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October now, how can it be?
This year keeps flying ahead of me!
I’m back again with pens galore,
Uploading some, and then some more.

These latest offerings are sweet,
For hand and eye they are a treat.
Some rarities, and favourites, too;
I hope there’s something just for you!

Which Wyvern?

I think I’ve mentioned before that I would like to have a good example of each of the main British brands. This isn’t to form a collection in the usual sense of the word. Rather, I want to have each as a good, dependable writer that suits my hand. So far I have Swans, as you would expect, Conway Stewarts, Parkers, a Summit and a Mentmore. I don’t really want a Burnham so that leaves me looking for a Wyvern. I’m not really sure which model to go for. The post-war oddities don’t especially appeal to me. The “Perfect Pen” is perhaps nearest to what I want and the nibs are very good but they have not always aged well. I wouldn’t want one of the famous 30s/40s hide-covered pens – too expensive and not at all to my taste.

Wyvern was a great and long-lived company, one of the older British fountain pen firms. It surprises me that I’m having so much difficulty getting one of their pens for my everyday use.

Any suggestions?

American Ring-Top Swan

This one’s a bit special! It’s an American-made Swan 127/53 ring-top in the pattern known as Scarlet. To me it appears to be a rich russet with small paler flecks. There are black bands around the single cap band and three more at the top of the cap below the ring.

The pen was made in 1927, part of a range of black-banded pens in various sizes and colours. The pen’s a rarity here and perhaps not all that common in the US either. It isn’t only beautiful; it has an exceptional nib, a broad, flexible stub, finely shaped and precise. It lays down a lot of ink with lovely line variation.

Because it needed some special work Eric Wilson restored it for me. Outstanding work as always.

The White Blackbird

Le Merle Blanc was part of Mabie Todd’s export drive beginning in the mid-twenties and it was aimed at Belgium, France and Switzerland. This MHR vest pocket pen was part of the earliest range. Later pens were in marbled celluloid.

At 11.2cm capped but with the girth of a full-size pen, this was a neat and convenient note-taker for the man on the move. I expect that there would also have been a a ring-top.

I understand that the export pens had 18ct nibs. If that is so, this 14ct Blackbird nib is a replacement but it isn’t entirely inappropriate as the Merle Blanc was based on the Blackbird.

The barrel imprint explains it all: Le Merle Blanc Made by “Swan” Pen People Fabrique en Angleterre. This handsome little pen is very uncommon nowadays, especially in mottled hard rubber.

The White Blackbird? Nope. It doesn’t make any sense to me either.

Sheaffer Triumph

The other day I was clearing out a drawer to use it for something else and I came upon this pen. It was one of my early ventures into US vintage pens and I often wondered what had happened to it. It must have been during one of our many house-moves that it was put away safely and subsequently forgotten. I am informed by someone much more knowledgeable about Sheaffer’s many Balance-shaped models than I am that it is a Triumph of 1942 onwards. After all those years of neglect it filled perfectly and it’s a splendid writer, a Western fine.

My Husband Writes …

It is a truism, I think, that price has little bearing on the writing quality of fountain pens. I’ve had just as much trouble with expensive as with cheap ones and treasures turn up at all price points.

So many good pens have passed over my bench and I’ve amassed quite a few of my own. Sometimes the absolute gems are quite unexpected. Going back in time quite a long way, one of my last school pens was the first of many really good pens I have been blessed with – and it was completely unlikely.

I’d had a succession of very cheap pens because I always lost or broke them. I was in need of a pen once again and I’d had a small windfall. I envied the Conway Stewarts I saw, colourful on a hanging card in the newsagent’s but I didn’t have enough money. I had to settle for another Platignum, a brand I rather disliked and held in contempt but I had to cut my coat according to my cloth. This one was, at least, at the top of that company’s range with a fashionable metal cap and, surprisingly, a 14 carat gold nib. It was what Platignum called a Pressmatic filler, a less efficient version of Parker’s Aerometric.

It neither leaked or skipped and it fitted my hand like it had been made for me. Despite being rattled around with pencils, dividers and compasses in my pencil case, often squashed by a considerable weight of schoolbooks it continued to work and work well during my final years at school. I had no call for it in my first years in the world of work and it was laid aside and forgotten about.

A few years later when I began at university I hunted for my Platignum without success. I had another good fountain pen by then so its loss wasn’t important but it was regretted. It was only in later years when I had greater experience of fountain pens that I recognised what a good pen it had been. Good appearance, light weight and reliable ink flow – these are great fountain pen attributes at any price. Since then I’ve found them in several pens, mostly vintage but sometimes current too. Not many pens meet those criteria.

In more recent times I’ve bought examples of that gold nib Platignum but they haven’t lived up to the experience of my school pen. It’s the same with other brands and models; despite being mass produced they are not all the same. Every now and then a gem appears among the humdrum.

Sailor 1911 Profit Kurogane

Over the years I have enjoyed several different styles of nib. At one time, several years ago, I used flexible nibs despite an inability to write well with them. Not for me the wonderfully controlled flourish that I admire in the writing of those more talented than me. Nonetheless it benefitted me in that the varying line covered a variety of errors.

I no longer use flex very much though I have some flexible nibs to remind me of my shortcomings. I still occasionally use broad and oblique stubs to the same purpose but many years ago I decided to try to improve my handwriting. To that end I bought fine firm pens which do not conceal the errors of inattention to letter forming or a shaky hand. Through trial and error (more error than trial!) I found that the rigid nibs that best suited my hand came from Japan. Of course it’s perfectly possible to take a nib that doesn’t suit my hand and work on it with abrasives until it does. To be honest, though, I could find better ways of employing my time. I rarely, if ever, have to work on the vintage or modern Japanese nibs that come my way.

