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My New Onoto Magna Classic: The Old, The New, The "done Right"


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28 replies to this topic

#1 Richard

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Posted 30 September 2010 - 13:48

For about 70 years, Thomas De la Rue Ltd, the English stationer and banknote printer, made fountain pens. Onoto the Pen, their star product, was a remarkably good pen, and it was the progenitor of the plunger fillers that Sheaffer, Conklin, and Wahl-Eversharp made during the 1930s (and, for Sheaffer, until 1948). Sadly, the passage of time and changing lifestyles led De La Rue to stop making pens. The Onoto name was reborn in 2005 as a high-end luxury brand featuring handcrafted sterling silver, vermeil, and vitreous enameling. Fancy work aside, a pen is a pen, and my interest was piqued by the essential question: are these new Onotos pens, or they expensive tchotchkes? Now, I know. My brandy-new Onoto Magna Classic arrived yesterday. The Magna Classic isn't a luxury metal pen, it's made of acrylic resin, and at 0.96 oz (27.3 g) it's light enough to be a real writer's pen. Here's the box the pen came in.

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So. Let's get this box open.

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Ooh, look at all the stuff! Care instructions, a polishing cloth, two blotters, and a key to the hallmarks on the sterling furniture.

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The inside box is pretty nice, too. It's solid, not flimsy pasteboard, and the shiny "padded" top is attractive without being ridiculous.

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Whaddya know, there's actually a pen in there!

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Post it and stand it up just to make a pretty composition to stare at for a little while -- after which I inked it up and gave it a test run. Does it write? I ordered mine with a medium nib, and this nib came out of the box perfectly aligned, perfectly gapped, and smooth enough that I haven't yet convinced myself that it's worth Binderizing it.

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The overall aesthetic of this pen really captures the look of the 1937 Magna; it's not all glitz and bling, just enough to be classic. The sterling furniture will acquire a lovely usage patina over the years, and this pen will definitely be one that I use. I like it, and I'm doggone well going to keep it.

Edited by Richard, 30 September 2010 - 13:58.

Click to send email: richard@richardspens.com
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#2 stevlight

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Posted 30 September 2010 - 13:57

I don't think there can be a higher endorsement of a pen! I am going to look one up right now!

I love the classic styling.
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#3 stevlight

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Posted 30 September 2010 - 14:01

How does this fill? Did you get the gold or steel nib?

Are you planning on selling this brand of pen?

Edited by stevlight, 30 September 2010 - 14:02.

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#4 smoores

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Posted 30 September 2010 - 14:19

Very beautiful, classic looking pen! Might have to check these out... :)

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Check out my wish list on my profile.

#5 PeterBeoworld

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Posted 30 September 2010 - 14:38

I bought my wife the Cambridge University version of this. She seems very pleased with it. I have the original Onoto Magna - actually a couple of them - and comparing them is quite interesting. Size shows that with the caps on, the new Magna is longer at 14.2 cm and the original is 13.7. However without the caps, the original is bigger at 13 cm against 12.3 cm for the new version. Part of this is the nib which is 0.5 cm longer in the original. Weight is also interesting with the new Magna being slightly heavier but a good part of this is the cap. Without the cap, the original is actually heavier. My Magna is the multi coloured green transparent mesh version with a two tone number 7 nib - my other one is the brown mesh with a number 6 nib - which is actually much the same size as the new Magna's number 7.
Other differences - Clearly the filling mechanism is the most obvious - I find the cartridge converter disappointing if honest compared to the wonderful plunger of the original. The CC is more reliable though!
And finally the writing experience - the new Magna is beautifully smooth - very like my new Conway Stewart pens. No flex or line variation, but starts first time and no tooth. The original however has a flexible nib, again very smooth, but able to produce a line that varies from medium fine to broad.
I also find the original better made - the new version appears slightly dulled with fine scratches where the original, at 70 years old, appears like new. The cap of the new one has actually come apart a little above the gold band where some glue has given way with repeated opening and closing of the cap.
In summary, the new Onoto seems a match for my new Conway Stewarts - although I prefer the colours and patterns of the latter.
The original Magna is another class - and is above both my new and original Conway Stewarts and indeed as well made and impressive a pen as any I own. The nib is also my favourite - dare I say even better that the full flex XXF that Richard provided on a Pelikan for me!

#6 Bo Bo Olson

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Posted 30 September 2010 - 15:17

It is a good looking pen.
The only question I have is ... is the nib semi-flex or better?
Or can one order it so?

I am spoiled.

Well...to broke to order it...but there are goals.

