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  1. In the world of fountain pens, there are forgettable pens and famous pens…. and then there are the icons. Those are the pens that have a wide appeal and a cult like following. You may love them or not, but there is no denying their impact and the passion they generate amongst devotees. One of these icons is the Parker “51”. There is an abundance of information about these great pens, and I will make no attempt to repeat all the details. I will simply point out that there are two primary filling systems used in the life of the pen – the vacuumatic plunger filler and the aerometric filler. The vac filler was the first system used and I draw this distinction because the pen I am reviewing uses this method. Sometimes iconic pens inspire tributes or fantasy versions where people create a pen they want to see, but it never came from the factory. When this is done with the intention to add character or widen the scope of a pen, I think it has the potential to be a thing of beauty. (When it is done to deceive or to make a pen that is represented as a rare factory original, I find this despicable and blight on our hobby.) There are many folks who have created so called fantasy “51” pens including Ariel Kullock, Paul Rossi, Ralph Prather, and Brad Torelli. Each has their strengths and their products cover a wide range of prices, depending on materials, hours invested, and parts used. While I admire the work or all four men, the pens that appeal the most to me in general are those by Brad Torelli. Although he is a master of many pen skills, plastics are the area of expertise he focused on for this pen. He essentially took standard “51” vac parts and crafted a new barrel, hood and blind cap. In addition, he put new jewels on the top and bottom of the pen to make is a “double jewel” or DJ version of the pen. This particular pen is a demonstrator in a lovely transparent brown, almost the color of a refreshing root beer. I find the color pairs well with the gold cap. The transparency also gives one a real appreciation for the mechanics of these pens. Manually creating a vacuum to pull ink through the collector and breather tube in order to fill the ink chamber – simple but effective. One of the best things about Brad’s pens is the warranty. He likes to say he offers a lifetime guarantee on his work and his materials. The part that always amuses me is that he means his lifetime. I have no desire to publicly share his current age, but he has joked that he probably has 20 good years ahead and then maybe another 5 or 10 so so years (so get that warranty work done!). In all seriousness, I have personal experience with him standing behind his work and going above and beyond what any large manufacturer would do in support of their pens. Besides the giant pain in the rear it is to clean a “51” vac, the other issue for me personally is the limited range of nib widths available. To remedy this I turned to a custom retipped nib from Greg Minuskin. Greg sells a lot of “51” nibs that he retips and stubs in various widths. The one I picked was a fairly broad 1.3MM tip and Brad mounted in into his pen for me. Now I have a demo pen with a tip that is wide enough to suit my preferences. I’ll close by saying that if, like me, you found the Parker “51” a little lacking from the factory the good news is there are artists who can make your desires a reality. I have a soft spot for demo pens, wide stubs, and pens hand made by artisans. This pen met all these criteria in one slim, iconic form factor.
  2. Mr. Minuskin has been busy with his laser, and made my John Holland nib whole again. I'm AMAZED! Here's pictures:
  3. Hello, I wanted to share my impressions on the Pilot Custom Heritage 912, with a modified Falcon nib by Greg Minuskin. I'm neither a calligraphy expert nor a flex-nib expert so this review is from the perspective of a more novice user, therefore I would like to caution the reader to take my input for what it's worth. There's plenty of information out there on the Pilot 912 in general so I won't go into much detail, suffice it to say that the pen is well-constructed, solid and elegant; it's the bee's knees in my book. I don't have any experience with the original Falcon (#10 FA) nib so unfortunately I cannot compare this modified nib with it. From what I understand, Mr. Minuskin's modifications to the FA nib include re-tipping it to a "needlepoint" size, added flexibility and increased ink-flow, presumably by altering the feed. Understandably, Mr. Minuskin did not want to reveal the specifics of his modifications when asked and I can respect that. Using this particular pen can be a bit of a challenge for someone who is not used to calligraphy or flex-nibs. The needlepoint nib requires a very light touch and when not flexed it really does feel like a needle. Sometimes it feels like you have to almost hover the point over the paper to prevent it from catching, especially on the upstrokes. After practicing with this pen it becomes clear that mastering posture, speed, rhythm and pressure is paramount for good results. My experience has been that writing with the pen a certain way (the wrong way) will increase the occurrence of railroading, trembling lines when not flexed, dry starts etc. However, when concentrating on using the correct methods these issues rarely occur and the pen really begins to shine. I don't have any trouble flexing the nib while writing, meaning it does not feel too soft or too rigid and it definitely becomes more