Friday, September 23, 2011

My TWSBI Diamond 530 Pen

TWSBI is one of the latest and most spectacular entrants to the exclusive Fountain Pen Makers’ Club. In fact, if you have not heard of it, I wouldn’t blame you. TaShin Precision has been a very reputed vendor supplying OEM plastic fountain pen parts to a number of prestigious European pen makers for over 40 years. This company based in Republic of China (ROC- Taiwan ). When TaShin Precision decided to try their hand at designing and manufacturing their own brand of fountain pens, it created the new Brand name TWSBI by combining “San Wen Tong” (TWS) symbolizing the three rare treasures of calligraphy and  “Bi” to mean writing instruments in Chinese.

In a bid to produce unmatched quality and customer satisfaction, TWSBI conducted extensive surveys among fountain pen aficionados in China and all over the world through Forums like the Fountain Pen Network. The TWSBI Diamond 530 is the product of the surveys and the feedback from the members of the FPN after trying the prototypes.

The pens were sold originally through E-bay and Amazon only, but now the company is selling them also through a few selected retailers. I ordered mine through the E-bay.

A number of very knowledgeable experts and professionals have already reviewed the Diamond 530, and I have no desire to or expertise to add to the detailed report. I am merely giving a more personal impression rather than a technical review. For those interested in the detailed technical reviews here are two links:

A few special things about the Diamond 530

Firstly, this pen is made only in clear plastic and not in solid colours. In other words all TWSBI Diamond 530 pens are demonstrator type only.

The ink filling system is also rather rare and unique. The piston filling system very popular in the Fifties are getting increasingly rare to come by these days, except in piston filling ball point pens like the Noodler or the pelican. Diamond 530 incorporates this system for filling ink.

Another unique feature of this pen is that it is designed to be completely user serviceable. Even a person like me who has little mechanical skills can easily dismantle and reassemble every part of the pen including the piston and its washers and ‘O’ rings. The manufacturers have thoughtfully provided the necessary tools and instructions with diagrams.

When the packet arrived, I was impressed by the packaging. The beautiful clear plastic box is packed in a well made cardboard case. The box includes the pen, booklet, tool, a small bottle of silicon grease and guarantee card.

The first impression that once gets on taking the pen in one’s hand is one of solid well made writing instrument. The clear body is deceptively heavy and gives a feeling of costly resin rather than cheap plastic. The chrome clip is shiny and strong. The red logo on the top of the cap is intricate and exotic and stands out against the clear plastic.

The pen balances in the hand very well. The grip is comfortable and the pen feels very solid in the hand. Overall, the pen has a good, solid, expensive feel. My main complaint with the Diamond 530 is that when I post the cap, the overall feeling is one of discomfort. As if the pen has become too long, too top heavy and my handwriting gets affected. As a person not used to writing without posting the cap, I feel a bit odd holding the cap in one hand while writing with the right hand.

The pen is among the larger ones I own. Almost as big as the Pelikan 400. It measures 5½” capped and 5” uncapped. With cap posted it measures a whopping 7” accounting for the discomfort I feel when posting. The Diamond is as thick as

The 530 is fitted with a Schmidt steel nib. I believe the new 540 is switching to Bock soon. I find the Schmidt nib excellent with very smooth feel and adequate ink flow. The nib has TWSBI engraved on it. I find the pen has a tendency to mist a bit, between the section and the nib and some inside the cap itself.

The Piston Filling System feels very solid and the pen has good capacity for holding ink. Left to me, I would not have gone ahead and increased the ink capacity in the newer 540. The bottom cap which works the piston fits smugly into the cap but then it might pose a problem. Sometimes, if the pen is full, while removing the cap, there is a chance of unwittingly turning the filling mechanism resulting in ink spill. I am not bothered as in any case I do not post the TWSBI for reasons mentioned earlier.

How do you like it. In one sentence; I love it! Except for the problem of not posting the cap, I find nothing to complain. The nib is solid, the ink capacity is great and the writing is better than my hitherto favourite the Lamy Safari. The pen is a stunner and it has not failed to capture a few admiring looks whenever I have taken it out of my pocket and start writing.

