DIY Ink Sample Storage Tray

You know how one ink sample turns into two, which turns into five, which turns into twenty? I’ve been sampling a lot more inks lately and I reached the point where storing my ink vials in a plastic bag just wasn’t getting it done.

So I made an ink sample storage tray out of a candy box and a sheet of styrene plastic.

Yes, you can buy a fancy plastic tray like this or re-purpose a marker tray, but I had the raw materials at hand and the time to build a tray to my exact specifications.

The part that holds the vials is a sheet of styrene plastic 0.06″ (1.52mm) thick. It’s rigid enough to do the job without being too heavy.

First, I cut the sheet down to fit inside the candy box. Then, I marked out a 3cm grid to indicate where to drill each hole. I chose 3cm spacing because I didn’t want the vials to be too crowded together — my biggest complaint with the Goulet tray.

I used a center punch on each spot where a hole needed to be drilled, and then I used a step bit to drill a small pilot hole. Using a center punch before drilling helps keep the bit from wandering when you start a new hole.

Then I used a little chunk of magic called a step bit to enlarge the pilot holes into 5/8″ holes. If you’ve never seen a step bit before, it’s basically several sizes of bits in one, and it’s ideal for cutting and enlarging holes in thin materials such as plastic and sheet metal.

(The piece of tape is there to keep me from drilling too far and making the hole too big.)

After I drilled out a few holes, I did a test fit to see how they worked with a vial. These are Goulet ink sample vials, and the 5/8″ hole size was perfect.1

I cut a wine cork to make some supports for the tray, and hot glued them into each corner.

I noticed that the plastic sheet was sagging a little in the middle, so I used some scrap styrene to make some supports. Styrene plastic is easy to solvent weld using methyl ethyl ketone (MEK). It’s not glue; it actually melts the plastic together so the resulting bonds are very strong once they cure.2

I’d call this test a success. The labels on the vials are easy to read, and the vials are spaced wide enough apart to be easy to grab.

All that’s left to do is drill out the rest of the holes.

Most people will probably want to buy a solution for their ink storage problem, but it’s not too difficult to build exactly what you want if you’ve got the right tools and materials at hand.

1 Some ink sample vials look like Goulet vials but are actually slightly larger. I decided to stick with 5/8″ holes for this tray, but you might need to use an 11/16″ hole if you have these larger vials.

2 MEK is what the pro restorers use to weld celluloid, like you’d find in a vintage pen.

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Any proceeds received will go directly to purchasing a paid hosting plan for this blog from WordPress.

Stuff For Sale, And a Sneak Peek at an Old Sheaffer

I’ve got a couple of notebook items I need to get rid of (including an elusive Seven Seas notebook!) so I’ve created a new page for them here: items for sale.

To keep this post pen-related, here’s a sneak peek of what I’ve been working on lately:

This is a Sheaffer Balance Sovereign c. 1938-1942. It’s one of six old Sheaffers I picked up this weekend. Unfortunately, the square-ish plastic bit near the top of the photo is broken off from the feed. 😦 And one of the tines on the nib was broken, so I ground it down into an italic. I plan on turning this pen into an eyedropper until I can find a suitable donor pen to refurbish the vacuum-filler with.

Hidden In Plain Sight

Yesterday, I was wandering downtown when I stumbled across a bookbinding shop tucked partway down a side street. I had no idea this shop existed despite living here for over a decade. Clearly I need to explore more.

While the shop is focused on binding, repairs, and restorations, they had a tiny selection of handmade journals that included this adorable little gem. Look how it makes an A6 Hobonichi look big!

The notebook is covered in soft black leather, the kind of leather that makes you want to hold it in your hand because it feels so nice.

Check out the colors and pattern on the endpapers.

The binding is section sewn and the pages measure an enormous 2″ x 3″ (5.1cm x 7.6cm). The paper is fairly thick and has a little bit of tooth.

Unfortunately, I don’t know if the paper is fountain pen friendly. I haven’t done any test scribbling — this li’l book deserves to be used for something special!

If guests at Deetjen’s could access Wi-Fi or peck away at cell phones in their cabins, perhaps fewer people would spend hours curled up with the journals. (The isolation from the breaking-news feed is total: Berto, for instance, who stayed at Deetjen’s on September 11, 2001, mentions only cheese and wine and Castro Cabin’s cozy front porch.) It’s become commonplace to ruminate on the ways social media estrange us, or how emails confound style and epistolary grace. But each time I visit Deetjen’s I’m reminded of the extraordinarily deep connections I feel with these other vulnerable, wondering pilgrims. I see their ropy cursive, their off-kilter printing, their gestural sketches and I touch the pages with my hand. None of which I could do at my computer screen. None of which has anything to do with humble-brags, polemical rants, or gratuitous selfies. Here, there’s a tangible space—nine-by-twenty, creekside—for the self to slowly unfold.

—Anna Journey, “A Close Reading of the Greatest Guest Book in the World

Librarians Don’t Have Time For Your Flourishes

image

Influenced by Edison and honed via experimenting on patient, hand-sore librarians, library hand focused on uniformity rather than beauty. “The handwriting of the old-fashioned writing master is quite as illegible as that of the most illiterate boor,” readNew York State Library School handbook. “Take great pains to have all writing uniform in size, blackness of lines, slant, spacing and forms of letters,” wrote Dewey in 1887. And if librarians thought they could get away with just any black ink, they could think again real fast. “Inks called black vary much in color,” scoffed the New York State Library School handwriting guide.

—Ella Morton, Atlas Obscura, “Library Hand, the Fastidiously Neat Penmanship Style Made for Card Catalogs