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Why All The Love For Celluloid?

celluloid precious resin pen materials

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34 replies to this topic

#1 jcm499

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Posted 29 June 2014 - 05:28

I do own some celluloid pens, a Parker Vacumatic pen and pencil set and a Montblanc from 1951. They’re nice, but I don’t really understand all the love for celluloid.

 

As far as I know, celluloid was first used as a poor man’s replacement for ivory, but is still expensive and difficult to produce by modern standards. It tends to shrink, warp, and discolor with age, and it bursts into flames with relatively little provocation. I can see why it is rarely used today. It seems to me that acrylics, which can be beautifully colored and do not have those disadvantages, are altogether superior. Yet, celluloid seems to hold a special place in the hearts of fountain pen aficionados. Why? Why is Montblanc’s precious resin the object of criticism for being “just plastic” while celluloid is immune? 



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#2 balson

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Posted 29 June 2014 - 05:51

my personal favorite pen material is hard rubber, but i really love the feel of the early celluloid pens.  it has a wonderful warmth and softness to it.  it almost has a waxiness to it, which sounds kind of gross, but feels good in my hands when i am drawing or writing.

 

i personally dislike the term "precious resin" because i feel it has an elitist tone.  there is nothing wrong with plastic, and as you said many of the acrylics are absolutely stunning, but by calling it "precious resin" it seems they are trying to distance themselves from plastics reputation as a cheap material.  



#3 kidde

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Posted 29 June 2014 - 06:08

I think its a combination of appearance and texture, like with ebonite. Add to this the difficulty in manufacturing, cure times in days and longer, and the perceived rarity it starts to make more sense. How about casein? You fill them with water based ink but soaking one in water will likely ruin it.
So I think availability breeds desire, not any actual superiority. It has basic differences from modern acrylic. Some strengths and some weaknesses. You ultimately decide which you want.

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#4 Namo

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Posted 29 June 2014 - 06:11

The feeling of true celluloid is unique and no acrylic, even of excellent quality (aka "precious resin", but there are others indeed of excellent quality, esp. when turned), can match that.
I have two custom pens, a Edison extended Pearl in celluloid, and a classic cigar by Ken Cavers (DrGortex) made out of a beautiful blue crush acrylic, and if the Cavers is more comfortable for my hand, I find myself reaching for the Edison more often just because how it feels in the hand.

Edited by Namo, 29 June 2014 - 06:16.

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#5 jcm499

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Posted 29 June 2014 - 08:09

Yes, celluloid is certainly pleasant to hold, and recognizable by touch. I agree that it feels "waxy," almost lubricated-- in a good way. It just seems to me that the virtues of the material are well outweighed by its defects, and so I'm a bit perplexed by how exalted it is in the hearts and minds of so many. De gustibus non est disputandum, I suppose: if you value the good qualities of celluloid dearly enough, you will accept the bad.



#6 novarider

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Posted 29 June 2014 - 10:01

I have never understood the "feeling" of different materials. People say ebonite(hard rubber) feels warm but I have never thought that my vintage Waterman pens feel "warm"

#7 fabri00

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Posted 29 June 2014 - 13:09

Some colors and patterns of celluloid are hardly replicable with acrylic.
This is for me the main differnc making celluloid unique.

#8 jar

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Posted 29 June 2014 - 14:41

Yes, celluloid is certainly pleasant to hold, and recognizable by touch. I agree that it feels "waxy," almost lubricated-- in a good way. It just seems to me that the virtues of the material are well outweighed by its defects, and so I'm a bit perplexed by how exalted it is in the hearts and minds of so many. De gustibus non est disputandum, I suppose: if you value the good qualities of celluloid dearly enough, you will accept the bad.

 

The issue is "what is bad"?

 

Lots of plastics shrink and warp and discolor over time and well cured celluloid is not the worst of the batch.

 

Very few celluloid fountain pens or billiard balls burst into flames.

 

Based on those observations celluloid does not seem such a bad choice for a material.

 

Montegrappa did make one of their pens in both celluloid and pearlescent resin. Here are some pictures of the very same pen in the two materials.

