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Juan Carlos Pallarols Caaguazu Pen -- Exclusive Piece 1/1



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If pens were merely instruments with which we write, FPN would not be as extensive as it is. The truth is that our pens are not only the means of recording our thoughts and everyday tasks; they also say much about our passions, what makes us tick, our aesthetic sense. They are works of art, they give us an object on which to meditate as we are stuck in thought, they tease us with their bemusing patterns and jog our memories of simpler times.

 

This review is about a pen maker who came to the game of making fountain pens relatively late in life, when he had already established his name and reputation as a master silversmith in his homeland of Argentina. Juan Carlos Pallarols is the sixth generation in a long line of silversmiths who in the early 1800s emigrated to Argentina from Catalonia. In his 73 years, he has become the silversmith to the rich and famous in Argentina. The family name Pallarols is found somewhere in practically every important Catholic church in Buenos Aires: chalices, altars, crowns for the Blessed Virgin. It is also found in the halls of civil authority: Every President of Argentina has patronized him in recent history, and his products have been sought after by the crowned heads of Europe and given as gifts to every Pope since St. John Paul II. In fact, the name has traveled the world with decades of visitors to Buenos Aires who have carried far and wide the works of art produced by the silversmith who still lives and works in his house on the Plaza Dorrego, in the heart of bohemian San Telmo.

 

The pen that I present to you today is just such a work of art, but the story of how it came to be made -- its story, in other words -- is, in some ways, as interesting as the intricate chiseling on the body of the pen.

 

In the mid 1980s, I was traveling quite a lot to Argentina and Paraguay. I had not yet dreamt of becoming a lawyer. I was enchanted by the greenery of the jungle, by humid afternoons on a hammock. On one of my trips to Buenos Aires, I was standing in a kiosk downtown, on Calle Maipu, talking to the owners about "yerba mate," the green leaf that grows only in Argentina, Paraguay and southern Brazil and which when dried and ground is drunk as an infusion in a hollowed-out gourd through a silver straw called a "bombilla."

 

Here you see a package of yerba mate, next to a mate gourd and a bombilla. The silver rim on the gourd and the bombilla were also made by Juan Carlos Pallarols . The rim has my monogram engraved onto it as well as the first stanza of the Argentine epic "Martin Fierro" by Jose Hernandez.

 

http://i8.photobucket.com/albums/a42/daoud62/IMG_1386_zps529d12bb.jpg

 

Back to the story unfolding on Calle Maipu: In walked a man who listened intently, and when I left, he asked me more about my interest in the national beverage. I prided myself on being an expert of sorts on mate, and even started quoting words in Guarani, the national language of Paraguay, to show how much I had learned about the custom. I told him I was looking for a special bombilla, a silver one, and he said he could help me. He invited me to his workshop the next day to join him for some mate (and, as it turns out, some wine) because he had a colleague who was from Corrientes, the province bordering Paraguay, where they spoke as much Guarani as Spanish.

 

Juan Carlos and I became friends that day, and I saw him frequently between 1986 and 1990. The last time that I saw him was in February 1990. Life took me to New Orleans, then to the Middle East. I often thought of my times in Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay, but never had a chance to return until October 2013. The day after I landed in Buenos Aires, after an absence of a quarter of a century, I took a chance in asking the taxi driver to take me to a house standing on the Plaza Dorrego in San Telmo, where the flea market operates on the weekends and people dance tango almost as if smitten by the Spirit. Perhaps the house now belonged to someone else? Perhaps it had become a restaurant? I rang the bell, and although 24 years had passed since I last saw him, he buzzed me in and, when I got to the top of his marble staircase, he greeted me in the few words in Guarani that I had taught him that day in 1986 on Calle Maipu.

 

I had heard that Juan Carlos Pallarols was making pens because he had come to some of the DC Super Shows. I was in Saudi Arabia or Oman at the time, but I followed with interest this parallel passion. Pallarols had no idea what an aficionado of fountain pens I was. We began to talk. That's when he came up with the idea for a pen for me.

 

This pen is no small object; it weighs in at 93 gm of sterling silver, and when capped it measures exactly as long as a MB 149. Similarly, without the cap, it measures approximately 132 mm from the tip the the nib to the end of the barrel. The nib is a rhodium-plated S.T. Dupont M nib, the hallmark "curved spade" type; the feed and section are likewise made by Dupont.

