Rambling About Nibs

Hans Gilliams raised an interesting point: many vintage pens came with all sorts of nib shapes – needlepoint, fine, medium and broad obliques (left and right versions), medium, broad and extra broad among several others. Many well-known modern brands offer far fewer options, mostly fine, medium and broad. Some even only offer fine and medium. There are some honourable exceptions. Graf von Faber Castell offers extra fine, fine, medium, broad, medium and broad oblique. Platinum 3776 comes in a veritable host of nib types.

Of course I haven’t written with all of these pens and cannot comment on how good their nibs are. Modern Conklin offers quite a range but having had one of their stubs I can report that it had a huge blob of tipping material and wrote just like a broad. Pelikan offers EF, fine, medium and broad but again, my experience of them was not especially pleasant. My fine had a round ball tip and I found it most unsatisfactory to write with. Baoer provides what they call an oblique; again, a large lump of tipping material, ground down and polished on one side. Not a very satisfactory oblique!

When the fountain pen was the main writing tool, people had a greater awareness of what they needed to write as they wished. I have no doubt they could be very specific about what they wanted and some manufacturers responded very well. Mabie Todd, for instance, in their adverts, offered a huge range of different points. I’ve handled a great many Swans over the years and have enjoyed that variety. No great blobs of tipping material here! Conway Stewart, too, provided several different cuts of their nibs.

Why the change? In the post-war period the ballpoint gradually took over as the primary writing instrument and a generation of writers learned to hold their pens vertically and apply the pressure the ballpoint required. Fearing that the earlier type of nib would be damaged by these writers, fountain pen companies and nib manufacturers began making a more robust nib with a large blob of tipping material that would withstand the heavy pressure applied and would replicate the effect of the ballpoint.

Or so the story goes. It seems a reasonable explanation to me. In recent years nibs have improved slightly in response to writers’ requests. I emphasise “slightly.” Personally I like firm nibs but I don’t like the ball tip that many manufacturers still stick by.

Though I think that the reason I have given above remains the main one, there are probably other reasons related to cost of production and maintenance of warranties. Of course, along with everything else, the truly flexible nib has disappeared but that is ground that we have covered often before.



Rob P kindly provided me with these photographs of the same pen. The bottom one is accurate. These extreme variations often cause problems for buyers who discover that the rare colour they thought they were buying turns out to be something duller and more common.

It’s hard to imagine that such a difference from the real colour can be entirely innocent. Differences in uncalibrated monitors can account for a certain amount of colour change but not this much. It looks like very bright light with a blue cast is responsible.

It happens mostly with the paler pens. It’s easier to decide what colour patterns should be. I would think that such an unreal picture would be the basis for returning a pen – after all, you’re not getting what you have every reason to think you should.

Of course PhotoShop and similar programs can be used to make a pen appear any colour but they can also easily restore accurate colour to an image with a colour cast or overexposure. The one exception I have found is in some of Parker’s English Duofold range of the mid-20th century. Greens in those materials that Parker used can be impossible to photograph accurately, usually appearing blue.

If a photograph leaps off the screen at you and is clearly a previously undiscovered colour in a Swan, think twice. It most likely isn’t.

The Guinea Pen

I’ve posted about several examples of the Golden Guinea. This may or may not be another. It’s in black chased hard rubber, the lever is chrome plated and the barrel is threaded for posting. There is no clip. The only imprint is on the cartouche, “The Guinea 21/-” the nib is warranted 14 carat gold so that doesn’t help with identification.

I would have thought that if the pen was a Golden Guinea that’s what would have been imprinted. On balance I think this is something else. Many of these black hard rubber pens with threaded barrel ends were turned out in the 20s, most unbranded. The threaded barrel was almost an indicator of an inexpensive pen, but at 21/-this pen was comparatively expensive.

The only other pen I’m aware of with a Guinea model name is The Guinea Whytwarth but I see no indication that this is it.

Thanks to Rob P. for pictures and information.

Smartie’s Latest Uploads

Assistant Smartie says, “Hello,
There are new pens for sale, you know.
My human says she did it all
Which is unmitigated gall!

