A Big Ben Pen And Pencil Set

Big Ben pens can be quite confusing: there is a modern kit pen that goes by that name, there is a Big Ben that is a sub-brand of Wyvern and finally there is the excellent Danish piston filler.
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This is an example of the latter.  The pen is in green marble with black lines and there is a translucent area so that you can check how much ink is left in the pen.  The clip screw, blind cap and section are black.  The nib is marked “Big Ben 14K 585 1” which doubtless means that this is their version of a number one nib, though it seems a little larger than I would expect for that size.  The pencil is marked “Original Big Ben 15” and it works very well.
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I find this pen quite hard to date but I suspect that it’s pre-war.  The cap bears the the number 451168, which I astonished myself by being able to find in Espacenet.  It relates to the piston filling system and was written by two Germans, Heinrich Hebborn and Heinrich Schlicksupp, trading as Hebborn and Co., Cologne.  It’s dated 30th of July 1936.
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I understand from Paul LeClercq’s troubles and tribulations reported in Fountain Pen Geeks that these pens can be very difficult, or even impossible to repair.  This one is working – for the moment – but I won’t be selling it until I have it checked over by an expert.  Which is not me, I hasten to add, where piston fillers are concerned.

Site Update

Work on the improved sales site continues apace!  Testing has gone well (she said, hoping not to jinx it), and the last thing to work out is making the PayPal module play nicely with the site.  I don’t know if I’ll make it all happen by August 1st, as I am also working on batches of new uploads…. but it will be close!

An Unusual Mentmore Diploma

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I think this one takes the biscuit for rarity and mystery.  In most respects it’s a perfectly ordinary Mentmore Diploma.  What makes it stand out from the crowd is its translucent barrel.

The explanation for this that comes first to mind is that it’s a demonstrator.  There are a couple of problems with that, though.  So far as I am aware, British manufacturers just didn’t do demonstrators in the 30s and 40s.  We are used to ink-in-the-barrel demonstrators nowadays, and the idea of a clear barrel to demonstrate the operation of a button filler seems rather strange.  It’s not impossible, though.  We can’t discount the possibility.
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Could it be, perhaps, a trial of a new and experimental celluloid?  Others, like De La Rue, had developed semitransparent plastics.  Mentmore was never afraid to try something new and perhaps this was a prototype that never went into production.

Finally, this may just be a freak celluloid that lost its colour and became transparent.  This is the least likely explanation.  One would expect there to be a batch of tens if not hundreds of similar pens, and they just don’t seem to exist.  In my many years of fascination with pens, this is the one and only example that I have seen.
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Whatever the explanation may be, it makes an interesting pen.  Fitted with a translucent plastic sac as this one is, the amount of ink available is visible.  Also, you can see the action of the pressure bar as the button is depressed.  That’s not something you see every day!

Update

Things are busy busy busy here.  I’m working with the developer on testing the site and all is going well, if slowly.  At the same time I’m getting some pens prepared for upload so that there will be a good batch of new stuff for you to see when the site reopens.  Lots of nice pens, a surprising amount of flex in Swans, Watermans and a Kaweco so far, with quite a few more to go.

My Assistant On the Look-Out For Pens

My goodness!  Is that a Mabie Todd Visofil?

My goodness! Is that a Mabie Todd Visofil?

Blast!  It's just another Platignum!

Blast! It’s just another Platignum!

The Pento Sydney Eyedropper

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This rather ordinary-looking eyedropper filler has a bit more to it than meets the eye – at least at first glance.  It seems that you have the choice of filling it in the usual way, by unscrewing the section, or, in this case, by removing a screw-in plug at the end of the barrel and filling from there.  I’m not sure what the benefit is in that or even if there’s a benefit at all.  It may be just another place that has the potential to leak ink.  That aside, it’s quite a conventional eyedropper pen, slender, with an over and under feed and engine chasing on the barrel but not on the tight fitting cap.
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Stamped at a slight angle on the barrel is “Pento Sydney”.  Stephen Hull,in his The English Fountain Pen Industry 1875 – 1975 records the Pento pen but his various references to it are all in the 1920s.  This would seem to me to be quite a bit earlier than that, which is really all I can say about it.  It may well be that the company began rather earlier.
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Pento was one of those companies allied to Langs of Liverpool.  The company was set up by WJ May at the Maypen Works in Twickenham.  It went on to produce lever fillers and later a capless pen which does not appear to have been a success.  The company was wound up with a considerable loss in 1927.(ibid).

Sales Site Update

It looks like I may have to take the sales website down for a few days while testing and completing of updates goes on, so don’t be surprised if it suddenly isn’t there!  It will be back.

The site will certainly be there for the remainder of this week.  It will probably disappear on Monday and I’m not sure at the moment how long that will last but I’ll keep you informed.