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Supersize My Nib! Redux - Thirty Pens In Thirty Days


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#1 soapytwist

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Posted 13 October 2010 - 23:04


A PLEA: DO NOT POST ANY COMMENTS ON THIS THREAD!
There is a separate 'Comments' thread HERE


After having deleted my photos accidentally, I'm attempting to re-piece together the reviews in one place. My original review thread is locked so I've started this new one and will upload ten days at a time for the next three days.


Days 1-10
I have far too many pens to be healthy and yesterday discovered that I'd schlepped five pens into work to serve varying functions during the day. Which led me into thinking how fulfilling it would be to use only one pen per day for the next thirty days.

So I've decided to do just that. The 'reviews' as such will be 24hrs in the life of the pen with a picture or two - so from getting it going (if it isn't going already), what it got used for, whether it has any strengths/weaknesses, and whether I want to put it down in the evening or not. I haven't got an exhaustive collection, but I'm only missing something Italian and pre-war US (although I have a Swan eyedropper I could fix up along the way) - as you can tell, I haven't even chosen which pens yet! The idea is to galvanise me into keeping pens which I would use daily - I have to say I'm really excited at the thought of choosing and using - I'd recommend everyone with a collection too large to cope with to do it!

For the moment, here is a photo of the shortlist:

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I'll be shoving the final choices into a hessian bag, jumbling them up and pulling out the first pen tonight.*

*Obviously the pens will be written on pieces of paper.

Update: first choice made - Day #1 will be the Pilot Custom Regal, kindly IDed by Ron Dutcher.


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Day One

Make: Pilot
Model: Custom Regal
Date: 1980/90s?
Nib: 14k-fine-open
Size: 135(L) x 12(W) mm
Ink: Noodlers Eel Blue
Cost: approx. £11 (eBay)


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This was a little bit disappointing when it came out of the hat, as I've been using this one on-and-off for the last week!
My first confession on this journey is that I'm not a fan of fine nibs; they tend to accentuate the worst parts of my handwriting and usually feel scratchy.
That said, I've spent the day trying to like this pen. It's great for annotating reports and I really like the size (think 'Sheaffer Targa'), heft (quite light) and looks. I'm particularly surprised at how 'expensive' the plastic feels, but I think I would really need a Pilot broad to feel truly comfortable with it. By the way, I think the nib looks superb: a nice shape and the info stamped on it in a functional way like an aircraft part. Not fancy, but purposeful.


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An okay start, but I'll be happy to get onto the next pen; off to the bag to draw the next one!


...which is: a Cross Century I! See you tomorrow...


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Day Two


Make: Cross
Model: Century I 10k rolled gold (made in Ireland)
Year: 1980s
Nib: 14kt-medium-open
Size: 134(L) x 100(W) mm
Ink: Noodlers Eel Blue
Cost: approx. £20 (£75 in the April 1987 Pricelist)


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I had a chrome Century biro that I bought at Harrods sale in about 1985 (£9!), and I got a catalogue at the same time. I'd always hankered after the fountain pen and so eventually bought this about eight years ago along with a matching biro.

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I like the size of this pen; it is weighted best when the cap is posted and it is pleasing to the eye. I have trouble accepting newer fatter Cross pens as I had been so used to them making this slender, un-bloated, classic-looking shape.
The section is good to hold for a slim pen and the nib is a smooth but stiff medium. The only downside of this pen is that the nib lays down lots of ink on the page which makes it difficult to use at work (I need things to dry more quickly there!). You can tell by how dark the Eel Blue looks in the review, compared shading in the Pilot review.


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The finish is also good. My chrome biro shows brassing, whereas the 10k plated ones still look good (usage scratches aside). If you are after an elegant, slender pen with retro class, choose an original Century. If I got rid of this one, it would only be because I had a Sterling silver one on the way!

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Now a small confession. since about 10am this morning, I've had a vintage Montblanc Meisterstück 142 sitting on my desk and taunting me. Up until this evening I've resisted it to give the Cross a fair crack of the whip.
It wasn't one of the original thirty, but I'm going to play my joker and review it tomorrow and let you know what got bumped to make way for it!

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Day Three


Make: Montblanc
Model: Meisterstück 142-G
Date: 1950s
Nib: 14kt-medium-open
Size: 127(L) x 110(W) mm
Ink: Quink Black
Cost: £86.52 (eBay)


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This one came through the post yesterday, so I felt I had to review it. It's (I think) the smallest Meisterstück MB made, although the girth is thicker than the modern 144 (see pics). The pens itself writes okay - the nib needs a little smoothing (which I didn't have time to do today!), but there is a nice variation in line thickness to be had from it. The grip is comfortable, and the pen is comfy in the hand.

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The looks are obviously classic MB. In terms of build quality there are the usual blemishes (loose cap ring, slight crack on the cap lip, yellowing cap star) but one thing I was surprised about was the feel of the celluloid. I have English-made Parker AF Duofolds that feel more expensive than this. Maybe it just needs a good polish (as yet I have only filled it & written with it), or maybe the modern resin truly IS 'precious'.

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It's nice to have a vintage piston filler in this size and shape. The modern 146 is as big as my hand can cope with and this is much more usable for everyday writing. It also feels much more unobtrusive than modern MBs; in conclusion it's an enjoyable addition to my collection.

