Waterman Junior


I’m always pleased when there’s a Waterman Junior coming my way. They’re superb pens, often in glowing colours like this iridescent green marble, and they have very, very nice nibs. I can’t find it in Max Davis’s Waterman book but looking at the very neat chrome-plated lever box, I’d guess that it was made in the late 1930s.


Invariably, in my experience, these pens have superflex nibs. A glance at the nib would give you no clue to the decorative line that resides in there. It just looks like another ho-hum Ideal nib. But it’s not…


Forgive the hasty and somewhat blotted writing. I closed the page before the ink was dry, but you get the idea.

Penco No 53B

It’s not often I get my hands on a high-quality Italian pen and I think I only got this one because no-one else knew what it was when it was listed on eBay. I watched it for several days, expecting the price to take off but it never did and mine was the first and only bid.

The Penco name was adopted by the Rossi Brothers in 1952 after a couple of decades as FRV. It was a period in which English or English sounding names went down well in Europe. This pen was their much-advertised No 53. The resemblance to a Triumph-nibbed Sheaffer is obvious and clearly no accident. It’s a copy but it’s also something more; the Rossi brothers admired the Sheaffer Balance and had the confidence to believe that they could produce something even better. The 53 is the result. The filling system with which this pen was fitted when first issued was quite complicated and bore some resemblance to Parker’s Vacumatic. Between 1953 and 1954 the first version was replaced by the 35B which had a version of the Touchdown filler. That’s the pen I have here. All in all, this was beginning to look very like an infringement of Sheaffer’s patents and legal action was threatened. In response, the pen was fitted with a piston filling system, but this was not enough for Sheaffer and in the face of expensive legal proceedings the Rossi Brothers withdrew the pen and, indeed, the company didn’t survive much longer.

So how do you classify this pen? Given the build quality it’s far from being a cheap knock-off. There was no suggestion that this pen was a Sheaffer, so it isn’t a forgery. It is, in a sense, an homage and there can be no doubt that it’s a copy, too. So what’s the difference between this pen and all the – for instance – Duofold copies that appeared under a variety of names in the twenties and thirties? Not much, one might say, except that perhaps the concept of the Duofold was less unique and identifiable than that of the Sheaffer Balance 1000. Also, Sheaffer was renowned for being hair-trigger litigious.

It’s a curiosity for the use of three filling systems in the short period of its production. It’s also notable as the height of cheek, but it’s also a superbly well-made pen.



Thanks to Abrate G. (2004) Article 416, Pentrace.

Mentmore Autoflow And The Spares Chaos

Yesterday was a pen fixing day. I was getting along great guns until a Mentmore Autoflow stopped me in my tracks. The weak point in Autoflows is the feed. The teeth are very thin in the comb at the sides of the feed and often break off. A comb feed with missing teeth can have very uneven flow, so it isn’t just a matter of appearance. I tried a spare Autoflow feed or two but they were too slim for this particular model. It was a rather nice raspberry marbled button filler. I’m slow, but eventually I catch on. Perhaps the button fillers took a thicker feed than the lever fillers!  Well, to cut a long story short, some do, others don’t. To expand on that, none of the lever fillers have the thicker feed and some of the button fillers have a slightly thicker one; others have a considerably thicker one, it seems.

The trial and error took quite a while. It took much longer than it need have, of course. This is because of my lack of organisation. My Conway Stewart and Mabie Todd spares are reasonably well arranged. Everything in else is in a large wooden box, all jumbled together – bits of every make of pen you ever heard of and some you probably haven’t, caps, barrels, sections and miscellaneous components. It takes some time to take each one out of the box, look at it, lay it aside or add it to the “possibles” pile. Then you have to put it all back again…

I know that this is no way to work. I’m very organised in every other respect. All my stock of pens is stored according to their status: awaiting repair, repaired, listed on the website and so on. My spreadsheets enable the calculation of annual taxes in an hour. My image files are regularly archived and my description files save reinventing the wheel for every pen I repair. All of those things are fine, but my spares have been a blind spot. One day soon I must amass some containers and bring order and convenience to the chaos.

Goodwriterspensales Update

New listings in nearly every category today on the website, including this lovely Boxed Burgundy Parker 51 Pen and Pencil set.

