As part of my work in human-technology relations, embodied cognition, object-embedded scripts, and focal things, I explore different technical systems to see how they structure and change meaning and experience. This has included learning to shave with a straight razor, winemaking, historical cooking (esp. Ancient Roman and Medieval English cuisine), charcuterie, Spencerian script, and vintage pen and pencil restoration.
I began restoring fountain pens in order to get the right vintage tools to learn Spencerian script, in support of my open-ended research on writing practices in terms of human-technology relations, embodied cognition, object-embedded scripts, and focal things. From there I became interested in the history of development writing tools through shifting actor-networks; for example, how the rise in adoption of typewriters starting in the 1920s brought about the widespread use of carbon paper in business and legal settings (although it was invented over a hundred years prior, in 1803) and also changed background assumptions about words per minutes that can be expected in employee writing, both of which were catalysts of the shift from Spencerian cursive, which included line variation produced by a flexible nib and variable finger-pressure in pen strokes, to Palmerian cursive, which removes movements from the writer’s fingers, allowing faster writing to keep pace with expectations set by typewriters and also better fitting the stiff “manifold” nibs needed to write by hand on carbon copies.
As I worked more on different vintage and antique writing instruments, learning about their structure and the lived experience of their use, I ended up with far too many pens and pencils around the house. Eventually, I decided to begin to sell restored pens and pencils on Etsy.
I restore vintage fountain pens with an emphasis on usability, for those who would like vintage writing instruments suitable for regular employment rather than display. Typically, restoration includes disassembly of barrel, section, feed, and nib; ultrasonic cleaning of parts that can be safely submerged in ammonium solution; resaccing (for lever-fillers); nib adjustment and smoothing; application of silicone grease when needed; micro-mesh polishing of furniture; sanding out scratches when needed; microabrasive polishing; and testing with ink, usually over several days.
Vintage pens are often different from fountain pens made today, and vintage pencils are as well. I have useful notes on
Filling mechanisms, inks, and leads
Nibs and writing
Desk and ring-top pens
Edwardian and Victorian propelling pencils
Eversharp Kimberly Retractable Ballpoints