I never clip a pen to shirt or jacket so what is the clip for? For me, in use, it has the benefit of keeping the pen from rolling off the table. Otherwise, it’s a means of advertising the manufacturer and many have been the brilliant designs devised.

The earliest fountain pens did not have clips. The pen was desk furniture and there was little thought of carrying it on one’s person. Indeed it would not have been wise to carry some of the early eyedroppers; fine writing instruments on the desk but an accident waiting to happen when attached to clothing.

First came accommodation clips. Most of those available “over-the-counter” were quite clumsy things, brass or white metal plated with gold or chrome. Ones made by pen makers were better: Mabie Todd’s “Clipper” is light, elegant and bears a durable finish. All accommodation clips have their problems, though. They tend to overbalance posted pens and their finish is often not durable, spoiling the effect of the restored pen. Tightly fitting clips on hard rubber pens, in place for a century, can be tricky to remove. When caps are fragile the clip has to remain in place.

Some manufacturers, Mabie Todd and Conway Stewart come to mind, made “pockets.” When new these were a good solution but after decades in drawers many have rusted inside and will scratch the surface of a pen. They should not be used unless the interior has been polished clean.

If you happened to be writing in public – as people do with their laptops today – that provided the manufacturer with an opportunity to advertise that it was his pen that you were using. Whichever brand that was there had to be some means of identifying the pen. Simply engraving “Parker” or “Conway Stewart” on a pen was something but not much. Someone wishing to know which pen you used had to get close enough to read the script. Parker, like half a dozen others, chose the image of the arrow. It qualifies as a good signifier for a fountain pen in a variety of ways. The feather is common to the quill and the arrow. The fountain pen and the arrow have some similarity in shape; both are long in comparison with their breadth and both have a sharp business end.

The Chinese saw the benefit of the readily-identifiable pocket clip and made use of it but not in the most honest of ways. The Hero 616 appears to have been intended to be passed off as a Parker 51. The Wing Sung Vacumatic clearly isn’t a Parker 51 – the ink view window makes that obvious but the wish to be associated with Parker through the clip remains. The Chinese seem lacking in imagination. Apart from Lamy, the only pen they copy is Parker. There are many other famous old pens with recognisable clips that they could copy!


Dickinson Croxley Reprised


The best-known Dickinson Croxley is the gently tapering one with an angular clip screw. It’s the typical British pen, strongly reminiscent of the Summits to which it is related and like Mentmores too. It was made at a time – the late forties – when new designs were appearing but the company made the clear decision to stick with a traditional shape – a decision that was amply rewarded, so many Croxleys are there around seventy years later. The small breaks with tradition are in the clip and lever, a fine piece of late Art Deco.

Price may have contributed to the Croxley’s popularity, along with reliability and very good nibs, many with some degree of flexibility. Popular they certainly were, most in plain black, others in a particularly beautiful gold marble, yet others in bright blue marble. There were other Croxleys, the most common among them being one with a debt to the Sheaffer Balance, the Silvern Cap button filler and matching pencils for all these models.

In the midst of plenty, it seems, Dickinson closed down production. Were the sales beginning to fall away, or did Dickinson see the eclipse of the fountain pen by the ballpoint coming?The company continued to prosper as a producer of fine papers and other stationery products. Several take-overs later the Dickinson name continues, associated with a line of envelopes.

Baoer 388

I buy cheap modern pens – European, Japanese and Chinese – out of curiosity. Most, I have to say, are good writers though not exceptional in any way. Having tried them and perhaps written about them I sell them on or give them away.

I was preparing to get rid of this Baoer 388 and write-tested it to remind myself how it wrote. I haven’t used it, beyond playing with it a little when it arrived. On re-testing it I realised that it wasn’t my usual fine point. It’s an oblique, and thereby hangs a tale.

I remembered that I bought this pen because the seller offered an oblique. Obliques, in the vintage pens I normally use, must have been differentiated from other points at a fairly early stage of manufacture, being a stub ground to either the left or right oblique. This pen is different and I can see how the seller could offer the oblique at the same price (or perhaps a very little more, I don’t remember) as the medium or fine. They have taken a medium point and ground one side down into a slope. This they call an oblique and I cannot argue; it’s an oblique. It’s not a good oblique though. Because of the way the grind is made, it’s hard to find how to hold the pen. It’s not like what I would call a proper oblique where the only way to hold the pen is exactly the way a user of an oblique would want. It also has rather more feedback than I would wish.

It’s quite unsatisfactory as it stands but I believe it has potential. I would like to explore this way of making an oblique to see if with a bit of work it could be brought to an acceptable condition.

The Baoer 388 is, I understand, a shameless copy of one of the modern Parkers. I’m not familiar enough with recent Parkers to say which one. To my mind it’s one of the more old-fashioned Chinese pens, being made of lacquered brass, a construction they seem to be moving away from. Other Chinese pens I have bought in the last year or two are either made from plastic or much lighter metal. This is not a huge pen but it’s heavier than I’m comfortable with and completely unmanageable posted.

The pen closes firmly but without an actual clutch. What I believe happens is that the expanded end of the section slides over the inner cap which then holds the cap in place. Initially the inner cap takes a fearsome hold of the section, requiring the application of much muscle power to remove the cap. This puts unbearable stress on the plastic inner cap which eventually cracks. It’s then much easier to cap and open the pen but eventually it will wear to the point where the cap falls off.

As it has been reshaped I can’t say much more about the nib. There’s no maker’s name on it. The pen came with a converter of the piston type. It works well but I’ve had these converters fall apart before. I will treat it with caution! The pen has a red and black stripe which I don’t find appealing. The furniture is gold-coloured and well finished. There are worse pens around, I have to say. I believe that Baoer pens are rebadged Wing Sungs. There must be a reason for doing that but it escapes me.

Modern Pens

I’m uploading some modern pens to the sales site.

These are pens I bought for testing and writing about and are in as new condition at bargain prices.  Grab ’em if you want ’em.

Ink Disaster!

I hate to get ink on my hands. It’s not ladylike and I sometimes pretend to be a lady rather than just a pen restorer! I wear gloves to repair pens and even to fill them because ink is a pernicious fluid and loves to get where it shouldn’t.

Yesterday I selected a German piston filler that I haven’t used for a while. It has a lovely Merz & Krell nib, fine and with a touch of flexibility and I was looking forward to using it. I filled it with Diamine Grape and wrote a few practice lines. It was every bit as pleasing as I remembered. I capped it and set it aside for a while. I came back later and opened it to take some notes. The nib was completely covered in ink. I wondered what was going on and wiped the ink off. The pen continued to write well. Again I set it aside until I needed to take notes again. The nib was covered in ink once more. I held the cap in my left hand while I examined the nib. I felt something wet! The cap was full of ink and it was escaping onto my hand. My palm and fingers were purple.

That Diamine Grape is pretty resistant to soap and water. Indeed they seem to make no difference to the purple staining my hand. I tried a nail brush. That didn’t help much either. Was I to have to go around with a purple hand forever? Would I have to wear one glove (like Michael Jackson) to conceal it, or keep my hand in my pocket?

Thankfully, between dishwashing and showering, the purple has paled somewhat. It might not be entirely permanent and perhaps I will be rid of it by July or August! By the way, the pen is not deficient. I had forgotten the most basic role of inking a piston filler. Fill it, then pour out a drop or two. That’s all I had needed to do to save myself from the shame of the ink-stained hand.

Another Upload

Loading a few more items to the pensales website today.

Uploads To Sales Site

I uploaded a few pens and odds and ends to the sales site.