A No Number Late Conway Stewart Cartridge Filler

I was almost convinced that I have written about this hideous pen before, but I have assiduously searched the blog and there’s nothing there so here goes:
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The pen closely resembles the Flowline nylon-tipped pen which was introduced in 1972, and doubtless this one is of the same date.  Essentially, the pen expands with slightly curved lines from both ends until they meet in the complexity of the lower cap and the barrel.  Very seventies, one might say, afflicted with the same style that was applied to everything from cars to transistor radios.  Still, it’s functional, isn’t it?  Well, no.  The raised, ridged area at the bottom of the cap looks as if it would be useful in unscrewing the cap – except that the cap doesn’t unscrew but is friction fit.  Unscrewing merely removes the barrel and leaves the nib/section unit inside the cap.
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Goodness knows what compelled the “designers” to use that military drab colour.  Full-on khaki would be attractive by comparison.  At a stretch it could be described as olive green by the kind-hearted but at least the ugliness of the colour is consistent with the rest of the pen.  The cap pulls off to expose an imported steel Smoothline nib, about which one might say that it’s no worse than many other cheap after-market nibs.

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A lot of plastic flashing is also revealed on the section.  Unscrewing the barrel shows that it is a cartridge filler.  Like most other pen manufacturers of the time, Conway Stewart intended to cash in on the sale of over-priced ink in dedicated cartridges, so nothing else fits this pen so far as I’m aware.  Conway Stewart cartridges of the right date do turn up in eBay sometimes, a little evaporated but useable.  That’s always assuming I’d want to write with this pen, or be seen with it.  Stop it – I’ll split my sides!
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So that’s it, except I failed to mention the rust – yes, rust, not wear or tarnish – on the clip.  This, really, is where the company that once was Conway Stewart touched bottom.  No matter how hard you might try, you can’t really make a worse pen than this, qualitatively, aesthetically or practically.    If  you would like this pen to complete your collection, or maybe just to stamp on it, send me the postage and it’s yours.  If, against all good advice you decide to keep and use it, don’t wear it in an external pocket where it can be seen, or men may spit at you in the street and women will slap your face for inflicting such ghastliness upon them without provocation..

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Stuff

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I frequently buy pens in lots.  They generally contain one or two pens that you want and a lot of other stuff.  Much of this is consigned to the bucket without a second thought  I’ve thrown away mountains of non-working ballpoints – yes, and a lot of working ones too.  Cheap school geometry instruments go the same way as do a host of mangled bits that the seller thought were too precious to throw away but he was wrong.  That’s the unadulterated crap out of the way and you’re left with… stuff.

Stuff is made up of those item that have little value but some usefulness.  None of it is any good to me but who knows?  Someone out there might have a use for it.  One man’s junk is another man’s treasure, or so they say.  (I’m not so sure about that.  Treasure is gold, jewellery and bags of doubloons.  It’s not a pile of mechanical pencils, dip pens and Osmiroid screw-in nibs).  Anyway, what have we got?  There’s a variety of mechanical pencils.  Most seem to work quite well, but don’t challenge me too hard on that.  Mechanical pencils are not my area of expertise.  There are leads in great profusion, in a variety of sizes and colours.  There are masses of dip nibs, some of which look strange and unusual and are a bit beyond my ken.  To go with that there are lots of dip pen handles, some chewed, others not.  There are some scientific instruments that appear to be of rather better than average quality.  Joseph Gillott’s Magnum Barrel Pen makes a couple of appearances and there are a few Swan Pockets.  There’s even a phleems, should you feel the need to bleed yourself – or, indeed, anyone else, though I would advise getting their permission first, to avoid any unfortunate misunderstandings.

I have space on the sales site to add another category and I intended to make that category “Stuff” and list these items there.  However, I found out that it was rather a task to do that, so I’m asking someone else to do it for me.  As she’s busy, it may take some time.  If, in the meantime, there’s something that catches your eye, just email me.  Prices will be at the bargain basement level.

Conway Stewart No 12 Set And Musings On Other Matters

I had a productive morning fixing pens.  I covered most British manufacturers and most filling systems.  Keeps me interested.  There were several Swans and it occurred to me that there was a period after the war when Swans became irritatingly over-engineered.  There’s the brass barrel threads, which admittedly look nice, but can be hard on cap threads.  This is one of the not infrequent occasions where plastic is better than metal.  Then there’s the lever-fillers with screw-in sections.  What’s that about?  What does a screw-in section add to a lever filler?  A friction-fit section is equally secure and makes re-saccing much easier.  Many of these pens come my way with a sac twisted up inside them like a piece of string that the kittens have been at.  Where a press-in section would take an 18 sac, you have to drop to a 16 and keep it quite short to ensure that it doesn’t snag on anything.  So what, long-dead Swan engineers, were you thinking of?  EMWTK!
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I don’t often get Conway Stewart sets.  They tend to be priced a bit beyond my restricted budget, but I managed to snag this nice black CS12/Nippy No 3 set the other day.  The box is nice and fresh too.  The pencil, strangely, shows wear to the gold plating whereas the pen doesn’t.  It’s usually the other way round.  I’m very pleased with it, though.  It ,looks great for a set that was made at least fifty years ago.  I love the pattern on the box.  Conway Stewart knew how to present a pen and pencil set back then.
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As I was so busy I asked my assistant for assistance.  She replied that she couldn’t do much with the tools with no thumbs and re-saccing’s not the job for her either, not with those long, sharp, latex-puncturing claws.  “You’ve got my moral support, though, boss,“ she said, “but keep the noise down ’cause it’s nap time, m’kay?”

