It is no secret that I adore vintage fountain pens, especially vintage Parkers. My Parker Duofold with a stub nib is one of my favourites because it gives such a deliciously smooth writing experience, which also goes for my Parker 51 and Parker 61, as well as a very pretty marbled Parkette in my collection. But I also own some pens manufactured by their arch-rivals, Sheaffer.
There’s something about the sleek design of two of my Sheaffer Lifetimes that attract me, because I like green and gold. I suffer from an incurable case of ‘Oooh! Shiny!’
When I received the pens, they were in need of a good clean, inside and out. The clips were grubby, there was dried ink on the nibs, and a chemical smell surrounding them both that could only mean ancient ink inside, or else a somewhat unpleasantly pungent modern one. I started work on the small Sheaffer first (commonly called a Tucky or Tuckaway).
It is part of a pen and pencil set, but since I don’t own any pencil leads at the moment, I focused on the pen. I was, in fact, forced to focus on it very hard indeed, as the Filling Mechanism Was Hidden.
I stared at it, firmly and at great length, until I figured out that there was a blind cap on the end of the pen, which unscrews anti-clockwise. You then have to pull it, like a plunger. Then you dip the nib in some ink, push the plunger back down and screw the blind cap back on. Count to ten slowly, and the pen fills with ink, as it is drawn in on the down stroke.
It took me a long time to flush out all the old ink with water, but I did it and removed the unpleasant chemical smell in the process. The nib was still dirty, so I used a microfibre cloth and cotton buds to return it to a clean and shiny state that only 14k gold can achieve. I admit that there is still a thin line of ink around the bottom of the nib that refuses to be removed by anything.
It haunts me.
The grip section is black, so you can’t actually see the ink without looking closely, for which I’m thankful.
The only thing left to do now was to polish the barrel and cap. Again, prolonged application of a microfibre cloth and elbow grease was all that was needed, and the stripy green of the barrel shone like new.
I inked the pen and started writing. Wow – the nib felt like butter over the pages! It lays down a medium-thick, firm line. I use it posted because the barrel is so short, and it fits comfortably in my hand.
Now I turned my attention to its longer sibling. I won’t go through the whole process again, as it was exactly the same as for the Tucky, except this one has a gold clip and band which needed extra attention.
After I had returned it to its former glory, I inked it. I held it up to the light, as you can see through the barrel to gauge the ink level, and I saw that it was nice and full.
Then I wrote.
I have to say, I prefer the medium nib of the Tucky, as opposed to the fine nib of the larger Sheaffer. This isn’t the fault of the pen, as it writes smoothly and is a perfect example of a fine nib. I just prefer medium nibs in general. I do like to draw with my fountain pens, so I will probably be using it for this purpose, because it is a gorgeous pen and I feel happy when I use it. Or maybe I’ll write with it until I get used to using smaller nib sizes!
These vintage Sheaffers are both a great blend of beauty and functionality. The stripy green design is fun whilst still retaining a suitable level of formality, and the smaller pen would fit perfectly into the pocket of a polo shirt. A two-coloured nib is a pretty feature that I appreciate, and both caps are crowned with the white dot characteristic of a Sheaffer Lifetime pen. Even though these pens were manufactured in the 1930s, they are still almost as good as new.
If you see any old Sheaffer pens in an online or in-person auction, you should definitely consider adding one to your collection. They are quality pens!
Chloé Stott is a blogger, freelance writer and reviewer with a fountain pen obsession. She is the founder of KraftyCats, where she blogs about pen restorations, guitars, cats and coffee, and publishes reviews for companies all over the world.