And for tomorrow: the Parker Duofold Centennial


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Day Four

Make: Parker
Model: Duofold Centennial
Date: 1989 3rd Quarter (date code 'IN')
Size: 135(L) x 15(W) mm
Ink: Noodlers Eel Blue
Cost: £40 (£165 in 1990)


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This is a big meaty pen! I hankered after it when I worked for Parker as a student in the early nineties. When I finally got one (at the right price!) at the beginning of this year, I was truly impressed with how it feels.

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This is a BIG pen (see pics for a comparison with a MB 146). Everything from the nib, to the grip, the cap, and even the barrel threads is substantial. Despite the size, it feels easy to use with or without the cap posted, and although the nib feels a long way from the grip, you do still feel in control of your writing.

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I have to say I really love using this pen, but a word of warning. Until yesterday it was filled with Quink Black and has written beautifully. The stickier Eel Blue seems not to flow so well on the downstroke.
In conclusion, I normally have problems with large pens being unwieldy, but not this one. It has become a 'go-to' pen during the time that I have owned it.

Edited: forgot to say that tomorrow is the Lamy cp1.

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Day Five

Make: Lamy
Model: CP1
Date: 1980s/1990s
Size: 133(L) x 8(W) mm
Nib: 14kt-medium-open
Ink: Lamy Black (cartridge)
Cost: £6.50 (eBay)


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I have quite a few Lamy pens; I admire their timeless but modern designs and the CP1 is no exception. How many other objects designed in the early seventies still look this good today?

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The CP1 is a thin pen in its usual guise, but this pen is even thinner (see pics - the one I'm reviewing is in the middle): so thin it won't take a Lamy converter. This one is the forerunner of the platinum-plated version - the body and cap are in Sterling silver and the nib is platinum-plated 14kt gold.

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The grip is comfortable for a thin pen, and it isn't as tiring on the hand as some can be. The only downside is that the cap is heavier than the original CP1 and when posted it makes the pen a little top-heavy and unwieldy. The nib is great; all you get from the Safari-type steel nib with a bit of extra flex.

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As with most Lamy designs, the look is subdued but purposeful, classic and classy. One of my favourites this one!!

Next instalment: the Waterman Concord


"Truth can never be told, so as to be understood, and not be believ'd." (Wiiliam Blake)

Visit my review: Thirty Pens in Thirty Days

#2 soapytwist

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Posted 13 October 2010 - 23:09

Day Six

Make: Waterman
Model: Concord
Date: early 1970s
Size: 136(L) x 11(W) mm
Nib: 18kt-broad-semi-hooded
Ink: Waterman Florida Blue (converter)
Cost: £20 (eBay)


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I saw this on eBay as an "18kt nib Waterman pen" and thought that with a nib like that it must be fairly good even if I didn't recognise it. Fortunately it was identified by a fellow FPNer and the beautifully reviewed by MYU .
Mine is the plastic-barrelled version and so I'm guessing it is lighter in the hand than the metal-bodied pens. Capped, the pen is reminiscent of Montblanc's seventies designs (I've put it next to a MB Classic for comparison).


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But the remarkable design features are the chamfered sides on the cap, the round-to-hexagonal cross-section on the barrel, and the half-hexagonal, half-round grip. These make the pen and unusual object to hold, and I'm still not sure whether it works or not.

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No such worries about the nib though. This is a beautiful writer, nicely poised between being a wet writer and a quick dryer. The only other thing to mention is the clip which, while it works perfectly well, looks a little cheaper than the rest of the pen.

For tomorrow: the Swan Leverless


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Day Seven

Make: Mabie Todd
Model: Swan Leverless 1401
Date: mid-late 1930s
Size: 130(L) x 13(W) mm
Nib: 14kt-medium-open (flex)
Ink: Waterman Florida Blue (pen not properly flushed!)
Cost: approx. £15 (eBay)


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The poor man that had to sell this to me had just spent more money having it serviced than I paid him for it!
It is a truly sumptuous pen, made superbly by a firm proud enough to stamp all the removable parts (section, feed, nib, cap and barrel) with their name.


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The plastic is incredibly beautiful; I have a lizard version as well, but prefer this one for looks. The large no. 4 nib adds to the sense of expensiveness.

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The filling system is clever; the filler knob is turned and a bar is rolled across the sac. It isn't the most efficient of fillers but it is relatively clean and simple. As an example it ran out of ink while writing the review which means it has lasted less than a day!

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Ps. Notice the safety cap instructions - how many of us would do that these days?!!

Tomorrow: Caran d'Ache Ecridor Retro


"Truth can never be told, so as to be understood, and not be believ'd." (Wiiliam Blake)

Visit my review: Thirty Pens in Thirty Days

#3 soapytwist

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Posted 13 October 2010 - 23:10

Day Eight

Well, it was supposed to be the Caran d'Ache but I've either left it on my desk at work, or (more likely), it's fallen out of my bag while running up the escalators at the tube station. Oh well - in the meantime I'll do this one, which I wasn't planning to take to work anyway.

Make: Del La Rue
Model: Onoto
Date: 1921
Size: 147(L) x 10(W) mm
Nib: 14kt-medium-open
Ink: Noodler's Eel Blue
Cost: zero, zilch, null, nada


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I found this pen (minus its nib) in my father's box of scrap silver (he used to be a jeweller) when I was about 15 years old. this was just as i was getting into fountain pens, so I kept it. After I identified it in 'Fountain Pens Vintage & Modern', I found a nib for it and had it serviced by Jim Marshall of the Pen & Pencil Gallery.

