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?

Review of Renaissance Art Folder Holder (by KR)

So, my friend kindly sent me a bottle of Old Manhattan. I fell madly in love with it and absolutely had to find the right pen for the job. Decided that it had to be something black and subdued and preferable not shiny, just like Old Manhattan. Since said friend knows better than I do, he sent me this for my 40th birthday:

Yellow Omas Emotica
Yellow Omas Emotica in the process of being attacked by a snake!

(The pen, not the snake. The snake is in love with the pen. Long story, but the pen is extremely lovely.)

So. We now have the perfect pen/ink combo. Now what? Hm. I seem to have a separate Apica notebook for everything that interests me. I have a New Music Canada/CBC Radio 3 notebook and a History notebook and a NY Times crossword notebook where I write unfamiliar words for further study so that I can kick tail at the 2010 American Crossword Championship and an “Interesting Things I Hear on the Radio” notebook and… You know where I am going. An absolute nightmare to go to the library lugging all of those notebooks.

Enter the Renaissance Art Folder Holder! Excellent! Rather than a whole notebook dedicated to one subject, I can have all of my subjects, plus work, meal planning, grocery shopping, household chores, calendar and personal goals folders with me at all times, everywhere I go. Sweet.

Drat! I use Rhodia pads and they won’t fit in the traditional Folder Holder! No fear, as Arthur the Magnificent from Renaissance Art kindly just made me one that would accommodate A4. Two days later it was in my hot little hands.

Renaissance Art Folder Holder
Enter the Renaissance Art Folder Holder

The leather is fabulous. Hands down, the nicest leather I have ever seen. It even smells good. For those who ride motorcycles, this leather has the same feel as a Hein Gericke jacket. The stitching and everything exceeded my expectations. Bliss. Now to fill it with lovely, useful things. Because it was purchased to 1) make life easier and 2) look (absolutely!) fabulous with the Emotica and the ink and the Rhodia, yellow, black and orange would figure exclusively.

What a hat trick - Folder holder + Emotica + Rhodia!
What a hat trick - Folder holder + Emotica + Rhodia!

I do use different little useful things depending on where I am going, but the folders generally stay the same. When I have finished a page of, say New Music, I take the page out of the folder and put it in a matching folder in my desk. That way, I don’t fill up my Folder Holder too much. There is ample space for extra folders and a Behance Action Pad, which I carry everywhere in case a spontaneous meeting erupts. If you haven’t tried this stuff, you should. Very cool.

Check out the Behance in that folder holder
Check out the Behance in that folder holder

Anyway, I usually have a Clairefontaine Age Bag address book in the middle pocket (yes, I know my address book is black, not brown. Noodler’s Heart of Darkness and a Q-tip fixed that little problem), Behance Action Pad in orange and a Crane 3×5 card case with a Behance Action Card in the CD pocket. My Mikado fits snugly and happily in the business card pocket (I used to carry a Visconti traveling ink pot there but because of the Mikado’s ink capacity, I no longer run out). The Emotica fits securely and happily in the large pen loop and the material used to make the loop doesn’t stain the yellow rubber. Bliss. Because of a recent development (details below) I now carry a Preppy eyedropper highlighter filled with (wait for it) Noodler’s Orange highlighter ink in the pen loop. Oh. The Rhodia pads have yellow paper. Sigh.

Okay, now we’re cooking. I had a part time job at our local Farmers’ Market and the good bathrooms were upstairs so I used to pass by and chat with an artist who worked up there. Very nice man. One day, I linger a bit longer and take a really good look at one of his little tiny paintings (I had glanced at it every time I went up there, but I hadn’t really looked at it).

"The Gang's All Here" (ed. note - and what a motley crew it is!)
Photo otherwise known as “The Gang’s All Here”.

Enter the missing link: Jim Pescott is his website. Amazing stuff and those of you who get the Unicef Christmas cards may see his work this year, as he was selected to participate. This is a very great honour and I am proud to know him.

Now, as all such adventures go, I found that I needed another piece of the organization puzzle. I am a notoriously bad housekeeper. I don’t plan well and I forget that things need doing, such as taking library books back on time, sending birthday cards and cleaning the kitchen. That one constantly falls out of my head. I was using a folder for it in the Folder Holder, but I’d keep forgetting to look in it to tell me to do things like clean the kitchen. I needed something more “in my face”.   Enter the 3×5 card case with composition book!

Enter the card holder
And gimme one of those card cases too!

While I am not thrilled with the leather used on this one (I got spoiled by the batch used to make my Folder Holder) it is a well made and thoroughly well designed item. I’ll get used to the leather (nothing wrong with it, but I don’t like shiny leather). I scoured the city and have found some composition books that might work. I am still in the process of finding exactly what I want. I may end up cutting the covers of my Apicas and putting those in (the opening is a bit too small).

Everything in its place - Oops, where are my glasses?
Everything in its place - Oops, where are my glasses?

So. The Folder Holder and his little brother, the card case have changed everything. Seriously. I can now have all of my various hobbies documented in one place and it is effortless to drop one subject and pick up on another very quickly. I have orange folders for my personal hobbies and yellow for my work projects. The card case serves as a constant reminder of what needs to be done when and how. It is impossible to open it and not see that my copy of Spaced needs to be back to the library on the 25th. I have a running shopping list in there and a myriad of other lists and doodads, with a composition book that is for note taking and is also perforated so I can dispose of my ramblings.

Renaissance Art has been fabulous to deal with (slow answers to emails aside-their spam filter is apparently too efficient) and there is no denying the quality of their goods (shiny leather aside). The Folder Holder and his little brother are extremely cool tools in quieting the frenetic mind (I think the expression is “mind like water”). I have never been more organized, although the kitchen is still a mess. I lost that card, I think. Oh, well.

Thanks to LPC member KR for writing this and taking the great pics!