a Pen a Life

Nezih R. Aysel
6 minutes

My generation was introduced to ink during elementary school in Fine Writing classes. Special lined notebook, pungent ink, divit tips of different thickness and colorful handles. The slots and grooves for pens and pencils in some school desks seemed to symbolize this period. The beginning of handwriting with the juxtaposition of slowly written letters. The special notebook and of course the indelible inks force those young minds to pay attention and concentrate on what they are doing in order not to make mistakes… Every possible mistake, whether due to attention or skill, leaves a permanent mark on the notebook. These traces are like life, reminders of mistakes, ecstasies, absent-mindedness, good and bad events…

In those years, term papers for almost every course introduced me to unlined file papers, different colored inks – the three colors I remember at the time were blue, black and red – and my first pump-action fountain pens. Probably a simple Chinese fountain pen or a fountain pen found in almost every household: Scrikss 17, two if possible. One will be inked with red ink for the headings of the assignment and the other with blue ink. If two pens are not available, headings should be capitalized or underlined. Under the unlined file paper, a lined paper, crossed over with an ink pen to discipline the writing, will be tied to the unlined paper with a paperclip on all four sides to reflect its shadow… The draft of the assignment, prepared from the research done in the neighborhood library after class or at the weekend, the sentences of which have been constructed and studied many times, will be written with great care and legible writing without any mistakes. This is a meticulous ritual. Concentration must be high, both for the content of the text and the composition of the paper… It is very instructive for concentration. If your writing is good, if you are careful and attentive enough to use a fountain pen, there is the side task of helping with the school records from time to time. The fountain pen, which was taken out of the drawer and inked only at special times for term papers in middle and high school, became a close companion in my university years. Of course, the influence of my teachers, who are role models for a young person, is inevitable.

For my generation, the culture of using fountain pens, which started in primary school and was encouraged by the traditional education system, gradually began to fade away with plastic-bodied ‘ballpoint’ pens that wrote in colors. Ballpoint pens have started to fill stationery shelves as an alternative to fountain pens. It must not be easy to live with a fountain pen that lives with many accessories and is always waiting for your attention. Why, every fountain pen has a different nature. The filling system, the nib, the palate that carries the ink to the nib… All fountain pens work according to a simple law of physics: gravity. The palate is wetted by gravity and carries the ink from the thin channel on it to the nib with a fluidity suitable for the nib structure of the pen, with which it is in close contact. Imagine, please, what a difficult task the palate is burdened with, both preventing the ink from flowing from the pen and allowing the pen to write uninterruptedly by allowing it to glide over it in a balanced manner. A simple, yet creative engineering design. So the palate will only release ink when the pen meets the paper. Considering that the structure of the palate changes depending on the thickness of the pen nib and the ink flow rate, it is clear that this is not an easy task. When the ink carried over the palate reaches the polished hard ball (usually iridium) at the point where the metal nib meets the paper, the pen begins to glide across the paper. If you have a good and well-maintained fountain pen, the weight of the pen itself will be sufficient for your line thickness. It is a unique feeling that you cannot easily get from any writing instrument. Each pen will feel different depending on the barrel material, design and nib.

For this reason, a fountain pen is a highly personal writing instrument, which you can acquire by choosing its many features, from nib thickness, filling system, barrel material, cap and size. A wide range of nibs, from fine nibs to cut nibs, specially shaped calligraphy nibs, should be one of the first things to impress you. In addition to these features, the fact that it is long-lasting and environmentally friendly adds a special feature and value to it today. When I say longevity, I am not talking about the concept of time in today’s world. A good fountain pen, acquired by your grandparents in the 1950s, will continue to serve you well today. Of course, when you manage to make friends with it… If you clean it when it needs it, protect it from extreme temperature differences, feed it with good ink, and have a case to carry it in, there is nothing to say, I am sure your children and even grandchildren will continue to use that pen… if they get used to it and love it.

I am aware of the fact that it is difficult for such a dignified object that requires a little interest and curiosity, and a little skill to maintain, to hold its own against the ballpoint pens or even disposable pens that represent the fast lifestyle. But that’s what friendship is like. Your fountain pen, which is your confidant in a sense, a story carrier or a transmitter; it can become a part of you with its tip that stretches and softens according to your use over time and its body that responds to your skin. The number of ‘dolma’kalemems lovers who keep this delightful ritual in their lives, enrich it, and even meet new people looking for a friend with a story to tell against the conditions imposed by the accelerating pace of life is increasing. In their bags and on their desks, they carry their pens, which accompany them with their colorful inks and their distinctive stance, and when they are alone, they do not spare their attention.

If this article helps you to unearth your forgotten pen, which has been lying on the sidelines with its ink drying up, then all the better, it has done its duty and reminded you of your pen. If you inherited your pen from your grandparents, get to know them first. Try to get to know him, ask someone if necessary. Draw some water into it so that the veins open and come alive. But if it has been waiting for you for a long time, don’t force it, patiently draw water a little at a time and wait for the ink deposits accumulated over the years to dissolve. Then feed it with fresh ink and bring it back to life. Do yourself a favor and make time for your ‘fountain’ pen, for yourself.

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