A Gold-Filled Swan Safety Screw Cap Ring-Top

Someone sent me photos of a beautiful old Swan for valuation this morning.  It was a half overlay eyedropper filler from around 1908, long and slender with an over-and-under feed.  A wonderful thing, but a pen of an earlier era, a time of gas lamps and foolscap paper, of top hats and horse traffic.

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Later, as I was restoring pens I came on this gold-filled Swan Safety Screw Cap.  It was made within a very few years of that earlier pen.  The Screw Caps went into production in 1911 and went on until around 1920, so only a short time separates the pens but in that brief period, the fountain pen has been transformed!  Gone is the over-and-under feed, the most evidently archaic feature of the earlier pen, to be replaced with Swans’s excellent and enduring ladder feed.  The proportions of the pen have changed.  Despite being a ring-top, this pen is entirely modern on shape.

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There’s some wear, particularly on the end of the barrel where the cap has been posted.  This pen evidently was not reserved as a thing of beauty (though it is!) but was well used over a lengthy period.

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And rightly so, too!  The stub nib is a complete delight to use, and the pen is large enough, and contains enough ink to be completely practical.  It’s both a wonderful writing instrument and a stepping-stone in the development of the modern fountain pen.
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The Parkette Deluxe

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Back to the nineteen-thirties today, to that dodecagonal pen I hinted at, the Parker Parkette DeLuxe.  This is yet another of Parker’s Thrift-Time pens but for a money-saver it’s pretty well appointed. The fluting is a pleasure to look at and it feels good in the hand.  I’m surprised more pens didn’t adopt this design.  The black button with a white line under it on the cap top and the barrel end is an eye-catching feature, and the gold-filled lever, clip and triple cap rings was laid on thick enough to have withstood the passage of the years.  In all, this is quite an outstanding pen.

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I have a theory that up to the nineteen fifties this country was flooded with foreign pens.  Most were poorly made and didn’t last long.  As very few of them were designed to be serviced, once the sac perished, that was it.  In the bin.  Some lasted a bit longer, like this one that was included in a lot I bought.

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Here it is in the ever-popular “Pustule and Vomit” pattern.  My guess is that this, too, is a thirties pen.  If you study it for a moment or two you begin to see that it looks a bit like a child’s drawing of a Duofold.  At a stretch, this pen could be repaired.  The section fitting is best described as “rammed in” and it might need to be glued in place.  The pressure bar has disappeared so one would need to be cut to fit.  The peg that the sac fits on is very slender, so it would need a necked sac.  The plated nib, impressively enough, has tipping material and the blind cap and brass button are fine.

Obviously, the pen wouldn’t be worth the time and expense of repair as no-one in their right mind would want it at any price, but it has its interest, slight and passing though it may be.  Were these the pens that the majority of children carried to school?  Was the presence of a mass of these cheap foreign imports the reason that, unlike America, Britain never really developed a third tier of domestically produced pens?

Impromptu Upload

Another upload to the website today!  Something in every category, including some interesting goodies in ‘Uncommon & Unusual’ and ‘Other Pens’… have a look around, there are some grand bargains to be had!

A Duofold AF

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This is my latest everyday user.  It’s a rather shabby Duofold AF and yes, somebody broke the clip and no, I haven’t got around to replacing it.  The pen writes just as well with a broken clip.  It’s made from that strange plastic that Parker used for the AFs.  It looks black until you put it under a strong light, then it’s green.

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The great thing about this pen is the nib.  It’s a quite acutely-angled oblique.  It took a little practice to come to terms with it but now I’m enjoying it!

I spent all day today editing photos and writing descriptions for my next upload.  My assistant doesn’t do that computer stuff so she took the day off.

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Tomorrow I’ll be back to restoration.  There’s one pen in particular I mean to fix up and photograph so I can write about it here, mainly because it will allow me to use the word “dodecagonal.”  Now what could that be?

The Combridge Pen

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You may remember that I said recently that I’d swapped the little Quail Stylo for a pen I’d long wanted.  This is it, the Combridge, another of those Conway Stewart Associated pens, to use Jonathan Donahaye’s term.  What it is, is a pen made by Conway Stewart for another company, on which Conway Stewart’s own name does not appear.  It’s one of several forms of re-badging.

Combridge was a large stationery business in Birmingham.  Their origins lie in the Victorian period, and they started out with the confidence and ambition of that period.  They expanded into postcard and book publishing, at least a proportion of the latter being devotional material.  As well as having their own branded pens made by Conway Stewart they sold Watermans and Swans. The company was wound up in 1994.

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My Combridge Pen is a later one, I think.  Certainly the chrome clip and lever point to that conclusion.  There are earlier ones that have the Conway Stewart flange lever, and I’ve seen a very up-market version with two gold barrel bands and a cap band.

The nib in mine is a replacement.  Some, at least, have a “Combridge” nib, I believe.  Others may have a warranted nib.  Mine has a warranted nib but it’s graced with rearing unicorn, which I vaguely believe comes from Unique’s nib works.  I have no evidence and if you know better, tell me.

Some sellers describe Combridge pens as rare.  Not so.  Certainly they’re not as common as Conway Stewart 286s, but don’t be talked into paying a high price for their supposed rarity.  They sold well and are moderately common.

I have a particular affection for all of Conway Stewart’s woodgrain pens.

Swan Extravaganza!

It’s a Swan Extravaganza today! There are Swans from 1915 to 1956, flexy Swans and Swans with firm Eternal nibs. Lever fill Swans and Leverless Swans, and some eyedropper fillers. There are Swans with nib sizes from No 1 to No 6.

Oh, and there’s one solitary Blackbird in there somewhere too.

Come along and have a look!

The Modernes

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These two little pens could hardly be more dissimilar but they have a surprising amount in common. Both are products of the Hungry Thirties, both are button fillers and both are made of celluloid that has discoloured over time. And though they were made on opposite sides of the Atlantic, both are Modernes. The onyx one is a Parker Moderne and the cream and black pen is the Mentmore Moderne.

Parker, I think, used the name first, in 1932. Mentmore followed on two years later. Did Mentmore just steal the name Parker had used? Or did modernity seem like the way out of the troubles of the times, made a little classier and more effective by sticking an “e” on the end and making it French? I don’t know. I only ask the questions, I don’t have the answers.

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Despite the unemployment and the poverty, there was still a need for pens. School students still had to write, as did those clerical workers still in jobs. These pens were built to a price, but quality wasn’t allowed to slip. The pens are smaller and they have comparatively small nibs but they are stylish and very well made. The Parker has a quality edge over the Mentmore, as you might expect, but the Mentmore’s a good pen too. In a way, the Mentmore’s the more interesting pen as you see very few of these and hardly any in the cream and black livery.

My thanks to Eric Wilson, who made a wonderful job of replacing the Mentmore’s cap rings and found a better nib for it than the one it had.