Category Archives: Pen How-To

How to Adjust a Noodler’s Ahab Flex Pen (or Konrad, or Nib Creaper)

I’ve been meaning to write this blog post for a while, but now that there will be a price increase coming up,* I figured it would be a good time to share a bit on what adjusting your Noodler’s Flex Pen might entail to help you decide if you’re going to pull the trigger on one.

Using a flex nib can be a lot of fun and an easy way to create elegant looking writing or to use in drawing or sketching, and the Noodler’s pens are often a great choice, especially if you’re just starting out. Noodler’s is most famous for their inks in so many different colours and with gorgeous labels. One of the philosophies of their business is to offer reasonably priced goods, rather than always striving for the profit margin, and in line with this philosophy, they also offer a few reasonably priced flex nib fountain pen model: the Ahab, the Konrad and the Creaper.

I have an Ahab that I love, and I use it to scribble and doodle with, and I also use it for a lot of my Instagram writing shots. Sometimes people ask what pen I’m writing with (the Ahab), and then they say, well, I have the same pen, and it doesn’t write like yours! While each pen might a bit different, there are a few steps on adjusting your pen so it will write a bit more like how you’d like.

Calligraphy Writing Video Wonder Pens  Toronto Canada

One of the idiosyncrasies of the Noodler’s flex pens, in line with the fact that it’s not going to run you out of your wallet, is that it sometimes takes a bit of fiddling and adjusting to get it to write the way you want. This can sometimes be a good thing (if you enjoy fiddling around, or if you like the flexibility of adjusting how your pen writes) but sometimes a not-so-good thing if you don’t have the patience to adjust it.

In the bricks & mortar shop, we try to emphasize this fact, that you’ll likely have to spend some time getting to know your new flex pen. One of the things about test driving an Ahab flex nib in the shop is that it’s almost guaranteed that your Ahab will not write like that one, so writing with the one we’ve adjusted and softened up over time can be a bit misleading to yours straight out of the box. Stay the course!

If all you’re going to read is the first bit, then there are two pieces of advice I might give:

1. Take your nib and feed out of your flex pen, and wash them with soapy water. I give it a squirt of dish soap, and rub them between my fingers for maybe 10 seconds. If I’m feeling like daydreaming, I might do it twice. Rinse.

2. Give it time! Not only in terms of adjusting it and maybe if it’s not working perfectly, leave it overnight and try again the next day, but over many months of using it, you may find that the nib softens up on you a bit.

The general rule of thumb for adjusting your Noodler’s flex pen is:

For wetter flow, push the nib and feed closer together, and closer in.
For drier flow, pull the nib and feed further apart, and slightly further out.
And then keep fiddling. 

I generally suggest sitting down and getting ready to get your hands really inky the first time, and then you may have to do small adjustments later, but you hope the bulk of the adjustment is done. You may have to do more adjusting later if you change the ink, or if you’re giving it a thorough washing by taking out the nib and feed.

Supplies:

How to Adjust your Noodler's Ahab Konrad Creaper Flex Pen Wonder Pens wonder pens.ca Toronto Canada

– Noodler’s Flex Fountain Pen, in this case we’re using the Ahab in Topkapi
– Ink – you may want two or more inks just in case you get bad luck and the first ink you pick is not so good in your Ahab – we’re using Stormy Grey
– Ink Syringe (if you’re filling as an eyedropper)
– Silicone Grease (if you’re filling as an eyedropper)

Adjusting your Noodler's Ahab Konrad Creaper Wonder Pens wonder pens.ca Toronto Canada

Step One: Pull your nib and feed out and give them a nice soapy bath.

Remember when you’re putting it back in that the Ahab has a grove where the nib fits in, and it won’t fit in properly if it’s not lined up. In the photo below, you can see that the nib would fit at the top.

How to Adjust your Noodler's Ahab Flex Pen wonder pens.ca Wonder Pens Toronto Canada

Adjusting your Noodler's Ahab Flex Pen Filling with Bottled Ink Wonderpens.ca Wonder Pens Blog Toronto Canada

Step Two: Fill the pen with ink.

If this is the first time with the pen, I generally recommend using the converter because you won’t have to waste as much ink if you end up dumping it, but more importantly, you can use the converter to “prime the feed” a bit by pushing it down and forcing ink through as you’re testing. Obviously this is not the long term solution, to have to continually push down on the converter, but it may be helpful as you’re trying to adjust.

