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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Episode #17: J. Herbin Glass Pens

Glass pens? You got it, these things are made entirely out of glass. Handmade in France, each one is unique and a piece of art. They were all the rage in the mid-17th century, back when J. Herbin first started making fountain pen ink (circa 1670). Sure, they're not the most practical pens in the world, but they are novel, beautiful, and have a very functional purpose for the fountain pen enthusiast.

The J. Herbin glass pen has a spiral, fluted nib that holds onto the ink in its grooves when you dip it into your ink of choice. A small tap on the mouth of the ink bottle, and you're set to write! It writes thicker than a fountain pen, and takes a little bit of practice to get a consistent line. It tends to write very wet, so it makes inks appear to be much more saturated than they are in a fountain pen. You'll need a paper that will hold up to it, something that will repel ink very well like G. Lalo Vergé de France, Rhodia, or Clairefontaine (to name a few of my biased favorites). If you have paper that tends to soak and bleed, then this pen will be like D-Day on Normandy beach...

There are two different sizes of the J. Herbin glass pens. The smaller size has the fluted nib, a small ball, and a thin, straight body that is about 5.5" long. It comes in 6 different colors: black, amber, violet, blue striped, red striped, and green striped. They have a retail price of $15.50. The longer one is a little fancier, with a tapered spiral handle that is 7.5" long and comes in 3 colors: light blue, royal blue, and violet. They have a retail price of $21.00. The nibs on both size pens are identical in size and performance, it's really just the body that is different.

Aside from the aesthetics, the biggest advantage of these pens is that you can dip and test less often used inks you have lying around (or new inks you've just acquired) without going through the whole routine of flushing and filling a fountain pen. If you're try to get a certain look, such as a vintage early-American writing look, you can grab your paper of choice and test many different inks on it quickly with the glass pen before inking up your pen of choice. You just need to be aware that since the dip pen writes heavy to start, you need pay closer attention to the way it writes for the last few words before the pen needs to be redipped...that will give you the most accurate depiction of what the color will be in a fountain pen.

The full selection of J. Herbin glass pens is available at The Goulet Pen Company, as well as other fine retailers.

Link to YouTube for iPhones and full-screen.

9 comments:

  1. Funny and very informative. I really appreciated your taking the time to demonstrate using the Herbin glass pen! Thanks Brian.

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  2. WOW, never seen these used, and ground before!
    Outstanding Brian.
    They are very lovely too.

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  3. I'd HEARD 2010 was a good year for Ocean Spray.

    If you get the chance, definitely DON'T try the '03 vintage. Something went horribly wrong.

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  4. WOW, never seen these used, and ground before!
    Outstanding Brian.
    They are very lovely too.

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  5. The J. Herbin Rose Cyclamen and the Cafe des iles both look great on the G. Lalo Champagne writing paper. In fact, they seem to look better on YouTube. Something else to go on the wish list. I'm going through "The Italic Way to Beautiful Handwriting" trying to improve my handwriting so I've become interested in stationary.. i wish it emphasized the cursive part more than the italic.


    I now have more stuff to do with writing than I'll ever be able to use. There should be a way to donate it to some organization that could use it. i'm not hinting by the way. I know you are more than busy enough.

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  6. Those are both great inks. As for the writing stuff you'll never use, that's why you get friends hooked on it ;) Or, actually, the Fountain Pen Network is a good place, as there are a lot of starving college students out there who I'm sure would love some free/cheap writing stuff....

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  7. Thanks for the idea about the Fountain Pen Network. I actually should have said "use up" rather than "use". I;'m not to the point where I at least play with everything, but some of the inks I don't think I'll ever use very much.

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  8. Sure thing :) Another option if you don't want to give or throw away the inks is to try mixing them. Ink mixing can be a lot of fun, taking two colors you don't really like and making something you do :) Of course, that's a whole other rabbit hole to fall into, so tread lightly!

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  9. FPN has a Pay it Forward thread in which you can offer things like ink, pens, paper that you want to get rid of but don't want to bother selling. College students are great takers for that stuff.

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