What I Did Not Know
My dad and grandpa both died in the same year, 1952. I was just old enough to realize that I would be living with all women for a long time and that if I wanted to do boy things I would have to figure them out myself (this was an era of more segregated roles for boys and girls). I loved making things, especially anything mechanical. My mother realized this as well, so she gave me free range of the basement and area outside. Early on, I found my bliss in taking things apart and putting together stuff.
I didn’t know what I was doing, but I knew what I wanted. My friend had just been given a gas-powered go-cart by his dad. He let me drive it a few times. After that I could think of little else.
I had lawn mowing jobs in the neighborhood and got used to gas powered Briggs & Stratton engines. My mother abandoned a wooden ironing board, which I confiscated for the chassis of my motorized cart. By the time I was done I had two engines attached to this board, one direct chain drive and the other with a clutch and belt drive. I attached two straight pieces of pipe where the mufflers should have been, and proceeded to create a holy racket while running up the alley onto the town street. If this happened today, neighbors would stop me in my tracks and call the cops for noise nuisance, not to mention the lack of brakes. But this was a small town in coastal Washington where people put up with eccentric youth.
All this is to illustrate my determination to find out how things work and make them do so.
Later, when I began working on pens, my first efforts at nib re-tipping were with a 12V automotive battery and various sizes of wire that would act as resistance to limit the spark in attaching the pellet. Of course this was a disaster. I melted many nibs but I learned a little of what I did not know.