The PENguin
  blog   twitter   facebook
  Home     The PENthouse     Tech Talk     Resources     Join the PCA     About Me     Contacts     Site Archives
PENguin Pen of the Week!  
Rick's Pens
The PENguin's Knives
New Pens
Howerton Collection
For Sale
Pelikan Pens
Limited Editions
For Sale
Parker Pens
For Sale
Italian Pens
For Sale
Montblanc Pens
For Sale
Waterman Pens
For Sale
Other Pens
For Sale
Shop By Price Range
More Than $600
$400 - $600
$200 - $400
Less Than $200
How To Buy
Historical Site Archives
Shop by Price
Shop by Price
Ask about custom PENguin Pens
The Making of the PENguin Pen

For those of us who collect fountain pens, this is a time like no other. Not only are the major manufacturers putting forth a steady stream of new pens, many of them quite good; but there are literally dozens of craftsmen who are making small numbers of exquisite custom creations. In addition, there are many people like me who focus on the vintage pens of the so-called Golden Age, but wish that there were a way to combine the best of vintage and modern. For a handful of folks who will acquire one, that wish has become reality with the creation of The PENguin Pen.

Recently, several people have asked about the origins of this project. The PENguin Pen came out of my awareness that my website, The PENguin, had a following among people who share my taste in pens and that there has emerged a growing market for custom pens made in very small lots. So, by the middle of 2005 I began thinking about producing a pen that would reflect my own taste in pens and might appeal to others. To accomplish this, however, I would need a partner, someone who shared my sensibilities and had the knowledge and skills to realize my vision.

From the beginning it was clear to me who that would be. I have known Bruce Hirschman for many years as a friend, a fellow BMW fanatic and a Bay Area pen collector. A few years ago, Bruce decided to extend his pen hobby by making pens under the name of Bruno Corsini. Knowing Bruce as I do, I had every confidence that he would emerge as a skilled and meticulous craftsman, and so he has.

When I approached Bruce he was open to the concept, despite the growing popularity of his own pens and the increasing demands on his time. By the end of the year we began discussing both concept and design. As a user, rather than a maker of pens, my first thought was to create something that would reflect my esthetics. It would be midway in size between a Pelikan 100, my favorite vintage pen, and an M800, my favorite modern, and its design influences would reflect a growing interest on my part in Italian pens.

Bruce approached the project from a different perspective. To him, the new pen needed to reflect what the PENguin website has come to represent. Therefore, while influenced by Pelikan pens, which drive the site, it also needed to reflect the bird for which the site is named. Despite my preconceptions, I immediately saw his point.

With that, the basic design idiom of the pen was set. We both agreed that the pen would draw its inspiration on the classical German modernism that shaped the first Pelikans. For many people, however, those pens are too small and delicate to use on a daily basis. In addition, Bruce makes large pens, so while this pen would be based on the early pens it would not copy them.

Next came the question of materials, and here Bruce and I were in total agreement. Hard rubber would be used for the cap and filler, and amber acrylic, in place of delicate and hard to work celluloid, would make up the body. The white barrel band, which made The PENguin pen look like its namesake would be made of "alternative ivory." The clip, designed to approximate the shape of the Penguin's beak, was to be cast in 10K gold. In addition, Bruce suggested the pen's signature feature, the translucent orange "Emperor Penguin" band just under the clip ring.

The filler was more a question of how than what. From the beginning we agreed that the pen had to be a piston filler. But piston mechanisms are complex and, done right, expensive to produce. We looked at several modern piston mechanisms, but saw nothing we liked. As it emerged, the answer was much closer to hand. As a restorer of vintage Pelikans I had in my parts bins perfectly useable fillers, those that had come out of my favorite brand of German pens. Made of hard rubber and fitted with new seals, these fillers had proven durability.

That set, we now got into the complex realm of specific design elements--cap length, barrel diameter, shapes, and all manner of minute considerations that are part of Bruce's daily life as a penmaker, but which had never occurred to me. Quickly, I came to appreciate not just the penmaker's art, but the way that good design must be dictated by both style and utility. The cap, for example, had to be of a certain length to accommodate the nib at the top and to cover the ink window at the bottom. In between, the nib would have to be positioned so that it would not intrude on the translucent band under the clip, lest it break the pen's lines and become dirtied by ink. The cap body also needed a certain taper both to look right and to clear the dimensions of the barrel, which were dictated by the filling mechanism.

At each stage of design and production, Bruce took me through his meticulously created drawings and measurements.

These included the specifications that he would be working from since, unlike many other penmakers, Bruce hand turns these pens on a lathe in the same manner as was done before the advent of computer driven equipment.

And there were considerations purely of style. Did we want to follow closely the German modernism of the first Pelikans? That was my preference, but the original style had been much smaller. Would this larger pen look better with an evolutionary streamline shape? To determine that, we actually built two distinctly different prototypes.

Once the prototypes had been completed we realized that the streamlined look of the second prototype was much more appropriate to the esthetic of the pen than the squared off look of the first one. Still, we presented the two prototypes to our "test" subjects at the 2006 Ohio Pen Show.

By October we were ready to assemble the prototypes. Because Bruce was less familiar with the piston mechanisms, we decided to work together on this final aspect. For Bruce putting a pen together is old hat, but for me this was a real treat, particularly as I found that I liked the real thing much more than I had anticipated.

Don't get me wrong, at each stage I was pleased with the design, otherwise we would not have gone forward. But this was my first venture into penmaking and up to this point I had put a good deal of faith into the process. Now, with the tangible results before me I found myself more pleased than I had expected to be.

In truth, this pen is somewhat larger than the pens I usually favor, but I quickly found that its superb balance and light weight were such that was very easy to use. Hard rubber and acrylic combined to make a pen that is light in weight, yet substantial. I am not, of course, wholly objective with regard to the pen but the real test came just a day later when I was forced to give over the weekend to grading papers. When grading, I do tend to favor larger pens in order to avoid the fatigue that can come from holding a pen all day. In fact, I usually switch around for the sake of both comfort and variety. For two days, this one pen served me as well as anything I own.

As of this writing, this pen can be yours. Bruce has made the first batch and others are on the way. But we are making the pen in extremely small numbers, no more than twenty will be produced and most of them will be to order. So, if, after reading this and looking at the images, the pen interests you, now is the time to act. The pen will be ready by the end of summer and will cost $950.00. Half of that is payable now, with the balance due on shipping. To start the process send me an e-mail.

  Privacy Policy     Terms of Use
© Copyright 2012   All Rights Reserved    The PENguin