Whether Pilot, Platinum or Sailor, these pens suit me well. My usual nib is fine or extra fine but I wanted a change, perhaps an Oriental medium. I poked around the Internet looking for something that would fulfil that wish at little cost. The pens some call “entry level” suit my pocket well and last just as long as more expensive ones.

I settled on a Sailor 1911 Profit Kurogane, a plain and low-priced cartridge/converter pen with a steel nib. Plain black with no bling or folderols, it’s in the cigar shape so popular in some European and many Japanese pens. It has a chrome plated clip and cap ring that are adequate for their purposes. The cap screws on with two and a half turns. Many pens today have engraved or stamped curlicues but this one is plainer, having only the Sailor anchor and the letter “M”. The nib is well nigh perfect for me with its pencil-style feedback. I detest a slippery nib! The feed is transparent. I’m not sure why, perhaps so you can check the colour of ink if you’re forgetful!

For the painless price I paid it comes with a converter. I often read that Sailor converters are not held in high esteem but this one works perfectly well. I’m pleased about that as I’m not a great fan of cartridges, expensive and limited in colours. I prefer not to have the ink I use dictated by the manufacturer of the pen.

The pen is moderately sized, weighs practically nothing and has a section that isn’t too small – an important point for my arthritic hand. You don’t have to grab the threads either. Though it isn’t something I do the pen posts deeply and securely. It’s a very good pen for the money. It doesn’t equate with my Swans or Parkers but it’s a more than adequate writing instrument.

The Stylographic, the Glass Nib or the Metal Nib

Most of us are used to the regular fountain pen with a steel or gold nib but that hasn’t always been the only option; indeed it isn’t the only option at present.

The first true fountain pen was a Stylographic with a metal tube and fine wire to deliver the ink to the paper. Stylos remained very popular for many years. Most British pen companies had one of more in their range. During WWII Churchill used a Conway Stewart Stylo.

Eventually they were overtaken in sales numbers by the fountain pen with a metal nib. There are numerous possible explanations for this. The round wire of the Stylo laid down a fine line with no variation. There was no possibility of different tip shapes. The modern drafting pen, essentially the same as a Stylo, has a square cut point but has the same limitations. The pen has to be held near vertically. Those I’ve used have had a tendency to dry up when paused for a few moments but they can use inks not suitable for regular fountain pens.

The other option is the glass nib. I don’t mean those glass dip pens but glass nibs fitted to a fountain pen in the usual way. Such pens were especially popular during WWII when metal was scarce. I’ve had a number of German glass nib pens; most were piston fillers but I’ve also had an inexpensive blow filler. Others including a crescent filler were made in Japan; some were imported into the US under the name Spors. Burnham made glass nib pens too.

The glass nib fountain pen is highly efficient but again, it lays down an unvarying line though the nibs are produced as fine, medium and broad. When used for drawing they can be angled to produce a broad, paintbrush-like stroke.

Though both the Stylo and the glass nib pen are available today they are specialist, not common or widely popular. Why did the metal nib supersede those other types of fountain pen? There’s no one certain answer. There have been periods when line variation was popular and neither of those alternative nibs could produce such a line. The metal nib could also be cut to provide different point shapes, like stub, oblique or italic. For many years gold was the standard metal for quality fountain pens and it had a status that those others did not have. The writing angle of the metal nib is more comfortable than that of the Stylo.

Though no longer the primary means of technical drawing, the drafting pen is still popular with artists, as is the glass nib pen.

Saturday Musing

As you know, if you’ve been reading here for a while, I’m increasingly specialising in Mabie Todd pens. This was done for a variety reasons, the main one being that restricting myself in this way frees up some of my time. I am forced to devote some of my time elsewhere.

It does mean that I see fewer pens that I haven’t written about before. If you come across something interesting or different, I would be grateful if you let me know about it. Also, tell me about any subjects you would like me to cover in the blog.

The Myers Pen

M. Myers & Son were best known for their dip pen nibs which they produced for over a century. They continued to produce stationery products until 1985 when they were taken over by the U.S. firm, Avery. A huge variety of Myers nibs are still in demand by calligraphers.

According to Grace’s Guide it was in 1929 that they began producing a fountain pen. They made a wide range of metal products so it was natural that their fountain pen should be made almost entirely of metal – the exception being the section. Though clearly not expensive the Myers pen is well made. Ninety years later the only deterioration is in the black enamel coating which is chipped in places. The original nib has a highly unusual cross-shaped breather hole. Unlike many steel nibs of the period it remains in very good condition. It’s a fine firm and writes very well.

The clip and lever are of chromium plated steel and both have survived well. The barrel is a simple straight-sided tube with a slight hollow pressed in where the lever sits. The domed cap is pierced by the clip which is held by an inner cap. The slip cap remains firmly in place.

These pens are not collectors’ items but they do hold an interesting place in pen history. They were among the first all-metal pens, a trend that includes early Wahl Eversharps, the Sheaffer Targa and many others. Possibly because it was low priced, the Myers pen proved popular and it remains not uncommon today.

It’s a perfectly practical pen. It may be too slender for some hands but that’s also true of many much more expensive 1970s and 80s pens. The vintage Pilot I’m writing this with is just a little thicker. For most people today the Myers pen will just be a curiosity.