Mabie Todd Swan 3261

Though there are always exceptions to surprise and delight you, you can guess what most British pen nibs will be like in advance of testing them. English Parker Duofolds are nails, but good nails, and Mentmores and Summits are likely to be quite similar. Conway Stewarts mostly have a small amount of flexibility, with less than one in fifty being a full flex or a stub. Many Onotos are flexible, and stubs are far from uncommon, including a gorgeous broad oblique stub I had a few years ago. Nothing beats Swans for line variation, though. Over the years of restoring pens, I would estimate that around a third of Swans have been either full flex or some variety of stub. Buying a Swan fifty or sixty years ago must have involved a lot of choice for the discerning writer, and not just in the top-price, large-nibbed models either. Writing perfection was available all the way through the range, as this humble Self-Filler 3261 shows.

This is a 1940s black hard rubber pen, and with a No2 nib and two narrow cap rings it wouldn’t have been very expensive. The BHR has faded quite evenly, to a pleasing chocolate brown but otherwise the pen’s pretty much as new. The high-shouldered medium oblique nib is very attractive. That said, it’s a fairly ordinary pen that isn’t likely to draw admiring attention. The line it produces, though, is the picture of elegance:


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