A Working Wardrobe of Writing Tools

Today I thought I would indulge my stationery-geek side (and, hopefully, yours) by introducing you to my writing instruments. (No, I haven’t given them names. Yet.) Illustrated mostly with other people’s pictures, because mine aren’t much to look at.

Yep, that’s about as good as my photos got. Sorry. Blame the gloomy weather.

First in seniority is the green Faber-Castell (with goldish accents) which I found, fully functional, in a box of disused fountain pens which was passed on to me by my husband’s family when they found I was interested in such things. (Now that’s the kind of family you want to marry into.) It was this pen that inspired my love for piston-filling fountain pens, and I used it to write the epically large first draft of my WIP. These days it contains Diamine Woodland Green and I use it mostly for writing in my spiritual diary.

From the same box of fountain pen goodness came the Platignum Shorthand Pen – black with silver accents. It uses a rubber sac with a squeezy bar to fill, with the downside of not being able to tell how much ink is left in it. Despite that drawback, it is rapidly becoming my go-to pen for general writing – shopping lists, to-do lists, notes – because it has such a fine line and isn’t too wet, so works well on general-purpose paper. It currently contains Waterman’s Havana Brown (now called Absolute Brown for Absolutely no reason that I am aware of.)

The next to enter my life was my first ever new pen: the TWSBI Mini, which I bought to reward myself for slogging through all 158,840(ish) words of the first draft. It’s another piston-filler; in fact, if you have a TWSBI ink bottle – which I do – the pen’s barrel can refill straight from the socket in the top of the bottle lid, without any of the messiness inherent in dipping a nib into the bottle.
Unlike all my other pens, it also has a clear barrel, so you can see how much ink is left at all times. This also makes it an ideal pen for using with coloured inks. Currently it contains Diamine Majestic Purple, thematic colour of ye olde WIP, and is used for notes and records thereon and thereof.

The fourth of my pens, a gift from my parents last Christmas, is undoubtedly the most aesthetically impressive to behold. (You can’t just look at this one. You have to behold it.) Almost baroque in its ornateness, it features a barrel of Papua New Guinean rosewood, and so much metal ornamentation I got pulled out of line and had my bag searched when going through airport security with it. It’s quite a heavy pen, so I don’t use it for long pieces of writing. It is best for using a) when one feels like being impressive and b) when one wishes to draw a satisfyingly final line through items on to-do lists.

Allegorie op de tocht naar Chatham (1667) met een portret van Cornelis de Witt - Allegory on the Raid on the Medway (Cornelis Bisschop, 1668)
“Two swans – check; three putti – no, sorry, four; one blindfolded, with scales and sword, standing on a grumpy dog-lion – check; two random floozies in the sky…”

It’s rather a wet nib (so it doesn’t care for everyday paper) and has a smallish (piston-filling) ink chamber, considering the overall size of the pen. It is also filled with my general use brown ink.

Finally, and most recently arrived in my collection of writing implements, there is a pencil. A reusable (i.e. mechanical) one, naturally, for the sake of the environment if not my laissez-faire attitude to getting up to sharpen things. It’s a Pilot Birdie, slim and silver and, well, small. It uses 0.5mm leads and is itself only 5mm thick. It’s designed for use as a notebook pencil, but hey – I’ve got small hands, and it sticks out far enough behind my hand to be comfortable to use. I got mine second-hand, so there’s not much eraser left, but that’s all right. I mostly wanted a pencil instead of a pen for my morning pages (which I’m thinking of shifting to nighttime) so that if I fall asleep mid-page I don’t wake up bathed in Havana Brown.

Ink Blot
After all – they call them fountain pens for a reason.

Seeking my Signature…

Some women devote time and effort to finding their signature lipstick. Or a signature style of bag, or sunglasses, or… Something that they use regularly, that becomes associated with them, that in some symbolic way says something about them.

Being a writer, and an eccentric long-hand fountain-pen writer at that, I was looking for something a little different: a signature ink. Which could actually be used for a signature. OK, you could probably use a lipstick for a signature, but it would be very messy and probably not very good for the lipstick either.

Quiney Flourish

It was not the simplest of tasks. For a start, there are a huge number of fountain pen inks out there, even in this electronic age, and they all have their positives and negatives, their proponents and their critics. At least I had some criteria to narrow down the options, not least availability and cost.

Since my pen has a transparent barrel, I wanted an ink that would look good sloshing around, something with a bit of life to it. But I also wanted something that would look good on the page: not too light to read easily or too colourful to be of general use.

Neetirajsinh Signature 400x400

In the end, I settled on Waterman’s Havana Brown. Or at least, it used to be Havana Brown, and most people still call it that, since it’s a nicer and more evocative name than simply Absolute Brown, which is what Waterman have renamed it.

As far as I can tell, the only reason to rename it was that Havana Brown is also a kind of cat, and frankly, that might even work in its favour.
Better to associate with a cat than Fidel Castro’s beard, yes? Particularly given the CIA’s attempt to eliminate said beard with extreme prejudice. (I kid you not.)

Havana Brown - brown whiskers

However. Back to the ink. If you want a complex analysis of Waterman’s Havana Brown – or in fact almost any ink known to mankind – head to the Fountain Pen Network, universal trove of pen and ink related knowledge.

For myself, taking the less analytical approach, I think it’s a nice rich brown, with a hint of red to it. It’s dark enough for a good clear read, without being so dark as to look like a sub-standard black. At times it’s even slightly reminiscent of some of da Vinci’s drawings – in colour, not line, obviously, as I can’t even draw a convincing stick-man.

Take it all in all, I’m pleased with my choice, which is just as well. By my calculations, there are about half a million words in this bottle, just waiting to come out.

TWSBI Diamond 50P Ink Bottle