Casein And A Conway Stewart Conway 15 Set


Casein is peculiar stuff.  While there’s no denying that there are some problems associated with it, the depth and luminosity of colour that it offers can’t be matched by any other material.  It positively glows.

The problem that concerns most people is that they will not recognise it as casein, immerse it in water and destroy the pen.  This one is easily dismissed –  regardless of the material from which they’re made – keep your pens out of water!  There’s no benefit to be gained from exposing the externals of a pen to liquid of any kind.

What is more worrying is the insidious effect of exposure to varying humidity over many years.  The casein absorbs a little moisture when the humidity rises and expands slightly.  When the humidity falls, it releases the moisture and shrinks again.  Over time, this leads to cracking.  Craquelure is all very well on Old Master paintings but it isn’t so welcome in pens.  I’ve seen Burnhams disintegrate from this effect.  Perhaps because they treated the casein differently in some way, Conway Stewarts never get quite so bad.  Usually it’s more of a disfiguring surface haze.

I think it was Jonathan Donahaye who suggested that those casein pens that are perfect today after the passage of fifty or more years were probably undisturbed in a box in a drawer for all that time.  That seems a very likely explanation to me.
This Conway 15 pen/Conway 25 pencil set is in that fortunate condition, showing the high gloss that these pens all had when they were new.  It is an amazing material.  It can’t really be mistaken for any of the other pen materials.  The pen had been inked but it appears that it was not used.  It had the original Conway Stewart sac.  The pencil still has lead in it.

My husband delights in making me envious by describing British newsagents’ shops of old, with brightly-coloured Conway Stewarts hanging on a card awaiting sale.  This Conway 15 is so fresh, glossy and new that it might have been removed from the card moments ago.


8 thoughts on “Casein And A Conway Stewart Conway 15 Set

  1. Apologies for responding to old blog but information still sound so thank you. I have a Conway 51 that is labelled so on the barrel and the nib also has Conway so the Stewart name is missing. Can this be dated ? it is very similar to the other one I have being the Conway Pen 475.
    Unfortunately the company website is nomore.

      1. Nothing special about the nib but inscribed “Conway 14 ct Gold 1a”

        The barrel clip and lever bar both have the initials CS.

        These are just old pens in poor order that belong to a grandmother and I wonder if one might have been a great grandmothers? So just sentimental/genealogical reasons for asking!

      2. Of course but apologies for sorry state it is in. The inscription is barely legible and may not photograph… Sorry my mistake it is I think “Conway 15 “…. confused with a Parker 51! It is very hard to make out. I sent some photos.

  2. Thank you. It seems that the other one I have in poorer condition, the 475, was from the 1930’s so the 15 was a replacement and virtually identical. Still a puzzle that the ‘Stewart’ was dropped from the barrel and the nib of the later one. The nibs are fine. I will try and replace the ink sac of the one with the working lever. I love writing with a fountain pen. At school in the 1960’s, we were not allowed use ball bearing pens. Nowadays with so much digital communication, handwriting is even more, a valued accomplishment!

    1. This gets complicated! The 15 had minor changes throughout its production run. One was name change – twice or three times. It fluctuated between “The Conway Pen” and just “Conway.” That’s what you may be seeing and it may be that there were other words imprinted on the barrel that have been worn off. I don’t happen to have a 15 to hand to compare.

      Yes, there is a sense in which the 15 was the successor to the 475, even from Conway Stewart’s viewpoint. Both pens were produced in colours that no other model shared, so far as I am aware.

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