Unidentified Lapis Lazuli


IMGP5942What about this one? It’s a beautiful lapis lazuli and I haven’t had one of them recently. It has its faults – it’s missing a clip which is easily remedied, there is a little dark staining at the top of the cap and the nib has seen better days.


The pen has no name. In fact there’s nothing engraved on either cap or barrel. The plated steel nib is a Milevia Duro 4. I’ve come across these nibs before, used as replacements. The question is, is this pen to remain forever unidentified or is it a Milevia? The nib fits very closely to the feed which suggests to me that it is original. Milevia pens were made in the former Czechoslovakia and are well regarded and quite rare.


It would be nice if this pen is a Milevia but wishing won’t make it so and the evidence is thin. The nib is in a quite sorry state and will have to be replaced. I’ll hang on to the old nib and if I sell the pen I’ll include it. Regardless of who manufactured the pen it’s very well made and apart from the little bit at the top of the cap where ink has permeated the celluloid and darkened it, the colour has held up especially well. It’s a nice size at 13.4cm capped and the blue is wonderfully intense.



A Swan Leverless In Brown And Gold With Cream Veins


Here’s the pen I was waiting for, a Swan Leverless with an Eternal No 2 nib. I have a list of Swan patterns but there are gaps in it and this one’s not there. I would call it brown and gold with cream veins. Anyway, it’s a stunner and I’ve never seen this pattern before. The only detraction, and it’s slight, is a professionally engraved name on the barrel.


I almost didn’t get it. In fact I got it for what I had bid, less about a couple of quid. It isn’t so very long ago that when a pen of this quality came along it was going to reach somewhere in the £70 to £80 mark. Now, not only have prices gone up, there’s no kind of pattern to them. What sells for £90 one day sells for £160 the next. That makes it hard to know where to place your bid. You can’t arrive at a ball park figure. Ebay pen sales isn’t a ball-park any more; it’s a space without limits, populated by slightly crazy buyers. I’m not saying that this pen was overpriced – I don’t think it was – but, for instance, there was a red marbled Conway Stewart 15 in unrestored condition that went for more than seventy quid last week. That’s bordering on the lunatic. 15s usually go for around £30, and this one was just a run-of-the-mill example.


Be that as it may, I spent quite a while this morning studying that pattern.. You could lose yourself in it. Mabie Todd’s patterns outshone all the rest.


This is one of the earliest Leverlesses, from 1933 or 1934, I believe. The name that’s on the barrel is “Chas Gyford” – not a name that’s commonly seen. I did a search and came upon a likely-looking Charles Gyford. If that was the first owner he didn’t get to enjoy his pen for long because he popped his clogs in 1938.


I managed to snag a rather exceptional pen in eBay last night. Full report when it arrives. Watch this space!

Giveaway And Discount From Penchalet.com

I had an email from Ron Manwaring yesterday. Here’s what he had to say:

We haven’t met but I have seen your blog a few times and enjoy reading your reviews. I am Ron Manwaring from penchalet.com. We are an online retailer of pens, mechanical pencils and inks. I was just writing to let you know about a new giveaway we are running for the next couple weeks and was wondering if you could post something about it to your readers. Here is a link to the page to enter. Thanks.


I also would like to offer a 10% discount to you or your readers if you would like to post it as well. The coupon code is GOODWRITERS

So there’s a giveaway and a discount for all of you if you want to use it.

Another Look At The Swan SF1


There was a time, well nigh a hundred years ago, when this pen was the latest, bleeding edge technology with some of the cachet for the proud owner that today’s smartest new smart-phone might have. It’s hard for us to imagine that now. Even the very latest Pelikan or Lamy doesn’t share that brief glory because pens are no longer the most desired means of communication.


This is the Swan SF1, and the SF stands for self-filling, a revolutionary improvement in the convenience of the fountain pen. Now, not only would your fountain pen write page after page without dipping, when it came time to fill it the apparatus for so doing was an integral part of the pen. With a little assistance from you it filled itself! No more dripping ink into the barrel with an eye-dropper – if you could find one – and risking shirt and paperwork if you accidentally overfilled it and it spilled. Just immerse the nib, operate the lever and it fills itself.

The actual change in technology was such a leap forward that the company balanced it with conservative styling, retaining a strong resemblance to the eyedropper fillers that had gone before and were familiar to their customers. Sales were strong across the SF range and there are many hundreds of these pens still around today, many being used once again. That’s hardly surprising. This little SF1 will give you everything that a modern pen can and quite a bit more.


The quality of Swan nibs of any period has yet to be matched in a modern pen. These old black hard rubber pens give a pleasure in writing that is uniquely of its time: we don’t make nibs like that any more.


Conway Stewart 27 Plum Hatched


Given my choice among the more opulent streamlined post-war Conway Stewarts, I would choose the 27 every time.  It’s very similar to the No 60.  It’s a little slimmer and it has a CS 5 nib rather than the Duro.  Not everyone prefers the Duro.  For me it’s a stiff and unresponsive nib whereas the CS 5, though not usually flexible, has a bit of spring in it that makes it much better to write with.
It’s true that the Conway Stewart No 58 doesn’t always come with a Duro nib.  The CS 58 is the alternative, but it is often as nail-like as the Duro.  In addition, I prefer the single wide band of the Conway Stewart 27 to the narrow/medium/narrow bands of the No 58.  Together with lever and the clip, the broad band seems to establish a pleasing harmony, to my eye, at least.
There are some splendid patterns in the Conway Stewart 27 range.  Like everyone else, I’m always on the look-out for the cracked ice, the herringbone colours and the tiger’s eye but I’ll happily settle for the more common but very lovely plum hatched.


The Wyvern 404


While we’re on the subject of Wyverns,  how about this 404?  I confess I don’t know a lot about its history and I googled it this morning.  I found various dates quoted for its manufacture, the earliest being 1938.  That seems unlikely.  After all, it clearly shows the influence of the Parker 51.  It would be nice from a patriotic point of view if someone could show that the Wyvern pre-dated the Parker and was the real originator of the hooded nib but that’s not going to happen.  I think I’m right in saying that the Parker 51 went on sale in 1941 so this pen will have been made some time after that.  A date I saw repeated several times is 1949 and that seems quite likely.
Seen from above, the hood is smooth and elegantly tapered.
Underneath, it’s sculptured, though not quite as much as the contemporary Mentmore 46, perhaps.  As is often the way with these British hooded nib pens, the style is purely superficial.  Under that hood lies a normal feed and nib.  Apart from its appearance, the pen is a completely traditional lever filler.
The handsome cowled clip is shared with other Wyvern models of the time, like the 60C hatch that I wrote about recently.  This is not Wyvern’s only hooded nib pen; the last version of the No 60 has a sort of semi-hooded nib, but it lacks the elegance of line of the 404.

At a time when other manufacturers were using wrapped sheet plastic or injection moulded plastic for their pen barrels and caps, this pen is still machined from rod stock and the wall of the barrel is quite thick.  This gives the pen a solid feel though it is not heavy.

I’ve had several of these pens over the years and, curiously, they’ve all been broad-nibbed, this example being no exception.  It’s a splendid writer.
Taken overall, this is an unexpectedly good and likeable pen.  I say “unexpectedly” because I don’t really favour hooded nib pens.  I like to see the nib and be able to align the pen with the paper instantly.  The nib can be, and often is, the most decorative feature of a pen.  That said, the build quality, the elegant design and the pleasure in using the pen have won me over.