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I think that Onotos have to be my favourite British pens: they have great looks, an ingenious filling system, they are well-made and fun to repair! They also have lovely nibs and the earlier pens have manual flow control, which doubles as a safety mechanism. The filler knob shuts off the ink supply when screwed down and so to write you must open the valve with a half-turn.
In other respects the pen is very comfortable even though it is thin: the grip is excellent, and the pen is balanced and light whether the cap is on or not.


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The nib is medium but writes very fine for a medium. It lays down quite a lot of ink (some parts still hadn't dried when I had finished writing). This is the Sterling silver model but BHR ones are always available on eBay and they nearly always have the potential to be wonderful writers.

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So tomorrow: either the Caran d'Ache (if found) or the Cross Metropolitan

EDIT: Caran d'Ache was on my desk this morning (phew!) so that will be done later on, with the Metropolitan on Saturday.


"Truth can never be told, so as to be understood, and not be believ'd." (Wiiliam Blake)

Visit my review: Thirty Pens in Thirty Days

#4 soapytwist

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Posted 13 October 2010 - 23:12

Day Nine
Make: Caran d'Ache
Model: Ecridor Retro
Date: Early 2000s
Size: 135(L) x 10(W) mm
Nib: rhodium plated steel-medium-open
Ink: Parker Quink Black(converter)
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[size="2"][size=2]I have been a fan of Caran d'Ache biros and pencils for a long time (the Goliath ballpen refill is the best available in my humble opinion), co when C d'A decided to make a fountain pen to match their Ecridor series I had to have one.

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[/size][/size][size="3"][size=2][size="2"][size=2]This is one of the few pens I've bought new, and it is the most annoying 'almost' pen I own. The good bits first: it's a beautiful writer. The pen is quite heavy (brass with silver plating and a rhodium coating on top) and the nib is the best steel nib I've used. The rhodium stops it tarnishing so it always looks good. When capped and lying on the table...[/size][/size][/size][/size][size="3"][size=2] [/size][/size]
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[size="3"][size=2][size="2"][size=2]But this is where it becomes an 'almost' pen. The cap is also heavy - too heavy to post on the pen without unbalancing it. Also, it should post with ease onto the end of the pen but it doesn't, even though it was designed to do so (see pic below). and even if it did so properly it would still scratch the end of the pen. The barrel and cap have hexagonal profiles but only line up manually - a pen this price should do this without me having to fiddle![/size][/size][/size][/size]
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[size="3"][size=2][size="2"][size=2]Retro is in the name and indeed it does look like an old-fashioned pen, but then some bozo has put a big modern-looking logo on the cap when the stamp on the clip would have sufficed (I notice this has been addressed on recent versions). [/size][/size][/size][/size]

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Image[/size][/size][/size][/size][/size][/size]
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[size="3"][size=2][color="#1C2837"][size="2"][size=2][size="2"][size=2]This pen could have been so good - why didn't they consult me!!!!

Tomorrow: the Cross Metropolitan[/size][/size][/size][/size]
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"Truth can never be told, so as to be understood, and not be believ'd." (Wiiliam Blake)

Visit my review: Thirty Pens in Thirty Days

#5 soapytwist

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Posted 13 October 2010 - 23:15


Day Ten

Make: Cross
Model: Metropolis
Date: late 1990s
Size: 139(L) x 10(W) mm
Nib: gold plated-BROAD-open (mis-read the letter on the nib when I wrote my review!)
Ink: Quink Black (converter)
Cost: £22.99 (eBay)


Posted Image

This is another pen that I'm undecided about. The writing side is fine, but the design and looks of this pen are very 'hit-and-miss'.

As it comes out of the box the pen is not great in places. The cap and barrel have a good art deco feel and the clip has enough similarities with the Century's clip to make you think 'Cross'.


Posted Image

Unfortunately at the other end is what feels like a prototype end; it is designed to take the cap firmly (which it does well) but it looks unfinished if the cap isn't covering it. All of the other metal parts (Cap lip, barrel edges) have unfinished sharp edges to them, and the barrel itself has a 'cheaply-pressed' feel to the fluting.

Posted Image

The cap feels a bit lightweight but this means that it posts without unbalancing the pen. Once the cap is posted the pen starts to look a little better. In fact at this point I should have been sold on it. The section is a little short but this should have presented no problem, but my forefinger rests on the aforementioned unfinished barrel end and after a couple of sentences it begins to hurt!

Posted Image

The nib is very smooth, but the plating on it is questionable; my nib has a nick taken out of, possibly from being dissolved by ink - I have seen another on FPN with far worse deterioration. I also think a silver-coloured nib would have fitted the look better. It's an interesting pen, but set against a chrome Century, you kind of wonder why they bothered.

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[size="2"][size=2]Posted Image


[size="2"][size=2]Up next: the Pilot Sporty 15!
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"Truth can never be told, so as to be understood, and not be believ'd." (Wiiliam Blake)

Visit my review: Thirty Pens in Thirty Days

#6 RUGMAN

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Posted 13 October 2010 - 23:36

Oy Vey, what a dilemma you have! This is one reason I trimmed my pens down to 8.
I also collect pocket and straight custom knives and I recently sent out 6 for sale.
Sometimes, for me, it seems that the "gotta have" is ruinous to my wallet. Don't
get me wrong, I don't condemn anyone their passion for their hobby whatever they collect.
30 years ago it was 35mm cameras and some smaller view cameras. Recently last year it was wrist watches.
Gave this up too and now have two watches, one a MKII Seafighter and a manual winding Paneri Radiomir homage.
It has an Asian Unitas clone that keeps very decent time...Satisfied, yes!
So what happens when you finally get the GRAIL pen, push on to the next grail pen? When does it stop?


