Siamese Cat Ink Well

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How astonishingly cute is that?

I can’t guess at how old it may be.  When did Siamese cats become popular?  I don’t know.
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It particularly appeals to me because I’ve had a couple of Siamese cats.  They weren’t the dark seal-point type of this ink well, they were the much paler lilac-point but they did have the same bright blue eyes.
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Anyway, this is a delightful thing to have on one’s desk.  The only thing that I don’t like is that when you open the ink well it looks like the cat has had a horrible and terminal accident.

Conway Stewart 75 Raspberry Marbled

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This is a Conway Stewart 75.  Chrome trim, so not one of the most expensive ones.  In fact, it was at the other end of the scale; not quite the cheapest but not far from it.  I’ve written about the 75 before, back in October 2012.  You can see it here: http://wp.me/p17T6K-vf.  That was a long time ago, though, so I think I’m justified in writing about it again.

Actually, I think the chrome trim works better with this glorious raspberry marble than gold would.  Altogether it’s an exceptionally pretty pen.  It was in production from 1952 to sometime in the mid-60s, so this is quite an old pen though it doesn’t look it.  The only notable wear of the plating is on the clip stud which always goes first.  Otherwise it’s in very good order with a beautiful shine and no blemishes.
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So what does being at the low end of the Conway Stewart range mean?  I suppose it was a pen for those schoolkids whose parents were quite well-to-do and could afford to risk the price of a pen that might be lost or damaged, as so many school pens were.  It might also be the pen for an adult whose salary was not that high, but who wished to rise above the basic Platignums, Osmiroids and the like.  This pen, I think, might have belonged to the latter because it has been treated with care.
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I don’t deal in Conway Stewarts quite as much as I once did.  Unless they’re quite special, like this one with its beautiful, striking pattern, they’re less popular with my customers than Mabie Todd pens.  I think that goes some way to show that people buy, from me at least, for performance rather than appearance.  Many of the Swans I sell are self coloured and nowhere near as pretty as this Conway Stewart but the writing experience is better.  That’s not to say that Conway Stewarts are poor writers – anything but!  However, they often are a little bland in comparison with the outstanding Swans.
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When all that’s said, there will always be a place on my sales site for Conway Stewarts.  They were, particularly in the post-war period, the British pens par excellence.  The 15s, 75s and 85s were inexpensive (though not cheap) and cheerful and their bright colours must have been an uplifting highlight of the austere 1950s.  Once again, I think they fulfil the same role in the austere 2010s and their price remains affordable.

Mabie Todd Swan SF130B Pen & Pencil Set

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This one’s a bit special, to my mind.  Even the box is exceptionally nice.  It’s in green – what’s that?  – shagreen?  I think that’s what it is.  It’s lined with gold at the ends and theres a hint of the treasure chest about that box.   I haven’t seen one like that before.

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Opened up, it shows a beautiful pen and pencil set.  The pen is an SF130B.  It’s a small pen, 10.8 cm capped but a comfortable 14.2 cm posted.  The gold plating is in wonderful condition and it seems that the pen has not been much used.  When I took the mummified remains of the old sac out, it had “Swan” and the trademark Swan image on it.  I think that was the original sac.  The pencil, which is an early version of the Fyne Poynt, is in similarly very fine condition.

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This is an early 1920s set.  It seems likely that it has been kept safely in a drawer for much of that time, which accounts for the excellent condition.  It’s not far short of 100 years old.  There can’t be many sets around looking as good as this.  And, of course, it’s a perfectly practical set of writing instruments, as good as anything that’s being produced today.  Better, maybe, in that the pen’s nib has a degree of easily induced flexibility.
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I always feel quite privileged when these really outstanding items turn up.  Things as good as this won’t keep appearing for ever.  We need to enjoy them while we can.

Another Swan Chatelaine.

