Iconic Pens

The theme for our Saturday, October 24, 2011 meeting was “Iconic Fountain Pens”.   

What makes an item, such as a pen, iconic?  When most of us hear the word “iconic” we think of people, places or things that are famous, well-known, widely-known, celebrated, renowned, fabled, legendary, notorious, infamous, illustrious,  or perhaps even “the one”.  At least, those are some of the words that come to mind when I think of something that is “iconic”.  

The theme for this week was for our members to share their thoughts on those fountain pens that were icons from their perspective as well as the reason(s) for their selections.  We asked them to think about whether it was a popular or well-known pen?  Was it something to do with the pen’s design or looks?  Maybe it revolutionized the look, function of pens or even how pens write?  Has it developed a bit of a cult following?  Perhaps it is not famous but infamous?  Is it inexpensive or does it cost a small fortune?  Was it made by one of the “iconic” brands or do you have trouble pronouncing or even remembering its brand?  

If you were to build a collection of pens based on an “iconic” theme, what would you consider to be the “must-have” pens?  These hypothetical exercises are great – there are no limits, e.g., you are not restricted to modern or vintage pens, etc.  You don’t have to own the pen, have ever owned the pen or even want to own the pen!  Heck, you don’t even have to have any money!  Although, I don’t want to suggest that a pen’s cost necessarily influences its status as an icon.  I can think of very expensive pens that I would not be surprised if many thought of them as an icon, or conversely, others thinking of one of any number of inexpensive (dare I say, “cheap”?) pens that could easily fit the bill, e.g., Lamy Safari. 

Enough of my dribble, here are several groups of pens (with photos) that different members of the LPC view as being iconic and why:

 

1. Sheaffer Balance. 1930s. The Balance began the tradition of streamlining the shape of pens with tapered caps and barrel ends, along with the use of plastics in colours not seen before. 

2. Parker Vacumatic.  1930s. Striped plastics, ink stored right in the barrel rather than a sac, and an “interesting” filling system – the Vac is still what I think of when I think of vintage pens. 

3.  Parker “51”.  1940’s. A hooded nib. “Writes Dry with Wet Ink” to quote the advertising of the day.  Introduced in 1939 and in production until 1972, the Parker “51” sold in the millions and is of the most successful fountain pens of all time. 

4.  Sheaffer Snorkel.  1950’s. The Sheaffer Triumph nib (also known as the wrap around nib or conical nib) was continued on the Snorkel filler.  One of the coolest and most complicated of the filling systems, the Snorkel was made in a multitude of colours and finishes. 

5.  Sheaffer Imperial/Lifetime.  1960’s. I don’t have a Sheaffer Pen For Men (PFM) so I am including my 1963 Lifetime with the famous inlaid nib.  The PFM introduced the now iconic inlaid nib that Sheaffer continues to use on their pens to this day.  The Imperial, Targa, Intrigue and Valor models all have the inlaid nib. 

6.  Parker 75 in Sterling Silver cisele pattern.  1960’s. A classy looking pen.  I am still waiting to see one on the TV series “Mad Men”. 

7.  Lamy Safari.  1980’s. The Safari was first introduced in 1980 and hasn’t changed in 30 years.  A great starter or school pen that is available in an array of colours and nib sizes.

 Another member’s group of “Iconic Pens”:
 
