The Origin of My First Celluloid Pen
In early 2014 I received my first taste of celluloid. It was my third Menlo, this time in American Art Plastics Purple Web.
The difference from previous Menlo bodies was that I had Brian make it as an Eyedropper (as opposed to a pump filler) with a smaller than normal ink reservoir, holding about 2ml of ink (A fully bored ED Menlo holds 4-5ml of ink). I did this first of all because I did not want the pump filler. I had previously purchased two other Menlo designs (both of which I eventually sold) and wanted a different experience. The second reason I did this was because I would be forced to clean more frequently as opposed to the larger capacity of a full eyedropper. I do not go through ink as fast as some… maybe 2ml per week, so I believed that a smaller ink capacity eyedropper would inherently lead to better pen maintenance. Thirdly I did it to be unique… and because Brian was willing to do it.
After catching the scent of the celluloid trail, I followed it where it took me in the well-known single minded fashion of a collector: my next four acquisitions would all be celluloid… but we are getting ahead of ourselves.
Herein lies the problem the majority of manufacturers did not use celluloid, especially the preferred nitrous celluloid which can easily take up to 2 years to create. I began to ask around… trying to find out if someone out there still sourced nitrous celluloid, so that I could have a pen maker make me another celluloid pen. I tried (in vain) to reach out to AAP to see if they had any rod stock of their celluloid available. I began to ask around the forums, when my friend Thomas (with whom I had been conversing through the process) found a source for not just any celluloid, but Tibaldi Impero Celluloid: some of the most beautiful celluloid ever created.
He worked with Brian Gray of Edison pens, and a batch of the Tibaldi rod stock was sent directly to Brian. For fear of missing out, I pre-ordered a rod of the material, and over time purchased two pens in that material. The second one was a Beaumont that sports a Menlo clip.
But the first one that I ordered was a Menlo… but not just any Menlo, one that was customized to my personal preferences. I like to know how much ink I have remaining, but I did not want an ink window in the middle of the pen. Acrylic feels differently than celluloid to the touch, so I asked Brian Gray to instead place an ink window at the back of the pen where the blind cap and pump mechanism would be placed on a standard Menlo, so that the acrylic would not break up the feel of the celluloid body.
It is that feel, after all, which drew me in. It is an organic feel… one in which the material somehow seems to come alive in my hand. After several exchanges about concept, Brian made it happen. The result was that a clear acrylic ink window would let me know when I had about 0.75ml (of the 3.5-4ml total capacity) remaining in the pen, and of course, it is easy to see when that 0.75ml becomes nearly nothing, and it is time to refill (or refill at 0.75ml to reduce the risk of burping).
But why does it now belong to the Gentleman Stationer? I have wondered that very thing myself at times, but I do not regret the move. The Menlo spent the majority of its time in my possession not in use. And when a pen sits unused for too long it finds itself on the “should I re-home” this pen? If after a period of time on that list it stays there, mostly unused, off it goes to a place where it gets more use. I think that for this particular pen, I got as much joy in the design and creation process with Brian as I did in the actual use of it. Selling it freed up “space credits” that were re-invested into my next creative design …