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The Journal of Writing Culture

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Franklin-Christoph’s growing oeuvre inky passion:

Diamine Ink, Pelikan Pens, and colors that shimmer who gets the “Penny Award?”

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August

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VOLUME 31, NUMBER 5 ON OUR COVER: Franklin-Christoph Silver Dragon maki-e fountain pen… and a lot more!

36 defining Franklin-Christoph

The U.S. manufacturer makes far more than writing instruments.

25 pel-i-can!

After 180 years, Germany’s Pelikan Pens still struts like a peacock.

33 the winner’s circle

This year’s RCA awards go to both new names and old favorites.

41 all that glitters

Shimmering inks are the trend right now. Here are some you need to try.

44 like a Diamine in the sky

The venerated British ink company is making a major comeback.

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49 ink and…bleach?!

In the hands of lettering artist Nick Stewart, these two chemicals are golden.

53 “like flexible granite”

Richard Greenwald’s new pen line contains all the colors of the rainbow.

colonel and the inkmaker: 56 the part II Read the second chapter in the story of World War II–era ink-making pens.

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Bittner, The Pleasure of Writing

Jim Rouse

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Our Colorful, Big-Tent Party BY NICKY PESSAROFF

W

e, as a community, as hobbyists or professionals, reside in the place where art meets science. That sounds hyperbolic, and it probably is, but it’s also true. Go to a pen show, and you’ll see engineers and artists side by side. Pen makers and artists share a common space in the overarching world of stationery products. Art meets science most explicitly in the realm of inks—the place where alchemy and chemistry combine. Each ink you use is a chemical compound. I’m not even sure exactly what ink is, but not for lack of trying. Heaven knows I’ve read about it and had it explained to me enough times, but my inability in science and, above all, chemistry, far predates any interest in fountain pen ink. Ask my high school chemistry teacher. (Actually, don’t. That guy hated me.) Ink is one of the most intimidating sub-fields of the analog community. Just think of the jargon within our already jargonfilled discourse: pH levels. Saturation. Feathering. Viscosity. Luster. Chromatography. The metric system. Ye gods! No wonder ink seems magical. Each ink you use is actually a collection of colors. That favorite brown of yours has elements of red, blue, and yellow. How brown it looks depends on the balance between the base colors that comprise the color known as “brown.” Otherwise, every ink known as “brown” would look exactly the same. But we know there’s a world of difference between a chocolate brown and a tan. Inks can be combined to create new colors, or they can be broken down into their component dyes. The science involves knowing the chemicals that comprise a given ink. The art involves seeing the potential in that deconstruction. In this “Ink Issue,” we celebrate deconstruction and reconstruction. The pen community is in the process of retooling itself. The engineering aspects of our community and the artistic aspects are melding. The layperson has more tools than ever to create striking, individuated lettering.

Our cover story—the true “American Dream” that is FranklinChristoph—challenges just what a pen manufacturer is. There’s a reason that cover shot has more than just writing instruments; it’s because Franklin-Christoph is more than just writing instruments. Pelikan Pens of Germany is celebrating 180 years of success, and it does so by continuing to expand the definition of a Pelikan product. The United Kingdom’s Diamine Ink reimagines the role of fountain pen inks, and lettering artists Nick Stewart redefines them—applying them like watercolors and creating unique compositions out of that deconstruction. Today’s inks shimmer with metallic flakes, smell like spring, and look like the full color spectrum. Today’s writing instrument companies embrace the artist as well as the business professional. And today’s writing instrument collector looks for unique finishes but also technical proficiency. Look no further than to the pens you chose as the winners in the 2018 Pen World Readers’ Choice Awards on page 33. There, you’ll note wins by long-time favorites, a precocious newcomer, and strong showings from brands located in Japan, Germany, and the United States. We’re in the midst of a seismic shift in the composition of our community, and it’s all visible in these pages. In part, it’s nothing more than a question of nomenclature. “Pen collector” seems too limited a title, while “analog tool enthusiast” is noncommittal and vague. “Stationery collector” denotes a focus on paper, and “ink lover” can mean anything (do you love toner as much as fountain pen ink?). Pen community. Ink community. Art community. Lettering community. The modifier doesn’t matter; what does is the “community” aspect. Ours is becoming a bigger and more colorful tent than ever, so let’s not get too caught up in categories; let’s just enjoy the full color wheel. editor@peworld.com


The Process of

“ Refined Simplicity”

BY BARRY GABAY

The Franklin-Christoph story is a working outline of the American Dream.

Franklin-Christoph writing instruments are designed and manufactured with precision, but the company is also known for its maki-e pens, such as the new Franklin-Christoph Silver Dragon, a Model 03 body with delicate silver maki-e application on the cap and barrel. Model 03 features a very slight taper and a subtle bevel at the cap and barrel ends.

