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The Skyline


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#1 diplomat

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Posted 07 August 2009 - 11:56

EVERSHARP SKYLINE



Summer is a strange period of the year. You happen to do things in summer that you wouldn’t do during the rest of the year. This summer my pen love is the Skyline. Under impulse I purchased two specimen from ebay, one from UK and one from USA. They came at my door on the same day, then I spent some happy night on cleaning and (partially) restoring them, and now I am enjoying their nice presence at work. Here’s my review of this underrated pen.


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Company Background
The writing instruments division of Eversharp Inc. was sold to Parker more than 50 years ago (in 1957), so it is possible that someone today never heard about it.
The Wahl company was sort of a uniqueness in the early American pen market. While the major firms (Waterman, Parker, Sheaffer’s) were the brainchild of a single man and later developed under the same family, Wahl was a big corporation that wanted to enter in a new market to diversify its investment portfolio. Originally the Wahl Corp. was in the business for a Calculator, which they manufactured primarily as an add-on calculator for the Remington Typewriter Co.
When they decided to enter the writing instruments field, they proceeded in two steps:
  • 1915 Wahl start to produce the Eversharp Pencil in Chicago (It’s not clear if that kind of pencil was invented in Japan by Hayakawa Tokuji who later founded the Sharp Electronics company or in New York by Charles Keeran in 1913, but either way, there we go);
  • 1917 Wahl acquire the Boston Pen Company, that already had in production a good quality fountain pen made in ebonite marked by a clip wheel. The pens were marketed branded "Wahl";
The bottom line is that, using the financial power of a Corporation, Wahl in few years was put up to speed with its major competitors. From this point, during the following two decades the Wahl company created some of the classic fountain pens ever produced: Tempoint (1922), Personal Point (1927), Equipoised (1929) and Doric (1931). They made mistakes, too, like purchasing a company specialized in producing hard rubber when the market was about to launch the plastic (radite, permanite or whatever you want to call the celluloid) pens. In 1940, the Wahl company reorganized under the Eversharp name, which was better known in the marketplace because of the continued success of the Eversharp pencil line. To mark the new corporate direction the Skyline model was launched in 1941.

Skyline Background
The early forties were a period of innovations in the fountain pen industry: Parker just released the 51, Sheaffer’s was about to introduce the Triumph nib, new filling mechanisms were tested. Eversharp wanted something to mark the watershed with the previous production and called the famous Henry Dreyfuss (1904-1972, who designed the 20th Century Limited locomotive) to design a pen that had to be like no one else.

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The NYC 20th Century Limited locomotive designed by Dreyfuss


The pen was a success, eventually becoming, by 1945, the best selling pen in the USA. However in the same year Eversharp stopped advertising the Skyline in favor of other models such as the Fifth Avenue, but the "old" model was produced until 1948, when the Symphony was introduced.
Because of the success and the long production timeframe, the pen can be found in a broad variety of colors and finishes. The most common are: full solid color cap & barrel; Striped (only cap or cap & barrel); Presentation (gold filled cap); all metal (caps and barrels in gold-filled, sterling silver or vermeil); metal cap (stainless steel, sterling, vermeil or 14kt gold caps);
The Skyline came in three basic sizes: standard, short, and the oversize Executive (about 4 ¾ inches, 5 ¼ inches, and 5 ½ inches long, respectively). The last is quite rare, despite having been a regularly catalogued model. The caps on the two smaller models are threaded the same and can interchange. The earliest Skylines have a black visulated section and an ink drain, rather than the later breather tube. No major change can help in better dating a Skyline after this change.
Between 1992 and 1995 there was a series of reissued cartridge / converter Skylines. These included a chrome and gold plated cap model similar to the silver and gold radial engraved capped pens from the 1940s. It is unclear to me who actually produced these reissues.

