Monday, July 20, 2015

Handwriting implements

     Believe it or not, a guy named Brad Dowdy runs a popular podcast called The Pen Addict, which is all about pens.

     How, you ask, can there possibly be enough about pedestrian pens to plump out a podcast?

     Apparently there’s a great deal.

     For much of my long and rocky early writing career, I wrote rough drafts longhand using yellow Number 2 Ticonderoga pencils on yellow lined legal pads.  You could tell how stressful the writing was by how many indents I bit into the pencils.  As time went on I took magazine-article field notes on small shirt-pocket spiral flip pads and wrote more frequently with un-bitable ballpoints, but all too often the ballpoints leaked, skipped, or simply quit altogether, usually when I needed them most.  Computer composing has only been a fairly recently-learned skill for me.  And today I still have probably a hundred pens in all categories from useless to quite good.  I do treasure those good ones, at least when I haven’t misplaced them, which seems to be always.

     According to podcaster Dowdy there are basically three kinds of regular pens.  There’s the ubiquitous cheap oil-based ballpoint, the smoother liquid-based rollerball, and the smoother-still gel pen, which uses rich pigment in a gel suspension.  The popular Pilot G2 is a gel model that Dowdy sanctions.

     Dowdy also says everybody should own a relatively inexpensive yet good quality and readily available Uni-ball Jetstream, which delivers smooth, clean, smudge-free writing.  I imagine this would be a perfect model for those lefties who, because of their hand position, can’t help rubbing the heel of their hand over what they’ve just jotted.

     For signing checks and legal documents, Dowdy prefers a fountain pen, and one of his favorites is the Japanese Sakura Pigma Micron, available in hobby stores.  He also likes the Taiwanese TWSBI fountain pens.

     Governmental signing ceremonies carried over from the Royal Monarchs in England.  It has become something of a tradition for U.S. Presidents to sign legislation using multiple expensive pens, often engraved, as presents to important supporters.  JFK would sometimes sign each letter of his name with a different ceremonial gift pen.  LBJ used 75 such pens to sign the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  George W. Bush used only one A.T. Cross pen at all ceremonies, but still gave out unused gift pens.  President Obama used 22 Cross pens to sign the $938 billion health care bill.  If you want to buy one similar to what the Chief used, that would be a Townsend model, for about $150 plus engraving.

     For those like me who miss those pencils from back when they used to have actual erasers on their other ends (today’s pencil erasers are little more than smudgers) there’s even a good erasable ink pen called the Pilot FriXion, which has a little nub on its top end.  It erases by generating heat as you nub-rub, thus making the heat-sensitive ink disappear.  If you leave a penned document in a hot car, the writing could vanish.  However, you need merely place the blank paper in a freezer and the writing will magically reappear.  I want to use this somehow in a story.

     I’ll keep on searching for a pen that puts out the best possible phrasing, stunning metaphors, engaging dialog, and clever plot twists.


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