Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bad Laurel, No Biscuit

So, I really hate admitting things like this, but confession is good for the soul or something, right? :P

Well, on the weekend I opened up one of the cases I use to store Japanese pens in, and selected two Platinums which I was planning to ink up for the week ahead. The pens in question can be seen in the above image, (4th and 5th from left). These are pens from the early 1970s, when Platinum was designing some extremely interesting and beautiful writing instruments. They were released in the same year and share a very similar design – flattop, tapered barrel, seldom-seen ball clip, and a cap band decorated with neat little squares. The nib units are identical, and each has a large Fine 18K white gold nib. One pen has a quiet and utilitarian stainless steel body with acid-etched black squares, while the other is flashy solid sterling silver with red urushi-filled squares.

As I picked up the stainless steel pen, I suddenly remembered that this pen had not been cleaned and emptied; I had put it in the box to photograph it, and then not taken it back out. By now, I had a vague sense of impending doom. I picked up the second pen, which I had been using around the same time as the other one, and with a sigh, I realised that this one wouldn’t have been cleaned either. Crap.

I headed off to the bathroom sink, and pulled the cap off the stainless steel pen (maybe it was my imagination, but it did seem harder to remove that cap with the images of a sticky and gross grip section in my head.) But no, there was no ink-soaked section, but there was a gross ink-covered nib, and a suspiciously ink-encrusted trim ring. The feeling of doom intensified. I looked at the semi-dry ink on the trim ring a little closer, and immediately noticed two things:
  1. The stuff looked like iron rust.
  2. The stuff smelled like iron rust.

Amidst a small panic and some swearing, I broke out a baby’s toothbrush and some ammonia. Soon I was gently scrubbing the nib, and blue-grey ink was coming out, but the rusty stuff on the trim ring wasn't moving (see the trim ring here). A half hour later, blue-colored water was still coming out of the nib, and the rust (it was definitely rust) was still there. Meanwhile, the nib unit of the sterling silver pen had cleaned free of its ink (poss. Sailor Red Brown) very easily, so I dried it off and put it away. I was feeling a little bit sick over the nib unit of the stainless steel pen at this point. It was such a nice pen! I scrubbed at it some more, but blue was still leaching everywhere and I could still clearly smell rust, so I ended up soaking the unit overnight.

The next morning I flushed the last of the blue out (finally), and then dried the nib off and sat down and looked at it. The rust around the trim ring was still there, but some of it had stained the tissue I was drying the nib off with, so I kind of rubbed at it a bit more, and surprisingly, more rust appeared on the tissue. I scratched at the rust with my fingernail. It was slightly stubborn, but soon shifted to reveal shiny *stainless* steel underneath. Aha! I suddenly realised what it was – ferrogallic (iron gall) ink!

I examined the trim ring with a 20x loupe, and could see no pitting / damage. Now, I have had flash corrosion damage on a nib unit in the past, but it occurred with R&K’s Scabiosa, which is a strong ferrogallic ink (indeed, the corrosion occurred within two weeks.) The ink which my stainless steel Platinum pen had been inked with was 15+ year-old Platinum Blue-Black, and (to my shame), the pen must have been sitting in the case for well over six months.

Evidently, Platinum’s Blue-Black ink must have once been made from a weak iron gall base; much like LAMY Blue-Black is made today. I say, "been made" instead of "is made", because I have current stocks of Platinum Blue-Black and while the attractive ferrogallic characteristic of the ink colour dramatically fading when drying still does occur, I believe it does so to a lesser extent than the old ink.

While I was lucky, and I learned something new, I’m not in a hurry to have a repeat performance, I think I’ll be extra disciplined about cleaning my pens in future. ;)

PS: I know pictures of the nib would have made this post more interesting, but I had other things on my mind at the time!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Artistic Musings

I've been having a serious problem with time lately, as in, where the hell is it all going? (Do you know it's eleven weeks until Christmas?!)

