Mabie Todd Swan No. 2 Eyedropper, c1915.
This is a very brief review of an interesting 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 to see if it flexed I bought this one to find out what the fuss was with flex nibs. In the same pot I found a Blackbird, reviewed here: http://www.fountainp...er-filler-c1920 . The Blackbird has a flex nib, as opposed to the semi-flex nib on this pen.
I don't know how old the pen is, but from the little research I have done it's likely to have been from any time within the 1910's, so I've plumped for an average 1915 for it. The pen has been well used over the years, the 'Swan' marking is just about visible and the chasing on the barrel is almost totally worn away. Some chasing is still slightly visible on the cap. In its 96 year life, this pen has seen a heck of a lot of use. Despite that, the nib needed no work for it to write.
The pen is as below:
The pen dimensions are:
Length, Capped: 134mm (5.3")
Length, Uncapped: 124mm (4.9")
Length, Posted: 167mm (6.5")
Barrel Diameter: 8.5mm
Cap Diameter: 11mm
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 of this ancient pen and the nib.
The pen is unbelievably light & delicate in its feel, so can be used for all day writing. The section diameter is tiny, at a minimum of 6.5mm, but it's not too much of a problem as the pen is so light that you don't need to grip it hard. Some people may find it too small, but it is no smaller than a standard pencil.
The main thing to appreciate with this pen, 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 rather lovely 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 particular pen has a smell about it. It reminds me of old nicotine, as if it has been used by a heavy smoker for decades. Not unpleasant, but distinctive none the less. It is strange to be almost tasting the pen you're using, and the smell clings to your fingers for a while after finishing too.
Living with the Pen
This pen is an eyedropper - the first I have ever used. It's neither hard, nor messy, to fill. The tiny barrel holds as much ink as 3 standard international cartridges, but the semi flex nib uses more ink than modern nibs, so the amount of writing per fill is about 20 pages or so.
However, even if filling is no problem, it is a messy pen. The feed has no effective collector fins, and the eyedropper barrel can warm up easily, causing air pressure to push ink out. This isn't too bad while you are writing as it all gets used, but it doesn't stop immediately you put the pen down (due to the rate of heat transfer through the barrel), so the cap can fill with ink. Result, next time you open the pen it's very messy. Storing the pen nib up doesn't seem to help, as the ink in the feed is pushed out, to dribble into the cap threads, which are especially difficult to clean. It's something I can live with for the sake of the privilege of using an ancient design pen, but there are those who won't want, or be able, to.
Swans were a fine range of pens at the time Mabie Todd made them, and it was beautifully built, with a high quality nib. I can recommend one to anyone who is curious about flex, but doesn't want to break the bank.
One comparison I have remembered is with a Delta Titanio I was loaned for a while this summer. The nib on this Swan is actually much flexier at lower forces than the modern Delta Titanio I reviewed here: http://www.fountainp...-delta-titanio/ , and it doesn't seem to blob on the page either. I get the feeling that the art of making flexible nibs has almost been lost.
I hope this is of interest,
Edited to add (30/Sept/2013):
From this thread: http://www.fountainp...wan-eyedropper/
it appears that the pen was made after Jan 1915 as the imprint reads 'Mabie Todd & Co. Ltd' rather than just 'Mabie Todd & Co.' which would indicate between 1907 & Jan 1915.