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Fascinating No Name Pens


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#1 Lexaf

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Posted 14 January 2013 - 11:27

Maybe this article should be considered to be posted in the Fountain pen history section. But as I am talking about pens that are actually collectible now and this section seems to have far more readers I wanted to post it here. If the moderators do not agree, please feel free to move my posting....

As I am alway learning and eager to know more about the subject, please comment and add what you feel makes sense.
So here it is:

European Celluloid 'No Name' Fountain pens from 1930 to 1960

Lately I sold some 'No Name' pens in the classified section of the FPN board. One of the main factors that make these pens very attractive as a collectible item, apart from their good writing qualities, is that they are made of celluloid with rare spectacular looking colours and patterns.

A problem for some collectors is that these pens do not carry any branding. That is why these pens are often considered to be less interesting or valuable. A lot of fountain pen lovers seem to think that therefore these pens also will be of a low quality. Some times that will be the case, but more often these old brand less pens prove to be of great beauty in material, colour and design and have excellent writing qualities.

Once these qualities are recognised, a little research will open a new world in the broad field of fountain pen collecting. A lot of restoration and other Tender Loving Care (TLC) is often needed but the results can be spectacular.

I have been collecting fountain pens for quite some time now and I always had a special interest in uncommon models, unknown brands and exotic designs, particularly of fountain pens that were produced in the heyday of celluloid: the 1930's to the 1950's. After that time thermoplastic came into use and shortly after that the invention and introduction of the ball point pen gave the final deathblow to the glorious era of the celluloid fountain pen. I am just a poor guy, my budget does not allow me to purchase the high end products made by e.g. Mont Blanc and the exclusive Italian makers, let alone the limited editions. Besides, as a former librarian and archivist I am always more interested in the sometimes very personal stories behind the (used) pens and the history and sources of the manufacturers and the manufacturing processes.

So here is where the 'No Names' come in.

The interest in odd pens broadened when I started to specialize in collecting pens that were manufactured in the Netherlands or made especially for the Dutch market. Then I found that more than just a few interesting pens that would fit in my collection, considering design, material, quality and supposed origin, were actually brand less. Sometimes it was possible to trace the origin of these pens back to a specific German, French or even Belgian or Dutch manufacturer, but often it would not lead any further than an indefinite and not very educated guess.

The history of these mostly European made pens is interesting, especially compared with pens made in USA. This is because European pens from the era 1930's to 1950's were often the result of a very different marketing philosophy compared to American made pens. In Europe and especially in France and Germany numerous brands existed. To name just a few well known brands; in France: Bayard, Stylomine, Edacoto. In Germany, Pelikan, Kaweco, Osmia. England is more complicated in this context, because there was a much larger historical, economical and technical connection with the American fountain pen industry. Particularly Parker and Waterman pens were produced in England in the same period these brands were still in production in USA. The French Parkers and Watermans were different, they came into production only after the making of the respective models was stopped and even the whole brand was discontinued in America. But in general, even in the UK, the market was far less dominated by just a few brands as was the case in America with the 'Big Three', Parker, Waterman and Sheaffer. Although USA also had a large low end sector, (e.g. Wearever and Esterbrook) it was common that most pens were branded, also in the low end - third tier sector. A big difference with the European industry was that in USA also the 'big' brands produced lots of models that were low end under their own name, e.g. the large variety of school pens that were made by Sheaffer in the 50's and 60's. In Europe it was far more common for the top brands to market their cheaper and simpler pens under another (sub) brand name. This left the possibility open for other, less known brands, such as Reform (Mutschler) and Luxor ( to name just two) or specific OEM producers such as Merz & Krell to produce fantasy brands for small firms and private book shops. The simplest variety in this marketing field was: No branding at all.
Particularly in France the market was even more diffuse. Apart from the large brands there were many small manufacturer imprints, sometimes these were independent brands, sometimes subbrands affiliated to a larger or more well known establishment. Some lesser known French brands are: Soma, Globe d'Or, Evergood, Stylox, Rally, Old Chap, Mercier, Intermonde.


