Fountain Pens

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bunnspecial

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Thought some of you all might enjoy this-here's a 149 completely taken apart.

This is an older one-the same one with the cracked barrel I've mentioned. I think I FINALLY have the crack patched correctly, but I've had another issue with the piston seal leaking. This particular piston was only used for a few years in the 1960s, and replacements are seemingly non-existent. I've reconciled to slathering it with silicone grease and hoping for the best.
 

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MissNomer

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I still remember being told we HAD to use fountain pens when I first started Secondary School and I have to admit I have fond memories of spending time in our local WH Smiths looking not just for pens, but for the refills as well..

Not used a fountain pen for a while, since most of my note talking is on my iPad but I do like to entertain the idea.
 

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Thought some of you all might enjoy this-here's a 149 completely taken apart.

This is an older one-the same one with the cracked barrel I've mentioned. I think I FINALLY have the crack patched correctly, but I've had another issue with the piston seal leaking. This particular piston was only used for a few years in the 1960s, and replacements are seemingly non-existent. I've reconciled to slathering it with silicone grease and hoping for the best.

Gorgeous.
 
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bunnspecial

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If I haven't let on to this, I really like Parkers, and expecially vintage Parkers, a lot. It's my second favorite brand next to Montblanc, and at the moment actually outnumbers MB in my collection(that will change with a few planned MB purchases...)

In any case, a few posts ago I talked about the Duofold, and specifically my modern "Big Red."

I've wanted an original "Big Red", but they can be fairly valuable. I'd really like a hard rubber one, but they're difficult to even find in passable condition.

Earlier this week, though, I did a bit of dealing on Ebay and managed to get a celluloid "flat top" one(same size/profile as the hard rubber ones) for a reasonable price.

It was really nice cosmetically, but was sold as an estate find and "might need a new ink sac." I've actually never sacced a pen, but have enough that need it and I hate paying ~$50+3 month turn around for what is honestly a fairly straight forward repair.

To expound on that a bit, virtually all self-filling pens(those with a built in filling mechanism) today are piston fillers-a piston moves inside the barrel to draw ink in(see the 149 above). Most converters for cartridge pens also work this way. A small number use a really neat system called a vacuum filler, which works by pushing down a plunger that creates a vacuum in the barrel then "releases" it to allow the nib to soak up ink.

Most of the early self filling pens, though, were what I generically call "sac filling pens." Basically they have a latex rubber sac that is compressed by a pressure bar, expelling air, then released and allowed to suck up ink. The single most common arrangement was a lever set into the side of the pen to press the pressure bar, although there were other arrangements like the button fillers that Parker mostly used. These had a "button" under the blind cap that was pressed to activate the pressure bar. Later, Parker came out with a PVC sac that was filled by pressing directly on the pressure bar-this is called the Aeromatic filler, and is a virtually bulletproof filling system that first was used on Parker 51s and later several other models.

In any case, though, I received the "Big Red", and sure enough it showed no evidence of a functional sac. With that said, often the sac will have petrified, broken up, and can be heard rattling around in the barrel.

Finally, I braved it, opened it up, and saw something interesting. There was what appeared to be a new sac on the pen, but there was also a hole in the side of it

One of George Parker's early claims to fame was something called the "Lucky Curve" feed, which helped prevent the pen from "burping." The earlier Duofolds had it(unless they've been cut off or broken) and the "lucky curve" was what was poking out the ink sac

So, I've ordered some sacs and I'll be attempting this one as my first replacement...
 

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bunnspecial

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This thread requires an update, especially since in the last few weeks I've been "forsaking" my Montblancs a bit(although never without at least a 146 or 149 inked) for Parkers. I've gone a bit nutty over Vacumatics, which were Parker's top model from the early 1930s up unitl the Parker "51" was released in 1941, and I've managed to get some pretty nice Vacs. I've also added another Duofold Centennial, a pen that IMO is one of the best modern designs out there and a pen overlooked all too often.
 

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This thread requires an update, especially since in the last few weeks I've been "forsaking" my Montblancs a bit(although never without at least a 146 or 149 inked) for Parkers. I've gone a bit nutty over Vacumatics, which were Parker's top model from the early 1930s up unitl the Parker "51" was released in 1941, and I've managed to get some pretty nice Vacs. I've also added another Duofold Centennial, a pen that IMO is one of the best modern designs out there and a pen overlooked all too often.

Wow.

Wonderful post.

Terrific to see this thread awakened from its slumber.

Anyway, I can read about fountain pens forever.

How do they "feel" in the hand?

What about "ease" of writing?

