August 30, 2010

Collection Inspiration: Wahl Ring Top

There are soooooo many fountain pens out there! And, like many collectors in many other hobbies, pen enthusiasts often choose to focus their collections around a common theme, whether it be a manufacturer, color scheme, material or era. For a couple years now, I have purchased pens without any single thread to tie my collection together [aside from the fact that each pen spoke to me at some point]. I never actually felt much of a need to focus the collection, I figured that as long as I appreciated all of my pieces that it didn't matter if they were a cohesive grouping. That changed when I purchased my first ring top.


When I first saw this 1920s all metal, sterling silver, hand engraved, lever filling Wahl, I knew that it belonged in my pen case... and that it needed company.

Ring top pens were originally advertised as vest pens for men. They were worn with a short chain that attached to a button hole in the man's vest and were kept in a vest pocket. Later, for reasons not 100% clear, these same pens were advertised to women as ladies' pens, worn on a chain around the neck. Same pens, just different target markets. I've had considerable trouble accurately dating my particular pen, so I'm not sure whether it was advertised as a vest pen or a ladies' pen.

I searched around the internet on multiple occasions, and while I found Wahl advertisements for very similar pens on the Pen Collectors of America website, I'm not totally comfortable saying that the pen I own and the pen advertised are the same.


When I went to the Raleigh Pen Show in June I made a special point of asking around to see if anyone could give me information on my little pen. Unfortunately, no one could really give me any specifics beyond general information on Wahl all metal ring tops. I did, however, find a vintage Waterman ring top with a strikingly similar floral pattern. The Waterman vendor, Alan Hirsch, posited that this particular pattern may have just been a popular trend in the 1920s, meaning that the engravers from Wahl and Waterman probably didn't copy the others' design, but that they were probably inspired by a common third party design. To Wahl's benefit, Alan volunteered that my pen was prettier than the Waterman he was selling. I wonder what species of flower inspired the pattern, any ideas?

I thought for sure that my quest to find out more about my pen had ended, when through our personal correspondence, I found out that Julie from Whatever that she, too, had a sterling Wahl ring top. I held my breath, until Julie posted about her pen on her blog, and it turns out that our pens are twins!

Julie found the same Wahl ad that I did, and she's a tad more inclined than I am to believe that our pens are the very same model as the pen advertised in the vintage catalog.


Historical ambiguities aside, this 4.5"-ish writer is one of my favorite pens. The all metal section is fitted with a Wahl No. 2, a very flexible 14k nib. When the pen arrived in my mailbox, the nib was a bit scratchy, even on the smoothest of papers. So, I had nibmeister Deb Kinney smooth my nib at the Raleigh Pen Show for a nominal fee, and it writes brilliantly.

I don't have a chain for this or any of my other ring top pens, yet, but I do plan on wearing them as vest pens in the future. Can you think of any places where I can get a deal on a sterling silver pen chain [or a double albert chain]?

I was so excited to purchase this ring top, and I look forward to acquiring [many?] more!

August 25, 2010

Vintage* Pen Tray


As I was studying this summer, I de-stressed from time to time by engaging in a little retail therapy. Among the pen related items I purchased was this fantastic vintage pen tray. The seller advertised the tray as an authentic lacquered piece with gold accents from the early 1800s.

In years gone by, before the age of the fountain pen, when dip pens were the primary writing tool, writers needed a place to put their pens to prevent ink from getting all over their table, blotter, or writing surface. Their solution: the pen tray.

It was typical of finer pen trays to have arms, or a small rack, protruding from the tray [example 1, example 2] to hold the pen above the tray's surface, to avoid getting ink all over the pen. My tray doesn't have this feature, so it's possible [example 3] that it was not originally intended as a pen tray at all. It is possible that my little tray was instead used as a calling card tray - to present visitor's cards to the lady of the house holding visiting hours in her parlor [example 4]. Then again, it's possible that this tray just isn't authentic at all.


