Paper

Quite a response to the post about ink, both in comments and in email. The obvious next choice is paper but if anything I know even less about that than I do about ink.

I use Basildon Bond A5 paper for writing samples and my notebooks are Tiger A5 Plain Spiralback. I get through many of them. Most of the other papers I use for correspondence are vintage from eBay. Old papers are generally kind to fountain pens, being intended for their use. I have a set of old Airmail paper and envelopes, no longer necessary as weight restrictions are not as stingy as they once were, but nice paper which I use for overseas correspondents.

Then there is a very old writing set I picked up, maybe 1920s or 30s, woven paper which allows no see-through despite being thin, with small envelopes which do not correspond to any modern size. I love that and use it often.

I do have some modern paper, Clairefontaine for instance, very nice but nothing special, really.

Truth be told, my interest in ink or paper is slight and peripheral to my fascination with pens. You need something to write with and something to write on, in order to enjoy your pens. It’s nice to have a variety of those materials but my money is spent on pens, not to any great extent on ink and paper.

Ink

I know a bit about fountain pens and how to repair them but I’m utterly ignorant about ink. I am often asked which inks to use in sac fillers. I usually reply to the effect that I use Waterman or Quink when testing the pens I repair. I advise against using heavily saturated inks in sac fillers because they can be difficult to flush. Baystate Blue, lovely though it is, is an absolute no-no.

Beyond those few simple guidelines I am woefully ignorant. I do have a wide variety of colourful inks but I use them in converter fillers. I know nothing about their suitability for use in sac fillers.

One piece of advice that I am confident about is that sac fillers, especially lever fillers, are not the pens to use if you want to change colours often. It takes a lot of cranking of the lever to fully flush such a pen and doing that too often will stress it and may lead to damage. Button fillers are a little better but not ideal for that purpose either.

After all, back when our Conway Stewarts and Swans were in everyday use most people, whether at work or at home, would have one bottle of ink that they repeatedly refilled from. They would only flush the pen when the ink flow began to be affected. With a large daily throughput of ink that would not happen often.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Are you very careful and only use Waterman Mysterious Blue in your sac-fillers or do you just fill the pen with whatever comes to hand and never mind the consequences?

Dixons Summits

The first Summit brand was made by James Dixon Ltd. These are rather rare nowadays but well worth looking out for, though that may take a lot of patience with no guarantee of eventual success!

I think the quality shines out in all of these pens. Very satisfying design and pleasing chasing. The lever filler, in particular, is a splendid pen, the equal of anything of its day. The safety pen, too, is an admirable instrument. The biggest surprise for me is the crescent filler, something I never knew existed. Any crescent filler is going to be reminiscent of the much better-known Conklin but the design is equally well executed here.

These Summits are clearly products of a company in the first rank of pen manufacturers. It is pleasant to speculate about what they might have achieved, had the company lasted longer.

Many thanks to Andy Russell for information and the excellent photographs.

Wing Sung 3013

It’s a modern pen today, the Wing Sung 3013. It is described as a vacuum filler. Actually it’s a plunger filler, along the lines of the Onoto. It doesn’t fill the barrel completely on the downstroke and repeating the process draws no more ink but the action is smooth and most people would be quite satisfied with the small lake of ink in the barrel.

It’s a large pen at 14.5 cm capped and it’s medium heavy at 33 g. For comparison the Mentmore Autoflow is 19 g and it’s far from being the lightest vintage pen. The 3013 doesn’t post securely but if it did it would be inconveniently long anyway. Unposted it’s long enough. It is quite back-heavy and that could be tiring in an extended writing session.

It is transparent, of course. The blue is Baystate Blue. The nib is excellent as is the ink-flow. My only complaint about the nib – and it’s a minor one – is that it’s supposed to be EF but it’s fine – an unusual problem with an oriental pen. I note that several people have complained about the nib in reviews. Perhaps I have been fortunate.  There is a large step from barrel to threads to section but it did not interfere with my grip.

