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Blog

Filtering by Tag: Conklin

NANOWRIMO Materials, 2015

Fr. Kyle Sanders

Hey, everyone (if there's anyone left). It has been nearly five months since my last full post, which is way too long. I apologize. I don't do thee justice. Nevertheless, there is always time for renewal and starting afresh in this earthly life of ours. So I come to you again two days before the start of NANOWRIMO.

I have been participating in National Novel Writing Month three years running. My total number of words I wrote, over the three year period, didn't reach the coveted number of 50,000. I have tried short stories, a novel, and non-fiction. The intention of NANOWRIMO is to get us writers to write, to do away with our inner editor and just put down what's in our minds, as incoherent and ungrammatica asl it may be. It condenses a small novel (50k of words might be 3 chapters to George R.R. Martin) into a frantic period of writing, to stir creativity, since we have been trained by numerous teachers and college professors to produce our written work by a deadline. Deadlines direct and focus the writer, which is partly why you haven't read much from me as of late (shrug); I lost my writing rhythm and couldn't find the beat. So now I decide to step onto the empty dance floor to go all Kevin James in Hitch doing my thing without a care for what people think. 

Psychologically this is quite overwhelming. Fifty thousand words (putting numerals into words always helps) is quite a bit to write, especially when I'm used to writing in blog post and homily sized bits. Developing an idea or story over such a long span of writing seems insurmountable. I know it's not because I personally know people who have conquered it. But there are still lingering doubts. 

With all this in mind, I decided to slightly bend the traditional NANOWRIMO rules, which usually call you to write on one project. I chose to continue my current, or rather more comfortable, mode of writing, in short chunks. So I will switch between projects I'm working on, rotating through them. They are: this blog, my other blog, my homilies, and the non-fiction book I started last year on the theology of alcohol; 1,667 words per day on each subjext. Some days this might be more, other days it might be less. That length, however, isn't any longer than a long blog post. I think that is doable in my mind. I'm really excited about this and am looking forward to finally reaching that 50,00 word mark. 

Being that I am a stationary snob and certified pen addict (Brad Dowdy how is this not a thing). My long journey in words will take place on paper as opposed to screen. It starts with the instrument. I saw an add from Conklin a few weeks ago in the latest edition of Pen World about three new pens the company produced recalling models the company made in its heyday nearly a century ago. One of the pens in particular caught my eye. Although it is gimmicky, I fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. A piston-filler, modern Conklin's first, the Word-Counter is, to my knowledge, unique among currently produced pens. It has, etched on the misty-yellow demonstrator barrel, levels to show how many words the pen has written through measuring the level of ink. This gives the writer some semi-scientific indication to the length of his writing. It seemed perfect for the NANOWRIMO endeavor. It says it holds approximately 5,000 words worth of ink, which would mean I'd be inking up the pen at the alarming rate of every three days. That's quite a bit of inking. 

I figured I would mark every filling with a different ink. This way variety can aid in inspiration. In monotony, I find difficulty. I chose nine inks to handle this, the whole course moving from dark and dull to bright and vibrant. I start the first three days with Aurora Black, a solid base on which to stand. Moving slightly off color, I will then turn to Private Reserve Ebony Purple, a self explanatory color, really. This will be followed by Diamine's Cult Pens Deep Dark Blue. These first nine days will cover a solid base of writing and gives me confidence to continue on. 

The next nine days starts with Sailor Jentle Epinard, which, although being a dark greeen, gives some sheen in comparison to the three previous matte colors. I will then enter the most difficult time in the NANOWRIMO month. I have chosen an ink to mirror the start of the dulling of my perception and the small ways in which, after approximately twenty thousand words, reality starts to waver, delirium not yet set in, but certainly walking up the street like a self-righteous proselytizer who perceives my weakening mind and body, this being Montblanc Meisterstück 90th Anniversary Permanent Grey. After which, I will fill in the grey hole with a matte, bright color reminiscent of leaves falling elsewhere in the country, Organics Studio F. Scott Fitzgerald. 

