Saturday, February 13, 2016

Assembling the FrankenPen!

by Tony Thomas

I have really big hands.  As a result, I need a really big pen to write comfortably for long periods of time.  I am always searching for capable daily writers that can serve my needs.  My Edison Collier and Noodler's Ahab have served this purpose well but I wanted to add another pen to the rotation.  I looked through my growing pen collection to see what pens would be good candidates with a bit of modification.  

I finally decided to use my hand made Ranga Duofold ebonite pen from India as a starting point.  At $35 shipped, it is an unbelievable value.  The big drawbacks are the simple ebonite feed and scratchy Wality nib that ship with it.  While you can order this pen with a Jowo or Schmidt nib, a modern feed and a converter, they add quite a bit to the price.  

This pen is really big: About 14.6 cm (5.75") long when capped, 13 cm long when uncapped, a 12mm section width and 14mm wide body width.  It is very comfortable to hold and very light (weighing in at 28 grams or about 1 oz. capped when filled with ink).   I love the grip section and the pen really becomes an extension of my hand when I am writing with it.  And nothing compares with the organic feel of ebonite.

Next, I went through my nib collection and selected a #6 Nemosine fine nib for this pen.  It is a quality German-made nib that I have enjoyed using in the past.  Of course, I can change it out with other #6 nibs I own from Goulet Pens, Jinhao, Knox, etc.  If I want to create a vintage pen feel, I could also use a #6 vintage or modern gold nib (although I don't own one).

Finally, I decided to replace the simple, workable hand-cut ebonite feed that came with the pen with a nicer, machined ebonite flex feed from Fountain Pen Revolution in India.  It looks very similar, if not identical, to the Noodler's Ahab feed without the breather tube hole.  I assembled this combination of components and--voila--my personalized FrankenPen!

I decided to fill the pen with a very low-cost and versatile ink.  As it is an eyedropper pen, it can store a huge amount of ink.  While I typically use Noodler's Black and Waterman inks in my other pens, I filled this one up with the super cheap and much maligned Higgins Fountain Pen India ink (not to be confused with other Higgins inks designed for dip pens or typical fountain-pen-clogging India ink).  

This ink is generally safe for fountain pens and well behaved in most fountain pens based upon my previous tests.  That said, I wouldn't recommend it for expensive pens or pens that can't be easily disassembled.  At $3-5 a bottle for almost 74 ml., you can write for miles and miles for minimal cost.  With an ebonite feed designed for flexible nibs, I don't have any worries about clogging.

Then end result: For less than $50, I have assembled a great, comfortable, smooth writing FrankenPen!  It is not a Franklin-Christoph, Edison or Nakaya but it works well for my needs.

Writing Sample on Cheap Staples Legal Pad

Nemosine #6 Fine Steel Nib

FPR Machined Ebonite Flex Feed

Higgins FP India Ink sample after being soaked in water

A Big Thank You and Shameless Plug:  Thanks to everyone who bought my book: "The Fountain Pen Book"!  If you haven't, check it out here.