 

medium800.jpg

 

medium800.jpg

 

medium800.jpg

 

Can you tell which are celluloid and which are pearlescent resin?


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#9 Blade Runner

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Posted 29 June 2014 - 17:10

I do own some celluloid pens, a Parker Vacumatic pen and pencil set and a Montblanc from 1951. They’re nice, but I don’t really understand all the love for celluloid.

 

As far as I know, celluloid was first used as a poor man’s replacement for ivory, but is still expensive and difficult to produce by modern standards. It tends to shrink, warp, and discolor with age, and it bursts into flames with relatively little provocation. I can see why it is rarely used today. It seems to me that acrylics, which can be beautifully colored and do not have those disadvantages, are altogether superior. Yet, celluloid seems to hold a special place in the hearts of fountain pen aficionados. Why? Why is Montblanc’s precious resin the object of criticism for being “just plastic” while celluloid is immune? 

+1

 

A lot of the love for  celluloid comes with love of vintage.  I honestly don't think its tactile quality outweighs its negative points.  



#10 WirsPlm

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Posted 29 June 2014 - 18:18

+1

 

A lot of the love for  celluloid comes with love of vintage.  I honestly don't think its tactile quality outweighs its negative points.  

 

I'm one of the crowd who thinks the feel outweighs quite a bit, plastics are fine but I would never pay a bunch of money for a standard acrylic plastic pen (it just feels sort of slimy or like I can't grip it right, which isn't the feeling I get from celluloid), and it's not like acrylic plastics are the final answer to every materials problem either (if you want to talk about cracking, acrylic plastic can be just was bad as any other plastic, it's a function of material quality and thickness more than anything else from what I know).  The only time I had a celluloid item have trouble with overheating was when I held it near an open flame (acrylic plastic would probably have started melting under the same circumstances), since we don't tend to hold pens near open flames I really don't think it's an issue.  :rolleyes:

 

I'm not a huge fan of vintage pens (there's a reason modern manufacturers have dropped a lot of vintage filling systems and the less said about most vintage feeds the better) but celluloid is a great material which has some downsides and some upsides, just like most materials, and that it's not as suited for mass manufacturing as injection molded plastic doesn't mean it's better or worse, it just means it's difficult to work in a factory environment where the focus is on cheapest possible cost per piece.

 

Honestly, what confuses me is the OP's confusion about the realization that some people have different opinions than s/he does.  :huh:


Edited by WirsPlm, 29 June 2014 - 18:21.


#11 LOGAN

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Posted 29 June 2014 - 19:38

I agree with the OP. Don't get me wrong, I like celluloid. But, I don't  :puddle:  :wub:  :yikes:  over it. 

 

I honestly like acrylics just as well. It is a good pen material, but there are many other pen materials I like just as well.



#12 jcm499

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Posted 29 June 2014 - 19:40

 

 

 

Honestly, what confuses me is the OP's confusion about the realization that some people have different opinions than s/he does.  :huh:

 

Ouch! Well, as I implied in #5, any discussion on taste does invite this criticism. In fairness to me, though, I'm perfectly pleased to accept that some people prefer celluloid. I was just curious as to why. After all, I may be missing something. It's been known to happen!



#13 bitterwonder

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Posted 30 June 2014 - 01:04

It is beautiful and warm to the touch. and light.

#14 LOGAN

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Posted 30 June 2014 - 01:16

 

Ouch! Well, as I implied in #5, any discussion on taste does invite this criticism. In fairness to me, though, I'm perfectly pleased to accept that some people prefer celluloid. I was just curious as to why. After all, I may be missing something. It's been known to happen!

 

Don't feel bad. I have had similar questions in the past. We learn as we go. ;)



#15 Keyless Works

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Posted 30 June 2014 - 01:23

There are lots of beautiful celluloid pens and beautiful plastic pens.  I don't think I could tell a difference just by touching them and I would never buy one pen over the other purely because one was celluloid and the other was resin if they look the same and write the same.

 

Lots of companies made/make beautiful celluloid pens and if they could produce the same patters in plastic I don't see any reason to pick the celluloid over the plastic. 

