Manoj Deshmukh, Fosfor Pens and the Parker Duofold

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Manoj Deshmukh makes the perfect storm for me!

The Parker Duofold, many aficionados opine, is the ultimate icon. With its girth and height, its bright red-orange exterior and stunning looks, it must have been quite a rage when it was introduced for the first time in 1921.  Priced pretty steeply at US $ 7, which is equivalent to more or less a hundred US chips in the present, it was the first pen to commercially break the colour barrier – most pens before the Duofold were, like the Model T, all black! 

The Duofold had a free run for more than a decade, and before the Vacumatic was positioned as its replacement in 1933, it had a number of variants. As a matter of fact, when Parker introduced Duofolds made with “unbreakable Permanite” (fancy Parker-speak for DuPont plastic) in 1926, hues like Jade Green, Lapis Lazuli Blue and Mandarin Yellow were progressively thrown into the ring to entice the pen-crazy foppish-dandies of the day. The Duofold continued its popular run in Europe till the 1960’s though they had long gone into hibernation in the US and in 1988 – to mark the hundredth year of being, the Parker launched the Duofold Centennial. The Duofold International line was introduced soon after with cosmetic changes and replacing the original button filling mechanism with a cartridge / converter as the ink feeder.   

As a Fountain Pen lover, the Duofold is one pen that never ceases to amaze me – and I have long considered it as a kind of a yardstick to measure other pens. It will not be an exaggeration to say that, with the Duofold as the mean, I rank the craft of other pen-turners, and from the fabled Kaigelu 316 to some made locally, none have even distantly matched up to the heights attained and kept by the Duofold. Yes, I know it is not right to compare apples to pears (in terms of either the price or the reputation-legacy, or the sheer skill-sets of the makers) but still, when apples claim to resemble pears themselves, I guess, one will be excused for taking the liberty!

Manoj Deshmukh
Manoj Deshmukh

Naturally, when I had ordered a Duofold tribute “look alike” from Manoj Deshmukh of Fosfor Pens – his reputation as India’s finest pen turner notwithstanding – I was sceptical. I did expect a pen that would closely resemble the original, perhaps even match it cheek by jowl, but one that would be a near equal? No in all honestly, I had not expected it.

And this is exactly where the pen sent by Manoj Deshmukh hit me – right in the solar-plexus, that too, with such a force that it took my breath away! It resembled the Duofold alright, down to the feel in the hand, scoring just that shade above the original as it had the additional benefit of being made just for me – the bespoke, hand turned tag – as opposed to one that could have been bought off the shelf.

Fosfor Pens

They are not strictly compatible (the puritans please forgive me for committing this blasphemy) the Fosfor pen is made in custom cast polyester resin and black ebonite. The bands are handmade in sterling silver. The nib and ink filling systems are standard Jowo #6 and converter. What is remarkable though is the way the pen writes – smooth and just wet, which is really the hallmark of a well-made pen, the ink flow regulated to just the right amount (read no burp, no dryness, steady), which only a master can achieve, that too after long years of dedication. The balance of the pen, the next point one checks, too, is as near perfect as perfection can be, for it is the balance, more than the actual weight that, I feel, ensures a long stress-free writing experience. In all, a rare case, where the tribute is as good as the original.

Little wonder Manoj Deshmukh has the kind of cult following that he has. Little wonder, the name of Fosfor Pens is now being taken in the same breath as the global stalwarts whose legacies are longer than the age of Manoj Deshmukh and Fosfor put together. Strange that this is my first Fosfor moment in life – for God willing, the experience of writing with an instrument created by Fosfor is one that I want to pamper myself with, over and over and over again! (I have already ordered my second Fosfor masterpiece and believe me, I have been confirmed a delivery date after Sixty Weeks!)

Fosfor Duofold

Yes, I know Manoj Deshmukh is extremely weary of publicity, preferring to let his creations to do the talking for him. However, he was kind enough to answer a few questions that I had posted to him on behalf of inked happiness and he has, keeping the interest of our readers in mind, answered some of the long-standing queries. Here is a quick recap of the story so far:  

Manoj started making pens as a hobby in 2012. The first sale happened in 2014, which led him to form Fosfor Pens, and the rest, like they say, is history. Manoj is finicky to a fault when it comes to turning his pens and is known for his attention to details – it can take up to three days to finish a pen if it is complicated in design.

Fosfor Pens

As a matter of fact, there are many signature points – it was Manoj who allegedly, first among the contemporary pen turners in India started offering Sterling Silver bands and clips on his pens . This was unique in Indian pen makers. Initially he was getting the bands made from jewellery makers, but now, he makes most of the bands by hand, except the decorative ones. This allows him to be even more creative with his obvious artistry.

For the Duofold that has been featured here, the material has been cast personally by Manoj. Using cast polyester resin for pen making and following his unique technique of mixing various colours into a swirl pattern, he has taken pen turning to a level of installation art. This was also a first, we believe, in Indian pen making.

Manoj Deshmukh is happy to note how fountains pens in general have grown in popularity over the past few years. Getting a custom, handcrafted pen is a unique experience, he feels, which is driving a particular niche in the market, one, in which he operates the most. There are very few people in India and indeed, across the world, offering such an unique experience. Manoj Deshmukh and Fosfor pens is one of the few in the world and there are even fewer in India, which explains the long wait times which Fosfor customers grin and bear to acquire a masterpiece. And what is more, the number of repeat customers is phenomenal, which too underscores the basic point.  Manoj Desmukh adds with a smile “I believe that most of my customers are daily users of pens”, which is what really sets him leagues apart – as opposed to collectors who just acquires pens, his customers are end users, which literally mean, that by default, his pens are as functionally efficient as they are aesthetically beautiful .

Fosfor Pens

Manoj strongly feels that that pen manufacturers in India need to be more innovative and quality conscious, though he admits that he really is not much aware about the working of the other Indian pen manufacturers – he does not own even one pen that has been made in India recently! He also feels that much more needs to be done to create awareness about writing with fountain pens, especially among the young, and is happy that so many people are embracing the cause with a fervour that was unknown in the near past.

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