A Parker Duofold Junior

We had a discussion some time ago about UK Parker Duofolds and came to the conclusion that they are reliable but dull. It’s strange that quite a few modern pen makers, especially Japanese ones, use that same cigar shape but they are not regarded as dull. Or maybe they are. I’m not well up on modern Japanese pens.

Be that as it may, not all Duofolds are equally uninteresting. Take this red Duofold Junior, for instance. It’s the same length as the standard Duofold but slimmer.

The other difference is that it doesn’t have the full sac protector, as you can see in the photograph. Otherwise it’s pretty much your average British Duofold.

So what’s so special about this one? Well for a start it’s red. Red pens are always exciting, aren’t they?

Maybe not, but have a look at this nib. It’s broad, stubbish and unlike most Duofolds – flexible!

Between the stub and the spreading tines, it gives a lot of line variation, so here’s one Duofold at least that isn’t dull.


A Special Swan SF2

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been doing this for a long time. Sometimes I wonder why I do it. The hours are long; being your own boss means you serve a hard task master. It’s not the money – if I got a job flipping burgers that would be a major wage rise. The close-work is ruining my eyesight; there’s a ridge on my brow where the OptiVisor sits and I have x20 loupes all over the house. I get a bit of a buzz from the shellac but that’s about it.

And then I remember why. When a pen as glorious as this Swan SF2 turns up I remember why I wouldn’t dream of doing anything else. To be given the opportunity to resuscitate a fine instrument like this is a great privilege indeed.

Because it’s such a fine pen I’ve written about the SF2 on several previous occasions. The little search box at the top right will take you to what I’ve said before. I won’t have any more to say about the model, just about this individual pen.

It was awarded to F V Stephen at HM Dockyard, Rosyth in 1924. Sadly, I can’t track down FV Stephen. I can’t even tell whether he was a civilian or a naval officer or rating. In that no rank is given it seems likely that he was one of the many civilians working there in all capacities. HM Dockyard Rosyth was built during the arms race preceding the First World War and serviced surface ships and submarines up to the present day.

It’s likely that this was a retirement present if for no other reason than because it has seen little use. This is a very old pen and yet the engine-cut patterning is still crisp and the colour is good. It’s an expensive gift, so F V Stephen was a highly appreciated employee, probably in a quite senior position.

Of course, a pen is designed not only to look good but to write well. This one with its fine New York nib writes splendidly.

Truth be told, I could win the lottery tomorrow (or I could if I bought the tickets) and it would make no difference. I would still fix old pens.

Pens for Sale!

Hearing the rain on the windowpane,
I’m at pen poetry again!
So here are some pens for your delight;
The skies are dim, but the nibs are bright.


Ugly Pens

I’m sure I could produce an “Ugly Pen of the Month” every month without any difficulty. However, the ugliest pens I see around these days tend to be modern. Some of those pen manufacturers employ aggressive and vicious ninjalawyers who would sue me back to the Stone Age if I were to criticise their expensively designed horrors. So I won’t.

Ugly Pen Of The Month


That, I must confess, is not the prettiest fountain pen I have ever seen. It’s clearly missing a large cap ring and it’s made from some sort of early injection moulded plastic which isn’t terribly attractive.  The cap screws on and is quite secure but it’s tight and you know there’s been some shrinkage going on there.

When you take the cap off, there’s this nice gold nib and then you see that it’s 18K gold-plated! It hardly seems worth the bother of going from 14K to 18K when it’s only a gold wash anyway.

It seems hardly even fit for the spares box until you try writing with it, and then suddenly it becomes an altogether better pen!

I’ve tried researching Queensway, the company that made this pen, but I’ve drawn a blank. It’s surprising that there’s nothing about them on the Internet because in the postwar decades Queensway pens were everywhere. I asked my husband about them, as he benefits from having grown up in Britain and also being a little bit older than me (just a bit). He recognised the style of this pen but the ones that he used were later and were cartridge fillers rather than lever fillers. He said that after having lost and broken the better quality pens his parents bought him, he was condemned to a life of Platignums and Queensways. Whereas the Platignums were just bad the Queensways were truly awful. They existed to leak. It was something to do with the cartridge, which if he remembers correctly, had a strange neck which didn’t fit right and ensured that the ink went everywhere except on the paper.

