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The Search For Fountain Pen Perfection

sheaffer snorkel povero soldi mio

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23 replies to this topic

#1 Goldmund

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 18:50

Recently, I posted a thread about wanting to dive in to vintage pens. I was not disappointed at the feedback. Many people came through with some very good advice, and my purchasing experience went very well. 

However, I posted that thread with the intent of buying several pens: an Esterbrook J, a Waterman Phileas, and the Sheaffer Snorkel (I ended up putting the idea of buying the Phileas to the side for a while). I picked up an Esterbrook LJ and a Sheaffer 440 (as requested by someone; I'm very happy with it) several days later without too much fuss. At any rate, I was still left without the Sheaffer Snorkel. 

 

Now, to some people, the Snorkel may not be very expensive, but as a high school student who has a limited amount of money at his disposal (I can only make so much as an intern), it's a bit pricey. So, naturally, I want to be cautious and make sure the pen I purchase is exactly what I want it to be before I spend the money. However, through my caution, I feel like I'm restricting myself to a certain extent. I could easily get a nice, restored Snorkel for $60-80 right now, but the pens I am looking at aren't exactly what I want. They either have the wrong nib size/style (Sheaffer fine nibs are a bit too thin for me, so I'm looking to get a medium), are in the wrong color, or have tiny surface damage that puts me off. The wear and tear doesn't affect the pen, of course, but I feel that if I am spending a good chunk of money on a pen, it should be as nice looking as possible. I have a difficult enough time making sure I don't mess up my pens on my own  :D

 

Am I being too unrealistic? Do you think I'm making it much more difficult to find a Snorkel by setting up all of these mental restrictions? 

tl;dr When making a fairly large purchase, is there such a thing as too much scrutiny? Is it better to spend the extra $20-30 dollars on a pen or wait around until you find the right one instead of getting a slightly cheaper pen that you may not be 100% content with buying? 

 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

ALSO

On a completely unrelated note, where would be a good place to get replacement Esterbrook nibs for vintage models? I usually have a golden rule that I never let other people try to write with my friends, but I felt very bad about saying no in a situation I found myself in yesterday. Of course, as you would expect, the person testing out the pen didn't understand the concept of a Firm Medium nib :wallbash: ... Needless to say, one of the tines are bent (it's technically functional, but it's obvious that there is a break, as this specific side is constantly misaligned and causes a lot of scratch if not periodically moved back in to place), and I'm looking for a new nib. Preferably something with a bit of flex so I can avoid this kind of havoc in the future. 

 

Danke, 

 

Mike. 


Edited by SharkOnWheels456, 28 August 2013 - 18:51.

“I say, if your knees aren’t green by the end of the day, you ought to seriously re-examine your life.”-Calvin 


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#2 fwyun

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 19:01

Addressing the issue of loaning pens, this is my strategy:

 

Plan A: Keep around a ballpoint/rollerball to loan out.

 

Plan B: Keep around a cheap fountain pen (i.e. Platinum Preppy)

 

Plan C: "Sorry, all I have is a fountain pen" -- that seems to deter most people.



#3 Goldmund

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 19:13

Addressing the issue of loaning pens, this is my strategy:

 

Plan A: Keep around a ballpoint/rollerball to loan out.

 

Plan B: Keep around a cheap fountain pen (i.e. Platinum Preppy)

 

Plan C: "Sorry, all I have is a fountain pen" -- that seems to deter most people.

 

The person explicitly wanted to use it BECAUSE it was a fountain pen. To be honest, it piques a lot of peoples' interests. Of course, if that someone doesn't understand how you're supposed to hold it or that you don't need to press down at all, they'll subsequently break something and force me to spend the ~$15 on a new nib  :glare: 

 


“I say, if your knees aren’t green by the end of the day, you ought to seriously re-examine your life.”-Calvin 


#4 carlos.q

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 19:26

 

On a completely unrelated note, where would be a good place to get replacement Esterbrook nibs for vintage models? 