The final three days will grow in brightness, joy, and vibrancy. It starts with one of my favorite inks, which I will need after such a somber mind-month. Lamy Turquoise will brighten up my paper and give my writing some nice shades. With Organics Studio Nitrogen jumping up the vibrancy of the blue, my words will pop off the page. Hopefully, it will help words pop forth from my slowly tiring brain as well. To give me energy like that last cup of coffee at three in the morning the dawn a paper is due, I have chosen the inimitable J. Herbin Rose Cyclamen. A pink that, hopefully, will bring me to the finish line. 

You might have noticed I only choose nine inks approximately leading to only 27 days of writing leaving three days unaccounted for. After my experience of pencils during Lent, earlier this year, I have incorporated them into my rotation declaring Fridays as pencil days, coloring them with graphite alone. Four of the thirty days will be ferruled by the pencil. The pencils used will vary from mechanical to woodcased, whichever is closest when writing. My tastes there are not yet sharpened. 

This year, I have done something I've never done in my previous three years, through the inspiration of Johnny Gamber, of Pencil Revolution. I sat down and mapped out a basic plan of the topics I would cover in the various projects, recording them in over 30 pages of a Field Notes Shenandoah, leaving 18 pages for notes and other things. This will be my companion through this scribal pilgrimage. It will be my map and my odometer. With it, I have three other notebooks, my Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, each already assigned a task and therefore ramping up their workload for the month. I will continue using the Zequenz 360º from last year to expound on alcohol in a theological manner. I have been using and will continue to use as my homily prep notebook the Nock Co. A5 notebook, which has been covered by stickers. Finally, to develop my thoughts for both blogs I've been using, since May, the burgundy soft-cover and lined Monsieur Notebook. 

With all these tools on hand and a plan somewhat sketched, I feel more ready than ever to mount the heights of the Zion of post-modern writing, a NANOWRIMO win. 

Are any of you embarking on this NANOWRIMO journey? Let me know in the comments, we certainly need mutual encouragement. If you are, are you going analog or digital? If analog, what tools are you using?

Conklin Duragraph Review

Fr. Kyle Sanders

In total transparency, I decided to give this pen away on Instagram. Since I knew it would be leaving my possession I also decided to review it. The difficulties that arose, then, were not the deciding factor for me to give away the pen. 

I was visiting my local brick and mortar, Scriptura, to get some pens for couples I was preparing for marriage. I inevitably got into pen conversation with the proprietor, Dave. He'll show me the new pens that come in and some of the really expensive pens customers ask him to order. It was during one of these new inventory tours that he brought out the Duragraph. I had seen it before on some blogs and on Goulet Pens, and, although the acrylic looked interesting, I wasn't up to purchasing the pen. 

When Dave showed it to me, I had a better impression of its beauty, but this was around Christmas. I didn't have much money to spend. I was hesitant. Then, the exchange turned into a conversation at a pen show with a vendor. He gave me a price I couldn't refuse. 

I took it home, massive box and all. When I went to ink it, I tested the writing experience dry (I honestly bought it for the looks. I didn't even write with it in the store, I don't recommend that). The tines were misaligned. I was disappointed in Yafa's quality control because I've never had a problem like that with any of my Monteverde pens. I actually took it to the Atlanta Pen Show to get someone to fix it and make it buttery, but Masuyama's time was so precious I felt it was better used on a fancier pen. So when I got home, I realigned the nib myself. What follows is my experience of the 'worked on' pen.

Form

This pen is a modern restyling of a Conklin model from the early 1920's. They tried to give the pen an Art Deco feel with certain contemporary upgrades (no sack!). On all accounts but one, they were successful in bringing out that vintage look (you'll hear about the one soon enough). Looking at the old Duragraph, what stands out first, in both pens, is the flat top. I'm a big fan of this design choice. It gives the pen that classic look. It is unafraid to be blunt. I also don't mind the logo printed on the top. Some might find it kitsch. I find it vintage advertising strategy. 

