Jon Singer (jonsinger) wrote,
Jon Singer

There are some things you do...

...just because. (Besides, I hate almost anything disposable, and I really like fixing things. Also, see the Sept 12/13 addendum.)

Here is the cap of an old Platignum that I used to do a bunch of calligraphy with, years and years ago. As you can see, it cracked and I was obliged to repair it...

I haven’t used this pen in a very long time. It has been sitting around, and every once in a while I notice it. I noticed it again yesterday, and for no particular reason I decided to give it a try; filled it with ink and started messing with the configuration, as the slant was greater than I’m currently using. Things did not go quite the way I expected, and I eventually figured out that the nib has some serious problems (you can ignore the bit of dirt near the end)...

I went looking for replacements, and found some on eBay, but they all seemed to cost more than 10 bucks, and of course it would take several days for any of them to get here, so I thought about how I might fix this one. It’s definitely not a flex nib, so I decided it wouldn’t hurt to add further stiffness. I was originally going to use small pieces of piano wire if I could locate any, but when I went downstairs I found the second hand and alarm hand that I had removed from an old alarm clock in the process of converting it for use as a timer. The metal is thin and not horrendously strong, but it seemed likely to be adequate to the task at hand. I may eventually have to epoxy the pieces on, but for now I have attached them with CA:

It is, I realize, entirely ridiculous to put any actual effort into repairing anything of this sort, but I just couldn’t resist, and the pen works now. Here’s a writing example. It’s a bit shaky, but that’s life. As it says in the photo...

[Note, added some hours later: I will definitely have to try again with epoxy; CA seems to be unsuitable for this application. Fortunately, when the reinforcements came off I didn’t lose them.]

Addendum, a day or so later: once again, J-B Weld is my friend.

The CA parted from the steel, but not from the reinforcements. I had to scrape them to remove it, which probably cleaned and roughened them for good adhesion. Likewise, I rinsed the nib and dried it, after which I roughened the surface of the steel with an abrasive pad, both to remove any kind of slippery cruft that might be on them (epoxy does not adhere to oil or grease, big surprise) and to give the surface a bit of “tooth” for the epoxy to grab. Almost needless to say, I got some epoxy into the ink channel while positioning the reinforcements (argh); scraped it out very cautiously with the point of a safety pin. Here is what the nib looks like with the reinforcements epoxied on:

You can see the epoxy in the channel. I checked as soon as it had stiffened enough, and was relieved to find that the two sides were not stuck together. Then I gritted my teeth and put the pen away for about 12 hours to let the stuff cure properly.

Early indications are that this is a viable repair, though there may be a bit of strangeness with ink flow. I also don’t know for certain whether the epoxy will last longer than the CA did, but I have my bets on that: proper surface preparation and quality epoxy spell goodness.

Further addendum, 12/13 September, 2013:

As to why I bothered with this repair in the first place, this nib happens to have particularly good performance. One of my big criteria for these pens is the aspect ratio — the difference between the thin line and the thick line. Here is a set of examples:

From left to right:

(The first 4 are all Parker Vectors.)

1) The broadest nib I currently I am currently using; it is more than 1 mm wide, probably not quite as broad as the narrowest size of Pilot Parallel Pen. [If you are not familiar with the Parallel Pen, it is well worth looking into.] This nib has an extremely good aspect ratio, but you expect that with broad nibs.

2) The 2nd broadest nib I’m currently using. The aspect ratio is still quite good, but you’ll notice that the thin line is perhaps a bit wider than it is on #1, while the thick line is not as wide.

3) A relatively broad nib. The aspect ratio is still decent, though not extraordinary. (Again, this is expectable.)

4) My usual nib width. I have several of these, all roughly equivalent; you can see three of them in the other examples that I link to, below. Notice that the aspect ratio is a lot smaller here; it is difficult to get these to have a good narrow line.

5) The repaired Platignum. Notice how crisp it is, in comparison with #4. That’s a big part of the reason why I thought it would be worth repairing.

6) Hero 329, one of a batch of 10 that I got on eBay, a couple years ago. Until last night, this was the narrowest nib I currently had. (I had a better one, but a while back it fell straight down onto a ceramic tile floor, point down. The point did not even bend — the fall was so cleanly vertical that it was driven back under the hood. I have not yet been able to get it out... sigh.)

7) Hero 329, from the same batch. As of last night, this is the narrowest nib I currently have. Note the splendid aspect ratio, despite the fineness; for some reason, these pens (when they work well) seem to shape up nicely. This one is probably almost the equal of the one that fell.

I like having a variety of widths and colors, and I particularly appreciate being able to write a nice crisp line. If there is insufficient difference between thick and thin the writing is not as attractive, and I tend to get sloppy.

If anyone is interested, btw, you can see examples on two other kinds of paper here [quite a bit more absorbent than the drawing paper] and here [somewhat more absorbent than the drawing paper]. (The stack in the middle of each of these shows 3 of the nominal Parker Vectors.) Notice the difference in the example just to the right of the Platignum, which I believe is the same Hero 329 that’s next to last in the photo above. On the drawing paper this pen has very good aspect ratio, but not on paper that is more absorbent. The Platignum, however, provides good results on all three — even on the really absorbent paper the line from it widens only a little bit.

[Note: I have not attempted to correct the white-balance of any of these. They were all taken with my telephone, under CFL illumination, and all of the pen and nib images were taken with the pen sitting on some ivory-tinted drawing paper, which I also used for the writing sample and the first aspect-ratio example. The other two aspect-ratio examples were also illuminated by CFL; they are on paper that although it appears ivory here is nominally white.]
Tags: calligraphy nib platignum repair
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