My name is Rob van Nigtevecht, Artisan Fountain Pen Designer and owner of PS Powerful Signature. Originally I come from the print and document solutions background. My wife is a Geordie who makes artwork also. We live close to Newcastle, home of the Geordies. They have a rich past in industrial development and their own cultural style which I started to appreciate a lot over the years. This is the place where the industrial revolution started fueled by the enormous amount of coal available. You have to understand their language else you never understand their colourful humor!
Mining, the railways, the large and small industries have always fascinated me. The scientific instruments in the early years are beautiful, true master pieces, and in the UK there was a lot of it. I always loved fountain pens, watched and old machine for the shear beauty and elegance such as rose engines or Guilloché lath's which incredible complicated machines for engraving and shaping. Some still exist and are worth a fortune. Even the latest English pound has still been use in the designing process, the CNC machines and laser engravings still cannot match that quality!
One day I decided it is now or never to make things myself, for the joy of writing, scribbling and drawing with ink, which I do a lot with great pleasure. This gives a kind of peace which writing on a computer just cannot offer.
I discovered that writing forces one to think ahead, to structure before writing, to plan the idea. That's true for each sentence as well as the whole story.
Writing with pen and paper is good for the brain. On computers we write, correct, swap paragraphs etc but it does not help to 'think ahead'. Doing that with a pen on paper would lead to recreating the whole story again and again then finally to get a concise story. If you have ever seen those beautiful letters written in the 18th century or even only 70 years ago then you know that people invested a lot in writing skills and making concise letters!
Schools should keep this in mind too, learning to write with pen on paper has a positive effect on think processes still not enough understood.
To celebrate the humble pen and ink, which gives us more than we think, I started to make them myself and wondered if it is for me possible to make them from raw materials, without buying pen parts. This excepts the Nibs and converters, that is a far too complex industrial process.
Making them my way
My business venture is a long term plan, no rush.
I create my own designs manually with attention to detail and, some may say that's daft, I still use a sliderule to do the calculations! The idea is to do everything as much as possible the old way, without computers or CNC machines, and then see how far I can push it.
It's kind of fun to use the hand and brain only then to see the designs evolve. Besides that, most materials require a constant adjustment of speed based on sensing, sound and the way it peels off or a drill moves in. I don't think a CNC machine can do this without a great amount of waste. This way I seldom throw material away. Even if things don't go as planned I can amend the design or reuse parts for other purposes.
To be different I experiment with styles and methods using a more robust design which also brings out the wonderful textures and colours of the many no longer produced materials. Yet I try to keep them light weight, often around the 20 to 25 grams, only the ones with a lot of metal features go to the 40 grams. There is no rule here, it's what you like most, some want a super light pen but notice that it transfers vibrations while writing, others a more heavy pen to dampen this effect.
The materials are very expensive, I start first with acrylic prototypes which I then sell at a lower price, sometimes I give them away to try out. After a lot of experimenting I developed my own very fine and yet strong and nice running threading. I'm also designing my own ideas to hold the cap on the pen by means of friction.
The pen body materials are very sensitive and require very high quality cutting and shaping tools usually not available in general stores. I source them from a specialist tool manufacturer who helps me with some of these rather complicated tools. It is thanks to this support that it is still possible to create fine designs.
I'm always hunting for exotic wonderful materials to change into pen's, a lot of these materials come from factories which no longer exist.
The art of layered gold leaf, metal dust and coloured lacquers is field I'm exploring to develop as far I am able to go. This is truly my most loved area of pen making. I love the absolute incredible detail of Japanese handmade and hand painted fountain pen's! They are real masters, but how they do this remains their family secret!
Most of the polishing work is done by hand. I use no lacquer except shellac to cover hand painted layers and inlays, and sometimes I use special high end resins as a last layer of protection. But avoiding any resins or lacquers is still the best. Shellac is nice but overtime it can show old age cracks and it is hard to clean that up.
The metal decorations are turned by myself on the lathe and as much as possible held together on the pen only by compression to avoid epoxy or resin glues. The level of precision is very high and hard to achieve manually but an engineer with years of experience would do it with ease.
A lot of the work involves gathering knowledge about lost skills, acquiring this takes a lot of patience and investigations.