Another Swan SM100/60

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Once again I find myself writing in praise of the SM100/60, the 1930s/40s no-frills workhorse of the Swan range.  If durability is one of the ways by which we judge old pens, then this one leaps to the fore.  If simple usability should be another, then this pen shines forth even more, because I know of no pen of any date, old or modern, that makes a more reliable and pleasurable writer.

It seems a small pen at first glance, but at 12.7cm capped it’s about the same size as the Conway Stewart 388, and seems to fill the hand better.  The shape of the section gives a positive grip to the fingers and the pen weighs very little – almost nothing to a hand used to later pens. I could write all day with a pen like this.
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The shape is timeless, moderately streamlined and functional.  Cap rings have been sacrificed to keep the price of this workaday model down, but it’s not without decoration.  The engine-turned wave pattern is attractive and stands out.  The black hard rubber lever gives the celluloid barrel an unbroken line.
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More than most pens, even among Swans, the SM100/60 provides many exciting nibs.  This little beauty is a stub with a very gentle oblique profile.  It’s semi-flexible and a delight to write with.  I think I may make this my daily user for a while.  That’s one of the many joys of what I do – I get to use ’em all!

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Watermans, Ideal and Otherwise

Here’s a comment made by Stuart today.  As comments go, it’s rather longer and raises more issues than most of my blog entries.  Rather than italicise which makes it a pain to read, I’m enclosing Stuart’s comment within dotted lines.
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I had gotten so emotionally involved in my earlier comments that I neglected to ask a specific question re: the Waterman ‘Ideal’ pen and how it so easily seems to play into the ‘greasy’ hands of such sellers.  This is a very popular pen on eBay and for very good reason.  Yet I cannot help but notice some things which have been ‘troubling’ me for quite a while.  The question seems to boil down to whether there is anything at all ‘ideal’ about an ‘IDEAL’?  In other words, what, specifically, makes an ‘IDEAL’ pen by Waterman so doggoned ideal?

I ask this question not to be obtuse but to make a sincere observation.  For the life of me, I simply do not see anything unique or ‘ideal’ about a Waterman ‘IDEAL’!  It seems to be designed the same as a non-Waterman IDEAL.  The barrel seems the same, the filling system is the same.  The cap seems the same.  What, exactly, is so doggoned ‘ideal’ about it?  Is it made from a better grade of celluloid or hard rubber? Does the gold-filled or plated lever have a higher percentage of gold in its formulation?  Or are we simply dealing with a marketing concept on the part of the Waterman executives?

I have seen many IDEALS offered on eBay where the barrel has the IDEAL globe on the pen barrel BUT – lo and behold – the nib on this pen does not say IDEAL on it!  Is a fraud being perpretrated upon the unwary buyer in such an instance?   Is a Waterman nib engraved with IDEAL in any way made better or likely to last longer or flex better than a Waterman nib which is not marked IDEAL?  If it is, then every seller marketing his pen as a Waterman IDEAL is committing a fraud (or so it may seem) unless the nib on that pen also has the IDEAL imprint on it.  If there is no real difference in inherent quality or performance between an IDEAL and a Waterman 2A nib, for example, then what is the benefit or real value in having an IDEAL nib?.  Again, are we dealing here with nought but advertising hype?  Or is an IDEAL really and truly ‘ideal’ after all??  Inquiring minds want to know!!
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What is so ideal about a Waterman Ideal (by which I take you to mean the Waterman 52 as you refer later to some of them having replacement 2A nibs)?

I’m no expert on Watermans, I hasten to say, but the Waterman 52 is a very practical and useful pen as was recognised by the huge numbers that sold.  Size, weight, balance, price, quality and performance all came together in the 52.  The Ideal No 2 nib is an exceptionally good one, whether it be firm or flexible and across the range of point sizes.  Are we dealing with a marketing concept of the Waterman executives?  Far from it, we’re dealing with a product that the common writing man found to be the best of its kind for many years.  I confess, Stuart, that I’m at a loss to understand what you mean by a non-Waterman Ideal.

Yes, many Waterman 52s appear in eBay and elsewhere with nibs that don’t say “Ideal” on them.  These are old pens and nibs are their most fragile component.  Particularly for those Canadian 52s imported into Britain, the most commonly available nib of the right size is the English Waterman 2A.  Most 2As are not as good as most Ideal No 2s, admittedly, but they were a serviceable nib fitted to save the pen’s owner having invest in a new pen.  These repairers didn’t know that a few decades later these pens would be collectables and that there would be a premium on originality.