Happy collecting!
LEEPosted Image




Lee Rappeport

#7 soapytwist

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Posted 14 October 2010 - 05:19

So rugman; which part of that first sentence IN CAPITAL LETTERS did you not understand?!
"Truth can never be told, so as to be understood, and not be believ'd." (Wiiliam Blake)

Visit my review: Thirty Pens in Thirty Days

#8 IWantThat

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 01:15

So rugman; which part of that first sentence IN CAPITAL LETTERS did you not understand?!


Don't want to be argumentative, but this is a forum, characterized by interaction and commentary. If there's no conversation, what's the point of posting?
Tamara

#9 soapytwist

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 07:06

It is IWantThat, it is...

...but forums are also about reading, and if you'd read the second sentence of the first post you'd have realised that there IS a place to interact and comment about these reviews.

**sighs heavily**
"Truth can never be told, so as to be understood, and not be believ'd." (Wiiliam Blake)

Visit my review: Thirty Pens in Thirty Days

#10 IWantThat

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 13:51

Deleted... (sighing heavily)

Edited by IWantThat, 15 October 2010 - 14:03.

Tamara

#11 soapytwist

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 20:28

Okay, let's crack on...

Day Eleven

Make: Pilot
Model: Sporty 15
Date: 1960s?
Size: 130(L) x 11(W) mm
Nib: 14kt gold-fine-hooded
Ink: Quink Black (converter)
Cost: $15 (eBay)


Posted Image

This pen piqued my interest because of its design. I don't think it qualifies as a 'short pen' although the barrel is short compared to other pens. The main feature is the long cap which has a button-actuated clip on it. A spear-like 14kt nib finishes the look off.

Posted Image

The design works quite well, moving the clip away from the cap so that it can be attached to thick materials without damaging the clip or clothing. It also means the pen is very secure once the button is released.

Posted Image

The pen is light and comfortable, and although the nib isn't to my taste it writes satisfactorily. The colour scheme gives the pen a wonderful retro look, and the nib has a very purposeful look to it. The only fault I can find is that the button housing has come slightly loose at the top of the cap. This may be because of the pen's advancing years though. I haven't had the nerve to disassemble it yet.

Posted Image

One more thing to note: the pen takes now-unavailable 'double-spare' cartridges. I have modified a converter using an empty cartridge supplied by fellow FPNer Merzig. If you find a pen with empty double-spare cartridges - KEEP THEM! They are useful to someone!

Ps. The pen was IDed HERE by Ron Dutcher - there are some more photos plus an advert scan on the thread.


Coming up: the Esterbrook Relief No. 1

"Truth can never be told, so as to be understood, and not be believ'd." (Wiiliam Blake)

Visit my review: Thirty Pens in Thirty Days

#12 soapytwist

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 20:33

Day Twelve

Make: Esterbrook
Model: Relief No. 1
Date: early 1930s
Size: 131(L) x 13(W) mm
Nib: 14kt gold-oblique medium-open
Ink: Noodler's Walnut
Cost: a present from my wife


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In twelve years my wife has only ever bought me two fountain pens, and coincidentally that have both been Esterbrooks. This isn't your run-of-the-mill Estie though. It was made in England for them by Conway Stewart and so has more in common with CS pens from that era.

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The pen is good solid BCHR with nice chasing and a good deep barrel imprint.

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The clip and lever are nickel plated; the cap is finished off with a red ring above the clip which makes it look a little like a Rotring. It (the ring) is made of casein and has shrunk over the years, giving the impression that the pen is less well-made as it now looks ill-fitting.

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But the best part of this pen is the classic pre-war CS gold nib which wrote perfectly 'out-of-the-box'. It really is a writer's pen - all of the expense has gone into the 'business' end, and because it doesn't look particularly flashy, it is one of only a few vintage pens I have that I would feel comfortable using every day.

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Tomorrow: Lamy 2000
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#13 soapytwist

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 20:38

Day Thirteen

Make: Lamy
Model: 2000
Date: mid 1990s
Size: 138(L) x 13(W) mm
Nib: 14kt platinum-plated gold-medium (!)-hooded
Ink: Noodler's Eel Blue
Cost: Approx. £40 new (DM180 in the 1997 German pricelist)


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Until I joined FPN at the beginning of this year, the L2K was one of my go-to pens. Then I discovered it all over the forums like a rash; it seems to be the stock answer to every 'what pen should I get' question. So I started using everything BUT this pen (peer pressure has an inverse effect on me!).

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Coming back to it after six months after six months of reading good things about it, I view it a little differently. I won't go over all the other plus points mentioned elsewhere in the review section, but here are some observations: 1. If you grip close to the nib, the metal part can get very slippery, especially as it tapers. 2. The 'ears' can be annoying, but they can also be a useful gripping point. 3. The cap posts nicely but becomes very easily 'unstuck' when writing. 4. If you consider taking it apart to clean, it will never feel quite the same afterwards (finding out how to do this was the reason I joined FPN!) 5. The ballpen and pencil are also great and look good as a set.