Ebay Musings and The Mentmore 46

Just to redress the balance after a couple of days of grouching about an eBay seller (with whom I am now in dispute) I want to say that most eBay sellers are good, some are excellent, and many exceed all expectations. Ebay comes in for a lot of stick on boards like FPN, mostly from people who clearly should not be allowed out by themselves. Ebay’s like anything else: if you don’t research it before you get involved, and if you don’t strain your teaspoonful of firing synapses to grasp how the thing works, you won’t do well with it. It’s a bit like trying to drive a car without ever having seen or heard of one before – it’s likely to end badly and you have no-one to blame but yourself. Soon after it began, I used eBay intermittently for the odd purchase. It wasn’t long before I began to get the idea that eBay could be a large part of a small but sufficient business for me. It took a few years before I was in a position to take advantage of it but now my use of eBay is intense. I don’t sell there as much as I once did, but procurement of stock would be impossible without eBay. There are many sellers that I buy from week after week, confident in the honesty of their descriptions and their dealing.

I wrote about the Mentmore 46 in October last year (http://wp.me/p17T6K-c) but it’s such an exceptional pen that it’s worth writing about again. The 46 was first issued around 1946 (strangely enough), a truly hopeful time for pen manufacturers. The war was over, labour and materials were being liberated up and it was back to business as usual. Swan was planning its torpedo-shaped range, Conway Stewart was moving from its very traditional pre-war pen shapes on to a new, more streamlined range. There was an air of cautious optimism. It was time for something new, the pen manufacturers thought, but not too new. A little refinement here and there, some rounding of the general pen shapes. In other words, some limited novelty but let’s not startle the horses.

Mentmore didn’t agree with that timid advance. Instead, they made this:

Clearly, they had taken a look at Parker’s 51 and decided that they had something there, but they would do it better and spare no expense on the way. In its own way, the 46 is as well made a pen as the Parker 51 – though it’s by no means as innovative, despite appearances. Under the hood (and what a piece of sculpture that is) the 46 is a completely traditional button filler with a normal nib. All the effort has been put into futuristic looks and style.

The style, one must say, is not entirely to everyone’s taste, then as now. Doubtless Mentmore expected this high-prestige pen with its gold-filled or sterling silver cap to be a winner. It wasn’t. Judging by how many are around today, it sold steadily but was vastly outsold by the traditional – dare I say dull – Autoflow.

We’re left with one of the best made of all British pens, solid, quite opulent but a little eccentric. Perhaps if we were not so accustomed to think of the smooth lines of the Parker 51 as the norm for a hooded-nib pen we might appreciate the geometry of the the 46 more. I don’t know, but I do know that they grow on you. I’ve repaired and sold several of these and I’m always on the look-out for more. I might just keep the next one I find. Quality is quality, in whatever unexpected place you find it.

This Cracks Me Up!

As I said yesterday, two pens with broken caps were delivered. One was a real heartbreaker – a Lapis Lazuli Duofold Junior in otherwise excellent condition. The other was an everyday Blackbird Self-Filling Fountpen. The first seller apologised and asked that I return the pen for a full refund. No problems there: it was a hairline crack that I, too, might have missed. The seller’s response was the appropriate one. I’ll be leaving good feedback.

The other one didn’t behave so well. In response to my initial email he replied, “I’m sorry the lid is cracked. Can you send a photo of the crack please as I was not aware of any exterior defects.” Why would you need a photo? The pen’s coming back anyway! Nevertheless I set up the mini-studio and took a photo which I reduced in the normal way, to 600 pixels on the longest side. Here’s the photo, showing a crack that you could drive a bus through.

Prince Charming’s reply was, “Thank you for the photo. The photo is very small so it is hard to see the crack in detail. Perhaps it happened in transit. I will refund the pen if you send it back. We will both be out of pocket for the postage.”

Have a look at that crack. It has worn edges and it has the same degree of fading as the rest of the pen. It didn’t happen in transit. And there’s no reason on earth that I should be out of pocket because someone tried to sell me a pen with a gaping crack in the cap! I sent Price Charming a full-size photo which I hope choked his broadband to death. I also made him aware that I expect return postage to be paid. I have yet to hear his considered reply. I suspect that this one will end up in eBay’s dispute resolution centre. And I will win, as I have before in similar cases. And then I will leave appropriate feedback.

I’m not whining about people making mistakes. I’ve made a few myself and I’ve had customers return a pen with damage that I had missed. When they did they were given a full refund including postage both ways. Even when the pen was coming back from Spain or America. That’s only fair. Why should a buyer lose the cost of returning a deficient item? No fault resides with him; he shouldn’t be penalised.

It Annoys Me A Little…

When a body has been hung, drawn and quartered it’s not like a jigsaw puzzle. It doesn’t even remotely look like it could be put back together. The hanging distorts the neck in an amusing way and the disembowelling flattens the body somewhat. Stepping carefully over the untidy pile of entrails, I began to tidy up my execution tools.

Looking back at my handiwork I mused, “That’ll teach him to sell me a pen with an undeclared crack in the cap!”