For, no pen that I have ever had (a collection that included Papermates, an occasional Parker, Cross, Caran d'Ache, Waterman, Shaeffer among others) wrote as easily, and effortlessly as my Mont Blancs do; they glide across the page, effortlessly, and my wrist is not tired even after hours of writing.

And yes, in recent years, I've minuted and taken detailed notes at meetings.

And, finally, size: I'm a woman, with small hands (hence, I have always found classic Parkers too large and too heavy); the 144 & 145 (MB) are perfect for me; already, the 146 (and I have one) is a little too large to be wholly comfortable in my hand, although it writes beautifully.
 
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bunnspecial

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Wow.

Wonderful post.

Terrific to see this thread awakened from its slumber.

Anyway, I can read about fountain pens forever.

How do they "feel" in the hand?

What about "ease" of writing?

Vacumatics were premium pens. In the Depression years of the 1930s, a Senior Maxima(yes, I have two of them from my recent buying binge) was a $12-15 pen.

Getting into vintage pens is a bit of an adventure always. For one thing, nib sizes run skinnier than modern ones, although rarely will you actually find a nib marked. On US made pens, Fine, Extra fine, and Extra-Extra Fine are all I'd say the norm. Broader nibs are much more common on European pens, particularly Montblancs and Pelikans.

When you find a vintage(and I'm including up through the 50s as a time frame for that) Montblanc, Pelikan, Soennecken, or other German pen it's almost certainly guaranteed to have some flex in the nib. Finer nibs tend to be the most flexible, but even ones like the Pelikan 100NN OBB I have can open up a line width without much effort.

American pens from the "big three"(Parker, Sheaffer, Waterman) from the 1930s on are almost always quite stiff. Waterman in particular was known to make some very flexible nibs, and many 1910s-1920s Watermans are something of a benchmark for flexibility. In a sense, it makes sense because in the US, Spencerian Script was probably still the most common handwriting in the US(at least among those who could afford a fountain pen at all). Spencerian was intended to be written with a flexible pointed dip pen(Gillot 303, which can still be bought new, is the stereotypical Spencerian nib) and even the most flexible fountain pen can't touch a normal flex dip pen nib. On the other hand, in the 1920s on forward, carbon copies became increasingly more common, and stiff nibs were preferred for that(you'll sometimes see a nib described as "Manifold"-that means one specifically designed for this).

With that said, though, I've never used a bad writing Parker Vac. The nibs generally are stiff(except on UK made ones, which can be both broad and flexible) but are incredibly smooth. They're some of the smoothest and most effortless writing nibs I've used. They write with zero pressure on the nibs.

Oversized Vacumatics and the Senior Maxima(the latter is sort of an evolution of the original Oversize) are similar in size and overall feel to a 146. The Duofold Senior is a bit larger.

Among modern Parkers, the Duofold Centennial is roughly a 146 sized pen. The Duofold International is about a Pelikan M600 size, which is similar in diameter to a 145 but a bit longer.

The modern Duofold nibs are, to my taste, some of the best production nibs, although if you want something perfectly smooth they are not for you. I tend to find modern Duofolds to have a bit of feedback. They're about like writing with a well sharpened quality pencil(similar to the Blackwing 602s I prefer) both in feel and sound. I love this, and a lot of my favorite Montblanc nibs write similarly.
 
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bunnspecial

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As much as I love my Montblancs, I'm increasingly becoming a Parker nut and I'm backlogged on updating this thread.

Here's one that's been in my pocket the last few days, though.

This is a Parker 75. In the 1960s, fountain pens were on the decline and Parker had phased out the much-loved 51(which was THE pen of the 40s and 50s, and one of the most popular fountain pens ever produced-I need to make a separate post on them as I have half a dozen...). They basically staked their future on a new model, the 45, which used the then new and uncommon cartridge/converter filling system. The 45 did very well and of course cartridges/converter pens became the norm across the entire industry within a decade. The 45 was made up into the 90s.

Still, though, the 45 was something of a budget pen, and Parker wanted a premium model. Some of the target market was to have a nice gift/presentation pen offering, but they wanted the writing experience to match the price. Along came the 75. It too used the cartridge/converter system of the 45, but used very nice 18K gold nibs and typically premium materials for the barrel. The 75 also survived into the 90s, and was replaced by the Sonnet(still in production).

I've recently acquired a couple of 75s, and some in some interesting laquer finishes along with some really great nibs. This one, however, is THE material/finish associated with the 75. This is sterling silver in what is known as the Cicelé pattern. Supposedly Kenneth Parker, George Parker's son, had a cigarette case with the pattern and asked the designers to recreate it on a pen. This is a pen that is meant to be used, as use keeps the high points shiny but allows for a nice patina to develop in-between. The first runs were actually laquered to look this way out of the box, but later ones were just allowed to develop this over time.

