Less Common Pens

Ford’s Patent Pen

By any standards, the Ford Patent Pen is a mighty beast. I have a Standard, and it measures 14.7cm capped and has a considerable girth. The Magnum version is 15.9cm long. Unlike the Sheaffer Vacuum-Fill or the De La Rue Onoto Plunger Fill, the pen fills on the upstroke and the ink is transferred past the seal to the ink chamber on the downstroke. The “valve” (actually part of the seal) remains open in use to allow passage of ink to the nib and the long breather tube allows air in to equalise the pressure. Because it was recognised that pens which held ink in the barrel were particularly subject to blobbing because of the transfer of heat from the hand, the whole assembly is housed in a sleeve. This makes it a thick pen and it’s quite heavy when filled with its large capacity of ink but it feels quite comfortable in use.

T.B. Ford Ltd. made blotting paper, and had no previous experience of making fountain pens. George Stewart Vivian, who had previously worked for Valentine, was employed by Ford and developed this pen in 1930, bringing it to the market in 1931. There is some debate about who actually manufactured the pen. It may have been Wyvern or Valentine and even De La Rue has been suggested. In any case, the standard of workmanship is very high. For a large and expensive pen, it was a sales success and these pens are not uncommon. They do have some failings, though, and parts are extremely scarce, with the result that a good Ford in working condition fetches a high price. The earliest ink chambers, like my one, were made from celluloid, and they have proved durable. Later ones were made from perspex and they tend to craze and crack. Cap lips are thin and fragile, and some of the internal parts can also break.

Most Ford nibs are rigid but my one has some softness. There’s a little flexibility and enough “give” to make it a pleasant writer.

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Standard

10 thoughts on “Ford’s Patent Pen

  1. Bruce Martin says:

    Any idea where a sac can be had for a Ford Magnum Patent Pen. I have one that is simply stunning, excellent to minty condition. It came from a London collection I purchased nearly 30 years ago, stored in a collection ever since. Gorgeous huge nib. I also have important documents from the Ford factory on the pen, including patents and diagrams of the pen’s unique filling system submitted with the patent. This is a very interesting collection of additional material on the Ford factory, Valentine, and the bombing of the factory in London. This is a very large pen.

      • Bruce Martin says:

        Actually, I am in the US, Ann Arbor, MI to be exact. But thanks for the information. When I purchased this group of pens, the Ford Magnum among them, I contacted the Fountain Pen Hospital and I was told they could probably do it but the rarity
        of the pen/sac, made the sac extremely expensive. As I recall, a sac they didn’t have in stock but had to be made as a special item. Of course, that was 25-30 years ago. I couldn’t afford it at the time so put it away where it has remained untouched for the past 25-30 years. Been selling some stuff recently and thought it would be a wise investment to get the Magnum filling and writing as something other than a dip pen :-). Should I go back to the FP Hospital or better to send it on a round trip home to the UK and back again? Appreciate your quick reply. May the fourth be with you, Bruce

      • Bruce, I’ve been thinking about this. I have a Ford pen myself – not the Magnum but a Standard, built in the same way. It doesn’t have a sac. It has a piston and seals. I know people here who repair these pens but I don’t know about the US. The cost of a round trip to the UK, insured, is likely to be around £30. I don’t know how to advise you. This page http://www.penpractice.com/page10.html will give you an idea of what is involved in restoring your pen. Your pen is rare and very valuable. Be sure that anyone you ask to do the work really understands what is involved.

  2. Bruce Martin says:

    Your comments are very interesting to me and I thank you for your time. What your comments suggest to me is that 27-28 years ago, when I first contacted the FPH in NYC about this pen, they said they could make a sac for it and that it required an accordion style sac. At the time, here in the US, the FPH was everything there was to know about fps. Much has changed. Now I’m questioning whether they really knew what they were talking about. I am now wondering if they had ever really seen or heard of this pen and telling me they could make a sac for it was their way of saying, “yeah, we can fix anything, send it to us.” I now wish I hadn’t been so complacent about it b/c I may have had it restored 20 years ago. Of course, had I studied the patent and diagrams of the pen and filling system, which accompanied the pen from London, I may have realized it didn’t require a sac. 30 years ago, I was just getting into the restoration side of fps. In all of my years of restoring pens, I have only ever seen one other Ford Pen and it was a badly mangled (irreparably) Short Standard that I purchased with a group of pens from Italy. I will get in touch with Pendragons and see what they have to say about restoration. Shipping costs are minor, I’m sure, in comparison to restoration costs. Curious? Have you seen many others besides your Standard? Appreciate the conversation and suggestions. Peace, Bruce

    • I would suggest that the person to repair your Ford is Dr Laurence Marshall (laurence@penpractice.com). He is the expert in the field. I’ve seen a few Fords over the years. Great pens. I hope it works out well for you.

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