Monday, November 13, 2017

Pens and inks

I've been reading about fountain pens these past days after my friend Mervyn had convinced me to get one. The second year IM residents have taken a strong liking to it: never mind that their ink runs dry, literally, after a 24-duty shift at the emergency department. If using a fancy pen makes their ED stint any easier, why should we stop them? Their chart entries look like photographs of journals from the past.

I joined the bandwagon a few days ago when I realized I didn't really like blue or black ink but a combination of both. I was curious: people who've converted to fountain pens never seemed to look back, as if using ballpoint pens were heretical, if not entirely malicious. But these people, good friends and colleagues in the hospital, were never snobs: try it; it suits your handwriting, they said. They also said that it may turn out to be more cost-effective in the long term. I learned that with fountain pens, one can combine ink colors. The opportunity to personalize this part of the physical writing process, using pen and paper, thrilled me.

It helped a lot that two of my students, Walter and Agnes, were fountain pen users themselves. Walter asked if I wanted to piggyback on his online order. He showed me a palette of colors, twice as many as there were in the rainbow, and, overwhelmed, I picked something that looked brown, blue-black, and I don't know what else. The inks should be arriving this week.


Naturally, I read the history and mechanisms of the fountain pen. Why, for instance, doesn't the ink drip? What keeps the ink inside the reservoir, and what allows it to diffuse, via capillary action, onto paper? As if I had lots of time to kill, I watched YouTube tutorials of how to change inks via converters, what to check if the ink doesn't flow, and so on. This meant that I enrolled in a local forum for fountain pen enthusiasts in the country, but I've not posted anything yet.

Tonight, I fixed my brother's fountain pen, something given to him as a gift a year ago. I soaked the nib in tap water for a few minutes, flushed the dried ink with running water, refilled the cartridge with Verte Empire (J. Herbin) ink using an insulin syringe (it was not a converter), and made a mess with my hands in the process. The green ink, combined with the dried black stuck inside fountain pen for months, looked elegant.




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