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What (and when) was the Onoto Penmaster?


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#1 welch

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Posted 27 June 2009 - 16:29

I have just revived a navy-blue Onoto Penmaster, lever-filler with gold-filled cap (or gold-colored?). "Onoto Penmaster / De La Rue London")

- Was the grimiest pen I have ever gotten from eBay. Thought it was black.

- Stopped, clogged.

- I noticed that it squirted a blue liquid when I pumped the lever, so kept filling / squirting with water. Left nib over-night in 1:10 ammonia to water solution.

It now writes like a feather brushing the page. Perhaps smoother and lighter on the touch than even my smoothest P51. So, it still has a banged-around cap, the cap still needs some gold polish and buffing, the clip is still loose, the nib still look like a frail thing stuck to the end of a normal pen, but this pen writes so well that even my wife said "wow!" (and she doesn't like seeing another pen enter my accumulation.)

So: what was the Penmaster? When did they make that line? I would guess just after WW2 because the cap has a dark "jewel" like the P51, it has a lever, but doesn't look like the marbled pre-war Onoto's I've seen.

I think Onoto went to a hooded nib and a piston-fill sometime around 1955, but none of the Onoto history sites talks about the Penmaster.


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#2 jar

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Posted 27 June 2009 - 17:55

IIRC, the Penmaster is from the 60's.

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#3 welch

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Posted 27 June 2009 - 18:28


I read that Onoto stopped making pens in 1958? I know there's a picture of a Penmaster on Vintage Pens, at

http://penhome.co.uk/pensad.htm

...and "mine" is a grubby version of the #8821 listing. I just assumed their "1960" date was a mistake. The Onoto History on Peter Twyddle's site, and mostly repeated on the modern Onoto site, both say that the company stopped manufacture in 1958. Twyddle's paper (appearently written by someone at Onoto) say something like "we have now turned to the piston-filler so popular on the continent. I would guess the piston-fillers became the K1 - K4.

QUOTE (jar @ Jun 27 2009, 01:55 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
IIRC, the Penmaster is from the 60's.


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#4 jar

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Posted 27 June 2009 - 19:35

QUOTE (welch @ Jun 27 2009, 01:28 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I read that Onoto stopped making pens in 1958? I know there's a picture of a Penmaster on Vintage Pens, at

http://penhome.co.uk/pensad.htm

...and "mine" is a grubby version of the #8821 listing. I just assumed their "1960" date was a mistake. The Onoto History on Peter Twyddle's site, and mostly repeated on the modern Onoto site, both say that the company stopped manufacture in 1958. Twyddle's paper (appearently written by someone at Onoto) say something like "we have now turned to the piston-filler so popular on the continent. I would guess the piston-fillers became the K1 - K4.

QUOTE (jar @ Jun 27 2009, 01:55 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
IIRC, the Penmaster is from the 60's.




I can believe 58 as a last date of manufacture. But it was late 50s early 60s IIRC. Remember though that I am old and forgetful.

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#5 welch

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Posted 27 June 2009 - 20:11

...and I am a sprighlty youngster who remembers 1958 as the year after Roy Sievers, of my Washington Senators, won the American League home-run title, and the year before Harmon Killebrew tied Mickey Mantle for AL HR champ. I was about ten.

(I don't remember much about fountain pens except that we all used them, and I didn't like the scratchy Sheaffer cartridge pen.)

QUOTE (jar @ Jun 27 2009, 03:35 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (welch @ Jun 27 2009, 01:28 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I read that Onoto stopped making pens in 1958? I know there's a picture of a Penmaster on Vintage Pens, at

http://penhome.co.uk/pensad.htm

...and "mine" is a grubby version of the #8821 listing. I just assumed their "1960" date was a mistake. The Onoto History on Peter Twyddle's site, and mostly repeated on the modern Onoto site, both say that the company stopped manufacture in 1958. Twyddle's paper (appearently written by someone at Onoto) say something like "we have now turned to the piston-filler so popular on the continent. I would guess the piston-fillers became the K1 - K4.

QUOTE (jar @ Jun 27 2009, 01:55 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
IIRC, the Penmaster is from the 60's.




