A Conway Stewart 286 Frankenpen

Here’s one of those wartime Conway Stewarts, when they mixed patterned barrels and black caps because of shortages. Actually, no it isn’t. I’m telling you lies (slaps wrist). Though Conway Stewart did mix and match in the way I describe this isn’t such a pen. This poor pen met with a serious accident involving pressure and heat, like maybe somebody dropped a hot soldering iron on it. The cap was smashed and there was a severe indentation on the barrel near the threads.

At first I thought it was only suitable for spares – it has a nice No 5 nib and the plating of the trim is spotless. Then I thought I might recover the barrel. I removed the section very carefully with a lot of heat, expecting every second that the barrel would crack. It didn’t! Success! Then I found that the remains of the sac were welded to the barrel and the pressure bar. I soaked it with naphtha which has the effect of making the sac more brittle so that you can break it out.

I re-sacced it and cleaned it up. It looked lovely. I searched through my spares for a matching cap but though I had some green marbled ones they were quite different from this unusual patterned barrel. Then, remembering the wartime Conway Stewarts I settled on a black cap. If it appeals to you, keep an eye on the Conway Stewart section of the sales website.

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13 thoughts on “A Conway Stewart 286 Frankenpen

  1. continuing your saga of oddities Deb. I’ve a CS 479 in BHR – a pen with a longish life – which may or may not have the correct cap, though it fits well and looks right – the clip is in the shape of a sabre showing the imprint ‘Rightime’ – but never heard of that name before – maybe not a pen manufacturer – or perhaps CS made some for corporate use?? Don’t see the word indexed in either of Steve Hull’s books. Bearing in mind the difficulties in changing CS clips, then maybe this is a donor cap but a good screw fit – the tassie and jewel are a cut above the average in shape and appearance – more like Parker Duofold. Anyone know of the name Rightime?
    Also have a RELIEF No. 3-S with a greenish black-veined body and BHR clipless cap – they fit together well so could be they started life as partners – bearing in mind that CS had a hand in making RELIEF and the very good match on the threads, a distinct possibility.
    I’ve a Stephens No. 56 (five shillings and six pennies) with black-veined pearl barrel, with BHR cap -missing its clip and broken button – and again the two parts screw together well. Whether Stephens did a mix and match I’ve no idea – believe this particular model was the bottom of their range, but the nib a very broad broad.

    I’ve several quality pens missing their caps – Swan etc. – great shame, probably shouldn’t buy such things.

    1. Sorry to say I’ve never come across Rightime. Some of the Reliefs are just rebadged Conway Stewarts with the Relief nib, though others are rather different. Stepehns was made by Langs, of course. I couldn’t say if they fitted mismatched caps. I’ve noticed that many Stephens are decidedly broad.

      1. Just to wet your appetite I have a very decrepit early Stephen pen that was made in France. The cap and clip are radically different (but stamped Stephens, so is original) but it is fitted with the original screw down button filling system. As that was covered by a Lang’s patent they must have licensed its use.

        The nib is steel and probably a replacement.

      2. That’s very interesting. Photograph? I know that late in their history Stephens contracted with Jif Waterman and those pens were steel nibbed, for the most part. Quite strange that they had a French supplier early as well.

  2. I have always had my doubts about the ‘war time’ black cap. It seems to be far too convenient an excuse. Caps are all too often damaged and patterns are difficult to match, as you have found.

    Having said that I do have a Swan lizardskin which was bought during the war and has a black cap, but that was supplied by MT around 1948 because they didn’t have any replacement caps.

    1. You may well be right about the black cap. It’s rather hard to prove these things one way or the other now. However it does seem strange to me that you are prepared to accept the explanation with regard to Swan but not Conway Stewart.

      1. I have documentary evidence of the Swan being a post war repair. My problem with the black cap is that it was done at a time when all the producers could sell every pen they could produce and price controls were in force. It also appears to be concentrated on Conways and Valentines. Conways command a high price and the Valentine cap is notorious for splitting. Call me cautious if you will, but I think it is more a case of the Morris Minor convertible!

        Got the photos of the Stephens, not sure how to send them to you (don’t ask me to find the Swan!).

      2. The main evidence for the black caps being original to these CS pens is that there seem to be many more surviving examples with black caps than there are with matching caps – correctly matching pens and caps of this type are really not very common. You just wouldn’t expect to see that many later replacements.

        As Peter says, in the early years of the war companies were keen to sell every pen they could, and CS wouldn’t scrap perfectly good barrels because they couldn’t produce caps to match.

      3. Sorry, I didn’t look properly at your original picture! My comments refer to the semi transparent models not the 286 in your picture, which on closer inspection looks to have a standard green marble barrel. The black cap could still be original, but in this case it could equally well be a later replacement.

  3. Steve Hull (‘Fountain Pens for the MIllion’ – page 130), comments about war time production difficulties, and the non-availability of most pre war colours, and the use of black caps on coloured barrels – he shows three coloured CS models with this black cap anomaly – a 475, 286 and 479. Something to do with a Board of Trade wartime regulation called Limitations of Supplies Orders – the pens shown are non-standard, apparently “either made by, or assembled from parts supplied by friendly competitors.”

    Perhaps it was easier for pen manufacturers to find supplies of BHR than coloured celluloid in war time.

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