A New Hobby?

About a month ago I saw a post on a local facebook group which was advertising a weekend course leading to the Foundation Amateur Radio Licence exam.

In my teens/early twenties, I used to do a lot of shortwave listening. It started with an old radio which I used to listen to shortwave broadcast stations at night - in the days when there were plenty of them around. I later moved on to a Lowe HF-225 which enabled me to listen to SSB transmissions as well.

When I moved to London I made more use of my scanner, on airband. I used to sit on my balcony and watch Concorde fly over while listening to the pilots talk to Heathrow approach.

I did investigate taking my amateur exam, but it seemed in the too difficult category back then. The lowest grade was the Novice exam and for someone who happily left physics behind at the age of 16, it was a little off-putting. Plus, the Novice licence didn't allow access to the HF bands, which seemed a little restricting to me.

Fast-forward to 2014 and here was this post… Places available on a two-day course. I looked up the Foundation licence and it appeared to be eminently achievable. It seemed as though fate was about to intervene to rekindle and extend my old hobby. I duly booked onto the course and a couple of weekends ago I headed off to the local radio club for my tuition. I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend, despite being a little nervous. It turned out there were only two students, so it was a very relaxed setting. I learned loads and, best of all, passed my practical tests and the exam, so am now the holder of a licence and an M6 call-sign. I am looking forward to exploring some of the myriad of avenues open to a licensed amateur.

I know that modern technology has taken over from a lot of the old amateur interests, but they are still out there. Phone signals go down in emergencies, phone batteries don't last long. Handheld radios do. Computers and the internet, whilst doing away with a lot of the old broadcast shortwave stations, have brought with them additional amateur interests and have extended others. My Dad used to hook the Lowe up to his computer and decode weather fax transmissions. I have weather apps. Times change. During the course, though, I watched data being picked up from amateur high-altitude balloons. Fascinating. Computers have added a lot of data modes to amateur radio, as well as things like Echolink, which I might investigate at some point. Amateurs now monitor, and use, satellites. They do moonbounce contacts. Oh, and someone built a space station and the astronauts on it use amateur radio to talk to people on earth. Imagine the thrill of speaking to an astronaut on the ISS! I will be listening in at least.

I have yet to speak to anyone, but then I only have a 2m/70cms cheapie (but very usable) Chinese radio. That said, last weekend a new repeater fired up pretty local to me. Excellent reception, so I have been listening in to some of the testing that has been done.

So much still to explore and learn; this is just the beginning of my adventures in amateur radio.

Diamine Autumn Oak Ink

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Another ink I had to wait for. Then, when I got it, I put it in one of my Parker 45s (the one that now has Marine in it), No amount of soaking or flushing was successful in eradicating all traces of my usual black ink, so I had to abandon using the autumn oak.  Also, I decided it would probably look better in a wider nib, so I loaded my Safari with it.

I think this was a good decision: I intend to use this ink for decorative lettering, so having a wider nib is more useful. However, this nib/pen seems to run a little dry with this ink, so I have to be careful to avoid gaps.  I have only used this combination, so I have no comparison to make with this ink in other wide-nibbed pens, or other ink in this pen. That said, I shall continue to use it as it's  lovely compromise between orange and brown for me.

Diamine Marine Ink

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When I first decided to try this ink it was out of stock. That got me the misty blue, which I like.

I now have the marine and I love it. For me it's just the right mix of blues and greens. It comes out  with a nice intensity. In the Parker 45 it has a wonderful depth. In my Rialto it appears paler - intriguing how an ink can look so different in different pens. It's still a lovely colour though, just paler.

 I can see this ink being in regular use. I would happily use it as an everyday colour

Kaweco Skyline Sport Classic

I bought this pen partly out of curiosity, partly purely because it came in a mint green colour and I love mint green.

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It's relatively cheap and to be honest, it looks and feels cheap. When I hold the pen I can feel the joint between the nib section and body move slightly. 

I will be sticking with cartridges for this pen, as the filler is likely to be pretty teeny; indeed I haven't read a good review of the bottled ink converters.

I opted for a medium nib, as it's my preferred width. As with my Parker Rialto, this medium has a slightly flat appearance, so there's a discernible difference in stoke width. To my mind, that alters the look of my writing - and not necessarily for the better.