Will I recommend it to friends? I have already ordered a spare fine nib. I first ordered a new 540 for myself and then another in M nib for my son. Now the new ROC version with Bock nib is coming, I am ordering one of that too. Hope you get the drift.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Noodler Piston Fill Roller Ball Pen And the Goulet Pen Company

Among ink manufacturers of the world, Noodler has acquired something of a cult status. It is like the Royal Enfield Bullet or the Harley Davidson among motor cycles. Either you think it is the ultimate or you do not care. There is nothing in between. The ink is manufactured by a pen enthusiast and collector, Nathan Tardit, in Massachusetts, USA. The range of inks in their inventory is truly amazing. They include broad types like standard, lubricating, bulletproof, eternal and invisible inks. The colour range is even more baffling, ranging from common blues to exotic pinks, oranges, browns and violets. Happily, they are among the few International Brands of fountain pen inks available on ebay India

While I am yet to experiment with Noodler inks, a very interesting item manufactured by Noodler Inks caught my fancy. Many other companies like Lamy, Pelikano, Kaweco, Monteverde, etc. Also manufacture these, but Noodler roller ball pens that can be filled with fountain pen inks are among the cheapest and the best regarded of the type.

The very idea of being able to fill a roller ball pen with any fountain pen ink of my choice caught my fancy and I decided that a Noodler piston fill roller ball pen is my next purchase. Now how does one go about it? They are not available in India at any brick and mortar or web store. While searching the net I came to know that Goulet Pen Company sells them online.

Now one word about Goulet. I came across this name on the Youtube while looking for some pen reviews. I liked their videos and later I was impressed by the large fan following they enjoyed on the FPN. The stories of the personal care Brian and his wife Rachel takes are stuff legends are made of.

So, I thought, why not experience both a great pen and a great store together in one go? Boy! Am I glad I made the decision! Shopping with Goulet Pen Co. Was one of the finest experiences I have ever had on the internet.  For one thing, the packet arrived all the way from USA to Faridabad in 9 days flat! The order was placed on 18th Aug and the packet was delivered to me on the 27th! What was more pleasantly surprising was a small handwritten personal note scribbled by Bian on the printed bill!

Enough about the company. Now the pen. The pen is a demonstrator meaning made of clear celluloid. The clip is oddly shaped, according to the Noodler guys, the design is based on extensive research and I do not doubt it. The top of the cap is adorned by a black top with noodle design on it.

The pen is small, measuring only 13 CM capped and 14.6 CM with cap posted. The cap is screw on and it takes just one full turn to close. Filling mechanism is piston type with a small 2.4 CM cap covering the piston mechanism at the back. 

The roller tip is steel with a porous material supplying ink from the reservoir. The metallic tip fits into a plastic housing which itself fits into the section by pressure. There are a few screw type ridges on it to ensure proper fit. Spare tips can be purchased in packs of four for less than a Dollar.

You fill the ink the same way you fill a piston fill fountain pen. Dip the nib and section into the inkpot till half the section is covered. Turn the piston all the down and back twice and you are done!

There is a very detailed instruction manual supplied along with the pen, which deals not only with cleaning and filling the pen, but also with all you need to know about repairs! Ideal for cheapos like me!

Writing! Well, it writes like any other ball pen! Smooth, clean and even flow! What more can one ask for? I have totally fallen in love with the pen, the concept and the store!

Encouraged by the experience, I am ordering a Kaweco Sports Classic Refillable Roller Ball Pen! Of course, that one looks sexier. Hope they perform as well too!

Ode to a Humble Gel Pen

I am a fountain pen guy. I just love fountain pens. I do not know about others, but I enjoy cleaning fountain pens, filling them, rotating the several ones I have and packing and storing them lovingly and taking them out once in a while just to enjoy looking at them.  I have to try very hard to resist buying the ones which catch my fancy. Fact is, most fountain pens catch my fancy. I never buy ball point or roller ball pens. Never. Not that I do not have any in my stockpile, but they are never purchased by me. They are all gifted.