I was afraid that it would be too heavy to use comfortably, but this is a surprisingly light and well balanced pen. This one has a wonderful XF nib.
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As much as I love my Montblancs, I'm increasingly becoming a Parker nut and I'm backlogged on updating this thread.

Here's one that's been in my pocket the last few days, though.

This is a Parker 75. In the 1960s, fountain pens were on the decline and Parker had phased out the much-loved 51(which was THE pen of the 40s and 50s, and one of the most popular fountain pens ever produced-I need to make a separate post on them as I have half a dozen...). They basically staked their future on a new model, the 45, which used the then new and uncommon cartridge/converter filling system. The 45 did very well and of course cartridges/converter pens became the norm across the entire industry within a decade. The 45 was made up into the 90s.

Still, though, the 45 was something of a budget pen, and Parker wanted a premium model. Some of the target market was to have a nice gift/presentation pen offering, but they wanted the writing experience to match the price. Along came the 75. It too used the cartridge/converter system of the 45, but used very nice 18K gold nibs and typically premium materials for the barrel. The 75 also survived into the 90s, and was replaced by the Sonnet(still in production).

I've recently acquired a couple of 75s, and some in some interesting laquer finishes along with some really great nibs. This one, however, is THE material/finish associated with the 75. This is sterling silver in what is known as the Cicelé pattern. Supposedly Kenneth Parker, George Parker's son, had a cigarette case with the pattern and asked the designers to recreate it on a pen. This is a pen that is meant to be used, as use keeps the high points shiny but allows for a nice patina to develop in-between. The first runs were actually laquered to look this way out of the box, but later ones were just allowed to develop this over time.

I was afraid that it would be too heavy to use comfortably, but this is a surprisingly light and well balanced pen. This one has a wonderful XF nib.
IMG_0534.jpeg
IMG_0535.jpeg
Wonderful (and most interesting) post and gorgeous pictures; I look forward to reading about the Parker 51.
 

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Montblancs are wonderful pens. I have a little MB collection going back to the 70s when I first started using them.

I had a similar problem (crack) as bunnspecial some years ago. Sent it to Germany, to Montblanc HQ. Got it back in 2 weeks as brand new. There was no other choice.
 
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bunnspecial

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Montblancs are wonderful pens. I have a little MB collections going back to the 70s when I first started using them.

I had a similar problem (crack) as bunnspecial some years ago. Sent it to Germany, to Montblanc HQ. Got it back in 2 weeks as brand new. There was no other choice.

That's a tempting option, especially since the typical repair price is ~$80.

With that said, in 2021, it's not a particularly appealing option for this pen.

As a 60s pen, it has some features that I'm rather fond of.

For one, it has a 1-piece barrel. Since the mid-80s, the section has been a separate part of the pen on the 146 and 149. The 60s models also have a somewhat different profile at the end of the barrel than the later ones. Second, it has a friction-fit piston, which has the advantage of(slightly) higher ink capacity than the current ones. Third, it has an ebonite feed, which I like far better than the current plastic one(these were hand finished and not injection molded like the current ones).

Montblanc does not stock parts for older models. The only 149 parts they stock are for the current version.

Since they no longer have one piece barrels, the barrel gets swapped for a current design 2 piece one.

The friction piston won't fit the current barrel, so it gets swapped for the current(heavier) brass piston assembly with lower capacity.

The current nib collar won't accept an ebonite feed, so that gets replaced.

The cap threads have been different since some time in the 1990s, so the cap gets replaced.

When it's returned to you, you get what is essentially a new, 2021 production 149 that is fitted with your old nib and clip. Nothing else from your old pen can be reused-even though the barrel is the only thing damaged, it all cascades and essentially you get a new pen. Some people love that. I'd rather keep the character o this pen intact, so I'm searching for a replacement barrel(on the second hand market). It will cost probably double what MB would charge to fix it, but I'll like the fix a lot better.
 

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The Montblanc Meisterstück that I have sent to HQ for repair was a 1994 edition.

I wish you good luck finding the replacement barrel.
 
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bunnspecial

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The Montblanc Meisterstück that I have sent to HQ for repair was a 1994 edition.

I wish you good luck finding the replacement barrel.

Thank you!

1994 would be plastic feed/2 piece barrel etc and very similar to a current production one. Other than some small details in things like clip engravings, they haven't changed a ton since then.

