On seeing the new pen one immediately notices the case-hardened metal parts and the fine engravings. Until the late 19th century, case hardening was the sign of a high-quality gun, with the inimitable shimmering coloration it provides. For centuries, the technique was handed down by word of mouth and was something of a secret art. The metal parts are usually packed in carbonized leather and heated to convert the surface into steel; the colours appear on cooling. Some 20 parameters contribute to the beautiful visual effect, including the thickness of the metal, the temperature, and the rate of cooling. With long experience a craftsman can influence the results but never predict them precisely, so no two case-hardened items are identical. The effect is rounded off by elaborate gold damascene work. Nowadays there are only very few traditional workshops that can carry out these two ancient skills in the way that the Pen of the Year 2010 demonstrates. Before the case hardening, the engraver cuts a groove with a dovetail cross-section, and the 24-carat gold inlay is later set into it, which is then polished. A perfect result requires great skill and precision.
The material of the barrel of the pen fully matches up to the claim of exclusivity: precious Caucasian nut wood. Stored for many years, walnut wood is tough and not particularly elastic but it does not warp or splinter. It also better withstands compression and flexing forces than oak. In short, it is the ideal wood for the stock of a gun ? and for very special writing implements. It possesses a beautiful figuring, with fine but marked patterns. The hand-carved ?fish scales? pattern rounds off the overall effect of the barrel.
There is another reason why the walnut tree produces some of the most valuable of woods. It is not enough to fell the trees: the stumps have to be dug out, because the best figured wood is in the roots that go deep into the ground. No other tree warrants this time-consuming excavation. Appropriately, the walnut has always possessed something of a mystic aura. Its majestic bearing and prolific cropping meant that it was associated with royalty and fertility.
The valuable wood of the barrel and the masterfully crafted metal parts make the Pen of the Year 2010 an exclusive and individual fountain pen. The 18-carat bicolour gold nib is available in the line widths F, M, and B, each one ?run in? by hand. The platinum-plated end cap, decorated with a case-hardened metal disc, protects the knob for the plunger mechanism, on which each pen is individually numbered. The case has a lid made of walnut veneer. A certificate testifies that the pen with its 24-carat gold inlays is one of a limited edition.
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