I already pointed out that the European market was also much more differentiated with a more diffuse distinction between high and low end products. More important: it was quite normal, also for well known brands, to produce relatively small lots for 'OEM' customers like book- or stationary shops who used their own 'fantasy' or local brand names, or often with no branding at all. You can compare this with the European watch industry where lots of reputed Swiss and German watch manufacturers produced high quality watches that were branded with the company name of the jeweller who sold them. Another good example is the large amount of OEM brands found on many HQ fountain pens that were actually made by Conway Stewart in England.

I've always been interested in European pens, also because I live in The Netherlands and I am more and more specializing in collecting those pens that were produced in Holland and Belgium or at least made or designed especially for the Dutch and Belgian market. Knowing this, it will probably not surprise you that a lot of those 'Dutch' pens were actually made in Germany, e.g. Vendex, made by Osmia or in France, e.g. Rally, with an affiliated factory of the same name in The Netherlands. Some 'typical Dutch' brands were manufactured in UK, like Boston, and Hoover the Luxe, made by UK manufacturers like Burnham and Mentmore. For Belgium: Le Tigre, made by Conway Stewart or Bermont made by a.o. Mertz & Krell. Some of their 'Melbi' pens show a remarkable similarity.<br style="mso-special-character:line-break">


Apart from the very few original brand manufacturers such as Union, Hovi and Nefa , all in The Hague, and Crown in Breda, the Dutch market was a paradise for fantasy brands. I will not name them all but here are a few that are actually in my own collection: Apollo de Luxe, Been Premier, Champion, Duncan, Nobel Trade Mark, Torca, Vara. The last one is a really odd brand: VARA was (and still is) a Dutch radio-broadcasting company and the VARA fountain pens were probably made under that name as a premium for loyal listeners and clients. Then there are the so called OEM brands. (Original Equipment Manufacturing, a term nowadays mainly used in the Electronics and Computer industry). Well known is Akkerman, the still existing famous fountain pen shop in The Hague. Most of their pens were made by Osmia and Luxor in Germany, some even by Lamy under the name Lamy – Akkerman. Another popular brand in The Netherlands was Vendex. Vendex (or V&D as the still existing firm is called now) ordered it's own series from well known manufacturers in Germany, such as Osmia, Luxor and Reform. Sometimes the OEM series were so small that the pens were not actually 'branded' i.e. the brand name or logo was heat stamped in the body or cap, but the small series were just engraved with the local brand name, just like it were individual pens with an owner engraving. One step ahead in this 'branding story': no brand at all!

Apart from the 'fantasy brands' a lot of completely brandless pens were made in this era, frequently showing a remarkably high quality, regarding the housing with spectacular celluloid patterns as well as the often HQ 14K nibs, fitted with hard rubber (ebonite) sections and feeders. Actually, most of these pens were technically not different from the pens described above. It is often very difficult to determine the real manufacturing background, also because they were sometimes assemblies of parts from different origin. Thus it could happen that pens were assembled from French made celluloid parts for the bodies and caps, German sections, feeders and clips and USA made nibs - to mention just a possible combination. Sometimes these assembly pens were actually 'produced' in the Netherlands. That is, if you consider assembling the different parts in a 'kitchen table factory' in Amsterdam as 'manufacturing'. A nice example in this category are the also in USA quite popular little Merlin pens. (How some of these locally made Dutch Merlins finally ended up in the USA is a different story). Although most Merlins carry a brand name, I have some Merlins in my collection that are only recognizable by their typical design and the fact that they carry a Merlin branded nib, but for the rest being totally brandless. To make it even more difficult: lots of Merlins nibs are engraved 'DEGUSSA' . That becomes logical when you realize that 90% of ALL Merlin nibs were made by Degussa (Germany), sometimes even signed with both logo's: The Merlin 'M' and the famous 'half sun/ half moon' from the Degussa brand. <br style="mso-special-character:line-break"> All together this part of the fountain pen history is complex and adventurous. There is a complete world to explore for the collector who searches something more than only the well known brands and models: the world of the unknown European brands, fantasy brands and certainly also the 'No Names'. This field can be a really attractive hunting ground. It becomes even more interesting when one realises that these pens are rare as individual items. But all together there are still a lot of them around, still to be found in Granny's drawer, on local flea markets and internet auction sites.

