Monday, March 21, 2016
Forgotten Drafting and Engineering Equipment
Recently I retired from a technical job at a laboratory. Cleaning out my desk and file cabinet drawers was a walk down memory lane as I put rulers, protractors, graded pencils, and other old tools in a cardboard box. We recently hired many new MS. and Ph.D. students. They are all sharp and incredibly energetic (unlike me), but we old-timers have noted that all they have ever used in their work is computer equipment. I was surprised that many had never used India ink pens or other drafting equipment. Some were amazed that we used to contour bathymetry and draw maps by hand. This blog usually deals with urban decay, so let's expand it to engineering decay.
Finally, we have a fountain pen, in this example, the famous Parker 75 Sterling Cicelé from 1964. I have always used a fountain pen but find less and less opportunity to write with one because most contemporary paper is unsuitable and the ink bleeds. Luxury fountain pens have enjoyed a revival (similar to top-end mechanical watches), and some pens sell for $ thousands.
As you write and push down on the paper, the tip flexes and ink flows along the two halves to the tip, which is a combination of metals such as ruthenium, tungsten and rhenium. Traditionally, the best nibs were 18-karat-gold because the soft metal flexes and gently flows over the paper. Steel and lower grades of gold were scratchy, but now specialty steels may have solved that problem.
This has been a short survey of some of the contents in my desk. There were many other drafting tools in use before the 1980s such as Leroy Lettering Sets, pantographs, rub-on letters and textures, and pencils of various hardness. Will an archaeologist 100 years from now know how they were used? (Will a college graduate 2 years from now know how they were used?).