Blackbird BB2/46 Oriental Blue

There are several Mabie Todd patterns that have so far evaded me. Some are extremely rare and it’s unlikely I’ll ever see them. The /46 pattern, Oriental Blue, is far from common but it does turn up occasionally.

In eBay I saw a Blackbird BB2/46 without a cap. The seller had held on to it for years in the hope of finding a cap without success. He decided to move it on. I hesitated for a bit. Clearly the pen had little commercial value but not everything is about selling – it’s a hobby too. I bid on the pen and got it.

The very bright blue and russet pattern does not disappoint. It stands out beautifully. I went through the spares to find a cap that would fit. This one does; the diameter and the threads are correct but it looks decidedly odd. Never mind, it makes the pen useable.

It’s a delight in use with its highly unusual stub nib. I would not be surprised to find such a nib on a Swan of this period but not on a Blackbird. It’s a gorgeous nib.

I’m not usually all that fond of Frankenpens. Some I have seen are dreadful freaks. The exception is a mixture of Parker parts I have that works very well. This Blackbird Frankenpen is not so elegant. Perhaps in time I’ll find a better cap though I don’t think there’s any hope of finding the correct one. This will do for the moment as it allows me to use a splendid rarity. It’s a pity that Mabie Todd didn’t make more use of this pattern. As someone said to me, imagine this on a large Leverless.

A US Swan Eyedropper Filler

I thought that UK and US Mabie Todd pens were the same in the early part of the twentieth century but I have never seen a British Swan like this American one.

Unlike most Swan eyedropper fillers it is chunky and flat-ended, quite like a later Blackbird BB2/60 lever filler in fact. As if that was not confusing enough, the Clipper accommodation clip was made in England.

This pen was used by employees of the New York Telephone Company and it may be that this model was especially made for bulk sale to businesses.

Finally, I would find it difficult to show another example of this unusual, long section in a British Swan. A handsome pen with attractive chasing.

With thanks to Rob Parsons

A Green Marbled Leverless

As you may have noticed I’m rather fond of Swans. There are numerous reasons for that: design, quality of build and nibs that are hard to beat whether you like flex or firm. The Swan implementation of the lever filling system is unequalled. I especially like the Leverless method of filling.

When I first became involved in the fountain pen boards the Leverless was routinely condemned. This was because many of those people repairing them were doing it as if it were a lever filler. Re-sacced that way the pen took on little ink if it took on any at all. It was commonly said that the Leverless held less ink than an equivalent lever filler. Small wonder!

Nowadays most repair people know how to replace the sac in a Leverless properly, and correctly set up a Leverless will hold more ink than a lever filler of the same size because it contains a larger sac which it fills efficiently.

That’s a long introduction to this pen, a green marbled wartime Leverless. It was said to be sourced from a house clearance. It has had a long and hard life and somewhere along the way it has lost one of its three cap rings. but it has retained the gold plated swan insert on the cap top, usually the first to go!

The nib is a No 4 Eternal, a considerable lump of gold. This one had been dropped nib down at some tragic point in its history. The thickness of the metal made straightening the nib challenging but thankfully it had bent in only one plane. The nib is a wet, firm medium which lays down a generous quantity of ink – an ideal pen in so many situations. With its No 22 sac it holds enough ink to prevent refilling from being required too often. The mechanism works like new.

There are two shades of green used on Swan marble and this is the darker one, making a contrasting pattern.

Swan SF300B

If you would like to read more about this excellent Swan model use the search facility above. I wrote about it at length some years ago.

I was delighted to find this pen in eBay. They’re not at all common and are delightful pens. All those I’ve had previously were flexible and this one’s no exception. The seller was evidently not a pen person. He described the material as acrylic. Rather strangely, he wanted £13 for economy delivery! I decided to deal with that later and made sure I had secured the pen, then challenged him over postage. He didn’t actually reply but refunded me £6 – which still left him well in pocket!

The pen arrived this morning, full of black ink and dripping everywhere! I flushed it and cleaned up the mess. I opened the pen to find a tiny sac had been attached, with no talc. I attached the proper size of sac and dipped it in talc.

Am I making a fuss about nothing? I don’t think I am. No harm was done because the pen came to me but if it had gone to an end user they would have been very unhappy with the small amount of ink it held and in a few weeks the sac would have attached itself to the pressure bar and been punctured.

The lesson here is that if you’re going to repair pens for sale, find out how it should be done first. There’s no excuse for not knowing. The information is available all over the web, there are courses in pen repair and there is Marshall & Oldfield’s excellent pen repair volume.


I bought this Platinum pen from a Japanese seller. It came quite quickly and didn’t attract any import charges, for which I was thankful. I don’t know what it is called or when it was made but I would guess that it is quite recent. It posts quite deeply.

I bought it for the sake of the EF nib and it was money well spent. On close inspection the pattern is pleasing and goes well with the gold trim. The fancy clip doesn’t especially appeal to me but I don’t hate it. The one thing I do dislike is the gold plated metal ring adjacent to the nib. Ink tends to eat such rings.

