All about pens

Today I saw an hour-long demonstration by a professor at Rice, all about pens. It was very interesting!

He had a pen straight out of the 1800s, or 1700s. It doesn’t look like a pen; it looks like something you’d have in a toolbox to scrape paint. It’s a wooden stick to grip, and then it has a metal “nib” on the top. There’s no thin tube of ink on the inside, indeed, there’s no space to shove in such a tube in the first place. Instead, you have a little pot of black ink beside you, and you actually sit and dip your pen in the inkpot, and then you write or scribble or draw a few strokes, and then back you are in the inkpot, dipping your pen. This is called a “dipping-pen”. I’m amazed! I never knew that was how it worked. What in the world. So that’s how they wrote in the olden days, apparently. You just dipped your dipping-pen into a pot of ink, and that would be enough ink to maybe write a word, and then you dip and repeat.

Also, did you know that you can apparently (try to) take a syringe, break into your pen, squeeze all the ink out with the syringe, and then replace it with whatever type and whatever color ink you like? Sometimes it works, sometimes you just destroy the pen.

What if you forget to write the zip code on a piece of mail?

I dropped three postcards in a rush into a blue mail pick-up bin in Union Station in Los Angeles on a Monday evening in December. In my hurry, I had forgotten to write the zip code of the delivery address on two of those postcards (I wrote the addresses down from memory, and meant to double-check the zip codes of two of them later). The sole postcard with the complete address arrived in rural North Carolina on Saturday. A postcard missing its zip code arrived on the Eastern Shore of Maryland on the following Thursday. And the last postcard was also delivered around the same time, zip code-less, to Houston. So forgetting the zip code adds about 5 days or so to the journey of your mail.

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Rushed photo at the central train station in Los Angeles

Pretty stationary

As I wound down my PhD, I started spending more time at the UNC Makerspace. That’s where you can use a laser cutter or a vinyl cutter, do some 3D printing, or duck into the woodshop, and use fancy bottles of glue, and get access to paint and a sewing machine and more and more. I always wish I could have spent more time there.

I made a design of an angel based on an outline from works of a Swedish sculptor. A student working at the Makerspace helped me figure out how to go from the picture of the angel to just the outline that I needed in Adobe Illustrator.

First, I just made stickers of the angel, cut into vinyl:

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I tweaked it a few times, and finally, I stuck two angels together, so that they formed the letter “L”. I also spelled out o -v – e, so the entire thing looked something like:

love

And then, I half-way laser-cut that angel onto this piece of printed paper:

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It’s only half-way laser-cut so that the angel doesn’t fall out. So you can see the outline, but the angel stays attached. Who knew a laser could cut a depth with that much precision?

I already wrote the letter on it, so the streaks are where I smeared the ink out. I thought the angel looked very nice with the fairies, and you know, this is a one of a kind production! No other piece of fairy paper like that has this exact angel on it. So I sent this to a very special person.

And I also made some other laser-cut “angel L’s” that did pop out, like this:

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I think they are very, very pretty. I always wondered, when I saw intricate designs cut out, “did they really do that with scissors?” Now I know it’s with the laser!