The shape is rather odd, with the widening of the barrel near the section. There are faceted areas at the top of the cap and the tail of the barrel. There is quite a bit of metal in this pen. Chinese plastic, especially transparent plastic, is always suspect because of the problem of cracking. Time will tell. Though the design is not entirely aesthetically pleasing it is well implemented. Everything fits as it should and this is a pen that can easily be fully disassembled.

The pen is very cheap. It’s more than decent value for money, I would say. It will never be my favourite pen because of the weight distribution and the odd design but I like it and will use it.

A Thirties Fyne Poynt Pencil

Since its inception the Blackbird has been regarded as a school pen, though many models were not significantly less than the Swan in price and quality. It is often the Jackdaw that fills that niche better.

However, in the mid to late thirties there was a range of pens that definitely seemed to fill that role, the simple Blackbirds in bright primary colours of the 52 – – range. Some years ago I had the red (5277), green (5276), blue (5275), and black (5260/62). Built to a price that would have been affordable for some in those difficult years, they were probably not the pride of the Mabie Todd stable. The thin gold-wash on the trim wore away, and the plastic used was subject to shrinkage, something we hardly ever see in the rest of Mabie Todd’s pens. In some of these pens the lever slot gaped and in others the cap no longer fitted well.

On the other hand, the bright colours are cheerful and appealing, and the nibs were well up to the usual excellent Blackbird standard. When new they must have been very pleasing pens.

I was unaware until recently that there were matching pencils. This bright blue one matches the 5275. Though the original box is retained, showing that it was purchased on its own, there may have been pen and pencil sets. Though it remains in generally good condition the pencil appears to have been well used.

I’m rather out of touch with what children use in schools these days. Probably not mechanical pencils. My husband says that when he was in school in the 50s, most school work was done in pencil, in his case the wooden kind though some children did use mechanical pencils. It was only major essays in a special workbook that were written in ink.

Because I have an interest in them I have a few modern mechanical pencils and many vintage ones, mostly Fyne Poynts. I don’t see mechanical pencils being used generally today. Many pen sets offer a fountain pen and a ballpoint. It seems that there is no great demand for sets with mechanical pencils. Just a glance at eBay, though, will show that once they were bought in huge numbers and most of them that have come my way bear evidence of considerable use. Mechanical pencils may be somewhat specialist now but it was not always so.

Summit S125

First, I have had several new subscibers recently.  Welcome to them and I hope they will find what they are looking for here.

I enjoy colourful pens and complicated filling systems but sometimes simplicity is enough. This Summit S125 is a case in point. It’s a straightforward lever filler in black chased celluloid, not without elegance and dignity but a pen of no pretensions.

It probably dates to the late thirties and it does show some signs of extended use. The clip is absolutely devoid of its original gold plating and it is patchy on the slender cap ring. The chasing has held up well. It’s still sharp and it catches the light as the pen is moved. The straight lever has kept most of its gold. The gold nib is stamped “Summit.” It delivers ink faultlessly and, unusually for a Summit, is semiflexible.

Summits are great pens, made by Langs to the highest quality. The S125 is in the middle of the range, a sound but inexpensive pen that would be the choice of many who needed long-lasting reliability.

There is a general resemblance between Summits, Mentmore Auto-flows, Stephens pens and Croxleys, to name a few. Two of these were made by Langs, of course, and a third had a relationship with that company. These pens were made in a very similar way with a washer clip held by a large clip screw and a barrel that tapers slightly to a flat end. Such a pen is instantly recognisable as a British fountain pen and it could not be confused with pens from Germany, France or the USA. It’s the standard British pen.

With the exception of a few perceptive collectors of my acquaintance Summits do not seem to be greatly sought after. That surprises me. They come in colourful patterns, have enough variety to make an interesting collection and are great writers. Perhaps they are the sleepers in the vintage pen market.