There is another category of pens that come into my possession. These are the giveaways. Handed over to you in folders at conferences, Annual General Body Meetings, Residents ’Welfare Association meetings, during visits to institutions and factories, in training sessions and even in some airline flights! They range from the wonderful twist action Roller Ball Pen given to me by Maxwell School, Syracuse University to the gold Cross pen by Vatican to the cheapest ballpen that would not see me even through some doodling in a boring board meeting. I just throw most of them in a large beer mug I have on my desk. They sit there mostly unused, till they find their way into the bottom drawer of my old chest of drawers or into the garbage bin.

There is one exception to this routine. They are the Add Gel pens given away to me every time I visit India’s premier National Police Academy for the training of Indian Police Service officers at Hyderabad. I am a frequent visitor to NPA. I frequently conducts trainings or give lectures to the trainees there. I am also a member of the Board of the Academy necessitating my attending the Board meetings. The NPA has zeroed down to Add Gel pens. And thank God for that. I find these writing instruments the next best things to a real fountain pen.

These pens are the product of Mumbai based Add Corporation, who have been producing these and other fine writing instruments from 1987. Currently they have two state-of-the-art production facilities at Umbergaon and Daman in Western India.

The ink never dries or runs out. The blue is a nice shade reminding me of Diamine Majestic blue and black is also very pleasing shade. I have literally dozens of these placed at strategic locations like bedside, kitchen table, hung on refrigerator and near the WC in the toilet.  Whenever one has to take notes on paper with poor quality or unsteady support, I would not like to risk using and damaging my fountain pens. These Gel pens are pressed into service at these occasions.

The rubberized grip with indented pattern helps achieve good grip. The size of the grip is such that almost everyone finds it comfortable to hold. The writing quality is, like in almost all gel pens, smooth as hot knife on butter. Good thing and bad. My handwriting tends to get bad if the writing is so smooth. Good thing is, I can put more pressure on the paper and increase resistance without fear of damaging the nib.

I occasionally buy red and green refills for these. I use the green and red Gel pens to underline and highlight the important points in my ‘to do’ lists and lecture notes. Red is also useful in correcting drafts.

I only wish Add would make a nice well crafter resin or metal holder for the refills so that one could also enjoy the feel of the pen as well as the smoothness of writing. For me, what I really miss in the Add Gel pen is the solid feel and balance of a well made pen. The plastic light thin cheap body takes away from Add gel half the pleasure of writing.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Lamy Safari, My All Time Favourite Fountain Pen

If I have to name one pen as my all time favourite, I will name Lamy as the one without a second’s hesitation. There are close competition from the likes of Pelikan M200, TWSBI Diamond530 & 540, Sheaffer Targa, Polit Namiki VP, etc. but it is Lamy that I go back again and again to. Also, I have lost the maximum number of Lamy Safaris to friends and strangers stealing them or simply taking them away. I have also gifted a number of Lamy, mostly Safaris to young students and those whom I motivate to use fountain pens.

My first Lamy was a red Safari with a converter. I first got a chance to try out a Lamy Safari when I saw Mr. Arun Shourie the redoubtable investigative  journalist while on his visit to Guwahatti, Assam, where I was posted during the turbulent days of Assam Agitation. I was simply floored by the smoothness of the nib and the smug way the section fitted into my grip. I decided then and there I must have one of these. During the early Eighties, pens or for that matter any foreign item was not easy to come by in India. My desire had to be suppressed, at least for the time being.

That was till I was introduced to the Vandana Book Shop in Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi. This small book shop is a remarkable place if you are a pen aficionado. I know of no place in Delhi where you can get almost any international brand pens. If they are not readily available, it shall be produced on order, God knows from where! Have you an antique pen that needs restoration with TLC? This is the place for that too. As I walked into the store once I saw a red Lamy Safari being put back into the case. Obviously, someone had just seen it and did not buy. I jumped at it and almost snatched it from the gentleman’s hands. Thus I came to possess my first Lamy Safari, one among the many that I was to own over the next three decades.

