You may remember that I decided to try to improve my writing with firm-nibbed pens instead of covering up my imprecision with the swirls and curlicues of flexible nibs. The project continues and there is some visible improvement, though at the cost of speed. Normally, I write very fast indeed without losing legibility, something I had to learn to do for note-taking in university. Frankly, though readable, the result isn’t pretty, hence the current effort at improvement. Slowing down your natural speed of writing isn’t easy. It’s like grinding along in first gear in an endless traffic queue.
The upside of all this is that I can now have all the stiff-nibbed pens I ignored before. I admired many of those pens but felt that they were not for me. Now they are! The first one I went for was the Sheaffer Lifetime Flat Top, one of those early pens that got it so right first time that it cannot be improved.
It’s a very simple design. Like all the other flat-top pens that were around at the time, it’s virtually just two tubes, one slightly larger than the other. Actually, the barrel does taper a little as does the cap lip, but otherwise it sticks to that very minimalist design. Unlike most other pens of the time, the Lifetime exudes great rolling waves of sheer quality. The moment you take it in your hand, you know that qualitatively this pen is way out on its own. There are many roads to beauty; one is perfect fitness for purpose. That’s what makes this one of those perfect pens, like the 1920s Swan Eternals or any pre-World War II Onoto.
As luck would have it – I wouldn’t have known – the example I bought is an oversize one, measuring 13.5cm capped. It’s a big, chunky pen, bigger than I have become used to, but not too big. It fits the hand well, it has an easy balance posted and it weighs little. More, by a shade, than the black hard rubber pens I usually use, but nowhere near enough to be tiring over an extended period of writing, like some modern brass-barreled pens.
The nib is the stiff nib that all other stiff nibs aspire to be. There is more flex in a granite slab. It’s a smooth writer, though not without enough feedback to prevent it from being one of those horribly slippery nibs they make today. It’s always ready to write without hesitation even after sitting for several days. The feed, a fairly simple ladder type, delivers just the right amount of ink. It holds a gallon of ink, and as this nib is a fairly parsimonious medium, you don’t spend much time filling the pen. This is a great, practical pen.
I see other firm-nibbed pens in my future. Maybe a Tuckaway, perhaps even a Lucky Curve Pastel and certainly a Newhaven Duofold NS.
I’m having fun here.