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  1. The ASA Nauka in Dartmoor acrylic. For a simple fountain pen, the ASA Nauka offers at least two important lessons. It shows how design can be rediscovered and reinvented over a period of several decades, and how online forums and social media are creating a renaissance of collaboration. That’s an ambitious, rather academic argument for a humble review, so let’s just start with the pen. The Nauka is offered by Lakshminarayanan Subramaniam of ASA Pens in Chennai, India. It echoes the design of the early Sheaffer Crest and the more recent Oldwin Classic, with a graceful barrel that integrates seamlessly with the section, cap threads next to the nib, and a huge torpedo-shaped cap. The Nauka is a little larger than a Montblanc 149 or a TWSBI Vac 700, capped. But uncapped, they're all about the same. FPN contributor Sagarb’s excellent Nauka review contains exact weights and dimensions. Joshua Lax (jjlax10 on FPN), president of the Big Apple Pen Club in New York, organized the first group buy of the ASA Nauka in October 2015. After two successful rounds of group buys, ASA now offers the Nauka as a regular model. The pen is available with clips or clipless, in several ebonite versions, including an eyedropper equipped with a No. 6 or No. 7 Ambitious nib, and two cartridge-converter varieties equipped with Schmidt and Jowo nibs. ASA Pens ships its product in a simple velour slip. I’m no pen historian, so take this information with a pinch of, well, cumin, but Sheaffer seems to have originated the basic design in 1937, and André Mora of the Paris company Mora Stylos reincarnated it with the Oldwin Classic model in 2002. Pen enthusiasts worldwide, including Leigh Reyes in 2008 (and again in 2014), Otto Markiv in 2012, and the previously mentioned Joshua Lax in 2015, rediscover it over and over. The distal-thread design, to use a term meaning “away from the center,” provides the writer with the choice of holding the pen high on the section, low, or wherever. There’s no step between section and barrel, which sometimes creates an awkward need to reposition fingers. Those are functional advantages. Aesthetically, the lines sweep, unbroken, from one end of the pen to the other, much like a sheer line in naval architecture. This inspired the ASA pen’s name, Nauka, which means “boat” in Hindi and Bengali. This ASA Nauka is equipped with a Jowo 1.1mm italic nib. ASA Pens offers at least 16 ASA models and also sells other brands. One of the ways L. Subramaniam differentiates ASA is that customers can ship blanks and rods of various materials to his shop in Chennai, and commission pen models using this material. FPN contributor Prithwijit Chaki has commissioned at least nine models from ASA. He is also a prolific and catalytic member of a WhatsApp/Telegram group of pen enthusiasts who are creating a virtual 24-hour Indian buffet of new models in imaginative materials, nibs, clips, and designs. Another FPN contributor, Vaibhav Mehandiratta, tirelessly organizes group buys and reviews Indian pens and inks, all documented by beautiful photography on his website. The Indian WhatsApp group, and by extension everybody else, can accomplish this collaborative feat because online resources provide an endlessly updated archive of expertise, history, and experience. We can discover a design from the 1930s, locate detailed photographs and reviews, identify trusted manufacturers, and source materials. Time is the only sizable investment on our part. This isn’t unique to India, and it isn’t even unique to fountain pens. Software developers, animators, and small technology firms can rely on the same global ad hoc collaboration. Timeless design is the theme of the Sheaffer Crest, the Mora Oldwin Classic, and the ASA Nauka. My own Nauka is clipless, to preserve the lines, and uses an adjustable bronze snake ring as a roll-stopper. The Tamil Nadu state, where Chennai is located, offers up a whole pit of venomous cobras, kraits, and vipers. My bronze snake comes from a shop in the Carolinas, my part of the world, but I don’t know where they sourced it. Snake roll-stopper in bronze, made from an adjustable wrap ring. The material for my Nauka is an acrylic called Dartmoor, named for a granite-strewn moor in southwest England. The acrylic was created for the re-invented Conway Stewart brand of pens in the late 1990s. When this version of Conway Stewart went out of business in September 2014, the company left behind a rich inventory of gorgeous, well-selected pen blanks, rods, clips, and other components. Vince Coates of The Turners Workshop in Newcastle purchased the blanks and rods, and some of them are still available. It’s entertaining to comb through Coates' website, using Google Images to compare the materials with new-edition Conway Stewarts and vintage pens from the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. It reminds us that the people who developed these designs and materials, decades ago, sometimes 100 years ago, had wonderful taste. Like teenagers discovering music, we think we’re uncovering something new. Smartphones and the Internet may make it easier, but other teenagers, in other decades and other centuries, discovered it first. The Jowo 1.1mm italic nib on this ASA Nauka is extremely specific about where it directs ink.
  2. gweimer1

    Conway Stewart 57 - Slow Feed

    I just got my first Conway Stewart, which is an aeromatic #57. The pen seems to be in decent shape all around, after I cleaned it up. I do have one issue. This pen always seems to need a kickstart when I start writing. After it gets going, it seems fine, but if I leave it alone for even 10 minutes, the nib goes dry. I have to shake the pen to get it to start. So....what am I looking for?
  3. I was just poking around, trying to figure out who makes new lever-filling pens today. This was once the most common, dominant method of filling fountain pens, and now it's almost extinct. The only ones I turned up easily are from Delta, plus some limited editions (which look particularly nice) from Conway Stewart. I think some other companies may have made limited edition lever-fillers in the recent past, but I can't find any in current catalogs. Have I missed anything?





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