This pen I lost to a visiting family whose son took an immediate fancy for it and chose to put it in his pocket without even so much as asking! Currently, I have only one Safari with me. A dull gray affair compared to all the other flamboyant colours like yellow, blue, red and metallic charcoal. It has a medium nib and is fitted with a converter.

I also had a set of White Safari and Ball pen, but the pen is gone and I am left with the Ballpen. I was gifted a Vista Clear Roller ball Pen, which is with me resting in a large pen holder cup  and under frequent use.  My red Lamy Safari 0.5 mm Mechanical pencil is also among my favourites. My search for a 0.9 mm pencil has still not yielded results. Another Lamy in my arsenal is a gray Tipo roller ball pen.

I do not need to comment on the legendary writing qualities of Lamy Safari. On a personal note, what makes Lamy my favourite pen is the perfect grip that I get from the peculiar shape of the section. I find the ink flow of the Fine and Medium perfect, though I have never used a Broad or Italic nib of Lamy. I also love the smoothness of the nib, the way it glides over even poor quality paper. Government of India and the State Government of Haryana use very rough quality noting sheets for official file works. I have used Lamy pens in office work for nearly 30 years. Even those papers could not take away the sheer pleasure of writing with a Lamy Safari.

Lamy Safari is also a very tough pen, capable of withstanding quite a bit of rough handling. I have carried Safaris in my shirt pockets on wildlife photo tours, travel to Khardung La, the highest motorable road on earth and even had them lying around in closed automobiles left in the summer sun of India with outside temperature in the regions of 45 Degree Centigrade! Not that I would recommend such unkind treatment as a routine affair to anyone, but it just happened once. I am glad to say, at the end of the day, Lamy continued to perform as if nothing happened!

The less expensive Safari shares crucial mechanisms like nib, feeder and converter with its more expensive brethren. So in the final count, whether you stick to Safari or opt for the more costly version of Lamy writing instrument is simply a matter of style, not substance.

The toughness and the quality of writing are the reasons why I always recommend Lamy Safari as the first pen for anyone newly wanting to join the fountain pen users ’club. Except for just one person, all to whom I have recommended Lamy Safari have loved the pen.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Rotring Freeway Fountain Pen

Most of us know Rotring as the manufacturers of technical pens and mechanical pencils, mostly used by draughtsman and designers. The German company are indeed the makers of the finest such drawing and sketching instruments since 1928. I remember owning a 0.5mm technical pen during my cartooning days way back in the Sixties.

While looking around for a sturdier replacement for the Camlin clutch pencil, which I had got addicted to from my school days, I ran into the familiar Rotring logo on a clutch pencil. Needless to say, I grabbed it straight away and this has been on my desk since then, except when it is in my pocket or bag.

I also have the famous Rotring Tikky mechanical pencil. Mine is a bright yellow with the mandatory red ring and takes 0.5 mm lead.

I however prefer the Clutch pencils to the mechanical version. Firstly, it allows me any width from needlepoint to 2mm or even more if I can use it sideways! Secondly, it is stronger than the 0.5 or the 0.7 mm lead, which tend to break off under pressure. They also demand to be extended in small precise increments and at frequent intervals.

Compared to classic wooden pencils, the clutch pencil helps me do my small thing to save trees and also makes carrying sharpeners unnecessary. Another gripe I have about wooden pencils is that as the length shortens due to sharpening, the balance changes affecting my output. The shorter they get, the more difficult for me to use.

I had not seriously considered buying a Rotring fountain pen though I was aware of their existence.  The other day, my wife dropped me at Ansal Plaza Mall in New Delhi and went off to meet her doctor. I was left with two hours to kill. After finishing my small little errands at the Mall I had to loiter there for more than an hour. That is when I spotted this small little Stationary shop, T-zone. Mr. Tiwari the shop owner is knowledgeable about pens and himself is a dedicated fountain pen user. He has a decent collection of fountain pens on display. I later discovered he had many more tucked away in boxes.

I was attracted to the Rotring pen more by its unusual colour and finish. The pen has a matte finish Burgandy Red Aluminium body with brushed steel trimmings. A very handsome pen indeed.

