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.