How to Fill your Noodler's Flex Ahab Eyedropper Fountain Pen Wonder Pens wonder pens.ca Toronto Canada

If you’re filling as an eyedropper, put some silicone grease around the threads of the barrel (to prevent leaking) and put some ink directly in the barrel. You won’t have any option to push more ink through, but you get a LOT of ink.

Why does my Ahab Konrad Creaper railroad Wonder Pens wonder pens.ca Toronto Canada

The dreaded railroading!

Step 3: Start writing and see how it does.

You may find that it writes fine if you’re not flexing too much, but the more you flex, the more problems you may have. If you just need the tiniest bit of variation as you’re writing, then maybe you don’t need any adjustment at all! Or you may have found the golden ticket pen and it writes and flexes with no problem. If not, don’t worry!

Especially at first, give your Ahab some time! Don’t just write a few strokes with it and then adjust it right away if it’s not writing for your the way you like – the ink flow may need a few moments to settle and fill your feed, and get flowing properly. Try a few strokes, a few sentences, wait a bit. You can try pressing a cloth to the nib and feed to draw some ink through.

However, at a certain point, you just know it’s not going to give anymore, so, you adjust.

Step 4: Pulling the nib in and out, also known as, when the fingers start to get inky.

Noodler's Ahab Konrad Creaper Flex Pen Adjustments Wonder Pens wonderpens.ca Blog Toronto Canada

If your Ahab is dry or railroading, try pushing the nib and feed closer together.

Adjusting your Noodler's Ahab Konrad Creaper Flex Pen Wonder Pens wonder pens.ca Blog Toronto Canada

If your Ahab is too wet and you’re getting blobs or drips of ink, try separating the nib and feed a bit more.

Give it some time and a LOT of writing. You may find that it blobs and then starts railroading, so is it too wet or too dry?? It may just be that the feed needs some more time to regulate the flow, so a bit more writing to try and even it out before you figure out how to adjust it next.

Adjusting Noodler's Ahab Konrad Creaper Flex Nib Ink Flow Wonder Pens Blog wonderpens.ca Toronto Canada

Noodler's Flex Pen Ahab Konrad Creaper Adjusting Wonder Pens Blog wonderpens.ca Toronto Canada

Keep going and adjusting. Write, write, write, give your pen a chance for some flow, and then write some more. Adjust slightly, and then see how it does. This is a pen that does best with a healthy dose of love and patience, so if it railroads, give it a few more strokes before you adjust it again.

I personally like my Ahab nice and wet (if you watch the video above, you’ll see how wet the ink is!), which occasionally results in blobs of ink, but I like it wet so my inks show lots of shading. Keeping this in mind, I generally use higher quality paper with my Ahab so it doesn’t become a hot mess. I also find a bit of ink in my cap every once in a while (I’m not sure if the two are related, I think it’s probably more to do with the fact that I knock around my Ahab quite a bit). This tugging the nib a bit in or out is literally all I do with my Ahab if I’ve changed the ink and I find the flow isn’t what I’d like.

Noodler's Ahab Konrad Creaper Flex Pen How to Adjust Wonder Pens Blog wonderpens.ca Toronto Canada

Adjusting Noodler's Ahab Konrad Creaper Fountain Pen Flex Wonderpens.ca Wonder Pens Blog Toronto Canada

Step 5: If this all isn’t working, you can trying heat-setting your nib and feed.

Heat-setting heat setting Noodler's Ahab Konrad Creaper Flex Nib Pen Wonderpens.ca wonder pens blog Toronto Canada

Heat up some water so it’s hot, just off boiling, and dip your nib and feed in. You can hold it there for a minute or two, which should soften up the ebonite feed a bit. Press together firmly, so the nib and feed will end up cooling and re-hardening against each other. You may end up trying this a few times, but remember to give the testing a fair shake before you re-adjust as it may just need a few minutes for the ink flow to really regulate.

Heatsetting Nib and Feed from Noodler's Ahab Konrad Creaper Flex Pen Wonder Pens Blog wonder pens.ca Toronto Canada

Your Noodler’s flex pen will probably not ever write like a vintage flex pen, not as soft, or with as consistent a flow, but with a bit of adjustment it can do pretty well. You may also have to slow down a bit as you write, but the more you write with your pen, the more you’ll get to know exactly how much you can ask of it. Eventually over time, you may find that your Noodler’s flex nib will soften up, and not be quite as stiff as it was when you first got it.

