Mabie Todd Blackbird 5244

Excuse the quality of the photography today. For one thing I’m not using my usual camera but a little Canon PowerShot SX100 which doesn’t really have the capabilities of my Fuji which has gone to Orkney with my husband today. For another, I’m only snatching a few minutes from a day of restoration and I didn’t want to take the time to set up the light-box. As a result, the only photo that does justice to the colours of this very beautiful pen is the one that shows the barrel imprint.

It’s a Mabie Todd Blackbird 5244, the 44 indicating that this pen is made from rose marbled celluloid. It’s a late thirties example and it has survived in remarkable condition. Mabie Todd priced Blackbirds cheaper than Swans but they didn’t make their savings on build quality, just on a general reduction of trim.

There’s no cap ring, the clip and lever are chrome plated and the Blackbird nib is made from slightly thinner material than Swan nibs were. Also, the top of the cap is left blank, where a similar Swan would have borne the logo there. That said, this is a splendid pen that compares well with the top of the range output of many other manufacturers. The celluloid is glorious and the pen writes well with appreciable flexibility.

Not all in the garden is rosy, however. I bought this pen unrestored but the previous owner had pulled the section to remove the old sac. In doing so, he savaged the section with very sharp pliers. I can often get rid of pliers marks if they’re not too bad, but in this case the jaws had been sunk into the section, then wrenched around it, leaving very deep scores. Neither heat nor abrasives can get rid of something like that. Luckily, I had a correct section in the Mabie Todd spares tin but that’s not really the point.

If you’re not going to fix the pen, leave it alone. Removing the old sac isn’t doing the buyer a great favour, especially if you’re going to destroy the section in the process. If you are going to fix the pen, throw your pliers away unless they’re padded pliers intended for pen repair. The supply of old pens is large but it isn’t infinite. Cannibalizing pens for replacement parts isn’t a sustainable practice in the long term. Let’s stop destroying perfectly good parts needlessly.

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