Anyway, a couple of things for today's post:

  • Watercolor Travel Kits (A Winsor & Netwon Rant)
  • Daler Rowney Pastels
Watercolor Travel Kits
Today, a fellow artist showed me her latest little 'splurge' - a W&N Artists' Watercolour Field Box Set. Now, I love a cute paint box as much as the next person, and I have a W&N Bijou Box which I really like, but when I saw the W&N box my friend has purchased, I was quietly horrified. The set retails near $200AU, but you can get it for around $160 or so if you look around.
Now, that kind of money would make me think that you were getting something rather decent indeed - except that you don't. The whole thing was plastic. I found this very surprising because plastic automatically makes me think of Cotman. Usually, W&N Artists' means a robust metal box with lots of shiny black enamel... but I can assure you that there was no black enamel to be found, and I think I even saw a seam in the plastic! Horror!
Personally, I think that unless you find these kind of kits deeply discounted, a budget DIY kit or case like this which you can fill yourself is a better choice.

Daler Rowney Pastels
Pastel painting seems to be my new artistic thing, so I have been expanding my pastel palette. A interesting purchase so far has been a set of Daler Rowney 'Hard' Sketching Pastels, which are square pastels sticks generally used for underpainting or drawing layers. To my surprise I found the 'Hard' DR pastels to be far softer than the 'Semi-Hard' Nouvel Carré pastels I have been using for underpainting. They handle beautifully! I was so impressed that I am now waiting for my local supplier to see what other DR pastels they can order. :)

Friday, September 25, 2009

September Update

There isn't a lot to report this month: no new pens, no new inks. I have managed to spend a few hundred dollars on art supplies, though. (I know, I know...where have my priorities gone?)

Anyway, so I have been keeping myself busy with some arty stuff - like small works with soft pastels. Now, I always considered myself an aspiring painter, specifically a watercolorist, yet it seems as though at the moment I have a natural affinity to soft pastel. It all came about one evening when I found the incredibly inspiring blog of oil painter, Qiang-Huang. Strong light and dark contrasts, clean color and expressive-yet-precise brush strokes where nothing is overstated. To me, Huang's style is perfection.

So it was 9PM and I was looking at Huang's wonderful images with fingers that were itching to break out my pochade box, but it was 9PM and I had work the next day and it would take me some time to set it all up. Instead, I got out my pastel box and a pad of Canson Mi-Teintes and just began laying color down. It was surprisingly enjoyable. The next night I started and finished another pastel rendition of a Huang oil painting. I have completed half a dozen or so small pastel paintings now, and have found I am understanding quite a bit more about color and value.

You can see some of my efforts in my Flickr Gallery:

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Prettiest Celluloid!

Behold! OMAS Scarlatto / Scarlet Red Celluloid!

Just look at how LUSCIOUS it is:

Red red red!

Interestingly, the left Princess pen from 1993 has 'OMAS Extra' on the body (as do all my others), while the new Princess on the right from 2002 has 'OMAS Italy' on the cap.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pilot Iroshizuku Autumn Inks

The latest three Iroshizuku inks, Fuyu-Gaki, Tsukushi, and Yama-Guri, plus a couple of comparisons to show which way the ink colour shifts.

Click to enlarge!


Friday, July 17, 2009

Forgotten Art Supplies : Nostalgia (or not!)

Thanks to some informative tweets from Graham McArthur about content on Drawger.com, I recently found the "The Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies".

It made me smile to see rapidographs, elipsographs, Letraset, film erasers, stencils and scribes... I trained as a Cartographer, and was amongst the last to be taught traditional drafting in addition to CAD. Also, my mother used to work as a Geological Draughtsperson, so between us, we own about three-quarters of the supplies shown in the above-mentioned Museum.

The thing is though, I still *use* about half of those supplies today. I have a deep love and appreciation for them! After all, I was a child who was given sheets of Letratone and a burnisher/stylus to play with, not scrap paper and crayons. I didn't use pencils to colour illustrations or diagrams for my school assignments; I used self-adhesive Pantone Letrafilm in a rainbow of PMS colours.

