heard.

The granddaughter of the founder of Omas, Armando Simoni, sold the company around 2000, to LVMH. She and her son after a brief hiatus, founded the company Atelier Simoni. But they did *not* and have *not* made any celluloid pens as far as I know. The original pens were Titanium and demonstrators.

Aurora, based on the "How its made" video, use injection molding on some (if not all of their) apens. In plastic production, injection molding is different from extrusion by the way -- they different processes. Aurora do not have currently any celluloid pens, resin and PMMA are the materials they use. There were some pens they made with celluloid acetate, the very first marbled Optimas; but the material shrank badly and Aurora switched materials.

----
I'm not sure why this celluloid discussion has to do with colors. I have vintage black celluloid pens, along with other more colorful celluloids.

Edited by eric47, 29 September 2012 - 15:34.

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#18 humsin

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 16:02

Germans want understated while Italians want flamboyance and flare...my understanding =)
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#19 checkrail

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 16:07

Very informative thread. I now know about 100% more about celluloid than I did before today!
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#20 IWantThat

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 16:19

I agree with humsin that it may be nothing more than aesthetics. German manufacturers tend to favor simple and understated (outrageous LE pens notwithstanding), while the Italian manufacturers like color and intricacy in their pens (for the most part). I like both, so sometimes I buy German-made pens and sometimes I buy Italian-made pens. There's room for everyone that way :)
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