A Visit with Delta Pen
artigiani della scriptural
In June 2012 I acquired the Delta Dolcevita fountain pen, a pen I have admired for years on my frequent trips to Italy. To me, this is an iconic Italian fountain pen. 2012 was also the year I had for opportunity to visit with Delta at their office and factory located just outside of Naples, Italy.
I have known Marco Parascenzo of Novelli Pen in Rome for many years. Novelli Pen & Pipe has been one of my Great Pen Stores for many years. When I wrote him about the visit he arranged to travel to Naples. He wanted to see the new Delta factory, and he offered to be my translator. Grazie Marco!
With my wife Karen, I have visited the other major Italian pen companies, such as Aurora, Montegrappa, OMAS, Stipula and Visconti. In terms of the group of visits we have had, we found Delta to be different. The degree of handwork stood out as a significant aspect of their processes.
Delta hand makes their pens. As Ciro noted, it is through the craftsmen of Delta that their lines of pens are created. Delta is artigiani della scriptural.
Ciro Matrone, Salvatore Matrone and Antonio di Maio welcomed us as friends of the Delta family and were very hospitable in showing us the processes involved in making a Delta pen and to explain the history and significance of some for the lines. We shared a full day and we really appreciated how they went out of their way to explain the history of the company, the detailed processes to create the pens and to make us feel so welcomed.
After visiting a numbers of pen manufacturers I had a goodidea of the range of equipment and processes involved in the manufacturing of a pen. But I saw a difference in how Delta makes its pens.
Later in the day when I was asked about what I saw, it took only a moment to summarize my feeling: while some companies manufacture pens, Delta crafts it's pens by hand.
"... Some companies manufacture pens,
Delta crafts it's pens by hand."
It was in 1982 that Nino Marino, Ciro Matrone and Mario Muscente formed a partnership and established Delta s.r.l. They set high standards right from the start, as Delta was to compete on the international market for writing instruments. An ambitious goal which they have very successfully achieved. While Nino and Mario were away on business, we appreciated Ciro taking the time to spend the day with us.
Ciro started the tour by showing and talking about some of the prototype pieces being considered for future offerings. On his desk were sketches and tools for measurement, all used in the design and concept stage of creating a pen.
Salvatore Matrone, Designer/Production Coordinator, provided information on some the design concepts and models. He obtained training in design in Milan and has joined Delta to work on design and marketing aspects.
Salvatore showed us the MOMO collection. MOMO is a significant Italian design company. Delta and MOMO collaborated to produce a limited edition pen.
The MOMO pen uses carbon fibre, celluloid and a nib of pure titanium. It was in 1992 that Delta produced the first pen from titanium and carbon fibre. With the MOMO partnership, Delta has now created the MOMO carbon collection.
I had the opportunity to learn about the new fusion nib Delta will be introducing this year. The new nib will be introduced in a new line of pens, and then used in other lines.
The fusion nib is new technology and I could sense the pride Ciro, Antonio and Salvatore showed as they explained the new nib.
A steel nib is fused with a layer of 18 kt gold. The fusion of the two metals creates a nib with unique characteristics. The result is a very smooth writing nib with excellent ink flow.
I wrote with a pen fitted with the new fusion nib and found it to be a very good writing experience. In August, after using the nib I put a full review under Pen Views.
After talking about the design aspects we walked through the storeroom where rods of wood, resin, celluloid and ebonite are kept.
The wood rods are used to make the caps of the Amerigo Vespucci pens. The wood comes from the Amerigo Vespucci boat named after the famous navigator Vespucci. The wood is very heavy and dense. The rectangle rods are turned on a lathe to make the smooth, round sections of the Amerigo Vespucci pen.
Ciro passed me one of the rods of ebonite used to make the ink feed for the Delta fountain pens. Delta use ebonite feeds in their fountain pens because of the superior characteristics. They also cut their own feeds to ensure a high level of quality rather than using outsourced parts.
The rods of resin and celluloid are cut and then hand turned on a lathe to make the various sections and parts of the pens.
The brilliant yellow with black streaks immediately caught my eye. It is the celluloid to make the Re-discover Pompei pen. More on that particular pen later.
We talked with employees as they worked on the particular pieces. They showed us how they work with the various materials, the measurements taken, and the checking of the final piece.
Not only are the pen bodies and caps made in the workshop, but also all the various bands, rings, clips and levers. Only the nibs are made outside Delta's workshop, and those are made to its specifications. The fusion nib is fused at the Delta workshop.
Look carefully at a quality pen and the large number of individual pieces become apparent. Bands, rings, clips, emblems and levers are all precisely made by Delta.
After the various parts are made, measured, refined for a precision fit and then polished, they are ready to create the final pen.
Because a pen is held in the hand the tactile experience is very important. The employees take care to ensure the correct smoothness and exact fit of the various parts.