I can believe 58 as a last date of manufacture. But it was late 50s early 60s IIRC. Remember though that I am old and forgetful.


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#6 jar

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Posted 27 June 2009 - 21:19

QUOTE (welch @ Jun 27 2009, 03:11 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
...and I am a sprighlty youngster who remembers 1958 as the year after Roy Sievers, of my Washington Senators, won the American League home-run title, and the year before Harmon Killebrew tied Mickey Mantle for AL HR champ. I was about ten.


First in War,
first in Peace
and last in the American League.

Anyway "Nats" should be reserved for National Bo anyway. thumbup.gif

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#7 welch

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Posted 27 June 2009 - 22:20

Ah, how few remember "Natty Bo"!!

QUOTE (jar @ Jun 27 2009, 05:19 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (welch @ Jun 27 2009, 03:11 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
...and I am a sprighlty youngster who remembers 1958 as the year after Roy Sievers, of my Washington Senators, won the American League home-run title, and the year before Harmon Killebrew tied Mickey Mantle for AL HR champ. I was about ten.


First in War,
first in Peace
and last in the American League.

Anyway "Nats" should be reserved for National Bo anyway. thumbup.gif


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#8 simp

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Posted 29 June 2009 - 22:03

QUOTE (welch @ Jun 27 2009, 08:28 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I read that Onoto stopped making pens in 1958? I know there's a picture of a Penmaster on Vintage Pens, at

http://penhome.co.uk/pensad.htm

...and "mine" is a grubby version of the #8821 listing. I just assumed their "1960" date was a mistake. The Onoto History on Peter Twyddle's site, and mostly repeated on the modern Onoto site, both say that the company stopped manufacture in 1958. Twyddle's paper (appearently written by someone at Onoto) say something like "we have now turned to the piston-filler so popular on the continent. I would guess the piston-fillers became the K1 - K4.

QUOTE (jar @ Jun 27 2009, 01:55 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
IIRC, the Penmaster is from the 60's.



Don't remember were I read this, but it seems that after closing production on the Stadbury plant in 1958, some production continued for a few years in Australia, by the former distributors.

Hoping someone has more details and some references about this...

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#9 iandonnachie

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Posted 10 August 2009 - 21:34

Hi Guys

Reference De La Rue

Yes they stopped producing in 1958, I served my apprenticeship there in the drawing office, did national service 1957-9 and the factory was shut down while I was in army.
The location of the factory (Strathendry) was in a small town called Leslie in Fife Scotland. (There is a reasonable write up in the ONOTO site) I was very much involved in the manufacture of the pens having to work in the various machine shops as part of my apprenticeship, pens were at that time made from cellolose nitrate tube purchased in solid colours and marmalade type pattern. This material had to be stored some distance from the workplaces as it was highly inflammable, health and safety would not allow it's use today.
The last pens made were the K series which were screw plunger design, some with transparent window at nib end. The production was passed to Australian agent "NORMAN BAKER"
If my memory serves me right there were maybe five models in the K series all with hooded style. We bought three Eckhart and Zeigler moulding machines to produce the components for assembly. All nibs were made from gold sheet under the strictest of security, all workwear had to be washed on the premises using sinks aligned as a weir to recover any cuttings and dust, the floor was tin lined with soldered joints.

De La Rue played a big part in the town with a football team and a concert party, photos on ONOTO site, yours truly sang in quartet aptly named the K fours.

I hope this throws some light on De La Rue and ONOTO

Please get in touch if there is anything I can help with

Pens were only a part of the production

#10 obnubilator

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Posted 11 August 2009 - 05:04

I hope this throws some light on De La Rue and ONOTO


That is so fascinating. Do you have any other technical recollections? What was the nature of your apprenticeship? What was the workflow and the material flow like at the factory? How large was it and how many workers? What sort of machinery was involved in nib manufacture, and what was quality control like?

There is no limit to the amount of detail I would like to hear about your experience there.

Obnubilator

#11 pen2paper

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Posted 11 August 2009 - 11:27

me too..know very little about these pens..was hoping Ian would join in.. Greetings Ian!
ps...ot..as a true Detroit Tigers fan..must say had huge respect when Killebrew walked up to the plate.