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From left—Model 33 in Black, Creme’, and Cinnamaroon features a completely hidden barrel and a No. 6 nib in 32 nib tip options. The slim Model 25 features a half-recessed, downward-pointing nib and a cap that posts under the special clip. Model 19 is a thick body of acrylic that honors the company’s founding year of 1901.

U.S. design firm and manufacturer Franklin-Christoph fits neatly into a niche between large manufacturers and artisan pen makers. The legacy company designed, produced, and distributed ceramics for nearly a century starting in 1901 in Marietta, Georgia before turning its primary focus to writing instruments in the 1990s. In 2001, the fine accessories brand Franklin-Christoph was born. Not long after, the brand relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina in 2005, and is in its fifth generation of family leadership under Scott Franklin. While Franklin-Christoph pen parts are machine produced, each and every piece gets hands-on attention throughout the design and production process, resulting in the increasing popularity for these seemingly one-ofa-kind pens, which feature exteriors such as Smoke & Ice, Garnet, Gold Rising, Emerald, and Antique Glass. Fourteen pen models are available in several sizes from pocket pens to large desk pens. With 41 nib options including the Christoph nib—a true three-tine, two-slit music nib—each pen leaving Franklin-Christoph is a fully personalized one, suited to the writer’s aesthetic and technical needs. Owner Scott Franklin describes Franklin-Christoph as a design firm first and a manufacturer second. This may seem odd, until considering the fact that FranklinChristoph pens, stationery, ink, and other accessories are part of a global brand, with both an eye toward sales and production partners around the world.

In describing his approach to design, Franklin humbly remarks, “I purposely don't follow new pen designs. The genesis of a shape may come from something unrelated. Once I visualize a design in pen form, I sketch it out.” The sketch is then revised into a functional form. Franklin continues, “Usually a new design will fit a different spot in the line and often has some sort of new feature, such as a cap band, a grip section, or the size and number of pens a case might fit.” Later, the concept is fully reviewed and re-created by Franklin in a graphics program. Once measurements and specific components are considered, the concept is ready to submit to the manufacturing side. For pens, that means the process remains in house. Franklin says, “I go to the chief engineer, Brian St. Laurent, with the design and a rough outline of specs. He will produce a CAD drawing and take it through that very detailed process, to marry with CNC machining for the making of the first prototypes. Sometimes, though, the engineer will just shake his head and ask what in the world I was thinking. Dan Symonds and I had a lot of fun with that part when he was in that position before retiring.” Franklin has sufficient confidence in his extended manufacturing team to listen to opposition as well as to encouragement. Franklin notes that there’s natural tension between the needs of a designer and an engineer, and the two sides create something organic only when they operate as a team. 37


Top, from left—the translucent, demo-style Model 02 in Amber and Cinnamaroon has a slim barrel body for a deep-posting cap and exceptional balance. The Model 20 pocket-sized pen won a 2016 Readers’ Choice Award for Best Every-Day-Carry and works as an eyedropper filler as well as taking short standard international cartridges. The maki-e Model 03 Four Leaf Clover fountain pen features artwork by Jonathon Brooks. Below—each Franklin-Christoph writing instrument is precision machined. Where an art model is concerned, such as a maki-e pen, Franklin takes a little more of a backseat to the artist. Whether working with Mr. Nishihara—the maki-e artist behind the original 2004 Franklin-Christoph Diamondback limited edition fountain pen as well as the new Model 03 Silver Dragon—or with Jonathon Brooks, the pen artist behind the Model 03 Four Leaf Clover, Franklin-Christoph allows the artist some license from the original design concept. Continuing his description of the process, Franklin says, “We spend a lot of time thinking through every bit, sometimes pushing the envelope of tradition. You can see this with the downwardpointing nib placement in the Model 25 or the pen-to-cap arrangement of the Model 33.” These two models, considered revolutionary among fountain pen connoisseurs, are enormously popular. The Model 25 has threads at the end of its barrel so the cap fits well down, like an eyedropper model from the very early 20th century. Its nib—a traditional spear design—is half-recessed in the barrel and pointing away from the top of the pen, which challenges conventional pen design. The Model 33 possesses an equally striking but entirely different design. The entire barrel and its nib fit inside the cap, which is the length of the pen. Remarkable: a fully functional optical illusion! For a desk writing instrument that won’t roll away, there are the Model 65 and Model 66 Stabilis. Each has areas of the sides machined flat. 38


From top, clockwise—A6-sized Firma-Flex notebook cover in black leather with embossed Franklin-Christoph logo and beveled edges; the A4-sized Zippered Padfolio in black FxCel leather; two-pen case with black FxCel leather and internal nylon loops; Franklin-Christoph PR7 pen sleeves hold seven pens and come in Fxcel leather or fabric finishes (pictured in Suit Navy).

