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Newsletter of The Onoto Pen Company

December 2008

Welcome to the latest issue of The Onotoist, the newsletter of The Onoto Pen Company, issued to keep you in touch with what's happening in the world of Onoto.

In this issue, you'll find out about an innovation that's helping fountain pen users with extra large hands; about how we use goose quills in the manufacture of some of our most exquisite pens; what to do if your vintage Onoto needs some TLC, and why there's never been a better time to buy an Onoto!

I hope you enjoy this issue. If you would like to make a contribution to the next newsletter or have a story about a vintage or modern Onoto you'd like to share, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Dave Cooper

Sterling collapse means Onoto pens have never been cheaper!

Every cloud has a silver lining, so they say. And while we're suffering here in the UK with a falling pound making our holidays and overseas purchases more expensive,
for those of you who live in the USA, Europe, Japan etc, there’s never been a better time to buy an Onoto.

Because all our prices are fixed in pounds sterling, you have a golden opportunity to buy at around 25% less than 12 months ago if you live outside the UK.

And if you live in the UK, we don’t want you to miss out, so we’ve got a special bonus for you, too. We’ll give you 2 free bottles of Onoto ink with every sterling silver or gold pen purchased between now and the end of December 2008.

Whether you are looking to add another Onoto to your own collection, or have been looking for that ‘special’ gift for a friend, business colleague or family member, now’s the time to buy an Onoto online! Just go to www.onoto.com to order and we’ll have your pen to you in good time for the festive season.

New, longer Onotos now available

Onoto has always been renowned for its innovation and we are delighted to announce that new, extra long Onoto pens are now available on special order. We have recognised for some time that today's fountain pens don't sit comfortably with those who have large hands. For comfort, the body of the pen should rest between the first finger knuckle and the thumb knuckle with the pen body extending slightly above the resting area when fingers are fully extended. As you write, the fingers stretch and flex which means the body of the pen moves up and down on this resting area, and from side to side.

Hands come in different sizes and now, so do pens! At Onoto we have traditionally manufactured pens in two basic sizes: those with a size 3 nib to suit smaller hands and including pens such as the Royal Ballet Aspiration, Emma Hamilton and Excel, while those with size 7 nibs are more suited to those with larger hands. These include the Magna, Centenary and Nelson pens.

However, there are people with even larger hands who have expressed an interest in longer pen bodies to make their writing more comfortable. We have therefore decided to develop "extra length" options on all our silver and gold pens and can now offer any model with an extra 2, 4, 6, 8, or 10 mm bodies. Each extra-length pen will be made to order, with an expected delivery of 4 - 6 weeks. For further information please email info@onoto.com

The secret is out!

How we use goose quills to decorate our most prestigious pens!

You may have noticed that many of our pens are described as "decorated with vitreous enamel." But what does that mean? In the past 4 years, lots of people have enquired about the techniques we use to decorate our enamelled pens and while it's not exactly a trade secret, it's not been something we have openly explained to people. There's been no deliberate ploy to hide the information, but when you read what I'm about to tell you, you may realise why it sounds almost too weird to be true!

So here goes. Vitreous enamel is a hallmark of many Onoto pens. The Horatio Nelson and Emma Hamilton pens are perfect examples. The Royal Ballet collection, too. Unlike other "enamels" that are really resins applied cold, like paint, and require little skill in application, true vitreous enamel requires enormous time, patience and expertise to produce and apply. First used by the Ancient Egyptians around 5000 years ago, the art of enamelling was perfected by Russian goldsmith/jeweller Carl Faberge around the end of the 19th century.

Even today, the entire process of decorating precious metals with vitreous enamels is undertaken in exactly the same way as in Faberge's day. It's a long and intensive process which takes years to perfect. So much so that there are now only a handful of experienced enamellers creating top quality decorative jewellery and artefacts in the UK.

Here's how Onoto's master goldsmith describes the processes he uses to decorate the Onoto range of enamelled pens.

"First, using a chemist's mortar and pestle (a little larger than those you find in most kitchens), a mixture of silica, purified water and metal oxides is ground by hand. It takes several hours of painstaking grinding before the right consistency is achieved. The mixture is continuously rinsed through with purified water to take out any impurities. Only craftspeople with years of experience in working with this material know exactly when to stop grinding, as each colour "behaves" slightly differently, so shortens or lengthens the grinding time.

Now, here's the part that seems totally out of place in this hi-tech age. Once the silica paste has reached the right consistency, goose quills (yes, goose quills!) are used to apply each coat of the enamel paste in the traditional manner. The quills come from a local farm and are carefully selected according to the "fineness" of the enamel we are working with. The quill is sharpened, rather like a pencil, to a fine point so application of the enamel can be carefully and meticulously applied to the engraved surface of the sterling silver or gold pen. The application of enamel to the metal is a highly skilled craft, each enamelled component of the pen taking several hours to complete.

Why do we use goose quills?
Well, we have tried lots of other media but nothing gives the same combination of flexibility, precision and the ability to hold the enamel paste. Once a layer of enamel has been applied, each individual pen part is ‘fired’ in a furnace at temperatures between 750° and 850°C, depending on the colour of the enamel being fired. The temperature is critical. As the enamel paste heats up it starts to melt, becoming like liquid glass and fuses with the metal beneath it. Each firing may only take a few minutes, but it has to be watched very closely; too long and the metal (gold or silver) will start to melt; too short a time and the enamel will not ‘fuse’ to the metal.

