16 July 2010


There is something reactionary in this hobby called stylophilia. Those infected by this strange virus pay attention to an object whose prime time is long gone. We insist in using some utensils that are not convenient given the technological advances in the last fifty years. So, once the convenience of use is no longer an argument, almost anything goes.

Fountain pens have evolved a lot along their 150 years of history. One of the systems that has seen more changes is that related to the way the pen is filled with ink. From the dip pens with no ink deposit to the present disposable pens, a number of technical solutions have been proposed and developed. All of them, in practical terms, fit into these three categories: eyedroppers, self-fillers, cartridges.

Eyedropper pens need an external device –an eyedropper or a syringe— to fill the pen barrel with ink. This is an old system, but these pens have the great advantages of a big ink reservoir and of no technical complication.

A Sheaffer pen with the complex snorkel self-filling system.

Self-fillers, on the contrary, need of some internal deposit and of some device to pump the ink from the inkwell through the nib and feed. These systems are really varied—from piston fillers to aerometric bladders to levers acting on rubber sacs… These pens are the most technically complex in the market. Their ink deposits can be both big and small—each pen is different on this.

Cartridges and converters of the three major Japanese pen companies.

Nowadays, however, most newly made pens use sealed cartridges together –if the pen allowed so— with ad-hoc converters to make the pen to work as a self-filler. These pens, usually, have small ink capacity, given by the cartridge or converter, but their cartridges are small and easy to carry.

Two German piston fillers: a Pelikan 400NN (Merz & Krell, 1970s), and a Soennecken 110 (1950s).

Some brands remain loyal to self-filling systems. That is the case of Pelikan, for instance. Others opt for the simplicity of cartridges and converters. That is the case of most Japanese manufacturers, although recently they have marketed a couple of self-filling models. Some of their top models, however, are eyedroppers.

One of the few Japanese modern examples of self-filling pen. A piston-filler Katoseisakusho made in celluloid.

So, the final decision pertains to the collector or to the user. The convenience of the cartridge or the romantic tradition of the self-filling or eyedropper systems?

This discussion is never ending and often leads nowhere. Weight and technical complexity or ease of use and reliability? A second pen as a back up or a spare cartridge in the pocket? Romantic authenticity —whatever that might mean— or ease of use?

At the end, companies are catering the cravings of the buyer, not to mention that there exist a vast number of old pens with any technical solution. There are pens in all price ranges with either of the systems: self-fillers, cartridge only pens, cartridge and converter pens, eyedroppers… The exception, however, might be that of currently-produced eyedroppers—new eyedroppers tend to be very expensive.

It is my impression, however, that most stylophiles prefer self-filling fountain pens. Some, very ardently, following the backwardness of the fountain pen use.

As for myself, I am very eclectic on this matter. I do dislike disposable pens, although I manage to refill them. And I rather stay away from cartridge-only pens, despite I am fond of refilling cartridges with the ink of my choice.

Now, you, fellow stylophile reader, what do you prefer?

(Sailor 21 Black pocket pen – Sailor Brown)

Bruno Taut
(Inagi, July 11-12 2010)
[labels: estilofilia, Pelikan, Soennecken, soluciones técnicas, Katoseisakusho, Sheaffer, conversor, Japón, Merz and Krell]


anele said...

Bueno, a pesar de no ser coleccionista de plumas, en caso de serlo no dudo en asegurar que muy posiblemente me decantaría por la nostalgia que supone el "auto-llenado". Es mil veces más cómodo y más limpio el uso de cartuchos, pero no es lo mismo. Se pierde todo el encanto.
Por no hablar de que perderíais toda posibilidad de dar rienda suelta al "consumo" de tinteros de infinitos colores. Que nos conocemos....

Bruno Taut said...

Creo que tienes las cosas más claras que muchos coleccionistas. Y pienso en uno en particular.

Yo, ya lo digo en mi texto, soy más veleta. Me rindo ante un buen plumín. Al tiempo reconozco que sí hubo una pluma que la compré por el sistema de llenado: la Sheaffer Sentinel con "snorkel" que aparece enla primera foto de la entrada.

Gracias por el comentario.


kinno-san said...

Hay preguntas que ofenden. Si te gustan las plumas, y concretamente las antiguas, está claro que los sistemas de autollenado ( saco, émbolo... ) encabezan la lista de preferencias. ¿ Acaso instalarías un radio-CD con modernas etapas de potencia en un Ford T ?

Bruno Taut said...

Gracias por el comentario, Kinno-san, pero creo que se va usted por las ramas.

No se trata de ponerle un cartucho de tinta a una Sheaffer de los años 20. La pregunta más razonable sería si, con todo lo demás es igual, escogería una pluma de cartucho y convertidor o una con autollenado. Si prefiere una Sailor Realo PG o una Sailor PG con cartucho y convertidor.

O si el que una pluma use cartuchos es un argumento suficiente para desterrarla de su lista de deseos.

Y cosas peores que un radio-CD en un Ford T han visto mis ojos. Después de todo, el equipo de música no afecta a los aspectos esenciales del vehículo.



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