The Sales Website Is Down

I’m sorry to say that the sales site is not available at the moment.  We’ve been having some problems that centre around PayPal purchases.  Investigation showed that the problem purchases were those made with mobile phones and tablets.  It appears that PayPal uses a different checkout system for phones and tablets than it does for computers, and that system does not interface properly with my website or, indeed, a great many others.

PayPal, it must be said, has responded extremely well to the reporting of these failures and is actively pursuing a solution.  From what I’ve seen so far I think the problem will be solved quickly.  I’m not sure if the coding gurus work the weekend so that may delay things a little but I am hopeful that I can make the site available again very soon.  Please accept my apologies for the inconvenience.


Waterman/Alco Skywriter

Skywriters can be very confusing.  There are three separate generations of this pen which hardly resemble each other at all.
The first Skywriter was produced in the 1930s when Waterman took over Aiken Lambert and the pen appears under both Waterman and Alco names.  The next one has a metal cap and was made in the late 40s and early 50s.  The final Skywriter was very similar to the C/F and was launched in 1953.
These were all entry-level pens and the first two were high-quality and excellent value for money.  The third one, though not a bad pen, has not proved as durable as its predecessors, and I think it is awareness of this pen that brings the reputation of the earlier versions down in the estimation of collectors.
The first version, an example of which we are dealing with here today, is a beautiful pen in striking Du Pont Pyralin plastic.  The pattern is best explained as brown lines over brown and black marbling.  The pattern appears to change and shift as the pen is rotated.  It is known as Brown Pearl. The clip, which I believe is unique to this pen, is in an elegant At Deco style.  The section is visualated to enable the user to see much ink is left.  The nib in this version is a slightly stubbish medium with plenty of flexibility.
The barrel imprint tells us that this pen was made in Canada by the Alco division of Waterman, and in reality this pen is the last creation of the famous Aiken Lambert company.  It cost $1.50 when it was new, which is outstanding value for such a high quality pen.  This one retains all its gold plating in perfect condition nearly 80 years after it was made.  It is a pity that Waterman was unable to maintain this high quality in later years.


Montblanc 342

Do you remember when Montblanc sold pens rather than status symbols?  I don’t suppose you do unless you’re older than me and that’s seriously old!
I picked up this Montblanc 342 and I’m quite impressed with it.  The Internet tells me that it was made from 1954 to 1956 and it wasn’t one of the more expensive ones, which explains why it can be bought today for less than an arm and a leg.  Just an arm, really.
At first glance it’s just another German piston filler but, of course, it has the bird splat on top of the cap and “Montblanc 342″on the cap band.  I read that these pens often have quite worn gold plating on the clip but this one is okay and the plating is excellent on the cap band.
How does it feel and how does it write?  Like all sensible pens it weighs very little and though it isn’t a large pen, when capped it should be large enough for most people, I would think.  The nib is beautiful with long tines which encourages the hope that it might be flexible.  It has a little flexibility but the important thing is that it’s very soft.  The springy nib acts like a shock absorber.  This pen will be very comfortable to write with all day.
I don’t know if Montblanc were making pens from “precious resin” back in the early 50s, or were they just using plastic like the rest of us (you may find some sarcasm in there).  It takes a nice gloss anyway.
I’ve been put off modern Montblancs by the awful publicity that they issue and the fact that the good ones cost more than I would pay for a decent second-hand motorbike, but I would happily buy all of these older pens that I could lay my hands on.

My assistant reckons that’s enough for today.


A Mottled Hard Rubber Waterman 12

As you will have seen I’ve been looking at some modern pens recently, and very nice many of them are, but you can’t beat the old ones!
This is a Waterman 12 in mottled hard rubber.  They were made in this cone-cap version from 1900 to 1910 so it’s more than 100 years old.  Really, the only sign of its great age is that the barrel imprint is a bit worn.  It still has wonderful colour and a good shine.
I wonder if there is a good reason why we gave up the cone-cap in favour of other methods of attaching the cap.  Unlike the nearest modern equivalent, the clutch cap, it doesn’t wear out or need attention.  It just provides a good, firm fitting.
Being eyedroppers, these pens hold a lot of ink.  With a fine nib, like this one, it will last so long that when it comes time to fill it again you may have forgotten how to do so.  However, if you want to use the ink up a bit faster, just apply the flex!
It’s no accident that these pens have lasted so well for so long.  Manufacturing methods were exemplary and the best of materials were used.  These threads, cut over 100 years ago, must have been used thousands of times, and yet the pen is still perfectly ink-tight.
The nib, which is doubtless original, has superb flexibility.  The pen is a pleasure to write with.  Pens have come on a long way in the last hundred years but for the pure and minimalistic act of laying ink on paper this old pen has it all!  It pleases the eye as well, in its rich MHR.  Form meets function in a beautiful result!

