Another Truepoint

Truepoints don’t turn up very often so it’s a matter of interest when they do. To remind you, the Truepoint is one of those post-war pens that probably came from what had been a wartime munitions machine shop.

It’s a common story, except that the Truepoint was an exceptionally good pen, well designed and made. It bears a distinct resemblance to the British Duofold of the day.

In Britain the ballpoint was already beginning to bite into the writing instrument market and several of the old stalwarts of fountain pen making were beginning to feel the pinch. At a time when there were excellent pens like Parkers and Swans available, would you risk your hard-earned money on an unknown pen like the Truepoint? It was the hardest of hard times to try to break into a saturated market and the Truepoint failed, sadly for us because of its quality. One might wonder whether someone from one of the major manufacturers was involved in its design but I don’t suppose we’ll ever know now. It’s a hard rubber pen, very unusually at this late date. All the other manufacturers had given up that material except Mabie Todd. Which makes one go hmm…

The clip of the Truepoint usually bears a coat of arms. This one has the letter “K” instead. Unless any other explanation appears I would assume this is a replacement clip that happens to fit extremely well. It’s very like the original Truepoint clip – which is, of course, very like the Duofold clip. Which other pens of the day had a “K” in their name? Kingswood perhaps, and Kenrick Jackson. Maybe others that don’t come to mind right now. All the more conservative pen makers were still copying the Duofold though others had moved on to trying to replicate the Parker 51. In any case, there would be plenty of that style of clip around.

Many thanks to Jerry Symonds for photos and information.

Conway Stewart 85L Barrel

I’ve had a request for a Conway Stewart 85L barrel. I no longer hold Conway Stewart spares so couldn’t help but if anyone else has a barrel that they are prepared to part with, let me know. My correspondent would prefer the green and gold barrel but failing that would settle for any 85L barrel. Have a look in the spares box, please.

Nova

The following is a comment from James Bennett for which I am very grateful. I repeat it here so that more people will see it.

Apparently these pens were made in Fordingbridge in Hampshire which is on the river Avon in the early 1960s.
Apparently they supplied them to Woolworths.

Nib Repair

A bent and buckled nib will make an otherwise pristine pen valueless and the repair is no easy matter. Nib repair is one of the most time-consuming and difficult parts of pen repair but if you can’t straighten nibs, or at least the simpler ones, it will cost you in replacing nibs or having someone else repair them for you. I use excellent tools provided by Laurence Oldfield:

https://www.penpractice.com/page3.html

I cannot recommend them highly enough. They are not cheap but they are money well spent.

Before I discovered Laurence’s set I made do with what came to hand. For the concave part I used a boxwood pen rest which was hard enough to take the pressure without damage. The convex part was a polished length of a bolt of the right diameter. The most difficult part for me was to make the tool to press down on the nib. In the end, after much thought, I chose a six inch nail with the point cut off, rounded and polished to perfection – a lot of work. It had to be absolutely flawless as any imperfection in the tool would be transferred to the nib under the pressure needed to straighten it. Those make-do tools did the job for a while but I realised their temporary nature and was on the lookout for something better.

Whatever tools you use, the best time spent on a nib is not in using them but in studying the damage to the nib and planning how to go about straightening it. A loupe is essential here.

When you have decided how to proceed, whether to apply most pressure to the top or underside of the nib, don’t rush matters. The less you have to work the nib the better as it hardens the metal and changes the characteristics of the nib. Once the worst of the bend, or bends, have been reduced, it will take some adjustment on both sides of the nib to complete the repair.

I’m no nibmeister and there are nibs I can’t fix. I’ve seen the work of those experts and I am astounded by what they can achieve. I’ve seen nibs that have landed point first on a hard surface, resulting in a propeller shape, made absolutely perfect by those highly skilled hands. I can’t come close to that. I know my limits. If it’s a common nib in that state it goes in the scrap box and I find a replacement. A nib that is bent in more than one axis is a difficult repair but not impossible. It takes more time and success is not guaranteed.