I love how dead reliable the modern 149s are(my newest was made in 2019) but the older ones have a lot of character lacking in current ones. 60s(and earlier) nibs in particular are out of this world.

One of the short list MBs for me is a 1960s tri-tone 14C nib. They're supposed to be nicely flexible. My one referenced above that I need a barrel for is tri-tone 18C and fairly stiff. I'd REALLY love a celluloid 149, but they are kind of ridiculous now.
 
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bunnspecial

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I can be too much of a tinkerer for my own good, and I've really gotten in to Parker Vacumatics lately. They also are deserving of a write-up.

In any case, though, Vacumatics are frequently found non-working thanks to the diaphragm, a $5 part, wearing out. This is a piece of latex rubber with a rather...interesting...shape

IMG_0550.jpeg


To give a bit of history on the Vacumatic:

The first self pilling(pens with a mechanism that would draw ink into them, rather than having to load ink with an "eyedropper" or other tool) used a latex rubber sac inside the barrel. The sac was/is attached directly to the back of the pen's feed(see my Parker Duofold photos up a bit). Some mechanism is used to activate a metal bar, called the pressure bar, which "squeezes" the air out of the sac, and then releases it. The resulting vacuum draws ink into the pen assuming the nib/section are in a fill bottle. There are numerous ways the pressure bar is activated. The first was simply a metal disk sticking out the side of the pen. A somewhat more elegant solution was the lever, which is pulled down from the side of the pen and then pressed back in to the body. Parker and a lot of European makers preferred button fillers, where a button at the end of the barrel activates the pressure bar-I consider this the most elegant solution.

The sac has problems, though. For one, the ink capacity is limited, and in addition it's difficult to see how much ink is actually present. The sac is also prone to failure, causing ink to leak out of the pen and make a mess.

A couple of things happened in the 1930s that made Parker rethink the idea of the self-filling pen. Celluloid had already proven itself as a reliable and durable material, and it was possible to make it "clear". If ink were placed directly in the barrel, the ink level could be viewed through transparent "stripes" in the celluloid body.

So, the smart guys at Parker got together and developed a new filling mechanism that would allow ink to sit inside the barrel.

Away went the rubber sac and pressure bar. Instead, a sort of "pump" was developed that fit at the end of the barrel. Basically, it would use a latex diaphragm(as pictured above) attached to the end of a "plunger". This completely sealed the end of the barrel. As the plunger was pumped, air would be expelled out of the barrel, and as it was released a vacuum would be created in the barrel that would draw ink in. To make this work efficiently, and also equalize pressure inside and outside the barrel, a breather tube was fitted to the feed-basically when pumping the plunger down, air would take the path of least resistance out of the breather tube, and then ink sucked back through it. ~10 pumps or so would flll the pen completely.

The Vacumatic mechanism worked well enough that the first ~8 years of Parker 51 production used it.

The celluloid construction gave some very beautiful designs, and I need to photograph some of mine for this thread. With that said, the rubber diaphragm, after 70+ years, often is nothing but a petrified mass of rubber.

Replacing it is considered a sort of "next level" pen repair(beyond replacing sacs, etc). One of the reasons for that is it needs a variety of special tools. I've recently purchased a full set of them. Here they are

IMG_0611.jpeg


The cased part is called a "Vacumatic Wrench" and it's sort of the starting point for all of this. A vac wrench is needed to to remove the filling unit fro the pen, the start of all of these repairs.

Once the filling unit is removed, the diaphragm often remains stuck to the barrel, and that's where the two tools to the immediate right come into play. They are used to help extract the remains of the diaphragm from the barrel. The one with the two knurled nuts includes a reamer that's used to scrape all the residue of the old diaphragm out(I've been fighting with one this evening that's taking me a while to get).

Once the filling unit is out of the barrel, the old diaphragm has to be removed from the plunger. It has a small hard rubber ball in the tip which fits into a "socket" on the end of the plunger. There are a few ways to extract this, but the company Pen Tooling, which sold a lot of these tools, sells a special reamer designed to partially break up the pellet. The two dental pick tools are then used to pry it the rest of the way out.

The new diaphragm, after being trimmed to length, then needs to be installed. The "pellet" is pushed back into its socket using, what else, another special tool called the "pellet pusher"(orange sleeve above).

Virtually all sac repairs, and the inside of the vac is no exception, need a dry lubricant. As it turns out, 100% talc is the best tool for this, and that's what's in the plastic bad to the top right.