Try: http://andersonpens....nibs/esterbrook



#5 WirsPlm

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 19:33

Ouch. Remember - it's perfectly OK to say No! Seriously, a firm polite 'no' is way better than causing tension in a friendship because your friend was careless. It's your belonging, and probably costs more than your friend has spent on pens in the past year. If people press, tell them that.

If you do want to loan a pen to someone, have a loaner pen. For a pen you expect to loan I would stay away from flex nibs (these are even more expensive than regular nibs!) and just get a cheap disposable. I keep a few cheap pens to loan out. Pilot Varsity works very well for this, as does that pen that comes with a bigger Noodler's bottle. They're obviously fountain pens, and both work quite well, so people get a feel for it. And if one breaks, well, the pen cost less than a Big Mac

Pilot Varsities are available often in the US, work very well, and can also be refilled with some care. I use one as an every-day carry pen that is also a low-stress loaner. Bic and Zebra also make disposables. Aside from that, Platinum Preppy is one people recommend as a good, cheap pen to use and loan.

I just got into Esterbrooks myself! So far eBay has worked well. There are tons of nibs for around $10.

Edited by WirsPlm, 28 August 2013 - 19:42.


#6 Goldmund

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 19:45

 

I actually checked that out yesterday. I will most likely buy their 2668 if I can't find a 2788 (I'm looking to get in to flex, even if it is a bit difficult as a lefty) anywhere else. Guess I should have specified what type of nib I was looking for. Oops  :)

 

 

Ouch. Remember - it's perfectly OK to say No! Seriously, a firm polite 'no' is way better than causing tension in a friendship because your friend was careless. It's your belonging, and probably costs more than your friend has spent on pens in the past year. If people press, tell them that.

 

Yeah, I'm going to do that from now on. I may have to go out and buy a *gasp* Pilot Varsity to keep in my back pocket just in case. 


Edited by SharkOnWheels456, 28 August 2013 - 19:45.

“I say, if your knees aren’t green by the end of the day, you ought to seriously re-examine your life.”-Calvin 


#7 Eclectica

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 19:46

The quest for the perfect pen :rolleyes: you have come to the right place!!

 

The trouble is, perfection is an abstract morphing concept and as such probably does not exist - but that doesn't stop most of us buying lots of pens in search of it!! :wub: - what is perfect one day seems not quite so the next, and vice-versa. :huh:

 

Probably my best advice would be to try out as many pens as possible. Ideally find a pen restorer, take a few types of paper with you which you use regularly, and work your way through say 30 restored pens - there is eventually bound to be one which works well enough to tick 99/100 boxes!!

 

Best of luck!!


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#8 BrandonA

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 19:51

When I was collecting my Montblanc Writers Edition series, I had the same dilemma as you on some of my pens. I had the choice to sit for the right mint pen and pay a premium or buy the pen regardless of condition. My strategy was to buy the ones I really wanted mint and to take a risk on some which were not so desirable (to me) and buy them on the cheap. Only once have I bought a dud, although the price was so cheap even if I do replace the nib it was still cheaper than getting a mint one.

For me it comes down to how much you want the pen,is it a "grail" or it is to "interest" purchase. If it is the former I'd hold out for the good quality pen at the right price. If it is the latter I'd take a risk.

Good luck with your quest.
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#9 WirsPlm

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 19:57


Yeah, I'm going to do that from now on. I may have to go out and buy a *gasp* Pilot Varsity to keep in my back pocket just in case. 

 

They are surprisingly decent pens for the money.  And you can abuse them or dedicate them to troublesome inks without worry.   The nib is a large Medium though, which is too large for me.  My Varsities are more likely to bleed through the paper than any other pen I have.



#10 Goldmund

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 20:11

When I was collecting my Montblanc Writers Edition series, I had the same dilemma as you on some of my pens. I had the choice to sit for the right mint pen and pay a premium or buy the pen regardless of condition. My strategy was to buy the ones I really wanted mint and to take a risk on some which were not so desirable (to me) and buy them on the cheap. Only once have I bought a dud, although the price was so cheap even if I do replace the nib it was still cheaper than getting a mint one.