While the tray certainly is lacquered, and it does have some wear and tear, it's unclear to me whether it is faux vintage or authentic vintage. It would be neat if the tray actually were 200-ish years old, but I'm not going to put many eggs in that wishful basket. Oh well, whether it's an authentic piece from the turn of the 19th century or a great buy from TJ Maxx, I still can't wait to display it on my future desk.

August 20, 2010

Traveling Mail Art Journal


Things I love: personal correspondence and art. The incredible synthesis: traveling mail art journal!

Many many months ago, Bianca from Goodnight Little Spoon put out word that she was starting a traveling journal. Each recipient was to create 2-4 pages, with the only creative boundary being that the content had to be postally related.

I signed up immediately and was, I think, eighth on the list of journal recipients. Months passed and I eventually forgot that I was scheduled to receive the journal. But then, one day I got a package in the mail - not recalling any recent online purchases, I opened the package with suspicion. Well, wasn't I surprised to find the journal within!


I spent the next several hours having a great time combing through all the fantastic mail art contained therein. People in the online mail enthusiast community are sooo creative. Many participants included personal messages, or mail to be read by all future recipients. The above picture of a mystery message left in the journal by Tejal at All-My-Hues.


The creative bar was set incredibly high, and I took some time to gather materials to create my pages. After two days of twiddling my thumbs, I decided that I had to just start putting things on the paper. Above are my first two journal pages.

I included on the left page: the front cover of one of my favorite card sets, the priority mail stickers from the package that the journal came to me in, and some imagery from National Postal Museum flyers. On the right page: more National Postal Museum imagery, a hotel stationery envelope from a Washington, DC hotel, DC-ish vintage stamps, a snail mail stamp, and a collection of wax seals that include seals from envelopes sent to me by some of my wonderful pen pals.

I did do a third page, but I wanted to keep it specially for future mail journal recipients.

August 19, 2010

Fan Mail

I'm back! It's been a long summer, but I think it was worth it. I took the Maryland bar exam at the end of July, and then took a two week vacation in Minnesota to visit my family and friends. While staying at my parents' home, I decided to rummage around in their storage unit to see what sort childhood memories I could uncover. And sure enough, I found a couple of gems.

Agatha the Royal Portable Typewriter

This is my very first eBay purchase, a Royal Portable typewriter! I bought this machine over 10 years ago, placed it on a shelf, and then never used it. I'm so ashamed. To make it up to myself and the typewriter, I took it to Vale Typewriter in Minneapolis where Rich, the proprietor, was able to clean, scrub, and oil the Royal back into premier shape. There are still spots of rust, but Rich says that their spread should be halted by keeping them oiled. Here's to hoping.

3 Geeks Comic

In addition to my vintage typewriter, I found a small cache of comic books. I was absolutely thrilled.

As a middle schooler, I collected Green Lantern comics, and I had a few issues of independent titles, including the above pictured 3 Geeks comic. I totally related to the book, it was about a group of guys that hung out at a comic book shop, unabashed by their geekness. The guy that worked the shop counter was named Colonel, and the guy that manned the counter at Uncle Sven's Comic Shoppe in Saint Paul where I hung out was also named Colonel! It was as though I had no choice in buying the comic.

3 Geeks Page

I'm writing about 3 Geeks here on Everyday Correspondence because, wouldn't you know it, the premise of issue 5 is about writing letters to comic book authors and artists. In virtually every printed comic there is a page or two at the end of each book dedicated to the mail bag, where fan letters are printed and the author of the book responds. While I've never written a fan letter to a comic, I'm lead to believe that having your letter printed is the ultimate honor for a fanboy (or fangirl).

Well, having come upon both a typewriter and 3 Geeks issue 5 in my parents' storage unit, I felt compelled to write my first ever comic fan letter to the creator of 3 Geeks. While I doubt that my letter will be printed, I take satisfaction in giving a creator appreciative feedback for his work.

Have you ever written a fan letter to an author or artist? Have they ever written back? Have you had your letter printed in a comic book?