My good friend from across the pond, Stephen Hull, has just advised me that his latest fountain pen book, Onoto the Pen, is now available.
This 416 page book details the 80 year history of De La Rue’s development of Onoto and De La Rue pens and contains:
– more than 1000 colour images of these writing instruments, most at actual size;
– other images of related items, advertising and leaflets;
– tables with the approximate introduction dates of all models; and
– a 40 page comprehensive colour catalogue from c.1931, reproduced in its entirety!
My limited edition is on its way and I cannot wait to read it. You can find more information about this book, including sample pages and how to buy it at Onoto the Pen.
Those of you familiar with Steve’s previous books already know the quality of them and their wonderful contribution to the history and knowledge of the subject pens. For those who are not, I can personally attest to their excellence as I purchased and own each and every one of them. I acquired them, in part, because Steve has generously shared his time, knowledge and expertise with me whenever I have asked him a question about the fountain pens that I collect – Conway Stewart, Onoto and Swan; however, the main reason for getting them is because his books are the essential reference source for them – you cannot collect any of these pens without them!
For information on all of Steve’s books and how to purchase them, please visit English Pen Books.
Somewhere in an alternate universe, with the music of Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Metallica blasting in the background, the rebels of the London Pen & Motorcycle Club gathered at their Williams on Wonderland HQ to binge on coffee and show off their new ink, like this beauty that Doc showed up with (he’s not a real Doctor, that’s just a name he picked up somewhere):
Well, that’s not exactly what happened … we did binge on coffee and heavy metal, pens that is …if a pen sticks to a magnet, it meets the test!! Bring your flighters, filigrees, overlays, signets, silver, gold (more likely gold-filled), aluminum, titanium, gunmetal, shiny or matte and all combinations and permutations thereof. Some like their pens with a patina (you might say potana) and others like them looking brand spanking shiny new. They could be factory or farm fresh – maybe have a few scratches and dents or even some brassing, we won’t hold that against them. And don’t forget your pens that are part-metal, i.e., they might have a metal cap with a resin or other body; however, metal trim-only is not enough metal, sorry.
To wit, a great collection, in a large variety of makes, models and finishes – Sheaffer Targas and a significant number of Parker:
Anyone for a Parker 75 – just pick your finish:
Some Parkers, at least one Sheaffer (a Targa, I think) and a Pilot Birdie(?):
A Waterman 452 1/2V sterling silver filigree (pierced work) overlay and a bottle of Herbin Vert Olive:
A true classic, the Parker 75 Cisele:
Another Parker 75, a Sheaffer Connoisseur and a Pilot Birdie:
Quite a mixed bag here from L to R – a Montblanc Meisterstuck Sterling Silver Solitaire Le Grand 146, a Dani Trio Phantas aka the “snake pen”, a Sheaffer Imperial and an older model of the Visconti Travelling Inkwell:
A close-up of the Dani Trio Phantas (snake pen) …
… and a close-up of the Sheaffer Imperial Brass engraving:
A couple of one-piece metal pens, i.e., an integrated nib, a titanium Parker 50 aka the “Falcon” and a Namiki-Pilot M90:
Not sure this Stipula/Chatterley Pens Carbon Future Oversized Etruria LE qualifies but it is one sweet writer with that 1.1 mm stub nib!
Remember these Cross pens – graduation presents, wedding gifts, they were ubiquitous:
Can you say vermeil? Rotring 600s, Sheaffer Targas and Imperials and a couple of Parkers:
The old hidden compartment pen … how did that bottle of ink get in the picture?
What – is this a remnant from the alternate universe, a Waterman Harley-Davidson:
A number of Parker Flighters with a couple of 75s for good measure:
We have some Sheaffers, a Lamy Studio and a blue Kaweco off to the side
The pen in focus is an Aurora 80th Anniversary Limited Edition, a brilliant guilloche pattern cut in sterling silver while the pen slightly out of focus is a Conway Stewart “Drake” LE:
A side shot (above) and head-on shot (below) of the Aurora 80th anniversary LE, a Conway Stewart “Drake” LE (this is a massive pen, made from a solid rod of sterling silver, guilloche engraved in a classic wave pattern), a Conway Stewart J. Rake Demonstrator (based on their classic Duro design), a Parker 51 Special Edition (from 2002), a Parker 51 Flighter, a Visconti Spider, a Visconti Skeleton, a Waterman Carene Deluxe, a Waterman Exception Night and Day Gold, and of course, a Waterman Edson:
What about you? We always love to hear what you think of these Heavy Metal Pens as well as about your own Heavy Metal pens. Do you have a particular favourite? Surely you have at least one?
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”:
Aurora 88. An elegant Italian design that functions perfectly and has a hidden cache of ink, if needed.
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
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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”.
Waterman Edson. A legendary and elegant pen.
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:
Parker Vacumatic. Hey, it’s a Vacumatic, what more is there to say?
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.
Esterbrook. A classic double jewel J (full sized).
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?
