Firstly, a brief orientation for those who have only vaguely heard of the 623x models produced by Onoto.
In the 1930's Onoto started to phase out their older BHR pens in response to demands for more colourful pens and the customer's desire to see how much ink was left in the pen. To fulfil this requirement, Onoto came up with a range of 'Ink View' pens, where the lower half of the barrel was manufactured from transparent material with the remainder being colourful celluloid. These were given four levels of trim, starting with the lowest trim level for the 6233 (RRP 21 shillings = 1 guinea = £1.05p in decimal), increasing through the 6234 and 6235 to the highest level of trim on the 6236 (RRP 42 shillings = 2 guineas = £2.10p in decimal). All these pens came with four main colours, three with celluloid barrels and caps (in blue pearl, red pearl, green pearl) or BHR (there were a few other colours too, but I'm trying to keep the story simple!). The sections were black celluloid, but Onoto couldn't bring themselves to abandon BHR for the cap finial and plunger filler mechanism.
There was a considerable hiatus during WW2, and no significant production occured between 1940 until 1948, by which time the inkview window had been dropped and the barrel was all celluloid (or BHR). These pens retained their plunger fill and fin-free feed which continued, almost unchanged, a direct line of descent from the 1905 patent pens that started Onoto's sucess. Production of these pens continued to 1955, and they were contemporary with both the P51 Vac and Aero.
This pen was bought in the restored state at LWES 2010, and while I didn't get a bargain, I got a very nice pen for the money. The restoration seems to have consisted of replacement of the seals, as the remainder of the pen is in glorious little used condition, even to the extent of having the 'M' sticker still stuck on the cap finial. There is slight brassing of the clip and cap rings, but this is of little significance. The years have caused some slight distortion of the barrel (which you can feel rather than see) and slight oxidation of the BHR cap finial and plunger knob (in Onoto parlance this is the 'Shank'). The model number is imprinted on the lower edge of the shank.
I love blue pearl material, and that was the initial thing that drew me to this pen. The celluloid body has a feel and look that is very different from acrylic pearl. There seems to be more lustre and intensity to the pearl than any more recent material that I have seen. I cannot detect a smell of camphor - but then I can't smell the Herbin scented inks either..
The pen is very slender and light, almost as if it's a priviledge to be allowed to touch such a fine, thoroughbred object. The cap unscrews in a third of a turn with a 4 start thread, the threads feeling as classy as those on a modern Duofold cap. The cap does not post securely unless pushed on hard.
The nib on this pen is a #3, stub nib, and is soft rather than flexible. Some line variation can be obtained, but not much in comparison to one of my earlier Onoto 3000's.
The restored pen fills with a satisfying 'pop' as the vacuum is released to suck up the ink.
The two cap lip rings and gold clip look understated and refined. Just enough to be there, nice, discreet and confident without being flashy.
Dimensions & Weight
Posted: 182mm (note: not really secure)
Barrel Diameter: 11mm
Cap Diameter: 13mm
This is probably the most unusual & interesting point of the pen. The pen is a plunger filler, with the fill stroke being on the down stroke - creating a vacuum above the plunger seal that is filled when the plunger reaches the bottom of the stroke. The quality of the upper seal determines the amount of ink drawn in, and on this pen it's so good that you can hear a 'pop' at the end of the down stroke. Because of the way the pen is operates, I find filling this pen is less messy to fill than one with a twist c/c (Eg Sonnet, P100, modern Duofold), particularly when the ink level in the bottle is low.
Writing with the pen
This is the point where the ancient design of this pen shows itself. Some of its characteristics are wonderful, others are, shall we say, less so.
In order to get the pen to work, the plunger knob needs to be turned about half a turn. Turn too little and no ink gets to the nib, turn too far and the nib is drowned and your writing is flooded. There is quite a bit of experience needed to get the turn exactly right. (I try to set the knob in the best position and leave it there, but this can lead to a fair bit of leakage into the cap if the pen isn't held nib up.)
