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Omas Factory Visit (Picture Heavy)


mchenart

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It is with a bit of sadness that I am writing this report, after knowing what Omas is going through at the present moment. When I visited Omas’s factory and headquarters near Bologna only a month ago, I should have detected something was terribly wrong, but I didn’t. Okay, there were few people working there on a Monday, and I was told they were contemplating moving to a smaller space, but liquidation and closure? Not a hint. I really hope the Omas brand would continue to thrive and not become a mere historical name that has stood for beauty, tradition and some of the finest celluloid pens ever made.

 

http://i955.photobucket.com/albums/ae33/mchenart/IMG_0456_zpsyoukx3rq.jpg

 

My taxi stopped at the gate of the Omas headquarters which I believe they had occupied since 1970’s; I was then shown upstairs to their reception room and greeted by Francesco Carano, one of their managers. On the table laid a group of faceted Arte Italiana and the innovative 360 pens that should be well known to all pen lovers. There were also some recent limited and special edition pens such as (from left to right) Cohiba, William Shakespeare, Solaia, Montecristo and Michelangelo, the first three with wooden barrels and the elaborate Michelangelo in real marble and sterling silver. It is obvious that Omas is trying to please not just users of the fountain pen, but also a niche market where a writing instrument is a collectible and precious item.

 

http://i955.photobucket.com/albums/ae33/mchenart/DSCF8265_zps7hpfiiya.jpg

 

http://i955.photobucket.com/albums/ae33/mchenart/DSCF8250_zpsefopvygn.jpg

 

http://i955.photobucket.com/albums/ae33/mchenart/DSCF8248ab_zpsfjyxf4bs.jpg

 

Mr. Carano then showed me a film that they had made for their 90th anniversary. The short film was aired since June this year, and it immediately reminded me of the emotive feature film 'Cinema Paradiso':

http://www.omas.com/news-en/omas_90th_anniversary/

 

When I was shown their factory floor, I was frankly surprised by its scale and size. All the machines were neatly laid out and kept incredibly clean and dustless. Although there weren’t a lot of manufacturing activities going on that day, the whole place exuded class and purpose.

 

http://i955.photobucket.com/albums/ae33/mchenart/DSCF8261_zpstw6vqvid.jpg

 

http://i955.photobucket.com/albums/ae33/mchenart/IMG_0473_zpslevzl5cu.jpg

 

Because of the flammable nature of celluloid, the material has to be stored in a fire-proof room with carefully controlled temperature and humidity. In that spacious store room, I saw boxes after boxes of memorable celluloids that had helped to forge the Omas name. Rods as well as rectangular blocks of Wild, Royal Blue, Arco Brown, Black Lucens, Mueller Burlwood and Scarlet were scattered everywhere, and one could only imagine the sort of pens that would morph from these materials in the future.

 

http://i955.photobucket.com/albums/ae33/mchenart/IMG_0467_zpsl8kj4hui.jpg

 

http://i955.photobucket.com/albums/ae33/mchenart/DSCF8252a_zpsaxsijpga.jpg

 

http://i955.photobucket.com/albums/ae33/mchenart/DSCF8254_zpst4njgru6.jpg

 

Before turning, proper curing of the celluloid is an important process that ensures the stability of the pen during its life span. Here, Omas put aside the celluloid for at least 9 months and use special ovens set at 37 degrees C to get rid of harmful chemicals. After that has been done, the celluloid can then be turned in very elaborate machines using a special component for each barrel/cap shape.

 

http://i955.photobucket.com/albums/ae33/mchenart/DSCF8258_zpsjkvul7cx.jpg

 

http://i955.photobucket.com/albums/ae33/mchenart/DSCF8259_zpsxp08wnsc.jpg

 

I think most of us would agree that the 12-sided Arte Italiana is the quintessential Omas pen shape, the one that Omas has steadfastly held onto since 1930’s. While symbolizing the Doric column, the Arte Italiana pen has an elegance and timeless appeal that is truly unique. On a far wall, I saw a huge artwork with drawings of a Greek temple, Greek columns with capitals and Da Vinci’s diagram depicting the divine proportion, making no mistake the sources of its inspiration.

 

http://i955.photobucket.com/albums/ae33/mchenart/IMG_0475_zpsy8wsbavu.jpg

 

This strange looking machine is what is needed to produce the twelve facets of the pen with repeatable precision.

 

http://i955.photobucket.com/albums/ae33/mchenart/IMG_0480_zpsnui1brcp.jpg

 

http://i955.photobucket.com/albums/ae33/mchenart/DSCF8260_zpsitsxnfao.jpg

 

When walking around the factory floor, I stumbled upon a large box of Arco Brown rods. Without the turning, shaping and final polish, the celluloid looked rather dull and unassuming, but I know that once finished, the pen will probably become someone’s grail pen, gleaming with its irresistible gold and brown hues.