A collection of comments from various members who attended the 2010 Toronto Pen Show (TPS):
“The TPS, although small, was my first show. By far, the neatest thing about it was seeing all the pens that previously, you had only heard about. Pictures don’t do justice to the real thing. They certainly don’t show the beauty and detail that goes into making these instruments. One memorable table held several old filigreed eyedroppers. Nothing much to look at in pictures, but infinitely interesting in person.
I went with only a little bit of money, just enough to get something small and a bottle of ink. And I’m glad I did. Most, I imagine, plan to get something really nice, or expensive, or unique, or even their grail, at a pen show. It would have been nice to go with a hundred dollars and get an impressive, memorable pen. But I would have spent the whole time trying to pick out that particular pen, second-guessing what I really wanted. I would have only looked at pens that cost a hundred dollars. I may not have even seen those beautiful $500 filigreed pens mentioned above. I would see the price tag, move along.
So, to all those first-time pen-show-goers, I say this: Bring twenty dollars. It’ll be enough to get you something small, as a souvenir of the show. You will be able to spend your time a lot more wisely. By the time the next show rolls around, or you get onto the Internet, you’ll have handled dozens of pens, and have a much clearer idea of what you really want in a pen.”
“I met a gentleman from the UK who kindly hand-delivered my copy of the new Conway Stewart book – Fountain Pens for the Million, The History of Conway Stewart 1905-2005 – from the author, Stephen Hull (long story), I had also arranged to buy this gorgeous Swan 46 Eternal fountain pen when it came up on FPN (for less than what was asked here) but waited to have it brought to the TPS rather than pay for shipping. The owner of the Swan was also interested in a 2006 LE mandarin Parker Duofold that I own but we could not agree on a price.
I have an Edison Huron with a custom grind steel nib but I decided that I wanted to have an Edison gold nib in it (also custom grind) so I met Brian there to pick up the new nib and have it swapped into the Huron. I yakked with a bunch of people who I know, looked at a few pens (but did not buy) and bought a few bottles of ink (Noodler’s EL Lawrence – a green/black colour and Parker Penman Emerald) from Sleuth & Statesman. I was hoping to buy some of the new Diamine inks like the Amazing Amethyst and Syrah but unfortunately there was a dearth of ink at the show. Finally, I bought some large Apica recycled notebooks from Nota-Bene.”
“Being my first ever trip to a pen show I was not sure what to expect. There was certainly more to see than I expected for what I had been told was the smallest pen show around. I was amazed and commend the vendors who made long treks to Toronto to bring us their wares. It was great to meet a couple of guys from the Michigan Pen Club, they were disappointed not to see Doug and John there (LPC members who could not attend) and asked me to relay greetings to them. Of course seeing most of the members of our neighbor club from Cambridge again was also nice. Sadly I did not purchase anything at this year’s show, which I think surprised my wife even more than it surprised me. All in all it was a fun day and I look forward to doing it again next year.”
“Once my travel-mates had stopped squabbling about the position of the front passenger seat, the trip to Toronto proceeded smoothly enough with a discussion of pen show hopes and wishes. It was good to see a new natural light-filled room for the show along with familiar faces from previous shows. Following a brief tour around the tables, I settled down to examine a Parker Duofold Junior desk pen with a grey and white marble base. The seller had two – the esthetically less desirable model with the better nib, a nice juicy medium with stubbish tendencies. He switched nibs for me and the deal was done; I am very pleased with this pen, which writes like a charm.
I bought a bunch of paper items from Russell at Nota-Bene, including some Apica notebooks (best value for money of any notebook), a Rhodia Clic Bloc mouse pad, some other paper and an Exacompta notepaper holder. There were a couple of other minor purchases before I bought a 32 oz. bottle of red Waterman’s Ideal Ink, bottle almost full and complete with original box. I won’t need red ink for a while.
I spent a little time talking with FPN’s “goodguy” who showed me the four magnificent pens he had in his shirt pocket, including three Montblanc Writers Editions and the biggest pen I have ever seen, the Visconti Jewish Bible fountain pen. And of course it was fun to watch all the goings-on, such as Mike negotiating a potential trade, Rick drooling over a plum Parker 51, and Gord fondling his new Visconti Opera fountain pen in Honey Almond. The trip back was relatively uneventful; fortunately I managed to tune out some rather conservative and highly misguided political chit-chat by tuning into “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” on NPR, which was appreciated by all.”
It seems my long strange trip into the world of fountain pens has led me to acquire a fairly large number of vintage English pens – Conway Stewart, Onoto, and Mabie Todd Swan, for the most part. Virtually all of the UK vendors, etc… that I have dealt with have been exceptional and in this little bit of rambling, I would like to share my experiences with them.
The Ebay seller stylophylist is Steve Hull has been selling off some beautiful Conway Stewart and other pens for some time now as well as parts lots on occasion. Steve is a perfect gentleman who is exceptionally knowledgeable about CS, Onoto and other UK pens. He has given me some tremendous advice and assistance, including recommending Brian Toynton (below) as a great repairer of UK vintage pens, among others. Steve is very kind in that he always responds to my questions on a timely basis (no matter how dumb they may be) and shares his advice and experience freely.
