A lot of pens use brass in their construction, though it tends to be hidden inside, with layers of lacquer or other metals over the top. It’s dense, so a small amount of brass can be used to adjust the balance point of a pen, so it feels better in the hand; or it can give the pen a weighty feel, which many people associate with quality.
Left exposed to handling and the elements, brass won’t wear out, but it will pick up scratches fairly easily, and it will tarnish with use. To keep pens looking the same as they day they were made, brass is covered up and hidden out of sight. But not everyone wants their pen to look shiny and new forever. Maybe it’s the influence of the Japanese wabi-sabi aesthetic, or maybe it’s hipsters and their obsession with the old and worn, but an acceptance of things ageing in a visible way is becoming quite fashionable.
Of course we don’t all care too much about the twists and turns of fashion, especially for a pen you expect to last for many years. But brass has looked good for thousands of years, and it isn’t about to stop now.
Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. It’s more malleable than either, making it easier to work with, and a tiny amount of lead can be added to make it even easier. It’s a strong and dense metal, with low friction, and it naturally kills bacteria.
Because brass has naturally low friction, it’s often used for locks and keys, gears, zippers, bearings and ammunition casings. It tends not to create sparks, so it’s often used when there could be explosive gasses around.
Its workability and durability make it ideal for many musical instruments, and it is known for having good acoustic properties. The shiny gold colour of brass makes it suitable for many decorative purposes too.
Because it naturally kills bacteria, many hospitals are starting to use it for fittings that are often touched. Replacing door handles and taps with brass can reduce infection rates.
We wouldn’t be telling you all this if we didn’t have some brass things to sell. We like to be informative, where we can, but we are a shop.
The brassiest of brands we stock has to be Kaweco - quite a few of their products are made of brass, with raw, untreated finishes. These leave you with the choice to polish and maintain them to keep them shiny and perfect; or let them develop a patina, wearing their signs of use and age with pride.
The Brass Sport range is a set of heavy pocket pens, while the tiny Liliput fits in even smaller spaces. With brass bodies, though, these pens have the reassuring weight of much larger pens, and can stand up to the kind of abuse that can happen to pens that are carried in pockets or bags for years.
If thick-lead clutch pencils are your thing, Kaweco have you covered there, too, with their Sketch Up pencils in brass.
Brass is a nice material for pencil sharpeners. It’s low friction, which helps keep things turning smoothly, and the extra weight can make a tiny sharpener feel pleasantly solid. We have brass sharpeners from M+R, DUX and KUM.
There’s also the e+m Art Pencil Brass, with a highly polished brass surface, in a set with a wooden ruler that’s also a sharpener.
10 May 2015