I like Parker Duofolds of all dates, but especially Newhaven Aerometric Duofolds – to write with, that is – not to service. From a repair point of view the Aerometric is a bad design. There was some discussion in one of the pen boards today about how best to go about working on one. If, for instance, a simple nib swap was all that was required, I would pull the nib. This is not something I would normally do. Pulling at thin, flexible nibs can lead to disaster but Duofold nibs tend to be robust.
The process involves soaking (one of the very few occasions I soak anything), warming thoroughly with a heat gun and working the nib from side to side with a gentle pull. It takes time and patience but it invariably works. Parallel pliers can do the job too but I proceed with great caution if I use them. The feeds are fragile. The alternative is to remove the sac protector and the sac, then drift the nib and feed out as you would with any other pen. That seems like an excessive amount of work to carry out a very simple procedure, to me. Sac protectors were not designed to come off and Parker assumed (mostly correctly) that the Pli-Glass sac would last forever and would never need to be reattached. Thus, neither of those procedures is easy. Yes, they can be done but it’s a lot easier not to do them unless you must.
The chap who was looking for assistance bought a perfectly good Danish Aerometric Duofold and found when it arrived that it had a firm EEF nib – something he had not established before purchase and decided he hated. A Duofold nib in that conformation must be quite rare. I’ve never seen one. He wrenched at it and destroyed it because it was as he said, a “nail”, what I would call a normal nib. All of that grieves me. You would think that it would occur to people that it might be an idea to find out at least a little about fountain pen repair before they get stuck in. It would also help to have tools other than a pair of brutal, metal-jawed pliers.
I can find no reference to this Le Tigre No 3 fountain pen. A Google search found a later No 3, a post-war pen with a metal cap.
This one is a large pen:
Cap 8.3cm long, 1.6cm wide
Nib 2.7cm long from section to end of nib, 1cm wide at the widest part
Capped it is 16.2cm long (perhaps a touch over)
The closest example I found was in Jonathan Donahaye’s list. It was an earlier pen with a flange lever. For comparison, to show its size, I include it in a photo with several other Conway Stewart pens.
From left to right – Duro 20, 26, 30 CS 35, Le Tigre No 3, Duro No 1, Duro No 1, Duro 2 (then some eye candy).
The barrel imprint.
The very large nib with deeply incised engraving.
The tiger head clip imprint.
Thanks to Nick Lane for photographs and information.
Surprisingly, I haven’t written about the 3361 before though goodness knows I’ve handled plenty of them. The pen dates to the late forties. Mabie Todd reverted to black hard rubber for these pens and the similar lever fillers. This one has a little fading but it’s not too bad. The nib is a nice semiflexible.
As someone reminded me today, Mabie Todd was trying a couple of new things with these pens, one successful, the other less so. The shorter, square-ended lever will not go over-centre. The brass barrel threads are less of an improvement. Because the brass bites into the BHR quite hard, the section can remain in the cap while you unscrew the barrel. It doesn’t happen often but it can be a nuisance when it does. I wax the threads and that helps – one of my very few uses for wax in pen repair.
I bought the pen – via eBay – from drakeeenterprisesltd who note that they “protect the pens with Renaissance Wax”. I wish they wouldn’t. If I wished to polish off more of the fading on the cap, I would need to remove that stuff first and it’s very hard to do. It has long been recognised that Renaissance Wax – and cornuba – contain chemicals potentially injurious to the fragile materials vintage pens are made from. I do wish people would stop applying it. In other respects drakeeenterprisesltd is a good seller.
Every now and then a new pen with a full flex nib is announced. If it happens to be very cheap I might buy it. I can put up with a cheap disappointment but not an expensive one! Of course they are always a disappointment. Admittedly, they’re flexible if you press hard enough but it would be very uncomfortable to do that for long and the snap-back is more of a drag-back. Hopeless, in other words, and far from truth in advertising.