It is one of those pens, as I mentioned recently, that harks back to the flat-tops of the nineteen-twenties and it’s all the better for that. It’s a good style.

A Gold-Band Swan SF2

The SF range of the mid-twenties to late twenties were – and remain – great workaday pens. They’re not, of course, for those who require pens the size of baseball bats but that’s their loss. There was a time, for a century, when people wrote with pens often little bigger than wooden pencils regardless of the size of their hands.

The SF2 carries the style of pens of that era, almost a century ago. You could create a long list of those subtly tapered flat-tops. All the main manufacturers had one or more; Conway Stewart, Waterman, Sheaffer, Onoto – the list goes on.

It’s a pleasant pen with warm-to-the-touch hard rubber and a shape that sits comfortably in the hand for a full day’s writing. The style was never forgotten and there are many later pens that have a memory of it. I’m writing with one now, a Waterman Forum.

SF2s are often plain, a pen that didn’t cost too much and was generally affordable. This one, though, has a touch of opulence, two hall-marked 9 ct barrel bands. They’ve taken some wear over the years but can still be dated to 1926. It is graced with a glorious stub with a hint of obliquity.


You may remember that I’ve been looking for a good Wyvern. I thought the Big Ben might be the pen I wanted and it is quite impressive, measuring 13.5cm capped and with considerable girth. It’s a squeeze filler, like Parker’s Aerometric but without the breather tube. It’s a soundly made pen.

The difficulty that arose – and it’s a deal-breaker – is the size of the gold-plated steel nib. It’s big enough to dig the garden with! Its length makes it awkward for me to write, forcing my wrist to an angle that would become painful over time. I’ve tried gripping it further forward but that feels unnatural to me and it doesn’t really help, so I’ll be selling the Big Ben.

That meant that I was still looking for a Wyvern. Then Rob contacted me and offered to make me a gift of a mottled hard rubber Wyvern. Such a pleasant surprise! The pen began its journey from Western Australia to The Highlands of Scotland.

I remember when mottled hard rubber was common and no more expensive than black hard rubber. Most of the MHR pens have been snapped up and those remaining are furiously fought over. I always loved MHR. It’s such a satisfying pattern. The mixture of black and red is completely random and abstract. It almost appears like a natural material and it often resembles one: the grain of wood.

The pen arrived on Friday, none the worse for travelling half way round the globe, so well and carefully was it packed. It exceeded my expectations with its rich and contrasting colours. The pen is crafted with an elegant design. The taper on the barrel is so slight that it takes a moment’s study to see it. The three-ring cap is tapered with a clip screw that is a little more streamlined, then rounded to a shallow dome. The result is an elegant pen indeed, if you’ll excuse me repeating the adjective which is the only appropriate one here. It has the arrow-shaped clip unique to Wyvern and the gold plating has held up well. The nib is a Warranted 14ct gold medium. An enjoyable writer.

I’m not well-versed in the history of Wyvern models. I checked my various reference works but I’m unable to put a name to this pen. Purely on its appearance and material I would guess at late twenties.

This isn’t the end of the story of this beautiful, generous gift. The accompanying letter is a thing of beauty in itself (the picture doesn’t do it justice). I cannot thank you enough, Rob. This pen will always be treasured.

A Jade Swan

This small Swan (11.6cm capped) is American and bears some resemblance to the red US Swan I wrote about recently. I’ve had it for quite a long time but haven’t done anything with it until now because it is quite severely damaged.

There’s a part missing at the top of the cap. I can find a way to finish that better.

More seriously, there is a crack running through the barrel threads. I can make a repair of sorts but the only really secure solution would be a metal insert and the pen, though uncommon, is not rare or valuable enough to justify such work.

It will never be sold because of the cracked threads but I will be glad to have an example of this beautiful jade pen.


If I started in on paper it would be a 3000-word essay – at least! For that reason I’ll limit myself to a couple of notebooks that I use. People write with ballpoint, felt-tip, gel pens or other writing instruments that aren’t fountain pens with the result that most notebooks are made for those pens and aren’t suitable for us. The paper is usually cheap and often thin, allowing both feathering and show-through. I found a few notebooks that would do very well but were too expensive. I write a lot and I’d prefer to spend my money on pens.

It seems to me that if you’re going to be writing in a notebook it has to lie flat and that means spirals. Drafting is done on an A5 hard back spiral notebook with plain paper. The hard cover allows me to write wherever I may be. This book is branded “Tiger” and comes in various styles: lined, index etc. Tiger notebooks are quite inexpensive and the paper quality is good with no feathering and show-through only with a wet, broad nib. Those books have served me well for many years.

For note-taking on the desk I use card-cover spiral-backs. I’ve tried various different ones over the years. Recently I settled on Black ‘n’ Red A5. Again, they’re comparatively cheap and the paper is nice though there’s a little more show-through.

As I’m sure you’re aware prices are rising madly right now and paper products are more afflicted than most. What was a cheap notebook yesterday may not be now…