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First Impressions
So, now, back to my two specimens. They are:
  • A dark blue solid color, purchased in ebay USA, that once belonged to a nun (her name is engraved on the pen "sr. m immaculata”);
  • A dark brown Presentation model, purchased from UK again on ebay;
Since I somehow decided to stick to Pelikans, Sheaffer’s and Auroras, it was a surprise for me to purchase these two pens. But I just couldn’t resist. The shape and overall design of the pen was singing “buy me, buy me”. I think it’s a shape you either love or hate. I mean, when you see a Parker 51 (capped), you see a pen, there is no message from the time in which it was designed, it’s a design that is still in use. But with a Skyline there is no doubt: it was made to top off an era of growth and trust in the future! No one else pen is like the Skyline.

Size & Appearance
Both models are the Standard size, around 5 ¼ long when capped. The pen looks like an arrow, with a big domed cap end and a pointy, thin end. The design of the cap is especially striking, with the round “derby” fasten by the two gold bands. I found this detail very distinctive and beautiful.
The barrel has a step on the middle of the barrel that is useful to preserve a clean line when the pen is capped and provide a nice place where the fingers can hold the instrument.

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When the Skyline was introduced, plastics technology was under a revolution as polystyrene plastics replaced celluloid. Polystyrene did not need to be machined and finished by hand and could be molded with even quality and uniformity.
But the Skyline, as an “early adopter”, proved to be prone to shrinkage, discoloration, and deterioration. I don’t see any of these problem on my pens, but possibly these dark colors are not original to them and are the results of a discoloration process.

Design & Features
The pens, especially the Presentation, have a good weight. I don’t post when writing but I guess that even the “posters” here will find the weight of the cap too much for posting. The pen results unbalance towards the end (only for the Presentation model). However posting is easy nevertheless the strange shape. The cap sits down and securely firm in the barrel, completely covering the lever (that may result in some damage if done inaccurately, I guess…)

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The clip is attached on the back of the derby and runs all around the cap top, creating a nice spring movement. Also, because of this design, it is possible to push the pen in the pocket quite down. No surprise it was designed in a wartime period!
The clip sports the name Eversharp written in vertical and the famous double check, which was the “quality” sign of the company, just as the white dot still is for Sheaffer’s. Around the ring that divide the cap from the derby there is the following engraving: “Eversharp Skyline Pat. Made in USA”

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Filling Mechanism
Compared to the advanced design, the mechanic is quite conservative. Along with Waterman, Eversharp was the only from the big four having a lever filler on the top pens.
Lever filler is synonymous with reliable, but that was not the case. Out of the two pens I got from ebay one had a broken inner lever, and the other broke the section mouth when I attempted to remove a stuck sac. Too bad. Now I have adjusted the broken section, but I had to live with a “pump filler” for the other one. Here is a picture of the broken lever. Next is the section while is drying shellac with a new sac.

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Nib & Performance
Unfortunately there are no sign to mark the nib size on either of my pens. Looking at the point I’d say these are two fine points, but once inked (I inked only one so far, since the broken section is still under reconstruction…) it proved to be a smooth and wet nib, and the line is more a medium than a fine. I’ll post some writing sample later on. There is some flexy feeling too. A very nice writer.
I’ve inked the Presentation pen (the one that now is a pump filler) with Pelikan Royal Blue. The flow results even and abundant, possibly thanks to the 1cm long breather tube that was introduced after two year to improve the ink flow.

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Cost & Value
Originally the pens sold in a wide price range, from low-cost all-plastic pens to all solid 14 karat gold models: pens from US $3.50 to $125.00, pencils from US $1.50 to $75.00, and complete sets from US $5.00 to $200.00.

Well, today one of the nicer things about the Skylines is that they are not so popular. I got them for 14,38$ (the blue one) and 25£ (the Presentation) which nowadays can be considered fair prices. You won’t find the same prices for Snorkels or 51s these days...
In addition they are quite easy to repair and they promise a long serving life.

Summary
All in all that’s a great pen. Striking design, reliable mechanics (despite my experience, but I have several Sheaffer’s from the 20s/30s that works like a charm), nice writers, good value for the money. There are a lot of ingredients to make the Skyline one pen to look at when purchasing vintage.