Last year I wanted a new set of French Curves and some small triangles. I looked high and low for a set of decent quality cut and weighted plastic curves, but all I readily found were cheap and poorly finished sets with seams - they were almost disposable! (For someone who always buys the best hand-tools she can afford, and who considers an all-brass rolling parallel ruler as one of her most treasured possessions, this experience was a tiny bit heartbreaking.)

Quality over quantity... those were the days. ;)

July Update

It's been a quiet few months in pendom for me of late. Work, art and friends have been taking up more and more of my time. But, there are some small tidbits of (old) news to share...

  • Pilot Iroshizuku Autumn Inks
    Three gorgeous new inks came out several weeks ago, and I must say that the Autumn edition is my favourite Iroshizuku release so far. With the gorgeous red-orange fuyu-gaki, burgundy-brown tsukushi, and subdued brown tones of yama-guri (which is a match for Penman Mocha, by the way), Pilot couldn't really miss this time around.
    However, I expect others will be less pleased with the Autumn range than I am, because in pendom, blue ink *still* reigns supreme, and I am in a distinct minority because I don't care for blue ink - at all. ;)

  • OMAS Princess Scarlet Red
    A second Scarlet Red Princess will join my collection this month, taking my Princess total to six. Scarlet Red is my favourite OMAS celluloid after the beautiful Saft Green.

  • Nakaya Piccolo IV
    By now, I should have already ordered my fourth Nakaya Piccolo, but I just can't decide on a design. I have several designs of my own creation short-listed, but love them all equally, so I keep dithering between them and never choosing.
    In the meantime, I have decided to order a Aka-tame Desk Pen. No design motifs, just that classic lacquer with a rose gold SEF nib.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Old becomes new!

Behold my new pen!

Somewhat of a Pilot Super clone with that big (brassed) cap band, this pen is actually made by "Ever", a low-tier maker active in 1950's Japan. I rediscovered this humble pen in my junk box this afternoon, and became especially interested in it when I noticed that the inlaid steel nib appeared to be exceptionally fine. The potential for exceptionally fine nibs always excites me, so I decided to give the pen a little TLC.

The pen had been in the junk box for about two years - with good reason. It had been given to me as a parts pen, even though it was NOS and still had two stickers on it. The clip was loose and the trim showing a lot of brass. I tried various methods to tighten the loose cap without success, so in the end, out came the two-part epoxy adhesive! I removed the stickers, cleaned the pen up, and polished the cap, barrel and trim with a bit of carnuba wax. The feed is ebonite, as is the whole grip section. This made the pen slightly more interesting - the less potentially brittle plastic, the better.

The steel nib is imprinted with 'Venus', and bears the 〄 mark. The tines were quite misaligned, but I soon had that fixed, and then inked the pen with Pilot Iroshizuku Shin-Ryoku. I'm pleased to report that the line is ridiculously fine! :)

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Pilot Iroshizuku Ito-Ya Inks

The other day I received two bottles of Pilot's 'Tokyo Limited Edition' ink. These were made especially for the stationery store to end all other stationery stores, Ito-Ya, Ginza district, Tokyo.

Click to enlarge!

Three inks were produced: Shimbashi-Iro, Edo-Murasaki and Fukagawa-Nezu. Not being a fan of blue, I passed on the Shimbashi-Iro, but the rich red-violet and green-grey tones of the other two were unmissable!

The ink samples I brushed on above are: Yama-Budo, J. Herbin Poussiere de Lune (Moondust), Edo-Murasaki, Fukagawa-Nezu, Fuyu-Syogun and Kiri-Same.

I don't write ink reviews, but keep your eyes on Inkophile, because samples of Edo-Murasaki and Fukagawa-Nezu will be with Margana shortly.