Steve has co-written a number of books, including Onoto Pen Repair, the most recent of which is The Neptune Pen – A history of Burge, Warren and Ridgley. I have a copy and it really is terrific. Steve has been working on a new book, that is to be published very soon, on Conway Stewart that will be a must have for any CS enthusiast (like me – I have already started bugging him about where and when I can get my copy) and most likely of interest to any and all pen collectors. The forthcoming book is The History of Conway Stewart:1905-2005, due for launch at London Pen Show, October 3rd 2010.
Funny thing though, Steve does not use any of his pens, rather he finds a Bic Cristal a great writer! Apparently Steve has no interest in writing – it’s really the history of the things that appeal to him! Wow – all those fabulous pens, the temptation, etc… Takes a stronger man than I am (no comments please!):~)!!
Paul Baker sells pens and a great selection of tools, materials and kits on Ebay (penworkshop) and through the Penworkshop (UK). I bought this beautiful vintage Onoto 1202 MINOR “brickwork” Fountain Pen, ca. 1938, on Ebay from Paul. The picture below from Paul shows what a beauty it is but can’t fully capture its beauty.
He was exceptional to deal with and answered my questions promptly. Paul was also kind enough to remind me how to fill Onoto piston fillers:
“To fill it you just unscrew the end and pull out the piston. Place the nib and half the section in the ink and then gently close the piston and turn the thread. If there have been lots of bubbles in the ink you can be sure that the pen is full. There is no need to test it by pulling out the piston again because this creates a vacuum which can break the back seal. “
As I said, he also sells through his website and I have had reports of LPC members having similar positive experiences with him. Make sure that you check out his website regularly as he is constantly adding new pens.
Paul and I have also been exchanging emails and I would like to share a great pen story that he passed along to me.
“Isn’t pen collecting wonderful – you never know what interesting item you will unearth next. This week I popped into an auction at Woburn and picked up the beauty which I have attached. It’s a fantastic sized pen measuring over 5 and a half ins closed. There is no maker’s name of any sort and I will have to do some investigating. 14ct gold Warranted nib. There is an imprint – James McLean 12 Woodside Terrace Glasgow 3 with the phone no Douglas 2420 on the cap top.
A couple of minutes on the internet reveals James McLean to be a high class bookmaker operating from the Woodside Terrace address in the 1920s. Was even able to confirm the Douglas phone number was his. These beautiful pens were obviously given to his best clients. You had to have bank references to open an account with him. Wonderful piece of social history. I may be a pen dealer but I love this sort of thing. The maker could be just about anyone – Wateman? Onoto? I have some pretty knowledgeable dealer friends who will probably be able to point me in the right direction on this.”
Nope, not the pen but redripple52 (Deb S.), another terrific seller on Ebay who I was fortunate to deal with when I bought this Mabie Todd Swan 3260 with a semi-flexible broad nib (one of her great pictures from Ebay showing my pen is below).
I also exchanged several emails with Deb and one of the topics was the restoration of vintage pens, and in particular, whether to reset a nib. Her very good advice was the following:
“Over the years I have learned to be very conservative in restoration, but checking tine alignment and making any necessary adjustment is something I do routinely as part of the process of refurbishment and write testing.
Most old pens have developed a variation between the axis of the feed and that of the nib from years of use by one hand. If the ink flows freely, I leave well alone. It’s only if the nib is radically misaligned with the feed, or if has been pushed in or pulled out too far that I will consider knocking out the nib and feed. Realigning a nib and feed in a section to
which they have settled for sixty years or more is no trivial matter. Many do it but few make an improvement thereby. After the section pliers, the nib block must be the greatest spoiler of old pens there is (emphasis added by editor). I would caution you to think twice about having the nib reset, but it is your pen and you must do as you think best.”
Brian Toynton sells fine vintage pens including Parker, Waterman, Sheaffer, Onoto and a number of less well known makes through Penamie. While I have not purchased any pens from Brian, I was recommended to him for service of a number of leverless Mabie Todd Swans and a Swan eyedropper with an overfeed that needed to be reset. Brian was prompt in responding to emails and repaired the pens quickly for a very reasonable cost. Brian can be reached through Penamie or by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the weekly meeting of the London Pen Club this morning, I had the opportunity to swab the De Atramentis inks that I purchased from Laywine’s . As you can tell from the bottles that I purchased, I like blue ink.
In case you can’t read my handwriting on the scan (which was rather poor by my usual standards) the colours are as follows – Petrol, Dark Blue, Indigo Blue, Sapphire, Atlantic Blue and Blue Grey.
When I passed the scan around the coffee table this morning, the Indigo Blue seemed to attract the most attention (in terms of a favourite) while the Petrol also generated some discussion (the ink and also its name). I can understand the popularity of the Indigo Blue, however, I am quite pleased with all of them. I am most curious to see what the Atlantic Blue looks like with different nibs. I think it has the most variation in colour that should produce some interesting shading with the right nib, such as a Bexley broad stub or a Conway Stewart Italic Broad.