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The Sheaffer Aspen Balance


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#1 KendallJ

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Posted 02 January 2005 - 17:54

So, I have been saying for a while now, that I was going to post a review of my Sheaffer Balance, so I decided with the new year and work looming ever present, this was my last chance and decided to whip it out.

I'm not sure if this review shouldn't go in the Sheaffer forum now that we have one, but I'll put it here because this is where I've put my others.

The Sheaffer modern Balance in Aspen color is one of my favorite pens. I purchased it about 2 years ago, and it has been in my regular rotation ever since.

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1. Overall design 5*

It's almost impossible to fault the overall design of the pen, because it is such a classic. In the 30's it ushered in the era of streamline design over the flat-tops of the 20's. And its namesake due to the fact that is was designed to be well-balanced in the hand. The modern update keeps to the classic lines, but looks as good as any modern design. The key to the Balance's lines is the torpedo shape, and the traditional Sheaffer Clip.

The Aspen version has a mottled pattern in acrylic with a mix of amber, red and blue that is reminiscent of a bright, crisp fall day. This resin mix to me makes the Aspen stand out against the modern Balances for its beauty. I did some work in Photoshop to try to give the pictures you see here some semblance of the depth and vibrancy of the colors (and hopefully came close). I find that a bright blue ink really makes the blue highlights of the pen "pop" and almost always fill it with blue as a result. However, the resin is not so flashy that the pen wont look good in a more formal setting with a black ink loaded up.

The pen is trimmed in silver rather than the more traditional gold, and this tones down the overall look.

2. Size / Weight 4*

The pen lives up to its namesake, and it wonderfully comfortable in the hand, posted or unposted. It's a light resin pen so those who prefer heft won't like it. However, you'll not have a problem writing for long periods with this pen.

A somewhat overlooked comfort element is the curved section grip. I didn't notice this feature until I tried it side by side with some of my other pens. That slight curve changes the comfort factor significantly. The pen feels more solidly gripped, and yet is more comfortable that pens with non curved sections.

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3. Nib 5*

The pens strongest feature is the 2-tone feather touch nib. Mine's a Fine, but has some flex to it. Smooth as silk, and always starts. The two tone pattern and engraving give the pen a retro feel when it's uncapped.

4. Filling Mechanism 4*

Here modernity seems to detract somewhat from the pen. Unlike its vintage brethren, the Aspen is a cartridge converter filler. This is the standard modern filling system, and while its functional in all its respects, I find it a bit dull. C/C fillers have limited capacity compared to piston fillers, and they're just... well, indistinctive but practical.

This pen gets the 4* rating however because of one little design element in the filling system. The nib only has to be partially immersed in order to get ink. That's right, this pen is my "bottom feeder" pulling ink out of bottles that my other pens couldn't dream of getting. Handy little feature seeing that most ink bottles these days are not designed to be emptied past about 1/2 inch.

5. Fit / Finish 3*

I have several criticism in the fit/finish area. While the resin is finished nicely some of the other parts of the pen I find a little lacking.

I'm a stickler for threading. To me, how a pen feels when you're unscrewing it is an important determinant of overall finish. The thread weren't turn to terribly tight tolerance and are not deep. As a result, the pen unscrews somewhat loosely, and one can pull the pen loose even though its not quite cleared all the threads. The threading was designed with multiple entry points so only 1/4 turn gets it unthreaded.

The cap band spins in its track, and will slide up and down a couple of thousandths.

While I have not experienced the problem, the cap is turned quite thinly and I have heard about caps chipping or splitting.

Finally, the one element of the classic design that could have used at least some updating is the clip. Modern mfg methods can do a nice job of making one feel that a clip is form from a solid piece of metal rather than from a stamped sheet stock. Sheaffer uses none of this in its design and the clip, though true to vintage design looks cheap.

Summary

All in all, I think everyone should have a Balance as part of their collection, whether modern or vintage. The Aspen is a great choice if modern is your route!

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Edited by KendallJ, 04 January 2005 - 03:04.

