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Mabie Todd Blackbird Lever Filler, C1920.
Posted 13 October 2011 - 08:50
This is a very brief review of a rather lovely little pen I bought at LWES 2011 from the £15 'bargain bucket' at one of the stalls. I had heard that UK made Swans and Blackbirds could have flex nibs, so after gently pressing the nib against my thumbnail I bought this one and a sac to find out what the fuss was with flex nibs.
I don't know how old the pen is, but from the little research I have done it's likely to have been from the late 1910's or the early 1920's, so I've plumped for an average 1920. The pen has been well used over the years, and by the shape of it it's one of the first style of Mabie Todd Blackbirds. The 'Blackbird' marking is clear, but the chasing on the rest of the pen is almost totally worn away. In its 91 year life, this pen has seen a heck of a lot of use. Despite that, the nib only needed slight re-alignment of one tine.
The pen is as below:
The pen dimensions are:
Length, Capped: 134mm (5.3")
Length, Uncapped: 126mm (5")
Length, Posted: 169mm (6.6")
Barrel Diameter: 11mm
Cap Diameter: 13mm
Nib size: 17mm long x 5.75mm wide
The pen is not much to look at, but there again it's a tool rather than a piece of jewelery. The important thing is the feel and the nib.
The pen is light, and comfortable, so can be used for all day writing. The section diameter is a little smaller than many modern pens, but it's not a problem as the pen is so light that you don't need to grip it hard.
The thing to rave about, though, is the nib. Look at the line variation below on 7.5mm feint paper:
This is with light to medium writing forces. I have not dared to press harder, as I don't want to risk damage to this glorious nib.
The nib is stiff enough to use as an everyday pen, but the flex allows a wonderful degree of expression while doing even the most technical of writing. This pen, ancient as it may be, is now in my rotation on a permanent basis. It has been used a great deal in its life, and I now know why; It's glorious to use.
Blackbirds may have been a bit of a budget line at the time Mabie Todd made them, but it was beautifully built and has a high quality nib. I can recommend one to anyone who is curious about flex, but doesn't want to break the bank.
I hope this is of interest,
Posted 13 October 2011 - 09:02
Posted 13 October 2011 - 10:10
I like the subtle ribbing on the cap, not too flashy decoration but just right.
Posted 13 October 2011 - 11:40
What's especially interesting about these pens is that some - not all - have a spoon feed instead of the usual Mabie Todd ladder feed. A similarly-shaped Jackdaw of around the same date also has the spoon feed.
Though the label is hard to read now, the pen appears to have cost 7/6d. These are much under-rated pens and great writers.
Posted 13 October 2011 - 16:27
There must always be a story behind New Old Stock pens but sadly I rarely hear what it is.
Posted 13 October 2011 - 17:28
Enjoy the Swans
Posted 18 July 2014 - 06:04
Let this be a lesson to anyone (like myself) who automatically assumes Waterman's Ideal pens are about the only viable option for vintage flex. From what I've seen, these Mabie Todds (Swans and Blackbirds in particular) seem to be every bit as good as the #2 Ideal nibs for flex, and can quite often be found for less. While it'd be nice to own a Waterman, perhaps I should at least consider other manufacturers if I'm just looking for flex
Thanks for sharing!