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Tomorrow: Tropen Gold!
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#14 soapytwist

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 20:42

Day Fourteen

Make: Tropen
Model: 200 Gold
Date: late 1950s
Size: 125(L) x 10(W) mm
Nib: 14kt gold-fine-open
Ink: Noodler's Eel Blue
Cost: DM10 (approx. £4)


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Tropen aren't particularly well known outside of Germany but they were one of the major German pen manufacturers of the post war era. Their main business is injection moulding and they still make pen parts for other manufacturers, but they were making injection moulded pens in the 1950s.

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This pen is solid German fare; black with gold bits, a semi-flex nib and a piston filler. The most direct comparison I can make is with a modern Pelikan M250.

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For a pen made in the 1950s, it feels incredibly modern and quite light, almost insubstantial. It's very comfortable to write with either cap on or off and is just solidly dependable. But despite the pen's staid feel it does have a bit of a blingy cap wit the sunburst motif on the cap end and the feathered clip. It's a very nice instrument, and a reminder that there is more to well-made German pens than big-beaked birds and white stars...

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Tomorrow: the Conway Stewart 58
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#15 soapytwist

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 20:47

Day Fifteen

Make: Conway Stewart
Model: 58
Date: 1950s
Size: 129(L) x 14(W) mm
Nib: 14Kt gold-oblique broad-open
Ink: Waterman Florida Blue
Cost: £10


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I bought this from a man at an auction; he;d bought a desk that it was in and by buying the pen I halved what the desk cost him - he was happy, I was happy!

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I've seen a few vintage Conways over the years and they are a make that can veer between very good condition and very poor indeed (water damage being the usual culprit!). This pen is probably the best condition one I've seen and it's gorgeous. It has good heft, it feels luxurious without being super flash, solid but extrovert

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The nib is a delight, delivering good line variation and a very smooth writing experience.

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When you wonder why people wax lyrical about certain vintage pens, it isn't nostalgia talking but that their design and function hasn't been bettered in fifty years, plus that certain 'other' quality that the modern homage pens can only approach.

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Up next: Parker Vacumatic
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#16 soapytwist

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 20:51

Day Sixteen

Make: Parker
Model: Vacumatic Slender Lockdown
Date: 1938, 3rd quarter
Size: 118(L) x 12(W) mm
Nib: 14kt gold-fine-open
Ink: Waterman Florida Blue
Cost: approx. £20


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I decided on this one because it's the nicest looking of my Vacumatics. I'm not sure if the nib is correct or not as this is a Canadian-made pen with an English nib. I have other similar combinations, although this nib has no arrow so I think it's a replacement.

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(pictured with an Oversize for comparison)

Upfront, I'm not a big Vacumatic fan. I find the filling system to be tricky to fill properly (lockdown while the pen is still over the ink, a blind cap that can be lost), and replacing the diaphragm is not for the faint-hearted (but fulfilling when completing a pen for the first time).

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Having said that, once filled they are lovely to write with and look both modern and vintage at the same time. They are also eyecatching when they catch a bit of sunlight and tend to get people asking about them in a way that other pens don't - they are very unlike Parkers of the immediate post-war period.


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This one is a nice pen to take out occasionally but I don't think I would go back to it every day.

Tomorrow: Pelikan M250

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#17 soapytwist

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 20:58

Day Seventeen

Make: Pelikan
Model: M250 (old style)
Date: 1989
Size: 126(L) x 18(W) mm
Nib: 14kt gold-medium-open
Ink: Quink Black
Cost: £9 (new!)


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This was one of the first pens I bought when I began collecting pens. A jeweller's shop was closing down and it was offered as half price (EDIT: actually it was 75% off judging by the price list) but they gave me a 250 instead of the 200 that they should have (I only discovered this afterwards when I went to purchase the matching biro and pencil).

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It has been a mainstay pen for twenty years (through college, work and long-distance relationship maintenance). It's no-nonsense, classic-looking, and an expressive writer. It has never not written, always filled perfectly, and nothing has ever broken, come loose or fallen off. The only battlescars are brassing on the cap rings and clip, posting marks, and marks on the barrel where the cap has been screwed on so many times.

In fact it is so much one of my favourites that I didn't get another Pelikan until this year. I now have a 100N and a 120 and it's obvious that the 2xx range was the direct successor to the 120/140.


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The older pen is almost exactly the same in feel; only the looks have changed. I am constantly wondering whether I could buy a 'better' Pelikan, when the truth is it probably won't match how this one works for me.

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The next review is the Montblanc Titano.
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#18 soapytwist

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 21:03

Day Eighteen

Make: Montblanc
Model: Titano
Date: 1987
Size: 138(L) x 10(W) mm
Nib: 14kt gold-medium-open
Ink: Montblanc Turquoise
Cost: EUR38 (£89 when new)


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My father worked in a jeweller's shop in the eighties which stocked MB and bought himself a Titano biro. I fell in love with broad MB ballpoint refills at this time and promptly bought myself a SlimLine set (FP, BP & MP). I always hankered after the fountain version of my Dad's biro though, and it took me until earlier this year to find one.

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The look is of an upmarket SL (although not quite as flash as the Nobelesse). The barrel and cap are of extremely glossy lacquered metal, while the section is in matt ribbed titanium. A classic MB wing nib completes the look.