After each firing, the pen parts are removed from the furnace and allowed to cool naturally before the next layer of enamel paste is applied. This process may involve 3 or 4 applications and firings, before the enamel shows the depth of colour and the translucency we require.

Once the enamel has been applied and fired satisfactorily, each enamelled pen part is individually ground with a diamond or carborundum file to smooth and shape the surface and ensure the enamel is of the correct depth to allow the guilloché (engraved pattern) on the metal underneath to show through.

Finally, the pen is buffed and polished to give maximum ‘show’ to the translucent enamel and the guilloché pattern.

As you might imagine, with a process that’s as technically challenging as this, and using completely natural materials, there has to be an extraordinary amount of painstaking examination at every stage. Of course, there are sometimes tiny spots or blemishes in the enamel – they are inevitable where natural materials are being used. We like to think of them as ‘signatures’ or birthmarks confirming the natural origins, uniqueness and character of each enamelled pen we produce.

The finished result is truly a work of art. There’s nothing mass-produced or mechanical about these pens, simply old-fashioned British craftsmanship, expertise and pride in the finished result.”

Without doubt, the enamelling process when applied to guilloché engraved sterling silver or gold creates a pen which bears all the hallmarks of true artistic and creative genius. As Fabergé discovered, the combination of translucent vitreous enamel and guilloché engraved sterling silver or gold is simply stunning!

A luxury enamelled fountain pen bearing the Onoto marque is the epitome of the very highest British craftsmanship; tactile and sumptuous to hold; perfectly balanced; a prized possession that will be used with pride, and admired and cherished for generations to come. And now YOU know the secret processes which lie behind its creation.

London Pen show


The full range of Onoto pens was on display at the recent London Pen Show, where Onoto CEO Alastair Adams presented a Magna Writer to the lucky winner of a prize draw held by the organisers, the Writing Equipment Society.

Winner Carol Huff, an expert calligraphist, was delighted with her prize!


"I've got an old Onoto pen. Can you help me?"

That's the cry for help we most often receive from people these days. And it's not surprising. Before we resurrected the brand in 2004 to create luxury fountain pens, a variety of Onoto pens had been manufactured over a 53-year period from 1905 to 1958. And that means there are likely to be tens of thousands of those vintage pens still in existence - some in excellent condition and still in use, but many rather worse for wear.

So if you have bought, found or been given a vintage Onoto and it’s not in full working order, what can you do?

Fortunately, there are still many vintage Onoto enthusiasts out there who have turned their hobby into a business by specialising in the renovation and repair of Onoto pens. Generally, the repairs are not expensive and can turn an unloved and unused pen into an everyday favourite.

Here are the contact details for two UK-based vintage Onoto specialists who would be happy to look at your pen and provide a repair/service estimate:

The Pen Museum: Peter Twydle
Email - curator@penmuseum.co.uk
Web - www.penmuseum.co.uk/repairs.htm

Pen Practice: Dr Laurence Oldfield
Email - laoldfield@lineone.net
Web - www.penpractice.com

I am sure one of them will be able to help you.

Magna Writer earns rave reviews…

Formally launched early this year, the new Onoto Magna Writer is the first acrylic fountain pen we have produced in the "new era". We did so after many, many pen collectors and aficionados from around the world had begged us to produce a pen which had the classic Onoto style but was more affordable than the luxury silver and gold editions we produce.

The result was the Magna Writer, available in either classic black or rich blue acrylic.
Dedicated to English writers through the ages, each Magna Writer is accompanied by a selection of blotters overprinted with classic quotes about writing by some of England's finest authors.

Each Magna Writer bears the traditional engraving 'ONOTO THE PEN, Made in England' on the barrel and the first 100 pens of each colour have gilded sterling silver fittings (clip, rings and end buttons). And of course, you can rely on the same 18 carat gold nib we use in all out luxury pens, in fine, medium or broad styles.

Here's what one of our collectors has to say about the Magna Writer:

"I just wanted to let you know that the Magna Writer landed this morning and I have already put it to use. Very nice all around, to be sure. Great, classic design and it writes perfectly out of the box... which is not the case with far too many of the high-end pens I've bought in recent years. Thanks for the nice-writing pen. I think it will become part of my regular rotation." Robert Wallack, Maine USA.

If you'd like to add a modern Onoto to your collection, go to www.onoto.com/magnawriter.asp - and don't forget, there's never been a better time to buy an Onoto!

And finally...

We've just taken delivery of the first batch
of new luxury presentation boxes which have been created exclusively for Onoto.

These exquisite presentation boxes and made from burr wood and decorated throughout with champagne-coloured nabuka fabric.

Each box comes with a bottle of Onoto ink and a sturdy pen case for carrying your pen in your pocket of briefcase to avoid scratching.

The internal display can be easily lifted out of the box and features a 10-pen tray on the reverse - perfect for serious collectors to use as either a display or for carrying them in the box. www.onoto.com/accessories.asp


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We very much hope that you find the newsletter of interest.
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© The Onoto Pen Company Registered address:
Colney Hall, Colney, Norwich NR4 7TY
United Kingdom www.onoto.com
Registered No. 3744683
+44 (0)1603 811165