Lex van Galen, Rijswijk, Januari 2013

(for pm comment, please mail here, as my FPN inbox is almost full... thanks)

Sources:

http://web.archive.org/web/20071012005121/www.stylos-francais.fr/bayard.php

Lambrou, Andreas, - Fountain Pens of the World, - published by Philip Wilson Publishers Ldt, London, 1998, 2nd printing, - ISBN 0302006680

 Hollestein, W., De vulpen, - Iets over het gebruik , de fabricage en raadgevingen bij het repareren, - published by Handelsonderneming MAHO, Tilburg, Juli 1950. [The Fountain pen, - Some things about the use, the manufacturing and advises for repair]

N.N. , -P.W. Akkerman 1910 – 2010, - 100 jaar in the Haagsche Passage, - De geschiedenis van de Firma Akkerman vulpenspeciaalzaak Den Haag, - Published by P.W Akkerman, Den Haag 2010

Haury, Pierre and Jean Pierre Lacroux, - Une affaire de stylos, - published by Éditions Seghers/ Éditions Quintette, Paris 1990, - ISBN 2232103455

 Illustrations:

img1875pj.jpg
Three obviously Parker Duofold inspired Button Fillers. The celluloid stock you see here, in three
sparkling colour variations is only found in rare French local brand pens. Produced probably around
1935. The nibs are a generic 'Warranted 14K USA'.


img1878hv.jpg
2 button fillers, different design. The upper pen is an Intermonde, made in France, with a clear imprint
on the barrel, saying: INTERMONDE – Sterling Gd. Luxe – Made in France, and with a large nib,
engraved with: INTERMONDE 14K 585. Manufactured around 1935, anyway before the use of 18k
gold became obligatory in France when 'real' gold was used.
The lower pen is a no name, definitely made from the same rare celluloid stock. This pen carries a
14K gold nib, probably made by Rupp (Germany), so this could either be a replacement or an
assembly pen, with German parts used. The clip is a typical French design, I never saw such a clip on
a German or English pen.

img1880m.jpg
Above: A Bermont lever filler. Bermont was a Belgian brand, but most of their pens were made
elsewhere, some at Merz&Krell in Germany, some by French manufacturers Bayard and Stylomine.
Considering the design I guess this is a French made pen. The nib is again a generic 'Warranted 585
14Ct'.

Again there is a striking similarity of the celluloid used for the No Name pen below. The design of this
button filler is rather simple. Special feature is the threaded backside to secure the posted cap. The
use of aluminum for the cap ring is very French, as is the form and design of the steel, nickel plated
clip. Also the odd form of the ebonite section is typical for French made pens of the 1930's. The nib is
a N.O.S. French steel 'Prestige Paris' from the 1950's, mounted by me as the pen came to me without
a nib.


img1881g.jpg
Two Merlin button fillers. Parts probably made in Germany, possibly assembled in Amsterdam in the
early 1950's.
The models have an almost identical design, apart from the clip. The green pen is branded Merlin33
on the barrel, has a traditional Merlin clip and sports an original 14K nib, engraved with the Merlin
logo. The blue pen has a much more modern clip, but carries the name Merlin on that clip. The barrel
and cap do not show any inscription. The nib is a steel, gold plated Bock nib. Possibly a replacement,
but not sure. Considering the cheapish looking clip and the steel nib, the blue pen might very well be a
cheaper low end variation of the green Merlin 33 above, but it is definitely a Merlin!

Pictures uploaded with ImageShack.us

 



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#2 Jennings

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Posted 14 January 2013 - 12:13

Well which ever section this should end up in, it's a very interesting post. I too love collecting the random little brands and quirky pens of the unknown or smaller manufacturers. None of mine as as nice as the ones you've posted here though. Perhaps i'll have to hunt different market places to find some? I also collect pens by the James brand...although I know little about them...many are fairly low budget, but always stylish and in attractive materials. I did find one higher end James button with gold nib and so on though. Keep up the good collecting and recording...people will thank you in years to come, and who knows your work might actually add to the collecting value of such brands.
Currently searching for these parts:

- MB 242 cap - MB 254 cap - MB 252 cap

#3 Bo Bo Olson

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Posted 14 January 2013 - 12:43

Great article. :notworthy1:

Reform (Mutschler) I keep forgetting the name Mutschler, :headsmack: who I think also made Ero's pens.Thomas kept telling me that name, but because I'd not seen it in print, it slipped out my ears.

