A 1935 Mabie Todd Jackdaw


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.
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:


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.
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


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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
As if the glorious colour is not enough, how about this nib?  You don’t get many oblique stubs in a pound of Duofolds.
What more needs to be said?  The pen says it all.
Talking of beautiful colourful things, this pair of goldfinches honoured my bird feeder today.
And here’s my assistant, busy as always.


Uploaded To Goodwriterspensales

Lots of pens uploaded to the sales site tonight – Conway Stewarts, Swans, Parkers, Watermans and quite a few rarities and bargains.

Stone Paper

I don’t usually write about paper for the simple reason that I don’t know much about it. I use whatever cheap paper the supermarket offers for pen testing, in the belief that if I can make a pen write well on low quality paper it should be fine on better quality stuff. For writing samples I use Basildon Bond because it’s fountain pen friendly and it has remained consistent in texture and colour over the many years I’ve used it.

I’m writing about paper today because Nick Romer contacted me about a new paper he has developed. It’s quite revolutionary in concept and seems to tick most of the boxes I would want in good paper. You can read all about it on http://www.DavinciNotebook.com.


Nick provided me with a sample. I wrote on it using a pretty wet pen with the result you see here. There’s no feathering and the paper is pleasant to write on. It’s a subtle ivory colour and very smooth. Seems to be excellent paper. I would be pleased to use it. It’s heavy – I would be interested to hear what a ream would weigh.

Scotland has a long and honourable history of paper-making and, as a consequence, has had some of the most polluted watercourses in the world. Traditional paper manufacturers have done much to mitigate the harm they cause to the environment but paper remains an ecologically demanding process. Where Nick’s paper impresses is that it is remarkably environmentally friendly. It doesn’t use wood or water or emit toxic air and is composed of calcium carbonate (80%) and non-toxic resin (20%). The calcium carbonate is marble quarry waste.

This is a Kickstarter project which means that the person in the street can support it at a cost to suit their pocket, should they choose to do so. This seems an exceptionally worthy project to me.

Unbranded Ivory And Black


This little (11.7cm capped) pen arrived as part of a lot some time ago. At first glance the pattern suggested that it was probably an old Platignum but closer examination showed no indication of who had made it. I laid it aside to be worked on if I ever got the time. I suspected that it might be one of those foreign pens that resist every effort to repair them.


I found the time at the weekend. The section was ridged where it fits into the barrel like a late forties Waterman. This gave it a mighty grip as some mystery glue had been used. Heat and patience did the job, as ever. It had a j-bar which was in good order and it took a No 20 sac. The clip was missing but I found one to fit. The nib had once been plated but that was long gone. I examined it minutely in the hope that there would be some clue to the manufacture of the pen but there was nothing there. The nib was worn out. I could have fitted a gold nib as a replacement but it would have been like fitting a Rolls Royce hood ornament on a Ford Prefect. I bought some excellent Krupp nibs a few years ago and I still had one or two left, so that’s what went in the pen. Makes a great writer with even a touch of flex.


Who made it? I literally don’t have a clue. The general shape and especially the ridged clip screw are an echo in miniature of the Duofold so it’s probably a thirties pen. It’s definitely not a Platignum as they weren’t shy about putting their name on their products. There’s nothing at all on the barrel or cap. It hasn’t been worn or polished out; there was never any imprint there to begin with. The striking ivory and black pattern has been used by many manufacturers so that doesn’t help. I still lean towards the idea that the pen is foreign, mainly because it bears no resemblance to the output of any of the British manufacturers. That’s purely speculative so it remains a mystery, but a most attractive one.

The Conway Stewart 150


Like the 68 I wrote about yesterday, this 150 is a late, downmarket pen. A year or two ago these later Conway Stewarts would hardly sell at any price but I see that’s no longer the case. There are two reasons for buying these pens, (a) to complete your collection of Conway Stewarts or (b) to fix it up to write with. After all, they have good gold nibs and the filling system is usually easily repaired. Conway Stewart insisted on calling it a Pressac filler but really it doesn’t merit another name. It’s just a squeeze filler. The sac housing is just thin sheet steel with a chrome layer and it’s particularly prone to rusting. That’s OK. It’s inside the pen when in use. You don’t have to look at it. Even if it had rusted through I suspect that cobbling a replacement together wouldn’t be too taxing on the ingenuity.


This pen is more traditional than the 68. It retains the usual Conway Stewart streamlined shape and the cap is screw-on rather than the clutch type. I popped a new sac in and it writes like a dream, quite stubbish like the 68.


It’s a shabby pen, though. The clip once had a gold wash but of course that didn’t last long. A little reminder of it can still be seen in the impressed letters. The cap is scratched where the clip rotated against it. The plastic seems especially soft and has a waxy feel to it, like an Osmiroid 65. The cap ring has not only lost its gold wash; the layer beneath is eroding away also.


Internally it’s even worse. The Pressac housing has rusted extensively. I got most of the rust off and gave it a brisk polish but it hasn’t really improved it. It works, though, which is about as much as you can ask of a pen of this age and quality. Or lack thereof. All that said, I find myself liking the pen. It’s a good and comfortable writer and it fits the hand well. It could easily be my next everyday writer – in fact I’m sure it will be. To be frank, it’s no worse than many popular low-cost pens and indeed it’s better by virtue of the gold nib.


In the interests of accuracy it’s worth saying that this is the later version. The earlier ones, while no higher in quality, looked a lot better because they had something approaching the appearance of the traditional Conway Stewart clip, whereas this one has a cheap-looking steel pressing.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 246 other followers