We discovered some years ago that Mabie Todd model numbers actually make sense – or at least most do. Similarly, De La Rue numbers seem less of an impenetrable puzzle than they once did, but Conway Stewart numbers make no sense at all.
Though they obviously worked well in the company’s favour, their production policies seem a little strange too. There was a time in the fifties and early sixties when the 27, 28 and 58 were on sale, three very similar pens with slight differences in trim and nib. There was to be a pen available at every price point, it seems, and that gave Conway Stewart a healthy bottom line for many decades.
The 28 is a handsome pen and came in a pleasing variety of admirable patterns. This one is the grey hatch, a gorgeous chaos of grey and black striations. There was great artistry in the production of celluloid patterns. It looks well with the gold trim.
Conway Stewart’s nib sizes don’t really compare with anyone else’s. This should be no surprise; there was no urge towards standardisation across the board in those days. Each company followed their own star, a wholly admirable attitude. The No 5 nib is smaller and thinner than the Duro but a good nib as Conway Stewart nibs go. Conway Stewart nibs, it should be said, are not as good as Swans, Watermans or Onotos but they are adequate and reliable, helped by the ebonite sections and feeds that give good ink delivery. When, probably at a customer’s request, Conway Stewart exerted themselves to make a stub or oblique they are very good indeed.
Among all the post-war Conway Stewarts I particularly admire the 28. The gold trim is modest and appropriate, the pen is the right length for me – a little longer than the 84 in other words. I would regard it as the successor of the 286, that great prewar and wartime success. Despite the apparent meaninglessness of their numbers, there is a line of succession in Conway Stewart models over the years. If you wanted the latest style at the same level of decoration as your last one, you could find that pen in their extensive range. And, of course, the numbers are only meaningless now. Once there was a book of numbers with a sequence that was entirely logical to Conway Stewart and its employees. It’s just a pity that it disappeared long ago.