Fountain Pen Revolution has a Darjeeling pen on offer with an ultra-flexible nib. It’s a pretty thing with the colours of the Big Red. FPR have never let me down before so I ordered one and they didn’t let me down this time either! The steel nib is truly flexible and it snaps back to a closed position instantly. I am pleased to be surprised. It isn’t Swan, Onoto or even the prewar Japanese steel nib type of flexibility but it’s impressive and usable. By that I mean that though the flexibility is easily induced it lacks the smoothness in action of those older nibs. I think I can probably fix that with some polishing of the inside faces of the nib tip.
I played with it for a while yesterday and even applying a lot of pressure and writing fast I didn’t see any railroading. I declare myself impressed! I don’t have much use for flexibility in my everyday pen use and I’m not much good at it so excuse the writing in the sample.
Even apart from the nib, this is an impressive pen for the money. It owes a little inspiration to the Parker Duofold and not just in the colours. The cap bands stand proud of the material as did the early Duofold’s and it has an nice ball-end clip but it’s far from being a slavish copy. There is no blind cap, as this is a cartridge/converter filler, and the butt end of the barrel comes to a shallow point. The pen is a modern medium size at 13.8 cm capped. It closes with two turns. For those who like doing such things, this pen has been designed to also be used as an eyedropper filler. A screw piston converter comes as part of the package.
Before writing this I read some other reviews and there are a couple of points I would like to put straight. Some have complained about the fit and finish – I find it to be exemplary. Some reviewers thought that the cap rings did not fit properly because they sit proud. They fit properly. It is a reference to the Duofold. Another said that the metal parts were so badly finished that they scratched their other pens. Perhaps the finish has improved since then but I don’t find that. It was also said by some that the plastic feels cheap. In terms of weight and smoothness, the pen seems fine to me and I have no other means of calculating value by touch alone.
In all a well-made flexible nib pen of some style for a paltry £24, of which around a tenner was the price of the nib. It’s an exceptional bargain. I think our Indian brethren have much to teach the rest of the pen-making world.
And why did I buy a pen with an ultra-flex nib when I don’t use flex? Curiosity!
I’m sure many of you will know John Brindle’s Mabie Todd List:
It has not been updated in a long time. I was contacted by someone who had additional information to add to the list but found that the contact button there no longer works. I found an email address elsewhere on the site but it’s dead. I contacted the man who built the site for John. He has no current email address for him either.
Is anyone in contact with John?
A thin film of dust has accumulated on my trusty heat gun; I haven’t opened my toolbox in more than a week. No pens to repair and I am in enforced idleness. We are all the prisoners of Covid-19, a pesky coil of DNA that is destroyed by a soap-bubble but has killed millions the world o’er. Of course it isn’t really as bad as that. I have many pens to play with and the internet is full of pens to admire and read about. My life is not entirely dedicated to fountain pens; I have a few other interests.
This has now gone on so long that it has become the new normality. It seems incredible that a day will dawn again when I can go to the post office with my pen packages and send them winging round the world, but it will come. I’m not quite sure when then that will happen and the government isn’t much help with their hurry up/slow down pronouncements but the day will come.
I’m grateful, in a way, for the mandated change of pace and the opportunity to spend time with other interests. I’ve spent some time with Yeats and MacDiarmid and I’ve been delving into the Dark Ages. That’s all very well but I want to deploy my knock-out block, have a go at nib-straightening and bite-mark removing.
As Augustus de Morgan said,
Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.
Why can’t this miserable virus contract a killer virus of its own and dwindle away into history and let me get back to pen-fixing?
Go away, you damned virus!
I have no pens left to restore so I’ve been making the occasional bid in eBay. So far, I’ve been outbid which suggests that prices are holding up well. Not to worry. I’ll keep plugging away.
Buying unrestored pens right now may be a gamble. The price remains high but will the price for restored pens be as good when all this is over? A friend is risking offering a few in eBay at the moment. That may give an idea of how things are going.
