De La Rue Onoto Lever Pen


Here’s a rather gorgeous Onoto Lever Pen.  These were made post-war, from about 1948 on and this pattern is known as Silver and Black.  I’m not quite sure why Onotos began to be produced with levers.  They might have been cheaper to produce than the plunger fillers but in any case, being De La Rue, they did it with style.  I’ve seen several Onoto lever fill designs, and this one has a lever box like a Waterman and internally it has a floating pressure bar like Waterman or Conway Stewart.  That’s a much more efficient system than the cheaper J-bar as it depresses in a plane parallel to the sac.
For some time there had been De La Rue pens of a similar design.  The best of these De La Rue pens are not far short of equal in quality to these Onoto lever fillers.  I’m not sure why they produced the two ranges of pens but they did and the Onotos are more popular and fetch a higher price than the De La Rues.
This is a good sized pen at 13.7 cm.  It has the 3ST nib, which is always a pleasure to use.  It’s medium and semiflexible.


2 thoughts on “De La Rue Onoto Lever Pen

  1. A beautiful pen! I have an Onoto “Penmaster”, another lever filler. It is simpler than yours, with a gold-plated cap, black body, and small-ish nib. One of my favorites, partly because it arrived looking like a grey-grime lump with a faint yellow underneath. I let the nib soak for a half-hour or so, which released a flood of dark purple-blue ink. Still not expecting much, I tried the lever…more ink pumped out. By now I was curious…could this clump of dirt have a working pen inside? I filled, and, yes, found the smoothest possible medium/broad nib. Writing was like brushing a feather across the page. I cleaned as much grime as I could, finding a cap that had lost some gold plating and a bent clip, but, hey, the Onoto was like a buried treasure. Had Ron Zorn replace the sac and fix the clip, which he did while telling a string of jokes to reassure a bashful teenager who had come to Ron’s table with an old Pelikan 100.

    My guess is that after 1945, DLR saw no market for their grand high-end pens. The lever-fillers must have been a cheaper system to produce than their plunger-fillers, and not yet considered obsolete.

    Next they made the K pens, which didn’t save Onoto…but only Parker and Sheaffer survived the ’50s in decent health. Given the competition from ballpoints and affordable typewriters, it’s surprising that any old-time fountain pen companies survived.

    1. Congratulations on having a Penmaster – not many of those around. I do not all that many were made or they just haven’t survived. A better pen than the K-series, I think, as so many of them have cracks in the hoods. The semi-hooded nib is a good one.

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