The next thing to note is that you now have a cold, sealed, container in your hand that is going to warm up. This expands the air in the pen, which can't get out, so a pressure builds up on top of the ink. Until the pen is warm, you need to have blotting paper or a tissue available to absorb the ink that's forced out - or alternatively rest the pen nib up when you are thinking (but keep the tissue handy just in case). There is no collector with this pen, and not a lot of space to act as one. It can blob & frequently behaves like a dip pen when it wants - I have had many an inky finger having mistakenly thought I've got the hang of the pen. The pen is not capricious, but you do need to pay attention to it and what it's doing, this is not a pen that can be ignored as a tool.
Right that's the not so good bit of the pen explained, now on to the good bit: How it writes.
The pen rests in the hand so lightly it's a wonder it doesn't float away. It's a light, slender pen that puts no loads on the hand. The stub nib absorbs shocks from the paper, flexing gently under light loads rather than transmitting them to your hand. In comparison, a modern Duofold, Sonnet & contemporary P51 are all brutal in their rigidity and the shocks they transmit to you. This has a feeling of delicacy and refinement in the pen that is quite unlike any modern pen I have come across, and also unlike any of its contemporaries that I have tried. This pen is the last stand of an aging design, the last flowering of a doomed era made obsolete by the advent of technologically superior pens (like the P51). The prose sounds a bit purple, I know, but it's true.
As you can see, my writing is not great, but the stub nib does create some impression of line variation when compared to a P61 medium nib. It is all too easy to get carried away with this pen, the feedback from the nib is just about perfect. The nib doesn't skate across the paper as if it's on glass, instead it tells you precisely what's happening and encourages an exuberance of style that's hard to resist. Your hand feels free to glide while responding to every part of the texture of the paper. The only other pens with this feeling I have come across are my two other Onoto 3000's and a dip pen I chose with great care to mimic the stiffness of my flexy Onoto 3000. It almost doesn't feel like a fountain pen, more like a dip pen that can be given a huge initial charge. In fact, that's not such a bad way of thinking of this pen and how to treat it.
Living with the Pen
I have had the pen for nearly a month and carried it with me most of that time. For this last month I have lived with almost permanantly ink stained fingers. I use the pen in an office and can write up to 20 pages of A4 a day, but it's usually pretty fractured in the way I do it, frantic scribbles for 10-15 minutes to keep up with discussions, then a break, followed by a series of calculations (all of which are interrupted by fiddling on a calculator), with this sort of thing is repeated throughout the day. All this involves picking the pen up a lot, from cold, and getting it to work immediately and without problems. Not ideal for a pen that can blob when warming up from cold, and it's hard not to shake blobs onto my work when I get diverted by another urgent demand from a colleague who wishes to consult on some technical matter.
I have also found that I really need to carry a bottle of ink with me, as the blobs & forced ink seem to nearly empty the pen every day. As a result, it's quite a pricy pen to run, getting through 1cc of ink a day, maybe more.
Quite frankly, this pen is hard to live with as an every day pen compared to its contempories. The ancient feed design and the tricky positioning of the plunger knob make it not very well suited to the pace of a modern engineering office. It is, however, well suited to thoughtful contemplation followed by considerable time spent writing. The Onoto 6233 is a pen that requires you to take time to look after it, cope with its foibles and cherish its good points, and your payback is in a pen that is lovely to write with.
I have persisted with this pen, and think I shall continue to do so, because I love the way it writes & I'm sufficiently stubborn to want to continue with it despite its unsuitability to the task I have for it.
It writes beautifully, but like many a thoroughbred, it's high maintenance and requires a lot of attention. It's not really a pen I would recommend to anyone unused to FP's, but I'd recommend it - like the Onoto 3000 - as a pen to use so that you can feel the heritage of where our modern FP's have come from.
Take a look here for Soapytwist's view of the same model: http://www.fountainp...irty-days&st=21
Edited by richardandtracy, 03 November 2010 - 16:37.