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Thank you for reading and regards,

Andrea


References

Some reference material in case you want to read more:
Eversharp pencil
  • http://www.vintagepens.com/Eversharp_history.htm
  • http://www.pendemonium.com/pens_eversharp.htm
Wahl history
  • http://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=49834
  • http://www.fountainpen.it/Wahl_Eversharp/en
Skyline
  • http://www.penhero.com/PenGallery/Eversharp/EversharpSkyline.htm

Edited by theUser, 05 December 2009 - 17:43.


#2 Akumar

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Posted 07 August 2009 - 12:09

I do not like the barrel narrowing done to a small point and the clip design. That is what I do not like in Phileas also and so never bought one.
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#3 I am not a number

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Posted 07 August 2009 - 12:29

I've been a fan of the Skyline since I bought one about a year ago, its striking design and performance make it stand out from the vintage crowd and I am delighted to be an owner. Thanks for an excellent review of this classic and the great photographs.
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#4 rhosygell

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Posted 07 August 2009 - 13:17

I find the Skyline to be a seriously underrated pen. The nib is superb, the styling likewise even though its love it or hate it in appearance. In comparison with vintage Watermans, Sheaffers, Conways, Radiuses and modern Auroras it comes out well. It is every inch their equal and often superior and is the one I invariably pick up first.
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#5 CRB

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Posted 07 August 2009 - 14:06

Thank you for a very interesting review. I appreciate your drawing our attention to the design similarities with the 20th Century locomotive engine; that's an icon I've long admired.

I hope to see some Skylines up close someday.

Cheers,
Joe

#6 Silvermink

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Posted 07 August 2009 - 17:57

Thanks for the review - you finally inspired me to put the Skyline on my must-have list. I think I'll try to hunt down an Executive or Modern Stripe at some point.
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#7 Glenn-SC

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 01:00

I have my Grandfather's dark blue Skyline.

I was just using it and emptied it yesterday.

They are wonderful writing pens and very interesting and fun shapes.

#8 PAKMAN

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 01:26

The Art Deco styling really sets these pens apart. I have one with the burgundy striped cap. It is a great writer.

#9 bphollin

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 01:31

Wow diplo, you've really outdone yourself this time. This is the kind of review that is the stuff of FPN legend... History lesson, great photography, balanced review, fun story of a summer pen tryst. Thanks so much for sharing this with us! :clap1:

#10 bluefish65

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 01:46

Thank you for a great & very informative review! A Skyline is going to be my next purchase.

#11 Fernan

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 01:56

I got mine back from restoration yesterday. Been writing with it all day. Looks almost the same as the one with the gold cap. Flex nib, wet writer.

Love it.

Love the way it writes, love how it feels in my hand, love the style -- it has style -- thoroughly modern, a classic style. All I need is to look classic myself, to fit with the pen... Time for a Panama hat, sandals, ...

#12 ToasterPastry

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 02:01

I have 3 Skylines. Great pens. Never disappointed. Your review is fantastic. May I suggest...

1. This pen is legendary for fragile plastic. When replacing the feed onto the body, the body has been known to break.
2. Wahl is spelled W-A-H-L.
3. Writing samples please.


I'll post some of my Skylines with writing samples as well.
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#13 DRP

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 04:03

Interesting and informative review!

#14 tres

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 05:05

That is a great review, very interesting and informative. Thank you!

#15 pmorin

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 05:29

Thank you for a fabulous review. I just picked one up recently because I love the deco look of the pen. Dark brown, the slightly smaller model, looks to be a fine nib - water dipped and it's one of the smoothest nibs I've used. I can't wait to ink it up and move it into rotation. I'll be keeping an eye out for more of them.
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#16 lovemy51

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 06:56

beauuuuuutiful review!!! makes me wanna buy another one.
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#17 diplomat

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 06:57

2. Wahl is spelled W-A-H-L.


Pew! Just in time before the edit window expires! Thank you very much for the message.

And thank you all for your kind comments. I'll try to post some writing sample later in the day.