I’m not financially dependent on pen sales so the market doesn’t worry me too much but if my pens don’t sell I can’t buy more and then I will be deprived of the pleasure of working on them. Of course, I’m not entirely idle. I get quite a few queries about my own pens and about pens in general. A recent request for advice was about an elderly eyedropper, one of those gorgeous Mabie Todd & Bard Swans with a repousseé finial in gold plating. This pen is an absolute stunner in almost untouched condition. However, it doesn’t write well, dropping blobs of ink frequently. It has the twisted silver wire without which it would probably be even worse. There are a few things that you can do but truth be told, Swans of that early date are not especially practical. There is always the possibility that the pen will drop a blot at the bottom of the page you have so carefully composed. I think of them as collectors’ pens, more for display than for use. Another five or ten years and Mabie Todd was making eyedropper Swans with more modern feeds, much less likely to drip all over your work.
We are a somewhat backward-looking lot with our fondness for the fountain pen and cursive writing. We also take an interest in dip pens and their nibs and have been known to dabble in the use of the quill. Even earlier methods of writing such as the silverpoint and the reed hover around our subconscious. There is one much more modern method of consigning words to a medium that is largely forgotten though its use was prevalent even as late as the nineteen fifties.
I’m talking about the slate and slate pencil, the use of which was accompanied by the most hideous screeching in every classroom in the land. Perhaps it is due a revival in these times when we are becoming conscious of the damage that papermaking does to the environment. Infinitely reusable after a wipe with a sponge, it may be the ultimately green form of writing. The better slate pencil was made out of soapstone and it didn’t screech quite as much. The cheaper and more common tool was made of a slightly softer slate. Later chalk was used, which brought a welcome silence to the classroom.
There are many alive today who remember bringing their slate to school. When the sponge in its tin was forgotten, a covert spit and rub with the cuff did the job. Parents were not too keen on this, as you might imagine. The other drawback was that a slate could break if dropped and was quite expensive to replace. It gave rise to the expression, “to wipe the slate clean”.
If you feel the need for one, I am amazed to discover that they are available at Amazon!
I suppose I’m fortunate in that the Lockdown doesn’t make much difference for me. I’ve been working from home for years so self-isolation is only a slight exaggeration of our normal life. We have lots of interests – primarily pens but other things too – to take up our time. It’s certainly not the same for everyone. An acquaintance who is a car mechanic lives for his work, can find nothing else to take up his time and is going stir crazy.
The anomie appears to be affecting online groups and boards as well. Perhaps because it’s a fairly close-knit group, Fountain Pen Geeks was badly affected. It became unendurable a fortnight ago. Not much improvement even now.
Like Voltaire, I’m going to tend my own garden. Spring has sprung and the weeds along with it! Now where did I leave those gardening gloves?
I bought this Waterman in eBay a few weeks ago and forgot about it until it arrived the other day. It’s a Forum and they were launched in 1980 or thereabouts. That makes it forty years old – hardly vintage for me but long out of production. I do vaguely remember them being current stock and I have a distant memory that the pattern is from some artist’s abstract work. I’m not quite interested enough to look it up. There were other versions of essentially the same pen: the Agora which had psychedelic patterns and the Atrium which had metallic designs.
To the pen itself: it’s a school pen, cheap when first sold and cheap when I bought it, but a very good pen for the money. In shape it harks back to earlier times with its straight sides and flat ends. It’s more slender than the average. It posts well. So far as I know this pen was intended to be a cartridge filler only and was never issued with a converter. The nib is EF or F depending on the paper. It would be no good to those who insist on flexibility but it’s perfect for me, a faultless wet deliverer of ink to the page.
I believe the pattern is a veneer on top of plastic and I have heard that it can chip at the ends. That hasn’t happened to this one – yet, at any rate!
I am most impressed with the little pen. The plated steel nib with its short slit and no breather hole does the job splendidly. The kids of the eighties and nineties were provided with a very good pen at a low price. I suppose that Waterman hoped to make money on the sale of cartridges, and probably did. It’s a different story now that you can get such a kaleidoscope of colours by so many manufacturers in cartridges that fit this pen. It’s a keeper.