It is very detailed work. I watched as one of the employees used a file to create with precision the small lever that is used for the lateral-lever ink filling system. Delta introduced the lateral ink filling system in 1995. The lateral-lever fill mechanism was one of the most trusted and safe ink filling mechanisms previously used for fountain pens.
Salvatore noted that Delta makes fountain pens using four different fill mechanisms: cartridge/converter, piston, button and lateral-lever.
With the parts precisely cut and polished, the pens start to take shape. Nibs are tested by hand. We talked with one of the employees who holds each nib and draws it across paper by hand so that any imperfection can be sensed and corrected.
Antonio di Maio holds responsibilities for sales. He has been with Delta for 11 years. He is a direct interface between retailers and Delta. As we talked about the process to make a Delta pen, he identified key design and production processes.
I was impressed with the personal approach Delta takes with many aspects in making of their pens.
One of the employees showed me the note book used to record the numbers of limited edition pens. The name of the retailer is noted by each number, hand written in a log book.
In addition to the recording of limited editions, Delta produces a number of its lines as numbered pens. Each pen has its own unique number that is engraved on the pen. I was very impressed with this for my Dolcevita pen. The WÈ, Smorfia, WÈ Dolcevita, Armatherapy, Dolcevita, Dolcevita Oro, Gallery, Galassia, Titanio, La Piazetta, Marine, Black, Dreidel, Stones, Via Veneto and Pompeii Rediscover are all numbered lines.
The WÈ line is very popular. WÈ, is an expression used in Naples meaning "what else". The pens include a special part that forms part of the clip.
Delta produces its own packaging material and pens are packaged in standard or limited edition presentation boxes.
The pens come with a certificate to verify original Italian quality. To qualify for the certification the pens must be made in Italy, use natural top quality materials, use exclusive designs of the manufacturer and made according to the traditional typical Italian craftsmanship processes.
As we walked around the work area I gained a new appreciation for the work that goes into making a demonstrator style pen where the body and cap are clear providing a view of the inner workings of the pen.
The resin rods are not clear when the process starts. It takes double the work to polish both the inside and outside of the pens. The assembly also requires special care to ensure the clear body and cap is not scratched in the assembly process. Any internal scratch would be visible.
What we took from the visit with Delta is their very personal approach to the making of their pens. Delta has 55 employees with 45 involved with the crafting of the pens. There is a high degree of dedication and I could sense the pride each employee held about their part in the making of a Delta pen.
With a focus on hand making the specific parts of the pens, Delta can respond quickly to specific needs.
Repairs and replacement parts can be addressed very quickly. The hand made approach also means Delta can make a line with a small quantity. The approach also supports ease of variation in styles and custom approaches for individual pen retailers. This is another aspect of Delta's craftmanship that differs from some of the other pen companies.
At the Delta office and over lunch we talked about the continued goals of Delta. They are very excited about the new fusion nib. It will be featured in a line this year and then introduced into other lines.
Delta is very successful in its approach of ensuing a high degree of quality with pens made with careful handwork. This emphasize on quality workmanship and good design places Delta in a good position for success in the future.
It was a very informative visit.
Thanks to Ciro Matrone, Antonio di Maio, Salvatore Matrone of Delta; and Marco Parascenzo of Novelli Pen & Pipe for making our visit to Delta such an enjoying, educating and personal experience.
I was presented with a Dolcevita fitted with one of the fusion nibs.
I have now used the pen to write in my travel journal and now back at home and I can attest to nib's high level of performance. The pen is very fitting as the Dolcevita pen itself is such an iconic pen in terms of Italy. What makes it more special is the new fusion nib, and the opportunity to be among the first of those who enjoy writing with a fountain pen to experience this new nib technology. This is another of my Pens of Note.
As we walked about the work area, I believe I was drawn a number of times to the stunning yellow celluloid rods that are used to create the new Rediscover Pompeii pen.
Karen bought me the pen for our wedding anniversary gift!
The rediscover refers to the rediscovery of the colour of paint used in the homes of Pompeii. The first Pompeii pen Delta produced was in a brick red colour. The colour we see today on the walls of the buildings at Pompeii. But scientists have discovered the actual colour was yellow. It was the lava and gases that changed the colour.
The pen is made from solid rods of celluloid, a materal that is created by blending celluyloise with nitric acid, camphor and alcohol. Celluloid requires a long period to dry, about three years.
The workmanship involves the celluloid rods, turned by hand. The central ring in solid sterling plated with rhodium, is a tri-dimensional representation of the "Greca" pattern from the Pompeian period.
The pen what I consider a classic Delta clip, a flexible clip with a small wheel to ease the pen being secured in a shirt pocket. The clip is plated with rhodium.
The nib is true writing perfection. The pen hs a 14 carat gold rhodium plated nib decorated with the Delta logo.
A small cap unscrews at the end of the pen giving access to a smooth piston fill mechanism.
The pen is one of the numbered series by Delta, again making it all the more special to own. I have the pleasure of owning pen 0167 and it is one of my Pens of Note.