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Mabie Todd Swan Advice/suggestions

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#1 ALeonardoA

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Posted 16 March 2016 - 00:26

Hello FPN,

 

I was wondering if someone with more vintage flex knowledge than I (which isn't much) could advise me with my newest acquisition.

 

It is a Mabie Todd Swan SF250 circa 1937. I need to do some more research on the hallmarks stamped onto the gold bands.

 

Upon first using the pen I noticed some quirks here and there, like dry starts at the beginning and some railroading. It also seemed to work better when holding it at a rather high angle, though then it feels a tad scratchier. After using it for a while, these problems pretty much go away entirely, as if it gets much wetter after some use.

 

I was looking at the nib through a loupe and I noticed that the gap of the tip is a little wonky. It's a bit V shaped when looking at it head on where the tines meet. The tip of the left tine somehow seems bigger than the right, like there's more material. The gap of the tines is pretty much parallel from the hole of the nib to the tip of the tine (I thought it was supposed to be a bit more tapered towards the tip where the tines meet.)

 

The pen seems to be in great condition otherwise, the lever works well, the gold bands aren't worn, the inscriptions are still legible, etc. But I'm wondering if this nib could be improved if I sent it to someone competent. Like I said, it seems to behave much better after it's been used for a minute or two and then it lays down a good amount of ink (quite a bit, though I am using Iroshizuku with it, which maybe is too watery?) and I can make a flex stroke from top to bottom of page without it railroading. I'm just wondering if with some adjustment I could get a bit finer line on the upstrokes and just a more consistent performance over all. On the side strokes it's about an XF/F if done fast, the diagonals or upstrokes seem more like a F/M and the downward strokes can get to 3mm (though I'm a bit paranoid of doing that very often.)

 

Anyways, if anyone wants to throw in their two cents I'd appreciate it. Could that V issue I mentioned be something that happens with a nib that flexes that much? Does the angle become more parallel when it's flexed? That's just a random thought though. Thanks!

 

Photo-Mar-15,-16-19-55.jpg Photo-Mar-15,-16-25-02.jpg Photo-Mar-15,-16-26-51.jpg Photo-Mar-15,-16-22-59.jpg

 

 



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#2 Goudy

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Posted 16 March 2016 - 01:44

Your nib looks pretty good to me, and that may be how it left the factory. It's not at all unusual for the tips of a vintage nib to be different sizes. Sometimes the difference can be extreme.

 

If the "V" does indicate a little tipping loss on the right side (I don't know, I'd need a closer look) it doesn't appear to affect the writing surface on the underside, so I shouldn't be worried about it. The railroading is probably due to overenthusiastic flexing. Go easy on those downstrokes!


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#3 ALeonardoA

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Posted 16 March 2016 - 02:42

Thanks Goudy, will do!

 

I won't get in the habit of flexing it like that, I was just impressed that it could go that wide. The railroading or tramlining I mentioned happens with less "strenuous", normal strokes as well, but again once I start writing with it for a couple minutes it goes away along with the dry starts and then it gets very wet, maybe even too much. That's why I thought perhaps reducing the gap a bit might be a good idea as well as giving me a finer line on the upstrokes.

 

There's some well-known people here in California near me that do repairs so I guess I'll just send it in to one of them and see what they think.

 

Sorry about the pictures, they don't really convey what I'm trying to describe too much, just wanted to get others' impressions since I'm new to the vintage flex world. Grazie mille!



#4 Greenie

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Posted 16 March 2016 - 03:09

Wow. That nib is just fantastic!  As a fellow Californian I might have to find you and steal that pen for a while. My best flex nib is a Swan 3, but it came in a Sheaffer gold overlay and I have left it there.

 

The railroading is almost normal for such a bold flex. It can be hard for the feed to keep up. You can try different inks to find one that has different flow characteristics that keeps up with the flow better. I am not the ink expert, so from me it is trial and error. Hopefully someone will some along with advice on an ink for such massive flex.  Or try the ink forum to see if the ink experts can recommend ink for such a crazy flex nib.

 

If you do full disassembly and cleaning, this can also improve if you knock out the nib and feed and be sure that the feed channels are totally clear of old ink crud by using a brass sheet to clean them out. If you do not do this, just be sure you have done some aggressive flushing to clear them the best you can.

 

The dry starts that go away with holding the pen more perpendicular to the paper (if I understood correctly) are often a "baby's bottom" contour of the nib on the writing surface. But if I am seeing the picture correctly, the V is the culprit.

 

I am not sure if I am seeing the picture well. Is the nib slit like a V with the tines in contact at the bottom, and open at the top?  If so, a tiny tweak to open the bottom will improve the start. It will probably not open the bottom, but rather get the two sides to contact more completely at rest. This will make for a gentle closure of the slit along the entire length, improving capillary action to the tip.  Then there will be ink along the bottom of the nib tip at rest and better starts. The unequal tipping is not usually of any consequence.