The nib is ok - I have had some skips and false starts. It isn't nearly as gorgeous as the nib on the Faber-Castell Loom. As said earlier, I don't think it quite suits my writing style.

I have used two ink colours in it so far and it doesn't seem to produce the colour depth that some of my other pens do. Diamine's imperial purple looked a bit more like a pale violet than the rich depth I get when using it my Faber-Castell.

The pen is as light as a feather and teeny when closed. It needs to be posted, or it is a bit short for writing with. After several days of usage the nib still skips a bit. Other than that the pen is easy to use. I have been writing with it quite a lot, to see what I think of it.  For jotting down quick notes it is fine and for a smaller hand it would be a great pen. For me, the barrel is just a little narrow to be comfortable for a long writing session, as I have large hands. I have a similar problem with my Parker Rialto and for that reason I prefer to write with my chunkier pens.

These Kawecos get good reviews, for value for money and, apparently, for being extremely robust. I have no desire to test that, but it is small (and cheap) enough to drop into a small purse or bag.  

In conclusion, this is a perfectly useable pen, good value for money and easy to chuck into a bag. That said, it's a little too small for my hand and I doubt I would buy another Kaweco Sport.

Faber Castell Loom

I bought this pen purely because of its looks. I opted for the violet cap.

It arrived in a very nice, card, presentation box, in a nice sleeve. For a £25 pen I thought the presentation was excellent. The box contained a cartridge and also a cartridge blank. The Loom takes the short cartridges and the length of the barrel means you can use the blank to ensure the cartridge remains securely attached to the feed. You could also do that with a spare cartridge. I bought the Faber-Castell converter, though, as I prefer to use bottled ink. There's something I find quite soothing about the act of filling a pen from a bottle of ink.

The Loom is heavy, possibly the heaviest fountain pen I have, weighing in at 34g. My Parker IM is 30g and my TWSBI 580 is 28g, although it really doesn't feel like it.

The Loom looks gorgeous, it really does.

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I currently have it filled with Diamine Imperial Purple and the colour on the page seems much more intense than the same ink in either the Kaweco Skyline Sport, or the Parker Rialto (all three with a medium nib). Mind you, both the Kaweco and the Rialto have a definite breadth to the nib, almost as though they have a flattened tip. The Loom produces a very nice, rounded line.

The nib on this pen is quite possibly the smoothest I have ever written with, it really is. It just glides across the page, it really is beautiful to write with. Unfortunately in use the pen is a little fatiguing, because it's so heavy. 

Some reviews have commented that the grip on the Loom is slippery. I haven't found this to be the case at all. My Parker IM does have a slippery grip, as is sometimes the way with a metal barrel. The Loom doesn't, nor do the horizontal grooves bother me much.

The cap is a very firm fit - it can be hard to get off the pen. It comes in a range of stunning colours (yes I am tempted to buy more and fill them with matching ink colours), but it does feel quite plastic.

The pen can be used posted or unposted and the cap doesn't really alter the balance much, which is handy.

Overall I am very impressed with this pen. The only negative at all is that it is a little heavy. Aside from that, it is an absolute winner. And that nib… it pushes this pen into a close second place, after my trusty Parker 45, with its 14k gold nib.

TWSBI Diamond 580

I have had this pen for a month now and I am impressed. It has quickly become my daily pen, partly because I tend to write a lot and this pen holds a lot of ink.

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Initially I thought the nib was a little scratchy, compared with my Lamy Al-Star, which is my only other fine nib pen. However, it seems to have settled down quite nicely. I am aware of it when I write, but that isn't a major problem.  As this is my daily pen it is filled with Parker black Quink - the ink I have used since childhood. It holds almost 2ml of ink and so far I have only had to fill it once a week, which is great. I would feel comfortable going away with just this pen (I write a lot of notes for work, plus a daily journal - away from home I only write the journal). 

The pen weighs in similar to my Parker IM, despite being plastic compared to the metal of the Parker. However, it doesn't feel as heavy in the hand. The grip is fine for my hands, although in a small hand it might seem large. 

It starts well every time, with no skipping or false starts.

On some papers (Leuchtturm, I'm looking at you) it can seem to lay down a thin, weedy line of black. I think that might be partly down to the fine nib and that black is somewhat unforgiving in this respect. On typing paper, it looks fine.

