Sheaffers

I have always admired Sheaffer pens, especially the older ones. The quality is always supreme and they have been wonderfully innovative. On the downside, some of their innovations seem to have been for their own sake, to no practical benefit. The lever filling system was crucial to the practicality of the fountain pen. Waterman’s box lever was essentially a copy, containing just enough difference to get around the patent. Parker’s button filler was very similar, just applying the pressure to the bar from a different point.

I’ve had a few of those early flat-tops. Wonderful pens. I might go so far as to say they were the apex of Sheaffer’s development.

Another fine series of developments were the glorious Triumph nib and the inlaid ones that came later. I’m not sure that either is a practical benefit but both are beautiful, exceptionally so.

The improvements that were no improvement: I know that many people will disagree with what follows but I must tell it as I see it. The excessive tapering of the Balance is purely aesthetic. If it works for you, fine. I do like it but would much rather the flat-top. Sheaffer’s vacuum fill system is a poorly implemented copy of the Onoto plunger, not designed to be serviced when the seals fail. The modern ingenuity of repair people has overcome this failing but that does not change the fact that Sheaffer issued a pen with a very limited life. Following on that came the Touchdown and the Snorkel. Neither are really an improvement and both severely restrict the volume of ink in the pen.

The first new pen I had as an adult was a Sheaffer Targa, a lovely and practical pen which I kept for many years. Its one detraction was the cartridge/converter filling system which is at least an improvement on the earlier oddities. Throughout much of the earlier period Sheaffer continued to offer lever-fill pens as alternatives. I tried without success to get hold of a Triumph-nib lever-fill pen from the forties. I must have mentioned my search on one of the fountain pen boards with the result that a kind friend sent me this beautiful Triumph Lifetime Statesman. At least I think that’s what it is; there are so many similar pens. I love it dearly and will be eternally grateful for the gift. In the five years I have had it it rarely gets a rest.

I think it’s eleven years since the Intrigue was produced. It came with splendid patterns, a lovely nib and a novel filling system. I had to have one! When it arrived it was beautiful, living up to the images I had seen online. However, it was very heavy and the filling system was not at all well designed. It seemed worryingly fragile to me. It was a hard starter and it skipped. Very disappointing. I returned it.

There are other Sheaffers I have enjoyed for a time though I haven’t kept them. Various school pens come to mind and the excellent Nononsense. All were well made good writers. Since the company was taken over I haven’t found the more recent models attractive, but I’m very happy with my 1940s Sheaffer Triumph.

2 thoughts on “Sheaffers

  1. My favourite Sheaffer is a Jade Green Radite 7-30 from about 1928 in virtually mint condition. It’s a huge pen with a wonderful large nib and good colour. It’s clear that the cap and the barrel were drilled from different rods but there is no sign of the darkening that can turn especially barrels dark brown (some say its caused by gas being given off by the atrophying sac; I really don’t know). The pen is a great writer although the section is very, very slightly too great in diameter so that the feed bar and the nib sit too low and used to leak until Peter Twydle found a feed bar that was a better fit. I also have have an Imperial from the 1960s that weighs mere grams, has a beautiful nib and writes perfectly. A cartridge pen.

    1. Your Jade Green Sheaffer is a real jewel. I believe the darkening is caused by the outgassing of the decaying sac. For this reason I fit silicone sacs in pens that are liable to discolour, though latex sacs are better elsewhere.

      I do like those Imperials.

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