Fountain (pen) of (my) youth

11 05 2020

Odd day. Can’t remember exactly when “lockdown”, such as it is in BC, began, but I’m into week four of a five week furlough from work, so it’s at least that long. I’m treating it as a dry run for retirement. Love the extra time for reading, gardening, teasing Mrs E. and generally discovering vitally important things I haven’t used in years to fix.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I ended up on a random investigation of fountain pens, inks and associated accoutrements today. Along the way I cleaned and revitalised a cheap fountain pen by “Pen & Ink” which now works great, though the nib is a little broad for my current tastes. The outside of it had become tacky and I read that rubbing alcohol was a good way of removing the tackiness. The brand I used was 70% ethanol (wood alcohol – don’t try using it in cocktails!) but I think some brands are isopropyl alcohol. “Test on a less visible area” being the usual warning in case it melts everything.

Anyway, it worked great on my particular piece of soft plastic. So much so that I also used it on the rubbery grips of the Canon film camera I recently bought second hand. Big fan of alcohol now. (As if I wasn’t already…)

As for the pen innards, I flushed it many times with the rubbing alcohol and then near boiling water to remove residue of old dipping pen ink I’d erroneously filled it with a while ago. (It’s not water-soluble like fountain pen ink is and can contain solids and corrosive chemicals). I have to say the slow, painstaking repetition was quite cathartic. I put a little Lamy Amazonite (kind of teal/turquoise) ink in it to test, and it works lovely and smooth now. Its “medium” nib is a bit broad though for my current tastes.

Flushed (as it were) with this success, I felt nostalgic for the first fountain pen I ever used/owned when I was 11. A present from my parents, it was a Parker 45, as a fountain pen was the required writing instrument at my High School, a traditional grammar school in the UK. I’d looked for this pen several times before but wasn’t entirely sure I hadn’t “purged it” a là Maria Kondo. Perhaps the joy I felt sure it would spark now might not have been the case some time previously.

I even perused a UK vintage fountain pen site to see how much a replacement would be. £55 is the answer – though that was an all-metal body with a stainless-steel nib. Mine was black, with a rolled gold nib. I remembered it well!

After looking in all the obvious places, I suddenly felt inspired to look in the desk drawers of my nest-flown “arty” daughter. It’s not quite as creepy as it sounds – she’s lived abroad for several years now, and she does still have quite the stash of art supplies in her old room.

Boy, did I hit the mother lode! Not only did I find my old school pen (we’re talking 1975 vintage here!), but another lovely fountain pen I was given as a thank-you for being my friend’s Best Man back in the UK. This one is a lovely sleek élysée (ironically, despite the Es acute,  a German company – now defunct). There’s a great write-up here.

Looking in my “calligraphy tin” I discovered the bodies of no less than 3 Parker 25’s and a very particular Peugeot edition of a Creeks n Creeks (Stypen – French) “stubby”. This is so short it can only take the short ink cartridges common in schools. No option of a convertor to take ink from a bottle.

Armed with a little collection now of less than clean fountain pens, I spent a very pleasant few hours purging all manner of colours of ink from their crevices with near-boiling water and rubbing alcohol.

Now… if only I could remember how to write!


Creeks n Creeks Peugeot special élysée – Series 60 Parker 25 Pen & Ink – sketch Parker 45