Don’t You Hate Software?

… when it doesn’t work the way it should?

There’s a glitch on the sales website.  On a couple of items the thumbnail calls up the wrong image.  It’s most obvious on the Pilot Capless post but it affects one other.  When the thumbnail is clicked, the correct full-size image appears.  It’s all a bit beyond me (duh!) but highbrows are hunting down the cause even as I write!


Better Photos of the 1956 Blackbird

Here are some pictures of the 1956 Blackbird. Part of the difference from the picture I published before is down to the excellent work that Paul has done in cleaning and polishing the pen. Great work! The rest – well it’s almost inexplicable! The colour is entirely different from the seller’s photo.

This photo also shows the difference between what Paul has and the colour called “coral”. It doesn’t look much like that stuff that grows in reefs under the sea – in fact the nineteen fifty-six pen looks a little more like what I would expect coral to be. Never mind. It’s Mexican Tan and that’s a name that reflects its appearance.

The original photos that the seller provided are as bad as they were for all sorts of reasons. Poor camera – perhaps poor operator. My own photos are far from perfect but I’ve put some effort into ensuring the colours are as near reality as possible. When I got this monitor (many years ago) I spent some time calibrating it. I usually photograph with some white in the shot so I can get the balance right. All that means that what appears on my monitor is an image that is close to the colour of the pen.

Of course, what you see on your screens may be very different. The only way to solve that problem is for me to visit you all and adjust your monitors to be the same as mine. And I’m really too busy at the moment to do that.

Thanks to Paul S for the photos

Edit:  I’m coming back on this one more time because I think it would be wrong to leave it.  I remain convinced that this is a /73, coral pen.  It’s identical in colour to others I have seen bearing that number.

Yesterday’s Pens

Senator Regent

Platinum 3776 Century Bourgogne

Sailor Lecoule

Sheaffer Imperial IV

Jinhao 992

Pilot Celemo

The Jinhao is used for Baystate Blue.  The pen cost so little that it doesn’t matter what happens to it, but many months down the road it’s still working well.


The subject of rotation comes up quite frequently in the discussion boards. One thing that is evident is that everyone does it differently. There are, of course, some who never write with their pens but maybe they take one out for a day to look at it and put it back and take another one the next day. Just surmising.

I’m semi-organised. I have a Japanese-style wrap that goes everywhere with me. It holds six pens. I could cram in a few more but six will do. As each pen is dried off it returns to the box and another one is chosen. There’s one exception, my Geha Schulfuller which is such a pleasure to write with that it is just refilled. Perpetually. I also make something of an exception for sac fillers because they are a bind to flush. I’ll go through several cycles of the same ink before the pen is dried off and put away.

I have a couple of pens on the desk: a 1940s BHR Swan and a red ink Pilot Varsity. If I’m working on pens the number on the desk and in use can increase exponentially. I’ve had more than a dozen being tested by being used for whatever I’m working on.

I don’t strip pens down to clean them. Nothing can wear a pen out faster than frequent total disassembly*. I just get all the water I can through them and dry them off when no colour shows.

Pens that are in rotation are also being constantly tested. Usually I confirm to myself that I was right to keep the pen as it suits my hand and writes the way I like. Occasionally, using a pen I’ve kept a while I’ll conclude that the line is too thick or the pen is a little awkward to work with. It goes on sale and I return to the hunt for my dream pen (which I probably have already, the Geha Schulfuller.)

Guess the pens in my wrap.  If anyone gets them all right I might think of some sort of prize.

*There are exceptions: the Conid Bulkfiller and some TWSBIs. These pens were made to be stripped down. There may be others – this is a little out of my area.


Here’s a fairer pic of the pens.

Clue: They’re 50/50 old and new.


A Coral Blackbird

In eBay during the week there was a late Blackbird in the colour known as coral. These pens are not common. I’ve seen them before but not often. I bid on it in a half-hearted way and I didn’t get it. I was disappointed but not too disappointed. It was something of a rarity but it was also unattractive to my mind.

Ink had penetrated the cap and barrel in several places and it seemed unlikely that it could be completely cleaned. The other thing that was against it was the colour. It reminded me of creepy, scary pink plastic dolls. I wasn’t a girly-girl as a child. Dolls didn’t do it for me. They looked like dead things. Dead things that blinked, said, “Mama,” and even, in the most horrifying of cases, walked!

Those late lever fill Blackbirds are far from the best of the Mabie Todd output but I’ve had ones in marbled blue or red that were attractive. They sold quickly so it seems that other people shared my appreciation. I wonder if the coral one would have sold so well. It might have reminded some of an amputated finger.


Edit to add:  On further consideration, this pen is rather earlier than I originally thought.  Thirties, perhaps.

And again, maybe not!

An Early Swan Eyedropper

I saw this pen for sale on eBay and it was the stub nib that attracted me. It turns out to be a ridiculously flexible stub. Never mind your Watermans and Wahl Eversharps (good though they are), if you want a really outstanding nib, look for Swans of the first couple of decades of last century.

Looking at the pen I thought it was early and probably a Mabie Todd & Bard. On looking more closely the part of the imprint that would have said either “Mabie Todd & Co” or “Mabie Todd & Bard” had been partially abraded out. The rest of the imprint is good so it isn’t normal wear. The space between “Mabie Todd” and “New York” is quite long, larger than would have been necessary for “& Co”. It’s my guess that this barrel was made when Bard was still part of the company. By time the pen was ready to be sent out he had retired so his name was removed. That would date the pen at 1907 or 1908.

Be that as it may, this is an exceptional pen. It lays down ink like a paintbrush and the combination of stub and flex makes for some very pretty line variation.

My assistant says, “I’d like to get my paws on that Swan!”

Conway Stewart Nibs

Doug Wilson of Melbourne, Australia contacted me to see if any of you could help with identifying these mystery Conway Stewart nibs.
He says, “The set of nibs is said to have belonged to a late salesman employed by Conway Stewart. The outside of the nib box has no ID. The Conway Stewart logo inside the lid is the main clue that the box originates from the latter half of the 1930s. The fact that most of the nibs have heart-shaped breather holes (as opposed to the round ones that were introduced in the late 40s and 50s) supports this dating.
Most of the nibs are straight and either fine or medium but a couple are broad, two are oblique and one is “turned up” at the tip for particularly smooth writing. On the bottom row there are some really large, rare items – look at No. 26 on the bottom right, for example. There is information in the public domain which enables one to assign most of the nib numbers to specific pen models but there are others where, intriguingly, I have not been able to do this. The mystery numbers are:
Top row:       Nib No. 2V
Centre row:  Nib nos. ISM, 15, 11 and 1M
Bottom row: Nib nos. 27 and 8A
If any readers can throw light on these, it would be greatly appreciated. After years of collecting Conway Stewart pen and pencil sets, it is only recently that I have begun to understand the depth of information that can be imparted by nibs. It is like a dialect within the overall pen language!”