For me it comes down to how much you want the pen,is it a "grail" or it is to "interest" purchase. If it is the former I'd hold out for the good quality pen at the right price. If it is the latter I'd take a risk.

Good luck with your quest.

 

It's probably somewhere between a grail and an interest pen for me, since I don't think I'm going to buy multiple pens of the same model for a while. That indecision is essentially the root of my conflict, because I'm not sure if I really do want it as much as my caution would indicate. I'll probably end up taking the risk, since I'll spend the same amount of money on comics in the next month or two (as opposed to a pen that *should* last my whole life). I just wanted to get a feel for other people's opinions on the matter. 

 

They are surprisingly decent pens for the money.  And you can abuse them or dedicate them to troublesome inks without worry.   The nib is a large Medium though, which is too large for me.  My Varsities are more likely to bleed through the paper than any other pen I have.

 

They aren't my cup of tea. A friend lent me one during an exam. Our blue exam booklets have extremely thin, low quality paper, and I nearly dissolved it with the amount of ink that was coming from the Varsity. Bleed through and feathering up the wazoo. I have yet to try it on a higher quality paper, so it may not perform too poorly on those, but the nib puts down too much ink to use the Varsity on cheaper papers.  


Edited by SharkOnWheels456, 28 August 2013 - 20:13.

“I say, if your knees aren’t green by the end of the day, you ought to seriously re-examine your life.”-Calvin 


#11 WirsPlm

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 20:30

 

It's probably somewhere between a grail and an interest pen for me, since I don't think I'm going to buy multiple pens of the same model for a while. That indecision is essentially the root of my conflict, because I'm not sure if I really do want it as much as my caution would indicate. I'll probably end up taking the risk, since I'll spend the same amount of money on comics in the next month or two (as opposed to a pen that *should* last my whole life). I just wanted to get a feel for other people's opinions on the matter. 

 

 

They aren't my cup of tea. A friend lent me one during an exam. Our blue exam booklets have extremely thin, low quality paper, and I nearly dissolved it with the amount of ink that was coming from the Varsity. Bleed through and feathering up the wazoo. I have yet to try it on a higher quality paper, so it may not perform too poorly on those, but the nib puts down too much ink to use the Varsity on cheaper papers.  

 

Yeah, for a grail pen get what you want. You won't regret it.  Part of the fun for me is tinkering, and I have the time and money to get cheap fixer-uppers and repair them.  But that's a hobby with significant startup costs, not a way to get precisely the pen I want.

 

Ah, blue books.  I completely understand not wanting to use a Varsity on those.  One of the true joys of finishing school is not having to deal with them.   :)

 

I was never able to tolerate bad paper, even with pencils, so dealing with the Varsity didn't phase my notebooks (work-provded pads are a completely different story).  If you're going for cheaper paper then a Varsity will be too wet to use often.  Do the Bic disposables or the Zebras come in fine tips, I wonder?    I use a Pilot 78G in Fine on the work-provided pads and that keeps feathering down (although I get a lot of feedback).


Edited by WirsPlm, 28 August 2013 - 20:36.


#12 pajaro

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 20:47

With collectibles you should collect items in the best condition.  You might buy a nice sample with a small defect, but you will probably replace it later.  I wouldn't knowingly buy an item with a defect that would make me regret the purchase.  Why not be patient?  If you commit resources today on an item with issues, tomorrow when a perfect item comes along will you regret having your resources committed? 


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#13 Goldmund

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 20:59

 

Yeah, for a grail pen get what you want. You won't regret it.  Part of the fun for me is tinkering, and I have the time and money to get cheap fixer-uppers and repair them.  But that's a hobby with significant startup costs, not a way to get precisely the pen I want.

 

Ah, blue books.  I completely understand not wanting to use a Varsity on those.  One of the true joys of finishing school is not having to deal with them.   :)

 

I was never able to tolerate bad paper, even with pencils, so dealing with the Varsity didn't phase my notebooks (work-provded pads are a completely different story).  If you're going for cheaper paper then a Varsity will be too wet to use often.  Do the Bic disposables or the Zebras come in fine tips, I wonder?    I use a Pilot 78G in Fine on the work-provided pads and that keeps feathering down (although I get a lot of feedback).