Are sellers committing a fraud by selling a Waterman 52 Ideal with a non-ideal nib in it?  Yes and no.  If it’s on a pen-retailer’s site, I would expect the seller to be knowledgeable enough to realise that he’s selling a slightly inferior product and I would expect him to point out that the nib is a replacement.  In eBay, you can’t expect sellers to be knowledgeable.  Some are, of course, but most know little about pens.  It’s best to ask whether the nib is an Ideal or something else.

It seems to me (if you don’t mind me saying so) that you have a very distrustful attitude to pen sellers and manufacturers.  A certain amount of due caution will serve you well; deep-seated suspicion of those you deal with will, among other things, poison your own enjoyment of pens.

The Crack Of Doom

I bought a beautiful Parker Big Red last week.  It cost rather a lot but I thought it was money well spent.  It arrived yesterday and inspection showed two hairline cracks in the cap lip.  It’ll be on its way back to the seller tomorrow for a full refund.  A full refund doesn’t include return postage, of course so I’ll be a few quid out on the deal.

The seller’s not a dedicated pen seller, but about every second sale in his feedback was for pens.  He has a feedback count of over 400.  That doesn’t make him an expert but he’s no novice either.  He has sold a lot of Parkers and he should know to look for lip cracks.  Admittedly, these cracks were not especially visible to the naked eye, but they were instantly perceptible to the thumbnail.  Rechecking with a 20X loupe showed them clearly, gaping like the Grand Canyon.  They were not new cracks.  Both had accumulated enough dust and dirt to show as a dark line; one had eroded edges.

The last time I complained here about someone selling a sow’s ear as a silk purse, a reader replied in comments suggesting that I should name and shame the seller.  I must confess that in that moment of incandescent anger on finding that I have been sold yet another broken pen, that’s a rather milder solution to the problem than those that initially cross my mind.  However, naming and shaming here in my blog isn’t likely to be productive of much benefit to many people.  Also, how can I tell which lip cracks were genuinely missed and which were passed over in the sly hope of getting away with it?  Truth be told I can’t possibly tell.  These are very different offences and it wouldn’t do to punish someone who just made an error with the vengeance you’d visit on a known crook.  Let what happens in eBay stay in eBay (except for me whining about it here!).  If I get all my money back including return postage I award no feedback.  If I’m out of pocket, look out!  Here comes a big black negative on your previously pristine account.

I’ve had sellers beg me to remove the negative and they’ll send me the return postage.  Sorry, too late.  That’s what feedback is for.  Others have said that if they had been aware of the consequences they would have paid the return postage.  Can’t help that.  Ebay rules expressly forbid threatening with negative feedback to get your own way.

The cracked cap/cracked nib/hidden damage problem is not by any means new but it has become much more common at the same time as prices have risen steeply.  I’m seeing a couple most weeks, sometimes more.  Perhaps the prices have risen to the level where it’s worth digging out that cracked Duofold and putting it up for sale with never a word of the damage.  There’s always a chance they’ll get away with it and if they’re caught they can just play the silly laddie and hand back the money with profuse apologies and protestations of innocence.

I’ll just keep trying to be patient and try not to dwell too much on the more condign punishments which involve lengths of steel pipe, baseball bats or force-feeding with a litre of Parker Quink Royal Blue.

Broadband Outage

After I announced the latest upload last night things were going rather well.  Orders were coming in steadily and I was dealing with a number of enquiries.  That was the moment that my broadband decided to fail.  When that happens it isn’t immediately apparent what has gone wrong.  Is it them or is it me?  Once you start diagnosing the reports are gloomy but ambiguous.  Only a phone call to the service provider eventually clarified matters: they’d had a total outage in my area, engineers were working, service was expected to be reconnected blah, blah, blah.

My experience with broadband provision has been mixed.  My first provider was pretty good but was taken over by a company that was more about numbers than quality.  Slow browsing, random disconnects, outrageously appalling technical support.  After being far too patient for far too long, I dumped them, in favour of BT.  I’m not fond of BT, having had disagreements with them back in the dial-up days, but they seemed to be the pick of the very seedy bunch that offer broadband connections.  BT should be sound because they own the lines and, to that extent, hang onto a nasty monopolistic privilege even after deregulation.  All of that having been said, they’re much better than my last provider.  There have been few outages and when they did occur it was possible to find out that it was them at fault, not some failing of my equipment.  That’s a bigger deal than it seems.  If you’re left suspecting that the failure is down to your box, there’s the temptation to start messing with settings, and that way madness lies.

A moderately good broadband speed is essential for my business – and a moderately good speed is what I get.  It’s too slow to run movies reliably, but living where I live that’s hardly surprising.  Anyway, that’s what television and DVDs are for.  The politicians keep promising us that superfast broadband is just around the corner.  They’re a bit cagey about which corner, though.  I don’t mind; this is fast enough for what I do.  I might feel different if I lived a dozen or so miles inland where the broadband isn’t very broad at all and even email becomes an adventure.

So that’s the story.  Sorry if you were trying to contact me and were unable to but I’m back again at last!