Langs Summit Cadet S100

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Langs knew how to make a good, solid, traditional no-nonsense pen.  This Summit S100 Cadet makes no pretence at modernity; no hoods or covered nibs here.  Though it was probably made around 1950 it remains the archetypal English pen, just as it would have been in the nineteen-thirties.  That’s no bad thing.  If we have a design that works as well as it can – and this one does – why change it?  There’s no merit in change for change’s sake.  It’s only appreciated if it’s an improvement and many of the desperately modernist styles that were appearing in Britain in those years were no improvement.  Many were a little weird and showed a lack of confidence in home-grown design.  The contrast with that is one of the things that makes the Summit so attractive.
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Another is the rose-marble patterned celluloid, which was used by several manufacturers in the post-war years.  Though the “Cadet” name implies a school pen, there is no diminishing of quality from the more expensive models.  This is a well and solidly made pen.  Perhaps there is a little saving in the use of chrome rather than gold for the plating of the trim but it goes well with the pattern and is very attractive.  The 14 ct gold nib is small but not as small as, say, some Wyvern nibs were at this time.
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In use it’s a good size of pen that fits the hand well.  The nib is a little more than springy, in fact it gives quite a noticeable level of line variation.  It’s a real pleasure to use.
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Langs and their Summits would not be around much longer.  This isn’t quite their last hurrah but it’s coming close.  This beautiful pen reminds us of how much we have lost with the passing of one of the great British pen manufacturers.

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Collecting Pencils

More and more I’ve found myself fascinated by mechanical pencils.  I admire their technical ingenuity, I enjoy the wide variety of materials they come in and I love that anything from a miniature cricket bat to a greyhound’s head can reveal itself to be a mechanical pencil.

All too aware of my abysmal ignorance on the subject I went looking for a guide.  There are several out there.  I settled on Collecting Pencils by the late Sue Courtier with Jane and Jim Marshall.  It’s a slender paperback of 66 pages but there’s a huge amount of information in there and it’s profusely illustrated, mostly in colour.  It cost £12.00.

The authors emphasise that this is a beginner’s guide and I have no doubt that there’s much more to learn but it is a very comprehensive introduction.  There are chapters on everything from classification of pencils to the simpler repairs that one might conduct oneself.  One thing the authors have wisely chosen to omit are the list of prices that you find in many books on writing instruments.  These prices are rarely a good guide even at the time of publishing and with the passage of time often become more and more misleading.

Seeing all the varieties and brands of mechanical pencils laid out like this it seems too huge a field to ever come to terms with, but I can remember a time when the fountain pen world looked equally vast and varied.  I’ve enjoyed this book immensely and I think I will find more involvement with mechanical pencils equally enjoyable.

Kicking Back

Well it’s a holiday so me and my assistant are taking it easy today.  I’m listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble (on the headphones to avoid Easter disharmony) and she’s cat-napping.

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By the way this is the claw that she uses to clear feed channels.

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More On THe Kingswood

If you look back through my various blog entries about the Kingswood, you’ll see that I started with some wrong ideas and gradually worked towards more apparently correct ones with the help of various readers.

There are still some questions, though.  It seems clear that at different times the Kingswood was manufactured by Valentine, Langs and Unique.  Regardless of who made them, they seem to share material with Valentine/Parker.  Not exclusively, I believe, as I’ve seen one or two patterns in Kingswoods that I haven’t seen anywhere else but in general there’s a lot of sharing of celluloid going on.  How did that work?  Were rods of celluloid handed over with the contract?

Why was the manufacture of the Kingswood contracted out at all?  It’s perhaps understandable that in the days when the brand was owned by Eversharp which appeared not to have manufacturing facilities of its own that the work should be farmed out to other manufacturers.  After Parker acquired the business, though, one would have thought it would be more efficient and economical to do the work in-house at Newhaven.

Any thoughts?

A 1935 Mabie Todd Jackdaw

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In the hierarchy of Mabie Todd pens the Jackdaw was the lowest in Britain, occupying the same place as the Swallow in America.  These were school pens and were made to a lower level of quality than the Blackbirds and Swans.  It’s rare, for instance, to find a Jackdaw that doesn’t have noticeably worn plating.  The nibs, though equally as good to write with as those fitted to the more expensive pens, were shorter in the tail and a little thinner.
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For some Jackdaws that position is now reversed.  Collectors vie for ownership of the colourful Jackdaws made in the mid to late thirties which shared the bright patterns of the Visofils.  This glorious red and black Jackdaw is an example of these especially beautiful pens.  In shape it closely resembles the brightly self-coloured Blackbirds of the same period.

A collector of “bird” pens – Swans, Blackbirds, Pelikans, Eagle pens and the like – asked me once if the Jackdaw and Swallow had bird barrel imprints like the Swan and the Blackbird.  I had neither to hand at the time and couldn’t answer with any degree of certainty but here it is:
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No bird imprint on the barrel but a splendid Jackdaw Trade Mark on the box and the paperwork.  I still can’t say about the Swallow, having only handled a couple and that a long time ago.
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School pens get a harder time than any other.  The result is that these colourful Jackdaws are not at all common, more’s the pity.  Like the Visofils, they’re not often seen now.  That makes such a fine example as this all the more to be valued.

Chinese Brass

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This strange-looking pen turns up frequently in eBay.  My one arrived as part of a lot and was ignored for months but I took a look at it last night.  No name – in fact no writing anywhere except on the nib, and that’s “iridium point Germany” so it’s Chinese.  Not that there was ever any doubt.
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It’s a hunk of brass.  The rubber rings are there to provide a better grip and they certainly do.  What can you say about a pen like this?  First and foremost, I suppose, is that it’s ugly, and not in a minor way.  Ugly as guts.  Looking at it might turn you to stone.  Secondly, it’s heavy.  Well, duh!  It’s machined brass; of course it’s heavy!
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I mean, look at that.  It’s plumbing, that’s what it is.  It’s really got nothing to do with how a proper fountain pen is made.  The little flat-topped nib seems very out of place on this bloated pseudo-pen.
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Now that it has been suitably slagged, there are one or two things to say in its favour.  It’s in perfect condition and it works.  There was a time when I sent pens like this to the landfill but no more.  If they work I list them in the “Bargains” section of the sales site for a peppercorn price and if anyone wants such a pen, there it is.  It might suit someone who has arthritis which makes it difficult for them to use a slender pen.  I have arthritis myself though it isn’t that bad yet, and the hot wax helps – thanks to CC Barton!
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If anyone knows which Chinese company makes this piece of superior plumbing and what the thinking behind its extreme oddity is, I’d love to hear about it.

Lapis Lazuli Duofold Streamline

Months go by without a lapis lazuli pen, then I get two!  This second one is a real beauty, a streamline Duofold.  Forgive the flash photos; time is pressing today.
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As if the glorious colour is not enough, how about this nib?  You don’t get many oblique stubs in a pound of Duofolds.
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What more needs to be said?  The pen says it all.
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Talking of beautiful colourful things, this pair of goldfinches honoured my bird feeder today.
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And here’s my assistant, busy as always.

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