Frugal Fenella’s Studio on a Shoestring: Let’s kistka-gain!

Frugal Fenella is back, with a clever device to help you raise your conservation game.

Suddenly, the fork is invented and gone are the days of eating with one’s knife… the same goes for the electric kistka. This clever gadget has nothing cheap or frugal about it, so it might be said that it is here under false pretences, but I am introducing it to you because I seriously wonder how we lived without it for so long.

This tool was recommended to me by my colleague Sophie Sarkodie and initially forgotten, until I “rediscovered” it a few months later.

The kistka is a crafty – literally – little pen, devised for decorating Easter eggs. It delivers wax that acts as a stop-out for dyes and paints and enables the craftsman to produce exquisitely fine patterns on the eggs. I thought it reasonable to expect that since paraffin wax melts from 46 degrees Celsius, cyclododecane (which melts at around 61 degrees Celsius) might be a possible candidate for the pen. And so it proved.

DSC_0196What a difference it makes to the fineness of detail that can be achieved! Firstly, its funnel-shaped liquid reservoir is ideal for the continuous feeding of the cyclododecane onto an object, without too much fiddling. Secondly, the choice of three interchangeable heads means that the delivery output of the cyclododecane can be exquisitely fine, putting paid to the lines of dirt around the stop-out that often accompany post-treatment objects. Indeed, the line is so fine that one has to keep a keen eye on matters to see that the cyclododecane is actually delivered onto the object. This means that you can stop-out or protect iron gall ink inscriptions or pen drawings for wet treatments.

I am very pleased with this pen, for years having had to fiddle around with heaters and antique reservoir nibs from car boot sales in France. The kistka makes my work accurate and clean.

DSC_0454 2On the minus side, the temperature generated by the kistka is somewhat low for melting the cyclododecane, so that the deposit of the compound tends to remain on the uppermost fibres of the substrate. The penetration of the product is not so deep into the substrate as with a higher temperature – but it’s certainly workable for most jobs. This shortens working time, as the cyclododecane sublimates in two or so days.

The very fine head of the reservoir nib is fragile, and I had to order a new one after using it a few times. So if you are buying a kistka, I suggest you buy a spare nib at the same time to save on postage. Some of our Eastern European friends might begin a new run to provide us with an alternative supply of kistkas, but until then you will have to order them from the US. I got mine new on eBay, but had to pay around £15 on top for VAT and handling. It is still worth it. Two voltages are available, 110 and 240, so make sure you get the one that will work in your country.

Images courtesy of Isabelle Egan

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