A Stubborn Auto-Flow


Removing sections hardly ever gives me any trouble. A little heat to loosen things up and out they come. This Mentmore Auto-flow was an exception. After several sessions with the heat gun the section began to move. It would rotate in the barrel but it wouldn’t come out. I persisted without success. I don’t like wiggling a section in a barrel. That seems like a good way to crack it, but needs must when the devil drives. I gently but persistently wiggled the section and eventually it surprised me by coming out. I have a little more sympathy now for those people who appear in the pen boards complaining that they can’t get a section out. This one took a couple of days but subjectively it felt like several months!

Part of the problem was that the section had been shellacked in – with copious applications of shellac. I naturally thought of my friend Grandmia but he wasn’t responsible on this occasion. The crunchy sac was clearly too old for him to have attached it on one of his videos. The other cause of the difficulty was the shape of the section. My apologies for the shaky black and white photo. The combination of the shellac and the peculiar shape of the section cost me an hour or two.

That aside the Auto-flow is a great pen. It was made from 1935 to 1942, or possibly a little later. Though coming in splendid colours like this blue marbled one, there is nothing fancy about an Auto-Flow. Whether lever or button-filler they take the shape that we think of as the typical British pen. Mentmore nibs come in fine, medium and occasionally broad. I don’t ever remember seeing a stub, oblique or a flexible Auto-Flow nib. I believe that, in a way, is why they were so popular – the buyer got a sturdy, reliable, uncomplicated pen and that seems to have been what many British buyers wanted. They sold in thousands and because they are robust they appear in eBay in large quantities today.

They are underappreciated these days when everybody wants flex, oblique or stub, and remain quite inexpensive, at a time when the prices for many other pens are rising steeply. I confess to being an Auto-Flow fan, except for those examples that have large, blobby lumps of tipping material. Those would be ideal for ballpoint users as they will take considerable pressure!

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