Bad Practice

It has been a week of bad practice. My sources tell me that there was an unedifying debate in FPN on the subject of gluing sections in place with shellac. I’m sure that some of you will know where that particular piece of bad advice came from. The proponent of this nonsense shellacs sections in place so that the pens’ owners can’t get in there where they have no right to be. This is a fine example of the weird thinking that is abroad in the world.

Yesterday I took a trip through eBay to see what I could find. I managed to pick up a nice Leverless, one of my favourite pens. As I flicked from one page to the next my eyes were suddenly assaulted with astounding brutality. The offending weapon was a colourful 1930s pen, polished within an inch of its life until it gleamed like the Koh-I-Noor diamond. There were several of these shiny, shiny pens, all emanating from the workshop of the same “restorer.” They were mostly cheap pens to begin with but once The Shining had been imposed upon them I would think they were utterly worthless to any collector of that period.

I’m not going to publish the pen destroyer’s name here. That would be a little harsh, but if anyone wants enlightened just drop me a PM. What made this most amusing is that the seller boasts that his pens are “professionally machine and hand polished.” So it seems that in addition to the traditional professions: lawyers, clergy and doctors we now have professional pen polishers.

“What do you do for a living, Mr Pen Seller?”

“Why, I’m a Professional Pen Polisher!”

“My goodness! That must have taken a lot of study!”

“Yes, four years undergraduate study and another two years to complete my doctorate. My thesis was on the effect of varying speeds with a Dremel and a cotton mop.”

All very impressive. He then goes on to say that his pens are completed with “museum finishing wax.” About five years ago museums and other bodies stopped using Renaissance Wax and other similar preparations. Originally thought to be a harmless polish, they turned out to contain chemicals that were injurious to many materials, including those that pens are made from. It also proved well-nigh impossible to remove. Avoid wax at all costs.



It has been suggested to me that I have fallen behind the times; that text blogs are a thing of the past and the future lies with the video blog.

These blog entries that I write: reviews, opinion pieces or whatever they may be, the method suits me. A written narrative with photos where appropriate works for me whether I am writing or reading. When I’m reading other blogs I can go back over any part that requires further consideration. I can study photos for as long as I need.

The opposite, to my mind, which rarely works for me, is the video blog or review. The exception, I would say, is SBRE Brown who goes about his videos in a structured, disciplined way and has the vocabulary and experience to get his message over.

Most video blogs are not like that. The bloggers ramble and have no structure. Often they lack the linguistic ability to explain well. Some are self-indulgent. The medium, when poorly used, does not give the opportunity to easily spend more time on an aspect as a written work does.

You don’t know me and you will never be exposed to my accent or annoying mannerisms (though of course I probably have some written ones.) Distilling my opinions, such as they are, into text on a page removes many of the distracting incidentals that afflict the video blog.

The video blog potentially does have benefits. I’ve already quoted the example of Stephen Brown’s work. A pen can be shown from all possible angles which would take up too much space in a text/photo work. Aspects of repair – when done properly – can be better illustrated in a video. There was a period when I did consider it but I decided against it because I know I lack the necessary professionalism in that medium. I have written in one capacity or another all my life and I think it’s best to stick with what I know.

A Pitman Made By Waterman

You may remember our recent discussions about the Pitman’s pens. We concluded that most – indeed all the earlier ones – were made by Waterman.

These photos of a rather handsome Pitman are evidentiary, I would say. There is a possible quibble and it is this: Waterman sacs may have been provided for repairers who had some agency relationship with the firm. I raise that possibility because someone else probably will but I personally don’t believe it. I’ve come across quite a few petrified Waterman-branded sacs and they have all come from pens that did not look as though they had ever been opened before. In other words I believe the only Waterman sacs out there are the ones installed during production.

The only possible evidence stronger that this would be a contract between Waterman and Pitman. Oh how we wish…

Thanks to Peter Greenwood for pictures and information.

Parker 88

The Parker 88 (later Place Vendôme and Rialto) is very much a nineteen eighties pen, straight and slender. It began life in 1987 in the UK. At first glance it’s a Vector with delusions of grandeur but there is a bit more to it than that. Bits and pieces were borrowed from other pens: the clip is from the Parker Arrow. It has some resemblance to the Parker 95 and the cap top is reminiscent of the Sonnet.

It doesn’t come across as a collection of bits, though. It’s a handsome pen of its time. The story is that it was inspired by a pillar in the Place Vendôme. This silver-plated version, the Corinth, is very pillar-like. It reminds me of a Victorian lamp post – also the result of classical inspiration.

The earliest models of the 88 had sections in a variety of colours. Later ones were black. This example has rich maroon lacque at the end of the barrel and on the section. Many 88s had lacque barrels. It is very attractive and gives the impression of depth in the colour.

Perhaps the least attractive part of the 88 is the Vector-style nib, something that either appeals or it doesn’t. It’s a good, dependable writer though.

