The John Holland Hatchet Filler

The John Holland company was around for a long time producing writing instruments of one kind or another. The company finally stopped making pens in 1950 but continued selling other items until the doors finally closed in 1980.

The glory days, however, were in the first 20 years of the 20th century. It was during that period that the company experimented with a variety of filling systems. It is said that they did so to avoid Waterman’s lever filler patent. The first successful method is known as the saddle filler. A metal button on the barrel held a loop which surrounded a pressure bar and sac. Lifting the button brought the pressure bar to bear on the sac, to enable it to draw in ink. This was quite a successful and efficient filling method.

The next, and better-known method, is the hatchet filler, of which this is an example. At first glance it resembles a lever filler but the actual means of drawing ink into the pen is quite different.

Here the “hatchet” is shown elevated, ready to be pressed down on the pressure bar and sac as the nib is immersed in the ink. The hatchet is then released, allowing the ink to flow into the sac. The hatchet is then returned to its original position disappearing into the barrel.

Because space has to be allocated for the hatchet at rest, this method is not as efficient as either the saddle or the lever filler. In operation it resembles the crescent filler made by Conklin. In a sense it’s better, in that the mechanism is concealed and does not protrude but that’s at the cost of less ink being loaded at each fill.

After 1920 John Holland began to make lever fillers which did not stand out from the crowd of smaller fountain pen manufacturers. For a time they made strikingly beautiful fancy pens which have become popular and valuable but were not technically outstanding. The company is most remembered for the hatchet filler.


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