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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Making Plastic

Just one of the many factors that distinguishes a Torelli pen is its plastic. Brad manufactures his own poly methyl methacrylate, an acrylic plastic better known under the brand name of lucite. Plastics have been a fascination of Brad since he was young, perhaps inspired by the vacuum tube encased in clear acrylic that his mother gave him while a kid. He learned early on how to embed objects in acrylic, but found that it made a poor material for pens. Finding a better plastic proved to be no easy feat.

Learning this skill has certainly been one of the hardest challenges in Brad's 25 years of pen making; it has taken many trials and failures to obtain a product that can live up to the high standard that Brad holds for his work. He was trying to enter a field primarily filled with large manufacturers and factories, there was no handbook for what he was trying to achieve. The process evolved into a science that now includes cross-linking agents to give the material a similar composition to aircraft and bank teller windows and a centrifuge to ensure even consistency throughout. And though it has taken him years to top the learning curve of making plastic, the result is certainly worth it. 

Beyond making a Torelli pen a truly uniquely crafted piece, the ability to cast plastic carries with it a large degree of freedom. Freedom to express new designs and patterns, such as his two toned striped 51. Freedom to create new colors, or to match a color sought after by a customer. Creating new plastic has opened up new avenues for pen restoration and repair: minor cracks can be mended seamlessly while severely damaged parts can be entirely re-fabricated. It has even led to a glow in the dark, translucent green Parker 51.

If you happen upon a Torelli pen crafted out of Torelli-made plastic you can be sure that it is as durable as any pen you've held and that it was truly crafted with care and attention from when it was still a powder.


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