 

I know the Bics also come in medium. Haven't encountered the Zebras in the wild before (I know, I'm pretty clever  ;)).

 

Honestly, how to schools keep so many of these blue books? The specific brand we use stopped making them years ago, and yet they have a seemingly endless supply of them. 

 

I use good quality papers for my notes and journaling, so Varsities wouldn't be much of a hassle on them. To be honest, I have enough fountain pens at this point that I don't think I'll ever need to use the disposable aside from lending it to people. 

 

 

With collectibles you should collect items in the best condition.  You might buy a nice sample with a small defect, but you will probably replace it later.  I wouldn't knowingly buy an item with a defect that would make me regret the purchase.  Why not be patient?  If you commit resources today on an item with issues, tomorrow when a perfect item comes along will you regret having your resources committed? 

 

That's exactly why I'm cautious. However, the better pens that I do see are on eBay, and that is not always a definite purchase. Even though I know how to bid well, committing myself to waiting for the perfect pen may be fruitless in the end. I have seen some other pens on websites that are very nice looking, but those are at least $20-30 more expensive than pens I could bid for. 

 

Oh, woe is me. It's such a struggle, trying to collect nice pens to write with  :D


“I say, if your knees aren’t green by the end of the day, you ought to seriously re-examine your life.”-Calvin 


#14 pajaro

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 21:08

You don't have to buy a perfect item, but you might decide what level of imperfection you can tolerate as a long term keeper, and not buy at a lower level.  I have collected postage stamps and pens for a long time, and items with noticeable defects in stamps or pens do bother me and I wish I hadn't bought them.  Sometimes you can't sell say, a Montblanc 146 with a feed defect that causes it to skip, unless you send it to MB for an $80 repair.  You might regret stuff like that.  Sellers tend to ignore defects, but buyers don't want pens with those defects.


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#15 ac12

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Posted 28 August 2013 - 22:08

When I buy pens, they are in one of 2 categories.

  • Collection.  These will probably never get used, so the tip size is of no concern. 
    Physical condition as good as possible (but some times you have to compromise on condition in order to get something that is hard to find).
  • Use. Obviously I will write with them, so the tip size is critical.  For me it has to be a F tip, M is too wide and XF too narrow.
    Condition is not too important as I expect it to get worn during regular use, as long as it is not really WORN or ratty looking.  You look at it every time you write, so it has to look good to you.  If you do not like blue, do not get a blue pen.

For my use pens I have 2 categories

  • Home pens, which will never leave the house.
    These are my GOOD pens.
  • Office pens, which will go with me to work.  School pens for you.
    Office pens are "sacrificial."  If they get lost, stolen or damaged it won't really hurt. 
    If someone REALLY wants to try/use it, its OK with me.
    So needless to say, these are NOT my good pens.

    In your case, do NOT take any of your vintage pens to school.
    Keep them at home to do your homework with.

Here are my "office pens" (all less than $20):

  • Pilot Metropolitan ($15 from Staples)
  • Baoer 388 (clone of the Parker Sonnet, less than $10 shipped eBay)
  • Parker 88 (got it used from eBay)

All 3 pens are good, smooth writers, so I am not sacrificing good writing for an inexpensive office pen.
In fact the Pilot Metro and Baoer 388 are probably 2 of my better writers.

 

When someone ask to borrow a pen

  • As was said before, carry multiple pens, a ball pen or roller ball for someone who wants to borrow a pen.
  • And for someone who really wants to try a fountain pen, maybe a Pilot Varsity or a Chinese pen off eBay (for about $5 shipped to your door). 
  • Or learn to FIRMLY say NO, and live with it that you may have upset the person asking.
    Some may pull the "guilt trip" on you to get you to let them use it. 
    You could tell them that it is an expensive pen, and easily damaged if used incorrectly, and they could buy it from you if they want it.  That puts the $ monkey on them.
    Remember it is YOUR pen and someone already damaged YOUR pen when they used it.

