Which Pen?

Back when fountain pens were what everyone used, people only ever had one pen, not a boxful as most of us have today. I suppose for many people any pen would do so long as it worked but we are more selective than that, aren’t we? What would be your everyday pen, the only pen you would have? I think we should leave boring modern pens out of it. Select any vintage era where vintage = whatever you think it does.

There are so many pens with different wonderful qualities to offer. If I was especially concerned about the quantity of ink my pen would hold it would have to be an Onoto or even a Ford Patent Pen, but actually I don’t mind filling my pen occasionally. Most sac fillers hold more than the average cartridge, so that’s enough for me.

Colour and pattern might distract me. I do appreciate the wonderful patterns that Waterman produced in the 30s and especially the subtle 1920s and 30s Swan patterns. Post-war Conway Stewarts have a colourful glow to them as well.

But colour won’t decide which pen I choose. The nib is what the pen is about. I would want something firm and fine – at least as fine as a Japanese EF. Not many of the major manufacturers produced nibs as fine as that in the vintage years (my vintage ends at 1960). In the late 30s Waterman (or actually Altura) produced an accountant pen with a near needlepoint nib. A plain-looking pen, invariably in black so far as I’m aware. That would be my one and only pen


10 thoughts on “Which Pen?

  1. I have a 1961 (my vintage will end a year later πŸ™‚ ), Sheaffer Imperial Triumph in the gold-filled finish, with a beautiful fine, 14K gold, inlaid nib. This pen never/em> skips, and has never given me a hard start; even if I’ve left it a week or more between uses. I alternate between filling it with Montblanc’s Lucky Orange, or the newer Pen Addict/Robert Oster Fire on Fire. If that had to be my one and only, I wouldn’t mourn the loss of my Pelikans, Platinums, and Sailors too much.

  2. My dad only used Shaeffer fountain pens. He had a dislike for biros. With that, I originally used a Shaeffer ‘school’ pen at school. That changed when I was leant a Platignum with a gold nib.

    While Platignums are held in low regard by most, and their quality has an unfavourable reputation, I would choose a Platignum with a medium size gold nib before a much more expensive pen. Call it prejudice if you like, but then isn’t every personal preference a form of prejudice?

    1. A wise choice, I think. Some of those gold nib Platignums are very much better than the general reputation of the brand, as I’m sure Paul Stirling would confirm. Quite a few have passed through my hands and I have always admired them.

  3. Hey Deb.
    Funnily enough, I have the opposite thing happening. I have one or two needlepoint fine firm nibs in pens that I really love ( a Swan SF130 and a Waterman 3v to name but two …). but hardly ever use them ! I could swap them out for semiflex ones, but sometimes I like to have a go with them just to see what folk enjoy about them.
    I use 99% of my pens as often as possible, and whilst I’m writing with them , quite often think…..if this was my only pen I’d still be sublimely happy.
    Often too, I play the game of….which pen would I grab if the house was on fire and I could only grab one. 😫😫 ……..and I can’t do it ☹️ I have about 50 equal best pens, and the house would probably burn down whilst I was agonising over whether to take the ripple watermen or the 20s Swans .
    If there were to be a ‘range’ to the affliction of collecting, I’d put myself at the …crazy , no hope end …..
    They’re coming to take me away ha ha ..ho ho hee hee .

  4. I do believe there were many who collected or at least had several pens “way back when”. Especially those who were writers. Two of my first vintage pens came from a friend who was my first professional restoration customer. She saved several gorgeous fountain pens from the trash bin when her in-laws sold the early 1900’s victorian family home. All but one belonged to the same family member. Watermans, Eversharp Dorics, etc.

    If I were to choose ONE pen to use forever my initial thought was it had to have an ef/f nib as it is the most universal. It would probably be one of the more firm nibs as I do have to write more gentle with a softer/flex nib and there is more chance of springing those. With an ef/f I can do my normal writing as well as use them for notes since I can fit more on a page. So, my initial choice was one of my Sheaffer PFMs. I have many pens in all sizes but prefer my larger pens. Especially for longer writing sessions and I like their larger ink capacity. However, repairs came to mind. Although the snorkel system is my favorite, it is, of course, the most complicated filling system. I have gotten to where I can completely repair one to working condition in no time but for the scenario of only one pen forever I have to consider ease of repair and replacement parts.

    That being said, I decided on one of my Sheaffer Balance OS’. It’s a large pen, great ink capacity due to the sac size, and it is a lever filler which is the simplest filling system. Most of my Sheaffer OS are in the ef/f size and are firm. My second choice would be one of my Parker Duofold Senior flat tops with a mani/account nib for the same reasons but the way they have to be reassembled you do run the risk of accidentally poking a hole in the sac when reinserting the pressure bar. If you happen to only have one ink sac on hand at the time you’re out of the use of your pen until you can get replacements. This risk is not there with a basic lever filler.

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