I work until my paws are sore,
And yet she constantly wants more!
She never gives me ANY treats;
No crunchies, mice or any sweets.

Ungrateful human, oh the shame!
The way she constantly lays blame
On poor old me, as if I’d ever
Chase pens under the chairs – no, never!

It’s not MY fault she has to crawl
When pens – all on their own – do fall
Onto the floor, landing just there…
It was some OTHER cat, I swear!

I am offended, greatly so;
In fact, I think it’s time to go.
I need some sleep, can’t take the strain,
My human is just such a pain!

If you go look at her website
And buy some pens this very night,
Perhaps I’ll get some peace and rest;
You’ll like my pens – they are the best.

That’s right – MY pens – ’cause I’m the one
Who works so hard and has no fun
While she takes credit for each sale.
It really is beyond the pale.

I’m never petted, stroked or spoiled
No matter how much I have toiled.
I’m starved! She only feeds me twice
An hour, sometimes more – not nice!

She only lets me in and out,
Three dozen times a day, that lout!
I’m telling you, my life is fraught,
It’s so unfair, I’m overwrought.

I’m feeling faint, I need my bed
So I can rest my tired head.
Perhaps she’ll feed me some small scrap
Before I take a little nap.

That Deb says I’m a drama queen
But I say that she’s very mean.
Oh, woe! The life of one wee cat
Who wears a Pen Assistant’s hat!”


The Blog

I’ve come to a point in this blog where I have to consider where to go with it. I’ve done a lot of repetitive posts recently – seven or eight about the Kingswood for instance. I don’t mind writing more than once about the same pen if there’s something new to say but otherwise it becomes tedious.

It’s been almost 9 years of pen blogging and a lot of pens have passed over my bench – just over 3100 since I started keeping a record, and several hundreds before that. There are other pens out there that I have yet to write about but I don’t always find those rarities. Because they’re rare (tautology).

I’m not going to continue to repeat myself because it spoils the blog so I won’t be writing so often. If that leaves you feeling a little deprived, I’m the same because I love to write. I will still make discursive posts when a subject comes to mind and if you come across something unusual and would like to send me photos I’ll be delighted to write about that. Whenever something different or unusual comes along, I will write about that, of course.

So that’s where we are.

A Different Geha Schulfuller

I recently picked up this Geha Schulfuller. At first glance it appears the same as the one I have had for many years. Setting them side-by-side, however, the new one is obviously larger. When measured my own one is 12.4 cm and the other 13.3 cm and proportionately thicker. The difference is too great for them both to be the same model but there is nothing on either to indicate a model name or number. Both are just Schulfullers.

Reading about these pens I discovered that most, supposedly, have a serial number on the cap or barrel. This was so that each child knew his or her pen, Gehas being so common in the classrooms in Germany. Neither of mine has such a number.

As I have said elsewhere in the blog, Geha was a serious competitor in the German market until finally taken over by Pelikan in 1990, when the brand was discontinued.

Pearl and Black Wearever

I don’t usually have Wearevers. They are not common in Britain and most of those I see I don’t want. There are exceptions though.

Wearever was part of David Kahn Inc. Their business model seems to have been to make pens as cheaply as possible and sell in great quantity. This worked, in the sense that Wearever made more pens than any other manufacturer and doubtless David Kahn Inc made a lot of money. Quality suffered, of course, and many bad Wearevers were made. The company was making pens from injection moulded plastic as early as the 1920s and those pens were especially subject to shrinkage and discolouring.

The exceptions were several ranges of pens made in the 1940s. I cannot assign a model name to this pen but it is acceptably well-made. The parts fit together well, the design is attractive and the pearl and black celluloid is beautiful. As expected the gold wash on the metal parts has mostly vanished but I don’t think that detracts from the appearance too much.

The original steel Wearever nib was worn to the point where it could not be used. It was surprisingly difficult to find a replacement that fitted well. I have several gold nibs that would have fitted but they would have been inappropriate. In the end I found a steel nib of a similar age to the pen and that fitted the feed as if it had been made for it.

This is an example, like several others I have written about, of a cheap pen that has worked well and given good service. The beauty is a bonus!