As for buying on eBay.  FINANCES.

Research the pen and see what it is worth, then set your budget accordingly, to what you can afford.

You set the budget, then stick to it.  Don't get caught up in bidding frenzy. 

Most of the pens you are looking at will probably appear again in a bit, so if you miss a pen, just wait a few weeks/months and another one will be listed again.

 

There are also a LOT of Chinese pens that you can get delivered to your mailbox for less than $10.  Some of these could make good school pens.  One of them (the Baoer 388) is in my group of "office pens."


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#16 kcnightfang

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Posted 29 August 2013 - 19:27

I'm still hunting down my perfect pen as well. The key to my hunt was to try a few different nib sizes to find out what I really liked, and just use a pen for a while to see what I like and don't like to inform the next purchase.

 

I started with an EF, loved it for a while, but the cap was too wiggly for me to carry daily. Then I got a Kaweco Classic Sport and discovered that I love tiny pens that post well. After that I ended up with a M/B nib and it was a tad stubbish, so I tried a Safari with a B nib, which is a bit too large for me, but I loved the simplicity and durability. Then I got a Sailor 1911m MF. The nib is a sweet spot, but I worry about hurting it, so I barely take it out and about with me.

 

In the end, I'm zeroing in on a nib size, and a few qualities that I like. My first pen is still one of my favorites, the nib is awesome, I just wish the cap was more secure.

 

My advice is to find your nib size, then experiment with few different styles of inexpensive pen, and then save up to move up into the next price bracket once you really know what you want.



#17 Goldmund

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Posted 30 August 2013 - 01:25

In the end, I'm zeroing in on a nib size, and a few qualities that I like. My first pen is still one of my favorites, the nib is awesome, I just wish the cap was more secure.

 

My advice is to find your nib size, then experiment with few different styles of inexpensive pen, and then save up to move up into the next price bracket once you really know what you want.

 

Yeah, I think I'm gunning for a Sheaffer medium nib because I think it will be a size I like. The Sheaffer F is too thin for me, and my Esterbrook 2668 is a bit too wide for my tastes (though that could be in part to its broken-ness  :D ). If it has the same proportion that I'm imagining that it has to the F, the Sheaffer M may be an ideal size. They are very smooth nibs, so I think I would be pleased with it. 


“I say, if your knees aren’t green by the end of the day, you ought to seriously re-examine your life.”-Calvin 


#18 kcnightfang

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Posted 03 September 2013 - 12:19

Sounds like a good plan! I love my Sheaffer F, but it is really fine.

 

I actually discovered that I like EF, italic, and occasionally B nibs, so I just need one of everything. It's a problem. :P



#19 OcalaFlGuy

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Posted 03 September 2013 - 15:22

 I'm looking for a new nib. Preferably something with a bit of flex so I can avoid this kind of havoc in the future. 

 

Danke, 

 

Mike. 

 

 

 

Even a Semi-flex Estie nib would be MORE likely for a nOOb to damage.

 

Look on your Estie nib chart for their Manifold nibs. Those were made to press down through 3 part carbon paper. They are particularly stout nibs. 

 

I  would suggest a 9461.

 

Bruce in Ocala, Fl



#20 Goldmund

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Posted 03 September 2013 - 15:57

 

Even a Semi-flex Estie nib would be MORE likely for a nOOb to damage.

 

Look on your Estie nib chart for their Manifold nibs. Those were made to press down through 3 part carbon paper. They are particularly stout nibs. 

 

I  would suggest a 9461.

 

Bruce in Ocala, Fl

 

 

I was actually poking around the Estie forums a little bit over the past couple of days, and I've decided that I'll be getting a 9460 (I personally prefer medium points to fine points). I have yet to be able to find a 2788 or a 9788, so it seems like the best choice. 

 

I really should start with flex writing elsewhere before putting one of the nibs on my J. Oh well   :closedeyes:  


“I say, if your knees aren’t green by the end of the day, you ought to seriously re-examine your life.”-Calvin 






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