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#2 Alriel

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Posted 26 February 2005 - 16:26

Kendall,

I like the colors of that pen! I have the Cobalt blue so I know what you mean about the nib being very good. Sheaffer did a great job re-introducing a classic of theirs. The vintage Balances are one of my favorites! ;)

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#3 TheNobleSavage

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Posted 27 February 2005 - 02:01

I just bought a balance in the Crimson Glow color. I cannot wait until I get it, until then, this ties me over. Once I get my mitts on my pen, I will do a review too. Nice pictures and nice thorough review. The Aspen is a real looker, aint it????
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#4 Keith with a capital K

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Posted 27 February 2005 - 02:12

Aaron - Just wait until you get that Crimson Glow, which is another really beautiful pen. Kendall's pics really are well done and can give you an idea of how beautiful the Aspen is although nothing compares to seeing one in person.
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#5 TheNobleSavage

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Posted 27 February 2005 - 02:39

I agree 100%!!! Too Bad Jim Gaston was out of the Aspen and Jade but The Crimson really stood out!! Plus I only have 1 red pen in my collection and for me, that was a no brainer!!! :lol: I thought the Colbolt Glow was a really neat pen but I have plenty of blue in my collection and it really didnt do too much for me. The color and the design of the pen is a screaming 20ish/ Art Decco meets modern design!!! Very impressive looking, Bravo Bravo!!! :drool:
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#6 Maja

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Posted 27 February 2005 - 08:41

I really wanted the Crimson Glow (ie. the red marbled Balance II ) fountain pen but I couldn't wait any longer :rolleyes: so I bought the Cobalt Glow (the blue marbled one). It's a nice pen, but I am hoping that a Crimson Glow rollerball comes along for a good price, because I think you can put the fountain pen nib-section unit (it unscrews) into the rollerball (the nib is not cheap).... Someone please correct me if I am wrong :)
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#7 Keith with a capital K

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Posted 27 February 2005 - 17:01

Maja,

The Balance is a modular pen so this means that the rollerball and fountain pen both reside in the same cap and barrel and the only difference is in their innards.

Swapping the rb unit from a Balance and replacing it with the fp unit is simple.

The Balance nib on it's own costs $118.00 U.S. IIRC.
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#8 TheNobleSavage

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Posted 28 February 2005 - 02:17

wow, considering that the fountian pen costs anywhere between 70.00 to 85.00. I would say that it would be cheaper to get a whole new pen.
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#9 Cam

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Posted 28 February 2005 - 08:03

wow, considering that the fountian pen costs anywhere between 70.00 to 85.00.  I would say that it would be cheaper to get a whole new pen.

:o WHERE!!!!!???? :blink:

Edited by Cam, 28 February 2005 - 08:04.


#10 Maja

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Posted 28 February 2005 - 09:09

wow, considering that the fountian pen costs anywhere between 70.00 to 85.00.  I would say that it would be cheaper to get a whole new pen.

:o WHERE!!!!!???? :blink:

Hi Cam,

Check out http://www.jimgaston.com and http://www.isellpens.com for the modern Balance and Balance II pens...

--Maja

PS. Thanks for the answer about swapping the FP nib units, Keith; Sheaffer was very clever to do that, weren't they? A person can also put an old-time NoNonsense nib unit into a modern Balance fountain pen...

Edited by Maja, 28 February 2005 - 09:10.

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#11 Cam

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Posted 28 February 2005 - 10:31

wow, considering that the fountian pen costs anywhere between 70.00 to 85.00.  I would say that it would be cheaper to get a whole new pen.

:o WHERE!!!!!???? :blink:

Hi Cam,

Check out http://www.jimgaston.com and http://www.isellpens.com for the modern Balance and Balance II pens...

--Maja

PS. Thanks for the answer about swapping the FP nib units, Keith; Sheaffer was very clever to do that, weren't they? A person can also put an old-time NoNonsense nib unit into a modern Balance fountain pen...

Hi Maja,

Yeah, I usually keep an eye on those two every couple of weeks. I haven't seen an Aspen on there though ...

I will keep looking though!

c.

#12 Keith with a capital K

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Posted 28 February 2005 - 14:59

One has to realize that the original list of the Aspen, Cobalt, and Crimson glow pens was $225.00 and that Jim has been selling these at a wholesale or better price for soe time.

The Balance 2 pens sell for $60.00 and their 14k nibs (from Sheaffer) cost a little more than that on their own as an individual part.
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#13 Maja

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Posted 28 February 2005 - 19:26

wow, considering that the fountian pen costs anywhere between 70.00 to 85.00.  I would say that it would be cheaper to get a whole new pen.