Friday, April 24, 2009

OMAS Princess #5

Recently another long-awaited OMAS Princess fountain pen joined my collection - a 1997 Arco Green Princess with gold-filled trim!

This is the fifth Princess in my collection, and the sixth OMAS celluloid I have had the pleasure of owning. The diminutive Princess and Dama models were released along with the Paragon as the Classic Celluloid Collection in 1991. The Princess is as beautifully made as the 1930s ring top models which preceded it, and there is nothing like it amongst modern OMAS offerings.

A 5-Piece Scarlet Red Classic Celluloid Set: Dama Ballpoint #C2811, Princess Ring Top Fountain Pen with Tassel #8141, The Paragon Fountain Pen #8711, Dama (Lady) Fountain Pen #8811, and The Paragon Rollerball #5711. (Photo © Unknown)

The Classic Celluloid Collection was a high-quality OMAS range which featured their faceted, twelve-sided (dodecagonal) design turned out in four beautiful celluloid stocks: Scarlet Red, Saft Green, Pearl Grey and Arco Bronze. Later, three additional celluloids were added – Blue La Royale, Arco Green and Senape Blue:

The Classic Celluloid Collection was discontinued in ~2002. All subsequent releases in these celluloids feature different models, including several revisions of the Paragon. Models and sizes can be confusing in regard to these OMAS pens, but as a general guide:
  • The Princess is a clipless ring top, and it is tiny. It is 4.3" / 110mm capped.
  • The Dama is also known as the "1930" model. It is a very small pen, and sometimes incorrectly referred to as the "Mini Paragon". It is 4.6" / 118mm capped.
  • The Milord is the model sized between the Dama/1930 and the Paragon. It was not part of the 1991 collection.
  • The Paragon has been revised several times. When part of the 1991 collection, it was 5.5" / 142mm capped.
My Arco Green Princess has a 0.3mm Stub nib, and both pen and nib were courtesy of Dillon Ang, who like myself, has long appreciated what a exquisitely crafted little pen the Princess is. I have a couple of nibs from Dillon now, and have been very pleased with them. The pen is inked with Diamine Umber, which goes beautifully with the grey-green Arco Green celluloid.

The older OMAS nibs are of a very high, if slightly inconsistent quality, while the newer (2000 onward) Bock nibs are more uniformly produced and inconsistencies have largely been eliminated. However, this is of little concern to me... every one of my OMAS pens has a customised nib. ;)

If you have very deep pockets, only one store which I am aware of has any stock of the celluloid pens left - Pens in Asia. Be prepared to spend up for one, NOS.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Nakaya Piccolo III - Review

I have just posted the review for my third Nakaya :

Nakaya Piccolo III - Photo!

So this morning I woke up to a fantastic post by SJM1123 in a recent thread on the FPN about Japanese lacquerware decoration. The post links to a wonderful database of techniques, including Chinkin, which is what I chose for my third Piccolo.

I was so inspired by the videos that I got the camera out and started snapping away. Here is a teaser from the shoot:

Nakaya Piccolo III
I couldn't find my remote cable release and I was all in despair over the lighting quality... but I think they turned out OK.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Just Inked: OMAS Princess #4

Today one of my stunning OMAS Princess fountain pens returned to me after spending some time with Deb Kinney. The nib is now a very nice Kinney 0.3mm Cursive Italic, and much more usable than the original (shudders in horror) B nib.

This 1997 Princess is all inked up with Iroshizuku Yu-Yake. The soft shade of orange goes beautifully with the Senape / Saffron Blue / Autumn Blue celluloid. (I have no idea why this celluloid has so many different names... but I like them all.)

I'm planning to photograph some pens this weekend... hopefully I might have a few more photos to update this with. This is definitely one of the less common OMAS celluloids.

Also, at some point in the near future I will have a Arco Green Princess arriving... another delicious and uncommon celluloid!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sailor "Smoke Green" LE

Today a wonderful Sailor Professional Gear arrived!

