Forgive me, please, for a detour into Sheaffer obscurity.
I've been wondering: does anybody have any information about the 1980s Japanese Sheaffers? I recall a post or two about the black lacquer fountain pen that is thought to be a collaborative effort between Sheaffer and Sailor; one of those pens appears at the bottom of the group shot below. There was speculation, I believe, that this was not a pen meant for the U.S. market.
Well, I recently acquired a whole bunch of Japanese Sheaffer instruments; they were promotional sales samples, along with other 1980s Sheaffer products like NoNonsense pens (some of them with those awful "surfboard" plastic clips). Each one is adorned with a sample company logo - along with the model number of the instrument. So I've got to think that these were very much intended for U.S. distribution; otherwise they would never have been included in such a kit.
I find it interesting that this was actually a fairly extensive family of products. Interesting, too, that there is so little information available about any of these models...a mere twenty years after they were made. So in the hope of adding just a bit to that body of knowledge (and of eliciting some insights from folks who know more), I thought I'd post some photos and descriptions.
Without further ado, let me introduce (top photo): the LJ Family - no relation to the Esterbrooks that bore the same designation. From top to bottom (all model names per barrel printing):
The LJ-1 Pencil. It takes 0.5mm lead, and it's a push-to-advance model. It has design similarities to the Zebra mechanical pencils I was using back in the 80s, but that may be purely a function of the decade and the country of manufacture.
The LJ-1 Ballpoint. A push-click model; it takes standard Sheaffer BP refills.
The Lazer LJ-1W. A ballpoint variant, with a barrel window that shows a message that "scrolls" with each click of the top button (didn't Parker have an early Jotter that did this?). My guess: "W" stands for "window."
The LJ-1 Pen. A fountain pen with a steel nib. It takes a Sheaffer Slim cartridge. (How charming that Sheaffer called only the fountain pen a "pen"; the ballpoint was just a "ballpoint.") I bought this pen separately, but it, too, is a promotional sample.
The last pen is the black lacquer model referred to above. Its nib is gold-plated, but otherwise identical to the steel nib above it. The section is the same as the upper pen's, and it also takes the Slim "Cartridge II." This one is not a sample, and it was not acquired with the others. Both fountain pens are smooth writers, producing a fine line that is very much in the Japanese tradition.
OK, some commonalities and some differences to note. The top four instruments are all made of stainless (or brushed chrome). They all sport a distinctive clip resembling a lower-case letter "b," with a black plastic ball held in a circular opening near the bottom. The pencil and the ballpoints feature a textured black plastic gripping area. The black pen has gold-plated trim, as well as a completely different clip: this one is a simple elongated rectangle, with a letter "S" engraved at the bottom, below a single engraved dot. All five instruments are marked on the cap: "Sheaffer" (below the clip), and "Japan" (directly opposite). Unless one counts the non-Sheaffer-typeface "S" clip engraving, this is the only brand identification anywhere.
Now...for the cousins. The second photo shows two more c.1980s Japanese Sheaffers.
Top: the Sheaffer SJ-3 Duo System. This is a stainless (chrome?) ballpoint/pencil combo. One twists the cap one way or the other to select an instrument; once the pencil cone emerges, a push of the top button extends the lead (the button is disabled when the ballpoint is selected). The ballpoint refill is very slim: definitely unlike any other Sheaffer BP refill. The pencil seems to use a cartridge, like the 0.3mm model below it. The clip is identical to that of the black fountain pen in the top photo, although this one is finished in chrome.
Bottom: the Sheaffer 0.3 Ultra Fineline pencil (also bought separately, and not a sample). This is a nicely made brushed-finish push-to-advance pencil that uses a proprietary cartridge to hold the super-thin lead. This is the only mechanical pencil I've seen that has a "visulated" window to check on the lead supply. It uses a totally plain bar clip. The packaging bears a code that suggests a 1985 production date.
So there they are: a range of seldom-encountered Sheaffers from the not-very-distant past. I would love to know more about them: which manufacturer actually made them, for one thing. (These were not pure exercises in rebranding, because re-engineering was required to fit the Sheaffer cartridges and BP refills.) Were there other instruments in the line? Is the Sailor connection, at least with respect to the fountain pens, a valid one?
Sorry to take up so much time with a post that is only 28% devoted to fountain pens; but I wanted to try to capture and circulate what little information I had about these interesting products.
Edited by Univer, 31 August 2007 - 12:19.