  1. Aurora 88.  An elegant Italian design that functions perfectly and has a hidden cache of ink, if needed.
  2. Sheaffer Targa.  Simplicity and variety.  One could spend a lifetime collecting these classic fountain pens with the inlaid nib.  Just check out one of the best pen sites on the internet – sheaffertarga.com
  3. Pilot/Namiki Vanishing Point.  Many people think this pen has a cult following but I disagree.  How many people do you know that own at least one Vanishing Point?  I would not be surprised if 3 out of 4 pen owners have one – that’s not a cult, that’s a club!
  4. Delta Dolce Vita.  Ah, the sweet life!  The first time I saw this pen I thought it was a bit much, I mean, who has the nerve to use a bright orange pen like this, especially a conservative business man like me.  It did not take too much longer before I owned one.  Actually, I have the double desk set as well!
  5. Conklin Crescent Filler.  Even non-pen people know this pen, it’s the one that Mark Twain uses – because it won’t roll off of a table.
  6. Lamy 2000.  A wonderful example of design and functionality. A simple design, the pen is made of black makrolon and is a piston filler, holding a ton of ink.  The flagship pen of LAMY.
  7. OMAS 360.  The non-conformist’s fountain pen because of its unconventional triangulated form.  It’s the type of pen that you either love or hate.  I happen to love it.  Unfortunately, OMAS screwed up its original design when it redesigned its line of pens.  If you want one of these, get the older “vintage” model.
  8. Pelikan M800 Souverän.   I loved this fountain pen from the very first time I saw its green striped barrel at Sleuth & Statesman in Toronto.  While I actually bought the black-blue model with silver trim first, I just had to have the original black-green model with gold trim.  In my mind, the green striped barrel makes it the quintessential fountain pen!
  9. Parker Duofold.  Not a big surprise that the Duofold is on this list, although most people would probably cite the vintage “Big Red” model.  Most people would put the Big Red as one of a dozen or so pens in a core collection of pens.  I like the blue ones myself, especially this remake of the “True Blue”.
  10. Waterman Edson.  A legendary and elegant pen.
  11. Conway Stewart #28 “Cracked Ice”.  Colourful plastics have been a signature of Conway Stewart.  The names of many of these colours, such as this one in Cracked Ice, have been adopted by collectors over the years. Other personal favourites include Reverse Cracked Ice and Tiger Eye.  Truth be told, my favourite models are #27 and #60 – I just grabbed the first Cracked Ice that I came across so please forgive my oversight!

 One more member’s quartet of Icons:
 
 

From top to bottom:

  1. Parker Vacumatic. Hey, it’s a Vacumatic, what more is there to say?
  2. Sheaffer Autograph.  The Autograph has a much wider cap band than the Sheaffer Signature and used to be one of their most expensive models.  It has the clip and the cap band made out of solid 14K gold. In fact, you could send the pen to Sheaffer along with your signature and they would engrave it on the cap band. This cap band has yet to be engraved.
  3. Esterbrook.  A classic double jewel J (full sized).
  4. Parker 51.  This aerometric filler with gold filled cap is Cocoa in colour, while not as rare as Nassau Green or Plum, is fairly uncommon.

A different view of the same quartet: 

 
And finally, the best part of every pen club meeting – writing with someone else’s iconic pen – in this case, a Parker 65 Flighter! 
 
 
Maybe you agree with these selections, maybe you have your own views.  We would love to hear from you!  Let us know what your iconic pen is and why?
 
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A surprising tale of 3 notebooks – Moleskine, Habana and Rhodia

By LPC member David

After hearing so many bad things about Moleskine notebooks (re fountain pens) and so many good things about Quo Vadis Habana and Rhodia notebooks, I decided to buy one of each and see how they performed.

I bought the following notebooks:

  • Moleskine Reporter 9 x 14 cm
  • Quo Vadis Habana 10 x 15 cm
  • Rhodia Webnotebook 9.5 x 14 cm

I carried out a very unscientific test using the 4 pens that happened to be inked and on my desk:

  • Pelikan brown in a Lamy Vista (1.1 nib)
  • Sailor red-brown in a Sailor Pro Gear (M nib)
  • Sailor evergreen in an Aurora 88 (stub nib)
  • Montblanc violet in a vintage Aurora 88 (flexible M nib)

The following images show the results. I was surprised at how the Rhodia and Habana notebooks performed relative to the Moleskine. There seems, to me at least, that there is less feathering and less bleed-through with the Moleskine……

What is Your Perfect Pen and Why?