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This isn’t the first of these chatelaine pens that I have written about but it’s well worth writing about another one.  For once I have an exact date for the pen – it’s 1913 and Ada L Frost was given this pen, probably for a significant birthday – perhaps that’s when she reached the age of 21.  A Google search showed up plenty of Ada L Frosts but they were all in America.  This pen was made in England and it’s very unlikely that it crossed the Atlantic twice, so we must assume that there is no English record for this particular Ada.
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So what can we tell about her?  Just about the only thing that we can say with some degree of certainty is that she came of well-to-do stock or perhaps was in a wealthy marriage, because this was a very expensive pen in 1913.  From a feminist point of view it would be nice to think that Ada bought this pen from her own earnings but very few women were earning significant sums of money back then, sad to say.  In any case, pens like this were usually given as presents.
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There is a patent date on the broad cap band but it’s considerably worn so I can’t see what the actual date is.  The rest on the of the plating, on the two decorated finials on the end of the barrel and the top of the cap remains very good.  The only faults I can see are misaligned nib tines, which I can fix easily and the cap locking mechanism, a form of bayonet, doesn’t work.  I’ll have a look at that and see what I can do.  The black of the hard rubber remains as intense as when it was new.  I unscrewed the section and was rewarded with sight of a very new looking thread.  It might have been cut yesterday.
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Even though I cannot trace its first owner, it feels like a wonderful privilege to handle this 102 year old pen which may not have been used since it was last held by Ada L Frost.  Though it’s not available to me, her biography is tied up in this pen which doubtless followed her throughout much of her life.  We cannot know what the personal events of her life were but World War I was looming when she got this pen and all the various events of the first half of the 20th century: coming off the gold standard, the Roaring 20s, the Great Depression and the Hunger Marches, the growing threat of yet another war – all these were to come while Ada had her pen.
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Something like this, a very high quality pen, becomes even more precious when there’s a name and a date.  I know that though it will not remain in my hands for very long I will always remember it.  It has a special significance of its own.

Jinhao 599A

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Here’s another of those cheap Chinese pens that are rightly doing so well these days.  This is the Jinhao 599A.  It comes in various colours but this one is the reddest red thing that you have ever seen.  It’s quite a big pen at 14 cm capped and a pretty huge 18.6 cm posted.  That’s okay though because it weighs virtually nothing.  It’s distinctly reminiscent of the Lamy Safari and I suppose that’s no accident.  It also reminds me of the Sheaffer Viewpoint Calligraphy pen.  It’s considerably cheaper than either of those.
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The clip has lots of spring in it and up at the top there is a tiny engraving of a horse and chariot with two people in it.  The wheel of the chariot can also be interpreted as a chrysanthemum.  I assume that this is the Jinhao trademark.  There’s a black insert in the top of the cap.  The barrel has an ink Vue cut-out and a bold imprint.
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The nib is quite small and though it is silver coloured it bears the imprint “18K GP”.  The feed is multi-finned.  Unscrewing the barrel reveals a piston type converter.  The pen closes firmly.
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The nib is firm and medium.  The ink flow is excellent and it’s an altogether very good writer.  Because it’s so large when posted, it would take me a little while to get used to writing with it but I don’t think its size would be an obstacle in the longer term.
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I’m delighted with this pen.  It’s superb value for the money at £5.95.  It’s clearly aimed at competition with the Lamy, and it’s at least as good a pen if not better.  I made a slight mistake in buying this one.  I assumed that this would be the usual Oriental medium – in other words, a fine in Western terms.  I was wrong.  It’s a medium.  If you want a fine order a fine.

Parker Duofold AF Revisited

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Following on my recent post about English Duofolds, I recently snagged this Duofold AF for a customer who is particularly fond of them.  It’s my favourite among the English Duofolds and I think it’s a particularly stylish pen, if not in an obvious way.
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This version of the Duofold was issued in 1948 and remained in production until 1953.  It was succeeded by the Aerometric Duofold which, I believe, is a step backward with its squeeze filler which requires the removal of the entire barrel.
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It presents a smoother outline than the Duofold NS which preceded it.  The barrel jewel has gone to be replaced with a rounded blind cap which unscrews to reveal an aluminium bar rather than the traditional button.  Altogether, I believe, this is the most elegant of the English Duofolds.
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This one is quite unworn, with a good barrel imprint and nice gold trim.  The 14K Newhaven nib is at the fine end of medium and is a splendid writer, if firm, as one would expect of these pens.  They are a bargain, but may not remain so forever.

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Deserted!

I just can’t get any pen work done because my assistant is never here.

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Unfortunately she found this book and she spends all her time outside now.  Seems she has another hobby…

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