Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Secret Life of a Fountain Pen Aficionado - Part Two

                                                        The pen of preference for me and my college friends was Sheaffer's inexpensive cartridge fountain pen.  This was a capped pen - not a desk pen - and it went everywhere with me.  Cartridge pens were a new innovation, popular for their convenience.  But note-taking students could go through a box of cartridges in a short period of time, and this could be a drain on the purse.

A fellow classmate introduced me to the practice of refilling cartridges with a needle and syringe.  A fairly inexpensive bottle of Sheaffer ink would refill countless cartridges.  After four or five refills, a cartridge had to be discarded because the opening that fit on the pen nib would become enlarged which could mean a leaky pen.  Even so, this method stretched our cartridge allowance.  Of course, we could have alleviated our ink budget problems considerably by using cheap ball point pens.  But, as fountain pen devotees, we couldn't bring ourselves do descend to the level of an uninspired ball point.

Lots of things have improved over the years, but it seems to me that the quality of common, everyday paper declined during the 1950s and 60s.  No longer could you use your fountain pen on a lot of dime store tablets without having the ink feather or bleed.  "Feathering" is when the ink travels to places it shouldn't go, producing a broad, blurry line instead of a fine, distinct one.  "Bleeding" is when the ink goes through to the other side of the paper.

Due to this decline in the quality of ordinary paper, fountain pen lovers had to choose to either retire their fountain pens or go to specialty shops to buy better, more expensive paper.  Those who could afford it, sprung for the expensive paper for letters of importance; but they still had to resort to the common ball point for such mundane tasks as making out the grocery list. 

to be continued . . .

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