 

http://i955.photobucket.com/albums/ae33/mchenart/IMG_0476_zpsc7hu1of9.jpg

 

Other pieces of machinery that need to be mentioned include this primitive one for squeezing metal rings onto the cap or barrel, by hand. Rather than relying on more state of the art machines for this purpose, I think this simple gadget only reinforced my impression of Omas as a modern-day artisan pen workshop. The human hand sometimes is held more desirable than the best computer-controlled machinery.

 

http://i955.photobucket.com/albums/ae33/mchenart/IMG_0487_zpsevqnegq1.jpg

 

It is not to say that no computer is used in the Omas assembly line. This engraving machine is connected to a computer that can store many complicated patterns for its operation.

 

http://i955.photobucket.com/albums/ae33/mchenart/IMG_0489_zpshffjw5z2.jpg

 

Two buffing wheel types were found towards the end of the manufacturing process. One, a cork wheel for buffing celluloids, and the other for cotton resin pens.

 

http://i955.photobucket.com/albums/ae33/mchenart/IMG_0484_zps4rxwfslw.jpg

 

http://i955.photobucket.com/albums/ae33/mchenart/IMG_0483_zpsoc7oixom.jpg

 

Omas is one of the few companies that still insist on using ebonite for their pen feed because of its superior ink flow. Francesco showed me a long rod of black ebonite that would be cut into smaller pieces to make the feeds. In fact, the feed making machine was handled by a specialist with years of experience who produced an actual feed before my eyes.

 

http://i955.photobucket.com/albums/ae33/mchenart/DSCF8255_zpssz3pbvyp.jpg

 

http://i955.photobucket.com/albums/ae33/mchenart/IMG_0478_zpspzisceuf.jpg

 

Final assemblage of inserting a nib into the section.

 

http://i955.photobucket.com/albums/ae33/mchenart/DSCF8262a_zpsym4mwvib.jpg

 

I made the request to visit Omas’ headquarters partly out of curiosity and partly because of my admiration for the company that Armando Simoni founded in 1925. To say that I learnt a lot on this tour is an understatement. Not only did I get to see the actual creation of a fountain pen from raw materials to a beautiful writing instrument, handled the many limited edition pens that will surely become classics of our times, I was treated so well by the people at Omas that I know I will treasure the experience for a very long time. Thank you Omas for this privileged opportunity.

 

http://i955.photobucket.com/albums/ae33/mchenart/IMG_0455_zpsf0ovqoy0.jpg



Edited by mchenart
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Yum! Perhaps getting out from under a monolith and into the hands of a forward-thinking managerial team is exactly what's required to get those machines humming again.

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What a terriffic posting. Thank you for putting this up for all of us to enjoy.

"History Teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives." Abba Eban

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Thanks for sharing. I am awestruck by the complicated, specialized machinery. I assume each machine was custom-made.

 

David

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Mchenart, thanks for posting and sharing your photos along with your informative commentary.

It was wonderful to see where my few Omas pens were born.

sinistral hypergraphica - a slurry of ink

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Thank you everyone for your enthusiastic response. I see that there are many Omas aficionados out there!

 

It is always painful to see a pen company experiencing such financial difficulties as Omas is going through now, especially when I have just returned from touring the company's facilities, in addition to being the proud owner of many Omas pens.

 

Yum! Perhaps getting out from under a monolith and into the hands of a forward-thinking managerial team is exactly what's required to get those machines humming again.

 

Yes, Ghost Plane, some serious rethinking is definitely called for. For one thing, the Omas factory is probably way too big for the amount of work they do and the staff they have, and that is why they were planning to relocate to a smaller space.

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Thank you for the interesting and informative report. A pleasure to see where some of my pens were created.

 

- Grayling

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Mr. Carano, the Sales personnel who showed me around the factory wrote me an email today, saying that he had read my report of the tour and hoped members of the Forum will enjoy it. And then he added:

'Regarding OMAS' situation the only thing I can say in addition to what is wrote on the newspapers is that everything is going on as usual, production and a/sales, and personally I don't think OMAS will just close down.

Let's see the next coming future...'

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Does Omas have factory italics, GP, or do you have them ground? Like you, I love me some broad nibs - the broader, the better, especially forgiving italics.

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Wonderful report! I have admired Omas pens for years but have yet to own one. I hope that whatever happens the Omas tradition will be kept.

"Today will be gone in less than 24 hours. When it is gone, it is gone. Be wise, but enjoy! - anonymous today

 

 

 

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