One last thing to keep in mind about your Noodler’s pen: some inks may just not be great in it, and they never will be. Just like you may know one of your pens is a bit of a dry writer or a wet writer or a pen likes a particular ink, even more so for a Noodler’s Flex Pen where the ink flow is so variable. One ink may work in your Clear Ahab, but strangely not in your Apache Tortoise Ahab. It’s a bit of trial and error.

In my Ahab, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that J. Herbin Ambre de Birmanie, my favourite of all shading inks, is just not going to work in my current Ahab. It was a long road to acceptance, and along the way I think I’ve tried Ambre de Birmanie six or seven times, but I’ve finally reached it.

Good luck with yours! And don’t give up!!

*As of August 1st, 2015, Noodler’s flex pens will be undergoing a price increase, due to manufacturing costs:

Nib Creaper from 17.50 to 20.15 CAD
Ahab/Konrad from 25 to 28.75 CAD

How to Make a Wax Seal

In case you missed it, we started carrying J. Herbin wax seal supplies in the shop a few weeks ago – I did a blog post on it, with more pictures of the different coloured wax in seal form. In that blog post, it was more about the final product than how to make the actual wax seal, so here’s a post to help you out if you’re not certain about what to do.

J Herbin Sealing Wax Brass

I had to enlist the help of Vanna (i.e. Jon) to help me with this post. If you receive a letter from us in the next few days that has an odd looking wax seal, it’s because we used your envelope as our demonstration, and we had some “timing issues” with the pressure of wax cooling and me trying to take a photo. One day we’re going to do a behind-the-scenes post of how these how-to blogs get done, with the dog sniffing the wax and the baby bobbling in the background and me trying to stop wax from cooling and Jon saying “Liz, this one is ruined.”

It’s actually not too hard to do this. The idea is, you melt the wax onto the envelope, and you press your brass stamp into the wax before it cools, making an impression.

You need:
Sealing wax (available in different colours)
Brass stamp (often people use a letter in their name or a symbol)
Your envelope
Heat source – here, a candle

J. Herbin Wax Seal Wonder Pens

Step one: Hold the wax over the candle and rotate so too much wax doesn’t drip into the candle.

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Step 2: Gently but firmly rub the melted end into the paper in a circle.

J. Herbin Wax Seal How-To Wonder Pens

It won’t be pretty, but that’s okay, because you’re going to be putting more wax on it. It may also be a bit tacky or sticky as you rub, but don’t worry about it. 

J. Herbin Sealing Wax Tutorial WonderPens.ca

Step 3: Bring the wax seal back over the flame and repeat. The bit of wax on the envelope will be cooling while you are re-warming the wax stick, and that’s okay. It’s the first “layer” of wax, so when you press your stamp on, you don’t press all the way to the paper, and you also get a nice, thick wax seal.

When you add more wax to the bit on the envelope, use your stick to gently move the wax around to form a bit of a circle, preparing for the brass stamp.

J. Herbin Wax Seal Tutorial Wonder Pens

 

Your second glob of wax will look something like this – it takes a bit of trial and error to figure out about how much wax you like to have in your seal.

J. Herbin Sealing Wax Wonderpens.ca

Step 4: Wait just a bit, until the wax is just matte (and no longer shiny). Then, press your stamp into the wax firmly, and hold it for a bit, maybe around 5 seconds. If you press right away and the wax is too hot, it will be too soft and won’t make a good, crisp impression.

J. Herbin Wax Seals Wonderpens.ca

Lift carefully, and you’ll have your seal!

J Herbin Wax Seal Anchor Wonder Pens

In addition to being able to use a candle, you can use a lighter with a long handle (like a barbecue lighter) or a torch type lighter. You can hold the wax directly onto the paper while holding the flame to the tip, and wait for the wax to drip drip drip onto the envelope. You may have to wait a bit longer for the wax to cool, don’t rush it! (But don’t take too long, or you won’t be able to get your stamp into it).

The reason for the second layer of wax is because if you don’t get enough, it ends up looking a bit thin. You want the wax to come around all of the edges.

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You can also consider making a mark on your stamp itself so you always know which way is the top when you go to press it on – seconds make a big difference in the wax cooling!

Sealing Wax Tips & Tricks Wonderpens

Tip 1: When you’re near the end of your wax stick, melt the end and stick it onto the end of a fresh stick.

