I just stocked up on some art supplies last week. Paper, pens, paint, and brushes came through my door on Thursday. One of the things I purchased was a new technical pen. For those who don’t know what that is it’s a pen that was created to make technical drawings. It makes a single width line in ink. It doesn’t do variations in line weight. No thick to thin like most drawing tools. You can fill it with any ink you want and it comes in various sizes. I originally bought a set of 5 pens but over the years I came to only use one size. It is a fairly thick lined one at 1 mm but it works for me on most occasions.

Technical pens are not used as much as they once were. Most technical drawings are done on a computer now. In the world of cartooning, where I saw them used quite often, they have been replaced by thin black hard lined markers. Many younger cartoonists I know have never used a technical pen as they have always had easy access to these markers. I use those markers but I still like technical pens.

I had to replace my technical pen because it just plain wore out. I’ve been using it since about 1991 so it had a long and useful life. Each technical pen costs roughly twenty dollars, so they are not cheap, but a fine line marker costs about two dollars and doesn’t last nearly fifteen years. Even factoring in buying ink to refill the technical pen it’s way cheaper than markers.

I am glad to have a nice new functioning tech pen again. It draws smooth and silky as opposed to my rough old one which clogged up constantly. But I am a little sad. After all, the old one was my tech pen for so many years. It got me thinking about how we can grow attached to little things and be sad at their passing. There may be a thousand other pens just like mine but mine is mine and that makes it unique. It takes time to grow a fondness for an inanimate object. This new tech pen doesn’t seem like mine yet (it’s even a different brand) and if I were to lose it today it would be no big deal. Except I’d be out twenty bucks.

I felt the same sadness when I had to buy new drawing triangles. A triangle is another piece of drawing equipment that isn’t used much anymore. You use it in conjunction with a T-square to draw lines at right angles. And other angles too. It was a few years ago that I had to replace my triangles. They were the triangles that I bought as a freshmen in college. They put in nearly twenty years of service. But finally they were too nicked up to be of use. The new triangles don’t have nearly as much charm as the old ones.

That’s another thing, the new versions of all these nearly obsolete drawing tools are made much crappier than they used to be. The new tech pen seems to work fine but the company logo that’s printed on it looks like it was put on by a ten year old. The new triangles are flimsier then my old ones and just try and find a good French curve. All the curves at the store I was in had burrs and imperfections along the edges that are supposed to cleanly guide your pen. Madness.

So hold on to the things that are yours and treat them right. Old things don’t get better made with time.