A Swan Frankenpen

It’s wonderful when I find a pristine pen, perhaps eighty years old with shining black hard rubber and immaculate gold plating. That doesn’t happen all that often. Many old pens I find need quite a lot of work to look presentable. Unlike some restorers I don’t aim to present a pen looking like it just came from the manufacturer. If it’s an old pen it will show its age. That’s part of its attraction.

Sometimes, however, I come upon a pen that is barely recognisable as what it once was. That’s the case with this Swan Leverless. Someone with good bodging skills went to work on this pen. Perhaps the pressure bar had broken off – it can happen with these pens.

In any case, he decided to fit a different filling system. The aerometric filler came from a Parker, maybe a 17. The job has been well done and the pen fills and writes well. What impresses me most is the back end of the barrel. The turn-button has been removed and the barrel closed off very neatly. The clip has been replaced with one that fits very well though it is not a Swan clip. Again, the work has been done well.

The nib lets it down, one of those two-tone ‘iridium tipped’ nibs that you sometimes see on Chinese pens. It’s not a bad nib but it’s inappropriate for this old pen. I’ll find something better, maybe a Swan nib, maybe not. It will be a 14 carat gold nib anyway, perhaps one with some flexibility.

Given the changes this pen has undergone, it is perhaps the ultimate Frankenpen. I’m quite impressed with it. It’s unique and it’s a pen of character!

My assistant isn’t much help these days. The weather is good and she’s hanging around outside, eyeing the birds and beating up the neighbour cats. She said, “You can have your Blackbirds and Swans. I’d rather have a goldfinch!”

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2 thoughts on “A Swan Frankenpen

  1. very impressive alterations Deb – someone must have really loved this pen, and agree that you’ll probably not find a more adventurous frankenpen.
    Decent Swans now command decent prices, unfortunately, and even black ones are no longer in the bargain basement – and as for some of the snake and lizard skin colours, deep pockets are required. But this is a brand where nibs often make the pen worth the money – I’m still looking for a No. 8:-)

    Expect most folk are aware of how to interpret the model Nos., but just in case it’s of interest, the No. 4250 on this pen indicates ………… the 4 is for the shape, and believe this pen started life as one of the ‘cigars’.
    The 2 is the nib size (this is possibly the most common nib) ………5 indicates the colour, which
    although not obvious from your pix is supposed to represent brown ……… finally, the 0 stands for ‘plastic’ (as opposed to BHR) – I assume celluloid, but not entirely sure – try giving it a sniff.
    Though I don’t write, I get the impression this ‘leverless’ system wasn’t entirely successful – today I removed a fossilised sac from another leverless, which had corkscrewed due to the twisting effect of the pressure bar – it had probably long since failed to take up ink. In fact you may now have a pen that functions more effectively than when it was new, though agree with the proposed nib change.
    I hope your assistant doesn’t catch any goldfinches – they’re one of the most colourful of the small birds – is there a ‘bell’ to warn them of pussy’s approach:-)

    1. We attached a bell to her once. She was not pleased. She ran off into the hedge and returned thirty seconds later with no bell. However, she’s 11 years old now and slowing down a little so she doesn’t catch birds any more, though she still severely punishes any cat that dares to intrude in her territory. Which is basically the whole street.

      As you might imagine, having been writing about Mabie Todd pens for seven or eight years, I know about the model codes. I did have an 8 once – you could have dug the garden with it. The Leverless system was very successful, as is evidenced by the number of them around. The main problem with them is that they’re often serviced as if they were lever fillers, using sacs that are too slender for the paddle to compress. Also, time and rough handling have had an effect and the paddles sometimes have to be replaced or reset. Those are the causes of the complaints you sometimes see on the boards. Properly serviced Leverlesses are excellent pns.

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