The Conway Stewart 286 had a long production run, from 1930 to 1945. For strict accuracy, one would have to say that it wasn’t quite the same pen throughout the whole period. There were a couple of redesigns. It was always the same type of pen, though, a quite large pen, in the middle of Conway Stewart’s price range, bearing a single narrow cap ring and a big No5 nib. It was always a big seller, probably the company’s biggest seller during the years it was in production. The 286s are well-made pens and they survive in large numbers. Of all the CS pens of that period, I find that these are the ones I have to do least remedial work on. Yes, there can be nib repair and replacement to be done, because people drop pens, but the main components survive better on this model than on most others. The lever, often a problem on Conway Stewarts, rarely is on the 286. It seems to be a little sturdier.
The 286 comes in wonderful colours, including the ever-desirable cracked ice, blue rock-face and the wonderful toffee swirl. Most 286s that turn up, though, are black. Much as I enjoy the colours, I like black pens too. With no distraction of pattern or colour, the proportions of a pen really show in black. I realise that it’s a personal preference, and there’s no mathematical or scientific formula that can be applied to back up what I say, but I think the 286 is the most handsomely proportioned of all Conway Stewarts. Barrel to cap length, clip to cap length, nib to the pen as a whole, all seem more satisfying than on any other Conway Stewart model of the time.
This harmony of proportion makes for a comfortable and well-balanced pen in the hand. Again, it’s a personal preference, but I find the 286 a better pen to use than, say, the 55, which is a little chunky and top-heavy when posted, or the very popular 388, which is just a bit too slender for extended periods of writing.
It’s a good thing, then, that 286s were so popular and have survived so well. For the time being, at least, there seems to be a near-endless supply of them.