Reform originally was it's own very good firm. Thomas (Kaweco) told me a lot about it. I have a Reform War pen, that is very sturdy and well made...the nib must be '44 or so because it's not. Before the war Reform of course had good nibs. Don't know if it was his own or Reform stamped Degussa nibs. Degussa nibs could be had in Osmia quality if the pen company wanted.

Reform also made Certo pens....I had a real lucky day, found both, the two war pens, the Certo (bock nib) and the Reform (Generic nib) with the same flea market dealer. Twins but for a millimeter of length.

Reform was such a good pen, that right after the war, with out much to produce with, import companies were willing to pay cash in advance to order Reform pens.

When the ball point came in and pen companies scrambled to survive. The man who owned Reform, closed down instead of making an inferior pen.
A few years later, he sold his factory and name to Mutschler. They were the ones who made the much cheaper made Reform 1745, P-120 and P-125.

Degussa bought up Osmia's nib factory in 1932, and were forced to keep it in Heidelberg in the workers refused to move to Pfortsheim where Degussa was based. Osmia nibs are very good, gold or steel. Degussa was the Bock of it's day, closing down when fountain pens started dieing out in the late fifties.

Tropen is hard to find in Germany (I have only one and it took me quite a long tome to find it...even looked in England) but was once the largest pen maker in Germany (right after the war to mid '50s and maybe a bit later). Most of it's pens went into export. Right after the war it's much of it's total production went to England, because the English pen factories of Swan and a couple of others were destroyed and the Labor government refused to allot them resources. Minutes after the war/Summer of '45 there was an English order of 50,000 pens, and more later.

Luxor is 'relatively' hard to find in Germany, in it too exported a lot.(I lucked into one.)
The middle east was a big export market along with South America.
Herlitz is another Heidelberg pen company, making it's own nibs.

The Germans could make colorful pens, but on the whole they were exported. :headsmack:
When you can find them they cost half again to twice as much as the common black and gold.

Yep, Lexaf is lucky, he lives out side of Germany so got all the colorful pens. :crybaby:

Between the wars there were 120 pen companies in Germany, many made from the big company parts. I've no idea how many survived to the war, or after. I know way too little.

Edited by Bo Bo Olson, 14 January 2013 - 12:54.

www.nibs.com/blog/nibster-writes/nibs-germany      Info on Bock nibs

 

Due to Mauricio's improved definition of Super-flex, I try not use the term Easy Full Flex, but fail...sigh.

 

Semi-flex is an “almost” flex; not a ‘flex’ nib. It is great for regular writing with a touch of flair. It can give you some fancy; but it is not made for real fancy writing. For bit more of that get a maxi-semi-flex. Both spread tines 3X.  Those are not "Flex" nibs. 

 

Wider than Normal does not exist. Wider than Japanese does. Every company has it's very own standard + slop/tolerance. Developed from the users of it's pens and inks only; not the users or inks of other companies pens. The size you grind a nib to, is your standard only. Paper and ink matter to nib width. Thank god for 1/2 sizes or it would be boring.


#4 mhguda

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Posted 14 January 2013 - 13:52

Very interesting material, and definitely interesting! When I lived in the Netherlands as a student, I must have picked up a number of these no-name, brandless pens, although after three more moves, I have really lost track of where they are (or when I lost them). Most were produced a little later than those you discuss, in the 60s and 70s, and were much less handsome and colorful.
In the last ten or fifteen years (or so) I've picked up a number of Bruynzeels locally; you don't mention them in your story, but they make nice school pens. I suppose those are produced in Germany now, but what's the story there?

