Rotring Core


A few years ago (I’m not sure how many; time does slip by) you couldn’t open one of the pen discussion groups without finding a reference to the Rotring Core.  Though it appears to have been intended for school kids it raised the interest of adults as well.  There were many arguments, some in favour of the pen and some against.  Many (including me) thought it was the ugliest pen that they had ever seen.  Others thought that its ugliness was charming, like a cute mongrel dog.
After all the brouhaha had settled down, it disappeared.  Though there must be thousands of them around, the Core is now perhaps the least talked about pen ever.
I’m here to change that.  It hasn’t got any prettier.  Some compared it to a trainer  (That’s a sneaker on the west side of the Atlantic).  In a way, I can see where they’re coming from – lots of unnecessary and somewhat garish decoration pointed with unerring aim at the teenage market.  Once you get over that, you remember that it’s a pen.  Taking it as such, the very tight clip is made from bent wire like the Lamy Safari.  The cap has fairly impossible-to-describe decoration and it’s quite bulky, rather wider than the barrel.  Pulling off the cap is quite easy but it does fit securely.  The barrel has a grey anodised finish with lots of writing and a couple of plastic inserts.  The end of the barrel is finished off with a black plastic plug.  Between the barrel and the section is a red ring, Rotring’s famous trademark.  The section is unique.  It is cut out at the top and ridged underneath.  This is intended to give the writer a secure and comfortable grip.  It probably does for some, I should think, but I would have liked it a little thicker.
The nib is the usual Rotring offering.  I had a Rotring pen once, a big heavy brutal thing – I can’t remember the model name – and it had a nib like this, only bigger.  You could have used it to dig the garden.  This nib is similarly objectionable and it’s decorated with dots for no reason I can think of, and it has the letters XL printed thereon.  Unscrewing the barrel (it has a lot of threads) I find an empty short international cartridge held in place by some sort of adapter.  That seems to work well enough.
Going to write with the pen, you find that the cap posts after a fashion – it is loose and will fall off if the pen is inverted – and it completely over-balances the pen.  You have to write un-posted which never feels right to me.  In actually writing, the horrid nib performs very well indeed and the ink flow is very good.  This one is a medium firm, where firm = hard as a rock.  Really, prejudices aside, there’s nothing wrong with that and it has to be said that this little pen is a great writer.  It hurt me quite painfully to say that.
So that’s it,  the Rotring Core,  a sensation a few years ago but as popular as a red-haired stepchild these days.  That’s perhaps not really justified.  Apart from the posting problem this is a very good basic writer if you can ignore its appearance.  I plan to hold this one in a small brown paper bag.  It’s either that or go blind with the horror of the thing.


Writefine – A Parker Sub-Brand


It is sometimes said that Parker only made one pen with a lever fill and that was the Parkette.  That’s not quite true.  There was another, though it did not bear the Parker name.  The Parkette was withdrawn in 1939 and the Writefine was introduced in 1940.  This was a very low cost pen at $1, but the quality is surprisingly good.  The plastic that it is made of has some heft to it and it feels strong.  It reminds me of the material that the Parker 51 is made from.  The trim was originally goldplated or perhaps I should say gold washed.  A little remains on the cap ring but it is pretty well entirely gone from the clip and the lever.  That aside, this pen with its gold coloured metal clip screw, ink-visible section and general air of restrained good quality was a whole lot of pen for the money.
It has a steel nib which may originally have been goldplated but certainly is not now.  However it’s not one of these cheap nibs with folded tips.  It has a good blob of tipping material.  This pen had been dropped and the nib was buckled at the tip.  With my new nib repair tools ( I was able to get it back to something like its original state.
These pens had a short production run, so not all that many were made.  They are not at all common in Britain and in fact this is the first one I’ve had.  I believe there was a Writefine desk set too.  I find the quality to be higher than that of the Parkette or the Challenger, which it resembles in many respects.  It’s not actually a Parker of course.  The barrel imprint is “Writefine Made in USA Writefine Co” so perhaps Parker did not respect it well enough to put their name to it.  Nonetheless, it’s a surprisingly good pen considering its original cost.


I bought a pen from Graeme (smegmegs in eBay) and he sent me another one free of charge as he knew I would be interested in it.  Very kind of him.
It’s a Penplas lever filler.  I’ve had one or two before that came in lots that I bought but you don’t see them often.  It’s very much the Standard English Pen, a lever filler with a clip that is held by a screw.  It’s a very simple pen with nothing in the way of decoration.  There is no cap band and there is a tiny bit of gold plating left on the clip.  The nib is plated and it’s one of those ones with a star on it.  I should know what that is but I’ve forgotten.
They were low-cost pens, perhaps aimed at school pupils.  They were made by Penplas Industries in Regent Street, London.  The company was not in business for very long – 1947 to the early 50s, which may go some way to explaining why there aren’t all that many around.  Also, being a cheap pen they probably weren’t highly valued by their owners and were thrown away when they were replaced.
Not a collector’s item then, nor a pen that would be anyone’s first choice for a daily writer.  Nonetheless, it’s a fountain pen and remains of interest because it reflects what was commonly used in those days.  It lacks bling or even elegance but it was one of the host of forgotten pens that got the job done.

