What’s In A Name?


For the last couple of years I’ve been writing with firm-nibbed pens and I have to say I’ve enjoyed them but I thought I would get back to my first love, the flexible nib. I didn’t have anything around that particularly appealed to me, so I went browsing on eBay and found this De La Rue pen. It’s not quite right. The cap and barrel are from different pens but they are roughly the same colour (though a different pattern) and they fit well enough. The mottled hard rubber section is correct – that’s how they were made and it’s part of their charm.   Most importantly, the nib is flexible.


I got a good deal on this pen, partly because the parts didn’t quite match but also because De La Rue pens don’t reach the prices of Onotos, despite the fact that they were made by the same craftsmen, using, for the most part, exactly the same materials. It’s a good way to get an exceptionally high quality pen for a moderate price.
Restoring this pen was not quite as straightforward as it should have been. The last person to work on the pen shellacked the section in. The good thing about shellac is that you can easily loosen it but the downside is that it takes a lot of heat. Taking the section out of the barrel is one of the more dangerous manoeuvers in restoration, and anything that makes it unnecessarily more difficult is bad practice. When I put it back together the section fitted the barrel very tightly so there was absolutely no need for the shellac.
It writes beautifully with no pressure at all producing appreciable line variation. If I push it a little harder the tines separate widely giving a very broad line but there is a tendency to tram-track. That’s okay, I don’t go pressing my pens against the page. I’m more than happy with it. It’s a keeper – unless somebody is absolutely desperate to have it.

So there you are. I’m giving you the hint of how to get hold of some of the world’s best writers at a very decent price. I had considered keeping quiet about it and buying them all myself, but I couldn’t do that. What a fine human being I am!
My assistant says that she would be delighted to help me, but it’s mad to be indoors on sunny, warm days like this when they happen in November.


16 thoughts on “What’s In A Name?

  1. I am grateful for your post on the de La Rue pens! Knew nothing about them. Still enjoying the No Nonsense oblique I bought from you, it is quite smooth. Must dash…have some auctions to look at for a dLR!!

      1. I did! Offered less than asking, figured on a counter offer and was accepted. Very thrilled, and expecting the little fellow to arrive soon. Now back to my obsession with Osmiroids (scratches head and mutters ‘is that a 75? what the heck is rm tip?).

  2. agree with you that it does make for some classic thick and thin lines that you never get with firm nibs (why do I almost put a k in front of this word each time??). Flexi nibs also make digits 1 – 9 look great…… a sort of late Victorian/Edwardian face, and for those of us who grew up with joined up caps., they seem most suited to this almost copper plate style.

    So, when we try to emulate this type of purchase we should say.. well, Deb says it’s o.k.:))

    Agree that this two tone colour looks good – I’ve a Swan SF 230 with a sort of red-ripple and black arrangement on the cap – looks great, and although I guess the SF translates as self-filler (lever) I’ve no idea what the 230 means (in fact the section carries the imprint SF 2 – so could be I have a mongrel perhaps although the whole thing looks to be a proper match. There’s a picture of an SF 130 (c. 1928) in one of Andreas Lambrou’s books, and style wise it looks the same as mine – maybe it has something to do with the level of finish or quality.

    Also agree that removing sections can be difficult, although heat applied with care seems to be o.k., – I’ve yet to decimate any barrels or sections, and I’ve stopped using hot water as you’ve suggested previously. More difficult is correctly re-seating feeds and nibs………. they come out o.k. with a drift, but just hate going back, and of course you can’t apply the same sort of blacksmith’s thump in reverse.

    Don’t know what date for your DLR, but guess around late ’30’s very early ’40’s – perhaps?? –
    congratulations on finding a very nice pen for small beer, and for sharing this trade tip with us mere mortals:)

    1. The pen is mid to late 30s.

      I think that you’ll find that heat is useful in replacing feeds and nibs. The reason I say that removing sections is dangerous is that it’s the one time that you might crack the barrel. Experience and care will ensure that doesn’t happen but the danger is always there, even with heat.

      I’ve edited your post as you indicated, so I deleted the other one.

  3. thanks for the correction Deb – appreciated.

    replacing nib plus feed correctly, at the same time, isn’t easy – the fit seems very tight, and it’s difficult getting a purchase on something so that any real heft can be exerted – perhaps years of dried ink reduce the opening. To some extent both can be gripped with the section pliers and pushed, but cracking the feed and splitting the nib looms large – as you suggest, heating the section more than usual will probably give the required expansion and allow easier re-fitting……….. will give it a go. thanks.

    1. Reinstalling nibs and feeds doesn’t give me any problems these days but I do remember that long ago, when I started out, it was difficult. I think it’s one of those “practice makes perfect” things. Strong hands help, too. Another thing: take note of where the nib sits in the section before you remove it, and mark the centreline of the nib on the section. A nib that has sat in a section for a long time will distort it slightly and it will be easier to remount the nib in its original position.

  4. apologies for going a bit off-topic Deb, but……………. increasing problems with reading barrel imprints and nib details especially when out and about in poor light. Anyone care to recommend a suitable loupe – with or without LED. thanks:)

    1. I have two loupes, one 14X, the other 20X. That’s all I need. They both came from Hong Kong and cost pennies. They’ve given years of good service. You can make barrel imprints much more visible with a little French Chalk.

      1. thanks – I do have some French chalk, but draw the line at taking it with me when walking around fairs and boot sales:):) – but I like the idea of spending only pennies on a loupe.

  5. quite right ………….. the puncture repair kits we used as kids included a small centimetre long block of the stuff, but I’m not sure sellers would like the idea of me rubbing the stuff onto their pens.
    Is this what ebay sellers are referring to when, sometimes, they say “”still has the chalk marks”?

    Presumably talc is just powdered French chalk

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