:o WHERE!!!!!???? :blink:

Hi Cam,

Check out http://www.jimgaston.com and http://www.isellpens.com for the modern Balance and Balance II pens...

--Maja

PS. Thanks for the answer about swapping the FP nib units, Keith; Sheaffer was very clever to do that, weren't they? A person can also put an old-time NoNonsense nib unit into a modern Balance fountain pen...

Hi Maja,

Yeah, I usually keep an eye on those two every couple of weeks. I haven't seen an Aspen on there though ...

I will keep looking though!

c.

Yeah, the Aspens are difficult to find through online dealers now; many places have sold out :(

In the meantime, here is a beautiful wallpaper of the Sheaffer Aspen from Jimmy Tom and Heather Nash's userpens.com site:
http://www.userpens....spenbalance.jpg
(it's one of my favourites) and some more here: http://www.userpens.com/wallpaper.html
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#14 TheNobleSavage

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Posted 01 March 2005 - 03:09

Well My Sheaffer Crimson glow just arrived today from Jim Gaston. What can I say?? I am very glad that I picked it up. Writes very nice. Good lord, 3 pens arrived today and I am expecting 2 more, I dont think ill be buying anything for quite some time!!!! Reviews to follow on all five pens!!! BTW did I mention I picked up a new digital camera, I am still trying to figure it out. A photographer stumped by a camera, I believe it has become quite chilly, hell is freezing over!!! :doh:
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#15 Maja

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Posted 01 March 2005 - 10:47

Hmmmm, I see Cam bought a Crimson Glow rollerball on the PT Green Board yesterday...for $20 USD :o Nice purchase, Cam!
EDIT: oops! Cam got it for $40...Still an excellent price for a brand new Balance II rollerball in this colour..

Edited by Maja, 02 March 2005 - 06:47.

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#16 Cam

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Posted 01 March 2005 - 14:04

I wish!!! I bought the Crimson Glow rollerball for $40 and a Levenger nib/section for $20, so put the two together and I get a converted FP for $60 (still a great deal, imho).

:)

Well spotted ;)

#17 Maja

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Posted 02 March 2005 - 06:46

I wish!!!  I bought the Crimson Glow rollerball for $40 and a Levenger nib/section for $20, so put the two together and I get a converted FP for $60 (still a great deal, imho).

:)

Well spotted ;)

Cam, in my excitement for you, I mis-read the price (I edited my previous post :blush: ) My apologies....
In any case, you're going to wind up with a brand new pen (with a "lightly-used" gold nib) in a lovely red colour for $60 USD---a great deal--- so ENJOY! :D

Edited by Maja, 02 March 2005 - 06:47.

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#18 johnr55

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Posted 23 December 2006 - 14:05

I bought my first Balance II in fall '06, much later than this review. I've since purchased 4 more in different colors and nibs.

I've always had problems with writer's cramp, particularly with certain pens. The little curved section on this pen is superb for me; I can write half an hour or more without problems. I've also purchased three of the matching BP's. Unlike the reviewer, my beef is that the pens sit so high in my pocket compared to Parker, Pelikan, etc. Most of my suits have provision for braces, and they tend to catch on the pens.

These have turned into my daily staple writers because of their comfort. That they are also attractive without flash is an added benefit.

#19 Idiopathos

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 00:03

I'm sorry to say that my Balance II experience was not good. The nib was superb, but the rest of the pen was not.

The pressed metal clip was thin and looked cheap. The plastic section had a mold line. The cap and body were made of lightweight plastic that looked, and proved, insubstantial. The pen overall was poorly fitted and finished.

I bought it secondhand. It arrived with a radial crack in the barrel. The seller offered a full refund or a replacement barrel. I took the latter, which was supplied free and fast by Sheaffer. It arrived with a longitudinal split. Sheaffer apologised and replace both the barrel and cap, but in a different colour, because they no longer had stocks of the first. Their service was beyond reproach.

Within a week, the cap had a radial split. Sheaffer replaced the cap. I then sold what was a perfect Balance II, with new cap and barrel.

I hope the buyer had more luck than me.



#20 DrPJM1

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 01:31

Last month I dropped my Jade Green Balance II and Sheaffer at Fort Madison sent me a new barrel free of charge even after I told them it was my fault and offered to pay for it and for postage. Their service is beyond reproach.
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