The NA Safety Clip and the Swan Metal Pocket

As Andrew Hooper kindly sent it to me I’m taking another look at the NA Safety Clip today and comparing it with the more familiar Swan Metal Pocket. As the N is over the A in the pressing I would say it should be that way round. There is a slight difference in size. The Swan is 119 mm long and the NA 117 mm. The NA weighs 16 g to the Swan’s 15 g. I would think the latter figure is probably not all that significant and it may be within the margin of error of my digital kitchen scale – not the most precise of measuring devices.

The method of manufacture appears to be the same but the design is different. The NA is a very slightly more complicated pressing in that it has a tiny tab above the label to enable pulling the front forward to insert the pen. The finish is different. The Swan holder has an only slightly shiny, almost matte finish whereas the NA appears to be finished with gloss paint.

None of this, of course, takes us any closer to finding out what company had the NA Safety Clip made. Using it as a search term in Google leads to a spring hook for a dog lead… Not that helpful, really! Unless someone comes up with the answer to this puzzle that’s all I have to say on it, except that I would not advise anyone to use these things for the purpose they were originally made for. Almost all of them have deteriorated and have internal rusting which will scratch a hard rubber pen.

A 1910 Swan

Here’s a very nice 110-year-old pen. It’s “The Swan Pen” of 1910. It has no number on the cap as the later ones did, like the 200 or the 1500. The black rubber is pretty well pristine and the chasing and barrel imprint are crisp and clear. The cap fits well and the section thread is very good. It has a pretty piece of slender rope work at the base of the barrel.

Though the nib is clearly quite old and tapered to fit the section, I suspect that it cannot be original. It is English-made and Swan were importing the nibs from America in 1910 so this is probably a post-1923 nib. The split feed is in good condition which is a relief. So often these pens are let down by broken over-and-under feeds. It seems to be an almost insoluble problem as things stand at the moment. Were split feeds moulded or machined in some way? I’ve considered trying to create one using a very fine saw if I could only get some kind of blank.

However, I don’t need to worry about that with this pen. All is present and near enough correct. I’ve even managed to acquire a spare split feed for any future emergencies. The nib is soft and springy rather than flexible. In all, a very good pen ready to continue writing as it did 110 years ago!

A Different Metal Pocket

You know those “metal pocket” things? Most are stamped “Swan” but you occasionally see Conway Stewart ones. Andrew Hooper sent me photographs of a rather different one that has come his way.

I’ve been racking such brains as remain to me, trying to think what “AN or NA” could stand for. I can’t think of any pen company with those initials but of course I may be missing something obvious!

The metal pocket came in company with a Swan eyedropper filler, probably a 200, which suggests that they have been together for a long time.

Any ideas?

With thanks to Andrew Hooper for photographs and information.

My Assistant Gets Busy

Me:  I thought you were going to write-test those pens today…

Smartie:  Go away.

Me: You slept through the Grand Prix.  You must be refreshed by now!

Smartie: Go away.

Me:  You’re in the way.  I can’t get to that bookshelf…

Smartie:  Tough.  Go away.

Me:  I may have to reconsider your employment if this continues.

Smartie:  I’m 14 years old.  That’s 110 in your years.  I retire.  Go away.

The 1060s

There are two main versions of the Leverless Swan 1060 and varying nib sizes from No 2 to No 4. All a little confusing, perhaps, but all accurate. There is the classic of the late 40s and the more tapered, later version of around 1950. The sizes appear a little distorted by my dumb photography. In reality the earlier one is 13.2 cm and the tapered version is 13.7 cm capped. If I had my druthers I would pick the earlier one but I’m perfectly satisfied with the tapered version that I actually have.

When Mabie Todd moved on from hard rubber to celluloid they bought it in from the English Xylonite company so that’s what they advertised it as: Xylonite, but it’s just celluloid. I’m always a little cautious writing about Swan materials because they sometimes used a plastic that didn’t celluloid weld. Whatever it was, it wasn’t celluloid! Regardless of what they may be made of – and I assume it’s celluloid – these pens take a terrific shine and the more you handle them the better they shine.

Both have No 4 nibs. The post-war one has a semi-flex fine, the earlier one an Eternal No 4. Eternals come in for a bit of stick from the flex people, who think flexibility is the only way to go! The Eternal is the equivalent of the Conway Stewart Duro or any Duofold nib you care to mention, a very good nib indeed.

