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Bowpens & other drawing instruments
Lee Guinness, English bowpen Late 40's - early 50's
Small Kern Swiss set 1898-1914 vintage
Very early German Riefler set Pre-1918
Bowpens are the best tools for applying the fine lining to your locomotive & carriage liveries;- Unfortunately, there are very few quality instruments available to buy new, & those that are obtainable are rarely as good as some of the vintage instruments from makers now long since gone. Accordingly, we have scoured the world for good quality, vintage instruments, which we test, expertly regrind, hone & polish where necessary, & offer for sale on our exhibition stand. We have selections of both individual bowpens, & quality sets of drawing instruments, which come in useful for layout planning, scratch building, marking out etc. & are sold at a small premium above the value of the individual pens included in them, rather than break up nice sets in their original velvet- lined cases. All are graded according to the fineness of the lines they will produce in neat Humbrol enamel paint, & come with a test card to demonstrate this, together with a brief instruction sheet giving hints & tips in their use & care. Stock varies, so it is best to contact us to establish what we have to suit your needs. Pen prices range from £15 - £75, Sets from £45 - £195.
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A little more about bowpens.. Most of the old instrument manufacturers used to produce 3 different qualities of instruments. The most basic were intended for students, with the pen tips made from fairly ordinary steel, often Nickel or chrome plated. These can occasionally, by careful grinding & polishing, be made to produce quite fine lines, sometimes down to 0.1mm, but the points do tend to blunt relatively quickly due to the mildly abrasive nature of paint pigments. Handles would typically be Brass tube, bone or plastic. The next step up in quality was aimed at the general jobbing engineer;- These were usually made from either high-carbon or chromium steel, & take a good edge which will last some considerable time. Pens of this quality will usually draw minimum lines of between 0.06 – 0.08 mm, once honed & polished. In 4mm scale this would work out at about a quarter inch or less. Handle material was typically turned Ivory, (for antique instruments), Bone, Ebony, Aluminium or plastic.
Top quality was aimed at the professional draughtsman and the military, & are usually the nicest to use. Tips would generally be made of the highest quality chrome stainless steel, & the best ones can be ground to produce a minimum line of between 0.04 & 0.06mm. These will be fine enough to represent the eighth – inch lines used in many lining schemes on 4mm scale models. They frequently include refinements such as cross-joints or other features to facilitate easy cleaning, & thumb wheels marked in increments for accurate adjustment. Handles were invariably turned, being of Ivory, Ebony, Rosewood, Aircraft-grade Aluminium or Nickel-silver, depending on era of manufacture. These instruments should last a lifetime, if properly cared for, & are a joy to use. Each range would have equivalent ink compasses;- these can be made similarly fine, & are extremely useful for laying out curves on splashers, cab openings & wheel-rims. A scrap of ‘plastic card’ can be used to provide a centre around which to draw the curve. With practice, these traditional drawing instruments can produce far superior results to commercially available transfers, & will enable the modeller to attempt much more ambitious or detailed lining schemes, such as those of the pre-grouping period.
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