Pepe World Service Eyedropper Filler


IMG_0369This is a new one, for me.  I like the occasional oddity.  Pepe World Service, as you may know (I didn’t) is a designer label, marketing jeans, T-shirts and other clothes.  It apparently does some accessories, too, and that’s where this fountain pen comes in.  I have no idea when this was made but I would guess it’s no older at the most than the 1990s.
As you can see, the box contains a pen and a bottle of ink with an eyedropper attachment.  I’m not quite sure why anybody would go for an eyedropper filler in a pen that is marketed to the general public.  It’s a big pen at 15.4 cm capped.  It’s surprisingly well-made.  The plastic, in grey/black marbled effect is not unattractive and it has an ink view area which is quite useful in an eyedropper pen, giving you the opportunity to refill before it starts to blob.  It has a strong clip and the very wide cap band has a “stacked coins” effect.  There is a silvered barrel imprint.  The firm fine steel nib is marked “Pepe”.
In all, it appears to be quite a good pen.  It would be nice to know who it was made by but I don’t suppose we will ever get that information.
It seems that Pepe World Service believed that there was still some life in the fountain pen market and that it would be attractive to the young people it targets.  They might have misjudged that…


That Pelikan…

This relates back to the Pelikan entry of a few days ago.  As suggested, I contacted Rick Propas and he very kindly replied almost immediately.  Here’s what he had to say:

Always hard to tell just from images, but it looks to me like an M250.
Put it up against your M400 should be the same size, if not it could be
an M150 fitted with a gold nib. Regardless, nice piece.

Taking size into account, it looks like it’s an M250.

A Morrell’s Ink Advertising Pen


I’m sure that many of you will have seen pens like this one before.  I’ve certainly written about them.  It’s a very basic advertising pen from around 1920.  We don’t know who made them but they’re always very similar – good engine chasing, a large lollipop lever and threading on the butt of the barrel to post the cap firmly.  If, like this one, they haven’t been overused, they make very good writers.  The small warranted nib generally shows some flex.  In terms of restoring them I find that the major failing is a very poor J-Bar which has to be replaced.
So what’s special about this one?  Nothing, really, except the imprint, “Morrell’s Inks”.  There were so many inks in the 19th and early 20th centuries that it’s almost impossible to keep track of them all.  There is an opening there for some original research.  I would like to do it, but the God of Time is rarely kind to me.  Anyway, a little hunting revealed a little about Morrell’s. The India List and India Office List refer to it as a permanent, indelible black ink, specially adapted for hot climates and is noted for its intensity, fluidity and durability!  And this, unfortunately undated,”-Established nearly 150 Years. MORRELL’S INKS. REGISTRATION, — never fades. BLUE BLACKS, NON-CORROSIVE. CORAL, ROUGE  SECOND TO NONE. ALWAYS FLUID. MORRELL’S VIOLET COPYING INK IS EXCELLENT.”

Finally, I found from 1915, “MORRELL’S INKS. SPECIAL OFFER 10/6 Worth for 3/ As an advertisement we give with each quart or 3/- bottle of Morrell’s Blue Black Writing or Copying Ink a 7/6 14ct Gold Nib Fountain Pen FREE.”

Is this the free pen?  No, because in 1915 it would have been an eyedropper filler, rather than this lever filler of a few years later but I expect that it was given away in the same way.
That wasn’t a lot, really, and I was a little disappointed but I continued to search and found this bottle in eBay.  It’s what’s called (apparently) a Master Bottle, for storing and pouring ink.  The seller believed the bottle to be late 19th century.  It bears the “M” for Morrell in a shield.
So there we have it.  I didn’t find any old Morrell ink, or even any bottles with labels, which would have been nice, but the pen and Master Bottle go together well and enhance the interest of both.

Pelikan Tradition M150


Several years ago I bought a Pelikan Souveran M400.  It cost about four times as much as this little pen but it was nowhere near as well presented.  I know you don’t write with the box but I’m impressed, all the same.  Underneath the usual white paper sleeve is a box made of imitation crocodile or alligator or some such snappy beast.  Inside that there are three bottles of Pelikan ink and a spectacle-type box containing the pen.
The Tradition M150 is the smallest pen in the Pelikan range and it has a gold plated nib.  Where Pelikans are concerned, I don’t find a great deal of difference between the gold and gold plated nibs.  They tend to be stiff anyway.  I suppose it depends where you shop but the M150 goes for between £50 and £60.  Pelikan’s piston filling system ensures that the pen takes up a lot of ink.  Pelikan has been doing this since 1929.  Why change perfection?  Though it’s a comparatively small pen, I find it quite comfortable to write with.

In black with a green ink view window, the famous Pelikan clip and a single cap ring, this is a reserved, understated pen.  It is reminiscent of much earlier Pelikan models.  I think that conservatism is a large part of its charm.  Of course, Pelikan does make many other models, some of which are anything but traditional, but it’s nice that you can still get a pen like this.
My assistant approves.  She says she could have a lot of fun with a pelican.