The main material is what originally drew me to the pen. It comes in cracked ice and amber acrylics, but the forest green, to me, rounds out the Golden Age feel. It takes me back to the time I worked on the stock-exchange in the late 20's, buying and selling, and signing with my Conklin self-filler. It takes me back to when I worked in the only surviving bank in the neighborhood, and this pen was the only thing left of the good ole days. The greens pop out as you rotate the pen, something I often did under my banker's lamp, wishing I could actually loan someone some money for them to survive. I know it sounds depressing (pun unintended), but the pen symbolizes the roar of the twenties. 

At the butt and at the top of the cap is black acrylic, a subtle reminder of the rubber pens of the era. The black, also, seems to frame the green acrylic well. Against the black and green, the chrome accents well. It provides a rich transition from black top to forest, like the train tracks that made this country strong. Lightly engraved on the cap band, directly under the clip, is 'Conklin.' On the back side of the pen is lightly engraved 'Duragraph,' which is flanked on both sides by crescents. This is, no doubt, an homage to the Crescent, Conklin's flagship pen.

Once you uncap the pen, you notice the section, too, is black. It gives the impression that work is about to be done. Accounts will soon be balanced. Maybe, through shrewd banking, somebody can be helped.

And then there's the nib. I'm immediately brought back to the 21st Century by its blackness. It's a great looking nib, but it doesn't work, at all, with this pen. It takes me out of my banker's drama and into, into ... into nothing exciting or exhilarating (that is unless that banker is a ninja Robin Hood). I will give credit where credit is due (again, pun unintended). The crescent breather hole was part of the nib design of the original Duragraph, but it should be on a chrome or two-tone nib. Stealth doesn't fit here. 

Function

As already stated, the nib came shipped with misaligned tines. Being that this is an attractive pen for a newer user, that's not a good start (I'm really running with these puns). Smoothness aside, if the nib doesn't work properly, it incapacitates the pen, making it near worthless. At the price point, quality control should be better.

Enough of that. It is an easy pen to post. The cap remains stable and un-wobbly (very scientific word there).

When I decided to review the pen, before sending it off to the Instagram giveaway winner, it became my daily carry pen, sitting in my breast pocket. However, it was difficult to clip it to the thin piece of fabric of my clerical shirt. The tension is so tight it's not easily moveable, no spring. I can imagine it would be even more difficult to clip it to jeans. 

Speaking of carrying around, a day or two into my daily carry rotation, I noticed the pen had seemed to run out of ink, even though I hadn't written enough. I unscrewed the barrel to check the level in the converter, and there was ink everywhere. I made an inky mess at my favorite donut shop. The pen had lost capillary action because air was entering in the wrong place and ink was leaking out. I found that strange because Yafa designed the converter the same as the Monteverde pens, where the converter screws into the section in order to create a better seal. I cleaned everything up, and, when I returned home, I put some silicone grease around the threads of the converter. That solved the leaking problem. 

To be honest, these difficulties really turned me off to Conklin pens.

Feel

This is a light pen, and so succeeds in being reminiscent of American made pens in the Twenties. It's weighted well and doesn't have a 'heavier' part of the pen. Posting it doesn't effect the balance enough to complain about the cap. 

I love concave grip sections, and here my wishes are fulfilled. It is comfortable and hasn't left me weary while writing in 10 min + writing sessions. The cap threads are dull and shouldn't be a bother to larger hands/fingers. 

The nib is a solid writer and is ready to be a workhorse, putting in the long hours at the bank. It doesn't have excessive feedback and, on this Tomoe River paper, it isn't glassy either. As you can see, it has a nice medium line. It has above medium flow which caused some feathering in my Standard Memorandum notebook.

Financials

The Duragraph goes for $44 at most retailers. This is a great price range for people who are looking to step up from a Lamy Safari or a Pilot Metropolitan. However, due to the difficulties I had with the pen, I think that purchasing it might be a risk. I doubt what I experienced was typical, but two separate problems is not a good indicator

Is the Writing Reverenced?

NO. I think not. There are better pens with less problems at this price point. I love the looks, but you can't judge a pen by its acrylic. 

Ink: Organics Studio Laboratory Series #14
Paper: Tomoe River Paper