“Life’s more fun if you tilt things now and then. ” – Elizabeth Spatz
I had an online friend, Laura (which is also my own name), who loved floaty pens. Like so many people you meet online in chats, forums and various other virtual places, I lost track of her after the group fell apart/ faded away. Without turning this post into a tell all true confessions thing, I will say that I really liked Laura but (at the time) I was shocked to find out she was having an affair with one of the married men in the group. She was also married. I’ve become a little jaded or seasoned since those early days, back when we talked on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and used mIRC.
Anyway, Laura had begun to create a site for her floaty pen collection. She shared the link with me. But, that was probably ten years ago. I don’t have the link and so far I don’t think I’ve found it. Many of the personal collection floaty pen sites I’ve found are pretty neglected/ forgotten. Not all, some are as active as this year, pretty good for a small niche hobby page/ site.
I do have a couple of floaty pens buried away in the stuff I haven’t unpacked. I have been something of a vagabond, moving every 5 to ten years. Unpacking wears thin. One of my floaty pens came from my Grandmother’s trip to London, UK. Another I had bought myself with my allowance money on a family trip to Niagara Falls, Ontario. A third pen is from the CN Tower here in Toronto, another family trip though we had arrived on a foggy day and never did go up to the observation deck to try looking for our house.
There is a recent pen, pink for breast cancer awareness. It’s not as fun as watching London bridge rise and fall or the elevator go up and down the length of the CN Tower but it is pretty in pink, with the pink ribbon floating along a line of women standing together. I bought it at Zellers, when I was still working there as a cashier.
Happy Worker: Custom Floating Action Pens
History of Floaty Pens
In the 1950s, Esso (now Exxon Mobil) approached Peder Eskesen, a one-time baker and the owner of a small acrylic factory in Denmark. Eskesen had been working on a pen that contained mineral oil, and Esso wanted to have an original ballpoint pen made with a small oil drum floating in oil. Buoyed by this first floating success, in the decades that followed Eskesen produced numerous corporate and tourist souvenir floaty pens. A later standout invention was the famous (or infamous) tip ‘n strip pen. Long a staple of dorm rooms and source for teenage snickering, these x-rated pens featured scantily clad female or male strippers whose black-colored underwear vanish completely with a simple tip of the pen. Of course, the mechanism behind these conceal & reveal pens have also been put to good use with other, less controversial corporate messages.
Float Art Design: History of Float Pens
Over 63 Years of Float Pen History
Typical Danish-made Eskesen floating pens create a detailed miniature scene inside the confines of a 16×80 millimeter translucent tube, and inside the tube, some object (a plane, a car, etc.) always floats by. The liquid inside the pen is not water but rather mineral oil, which allows the floating objects to float smoothly and slowly across the scene.
Eskesen was not the first company to attempt floating pens. Other styles had been created over the years. But inventors had been plagued by the problem of leaking mineral oil. In 1946, Peder Eskesen, a Danish baker, developed a method of effectively sealing the oil-filled tubes, launching him quickly in front of his competitors. Eskesen has continued on to become the leader in float pen technology, and the company’s sealing process is still a carefully-guarded secret.
Early Eskesen pens often held 3-dimensional floating objects, such as the mermaid pen (below). There were many mechanical pencils made, and many of the parts were metal. In the 1960’s, however, it became difficult to find workers willing to hand paint the 3-D floating objects, and the metal parts became too expensive to be profitable.
Eskesen’s first pen order was for Esso (now Exxon) and contained a bobbing oil drum. Soon the company was marketing the pens worldwide.