That’s a pretty bad rep! Surprisingly, this one doesn’t leak at all and it writes beautifully. It’s still not an attractive pen but at least it’s a good writer.

The Jock Pen

For years my main supplier of pens was eBay but recently my other sources have been producing better pens.  By better pens I mean pens I can write about here and that will be interesting to my readers and customers.

Today I found the Jock Pen, a real rarity from times gone by.  I’ll add photos when it arrives but it’s a black hard rubber pen with engine chasing, made in the 1920s, I would estimate.

As you might guess, this is a pen with a Scottish connection.  I can’t tell who made it, but it was made for William Ritchie & Sons, a wholesale stationer with outlets in Edinburgh and Glasgow.  They also sold a range of stylos:  the Elderslie, the Bantam and the Accipol, as well as the Floeesie Valveless fountain pen*.

William Ritchie & Sons was a well established company, going back to 1892.  Like many other stationers, they added photography to their products, bringing out postcards of Scottish scenes and eventually getting into publishing, producing ‘Picturesque and Romantic Edinburgh’, a book I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on.

They’re no longer around.  Though I can’t find an exact date I think they closed down soon after World War II.  The Jock Pen is a fine memento of this company and I would love to find a Floeesie Valveless pen.  It sounds very interesting.

*Stephen Hull:  The English Fountain Pen Industry 1875-1975

The First Repair

The first pen I ever worked on was a little Swan eyedropper. Looking back on it now, it might have been a 1500. I found it in a junk shop, one of those places that was piled high with other people’s worn-out dreams, stacks of furniture and old trunks, ornaments and knick-knacks that had served whatever purpose those things serve.

The pen was seized solid with ancient ink. You’ll have to bear in mind that I was as innocent as a newborn where pens were concerned. I would have a pen like that disassembled in two minutes flat now, but then I had no appropriate tools or knowledge.

A few minutes examination showed how it went together. Getting it apart was another matter. Despite being a girly I have strong hands from years of operating motor bike clutch and brake levers, but I couldn’t unscrew the section. I was savvy enough to know that ordinary pliers would cause irreparable damage so that was out.

It occurred to me that ink is a water-soluble substance, so I suspended the pen nib down in a jar with a couple of inches of water in it. It worked in a way. By the next morning the water was deep blue and when I applied some force I was finally able to unscrew the section. The downside was that the front part of the pen which had been a dark greyish green was now a nasty dull yellow. That was disappointing but I refused to be discouraged about it. After all, I wanted the pen to write with, not to impress anyone.

I couldn’t get any ink to reach the tip of the nib. It seemed that the section was still blocked with dried-out ink. I couldn’t really see how to get the feed out. The rear of the feed was pointed so it wouldn’t be a good idea to hit it. It looked like it would have to come out from the front. I spent the day alternately soaking the nib/feed/section unit and pulling on it. I wasn’t getting anywhere. It wouldn’t budge.

Then I had a brilliant idea! I took a set of pliers, ground the ridges off and wrapped the jaws in many layers of insulating tape. I seized the nib and feed with it and give a mighty pull. And the feed broke off. That was a bad, bad moment.

There were no Internet discussion boards where I could go for advice in those days, and everyone I knew was perfectly satisfied with their Bic ballpoints and regarded fountain pens as being as outdated as a horse and cart. All I could do was ponder on my experience and try to find a way forward. No blinding light of revelation came to me but I had learned that force is never the answer, pens (I didn’t even know what the material was that the pen was made from) didn’t like water and I had made my first pen restoration tool, imperfect though it was.

That might have been the end of that and I would have had to be satisfied with a Bic ballpoint like everyone else or laid out the huge sum that new fountain pens cost in those days. Fate intervened, though, as it so often does, and I went to a stationery store one day to buy that accordion-fold paper that printers used back then. The man who sold it to me was making notes with a truly ancient fountain pen. I admired it and we fell into fountain pen conversation. In the past, as part of his stationery business, he had serviced and repaired fountain pens. That work had dried up several years before. Not only was he happy to sell me some tools and spares (including sacs) but he gave me a brief tutorial on types of fountain pen and the methods of their repair.

From that moment on there was no looking back. I would like to say that I still have that first Swan, all these years later, but barrels, caps and nibs are too precious for sentimentality. It was used for spares long ago.