I’ve found that professional tools help a lot but if nib repair is not something you do often it may be that the outlay is not justified and you can use whatever is available with some adaptation. That’s part of being a pen repairer.

Kawaii Retractable Pen

A few weeks ago I was rather taken with a very cheap retractable pen made by a Chinese firm, Kawaii. I hadn’t heard of them before but they make lots of fountain pens and other stationery items. I ordered one from an eBay seller, Wafch-74. It was ridiculously cheap at £3.50.

The pen arrived in a cellophane sleeve. To ink it, you remove the translucent cap and unscrew the nib housing. That’s easy enough but the difficult part is that when you remove it the little spring that activates the retractable nib shoots off into the wide blue yonder, never to be seen again. As the pen costs so little I ordered another. I was prepared this time and captured the spring before it took off. I filled the converter and reassembled the pen. The nib clicks in and out just as it should. It writes very well. An excellent pen in every aspect except one: there’s that translucent plastic cap. What good is the retractable ability of the pen if you need a cap? You definitely have to have the cap as there is no little door as is provided in the more expensive retractable pens! The nib dries out very quickly without the cap.

Let’s pretend that this issue doesn’t make the whole point of the pen redundant. Let’s pretend that it’s a rather good pen in most respects – which it is! It’s very light though it appears to be entirely made from metal – the site says stainless steel but I don’t know about that. The one I chose is painted or enamelled pale blue and the push-button and the clip are chromed. The nib is steel and the tipping is unlikely to be anything other than a steel blob at this price. The action of the retractable nib is very good and the cap fits well.

It’s quite a well made pen. It’s a pity that it is utterly pointless.

Thoughts on the Onoto K3

I’m drafting this with the last of the Onotos, the ‘K’ series piston filler. I think mine is a K3 but I’m happy to be corrected if I’ve got it wrong. I believe it has a crack somewhere, probably the section, but there are no leaks. Bad plastic but a great pen in its way. The major difficulty for me is that it’s very slender which wouldn’t have been a problem ten years ago but it is now. My hands are so arthritic that a fatter pen is more comfortable. My Swan Leverless 1060 is good and my Ford Patent Pen is perfect. It’s always inked.

Digging deep in what memory I have, I seem to remember that these Onotos were made in Germany. If I have that wrong too I’m sure someone will tell me. The fragile plastic aside these were good pens. It has a proper Onoto No 3 nib and it’s a great writer, somewhere between fine and medium. I’ve had the pen for many years, a decade at least. I didn’t restore the piston filling system as I didn’t need to. The seller didn’t work on it either. His input was just taking it out of a drawer.

The gold-filled barrel ring gives the clutch cap something to grip and it closes with a positive click. I think it’s a rather handsome little pen with its gentle taper in barrel and cap. To that degree it followed the trend of its time but the gold-plated clip falls into the Onoto tradition. The piston filler was an entirely new method of filling for Onoto which had previously made plunger and lever fillers. Was this a confident innovation that it was hoped would bring Onoto sales back to where they used to be, or a desperate ploy to keep the company afloat? There were other versions of the piston filler but fountain pen sales were moving in another direction by then. Kids were still using fountain pens in school but in the UK and USA cartridges were seen as the fashionable innovation. The piston filler was they way to go in Germany but Pelikan and Geha dominated that market. I don’t think that Onoto sold well there.

Judging by the numbers of these pens that turn up it was the last hoorah for Onoto. De La Rue continued to make money from their traditional paper products but the original Onoto died. Like several other companies Onoto has been resuscitated. Though the new company has made the occasional plunger filler most of their output is very expensive cartridge/converter fillers. They seem to have sufficient appeal to keep the company afloat. You are unlikely to see one reviewed here.

What more can I say about this pen? The top of the cap is a very handsome dished-top finial which echoes the turn-button at the end of the barrel, so well crafted that the join is invisible. The gold plating on the clip, cap band and and barrel band is as good as on the day the pen was put together. Perhaps the pen was not used much but I prefer to think that the plating was much thicker than on other British pens of the time.