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For me, I find the combination of slimness, plus the slightly slippery section make it difficult to hold comfortably; the gold ridge between the barrel and section adds to the discomfort. I'm not sure whether this was the reason it was discontinued very soon after release. MB also repositioned itself upmarket at this time and there was no room for a middle-tier pen like this one.

A nice pen, but one that doesn't suit my hand, and consequently I don't use it as much as I had expected I would.

Incidentally, the ink is from 1989!


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Tomorrow, in as a late substitute: Sheaffer Imperial II
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#19 soapytwist

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 21:08

Day Nineteen

Make: Sheaffer
Model: Imperial II Touchdown
Date: early 1960s
Size: 133(L) x 13(W) mm
Nib: Palladium Silver (PdAg)-fine-open conical
Ink: Quink Black
Cost: £5


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I was aware when I began these reviews that I didn't possess a Sheaffer worth reviewing. I used to have an Imperial IV and a Sentinel Triumph Tuckaway set but these have long since left the collection. Then my father visited on Saturday with a bag of pens from a house clearance, of which only two, a safety pen and the Sheaffer were worth keeping. I gave him a tenner for the two.

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I think my problem with Sheaffers is twofold: first, I've never chanced upon a cheap Balance or Lifetime to turn my head and secondly, I find their post-war designs to be a little bit nondescript. This pen is a good case in point. The feel of the pen is good, but no attention has been drawn to the nib and the cap is marginally more interesting than a Skripsert cap. They make very good everyday writers because they don't look worth anything!!

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The nib is extremely stiff and the experience is as close to writing with a biro or rollerball I can think of. Not quite my scene but I can see how it could have its devotees.

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Now a small confession: the gasket of the filler needs replacing, but I used it as a bulb filler to get the ink in there. Otherwise (from previous experience), the Touchdown filler is simple and trouble free.

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In conclusion, I feel that this pen is a bit of Cinderella trapped in an Ugly Sister's clothing - the pen is usable in every situation and performs like a far more expensive pen should. Definitely a workhorse pen.

Tomorrow: Esterbrook J Double Jewel

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#20 soapytwist

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Posted 17 October 2010 - 19:37

Day Twenty

Make: Esterbrook
Model: J Double Jewel
Date: early 1950s
Size: 121(L) x 12(W) mm
Nib: steel-1551 firm medium-open
Ink: Waterman Florida Blue
Cost: a present


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My wife bought me this pen many years ago when we first knew each other. It has always been on display but I have never used it properly until now.

If you are looking for a good place to start collecting vintage pens (especially in the US), this is the place to start. They are solid pens, there are oodles of colours and nib types to keep you happy, they are fairly inexpensive, and there is a good support group in FPN - I forgot to mention when writing that there is also Brian Anderson's www.esterbrook.net which is a great resource.


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This one looks like it did the day it was first bought; the chrome is good, the plastic still glimmers, and everything is as it should be with the nib. It's very comfortable to write with and proves that you don't need to be covered in gold plating to be a head-turner.

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This pen also teaches a good lesson in the finickiness of inks and pens. I'd originally filled this with Noodler's Walnut and it just wasn't happening at all (flow problems, skipping etc.). A change of ink and it's writing like a star. So, before you dismiss a pen, consider a change of ink!

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Next up: Pelikan 100N
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#21 soapytwist

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Posted 17 October 2010 - 19:42

Day Twenty-One

Make: Pelikan
Model: 100N
Date: late 1940s?
Size: 123(L) x 13(W) mm
Nib: 14kt gold-fine-open
Ink: Noodler's Eel Blue
Cost: £42 (eBay)


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A tale of two pens; until two months ago I had a lovely 100N with a broad nib in perfect condition. Unfortunately my wife's niece turned eighteen and I suggested a vintage pen as she is a writer of journals and letters. She managed to pick the Pelikan, and my only proviso was that I be allowed to replace whatever she chose. Which I promptly did with this pen.

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As with any vintage purchase, it arrived with a few flaws, some of which haven't been completely ironed out. The main problems were at the business end; a bent nib and a broken fin on the feed. The fin has been fixed and I've burnished the nib enough for it to be usable, but it needs a little more work to get it straight.

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As a pen, I consider the 100N to be the perfect Pelikan; well-made, reassuring to hold when writing or just having it in the hand, vintage in looks but modern in performance, cute when capped, but business-like when posted. Their nibs (even when damaged!) are among the best I've used, and they are another of that rare breed of pens that can be used anywhere.

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You'll only need one, but believe me you won't regret buying one.

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(Pictured with a 120 and an M250 for comparison)

Tomorrow: Onoto 6233

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#22 soapytwist

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Posted 17 October 2010 - 19:47

Day Twenty-Two

Make: De La Rue
Model: Onoto 6233
Date: 1930s
Size: 128(L) x 13(W) mm
Nib: 14kt gold-fine-open
Ink: Noodler's Eel Blue
Cost: £25 (eBay)


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As I think I've made obvious, I like Onotos and this is no exception. Even though it is a fine nib, it has a very soft feel with a bit of bend with it.

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I don't think Del La Rue had any qualms about making everything from good quality, long-lasting materials. They are regularly up for sale and generally always in good condition; only the filler parts (corks and washers) tend to perish. Fixing them is a fraught procedure, but one that is extremely rewarding as you can see.

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I really enjoyed finding this one; it's a lovely shape, the cap in particular, and it has an uncluttered look that sets it apart from similar-looking lever pens. I noticed that when the new Onoto company started up it was this shape that they designed their pens around (albeit with a flat cap top).