Cheers,

#18 pen2paper

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 18:13

excellent review Diplomat!
Love the Deco look of the Skyline..
as TP noted, have read about fragile plastics.. I'm still too new at the finer points of discerning what is what on vintage pens..(recently was schooled in what to look for in One type of vintage Conklin-Thanks:)
But hope to find a Skyline in good condtion-someday..

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#19 FrankB

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 20:18

Excellent review. Thank you.

I have been using FP's for over 50 years, but somehow I never got around to getting a Skyline. I guess I was put off by the barrel narrowing to a taper. I finally got one about three years ago, and I am convinced I missed out on many years of good writing. I have acquired three more. The Skyline is indeed an underrated pen. Whatever faults the plastic body might have, the nibs on my pens are wonderful. (All of my Skylines are in great shape with no cracks or scratches.) And I am quite taken by the Art Deco styling. I think these pens are worthy of consideration by anyone interested in good vintage pens.

#20 Robert Hughes

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 20:31

I've got a few Skylines and love them all. With my pens, the ink feed is a bit more finicky than other pens of the same generation; a couple pens run nice and smooth, whereas one tends to run too dry. Someday perhaps I'll send it out for more expert service, but I still use them.
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#21 diplomat

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 21:05

Here's the promised writing sample. Sorry for the bad quality of my writing.
The piece of the poem is to celebrate Carol Ann Duffy, the new laureate poet of UK.

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#22 Glenn-SC

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 21:17

Yeah!
I think Skylines are some of the best looking pens too!

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#23 pen2paper

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Posted 08 August 2009 - 22:25

great character to your handwriting!
my own is very Palmer boring..
btw, what were the Skyline dates..wondering is the Deco-look was on target or after?
thanks for the color examples Glen..
edit for spel beofre click.
read review again, see the dates.. thanks.

Edited by pen2paper, 09 August 2009 - 14:18.


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#24 michael_s

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Posted 09 August 2009 - 00:23

The Skyline came in three basic sizes: standard, short, and the oversize Executive (about 4 ¾ inches, 5 ¼ inches, and 5 ½ inches long, respectively).


Nice review and photos. One small correction may be needed in the ordering of the sizes you listed above.

-Mike

#25 Ray-Vigo

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Posted 09 August 2009 - 05:45

This is very timely for me-- I recently picked up a Skyline set at the DC show just today. I'm in the process of restoring it this very weekend. This is a good review with even better photography. Nicely done.

#26 diplomat

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Posted 09 August 2009 - 07:34

btw, what were the Skyline dates..wondering is the Deco-look was on target or after?


The Skyline was produced between 1941 and 1948, the 1945 being its blockbuster year.

The Skyline came in three basic sizes: standard, short, and the oversize Executive (about 4 ¾ inches, 5 ¼ inches, and 5 ½ inches long, respectively).


Nice review and photos. One small correction may be needed in the ordering of the sizes you listed above.

-Mike


Thank you for your feedback, you are right. Unfortunately now it's not possible to edit the post anymore... :(

Ciao,

#27 Rena

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Posted 09 August 2009 - 13:58

This is one of the best fountain pen reviews I've read! Excellent!

I enjoy my two Skylines very much, and while I like everything about the writing quality and the styling of the Skyline, it is one of the few pens that I must post cap to barrel for comfort in writing.

Thank you for this thoughtful review, Diplomat.

#28 greencobra

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Posted 09 August 2009 - 14:01

Wow diplo, you've really outdone yourself this time. This is the kind of review that is the stuff of FPN legend... History lesson, great photography, balanced review, fun story of a summer pen tryst. Thanks so much for sharing this with us! :clap1:

For sure, I was thinking exactly the same thing. I enjoy this section, the reviews here at FPN, so much and this is why. Nice job. You said a lot without running on. The photos were excellent, all markings crisp and clear, nice.

I don't usually read about vintage pens but this review made me stop and take a look.
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#29 dandelion

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Posted 09 August 2009 - 14:12

Mille grazie for an outstanding review of a beautiful vintage pen. I like the title of the review!
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#30 enricof

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Posted 09 August 2009 - 14:42

Great work, Diplo.

Ciao - Enrico
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