Behold the full-size Sailor & Bunzo Stationery 2009 "Smoke Green" LE - only twenty-five pens were produced.

This limited edition pen was accompanied by a bottle of Sailor green ink, specifically blended to match the colour of the pen. It's a beautiful deep green ink that looks perfect coming out of the EF nib.

Gorgeous, gorgeous GREEN!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Nakaya Piccolo III - Update

I forgot to post this Nakaya update earlier (which in itself is an amazing occurrence), but my third Nakaya has been completed, and photos are available on the Nakaya website.

The pen will remain in Japan for some time yet, until the design of a new rose gold nib is complete.

The normal Chinkin technique of engraved line work into highly polished lacquer has always seemed too much of a visual contrast to me, so I opted for the subtler approach of line work into a unpolished Shu urushi body. The unpolished finish is akin to a 'satin' finish.

In a couple of months I will be starting talks with Nakaya for a fourth Piccolo, one with a completely custom design. I don't expect to see it until 2010, however, my tradition of at least one exquisite Nakaya a year is something which I love. I never mind waiting for pens like these. :)

Photo © Nakaya Corporation.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Gel Pens

I'm not a big fan of gel pens in general. The points are usually far too large for my handwriting, but I must say that I have been enjoying Pilot Hi-Tec-C 0.25mm gel pens for some time now. I have found them to be wonderful for drawing and sketching in particular.

I really wish they were available in the full colour range, though... the 0.3mm/0.4mm colour range is beautiful.

(This concludes one of my very rare "pens-but-not-fountain-pens" posts!)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Shock, Horror!

I am back from my painting workshop - it rocked!

But now for the shock: There was a lovely man in my workshop who also liked fountain pens! *Gasp!* A real, live person! Someone from outside of the internet! That liked fountain pens!

I know, I could hardly believe it myself.

So, it was lunch time, and we were standing around in a small group, chatting. Someone had asked me something about myself, and in my prattling on I threw the usual line in about collecting fountain pens. The nice man then asked me what my favourite brand was (at this point, I think I experienced a mild case of shock, because I don't remember making much sense when I tried to explain that I liked Japanese pens). Then I asked him what his favourite brand was, and it was Montegrappa! (How wonderful to hear he liked something exotic, and didn't just say Parker or Sheaffer!) I was all: "*Gasps!* I have a Montegrappa Micra!! What model do you have?! Is it an LE?!" (Plus he knew what the Micra was!!!)

Then I realized that I really was speaking with that many exclamations, so I tried to chill and not act like an over excited eight year-old. I went and fetched my Libelle 5-pen wrap and revealed the goods! I am proud to say that they were greeted with awe. I had a Nakaya Piccolo, Sailor Pro Gear, Pilot MYU M90, Pelikan Polar Lights... and something else which escapes me at present.

Anyway, next time I am in Brisbane, we're going to have lunch, and I'm going to bring some of my pens! (OMG, an outing with my pens, I thought this day would never come!)

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Out of Town

From tomorrow, I'm heading out of town for a couple of weeks. I'm going to a two-week watercolour painting workshop, something I've been looking forward to for the last few months!

I've packed a couple of my trusty Sailor Pro Gear pens, a bottle of Noodler's Golden Brown, and a couple of Rhodia notebooks. I'm good to go!

I won't have any internet access while I am away, so bye bye for a while. :)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Gaah! 2009!

There I was at 2AM this morning, merrily choosing which colour PANTONE® Universe Collection Mug (see image) to use, when my husband came into the kitchen and reminded me that "2009 is the year". My hand was on my favourite mug, the Olive Green 5757C, when I realised what he was talking about.

I am in no way ready for it to be 2009.

This year, my hedonistic little life will effectively be over. This year, my husband wants me to have a baby.

A baby.

What on earth would I do with a baby?

The whole idea is just appalling.

Not even inking one of my most-loved pens, an OMAS Princess (Saft Green) with Binder 0.3mm Stub nib, has cheered me up.