The Waterman Keyhole Nib

I haven’t had one of these for quite some time. It’s an English Waterman Ideal, quite large at 13.2 cm, an altogether substantial pen. It was made in the late forties and has been well looked after; the box and papers are in good condition like the pen itself. Neither the barrel imprint nor the nib engraving give any hint as to the name or model number of the pen.

Not that it matters. This pen really is all about the nib. These keyhole nibs are glorious, almost always flexible – this one is – and they are among the very best of the Waterman nibs, and that’s saying something! I think I was lucky to get this pen at the price I did. I use Alexa to remind me that it’s time to bid. I decided on the price I would go to and sat watching with my finger on the mouse button. I expected a barrage of bids in the last thirty seconds. There were one or two but the final price was well within my range. These little eBay battles do provide some excitement in the course of the day.

Working on the pen I remembered previous keyhole nibs I’ve had. They were all exceptional. Did Waterman market them in a special way? Were their qualities well known in the forties, famous enough that those in the know asked the shopkeeper for a keyhole nib? We may never know but I am delighted when one comes my way.


5 thoughts on “The Waterman Keyhole Nib

  1. nice pen Deborah – have to say I’m a big fan of black and gold – makes for an executive appearance.
    In my youthful days I worked in Kingsway W.C.2., only 50 yards from Waterman’s London showroom on Pen Corner, though in those days I hadn’t the remotest interest in If only I could go back with a few bob and buy some pens.
    So you’re suggesting that keyholes weren’t just cosmetic, and perhaps in view of this larger cut out breather area this was the reason that such nibs had more flex than usual?
    W. keyholes appear to go back quite some way – perhaps to some time in the late ’20s. Having just rifled through my Ws. it seems I have only one, on a c. 1940 Ink View – so agree they look to be scarce – perhaps I should get another:-)

    Speaking of unusual breathers etc. that allow for some flex, I’ve a French made W. ‘Insignia’ type g.f. which has an unusual nib insofar as there is a short slit on each shoulder of the nib which allows for some flexing when applying a bit of pressure. When I first saw this I thought I’d bought a duff pen, but the slits look legitimate, – the pen is a cartridge job so assume made c. mid C20.

    I’ve heard of Alexa – though never had need to use the ‘lady’s services ………. when working ebay I tend rely on memory to sit at the screen five minutes before the end and try to work some magic. Sometimes it works, not always though.
    Unfortunately, I don’t really enjoy the experience, I get impatient for the end and the last minute or two seem to last an eternity, and there’s always the temptation to bid more than perhaps we should – I reason that I’d appreciate a pen more than others, so really it should be mine anyway:-):-)
    But I’ve had a good week so far, and a few are on their way to me – it’s the arrival I enjoy – hoping the nibs are a bit special, and equally hoping there isn’t unexpected damage.

    1. As regards why the keyhole nib is very flexible: there are many ways of acheiving this result. It may be the size and shape of the breather hole or it may be that the keyhole is a sign of other work that has been done on the nib. Yes, they have a long histoey. I enjoy the bidding process. I have a value in my mind which I will not exceed and I only bid in the last seconds. No point in telegraphing your interest.

  2. Deb, that’s a very spunky nib there for sure, good score.

    There was of course the well advertised Watermans red ripple seven and five series
    ( although there’s quite a bit of discussion about the actual number !!) which had a different coloured band around the top of the cap and a keyhole nib with the corresponding colour imprinted on it.

    There are fanatics out there with money to burn that have collected them all which must be awesome (sigh) and I managed to acquire an almost perfect ‘seven’ in black which is a huge pen !! with the oft banged on about keyhole ‘Pink nib’ and I must say here, it is truly amazing.

    The nib goes from very fine to probably 1.5 mil ! But in a sort of semi flex way… geez I’m not up with all the terminology/ argot ,but it is the absolute nicest of all my nibs , and I’ve got some beauties !!

    I do think the Keyhole nibs are special somehow, as well as just being different shapes for different purposes , but I’m not sure why they would differ from say the ‘crescent’ or ‘heart’ or any of the other less common breather hole shaped nibs,
    But I do know that there was an almost infinite number of possibilities for the end result in the manufacturing process of the nib, and with the quality of tradesmen that used to make them, there could have been made a range that was special .

    I hope your one writes just the way you like,

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