You hold the pen in your hand and immediately it speaks to you. At least it did to me and asked me to buy it. Who am I to resist such an invitation. Of course the fact that it cost me only INR 500 (under US $ 10, compared to the ebay price of $29.97!) helped.

The Aluminium body and cap are heavy giving a feel of solid and expensive pen. The section and nib are stainless steel, in shining contrast with the rest of the pen’s matte finish. The only choice of nib was ‘F’ in this colour. Another thing you notice is the top of the nib is plain devoid of any writing to accentuate the shining steel effect. The word Rotring is printed unobtrusively in fine letters on the left hand side and the letter f on the right hand. Very clever indeed!

Pen comes with one Standard International short cartridge filled with blue ink. The cartridge does not have any marking on it to identify the manufacturer. The colour of the ink is a deep blue, probably looking a shade lighter due to the fine nib.

The design of the clip is also different from the run-of-the-mill under $20 pens. It grips the fabric of the shirt pocket quite nicely without too much of pressure, just enough to hold it firmly.

 As for the writing, it is a glider. As smooth as it can be. The ink flow is decent for a fine nib, not too wet but never dry. I have tried with the ink that came with it, but will soon refill the cart with my favourite test ink, the Waterman Florida Blue. BTW, waterman who makes such well crafted fine pens and arguably the best ink in the world should pay more attention to the quality of the package in which the ink is sold. To my mind, Waterman ink bottle cover is one of the cheapest looking, flimsiest and badly printed covers of all Inks including the really cheap Indian counterparts.

And would I buy it again? As of today, Rotring has stopped production of this line of pens. This pen should be a good addition to one’s collection, not merely for the quality of wrting, but also from a collector’s point of view. The Rotring 600, another model discontinued an year or two back commands premium price on ebay!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tow Odd Pens From Rural Tamil Nadu

Recently some family matters took me to a remote area of District Thirunelveli in Tamil Nadu. I was visiting my sister’s agricultural farm in Village Sivasailam, on the foothills of the Western Ghats, on the Tamil Nadu side. The idyllic farm of cocnut, Cashew, Mango and Teak trees touches the verdant forests on the hillside. The Kadana Nathar dam just a few hundred yards away provides abundant water and a nice picnic spot for the evenings. The approach to the farm is from the Shencottai Thitunelveli Road off a small settlement called Alwarkurichi. The farm is 8 KM from Alwarkurichi, which is the place from where you have to pick up milk, bread, oil, spices, etc. for the daily needs at the farm. Sivasailam is the ancestral village of Late Shri. Sivasailam, Founder and Chairman of the TAFE Group of Companies, famous, among other things for the Massey Ferguson tractors and farm equipment. A philanthropist to the core, Sivasailam did much for the upliftment of the people of his area. Paramakalyani Post Graduate College, Alwarkurichi is one such endeavour of the great man.. While my sister was busy picking up stuff, I noticed a store selling books, stationery and such things, basically for the students of the college and nearby schools. Out of curiosity I decided to have a look and see what a typical rural student of the area would be buying. I had hoped to see some fountain pens as even today in the Southern part of India, there is much emphasis on handwriting and use of fountain pens.

What I saw there took me totally by surprise. I was expecting some standard brands like Camlin, Bismi or Bril, but I found two very odd looking pens on sale. I was informed by the shopkeeper that these pens were very popular and he had such good feedback he stopped stocking more costly standard brands.

The larger pen is called Winstar model Tank No. 15 with a blue body and a slit window of transparent plastic to view the ink level in the barrel. The cap is clear plastic with blue plastic clip. The overall finish shouts out “cheap”. The finish and fit are crude and the material is cheap plastic crudely moulded. The nib is golden coloured steel and the section is fluted for good grip. Once you remove  the section from the barrel you can see liberal amounts of grease applied to the thread to prevent leaking. The grease looks like ordinary petroleum product and certainly not silicon grease. But then the temperature in Alwarkurichi fluctuates in a very narrow band and silicon is not needed. Or probably such pens cannot afford the luxury of silicon grease.