Tip 2: If you’re new to this, always put the the wax seal on the envelope before you put on the postage stamp, so if you mess up, you don’t waste the postage. Don’t worry about getting it perfect, though 🙂

We carry the sealing wax regularly in the shop – you can either try a stick of a colour, or if you know you like it, get a pack of four sticks. The brass stamp (either a letter or symbol) and the handle – purchased separately – are special order: if you’re interested, send us an email (info at wonderpens.ca). You can see more details here.

 

Above all, have fun with it!

 

How to Use Seyes or French Ruling for Handwriting

Now, I’m not quite delving into the debate about whether or not cursive writing should be taught in public school, but if you are interested in spending some time on your handwriting, French ruled paper, or Seyes ruled paper, could be something to help you out.

Calligraphers also use this paper, sometimes ignoring the “rules” for standard handwriting, but using the lines to help get a consistent size – I’ve seen calligraphers using the Pilot Parallel pens with letters up to 15 or 20 lines high.

This paper looks super complicated, but if you spend some time with it, it’s actually not too complicated at all. The paper has thick lines with three thin lines in between each. These thin lines are supposed to help you keep the size and height of your letters consistent.

Seyes Ruled Paper, French Ruled Paper Notebooks from Clairefontaine

Seyes ruled or French ruled paper is widespread in France, and actually, I think you can find it in many countries in Europe. It’s often used by students, and I think the margin on the left (nice and wide!) is for teachers’ gentle encouragement/corrections. The vertical lines help with indentations for paragraphs or tables, as these notebooks could be used for a variety of school subjects. I’ve also read that generations of French school children used J. Herbin’s Poussiere de Lune ink, which is kind of a romantic thought! All that moondust 🙂

We have a customer who had grown up in France who comes in specifically for this Seyes ruled paper. She said since she’s come to Canada she’s been using “regular” paper, and her handwriting has been swooping all over the place uncontrollably (this is not the case, as I’ve seen her handwriting and it is perfect…ugh! The French and their eating endless varieties of cheese and never getting fat! And their perfect handwriting!!).

How to Use Seyes Ruling, French Ruled, Handwriting Alphabet Sample

There are five rules to follow:

1. Capital letters go up to the third line.
2. Lower case “bodies” – like a, c, the circle part of d or p – go up to the first line.
3. Loopy stems go up to the third line – b, f, h, k, l.
4. Non-loopy or straight stems go up to the second line – just d and t.
5. Anything that goes below the line – f, g, j, p, q, y, z – go down two lines.

Seyes Ruled, French Ruled Notebook, Handwriting sample, How to write on Seyes paper

Really, basically everything goes up to the third line, or the first line, except d & t. If you keep that in mind, you just have to be careful about the d & t.

How to write on Seyes or French ruled paper, handwriting sample

A popular warm-up exercise for calligraphers and handwriting teachers is to try drawing circles of consistent size across a line. I think you’re supposed to go fast to really loosen up the muscles, but I don’t think I’m at that stage yet – I’m still at the concentrate-really-hard-and-don’t-mess-up-because-you’re-taking-a-picture-for-the-blog stage, but don’t be afraid to mess up!  

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If you’re just starting out, it may help to take a letter that’s troubling you and write that letter over and over again. The next step might be to try connecting two letters of different heights, like a – f – a – f – a – f to practise getting from one height to the the next. 

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It takes practice! It takes some practice and concentration to get all that muscle memory working, so take a trip to your local cafe, or sit out on the porch in this fresh spring weather! And then, send me a letter in your beautiful (or you know, “unique”) handwriting 🙂

We have two types of notebooks in this Seyes or French ruling – an A5, softcover staple and we just got in an A4 softcover spiral bound. These are made by Clairefontaine, so the paper is excellent for fountain pens – although the lines are quite close together, so I might recommend a fine or extra-fine nib if you’re specifically practising your handwriting.

Clairefontaine Seyes French Ruled Notebooks at wonderpens.ca Wonder Pens Toronto

Interesting side note! When I was in college I spent some time teaching in Madagascar, an island country off the east coast of Africa. Madagascar was previously a French colony, and like Canada, they still have much of the vestiges of French language and culture around.

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When I was there, a young stationery aficionado wandering around, I discovered Seyes ruled notebooks. Having never encountered them before at that time, I stocked up on a few, and I still have one left today!

The paper quality, however, is no Clairefontaine (and that’s being generous…).