Sheaffer Statesman Snorkel

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When the ballpoint began to gain ever-increasing market share, the fountain pen industry responded by making pens that were cleaner and easier to fill.  Parker made their famous 61 which filled by capillary action and Sheaffer’s response was the Snorkel.  Undoubtedly the most technically complex pen ever made, the Snorkel extended a filling tube beyond the tip of the nib, thereby enabling the pen to be filled with no need for subsequent wiping.
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It is said that it was placed to compete against the very popular Parker 51 and outsold it.  Whether or not that is correct, the Snorkel sold in huge numbers judging by how many appear for sale today, some 55 years after it went out of production.  It was similar in appearance to the “Thin Model Touchdown” and was issued in no less than 13 models.  This is the Statesman, identified by its white dot and Palladium Silver wraparound nib.
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It is a fine example of the innovation which Americans have loved in their fountain pens.  Evidently, it filled a need sufficiently well to keep the ball point at bay for several years.  Is it a good fountain pen or is it an example of clever technology for its own sake?  There are a lot of bits and pieces inside that barrel to make the pen draw ink and to make the snorkel extend and withdraw.  The result is that it holds a small quantity of ink when compared with other fountain pens, e.g. the Snorkel holds 0.64 ml against the Balance 350 Lady at 1.42 ml.  This doesn’t matter so much when it is fitted with a fine nib but these pens offered the full range of nibs including broad and stub.  One would imagine that these returned to the ink bottle pretty frequently.
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My one is a fine.  It appears more like a fine/medium to me but perhaps I’m too used to pens from the Orient.  It will be interesting to see how long a fill of ink lasts.  It’s a beautiful pen made with the attention to detail for which Sheaffer was famous.  This version has a broad cap band and no writing on the clip.  The nib, especially, is a work of art with its beautiful cursive writing.
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I think, for me, this is an example of the thinking that imagined that in the future our cars would fly, we would be served by robots and we would ingest a full meal in a pill.  And, of course, we would write with a Snorkel.  I am disappointed about the lack of flying cars and robots but at least we have this amazing pen, clearly invented by a mad scientist!

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About goodwriterspens
I restore fountain pens, and used to trade as redripple52 in eBay. I also have my own fountain pen sales website, www.goodwriterssales.com

14 Responses to Sheaffer Statesman Snorkel

  1. Lee M says:

    I agree: I was told I’d have a flying car when I grew up, and I’m still waiting. Then again, maybe I haven’t grown up yet. I bought a Snorkel a couple of years ago; alas, the seller sent it in a regular letter envelope, with a piece of tissue paper for padding. I forget how many pieces the pen was in when I opened it, but it was more than two. The worst part is that it was a Canadian-made, reverse trim black Statesman Snorkel, ie., the trim was nickel instead of gold plated. 😦

    • That’s such a shame, Lee. I get pens in that condition from time to time. Some sellers have no sense whatsoever. It grieves me to hear of such a thing – that a pen that has survived half a century is destroyed through stupidity and laziness.

  2. OldGreyBeard says:

    I do have a Snorkel awaiting repair and the snorkel tube looks damaged, as if someone shoved it back in place by pushing against a hard surface. Any idea where I can get a spare part?

    • Obviously, there are no spare parts made nowadays for these pens. The only spares are ones that have been cannibalised from another pen. Usually, pen repairers won’t sell them but they will repair the pen for you – I suggest you try Eric Wilson: http://eckiethump.webs.com/

      • OldGreyBeard says:

        The pen came in a job lot of others I was interested in and can actually repair. If I attempt the Snorkel I’ll end up with a bag of bits!

      • Yes, they’re pretty complicated. You could either get a copy of the Marshall and Oldfield repair book and have a go at it yourself or, as I suggested, send it to a competent repairer.

      • David says:

        “Obviously, there are no spare parts made nowadays for these pens.”

        I believe there are new replacement parts for the Snorkel pens; springs, point gaskets, O-rings, and (of-course) sacs. A Web search should turn up several sources. One is www(dot)vintagepensacsandparts(dot)com.

        I have a small herd of “thin model” or “TM” Snorkel pens I’ve restored. My favorites are the Valiant models, which for the most part are identical to the Statesman pens except they have solid gold conical two-tone nibs. These pens are notorious for very light barrel marks. Yours is quite good. I have a lovely black and gold Valiant that is marked as made in Australia. It is the only Australian Valiant I have ever seen. But I’m sure there are more – somewhere.

      • You’re missing the point! OldGreyBeard was looking for a snorkel tube. I doubt if you can provide a source for that. Springs, gaskets and O-rings are simply consumables for maintaining the pen, not spare parts to replace parts of the pen that are broken. So far as I am aware, there is no online site anywhere in the world that is offering replacement parts for these pens.

      • David says:

        My apologies, I missed OldGreyBeard’s first post. Yes, the snorkel tube will have to come from a donor pen. Perhaps a post on the FPN asking for a tube may dredge one up. Cheers, David

  3. Swanee says:

    Sheaffer Australia seemed to produce as many variants as the ROW. The above chatter prompted me to check my Sheaffers to discover at least 11 various genus, including white dots, snorkels, thins, triumph, statesman, valiant, PFM, fine line, etc, all Australian made, and similar to Canada, etc, all well made, just born elsewhere. Hence any spares should be available from all over the world!.

    • “The above chatter” – are you suggesting that my blog is chatter?

      I’m well aware that Sheaffers were made in various countries but that’s not the point. The point is that no one is selling spare parts for Sheaffer pens other than consumables. The only way to get parts like snorkel tubes, nibs, barrels sections or the like is by cannibalising other pens. No one, so far as I am aware, is doing that for retail sale of the parts. The only people who are likely to have those parts are pen repairers and they won’t sell them – they be mad if they did! They will repair the pen for you – that’s how they make their money – but they won’t sell parts to you.

      If you can point to an online retailer making these parts available you’ll be doing everyone a favour. Otherwise, so far as I can see, you’re just contributing to the “chatter”.

    • David says:

      Thank you Swanee for the info. I didn’t know about the range of Australian-made Sheaffer’s pens. I commented that my Valiant TM conical snorkel was the only example I have seen. But there must be many out there (amongst other models per your comment). IMHO your post adds to this thread about this line of TM Sheaffer’s pens. But I am only a guest here (no offense Deb). I would like to see some distributor parts-lists or pen-model distributor lists for Australian made vintage Sheaffer’s pens of this era. FWIW, I did disassemble and check my Australian Valiant conical nib snorkel (M-nib by the way), and all looked the same compared with my other snorkels of this period (Ft. Madison made). So you are likely correct, there is a good chance that new “new” parts or parts not available new (donor parts) will probably work with the non-U.S.made pens. But keep in-mind, my experience is limited. Cheers, David

  4. OldGreyBeard says:

    Well , I’ve taken the advice and asked eckiethump about whether he can repair this pen. Obviously I had already checked if parts were available but even if they were, having seen pics of a dismantled Snorkel I think I’d leave this to someone who has done it before. I’d rather admit I can’t do it than destroy a beautiful pen!

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