The other pen is obviously meant for teachers. This one with a demonstrator type plastic barrel has two compartments, one for blue ink and the smaller one for red ink used for correction.

The longer section has a blue cap and ill fitting black plastic clip, while the smaller section has a clear plastic push type cap. Both caps fit in by rubbing against the section. This one has a name Goodwin and model is 2511.

I did not fill ink in either of the pens but tried writing by dipping the nibs in a pot of ink. The larger pen, the Winstar is a surprisingly good writer. The short stubby nib writes medium and is extremely smooth. The double barrel Goodwin is a mixed bag. The larger barrel has a nib which is fairly smooth but the smaller one leaves much to be desired.

For Rs15 (30 cents) and Rs.12 for the double barrel, they must rank among the cheapest pens on earth. Except that they look cheap too. But they write better than some pens costing 10 times the price but with better finish. These two will remain my mementoes from the visit to the lovely Tamil countryside and the memorable stay in the farm at Sivasailam!

Ratnamson Handmade Ebonite Pen: A piece of History

In an earlier post reviewing Guider Celluloid Handmade pen I had made a passing reference to the Ratnamson Handmade pens from Rajahmundhry, Andhra Pradesh. In fact Ratnam Ball Pen Works is older than Guider and probably one of the oldest in India. There is a very interesting history with a Nationalistic twist behind the pen.

K.V. Ratnam of Rajahmundhry belonged to a family of jewelers and was involved in making blocks for lithographic printing when he met Mahatma Gandhi in 1921. Inspired by the Mahatma’s call for use of Indian made or “Swadeshi” things, Ratnam turned to manufacture of pens out of hardened rubber, ebonite. One of the first pens he made was sold to Nyapthi Subba Rao Pantulu, a freedom fighter and one of the founders of the South Indian English Newspaper The Hindu. Though this particular pen was made of silver, manufacturing of pen in ebonite commenced in 1932.

Mr. Ratnam presented an early sample of his ebonite pen to Mahatma Gandhi at Wardha in 1935 and Gandhiji used it extensively and even wrote to Mr. K.V. Ratnam appreciating the quality of the pen. When the All India Congress Committee met in Kakinada in 1937, Mr. Jawahar Lal Nehru accompanied Mr. Puntulu came to Rajahmundhry and visited the Ratnam pen works. Impressed by the quality of Ratnam pens Nehru also purchased a pen for himself.

Having learned about such illustrious history of Ratnam Ebonite Pens, I could not resist the temptation to order one for myself. I had also read a number of rave reviews about Ratnamson  pens including some in the Fountain Pen Network and was eager to possess one. I had settled down on a Ratnamson  Ebonite Model 302 eyedropper filler fountain pen with steel nib. I wanted a gold nib as these are handmade in-house and reportedly much superior to the steel ones which are outsources factory mass produced. However, the high price of gold has made the cost prohibitive and I had to, at least for the time being settle for a gold plated fine point nib.

The only way you can order a pen from Ratnam is to send a Money Order or a Demand Draft to their Rajamundhry address and patiently wait for the snail mail to deliver the pen at your address. The package finally arrived 10 days after the receipt of the MO at their works.

The packing itself is of a bygone era carefully hand wrapped in recycled paper cover.

The first impression that you get when you see the pen is, it is huge, at least compared to Indian pens. The overall length is 14.6 CM when closed and 12.4 CM when open. But when the cap is posted the pen is a massive 17.1 CM long. At the thickest point the pen is just under 15 mm thick. 

The cap takes full three turns to open. The ebonite has a design of black swirl on brown in a very pleasing manner. The clip and the ring on the cap are gold plated. Clip is rather flat but strong with the right tension.

The gold plated nib with inscription iridium point is large, much larger than MB nib.

When you hold the pen posted in your hand, it feels just a bit heavy on the top. I would not go to the extent of calling it imbalanced, but at least I do not feel comfortable with the feel. Though there is no marking on the nib to indicate if it is a fine or medium tip, the writing clearly indicates a fine tip. It takes almost 4 ml of ink to fill the pen.

