pen of iron

A few years ago my mother acknowledged my ridiculous preoccupation with writing instruments by giving me a dip pen, this glass beast with three old, elegant looking nibs that can produce a line too fine for even my miniscule scrawl. Sometimes, despite the hassle and potential mess, I’ll write with it, because I am ridiculous.

However: the aesthetics of the thing are far, far more my mother than they are me.

In the past, I’ve made knives from scrap metal. It’s been a long time, more than a year, since I hit the forge. I’ve been out of town, or out of the country, or working ridiculous hours but still unable to afford fuel. Consequently, I’m out of practice, and wary of going out and trying to invest myself in a project that will prove above me. But I was screwing around with the pen earlier today when something occurred to me, a nice little project to ease myself into things.

Because I’m ridiculous.

Behold the pen:

Behold the old round file that will be the pen reborn:

To start out, I cut off the tang, thinking to use the remaining stub as the basis for the bit I affix the nib to. I heated it in my tiny propane-torch heated forge, cut it, and naturally cut more off than I meant too:

Witness the sorry state of my anvil face.

I’ll deal with it later (the anvil face, and the cutting off too much).

I also manage to snap the other end of the file where it’s held in the jaws of my pliers:

Files, having to be hard enough to cut metal, are often very hard, which means brittle. Had I been thinking, I would have heated the whole thing up in the first place and let it cool so that it would normalize, and I wouldn’t have to worry about things snapping off as I worked. As it is there’s no real harm done, I was going to cut a chunk off that end anyway, but it reminds me to take the step I should have in the first place, so I do:

Naturally, I can’t find my small hammer to clean up the stub I just made:

I cut off the other end, and make to draw it down to a taper. I try to square it off a bit. Here it is, with the squared taper just established:

I work on that for a while, then on making a narrower throat before it swells out into the part of the file I’m leaving as-is.

The nub left for affixing the nib is too short, and too narrow, and I’m lazy, so I just hog things out with a grinder.

While I’m at it, I use the grinder to clean up my hammerwork on the taper, and the throat, to contrast better with the part of the file left untouched, and to feel better against my hand.
One final heat, some tinkering with the hammer, and a hot polish with smoking sandpaper to help keep signs of scale off most of it, and I guess I’m done.
Because I’m ridiculous.
It actually feels good in the hand, provided my forearm has proper support. It’s heavy, as pens go, but balances well.
My desktop: now almost as sorry as my anvil face.

~ by ironcupshrug on 01/21/2010.

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