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#5 myn

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Posted 14 January 2013 - 14:52

Excellent article and some wonderful examples. Thanks so much for sharing this article. A great read.
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#6 Lexaf

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Posted 14 January 2013 - 17:34

Very interesting material, and definitely interesting! When I lived in the Netherlands as a student, I must have picked up a number of these no-name, brandless pens, although after three more moves, I have really lost track of where they are (or when I lost them). Most were produced a little later than those you discuss, in the 60s and 70s, and were much less handsome and colorful.
In the last ten or fifteen years (or so) I've picked up a number of Bruynzeels locally; you don't mention them in your story, but they make nice school pens. I suppose those are produced in Germany now, but what's the story there?


Thanks for you comment. When we talk about Bruynzeel we talk about an old Dutch colonial industry company. Bruynzeel grew big as a grower (former Dutch West Indies), importer and manufacturer of tropical wood and wooden products. Floors, kitchens and, concerning writing instruments: writing- and coloring pencils.
The firm still exists and is still producing all of these articles in different branches of what is now a large multinational firm.
The stationary branch makes, imports, exports and sells all kind of office material, among them still their own production of HQ pencils. They do sell fountain pens, but only simple, cheap school pens since (I think) the seventies or eighties. The contemporary pens that are usually sold in Dutch stationary shops for about us$ 4,-- a piece are not made by them in their own factories but are OEM pens, produced in China. They are also sold under the name of HEMA, a large Dutch department store chain. (like Wallmart, but cheaper...).
I used to have some of these Bruynzeel schoolpens, made round 1990 and I must have some pictures of them somewhere. I'll try and look them up, maybe I still have them in some backup file. The pens itself must also be around somewhere in some junkbox, I do no know if I can find them either. Anyway, the Bruynzeel pens I had were cheap plastic pens with steel nibs and a cartridge filling system, but as daily school pens they were adequate, until they broke into pieces because of the low quality of the transparent plastic housing. The transparent 'demonstrator' like pens looked quite attractive though with their bright colors.

When I find the pics I'll publish them!

#7 Lexaf

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Posted 14 January 2013 - 17:37

Excellent article and some wonderful examples. Thanks so much for sharing this article. A great read.


Thank you!
The Dutch Fountain pen industry may be a niche in the big world of the history of writing instruments, but there sure is a lot to tell about it.
So, when I can find the inspiration: to be continued!

#8 mhguda

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Posted 14 January 2013 - 18:15

Don't bother with the photos of your Bruynzeel school pens, Lex: I have a number, including one of the demonstrators. They sell them here for a little more than 6 dollars, so not quite as inexpensive as at your end, but they are easy to find. I found them when my school days were behind me, so mine probably saw less rough usage. I know exactly where they are, and will post some pictures. I like them, they write really well, and they are in good condition...
I do know about Bruynzeel's history, of course, but I had not realized that those pens I liked so much were made in China all those years ago!

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#9 mbradley

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 17:15

Wonderful article. Lex, I am envious that you have access to these wonderful pens. Restoring them would be very rewarding. I hope to see more of the pens and your writing on the forum. This really is a fantastic hobby, some would argue that it is more than that. A former librarian and archivist is now an historian.

Michael

Edited by mbradley, 18 January 2013 - 18:00.


#10 Kaweco

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 18:33

Hello Lex
Some time ago a pen friend asked me to identify an unknown fp. I tried to combine some of the design characters from my "miscellaneus"- box, but alas: noname + noname = noname
Kind Regards
Thomas
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#11 Lexaf

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 19:51

Hello Lex
Some time ago a pen friend asked me to identify an unknown fp. I tried to combine some of the design characters from my "miscellaneus"- box, but alas: noname + noname = noname
Kind Regards
Thomas

Hi Thomas,
The problem with a lot of no names is that you have too few parameters to make an identification. In some case you can define the country they were are probably manufactured, but most of the time it's just a wild guess.
Most pens in your picture seem German mid 1930's to me though, where they look like piston fillers with a design at least inspired by the Pelikans from that era. Germany was, apart from some very rare examples in UK and France practically the only West-european country where piston fillers looking like that were made.
Interesting pens though, as far as I can see. Need some work, but nice.