 

I think people dislike injection modeled plastics because they might be perceived as more fragile than something turned from a solid bar. If you drop a celluloid pen and a plastic pen onto a hard surface they are both likely to break. 



#16 Keyless Works

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Posted 30 June 2014 - 01:26

 

The issue is "what is bad"?

 

Lots of plastics shrink and warp and discolor over time and well cured celluloid is not the worst of the batch.

 

Very few celluloid fountain pens or billiard balls burst into flames.

 

Based on those observations celluloid does not seem such a bad choice for a material.

 

Montegrappa did make one of their pens in both celluloid and pearlescent resin. Here are some pictures of the very same pen in the two materials.

 

 

 

 

Can you tell which are celluloid and which are pearlescent resin?

In the last shot is it the one in the middle?  I don't know but it reminds me of a resin Visconti Pericles I used to have in a similar color. 



#17 Blade Runner

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Posted 30 June 2014 - 01:41

Some people have to believe that manufacturing processes involving more hand work are necessarily superior to automated processes when in fact the latter may produce an equally good or superior product.    It's often an attempt to obtain a sense of superiority based on subjective or anecdotal experiences.    


Edited by Blade Runner, 30 June 2014 - 01:53.


#18 sadiemagic

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Posted 30 June 2014 - 01:46

 

The issue is "what is bad"?

 

Lots of plastics shrink and warp and discolor over time and well cured celluloid is not the worst of the batch.

 

Very few celluloid fountain pens or billiard balls burst into flames.

 

Based on those observations celluloid does not seem such a bad choice for a material.

 

Montegrappa did make one of their pens in both celluloid and pearlescent resin. Here are some pictures of the very same pen in the two materials.

 

medium800.jpg

 

medium800.jpg

 

medium800.jpg

 

Can you tell which are celluloid and which are pearlescent resin?

I'm thinking the top and bottom ones are celluloid and the middle one is pearlescent resin...


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#19 bleair

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Posted 30 June 2014 - 07:51

I can understand the point of view of the OP, because the differences are subtle, but if the difference do matter to you personally they can really standout.

 

I have several modern OMAS (well, last 15 years) celluloid pens. These pens have a camphor smell that acrylic pens don't have.  The plastic also feels quite a bit different to me when I grip the pen body.  Words don't quite capture it, but I've read descriptions of celluloid as feeling almost "wet" or slick.  Certainly when I grip and squeeze a celluloid pen it feels different to me from resin.  I think to it could be the friction feeling. If you slide your fingers along a resin or ebonite or a celluloid pen each feels slightly different.  Lastly most of my celluloid pens have a body that feels thicker and more solid than my resin pens (e.g. Omas compared to Montblanc).  I really like the feel of my Montblanc pens, and they are certainly solid, but when I grip the barrel firmly of my OMAS pens they feel different. Not that one is better than the other, just different.

 

Oh, and they way celluloid reflects light is different too. Jar's photo should make that clear - not that acrylic is bad, it's just that if you happen to prefer the looks of celluloid it's something acrylic doesn't easily match.

 

For those of us who do love celluloid pens it seems other than a few of the Italian companies you just can't find anyone making celluloid pens anymore so perhaps the pen buying community at large agrees with OP.



#20 richardandtracy

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Posted 30 June 2014 - 09:24

I have made pens from both materials.

 

The depth of pearlescence on the celluloid is almost never replicated in acrylic.

Acrylic feels harder, though it works just as nicely on the lathe.

It is more pleasant to work acrylic due to the eyewatering fumes that come of recently made celluloid.

Both take a gorgeous depth of polish.

Some acrylics are much more brittle than celluloid. Some acrylics are slightly less brittle than celluloid. On average, a celluloid pen will be less likely to shatter on dropping than an acrylic one.

Celluloid is more flammable.

Acrylic is made from oil. Celluloid is made from cellulose which may be reacted with natural or mineral oil derived camphor - so it can be quite a bit more 'green', though it may not be as 'green' as hard rubber.

 

However, celluloid does, IMHO, feel & look better.

 

Basically, you pay your money & takes your choice. It is entirely down to personal preference.

 

Regards,

 

Richard







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