As someone who always posts her pens, it seems odd not to, but with the TWSBI one can't - or shouldn't, as the cap only posts on the very end, so there's a risk of turning the filling mechanism when removing the cap.

I haven't had the pen for long, so can't really comment on how robust it is. I have slight concerns about the possibility that it might leak - I'm not used to a pen where the body is the ink chamber. This worries me a little, but I am not usually rough with my pens and the way it writes and the amount of ink it holds mean it has become my daily use pen very quickly. At the moment it is contentedly tucked into my Midori TN.

The Whistle Blew

And it was all over. England beat Wales in Cardiff. Wales were good in the first half, but different teams came out for the second half.  I was disappointed, of course, but, more than that, I felt as though there was no point watching rest of the Six Nations, as we could no longer get the grand slam (or the triple crown). Yet we can still win the championship - this was the first match of the tournament. So, I shall continue to watch, but losing to the old rivals, in the opening game, that stung and took away a chunk of anticipation. Here's hoping it's a long time until Wales and England next meet in the first match.

Calligraphy - maybe

This week I received yet another impulse purchase: a couple of calligraphy books and a new set of pens. I have a set of Schaeffer pens, but they are very old, not well cared for and only take cartridges, so I decided to replace them with a set of Manuscript ones. So far, so good. I am now spending spare moments making shapes on paper that I haven't done for years. Hopefully I will be able to pick it up again fairly quickly. Nothing fancy, just a spot of italic and Old English style. I don't have a nib flexible enough for Copperplate; the softest I have is my shorthand pen, which isn't really good enough. 

Considering I make greetings cards, it is odd that I let my calligraphy slide. I think I dropped it at University. I had problems with tendons in my hands and my priority was definitely continuing to play the piano - and basic writing. This was in the days when essays were hand-written. Fortunately I was able to reduce the strain on my hands by switching from right- to left-hand writing and vice versa. I had problems with my ring and little finger on my right hand, which meant I couldn't grip anything, or, really, use either of the fingers for quite a while. I also had a bifurcated tendon in my left hand: the one that works the thumb. That eventually got surgery, after cortisone injections failed to work. Apparently it's not that common a condition and the surgery worked well.

I still have problems with my hands and have to be careful to vary my movements to avoid any RSI. Well, that's my excuse for having some beading, some knitting, some crochet, some sewing and some embroidery all on the go at the same time: I have to switch regularly. Oh and varying the musical instruments I play, too. Last night it was a spot of mandolin practice, which only served to remind me how soft the pads on the fingers of my left hand had become. Ouch.

Diamine Imperial Purple Ink

Diamine Imperial Purple

Wow, the paper has come out very grey in this shot - the bottom half of the same photo as the Misty Blue Ink!  Even so, I think the ink colour shows reasonably well.  

I really like this colour.  I'm a big fan of purple, but also very fussy about the shade.  So many purples are too blue, or far too pink.  This has a nice balance - deserving the "Imperial" name, in my opinion.

I have loaded this into my Parker Rialto, which is a medium nib and a very nice pen to write with.  I can see myself using this colour for writing short notes, or greetings cards, quite happily.   It may well get pressed into use to add small areas of colour to some Zentangle work that I do.  In short; a generally useful ink to have.  Yes, very pleased with this one.

Diamine Misty Blue Ink

Diamine Misty Blue

One of my new inks. I ordered this one as Marine was out of stock. I had decided that was my preferred ink. However, Misty Blue was my second choice.

Ever since being forced to use Royal Blue Washable ink at primary school, I have rebelled against all blue inks. For day-to-day writing I still use Parker Black Quink. It has served me well over the years and I don't intend to change.

However, I decided that I had far too many pens with black ink in and I could probably make good use of some different colours, particularly when making greetings cards. When I put my order in for a new fountain pen (a TWSBI Diamond 580), I added three bottles of ink, of which this is one.

This is a photograph of a sample, admittedly not taken in the best quality light, as it is a drizzly winter day. I think the colour looks reasonably accurate though, just slightly darker than "real life".

I like this ink and I can see myself using it, possibly even as a general writing colour. It is a reasonable compromise between too-blue and too-turquoise. The depth of colour is nice and it manages to make my shocking handwriting look half-way decent. Sometimes with a fine nib, black ink can look a little thin, whereas this doesn't.

In summary, pleased with the purchase.