The same principle of marrying tradition with innovation applies to every aspect of creation. Functionality is at the heart of every design: overall balance, the feel of the section in the hand, thread placement. After considering all functional aspects, Franklin-Christoph then incorporates them into a pen, and working within the aesthetic framework of the brand, considers materials, color, and design signatures. Interestingly, Franklin says, “I always design in black. I think of form, function, and that simple purity as the core Franklin-Christoph aesthetic—in all black.” Thus, FranklinChristoph’s IPOs (“Initial Price Offerings” of a new design) reflect this and come in all or mostly black. The cap and barrel bands are separate pieces, reinforcing and strengthening such models as the 19, 33, and 40. Most of Franklin-Christoph’s pens are turned from solid rods of some type of acrylic. Available filling systems include eyedropper, cartridge, and converter. Pens are hardly the only noteworthy aspect of Franklin-Christoph’s accessories line. “One of the hardest things to do in all of design, whether aesthetic or functional, is to achieve something simple that hasn’t been done before,” Franklin says. A unique but simple bevel is the main design signature that can be found in virtually all FranklinChristoph products. Historically, tops and bottoms of pens have been tapered, cut flat, rounded, or multi-tiered. In most FranklinChristoph writing instrument designs, the bevel is prominently featured at the cap top and then again more subtly at the end of the barrel. This refined touch adds flair to a part of each pen that is often ignored. That bevel design is found in almost every Franklin-Christoph leather product—on flaps, covers, and edges—and is even present on Franklin-Christoph paper, with corners cut like a bevel to ensure durability. Even the new Model No.1 IWO mechanical watch has three bevels in the design. 39


The new CL1 canvas and leather belt has reinforced grommets in each hole for lasting durability and a distressed gunmetal buckle and is available in gray or brown (pictured). The new Franklin-Christoph Model No. 1 IWO watch features a Swiss-manufactured automatic movement and an FxCel black leather watch band. This zippered three-pen case in Suit Gray nylon also has a slot for storing eyeglasses.

Franklin says, “Regardless of the product, we stick to our core principles of design and branding, and this seems to translate across all our offered products. In the end, we make understated and functional items for people who appreciate quality.” Among Franklin-Christoph’s popular leather products are pen sleeves; pen cases; a neck-loop pen slot; the Lucky 13 Penvelope, with slots for a baker’s dozen of pens; the Penvelope 6, which holds half-a-dozen pens; and a briefcasesized zipper-enclosing pen case for the serious collector or dealer with protective slots for 80 pens (and also available for 20 or 40 pens). However the writer prefers carrying prized pens, Franklin-Christoph has a protective and beautiful option. There is even a small, zipper-enclosing, pocket-sized case with slots for safely transporting extra nibs. There are leather notebooks, checkbooks, wallets, bank bags, and currency cases. Leather products are constructed using premium FxCel vegetable- and oil-tanned leather, while fabrics are hand-picked from artisan sources around the world for both their aesthetic quality and durability. Though considered a “pen guy,” Franklin displays equal pride in his other accessories, the designing of 40

which occupies as much time as do pen ideas. A sketch may go to the leather artisan, who might return three prototypes with various features. Often one of those features is a bonus no one at Franklin-Christoph had considered. That feature is then incorporated into the finished product. Franklin says, “On a pen case, we may adjust the firmness and size of loops in an effort to improve. We may later make the case in a new material or with a different kind of leather. Eight years after the original production, we embedded magnets inside the Penvelope 6 and Penvelope 13, so we’re constantly rethinking and trying to improve.” Franklin-Christoph ink and paper are also big hits among writers, and Franklin promises that the new No. 1 IWO watch is the first in a line that will grow in the years to come. The list of Franklin-Christoph options seems endless, as is the pleasure of writing with or carrying one of this American designer-manufacturer’s classic gems. Visit franklin-christoph.com. This article is dedicated to the work and spirit of Jim Rouse. See p. 48. Barry Gabay is a PW contributing editor.


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how to ...create simple landscapes using fountain pen ink and water. BY NICK STEWART

Paper: Bockingford watercolor paper 200 lb rough Equipment: Two glasses of water, bottled Diamine Earl Grey fountain pen ink, size 24 watercolor brush, size 5 watercolor brush, Noodlers Nib Creaper fountain pen. Instructions: Take swatch card measuring 70 mm x 95 mm and place in a landscape format. Wet 3/5 of surface with large brush. With small brush, add fountain pen ink.

The applied water will cause the ink to release some of the dyes that make up its composition. Turn card upside down and wet surface two to three millimeters below the wetted area above.

Dip fountain pen into ink and draw a line through the newly wetted area. Repeat this step to your liking to add depth to your composition.

With pen, add a couple of ink marks to the top area. As it is now semi-wet, the spread will be smaller and the ink more intense. Allow the chromatography to occur and enjoy watching the grays, purples, reds, and turquoises appear. The finished landscape is created with serendipity—totally non-contrived and utterly beautiful. This process works with most inks that display chromatic behavior. For further information, visit Stewart’s blog at quinkandbleach.wordpress.com. Share your experiments with us on Instagram (@penworldmagazine).

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