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#12 welch

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Posted 11 August 2009 - 19:10

...and I'm another who wants to hear more about your experience at Onoto.

I hope this throws some light on De La Rue and ONOTO


That is so fascinating. Do you have any other technical recollections? What was the nature of your apprenticeship? What was the workflow and the material flow like at the factory? How large was it and how many workers? What sort of machinery was involved in nib manufacture, and what was quality control like?

There is no limit to the amount of detail I would like to hear about your experience there.

Obnubilator


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#13 eckiethump

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Posted 18 August 2009 - 19:33

In keeping with Onoto history, I served an apprenticeship with an Edinburgh company (est 1821) as a patternmaker. We made papermaking machines, several British papermakers, diversified into pen making, Thomas De La Rue, and Dickinson, the Croxley machine. I know there were papermills in Fife, well they were everywhere there was running water. Can't recall if that was the location of the papermil for TDLR though, the Scottish, Onoto connection is quite well recorded.
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#14 pengoddess

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Posted 19 August 2009 - 04:30

Onoto ended production in the UK in Feb 1958. However, Baker & Longhurst of Sydney who had Onoto licensing for Australia manufacture continued until ca. 1963. The "new" Onoto Pen Co was re-established in 1997 and first pens produced in 2005.

(per the new Onoto Pen Repair book)

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#15 iandonnachie

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Posted 24 August 2009 - 21:52

me too..know very little about these pens..was hoping Ian would join in.. Greetings Ian!
ps...ot..as a true Detroit Tigers fan..must say had huge respect when Killebrew walked up to the plate.


Hello again,
Prior to the intro of the K series pen making was very labour intensified. The pen department probably had 70 to 100 workers mainly woman operating the machines with men as toolsetters/ maintenance.

The machinery consisted of centreless grinders to grind the purchased tube to a precise diameter to fit the collets on the capstan lathes.

The capstans would machine the tube to accurate bore etc, to screw cut the body and cap. diamond tools were used for the fine finish needed on the bore of the plunger pens.

The blanks would then be ground using large grindwheels which were profiled with the cap/ body shape.

We had swiss auto lathes to machine the carrier, this would be to finished to final dimensions.

The feed was made from vulcanite, and probably consumed the most labour for it's size, all cut with small slitting saws and shaped on a grinder.

The only components we purchased were the clips/ gold rings/ both type of levers and the rubber sacs. We moulded the rubber plungers in house.

All components woul be delivered to the assembly shop( quantities were always in gross) so you had to be able to count in grosses.

Many of the pens were enrgraved with patterns, the engraving machines all being made in our own toolroom which was the biggest and best in the County.

The super fit of the cap to the body was achieved by hand turning, this was done by two men who did nothing else.

Fitting the gold rings onto the cap was interesting, the appropriate numer of grooves were cut, the were then taken to a swaging machine where the rings were slipped into

position and slipp

ed into a collet which was opening and closing at high speed therefore taking the ring flush with the diameter of the cap.

The nib would be assembled, the sac attached and the lever fitted, finally the whole pen would be polished.

With regard to the nibs, we purchased gold sheet from Johnson Mathey, this would be offered to a hand press where the blank would be cut, the nib then cupped, the heart cut,

irridium welded? to the tip, the nib then be split then smoothed and tested for writing quality, at some stage the DLR name would be stamped.

This was a department where security was extremely tight and it was not usual for anyone to be allowed in uless for maintenance.

As to my apprenticeship, I started at fifteen in the drawing office as the gofor, when I reached sixteen my formal apprenticeship started, this was as a jig and tool draughtsman.

A lot of my time was spent in the various departments so that I could understand the various requirements of the departments.

My time on the drawing board would be spent on the various tooling we made in house and making working drawings of the pens, it is sad that all these drawings are lost

DLR did not keep anything for their archives

You have taxed my memory, all of that was over fifty years ago, I trust it is of interest

As I said already the ONOTO site has quite a few photos taken about that time

#16 richardandtracy

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Posted 25 August 2009 - 15:50

Thank you for all that detail. The Onoto's I have are both very precious to me, dating to the 1920's or earlier. It's fascinating to hear how they were made.

Regards,

Richard.






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