Finally, and this was a bit of an interesting step to me on vac repairs. The Parker repair main described, on reinstalation of the filling unit, that the outside should be coated lightly with "Vacumatic Lubricant". This so-called lubricant was a latex rubber safe water based, water soluble lubricant. Of course, this is long gone, but such products are in fact readily available from non speciality suppliers. As it so happened, I had a bottle of perfectly appropriate "vacumatic lubricant"-a latex safe, very slippery, water based and water soluble lubricant-in the night stand. I'll leave that one there.

I'm nearing completion on my first repair, and hope I can report on it soon.
 

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With the white powder, rubber tubes, and various insertion/extraction tools, this sort of looks like a setup to, umm, pack a drug mule ... :oops:

That's pretty fun stuff, I had no idea any pens used a rubber sac like that, I always assumed they were all rigid tubes with some sort of piston/plunger with an o-ring, some kind of check valve for purging air.
 

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Several years ago, the case cracked on one of my Mont Blancs (MB 144) Meisterstuck pens; that pen had been used (a lot) daily.

Anyway, when I was home on leave, I dropped into the store where I had bought it, from where it was despatched to Germany for repair, and was returned (some time later) in impeccable condition.
 
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bunnspecial

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I ordered the wrench and the talc from England, as that was the only place I could find the wrench in stock and the price on the talc was fair.

In retrospect, I wonder if that bag of white powder was why it took a week to clear customs...

By the way, last night's score after I wrote this post wasn't so great.

I had a really, really stubborn filler in a 51 Aeromatic and ended up sheering it off the barrel. Fortunately it was not a particularly rare color(Dove Gray) and I was fortunate to find an NOS barrel on Ebay within a few minutes for $20. Of course it was in Argentina with a requisite $25 shipping charge, so what else-it seems the seller had a bunch of good parts and I stocked up on them, plus some Vacumatics in need of repair.

In the mean time, I figured I'd transplant the filler salvaged from the now-wrecked 51 into a Duovac(Vacumatic-filling Duofold) I had that was missing its filling unit. That one was rather stubborn to remove the rubber from, and I ended up chucking the scraper tool into a lathe. You have to love working with celluloid, as the next thing I knew my head was as clear as if I'd rubbed Vicks all over it(camphor is used as a plasticizer in celluloid).

Another downfall, though, and I called it a night...the pellet cup broke out of the filler I had, so I couldn't get it to operate properly as it wouldn't retain the diaphragm. There are good reproduction pellet cups available(in fact complete fillers are available if you're so inclined) but I found a "hack" I want to try where you chop up the barrel of a Papermate Ballpoint and fashion the conical end into a replacement cup.
 
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Well, I think I can call myself a little bit hooked on Parker Vacumatics, and a recent buying binge has me with a full set of the common colors, some really nice high condition ones, some rare nibs, and a couple of the really nice Oversize and Senior Maxima pens. The latter two are roughly the same size-the Senior Maxima is what's called a second generation pen and the dimensions are a bit different(the Maxima is a tiny bit longer, but it actually makes a huge difference in how comfortable it is for me to use). These pens are about the size of a Montblanc 146. I think the section is a bit larger(but not as big as a 149) but the length is similar.

If one is going to collect, though, one should have reference materials, and this is the definitive book on them


This was about $125 shipped to me from England. I've seen people complain about the cost of books like this, but I have paid this kind of money for similar books in my watch library. For a couple hundred pages of well-researched material in a full color hardbound book(not just a few color plates in the middle) $125 is a bargain considering the likely market for it. I've only just started to digest it...
 

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Well, I think I can call myself a little bit hooked on Parker Vacumatics, and a recent buying binge has me with a full set of the common colors, some really nice high condition ones, some rare nibs, and a couple of the really nice Oversize and Senior Maxima pens. The latter two are roughly the same size-the Senior Maxima is what's called a second generation pen and the dimensions are a bit different(the Maxima is a tiny bit longer, but it actually makes a huge difference in how comfortable it is for me to use). These pens are about the size of a Montblanc 146. I think the section is a bit larger(but not as big as a 149) but the length is similar.

If one is going to collect, though, one should have reference materials, and this is the definitive book on them


This was about $125 shipped to me from England. I've seen people complain about the cost of books like this, but I have paid this kind of money for similar books in my watch library. For a couple hundred pages of well-researched material in a full color hardbound book(not just a few color plates in the middle) $125 is a bargain considering the likely market for it. I've only just started to digest it...

Agree completely about such books; cost is not the issue here.

Frequently, such works are not just beautiful (and extraordinarily informative) but have been beautifully produced - with thick, rich, high quality paper, exquisite illustrations, gorgeous fonts - the sort of tomes that publishers take (private) pleasure and pride in producing, for they are labours of love and - in themselves - are very often a work of art.
 
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