A Green Striped Conway Stewart 36


In 1955 Conway Stewart retired the long-running and very popular 388 and replaced it with the more modern-styled 36, using the same CS5N nib and keeping the dimensions roughly the same.


As well as the hatched pattern the 388 had come in marbled colours and black.  Only the hatched pattern was retained and a lined pattern in several colours was added.

While it may not have reached quite the popularity of its predecessor the 36 seems to have caught on quite well, if the numbers still around today are anything to go by.  Like the 388 it’s quite a slender pen and shorter than some others of this date.  Just the sort of pen to be pushed as a lady’s pen, had it been made by, say, Parker, but Conway Stewart kept that sort of suggestion for the Dinkie range.


The CS5N is one of Conway Stewart’s better nibs.  As it’s quite curved in profile most examples are firm, as is this one.  It’s a medium with a hint of stubbishness about it, which makes it a pleasant pen to write with.



You’ve Just Missed Stationery Week

I just read somewhere that the week that has just finished was stationery week.  I’m not sure why such an everyday thing as stationery needs a week, or what that week is meant to do for stationery or for us.  Nothing, I expect.  It’s meant to do something for the people who sell stationery.  Having looked at the success of Hallmark in grabbing great swathes of the calendar for their products,  the stationery sellers are doing the same.  Mind you, I don’t suppose many people noticed, or even if they did, I don’t suppose they rushed out and bought reams of writing paper, boxes of  paper clips and pencils by the gross.

It did make me think about stationery, or more specifically writing paper, though thankfully I have an adequate supply and don’t need to buy any more this week.  I get through a lot of writing paper, always did.  At one time I used it in correspondence with friends all over the world but that gradually wound down.   I still write the odd letter but comes via the keyboard and printer these days, lasered onto the ubiquitous printer paper that we all have in great quantity now.

What I use writing paper for these days is testing pens and producing writing samples.  For the former purpose almost any paper will do, so long as it’s cheap and doesn’t bleed or show through.  A4 Drawing Pads do the job well and I grab them whenever I can.  Each pen’s try-out takes up a page or more – more still if repeated adjustments have to be made – so as you can imagine, each pad doesn’t last very long.

For writing samples I need paper that doesn’t alter the line that the pen lays down.  Lots of otherwise decent writing paper is useless for this purpose because it allows a slight expansion of the line as the ink sinks into the paper.  Fine for writing billets doux to your favourite auntie, no good for exemplary writing samples.  It also has to photograph well and for that reason it’s best if it isn’t glaring white.  After much trial and error I settled on Basildon Bond Ivory.  It does the job, and it pleases me that they’re a company with a long and honourable history, who once upon a distant time produced the estimable Croxley pens.

I do, occasionally, allow myself the luxury of using other papers.  If you dig deep in ebay, you can sometimes find writing paper of yesteryear, when it was all made to be suitable for writing with fountain pens.  There are some wonderful old papers around that cast modern offerings into the shade.

Less Common Pens – Roll-Tip


I don’t suppose there’s anyone out there building a collection of Roll-Tip pens.  Beginning about 1951 this London company turned out rock-bottom basic fountain and ballpoint pens in a variety of styles.  The products were price-driven but they did the job well enough for the company to be consistently profitable.  Over time they acquired or became associated with Penkala Pens and Queensway, both well known for lower end mass market pens.  In 1963 a further acquisition placed them with no less a luminary than Conway Stewart, but this was not the Conway Stewart of forties and fifties fame, but a company intent on swapping quality for price.
I’m not sure when this cartridge-filling Roll-Tip was produced.  It’s in an attractive pastel green plastic with a brushed steel cap.  The English-made folded-tip nib is probably stainless steel and has a Parker 45 look about it.  The pen will take small international cartridges.  The cap still fits firmly and the pen writes well.
What does one say about pens like this?  Most of the pens that were in this price range have been scrapped long ago, or like the execrable Queensways continue to exist in a ruinous state.  This pen isn’t like that.  It’s in good condition, it isn’t unattractive and it probably shares a level of quality with many modern pens.  Also, it has to be said that these very inexpensive pens probably reflected the writing experience of most people more closely than a high-quality Swan or Conway Stewart.
What does one do with them?  Are they worthy of our interest?  Do I chuck this pen away or do I offer it at a nominal price to anyone who might want it?  After all, it writes just as well as a more expensive pen and it has proven durability.  It would probably make an excellent daily writer until the folded nib finally wears out, but even that is a long time away.