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(compared with a bigger BHR pen that is awaiting restoration)

I think a wider nib and I would take this pen over the Swan Leverless and the Conway Stewart 58.


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Next: Parker 180

Edited by soapytwist, 17 October 2010 - 19:47.

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#23 soapytwist

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Posted 17 October 2010 - 19:53

Day Twenty-Three

Make: Parker
Model: 180
Date: 1980 4th Quarter ('QI')
Size: 133(L) x 9(W) mm
Nib: steel-medium/XF-open
Ink: Quink Washable Blue
Cost: £18 (eBay)


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The idea of this pen is a good one. I have reports at work that need annotating, and so the idea of having a normal pen that can be flipped over for writing small really appeals. It also fits into a Filofax loop which was useful for me at the time I bought it.

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(next to a 75 for size comparison)

Firstly the nice bits. I love the looks; a thin pen, it's still the most comfortable of thin pens, and the textured grip helps things. The spear-like nib give the pen a thrusting, purposeful aspect: this is a surgical instrument rather than a pen. Build-quality is good and I like the colour scheme better than some of the Place Vendôme plated models.


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Now the bad bits. I'd rather have a broad/fine combo than this medium/XF one. The medium is too thin for me to be truly happy with and the XF is like scratching with an inked needle both in how it feels and how it writes. There is also not enough variation between the two widths (see writing sample).

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Someone can correct me on this, but I've tried my most slimline aerometric converter and nothing seems to fit, so i seem to be stuck with cartridges. I have the feeling that a change of ink would make this a better writer.

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In conclusion, if you can find one that works for you, go for it, but beware it doesn't necessarily do well all things it's supposed to.

Up next: Lamy 99

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#24 soapytwist

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Posted 17 October 2010 - 19:59

Day Twenty-Four

Make: Lamy
Model: 99
Size: 132(L) x 13(W) mm
Nib: 14kt gold-fine-semi-hooded
Ink: Waterman Florida Blue
Cost: EUR18 (eBay)


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I was going to do the Lamy 27, but there is such an exhaustive review out there already, that I thought I would use its close relation, the 99, instead.

At first glance this looks like a long and slender pen, and quite sober in appearance; but in the hand it is much chunkier, with a girth much the same as the 27. It is also much lighter than the 27 or 2000.


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The nib is a nice fine (if you like fine nibs) and very stiff, even though it isn't completely hooded.

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The mechanics of the pen are very similar to the 27/2000 although the cap is a screw-on rather than the push-on type

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It is a well-made, if a little uninspiring pen when placed against Lamy's post-2000 designs. There are other German piston fillers of this era, available for the same sort of money (Pelikan Silvexa, Montblanc 32) that are probably more satisfying to use.

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Later: Parker 75
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#25 soapytwist

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Posted 17 October 2010 - 20:04

Day Twenty-Five

Make: Parker
Model: 75
Date: 1968?
Size: 128(L) x 12(W) mm
Nib: 14kt gold-broad oblique-open (replacement)
Ink: Waterman Florida Blue
Cost: approx £35 (eBay, including matching BP)


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I'll say that, right from the beginning of this review, everyone who collects a variety of makers should have a silver 75 in their collection. I consider the design to be one of Parker's best; they look good in any guise, are balanced and feel substantial without being too heavy. The section is comfortable and the nibs seem to be great writers whether they are fine or broad.

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To my mind, the best model in terms of a usable writer is the Cisele version. The cross-hatched silver doesn't wear and with prolonged use the pen actually gets better looking as the lines blacken. So, as the Cisele is the best version to use, I have chosen my less common Godron model with flat tassies and 20 micron depth gold plating.

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I used to have five or six different versions, but have now whittled them down to these two pens. I'm very happy I did because I appreciate and use them more than I used to.

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Tomorrow: Montblanc 32
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#26 soapytwist

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Posted 17 October 2010 - 20:09

Day Twenty-Six

Make: Montblanc
Model: 32
Date: early 1960s
Size: 128(L) x 13(W) mm
Nib: 14ky gold-medium-intarsia
Ink: Noodler's Eel Blue
Cost: £20 (eBay)


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Back in the sixties Montblanc (who still made mid- and low-tier pens) decided to ditch their rounded styles and introduce hooded nibs and streamlined looks. The 3x pens were at the lower end (above school pens like the Monte Rosa), but they still have MB's legendary build-quality, attention to detail, and 'writeability'.

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Here I have to make a play for these being the ultimate vintage 'user'. They are regularly up for sale on eBay (generally going for £50 or less), rarely have problems, and are easy to dismantle and clean.

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(pictured with a slightly later 31 'wing' nibbed version)

If you buy one, you will generally find the gold accents to be a little brassed and the barrel to be a bit marked from where the cap has rested on it. But everything else will be in good order*; a perfect condition to use every day. Throughout the thirty days this one has been in my bag next to the pen I'm reviewing.


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It works well, looks good, feels right and writes perfectly at an inexpensive price. What more could you want?

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(Intarsia nib on the bottom, wing nib on top)

*Obviously this is no guarantee, but I've had far fewer issues with MB pens of this era than Parkers or Pelikans.

