Friday, September 24, 2010

Old Pen Reborn

Three or four weeks ago I received an unusual and very special gift from my friend, Joan Mary, whose work as an appraiser sometimes brings her in touch with interesting objects. No information on just where she might have laid hands on it, but the gift was a beautiful antique sterling silver dip pen.

The spiral shape of the shaft is particularly striking, and I wonder if the design is uncommon among dip pens. There is also a name engraved on the lower part of the shaft, just above the nib, or ferrule. As best I can read the fine engraving, it says ‘M. Miellez ’96.’ The pen measures 18.5 centimeters (7.28 inches), including the nib.

Not surprisingly, the pen came to me without a nib, so I spent some time finding out what was needed and where to get it. Knowing next to nothing about dip pens, I contacted Julie at Whatever, and she put me in touch with Sam at Pendemonium. Sam was most helpful, explaining that from the look of the photograph, I needed a gold nib of a certain size, and would get the best results from John Mottishaw at Classic Fountain Pens. So, I contacted John and struck pay dirt. He had a Crown nib that he thought might be the right fit, and two weeks later a Crown semi-flexible fine .497 arrived at my door. Eager to try the old dip pen, but unaware of the surprise in store I started dipping. Don’t really know why I failed to imagine the unique feeling and difficulty of writing with a dip pen, but my first few words and lines were a squiggly, spidery mess. Quite a new experience for me.

As it turns out, writing is somewhat slow and difficult because the pen is very slender, very light, and the nib does not have what feels like good, solid seating in the pen’s ferrule. It tends to move or shift slightly after a few words, prompting me to stop and readjust or straighten the nib. The feeling I get is that the nib needs to be properly ‘installed’ by someone more knowledgeable than I, and that perhaps the ferrule requires some repair. But it’s going to take a little time to get a good and manageable handle on this pen. Definitely a pen that will require some practice in using.

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America