Posting Pens to the US

There was a week or two when deliveries to American addresses were going through quite quickly, almost back to normal. Then it all went wrong. Packages get across the Atlantic quite quickly but then they go nowhere for ages.

I’m aware from the news that there is interference with the US mail and doubtless that’s what underlies the difficulties I’m experiencing in sending pens to my US customers. This is not a political blog and none of that is my business. All I’m concerned with is whether I should be sending valuable packages to America when they may disappear into limbo for a long time.

If US customers wish to place orders I will send pens but I would advise caution for the moment.

Mabie Todd Swan SM205/60

The SM205/60 follows on well from the Swan 6142 I wrote about the other day.  Both are wartime pens though this is earlier: 1939/40.  It shares the high military-style clip but in other respects is profoundly different.  The SM205/60 looks back to the hard rubber pens that preceded it, with its flattish ends and engine chasing.  By time the 6142 came along  a new design dynamic prevailed with its very tapered shape.

The SM205/60 lacks the colour of the later pen but it makes up for that with its attractive chasing and the flush-to-the-barrel black hard rubber lever, a style unique to Mabie Todd.

Which of these pens would I prefer?  Probably the SM205/60.  It has everything you would want from a lever fill pen and a bit more.  I appreciate the colour pattern of the 6142 but the increased tapering does nothing for me.  It isn’t an improvement, just a fashionable aesthetic change.

Mabie Todd Swan 6142

I don’t believe I’ve written about the 6142 before.  Surprising because it was a popular pen and they appear quite often.  It’s one of those patterns that moves with the light.  At one moment a small area looks almost black.  You move the pen and the blue leaps out at you.  The celluloid – they called it xylonite – that Mabie Todd used throughout the thirties and forties is tough stuff, strongly resistant to wear.  As a result many of the pens of that period look like new.  This one has retained its gold as well to complete the picture.

The 6142 has a No 1 nib, of course.  It’s quite a small nib but it has all the fine properties of the larger Swan nibs.  This one is quite flexible.  Some people are quite disparaging about small nibs.  I’ve never understood that.  After all, they’re a lot bigger than the nib on the ever-popular Parker 51 and it’s only the final few millimetres that do the business of applying ink to paper.  I note that there is a tendency among modern pen and nib buyers to go for the biggest thing they can get.  I have my suspicions about why that should be so; perhaps an element of compensation is coming into play there but this is a family blog and I won’t go into that any further.

Strangely enough I see few of the small Swans these days.  Have they all been bought up?  Almost every pen I buy is either a 2, 3 or 4.  Spare No 1 nibs are rarer than striped leopards.  I have a rather splendid 1910s eyedropper, complete with split feed, that has been waiting for a No 1 nib to turn up for a very long time.

Like many other wartime pens, the 6142 has its clip set high to keep it tidy beneath the flap of a uniform pocket.

Chris’s Ink Reviews

I know that some of you are very fond of ink.  For myself, it comes very much secondary to pens and yet, somehow, I have filled a shelf 14 inches wide and five feet long with bottles of ink.  I don’t know how that happened.

Anyway, my friend Chris is an ink aficionado and there are no better reviews around than hers.  You’ll find them here.

I believe she reviews the occasional fountain pen too.



This is part of a very battered 4261 which I probably won’t write about as there’s nothing special to say about it.  The peg had broken, an unfortunate thing that can happen to any of us with a slip of the hand or a second’s inattention.

It’s a pity I didn’t take a picture before I went to work on it.  The previous repairer had used some glue to try to replace the broken part of the section, a fairly hopeless task given the outward pressure that the feed applies.  He had done it with the feed in place, possibly because it gave the broken fragment some support.  It had all the makings of a goodly disaster…

It hadn’t worked, of course, and the glue had overspread the end of the feed and had seeped into the channels.  I could scrape it off the end but the channels defeated me.  I ran a brass wire brush over it in the hope it would remove the glue but not damage the channels.  Didn’t work.  The usual advice in these situations is to run a fine blade along the channels but I never do that.  It invariably cuts the bottom of the channel which isn’t an improvement.  Time to resort to the spares bin.