By LPC member Rafal

From time to time we suggest and pick particular themes for our meetings. Those themes have to only loosely be related to pens, inks and papers. The theme for April 3, 2010 was for each member to bring the pen from his/her collection that they would consider the “perfect” pen (for him or her) right now and explain why they chose that particular pen.

There was a strong suspicion that the idea of a “perfect pen” would mean many different things to many different people but some suggested selection criteria included:

– How the pen fits them?
– How the nib matches their preference for most of their writing
(smoothness level, flow rate, stiffness, and point size/shape)?
– How durable is the construction?

– How it matches their esthetic tastes?
– How easy it is to fill and how it matches their ink capacity requirements?

We thought that this exercise might reveal a few interesting observations including:

– The “perfect” pen for someone might not be their most favourite pen;
– There might be a lot of variety in the pens selected by the group or there may be
some similarities; and

– We might even find that there are some repetitions.

This turned out to be a pretty interesting topic of discussion and here are the pens each member brought (along with the reasons for their choice) and a slide show  of those perfect pens:

Rick: Parker 75 Cisele
– Size / weight just right
– Dry writing wine nib –  just likes Rick likes
– Cartridge capability – great for travel
– Classic design

John: Waterman Edson
– Perfect size
– Broad nib – pretty much the only nib for John
– Very pretty  – navy blue color with gold trim
– Sentimental value – it was a gift from John’s employer for 25 years of service
– Does not have a vacumatic filling mechanism 😉

Mike: Tibaldi Iride
– It’s the pen that David wants more than any other from his collection but can’t have it.

Dan: Sheaffer 300
– Has a nice heft
– Spring loaded clip
– Durable

David: Modern Aurora 88 (large) with a stub nib
– Black with silver trim
– Size / feel
– Piston filler
– Great nib
– Classic, elegant design
– Italian pen

Doug: Delta 20th Anniversary
– Feel in hand
– Barrel shape is smooth and flowing
– Ink flow on the wet side
– Nib is ‘right’ – It’s neither fine or medium or broad, it is just right.
– Colour – Orange Black
– Filling system – Vintage classic (lever)
– Construction – Screw-on cap (when posted to end of barrel). At first he thought it was a hassle and stupid. Now everything lines up. Cap never falls off.
– A larger pen, yet again, body flow and colour… Writing for hours…
– Gold nib, and it has some flex
– Classic design

Marie: Sheaffer 300
– Size
– Nice to write with
– Colour
– Durability

Stan: Waterman 100 Year Pen
– Perfect flexible nib – almost calligraphic.
– Lends itself very well to Stan’s style of writing

Patrick: Parker 51 Slender
– Matches his jacket
– Perfect weight / balance posted and not posted
– Awesomeness,
– Classic
– Hooded nib design
– Nice nib
– Discrete

Ben:Waterman Expert II
– Colour – light blue
– Dependable
– Reliable
– Flows smoothly
– Can be used anytime (always ready to write)

Rafal: Parker 51 Aerometric
– Perfect Size
– Smooth, wet XF nib
– Elegant styling
– Very durable and easy to service

After everyone’s choices were revealed, a few things became apparent:
– Out of 11 pens, Waterman and Parker were picked most often [3 times each (27%)/6 out of the 11 in total (55%)];
– Out of modern pens, Sheaffer 300 was picked twice (67%) and out of vintage
pens Parker 51 was picked twice (67%);
– 4 pens were vintage (36%) and 7 were modern (64%);
– The cartridge/converter filling system was picked most often [5 times (45%)];
– The pens picked were either American or Italian brands;
– Surprisingly, there were no German or Japanese pens picked; and,
– The nib/writing characteristics was used as a criteria by 9 out of
11 participants (82%).

It would be interesting to compare the results of this exercise if these same question was asked a year from now.

We’d love to hear what your perfect pen is and why?  Maybe you think the same as some of our members or maybe something completely different.  Let us know!