Beyond repair: Faber-Castell Scribolino

This could be also a #100wears post or no post at all as this is not about garments. But having my favorite pen dying felt much more important than many of my clothing acquisitions or bye-byes, so here we go…

There are a couple of contextual things I have to establish for you to grasp the importance of my pen for me:

(a) I am a writing / doodling / drawing creature. I write my morning pages and to-do lists. I keep a paper agenda. I draw a lot. And I am the person who will be doodling while listening in class, both if the contents are gripping and if I’m bored. This is to say that I use writing implements probably much more than the average millennial.

(b) Writing and drawing tools have been fascinating me for a long time. One of my biggest pleasures as a child above the age of 7 was getting some colorful pens. That was around 1995, they were a new thing in the post-Soviet geography, they weren’t cheap… and I loved them. The sparkly ones, the neon ones, the perfumed markers, the stamp markers. Oh! I was a drawing creature back then too.

(c) I ditched the ballpoint pen long time ago. Exactly as the jelly rollers and Stabilo Point 88 were coming in, I realized that the ubiquitous ballpoint was a torture implement designed to make people allergic to writing. While I have come across one that I liked writing with since then (the Latvian Youth Council branded ones around 2006 that just happened to be comfy), I’ve been writing with no-to-little pressure tools since I was around 12. If I find myself in need to pick up a ballpoint today, it really feels awful and I do not understand how millions around the world can use that thing.

(d) And sometime later I discovered fountain pens. Here a tip of my hat goes to my first visual arts teacher who had us, gnomes between the ages of 7 and 11, working a lot with Indian ink in her weekly classes… and applying it with loose nibs attached to a pencil or brush handle with a string or wire, not even proper pens. It could have been because it was cheap. Again, those were the mid-1990s in Latvia. So I wasn’t afraid of nibs. And the idea of a fountain pen seemed cool. I might have been 15 or so when I bought a very cheap one… and was hooked. No pressure on the paper, felt artsy, could can mix colors by switching the cartridges. I remember that my physics teacher once asked to see with what the hell I was writing with as she couldn’t read a thing from my exam. She blamed the pen, I still think it was just my handwriting.

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One of those cheap fountain pens + Stabilo Point 88. February 2008, Ciudad Real.

So I was playing with fountain pens and using them parallely to other stationery, especially the Stabilo Point 88… but with years it kind of narrowed and when entering in the University in 2009 I had *my pen* and pretty much refused to write with anything else. That pen was a Faber-Castell Scribolino. This one:

October 2009, Brussels. Several Stabilo Point 88 in the background.

I must have stumbled upon it after my n-th cheapest fountain pen had died in a shop in Rīga – Valda Ošiņa rakstāmlietas – that for years has been selling quality stationery, including the Faber-Castell goodies. The price was much more than I had ever paid for a pen but still felt reasonable. It must have been 15€ or so. The brutal design and color amused me… And so did the fact that these are made for children: ‘all features designed to support your child in taking his or her initial steps towards learning to write’. And raises a question why can’t adults have comfy pens…

A throughout scraping of my photo archive has revealed, though, that the green pen didn’t last long. I mostly lost pens instead of breaking them then… and by May 2010 I had replaced it with this nameless blue one:

I still remember my frustration when I realized that I had lost that blue one even sooner than the previous one. But I did it on my way back to Rīga after my first BA year, so I marched right into the same shop and got me another Scribolino, a pink one:

The compositions I deemed to be a good idea in November 2011, Salamanca.

And it lasted exactly a year, as my data suggests that at least between June and November 2012 I was writing with this anonymous Kukuxumusu-themed pen:

And now, only after this double intro of 700+ words comes she, the Scribolino that stayed with me from 2013 till the last week when she was officially pronounced dead by the very helpful people at Casa de la Estilográfica. If you ever want to talk fountain pens in Barcelona, btw, those are your people…

Yes, it is exactly the same Scribolino in pink again. But with the difference that it stayed with me for ~6.5 years being my precious. And was omnipresent throughout the MA and PhD, all the travels, all the random flatlays, including my ‘see the typical contents of my bag’ post of 2018. It has been the little pink ‘where’s Waldo’ that always seemed cheerful. And people asked weird questions and – most often – couldn’t write with it even when trying. I can think of only one person who has ever asked to try my fountain pen and actually been successful at writing with it properly.

June 2013, Salamanca.

May 2014, a train station somewhere in the UK.

July 2015, Barcelona.

April 2016, New York.

August 2017, Barcelona.

June 2018, Brussels.

September 2019, Rīga.

And it was while using this pen that somebody (I really don’t remember who) told me that the an old wisdom says that one should never lend one’s quill, horse or wife because you have them molded to your taste and other person either could not use them or would break them in differently… Well, at least about quills/nibs that is true. The rest of the sexist implications of this piece of wisdom you will have to figure out on your own.

But the deformation is real. And not only of the nib, here you have a comparison between that 2013 Scribolino that has been in active use since then and a new one:


Yes, the innumerable hours of use had sculpted away the grippy part as to make to underlying white plastic visible! And the initial shape has been heavily altered for it being a supposedly solid thing (already ergonomically molded, supposedly). And here is the autopsy pic which explains both this post and why I have a brand new one to make this side-by-side comparison:

The nib is broken and the ink does not flow through it properly. I asked the Casa de la Estilográfica people who recommended just buying new instead of changing the nib. And after going to all the big stationery shops in Barcelona – and unable to wait for more than a month without a pen (read: this pen) until I get to Rīga in December – I just ordered one online (17.55€).

It does not feel the same. It could be that Faber-Castell has started to skimp on materials in the last 6 years: the grippy parts that felt silicone-like on the pink pen feels distinctly plastic on this one. I really hope that it might change with rigorous contact with my greasy hands. The nib is finer, too. And I don’t like it as much for drawing… Here again I hope that I will just wear that iridium tip down to a wider stroke. Funny how I notice all the little differences. We were very close with the pink one, after all. I’m now doubting if I should’ve tried to insist on just changing the nib… Well, as this blue Scribolino will hopefully be my new best friend until at least 2025, we better make it work.

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Do you have similar utensil / stationery / everyday things compulsions? Something that very few people seem to care about but you just cannot use whatever? (I could also write posts on notebooks, agendas, and paper in general, mind you.) Do you have a recommendation for a great pen/marker/notebook I should take a look at? In Barcelona the ‘cheap but reasonable’ end seems to be dominated by basic Lamy fountain pens. I tried one in the Casa de la Estilográfica, and it felt quite dreamy… ♥

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Luīze

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