Tomorrow: Parker 65

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#27 soapytwist

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Posted 17 October 2010 - 20:14

Day Twenty-Seven

Make: Parker
Model: 65 Flighter
Date: mid 1960s
Size: 135(L) x 12(W) mm
Nib: 14kt gold-medium-open
Ink: Quink Black
Cost: approx. £20


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I picked this up in a job lot of pens. The best thing about vintage Parkers (especially the stainless steel Flighters) is that they don't look special in a clutch of other pens, and so they are the most likely of junk shop finds (in the UK anyway). The other good thing about Flighters is that, unlike plated of lacquered pens they don't deteriorate with use and they normally look as good as new.

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This pen is no exception; the pen is in great condition and the nib writes very well. It is very stiff though; I'm not sure if this is is a descendent of the 61 nib, but it feels as stiff as a hooded nib. It's not what you expect when looking at it.

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In all other aspects (build quality, grip looks), it's reassuringly Parker, but I would say that the 65 does feel a little soulless compared to other Parkers. There's nothing really innovative in the design, which marks out Parker's great design successes of the Vacumatic, the 51 and the 75.

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It's nice to use, but there are always more satisfying pens in reach for me!


Up next: Rotring Renaissance

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#28 soapytwist

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Posted 17 October 2010 - 20:19

Day Twenty-Eight

Make: Rotring
Model: Renaissance
Date: 1980s
Size: 134(L) x 13(W) mm
Nib: gold plated steel-fine-open
Ink: Noodler's Eel Blue
Cost: £1.50 (Oxfam)


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This is not a pen I would ever have considered buying when it was new or even at a sensible second-hand price, but when I saw it on a shelf at my local Oxfam I thought I had better snap it up.

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I was actually quite surprised when I extracted it from its box. It reminds me of a Pelikan M200; a little thinner in feel, but it is a standard German, steel-nibbed, piston filler.

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It feels fairly solid, maybe not quite up to Pelikan standards, but perfectly acceptable. The gold plated parts are fairly upfront, and I also like the trademark red rings at either end and give the pen a little bit of 'personality'.

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Writing with it is acceptable if not inspiring. The nib is a little stiff (but I'm comparing it to a Pelikan again), and the section is comfortable enough. A good, sensible, no-nonsense pen this; useful for taking to places you wouldn't mind losing it, but a faultless performer all the same.

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Tomorrow: Montblanc 146
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#29 soapytwist

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Posted 17 October 2010 - 20:23

Day Twenty-Nine

Make: Montblanc
Model: Meisterstück 146 LeGrand
Date: early 1980s
Size: 143(L) x 15(W) mm
Nib: 14kt gold-medium-open
Ink: Noodler's Eel Blue
Cost: £82 (eBay) - £125 in 1987!


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Now we're cooking on gas. I bought this a little while ago with a few obvious problems, most notably a bent nib and a leaking section.

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The nib is back in shape (although it needs burnishing to help the looks) and the section has been resealed thanks to advice from niksch on the Montblanc Forum, so it's back to working condition.

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And what a pen. I'm not a fan of the gaudier excesses that Montblanc have produced in the last twenty years or so, but I don't regard this pen as gaudy. It's also one of the few pens I would consider worth the money if bought new.

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The pen is a delight to hold, balanced whether the cap is posted or not, and looks fantastic. Precious resin or not, the plastic on this pen feels to be of better quality than others. As an object it just seems to demand better care than one would ordinarily give a pen. Writing becomes an event when using it; just check out how few mistakes I've made in this review compared to others (these are all first drafts).

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Is it usable every day? Almost; mostly worries about losing it stop me from taking it everywhere, It is however, the only pen I would recommend regardless of cost.

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Last Day: Parker Sonnet
"Truth can never be told, so as to be understood, and not be believ'd." (Wiiliam Blake)

Visit my review: Thirty Pens in Thirty Days

#30 soapytwist

soapytwist

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Posted 17 October 2010 - 20:27

Day Thirty

Make: Parker
Model: Sonnet
Date: 1993 2nd Quarter (IIL)
Size: 132(L) x 13(W) mm
Nib: 18kt gold-stub-open
Ink: Quink Black
Cost: free (damaged)


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I thought it would be good to finish with a relatively modern pen that is easy to obtain in most parts of the world. My example is an early one; the nib was buckled when I received it, but as it's my only factory stub, I thought it worth repairing.

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It's a classic Parker: sober and well-made without being a work of art. Apart from the obvious nib problems this example has performed well, although I am aware that the Sonnet's track record is not flawless. I'm also not surprised that the design is faked a lot. I think the pen has a certain cachet about it, and in the hand it reminds me of a Montblanc 144 Classique. The size, weight, nib shape and even the slip-on cap are very similar.

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(Pictured with a steel nibbed Flighter of similar vintage)

I think that if you are looking for an entry into fountain pens and are not sure about vintage pens, a second-hand user Sonnet is a great place to start. There are lots of styles and nibs to choose from, and as long as you educate yourself about how to identify the fake ones, you should be able to pick up a very reasonable example.


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Thanks for your interest over the last month; I've appreciated your comments and corrections. Please keep making them as that's what this forum is all about. MYU is on holiday at present, so please continue to comment on the discussion thread until either he (or some helpful mod who's standing in for him) merges the two threads. As for me, I have a few pens that missed the cut that I'll be reviewing in the coming months, but I'm having a rest for now!
"Truth can never be told, so as to be understood, and not be believ'd." (Wiiliam Blake)

Visit my review: Thirty Pens in Thirty Days