Pen design in the nineteen eighties may be seen as a little eccentric, with pens that are too slender for extended periods of writing for many people. Whether intentionally or not, these slender pens hark back to the hard rubber pens of the tens and twenties, many of which were equally straight and slender. I’m not usually a fan of eighties pens but, having spent some time restoring this 88, I have begun to admire the classical design, rich lacque, silver and gold plating. Totally unlike modern pens or those that preceded it for several decades, it nonetheless works well as a design.

Parker 65

In the late sixties Parker evidently felt that it was time to move on from the hooded nibs that had sustained the company for so long. Perhaps it was felt that they were becoming old-fashioned, perhaps they were looking at what their competitors were doing in this changing and more difficult world.

The result was the Parker 65, a pen only made in Britain. In general shape it clearly harks back to the Parker 61. Over its relatively short period of production it appeared in a variety of forms. Perhaps the most common and certainly the most popular was the Custom Insignia, a gold-plated pen in a variety of patterns. The original filling system was not without difficulties and it was later offered as a squeeze-filler or cartridge/converter.

What is new and striking about the 65 is the sculpted open nib. It is both aesthetically appealing and practically successful. Most 65 nibs have some degree of flexibility. This nib is the herald of what was to become the more successful Parker 75 nib. Grafted onto a long section like that of the 61, it has a deep feed that causes a slightly less angled grip than some pens. The appearance is completely successful. All in all, this is one of Parker’s most appealing pens.

Times were hard. The ballpoint was at the peak of its popularity with obvious ill effects for the fountain pen. Though not unsuccessful the 65 did not remain in production for long with the result that it is comparatively uncommon and was, for a time, forgotten by collectors. Its demise was perhaps hastened by the development of the 75, a pen that was to become a great success.

The Parker 65’s time has come again. It is once more recognised by both collectors and users for its beauty and utility.

A new packet of catnip was delivered today. My assistant has retired to the garden to sleep it off.

Senator Windsor


This is a Senator Windsor, a handsomely patterned German piston filler, dating to about 1955. I’m not quite sure how the pattern is achieved. It looks like the celluloid of years before but I don’t think that is what it is. The gold plating on the Pelikan-like clip has proved durable but there is some wear on the cap lip ring. It is finished in shiny black plastic at the barrel end and cap. It has a blue clear area and the medium nib is iridium point Germany. The piston is directly activated by the blind cap.

This is a good quality pen but it doesn’t really compare with the Matador I wrote about recently. This is a school pen. To define that, it’s a pen made to a cost that parents can afford but it is also designed to withstand the hard knocks of school use. In other words, it’s a user pen, not without some decoration as children and teenagers value that just as much as the rest of us.

There was a time when I only bought gold nib pens. The steel and plated nibs were beyond the pale for me. In the course of time I learned better. Some of these IPG nibs are very good indeed and they are stronger and less likely to sustain damage than gold nibs. In use they deliver ink to the page very well.

Senator is what used to be Merz & Krell. Their pen making began in 1920 in their factory at Gross-Bieberau and they also made Melbi and Diplomat pens. For several years in the 1970s they made Pelikans under contract. I’ve had some of those Pelikans and the very similar pens they made under their own name. The quality and reliability is exceptional and a similar concentration on quality applies to this more humble Senator Windsor.

Matador Garant 994

Normal service will be resumed today! I am very grateful to Rard Changizi for the photographs of those wonderful, rare pens which I know I would never have seen otherwise.

Though the modern ones don’t do much for me, I admire older German pens. Going back to the nineteen seventies and earlier, there appears to have been an endless variety of good, well-made piston-fillers at a wide range of prices, almost all of them bearing that German style of clip, of which Pelikan remains the last example.

This Matador Garant 994 is a good example of the quality and style of pen that was being produced in Germany in the forties. The chased celluloid harks back to the black chased hard rubber of a few years before. It makes a very satisfying finish. The clip shines up very well and gives the impression of gold – which it probably isn’t – perhaps some shiny alloy. As I understand it, gold wasn’t available to pen makers during the war but Matador made a virtue of necessity, producing a flexible steel nib that was as satisfying in use as any gold one. I’m really impressed by this nib.

Like many other piston fillers of the time, this Matador has a blind cap which, when removed, reveals a milled turn-button to activate the piston. Though I’m sure that not everyone will agree with me, I find one piston-filler pretty much like another. They are are usually quite straightforward to strip down and renovate. There are exceptions like the Big Ben which seems impossible to repair. Piston fillers, it seems to me, are the best of the “ink in barrel” pens, less liable than eyedropper fillers or bulb fillers to discharge their contents over your work. This Matador remains just as practical a day-to-day user as the latest Pelikan and it has the advantage of a much superior nib.

Though the company was around for a very long time, beginning pen making in 1918, they were never one of the big producers with the result that Matadors are not very well known or very common. This is one of the more subtle examples; others appear in handsome patterned celluloid and with more shiny trim.

I suppose that when we leave the EU I will have to pay duty on my German purchases. Most annoying.