In the early 1950s, plastic was in its golden age. Thermoplastics such as polyester, ABS, PVC and Plexiglas (that are shaped through the injection of melted material) were frequently used to mass produce a variety of items at low cost. There are many different kinds of plastics categorized according to their infrangibility, flexibility, and resistance to l ight and wearing.
Acrylics are among the best resins for fountain pen production, and are especially appreciated for their bright colors. Recently, acrylics have been used to produce mottled and spotted effects similar to those found in celluloid, with impressive results. Instead of using the common injection molding method, Visconti turns the material to create the pen bodies.
Some years ago, two large antique ivory tusks were offered to Visconti. Each was more than 1 meter in length and over 20 kilos in weight. This material was purchased during World War II, with authenticity paperwork confirming its country of origin. In accordance with present international regulations and under the control of Cites authority, Visconti received authorization to use this material.
After careful investigation and tests the first pens were produced and one piece was donated to Pen World Magazine for their 10th anniversary. The main issue with working with ivory is that it can be easily stained by ink and can break if exposed to heat or humidity. Visconti has resolved these issues by applying a fine coating on the ivory and by working on its tolerance. Visconti has used most of its stock for the “Taj Mahal” and some small pieces for the “Leopardi”.
From 1900 until 1960, bachelite was the most widely used material in mass production. It has now been substituted by injection molded plastics. To create a pen with this material, Visconti utilizes the press-molding process. In powder form, the material is pressed into a mold at 150 degrees. The combination of pressure and heat causes the material to harden.
Bachelite’s strongest property, still unsurpassed, is its resistance to heat and low electrical conductivity. Since 1900, bachelite has been commonly used in everyday objects such as telephones, radios, electrical devices, house wares, and even jewelry. Visconti offers one model in bachelite, the “Montecarlo”.
Celluloid was invented by the Hyatt brothers in 1864 and is made from cotton, alcohol, and camphor. Depending on the thickness, it can take from four to eight months to transform celluloid into a workable material. The drying process is one of the most important steps.
Celluloid is fashioned by two main processes: wrapping or turning from solid rods. When wrapping, a 2/3 millimeter sheet of celluloid is cut in long strips and rolled around a rod or pulled through a cone. The resulting tube is then glued at the seam and dried for 20 days. The advantage of this method is that the color is constant throughout the pen, and no material is wasted. On the other hand, the seam may be visible in certain colors. When a pen is turned from a solid rod, a larger variety of shapes is possible, but only a limited number of patterns are available, and 80% of the material is wasted.
Celluloid possesses some interesting properties. It is easy to color, allowing many colors and designs. It partially absorbs moisture from your hands for a smooth and comfortable writing experience. Finally, it is a fairly resilient material, making it an excellent choice for making pens.
While it has many advantages, there are some drawbacks. During manufacturing, the material can be easily flammable and will soften at only 158 degrees Fahrenheit. Prolonged exposure to light may cause abnormal drying, making the material more fragile, as is the case with some vintage pens. Visconti recommends that these pens be stored in a dark, ventilated space at no more than 77 – 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
The oldest material used to make fountain pens is ebonite, which was invented by Charles Goodyear. It is composed of rubber vulcanized with sulfur. Unfortunately, not many artisans are left, and most of them have little knowledge of the process used to make the colors of those early pens.
In six years of experience working with ebonite, Visconti noticed that the quality of this material is variable. Today it is no longer used for fine objects but used in technical devices. There no longer exist examples of the fine pens created many years ago. Colors today are opaque. Colorants used in the past such as iron oxide, have been discovered to be cancerous and therefore, are no longer in use. Pens made in ebonite become opaque because of the sulfur’s tendency to rise to the surface. If exposed to sunlight, the color tends to fade.
After World War II, the creation of missiles and supersonic airplanes led to the search for metals with special features. The alloys and metals commonly used did not resist the high temperatures of the jet engines and the friction of the air at high speeds. Titanium alloys, which are lighter than steel and much more resistant, have helped to overcome these challenges. In addition, titanium is resistant to the corrosion of many acids and salt water.
In 2010, Visconti introduced a collection of writing instruments made with a revolutionary material – basaltic lava from Mount Etna. Over 50% of pure basaltic lava has been mixed with a patented resin formula to create a material that is virtually unbreakable, flameproof, and slightly hygroscopic, meaning that it absorbs moisture from your hand.
Claudio Mazzi started airbrush painting in 1985. He paints objects for private collectors and large companies. Mazzi is also known for his illustrations produced for Maserati, Ducati Motors, Colnago / Ferrari bicycle, Malaguti scooters, and Citroen Italia. Mazzi has worked in conjunction with Visconti to create a number of limited edition writing instruments that demonstrate the precision and artistry of his craft.
Airbrush is the name of the instrument which Claudio Mazzi uses to paint Visconti pens. It is a small spray gun, which seems more like a pen than like a traditional paintbrush. This instrument has a magic quality: it draws and paints without directly touching the surface of the object. Its typical characteristics are the three-dimensionality and the glossy softness of the subjects.