BTW I'm still working on an answer for the long PM you sent me, need some more time for that. :happyberet:

#12 mhguda

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 17:23

my bruynzeels2.jpg

Some days ago I promised to upload some pictures of my Bruynzeel school pens. Here they are, in no particular order, except that the two older pens are flanked by the more recent ones. The current model is the rightmost pen, and the 2nd from left is the oldest, if memory serves.
I bought these pens locally, probably somewhere during the last 25 years; the most recent one I actually got last year. They are all good writers and take international cartridges. I've tried converting one to eyedropper filling, and it works. The barrel holds a lot of ink - I usually want to switch inks, or pens, long before I run out.

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#13 pictogramax

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 19:05

Great article, Lex, very interesting. I also enjoyed the love you showed for the "underdogs", pens that might not be of such an esteemed origin, but are no less beautiful and fun. Thanks!

#14 Lexaf

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 19:19

Great article, Lex, very interesting. I also enjoyed the love you showed for the "underdogs", pens that might not be of such an esteemed origin, but are no less beautiful and fun. Thanks!


My pleasure, Pictogramax! Maybe I'll continue the story with more of this anonymous eye candy!

#15 raigne

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 19:30

You identify the pen in the picture with the Bermont lever filler and the same celluloid as a button filler. Both of those pens look like they have levers to me. :hmm1:

Thank you for sharing your article. :)

#16 pictogramax

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 19:36

Great article, Lex, very interesting. I also enjoyed the love you showed for the "underdogs", pens that might not be of such an esteemed origin, but are no less beautiful and fun. Thanks!


My pleasure, Pictogramax! Maybe I'll continue the story with more of this anonymous eye candy!


If possible, please do! And if it might inspire you, just today I cleaned and refilled the Pontiac pen I got from you; it really was not (intentionally) related, I did it this morning and after I stumbled upon your thread by chance. Your pen was calling out for you:-)

#17 Lexaf

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 20:53

Great article, Lex, very interesting. I also enjoyed the love you showed for the "underdogs", pens that might not be of such an esteemed origin, but are no less beautiful and fun. Thanks!


My pleasure, Pictogramax! Maybe I'll continue the story with more of this anonymous eye candy!


If possible, please do! And if it might inspire you, just today I cleaned and refilled the Pontiac pen I got from you; it really was not (intentionally) related, I did it this morning and after I stumbled upon your thread by chance. Your pen was calling out for you:-)


Some people say that coincidence does not exist!
There's more than logics and mathematics in this world!
Fountain pens show that to us.
They are

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#18 mollygirl

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 00:52

More please? Lovely pics!

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Hand crafted upscale pens, many with gemstone inlays


#19 penrivers

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 02:19

Beautiful, excellent, instructive, pleasant post Lexaf, they are not no name pens but small forgaten brands, I have maybe
5 or seven extraordinary good writers fountain pens that I got in a promotional monthly magazine, they really with no hints of names just the classic Iridium Germany in the nib. I hope to upload some pictures of them here in fpn.

#20 Lexaf

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 15:07

Some days ago I promised to upload some pictures of my Bruynzeel school pens. Here they are, in no particular order, except that the two older pens are flanked by the more recent ones. The current model is the rightmost pen, and the 2nd from left is the oldest, if memory serves.
I bought these pens locally, probably somewhere during the last 25 years; the most recent one I actually got last year. They are all good writers and take international cartridges. I've tried converting one to eyedropper filling, and it works. The barrel holds a lot of ink - I usually want to switch inks, or pens, long before I run out.

Hi,
I knew I should have some of these Bruynzeels somewhere. A few days ago I found one back in a drawer with old pencils and balpoints. So far what it was worth to me.... :wacko:. The problem with these pens, at least this series, is that the plastic they are made of is quite a bad quality and they crack easily. I think these pens were not made by Bruynzeel, but they are probably OEM Chinese pens. Must have some others, a red, a blue and a Yellow one somewhere, but I might also have been giving these away.
They are quite attractive to see though with their transparent 'demonstrator' look. And last but not least; for such dead cheap pens (ca. 3 Euro's a piece) they write excellently.
Here some pictures: (notice the crack in the barrel).

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