 Now the actual writing.  The pen writes pretty smooth. Not too gliding to spoil your handwriting, but smooth as a nib should feel. Like every fine nib, this one also demands a delicate amount of pressure. At that amount of pressure, it offers the right amount of resistance to make you write carefully. I was not too happy with the amount of flow of ink, though I would not say it writes dry. Personally, I would have liked a bit more flow. To be fair, I must admit that I did not go through the usual routine of breaking in a new pen in this case. Normally when I get a new pen, before filling in with ink, I usually give it a thorough wash, first with plan water, then with a very very weak mixture of water and dish cleaning fluid or ammonia (one drop of cleaner in one 200 ml glass of water). Then the pen is washed under pressure under a tap and immersed in a glass of clean water for 20 minutes before taking out and drying. Then only do I usually fill ink. The first filling I love to do with Waterman or Quink. This time I just filled some blue Quink and tried it.

Overall, I feel history in my hands when I hold this pen. Fortunate to hold a pen that Gandhi, Nehru and such noble souls held! I am certainly ordering a gold nib or better still order another Ratnamson with gold nib.

Will I buy this pen again? You bet. I will not only buy a gold nib, but I will bequeath it to my son who too is fond of writing with fountain pens. That is how much I like this pen.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Parker 61 Set

 Parker was the first ‘luxury ‘pen I was gifted.  A Parker 45.  Frankly, as a student from a rural middle class family, if it was not gifted, I certainly could not afford to buy one. Growing up in a small village, 25 KM from the nearest Railway Station and 50 KM from the District Headquarters, I consider myself lucky even to have known what a Parker pen was! I owe this fortune to two factors. Firstly, my father and my grandfather had worked abroad, the former in Malaya (now Singapore, then part of Malaya) and the latter in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). A Parker vacumatic pearl design was his proud possession . Secondly, a large percentage of the population of Travencore and Malabar areas which now constitute Kerala had gone to foreign countries in search of work, mostly as clerks, nurses, teachers and accountants. Most of these migrants would earn good money in these alien lands and after a few decades would return to motherland building palatial houses with all modern luxurious facilities and show off their costly watches, pens, cigarette lighters and sunglasses. As a result, the average rural student in Kerala of those days were aware, sometimes painfully so, of the good things in life like luxury pens and other symbols of prosperity.

My second gift pen too happened to be a Parker. In fact not one, but a complete set of Parker pens, a fountain pen and a ball point pen. This too was from a ‘Gulf-returned’ friend, on the occasion of my marriage in 1975. The Mathews family were neighbours of my wife’s family and the source of supply of many coveted ‘foreign’ items like perfumes, saris, etc.

This beautiful peacock green Parker 61 set with gold-plated caps and trimmings was given in a befittingly handsome box, which unfortunately we have lost in the numerous relocations necessitated by the exigencies of service in the Indian Police Service.

The nib is the classic hooded gold one, a design originally developed by Parker, but imitated by numerous wannabes, especially by Hero Pen Company of China. The only nibs I have seen on Parker 61 is a fine writer, but it is possible they had at some time or the other produced, medium and broad nibs too.

The pen is very light weight compared to the big ones like Duofold or Montblanc. I now notice that the pen is very thin also compared to most pens in the luxury segment.  At the time when I came by this pen I had no acquaintance with any other premier pens. Another very interesting thing is that the Parker 61 fountain pen is the same length as the Sheaffer Prelude when closed, but the pen portion by itself is a good2mm longer than the Sheaffer when open and a good 1.4CM shorter when posted.  The pen is 11mm thick at the widest part of the body and just about 1mm thicker at the cap. The overall effect being that of a delicate dainty pen suitable for small handed persons and women. That suits me because I have a small hand.

The ball point pen is 13 CM long and just about 9mm thick. It uses the standard Parker Jotter refill or its innumerous clones.

 It is difficult for me to be objective in assessing this pen, both on account of the sentimental value and my own continuous use of it for several years. I must say to the credit of this delicate looking pen that it has withstood quite some abuse at my sweating hands and the only repair or replacement we have done in its 35 years of use is replacement of the filler mechanism in 2000.