Another Swan SM100/60


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.
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.
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!



7 thoughts on “Another Swan SM100/60

  1. I agree strongly with you on the matter of weight, Deb, but it seems to be an unfashionable view. A lot of the modern manufacturers appear to be engineering their pens to be heavy, and a majority of users reported a preference for something in the 30-40g range in a recent discussion at FPGeeks. Interesting how tastes change.

    1. Hi Andy,
      It is an interesting development, and one that indicates that today’s pen is a hobbyist’s toy rather than a practical tool. If you had been, say, a progress clerk in the early fifties, doing enough work that you refilled your pen a couple of times a day, you would soon discard the modern heavy pen in favour of a pen of the day, all of which were quite light. That tells us something.

      Secondly, I believe there’s a fallacious equation of weight with quality. Not sure where that comes from, because in most fields of activity lighter is better. In any case, in many modern pens the weight is conferred by the inclusion of lengths of brass pipe, more reminiscent of bathroom plumbing than a high quality writing instrument.

      1. That’s what I think too, but with people claiming that they find it easier to write long screeds with a hefty pen, who am I to gainsay them?

        There’s definitely a trend towards larger pens; maybe it’s partly to do with those big old Senior Duofolds, Ideal no. 58s and the like which are so prized by collectors … and then there are those huge German piston fillers with the white star which you like so much! Perhaps the modern manufacturers are reasoning that if bulk is equated with prestige, why not weight as well?

        As you say, 127mm is a fair size for all practical purposes, so I’m at a loss to see why there are so very many six inch pens on the market. Not as a top of the range trophy model, but as the only option. As for weight, with a few honourable (usually expensive) exceptions, 30g and upwards seems to be the norm, whereas it’s a rare hard rubber pen which goes over 15g.

        All this, and the rather insipid character of pretty much all nibs in production nowadays, suggests that you’ve hit the nail on the head – pretty toys rather than tools.

        I wish you joy of that pen: those no. 1 nibs don’t get the recognition they deserve … fortunately.

      2. Hi again, Andy,
        Good points well made. No doubt there are those who can, and do, write extensively with heavy pens. But not, I expect, day in, day out, as was the clerk’s wont in days gone by. It’s nobody’s job to write like that nowadays. In that situation, I believe, lightness is not a choice but an ergonomic necessity.

        I don’t go much beyond 1965 in the pens I handle. In fact, by the early fifties the writing is on the wall and pens are being produced that sacrifice ease of filling for ease of manufacture. After that, the pen becomes an applicator for the ubiquitous cartridge and they no longer hold my interest. In more modern times, they become limited edition lures for the wallets of the unwary. There are aspects of that spectacle that do interest me but I’m ashamed of myself for it. Collecting examples of extreme gullibility is not a respectable pastime.

  2. Hi Deb,

    Your point about ease of filling is another excellent one – frankly the cartridge converter is the work of the devil, in conjunction with accountants.

    Internet reviews of new pens are another recent influence. Without wanting to sound unduly cynical, setting oneself up as a pen pundit is a good way to acquire a steady stream of nice freebies, so long as the manufacturers think that you’re getting enough exposure and saying nice things about their wares. Consequently there’s a plethora of enthusiastic reviews of top of the line models (the big, heavy ones usually) and very little in the way of criticism, even when a pen plainly performs woefully in a writing test.

    I shake my head in disbelief when yet another sluggish semi-flex nib attached to an inadequate feed and a fancy barrel is described as “awesome” and good value at £200 or so. At best it’s ignorance, at worst disingenuous; either way it’s a disservice to the inexperienced buyer looking for guidance.

  3. Ah, the joy! I have just bid for and purchased a Mabie Todd Swan 100/ 60 tonight on ebay, I can’t wait to see and handle it – I do like the simplicity and design, and have longed for a really flexible nib….

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