German vintage '50-70 semi-flex stubs and those in oblique give the real thing in On Demand line variation. Modern Oblique is a waste of money for a shadow of line variation. Being too lazy to Hunt for affordable vintage oblique pens, lets you 'hunt' for line variation instead of having it.

www.nibs.com/blog/nibster-writes/nibs-germany & https://www.peter-bo...cts/nib-systems,

 

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#7 Richard

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Posted 30 September 2010 - 15:30

How does this fill? Did you get the gold or steel nib?

It's a cartridge/converter filler, using a standard Schmidt K5 converter. I got the gold nib.
Click to send email: richard@richardspens.com
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#8 Garageboy

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Posted 30 September 2010 - 15:41

Now, someone please save the Mabie Todd name!

#9 Richard

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Posted 30 September 2010 - 15:49

Now, someone please save the Mabie Todd name!

Someone has. Sort of. New Mabie Todd pens are being made. You can see the Swallow and Essex at Fountain Pen Hospital's site; they're down in the sub-$50 crowd. To me they look Chinese.
Click to send email: richard@richardspens.com
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#10 rwilsonedn

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Posted 30 September 2010 - 16:14

Now, someone please save the Mabie Todd name!

Someone has. Sort of. New Mabie Todd pens are being made. You can see the Swallow and Essex at Fountain Pen Hospital's site; they're down in the sub-$50 crowd. To me they look Chinese.

Speaking of which, any idea where the new Onoto is actually made?
ron

#11 Richard

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Posted 30 September 2010 - 16:55

...any idea where the new Onoto is actually made?

The pens bear a MADE IN ENGLAND imprint. So far as I know, they're made in Onoto's plant in Colney, Norwich.
Click to send email: richard@richardspens.com
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#12 skipwilliams

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Posted 30 September 2010 - 18:40

I have one of the Magna Writers that I got a couple of years ago for Father's Day in the deep blue. It's not a flashy pen, but it's a supremely balanced and and excellent writer. I had one mfg defect that was fixed ASAP by Onoto with great C/S.

Highly recommended.

Skip
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#13 Garageboy

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Posted 01 October 2010 - 04:39

Sorry, I meant someone please save the Mabie Todd name from the NEW owners
So far, to me, none of these "reissue" pen companies have lived up to their names as companies. From Conklin (cool designs, but nothing else special), Eversharp (that was super short lived)

#14 Chris Chalmers

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Posted 01 October 2010 - 05:21

Congratulations Richard!

Like Peter Beoworld, I have one of the originals, in fact the same green basketweave design as his, with the same nib, and it is indeed a flexy nib - mine is a medium. I often look at the modern Onotos, but the c/c filler puts me off. Henry Simpole is in talks with Onoto right now about making a run with silver overlays - he's hoping for a pre-Christmas completion.

What ink will you use - or will it be Binder Bordeaux???
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#15 Moynihan

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Posted 01 October 2010 - 09:53

:drool: :puddle:
Is there a U.S. distributor?

Edited by Moynihan, 01 October 2010 - 09:54.

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#16 Richard

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Posted 01 October 2010 - 10:40

Like Peter Beoworld, I have one of the originals...

What ink will you use - or will it be Binder Bordeaux???

I have two original Onotos, but neither is a Magna.

As for ink, for now I have my new pen loaded with EVERFLO Orchid.
Click to send email: richard@richardspens.com
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#17 Richard

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Posted 01 October 2010 - 10:40

Is there a U.S. distributor?

So far as I know, not at this time.
Click to send email: richard@richardspens.com
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#18 majorworks

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Posted 01 October 2010 - 14:02

Some time ago, Steve Braun (allwritenow.net) announced that he is acting as the U.S. representative for Onoto Pens. His signature in his posts attest to this. Having said that, there's nothing about Onoto that I can find on his site. So one might check in with Steve (member AllWriteNow on FPN).

Edited by majorworks, 01 October 2010 - 14:04.

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#19 AllWriteNow

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Posted 01 October 2010 - 14:50

Hi All
Richard that was an awesome review. Thank you.

I am the U.S. based distributor for ONOTO Pens.
I have the pens in stock here in Maryland.

Please use this email to contact me re: ONOTO Pens USSales@onoto.com

In addition, We will be having a Drawing at the NYC Pen Show for a New Classic Magna FP.

We'll have a full compliment of the pens on display and of course available for purchase.

Thank you very much!

Steve
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#20 Truffle Finder

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Posted 01 October 2010 - 19:19

I was in Henry's workshop today, and can inform you that he has been hard at work, piercing out the barrel of the overlay for the Onoto pen which follows the organic Art Nouveau lines of the early 1900's.
Which a bit of luck, Henry will have both the cap and the barrel available at the London Pen Show on Sunday.
Truffle Finder. :thumbup:
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Beautiful handcrafted fountain pens by Henry Simpole....






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