 

The design on the barrel is of lush tropical vegetation and large leaves. This was Pallarols' idea for me because I so loved the jungle region in Paraguay and Argentina where yerba mate was cultivated. I named the pen "Caaguazu" which means in Guarani "jungle" but also "big leaf." "Caa" is also the Guarani word for yerba mate.

 

As you would expect, the S.T. Dupont nib is silky smooth, but you have to find the sweet spot; this has been the case with every S.T. Dupont I own. I would prefer for the pen to be an eyedropper filler or to use a piston, but the cartridge converter is serviceable. The design on the barrel and cap is mesmerizing, and I never tire of looking at it. Despite the pen's weight, it feels well balanced in my hands.

 

Enjoy the pictures! Bear in mind that the designs on the cap and barrel are not soldered, but actually chiseled into or out of the silver body.

 

http://i8.photobucket.com/albums/a42/daoud62/IMG_1396_zps7b0dd0dd.jpg

 

http://i8.photobucket.com/albums/a42/daoud62/IMG_1378_zps6a7d3ce2.jpg

 

http://i8.photobucket.com/albums/a42/daoud62/IMG_1375_zpsa2b15671.jpg

 

http://i8.photobucket.com/albums/a42/daoud62/IMG_1376_zpsa37824e7.jpg

 

 

The detail on the leaves -- the veins, the stems -- is beguiling, and every single mark by hand was made with a chisel:

 

http://i8.photobucket.com/albums/a42/daoud62/IMG_1376_zpsa37824e7.jpg

 

http://i8.photobucket.com/albums/a42/daoud62/IMG_1387_zps01115b58.jpg

 

http://i8.photobucket.com/albums/a42/daoud62/IMG_1391_zps7b71f3db.jpg

 

Here is the Caaguazu next to my Sailor Hanzi:

 

http://i8.photobucket.com/albums/a42/daoud62/IMG_1384_zps14ce1d91.jpg

 

Betwixt my Hakase Rosewood and Buffalo Horn pen and the MB Hitchcock:

 

http://i8.photobucket.com/albums/a42/daoud62/IMG_1382_zps52b28de4.jpg

 

Here it is next to a Ralph Prather Titanium 51:

 

http://i8.photobucket.com/albums/a42/daoud62/IMG_1383_zps1679a4a9.jpg

 

The Caaguazu keeps company in the rotation with a MB 149, a Grayson Tighe Mokume-Gane, and a Pelikan 101N Tortoise Shell:

 

http://i8.photobucket.com/albums/a42/daoud62/IMG_1381_zps27003ee0.jpg

 

Here are two other pens that Juan Carlos Pallarols has made. Again, they are exclusive pieces:

 

http://i8.photobucket.com/albums/a42/daoud62/IMG_2721_zps16ea1c22.jpg

 

http://i8.photobucket.com/albums/a42/daoud62/IMG_2702_zps804fc62c.jpg

Edited by daoud62
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Fantastic pen. Simply awesome.

I put my savings to test

Lamy & Pilot FPs the Best

No more I even think of the rest

(Preference Fine and Extra Fine Nibs)

Pen is meant for writing - not for looking :-)

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Dear David,

 

This is a wonderful review of a truly special one of a kind pen. I have a much simpler pen with a fantastic sterling overlay made by Paul Rossi. I always love to look at the pen and feel how tactile it is in my hands. The chrysanthemum leaves and flowers on it feel almost real.

 

Your pen has a ton of incredible nearly three dimensional detail and Pallarols skill and quality of craftsmanship is out of this world. It is a true work of art.

 

Thank you very much for the comparison photos. They provide a great visual regarding the size of the pen.

 

Lastly, thank you for sharing your story of how you came about to meet and become friends with Juan Carlos Pallarols.

 

Enjoy this magnificent pen!

 

NIkos

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Excellent review daoud62, of this one of a kind pen, and the story behind it. In this faceless internet age, it is rare that we can recall the artisan behind something we use everyday. Such is the charm of made-to-order pens, right?

 

The hand work of the jungle motif is lovely. Congratulations!

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  • 3 years later...

I got one of his pens but have no idea of what the meaning of this motif is? Any ideas? I like the pen a lot and it is also very comfortable to write with. It is not as heavy as it looks.

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If pens do indeed reveal our passions, this one tells us your love of stories, craftsmanship, precision, expertise, skill, a sense of place, botany, culture, and people. Thank you for writing a memorable story about the making of this pen.

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