flexible the more it is used, as is to be expected from a new nib. I wish I had experience with vintage flex pens in order to compare but I don't, so please keep that in mind while considering my observations. The line variation from my rough measurements go from ~ 0.3 mm to ~ 1.6 mm. Line grading is a bit of a subjective thing but if I use a well-known vintage pen seller's system this would amount to a XF - BB/BBB. Mr. Minuskin put it best when he described this pen as a bit of a "race-car," meaning that just because I know how to use a pen (or drive a car) doesn't necessarily mean I'm going to know how to use this particular flex-nib (a race-car). Without previous experience you're going to have some "clutch-grinding" and "stalled-engines" and maybe even a "wipe-out" on the corners if you've got a heavy foot, so to speak. However, if you're more from the cautious and patient side of the fence and tend to be a quick learner you shouldn't have any major issues even without much flex-nib experience. Start slowly and cautiously and the more you practice the more you'll find your skills improving. If the prospect still seems daunting there are always very inexpensive and excellent dip pens for calligraphy to get used to flexible nibs, and honestly if your goal is strictly artistic calligraphy, dip pens would probably be a better choice anyways. If you want a new, higher end, stylish, well-constructed fountain pen with a flexible nib it's hard to overlook this one. It wasn't exactly cheap, but this doesn't mean it's not worth the price considering that it's a relatively higher-end pen to begin with and one-of-a-kind after being individually modified by hand. Whether that is worth the price or not is entirely a matter of opinion, but since this is my opinion here and since I've already purchased it I will say that it is worth it indeed (for price information check Mr. Minuskin's website). I've included a writing sample. Consider that this was made from someone who is not an experienced calligrapher or flex-nib user but I do have experience with design, drawing, decorative writing and cursive (thank you Italian primary schools.) As you can see there is room for improvement but for me the process of learning and improving is where all the fun is anyways. The hardest things for me have been obtaining smooth, non trembling lines when the nib is not flexed, avoiding railroading and correct proportions/consistency of letters. The line is *very* fine when not flexed and the point is needle sharp so it's definitely a challenge to obtain good results. Now and then my finest lines end up looking like a seismogram during an earthquake. However, I've already seen improvement from when I first started using the pen so I'm confident I will continue to improve with more practice. I hope this review will be of use to somebody and thanks for reading. Further notes: * Pen comes with a CON-20 converter instead of the CON-50 or CON-70. When asked about the converter Mr. Minuskin told me that when it comes down to ink flow the CON-20 is actually the better choice, and I have read about other people having ink-flow problems with the other converters so for now I will stick with it. Apparently there is something about those more complex mechanisms and how they function that reduces the flow of ink, which seems to be an important issue with flex-nibs. I might purchase one of the other converters or refill a cartridge with Iroshizuku ink just for experimenting in the future. * As mentioned earlier I do have some railroading issues here and there but definitely less so with what seems to be more proper posture, speed, pressure, etc. This leads me to believe that it's not so much the pen's fault as much as how it is being used. Again, this is a persnickety tool and as with most performance or precision tools good results come from precise and proper use. It won't magically write better for me just because it is designed to; that's up to me. * For practice purposes I've been using Rhodia's Dot Pad with Pilot's Iroshizuku ink. This combination seems to work very well but I will experiment with different paper in the future.
  4. I hope that getting a nib reground won't be a frequent need. In fact, if I sensibly stop with the pens that I've got, then I may never need it again. However, I really wanted the Montblanc Noblesse (or Noblesse Oblige, not sure) shown at the bottom of the picture to be a usable pen. It came to me having been reground as a left oblique, and it just didn't write very well. I don't think it was just me, as I have a couple of other left oblique nibs, but regardless, it wasn't working out for me. It just came back to me from Greg Minuskin, along with the Waterman, which only had to be aligned. He reground the Montblanc back to a "normal" .6 mm nib for me. I'd thought that this would surely involve re-tipping as well, but he told me it was not necessary, still enough tipping material for him to work with. I appreciated that, as the re-tipping would have added noticeably to the price. I got these back yesterday, and am very happy with both of them, but I can't stop writing with the Montblanc. It is now very smooth, just wet enough, and with the line width that I was aiming for. Well, actually I can stop, since I'm typing this, but you know what I mean. While the pens were gone, I remembered a Pelikan converter I had lying around, and wondered if it would fit the Montblanc. It does, which will spare me having to refill cartridges.

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