A Flexible Swan 3120


As those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know, I broadened my horizons a while back.  I’d been a dedicated user of flexible nibs for years, but I tried using firm nibs and stuck with them until I began to understand the undoubted charm that many of them have too.

I usually have a flex pen or two, though.  My everyday user these days is a sadly beat-up Conklin Endura Symetrik.  It’s nothing to look at but it writes well with enough flexibility to allow the odd flourish.  Luckily I also had a full flex pen today when a Spanish customer who is a calligrapher came looking for one.
It’s a Swan 3120, the dark blue version of the No 1-nibbed Swan.  This one has the brass threads, so it’s the first run of the post-war redesigned Swans, made in 1948 or 1949.


The nibs on these pens give little hint of their capability, the only clue with the present pen is that the tines are widely-gapped to enhance ink flow to keep up with the demands of the flexed nib.
It has no difficulty keeping up though the nib certainly makes some large demands.  Unflexed, it’s a narrow medium, flexed it’s… well, judge for yourselves.  It snaps back to its unflexed state instantly, too.  Those little No 1 nibs never fail to impress.

It’s on its way to Spain now, to the hands of someone who can make infinitely better use of it than I can.

The John Bull Eyedropper Pen


The John Bull Pen Company had premises at 77 Long Acre, Covent Garden, London.  It seems impossible now to tell what was done there, though I have heard it said that the pens were assembled there, from parts made by other manufacturers.  Which manufacturers remain a mystery.    John Bull pens have been associated at different times with Conway Stewart and De La Rue; it’s likely that most of the major manufacturers had the contract at one time or another.  Though never a major manufacturer themselves, John Bull was well known from its lively advertising, both for John Bull pens and Bulldog pens.  The latter image, of a bulldog wearing a top hat and a monocle, with a pen in its mouth, has been often reproduced.


This is an early example of the company’s output, a cone-cap eyedropper filler.  Cone caps require some precision in machining to work properly, and this is a very well made pen of a simple design.  It’s probably pre-World War I.  The smooth hard rubber has retained its original blackness.  Though quite small, the nib has some flexibility, as was usually the case at that date.  The barrel and section threads are excellent and the pen holds ink without leaking.



John Bull pens were very variable in quality.  Some, like this one, are excellent pens, others leave something to be desired.  Nevertheless, the company survived at least until the Second World War, perhaps longer.  Why, when other middling quality producers fell by the wayside did this company survive?  Part of the answer may lie in the name and image they chose for themselves.  John Bull is the personification of England and a patriotic symbol, as is the subsidiary brand, the Bulldog pen.


Had the company maintained the high quality of this pen, they would have had good sales on the basis of customer satisfaction.  Some, at least, of their later production was rather more shoddy and traded on the patriotic appeal.

A Brace Of Swan SF1s



During the last couple of weeks I picked up two near-identical Swan SF1s.  Both are of the more prestigious three-band variety (the bands a little broader on one than on the other) , both, oddly enough, are personalised, one to “EH” and the other to “NM Pinfold”.  There aren’t many Pinfolds around; I hoped to be able to identify him but Google was not my friend today.  The Pinfold pen has been used quite a bit.  It’s a little faded and there is wear on the bands.  The EH pen is pristine.  Both have mottled hard rubber insets bearing the Swan image in the top of the cap.

There’s this minor difference:
Lambrou reckons that you can date pens by the Swan image.  For myself, with the exception of the WWII central Swan, I can’t see it.  As is the case here, I’ve seen the same model of pen with different Swan imprints.  I suspect that a number of different Swan stamps were in use most of the time.

However, if you haven’t spotted it already, there’s another major point of difference.


The Pinfold pen has the above section, undoubtedly correct for the model.  This shape of section began with the Swan Safety Cap Eyedropper Filler and was developed a little for the nineteen-twenties SF range.  So far as I am aware the SFs consistently use this section with the exception of the overlay pens, which have a section designed to accommodate the metal overlay.


The EH pen has this section.  Never seen one of these on an SF before, though I’ve seen plenty on thirties pens like the SM range.  I would almost immediately dismiss it as a replacement were the EH pen not so perfect in every other respect.  It looks like it has never been used.  It would be easy enough to replace the section with an appropriate one as I have several spares, but would it be correct?

What do you think?



Pens Uploaded Today

New uploads today in most categories.  Some great writers.  The Swans run to a second page, and there’s some good stuff in there.