Kim pens turned by master turner AC Ramachandran in Calicut, where time stands still in reverence!
Legend has it that Haneefa Saheeb – the man who put Calicut in the pen lore of the world by setting up Kim & Co in the 1950’s – had personally gone to Madras to buy the machinery for Amber Pens (later rechristened Krishna Pens), when a young man had expressed the desire to start making fountain pens and become Kim & Company’s competitor!
The compassion, the legend goes on, was paid back in full when Haneefa Saheeb’s main pen turner Gopalan expired, and Kim & Company did not have the wherewithal to turn the perfect masterpiece. Enter Vasu, the owner of Kriptok Pens (another Calicut based maker those days) who shared his knowledge about the intricacies of fountain pen making with the young Ramachandran, who was assistant of the late Gopalan and on whom had fallen the onerous task of matching the benchmark that Kim had already established for itself .
It is this A C Ramachandran, who lends his name to the much sought-after Kim-ACR pens that we are going to talk about today. ACR is now nearly eighty and is the last of Calicut’s Samurai’s, having started his career with Kim when he was in his early teens. Kim & Co, incidentally, is now run by Haneefa Saheeb’s grandson.
Another point that needs to be clarified before we move on, is that Kim & Co (or for that matter the other three – Kriptok, Amber and Elite – who comprised the Big Four of Calicut’s famed fountain pen makers) were not really “industrial” undertakings the way we understand the term. They were largely retail outlets, for pens and spectacles, that turned their fountain pens in-house – a kind of backward integration for the shops. Naturally, even in their glory days in the 1960’s and the 1970’s, the numbers were limited (as were the designs), with the maximum amount of stress being accorded to quality. It is no rocket science to deduce that with such constrained supplies, any spike in demand leads to scarcity, which is what we are witnessing these days.
That brings us to the question – what makes Kim pens enjoy the cult status that they do? Says Saji Kumar S, the owner of Kiwi Pens, a collector turned dealer who has been working relentlessly to satiate the global demand for ACR turned fountain pens, “Kim pens are turned like battle Tanks, they are virtually indestructible. The designs are elegance personified in their simplicity and sport eyedropper mechanisms which ensure an inordinately large ink carrying capacity”.
There was a time when Kim used to import Ebonite from Germany and Celluloid from England for its pens – and these pens are very rare these days – but now a days, it is Indian ebonite that is used. They are also characterised by their heavy (some find them a tad bit on the bulkier side, irritably even) girths. However, it is the fact that Kim pens never (well, almost never) burps ink due to the inherent superiority of design and craftsmanship that make the pens worth the fan following they have. Another speciality of these pens is that the caps sport a triple start threading which makes them extremely easy to open and close – most Kim pens open and close with less than two turns, with exceptions.
Multi-channel ebonite feeds; built-in inner sleeves inside the caps to prevent nib drying and nib protection; built in step in the section threads to provide protection from ink leaking are some other key highlights of these pens which had helped them curve a distinct niche for themselves apart from establishing them as the preferred weapons of mass creation.
Note: The pens shown here are the Kim ACR Jumbo Fountain Pen (Rose Red / Black) and the Kim ACR Big Ebonite Fountain Pen (Green / Black). The Green / Black one is extremely rare as this model has been discontinued. This particular piece was hand turned by the master about five years back and it is with his blessings (and Saji’s help) that I have added this to my collection.
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