Apologies for the absence…

I probably should have posted this sooner, but I apologise if anyone has tried to reach me in the last week. I have been unable to reply because my husband is in hospital 110 miles from home, and I’m down here with him. He is on the mend, mostly, and we hope he will be released tomorrow after he has a dialysis session here.

The email account that lives on my laptop is not the Goodwriters account, which is on an email client on the PC at home… and I can’t remember the email password so I can’t even get there through webmail! So I have been unable to see anything new coming in since early last week. If you have tried to contact me, please forgive what might be a very late reply. Thank you for your understanding.

Library (Husband Again)

Andrew Carnegie was a monster who tried to make up for his monstrosities by charitable works. Of course people had to be aware that he was their benefactor, hence his name being applied to all he did. In other creations, Skibo Castle is his monstrous ego writ large.

His great gift to the nation is the Carnegie libraries and and this was our one. I’m not much of an architectural historian but the long windows are especially Scottish late nineteenth/early twentieth century design. Think Rennie Mackintosh. For the rest, I am ready to be educated but I suspect that it is an architecture all of its own. A lovely building and a superb library.

Two years ago we were presented with a new school and community centre with gym and swimming pool. The library was moved there and the Carnegie building was vacated. It was a sad move. The library part of the complex is a repository for a reference-only section of historic and local books with a few popular books for lending. The quality is abysmal. The rule of silence is long gone and one tries to read to the sound of screeching children and bellowing adults. The automatic check in/out system for library books hardly ever works. Opening hours have been reduced.

All this complaining makes me sound a real old fuddy-duddy but I believe we have lost a component part of literacy. When I was a boy there was only money for books on birthdays and at Christmas, nowhere near enough to satisfy my voracious appetite for reading. That was what the library did then and fails to do now. By time I was in high school I’d had a thoroughgoing education in the arts, courtesy of the public library.

It was a lifetime of devouring books (I hesitate to say literature; I read everything) that led me to writing and I have always written. I decided long ago that if I was writing I should enjoy the process – this article is not entirely devoid of fountain pens!

So thank you, Andrew, you old monster.. It seems you are no longer needed and I fear my time is passing too. It was bound to happen.

A ‘Guest’ Writer Speaks (Writes)

My husband wrote this piece a couple of days ago whilst ‘enjoying’ an unexpected stay in hospital. In his words:

“A few days in hospital for a service and oil change. Doesn’t matter where I am, I’m never far from fountain pens. The nice young doctor who is saddled with me for his sins is a fountain pen man, as are most doctors (and my optician, for another). He has a Lamy 2000, one of the nice mid-range Pilots and his “work pen” is a Platignum Preppy.

I often wonder about doctors and fountain pens. Quite convenient for the GP at his desk, scribbling a signature, but the hospital doctors have a bit of writing to do, patient to patient, pen in and out of pocket. I have an impression that a clicky ballpoint or Bic could be more handy.

Perhaps it’s a class thing – no, nobody likes that word nowadays – let’s say status. The inconvenience of the fountain pen is overcome by the impression it makes among one’s colleagues – and even the more discerning patient.

Patients in hospitals can be pretty anonymous – even insensate, to be pushed, prodded, measured and tested. A common interest in fountain pens makes a link and it perhaps reminds the doctor that you are a person as well as a patient. I must say we did have a spirited chat about fountain pens, and the good doctor said he looked forward to perusing this blog. Always nice to meet a fellow pen enthusiast!

They’re banging intravenous antibiotics into me by the pint. I’ll soon be horribly healthy and back home to my beloved – and my pens.”

[Note: My husband is home after his thankfully brief hospital stay. As always, he received excellent care from everyone at our local hospital at every stage from dialysis to A&E to the ward. It has been a rough few days but – fingers crossed – he is feeling quite a bit better.]