Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Last Pen Shop?

Sara Hirsch in conversation with Daniel Orona

Daniel Orona has been Castle in the Air’s store manager and pen specialist for 11 years, and between his time here and his previous experience at San Francisco art supply giant Flax, he has become one of the most knowledgeable pen specialists in the Bay Area.

Are people still using fountain pens?
Yes, and interest in pens is coming back as an art form. People like to collect pens, and despite all the technology today people are becoming more interested in the written word. Pen collectors find the design and feel of a good pen very satisfying and are willing to search for the one that fits their aesthetic. The Internet, and especially The Fountain Pen Network, brings pen lovers together to talk about pens, inks, and papers. New pen lovers find online sources helpful but love to come to Castle in the Air to see the products, hold them in their hands, and write. It’s the only way to really appreciate the difference from one pen to the next.

Can a fountain pen collection be affordable?
It can. It really comes down to what you’re looking for. We sell disposable fountain pens and inexpensive art pens that take ink cartridges and are very good for letter writing or artwork. Calligraphy takes an italic or flat nib, pointed pens are good for fine lines—any type of pen has an affordable version. As you move up the scale you’ll find pens made with special materials, intricate design, and features such as convertible pens that can use a cartridge or draw ink from a bottle.

Are gold nibs actually made of gold?
They really are. Gold is a softer metal and because of this, gold nibs will change and morph to match the writer’s hand over time. Our customers love the best paper, and gold nibs glide across it beautifully. Most other fountain pen nibs are made of steel, or a combination of steel and iridium. This doesn’t make them lesser pens than those with gold nibs. Some of our finest writing instruments have steel nibs. Visconti, Sheaffer, and Pilot Parallel have all developed excellent steel nibs for their pens.

Are fountain pen nibs replaceable?
No, the nib is part of the pen and can’t be replaced with another nib from the store but we might be able to source a new nib for your pen.

Why does my fountain pen skip?
It probably needs to be cleaned, and this can be done with regular tap water. Remove your pen’s cartridge or converter and rest the nib in a small bowl of room-temperature water. If it’s really dried up, let it soak overnight, changing the water a few times. It’s important to remember that not all inks can be used in fountain pens. Fountain pen ink is water-based. Some Chinese inks, also called “India” inks, have shellac and carbon ingredients to make them permanent, but will clog the capillaries in fountain pens. Metallic inks contain too much mica and gum arabic to flow through the nib and are used instead with dip pens.

Does Castle in the Air repair pens?
If your fountain pen isn’t working even after you’ve cleaned it, it may be broken. For pens with cracked barrels, bent nibs, or mechanisms that don’t work, we suggest that customers send them back to the manufacturer for replacement or specialized repair. It may take some time for your pen to come back to you, but it is worth the wait. Better pen manufacturers are highly motivated to make their pen owners happy.

Do you have a favorite pen?
My Pelikan 1000 is my favorite. I own a Mont Blanc pen, but I still prefer the Pelikan. I draw and write with it using my favorite brown ink, Café des Iles by J. Herbin. Over the past four months I’ve seen a lot of interest in the Namiki Falcon. It comes with a fine, medium, or bold nib, and has a simple, understated look, very classic and kind of old-fashioned, but its cartridge gives it a modern ease. We featured the Namiki as part of our recommendations for writers taking part in NaNoWriMo and introduced this fine pen to many satisfied writers.

1 comment:

Lisa Oceandreamer Swifka said...

I LOVE writing with fountain pens.......I have for MANY years....I prefer them over any other type of pen. I only wish I could afford the cadillac of fountain pens. Whenever I am at Castle in the Air I always gravitate to the fountain pens and dream! I was given a Mont Blanc MANY years ago and sadly somehow, some way that beloved pen has disappeared. I have been through EVERYTHING in this house and garage and cannot imagine what happened to it. It's been a few years now and I still think about it hoping to find it. :(