New Uploads (A Short Poem)

Pens, pens, pens galore!

Waterman, Parker, Swan and More!

(Freshly uploaded to my website.)


Conway Stewart Scribe 336 Green with Black Veins

As many of you will know Conway Stewart assigned the name “Scribe” to three pens and a pencil.  There was the Scribe 330, the 1930s work-horse, a chased hard rubber pen which doesn’t fetch much on the market nowadays unless it’s in exceptional condition.  Then there is the 333, a quite similar pen and finally there is the 336 which comes in a wild array of colours, some of which are quite uncommon and go for high prices nowadays.  It was presented as something a little special when it was new, coming in a box of its own which is quite unlike any of the other Conway Stewart boxes.

This one is in the “green with black veins” pattern.  It has never been used and still has its original sales sticker.  It measures 12.5 cm capped and is quite a slender pen.  It has a shallow domed top to the cap and the clip bears a diamond shield with the entwined Conway Stewart initials.  The trim is chrome plated.  I assume that this pen, like the rest of the range, is casein, hence the strong, intense colours.
It’s easy enough to discern what the target market was for the Scribe 330 – it was doubtless bought in quantity for use in offices.  Apart from the engine chasing it was about as plain pen as you can get but it was sturdy and reliable.  The Scribe 336 is quite another matter.  With these bright patterns, many of which are unique to this model and appear no where else in Conway Stewart’s output, it seems to be targeted at another group.  A bright, inexpensive pen, it was perhaps intended as a school pen.  Regardless of its original intended use we are very fortunate to have such a collectable pen, some of which are available in moderate numbers.
Conway Stewart are perhaps the most collected of British pens.  Some people collect all and any Conway Stewarts.  Others go for clearly defined areas, like the Dandies, the Dinkies or these Scribe 336s.  If I were ever to start collecting again, these would be my choice.  A full set of Scribe 336s in all their bright and colourful glory would be a sight to behold!


Visconti Rembrandt


This Rembrandt is towards the lower end, in terms of cost, of Visconti’s output.  It’s probably the only one I will ever own.
It avoids the two most egregious faults of modern pens: it isn’t too large and it doesn’t weigh too much.  That’s a good start.  It’s 14 cm long capped and I didn’t bother to weigh it.  It isn’t going to roll off the desk with that protuberant clip which appears to be spring-loaded and quite effective at keeping the pen in your pocket.  The cap appears to contain a magnet which draws the pen in before you apply a little pressure to achieve that final “click” as it closes firmly.  I’m really not sure why that’s there; we’ve usually managed to close pens without a magnet over the last 100-odd years, but it does no harm and it’s a new idea.  It’s a cartridge/converter and mine came with only a cartridge.  I’ve ordered a converter which will fit.  In use, the pen feels a little overbalanced when posted and that might get tiring after a time.  The ink-flow is good, making it quite a wet medium.  The nib is firm.  I find it pleasant to write with and it has a certain sense of precision which you get with some pens.
Then we come to the aesthetics, which are of major importance in Visconti pens.  First of all, it’s called the “Rembrandt”, but there is nothing about the pen that connects it with the painter.  The idea seems to be to associate the pen with the famous name without anything to back it up.  I don’t like that.  This one is in a dark blue pattern which shows up more the stronger the light.  I saw somewhere a hint that this related to Rembrandt’s use of chiaroscuro.  Frankly, that’s a piece of far-fetched nonsense.  You can’t present chiaroscuro in an abstract pattern.  The cap band is the high point of the pen.  I suspect that it’s cast work and the name “Rembrandt” is there prominently beneath the clip, the rest of the band being filled with a vegetal pattern.  It’s beautiful work and very impressive, as is the disc at the top of the cap which has the Visconti logo.  The steel nib, too, is highly decorated with a floral pattern and “Visconti Firenze” and “M” for medium.
visconti 2.
Included in the box is a glossy booklet on very high quality paper with numerous photographs.  It must have cost quite a bit to produce.  It’s a pity that it was not better edited.  At one point it says, “The director of this Florentine company founded in 1988 is Dante Del Vecchio, deus ex machina of strong creative dynamism, the same features that we can find in all Visconti creations.”  That’s kind of sad.  A “deus ex machina” is a plot device in a novel, not a term of approbation for someone we are intended to admire.  Doubtless Mr Vecchio is admirable; whoever put the document together is not.
Visconti 1
How does this pen compare with the vintage pens I normally write about?  It is undoubtedly beautiful.  It lays down a good line of ink but as a writer it is rigid and characterless, like many modern pens.  As someone who enjoys a variety of filling systems, the cartridge filler must always be a disappointment.  The resin of the barrel and the metal of the section have a high polish and I find it a little slippery to grip.  When all that is said and done, I like the pen and despite its deficiencies, I have enjoyed writing with it, so far at least.