Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Day Four: Merlin Perfect with Diamine Denim

For the fourth day, I chose a beautiful vintage Merlin Perfect I bought from Allard Borst, over at the Fountain Pen Network. This is a German made pen that was manufactured specifically for the Dutch market, and the Perfect appears to have been made in the 1930s, although I don't have detailed information on it. I had not yet tried this pen, and I was eager to see how it performed, so I decided to fill it with Diamine Denim. The pen quickly lived up to the promise of its name.

It was fascinating writing with this pen. I've used, and enjoyed, other vintage pens, but something about the design of this specific pen causes it to "handle" differently than any of the pens I've tried. It took a bit of getting used to, but the overall effect was to give a certain 'old-fashioned' appearance to my handwriting. I wasn't specifically trying to flex the nib, since that often requires specific attention, and I'm trying to write quickly, but the nib flexed easily, just as a natural response to my writing. In addition, the nib seems to project a bit further from the section, and this makes the whole process of controlling the tip a bit different than what I'm used to.

It is not that the pen is awkward, simply that my habits aren't attuned to the way it works. Someone who only drove a pickup truck might have trouble getting used to a sports car, for similar reasons. Even in my first moments getting used to it, it was obvious the pen was carefully and very well designed. This would appear to have been a reasonably ordinary pen in its day, which is amazing to me. I don't tend to buy the expensive modern "limited editions", with their artificial scarcity to drive up the price. They just don't have enough to offer me. But if a pen like this one was available, at triple the price of any of the most exclusive limited editions, I'd start saving my money.

It is a beautiful pen, made of green and black striped celluloid, but I wouldn't buy it for its looks. It is performance where this pen really shines. I've used a lot of pens, some of which cost me much more than this one did, and I've really enjoyed some of them. But if I absolutely had to make do with only a single pen, laying sentimental considerations aside, it just might be this Merlin Perfect. The nib is responsive in a way no other nib I've tried has been, it flexes easily and naturally, and although it is a slightly more demanding nib than some, it is smooth and comfortable to write with.

Lest it seem that I'm merely carried away by a momentary enthusiasm, I must add that my enjoyment of this pen was in spite of the fact it violated one of my most basic requirements in a pen. While writing, I had to stop and refill it twice, for a total of three fills. I dislike the necessity of stopping in the midst of a thought to fill a pen, and make a special effort to stick to pens that hold enough ink to last for at least a day. I did, finally, switch to another pen to finish when the third fill ran out, but that was with reluctance, and only because my cats were very active, and my bottles of Diamine tucked away in a very inconvenient place, due to their awkward size. Any pen that can leave me happy after interrupting my writing three times in a single day is a special pen indeed. (I must confess that at least some of the problem was my fault; I'm not sure of the exact ink capacity, but while cleaning the pen, I discovered that in my haste, I hadn't been pressing the button firmly enough, so I wasn't allowing the pen to fill properly. But even before I knew this, I was happy with it in spite of what I'd normally consider a fatal flaw.)

The Merlin Perfect is a fairly hard pen to find, and this is the only one I own, so I don't know if every single one sported such an amazing nib. But the design alone, and the possibility of another nib like this one, are enough to make me consider this a pen every writer ought to be on the lookout for. Just be aware, you'll be competing with me... I now desire to own every single Merlin Perfect I can get my hands on. Writing is such fun with one of these in hand, it is harder to stop than to keep going. And the quality of the writing it produces is an inspiration in itself.

Diamine Denim, as its name implies, is a nice, dark blue, what I think of as an indigo. It is nice and wet and smooth, but it is hard for me to really judge this ink. I like it, and I plan on getting another bottle when this one runs low - but the drabbest of inks, the dullest and least attractive shade you could possibly find, would look beautiful flowing out of this nib. I recently began trying Diamine because it is one of two brands Richard Binder specifically mentions as being most trouble-free for use in pens that aren't as easily cleaned out, such as button fillers - and Watermans has a much more limited range of colours.

It is a nice dark blue, a colour that is easy to see, and would be easy enough to mark up using any bright ink for contrast. As such, it could be a nice choice for writing manuscripts, although writers should be aware that this is an ink which may not stand up well to water. If your manuscript gets wet, you could probably read what you had written, but even that is not guranteed. Like most (but not all) inks, Denim is a bit duller and less appealing when dry than it is when it first goes on wet, but it is still a nice looking dark blue.

As a footnote to those who are following what pens I'm using in this manuscript, when the ink ran out for the third time, I finished the day with the Wality 77D I used for my initial notes, still filled with Noodlers Air Corps Blue Black. I wrote 1,903 words, for a total to date of 8,171 words. Despite the fun I'm having trying out different pens, I was sad to think I won't be using my beautiful Perfect pen for a while. I understand the photos I'm posting are not ideal - this is the largest image size Blogger is allowing me to select - but try to look at the writing in the photo above. The interesting aspect of my handwriting, the real character, is due to the pen, while the fact it is still an illegible scrawl is my own fault. That's what you get when you are trying to write fast enough to keep up with your thoughts.


  1. You wouldn't by any chance be interested in selling this pen, would you? I've gotten a small collection of Merlins and would love to add this to that collection for comparisons.

    1. Sorry to disappoint you, but this is one of my favourites; high in the top ten. I don't tend to part with pens anyway, but even if I was slashing my collection to a tiny fraction of its size, this is not one I'd let go of.

      The little Merlin Osmi in another post is right up there, too. From what I've seen, any pen made by Merlin, or by Onoto, is automatically one I'm going to cling to as long as I live. (No, I don't plan to be buried with my pens. That would be a waste. But certain ones - every Merlin and Onoto included - will be specifically mentioned in my will...)