Le Van Quy has been carving inscriptions on pens at Hoan Kiem Lake for more than 50 years (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi  (VNA) - Under the shade of an ancient banyan tree on the edge of Hanoi's Hoan Kiem Lake, for half a century, Le Van Quy has been carving inscriptions on pens, which can be offered as gifts to friends or kept by the owners as souvenirs.

Quy was once a shoemaker. In the 1950s, not many people afforded shoes, so he began carving inscriptions instead.

For over 50 years, the 80-year-old man has served his customers under the ancient banyan tree every day from 7.30am to 6pm.

Quy's tools include a screwdriver and a self-made carving knife. He keeps his gear in a small iron box.

He has been at this spot with his tools and a little plate "Gift Pen Engraving" with his mobile phone number inscribed on it.

If a customer wishes, Quy can also carve a miniature of Hoan Kiem's turtle tower or the The Huc Bridge on the items. He still remembers that he engraved a gift pen for the then German chancellor some 20 years ago.

To have an engraved pen, his clients only have to pay 6,000 VND (25 US cents) to 7,000 VND (30 US cents). He also carves more complicated images including trees, flowers.

For Quy, carving is something he does for love, not for money. On some days he does not earn any money. But he does not want to quit this job, even though now not many people are interested in owning such pens.

The pen carving business has declined over the last 20 years, because many people have stopped using fountain pens and turned to ball-point pens.

There used to be a lot of script-carvers, but now there remains only Quy, who also has very few clients now.

"During the war, most soldiers and students wanted to have a pen engraved as a keepsake. For them, a pen at that time was like a friend. Before going to the battlefield or before joining the army, young people bought a pen at the Sword Lake and asked the artisan to carve on the pen their name or some sweet words that they wanted to send to their loved ones," he recalled.

Born and growing up in Hanoi in a poor family, Quy only finished primary school before having to do numerous small jobs to earn a living.

"When I was 15 years old and struggled to earn a living, I would learn how to engrave a pen. Pens were very rare when I was at school, so I always loved holding a pen in my hands. And I love my job."

He first took up this job when he 21 years old. After he got married and his six children were born, he kept doing this job with love. His wife could not explain why he loved it so much for so many years, but she supported him.

"Every day I sit here, I can meet so many people. I feel I become younger," he said.

"I love Hanoi and love the street life. So when I sit here, I can witness the changes in the city every day, every hour."

The pen-carving job has brought him lots of sweet memories.

Some families of war martyrs could find the remains of their relatives thanks to the pens that he had carved.

"Most of the soldiers who died during the war were buried along with their personal effects, including the pens that they kept with them during wartime. Other objects can disintegrate but pens remain intact. Some people met me and asked me to make clearer the writings carved on pens, which became dim with time. Those pens were dug up from tombs of unknown soldiers. And this way, I could again see the many pens that I carved after so many years."

Time flies, but he said, he could never forget those touching moments.-VNA