 

READ THIS.  It diagrams the common nib issues, including a V with the Baby's Bottom that you seem to have.

 

http://www.richardsp...kshop_notes.pdf



#5 ALeonardoA

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Posted 16 March 2016 - 04:57

Hi Greenie,

 

Ha! Well I'm in SoCal and I'm looking to go to the next SCPCC meeting, so if you're there you can try it out!

 

I've been using Iroshizuku ink which flows quite well. Once the pen gets over its first hiccups it flows like a river, maybe even too much, so I don't think ink is the problem. For some reason it just takes a few minutes of use after some dry starts to get it going.

 

I purchased it from an English gentleman and it was advertised as being serviced so hopefully it's cleaned adequately. I'm a little apprehensive to disassemble it for now as I've only worked on Parkers myself so I'm going to have to do some reading and research before I get to that point.

 

I was wondering about the "baby's bottom" possibility for the dry starts etc. and thought that maybe there was some connection to the V shape of the gap of the tines, where the top is wider than the bottom where contact is made (Richard Binder calls it a "Grand Canyon slit"). Anyways, those kind of repairs are beyond me so I'm going to send it in to someone that way they can look it over in general.

 

Yes, I have seen Richard's article and I'm going to study it a bit more because it has great information in it. Thanks!


Edited by ALeonardoA, 16 March 2016 - 05:04.


#6 Greenie

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Posted 16 March 2016 - 05:45

As soon as Fred picks a date for the meeting, I will post it in the clubs and meetings section and update the SCPCC web site.  

 

I always tweak my own pens, but I would not want to futz with someone else's  nib for fear of snapping off the tipping.  Fred might be able to adjust it at the next meeting as well.  

With a tiny adjustment by someone knowing what to do, you should have a great writing pen.



#7 Ursus

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Posted 16 March 2016 - 10:18

That nib looks just great! It's incredibly handmade compared to the nibs made these days, and those guys really knew their ways with flex nibs - I'm pretty sure that no one in the world today could make a nib like that.

If railroading (is that railwaying in British English? :)) continues to be an issue, I can recommend Parker Quink or J. Herbin inks as they are rather free flowing. Anyway, from your written sample, it looks like it is able to write with maximally spread tines from the very beginning (on the down stroke) which is pretty amazing and requires quite a flow.



#8 missuslovett

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Posted 16 March 2016 - 13:33

Welcome to the Swan Forum!

 

That old SF looks good to me - Swans are such tarts for flex! I've also found that the more you use quality vintage flex, as long as the feed and nib are right, the better the starts and the less railroading you get. Having one side of the tipping more worn than the other is quite common and it doesn't seem to bother the pens I've used but it doesn't hurt to have your local nibmeister cast an eye over it for optimum performance. Another 'wet' ink you might try is Noodlers. Their great shading inks really stand out with flex. That's some great calligraphy with a lovely pen.



#9 Cob

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Posted 16 March 2016 - 16:19

If I were you I'd leave it alone: it writes beautifully - with its lovely MT NY nib. 

 

As for starting problems I have one or two like that - I used to worry but not now - I just keep a small glass of water handy.

 

SF250 is an odd nomenclature - are you sure it isn't a SF 230?  Though I suppose it is possible that 250 reflects the very wide golden bands to the barrel.

 

Cob


fpn_1428963683__6s.jpg “The pen of the British Empire” fpn_1423349537__swan_sign_is.jpg


#10 ALeonardoA

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Posted 16 March 2016 - 23:38

Urus, I'm going to try the J. Herbin ink, I've heard good things. The sample writing in the picture was made after a few minutes writing with it. Once it "loosens up" so to speak it doesn't have issues and writes very wet. It flexes so easy its actually kinda hard for me to keep the hairlines thin. All a question of practice, I'm sure as I'm used to dip nibs and such. I heard a British person call it "tramlining", in the US they say "railroading" heh, same idea, but fun to use different terms. "Railwaying" is new to me, I like them all!

 

missuslovett, thank you for the welcome! It's good to know that size variation of tipping isn't necessarily a problem. Seems like as long as it's tuned to reflect the difference it should be OK.

 

Hello Cob, I agree with you about not messing about with it too much. I did send it off today to a good "nibmeister" near me just to have a trained eye take a look at it close up; it's hard to tell what's going on with pictures and obviously my knowledge isn't up to snuff. It's my first time with vintage flexes and I guess I want the first to be as good as it can! Yes, it's definitely SF-250 because it's imprinted on the blind cap (I think that's what the bottom part is called.) However, so far I know very little about these pens. I think the hallmarks are (9) (.375) (what looks like the outline of the London Assay Office hallmark, the Jaguar face) (and I think the letter is a B which would make it 1937, and that's what the vendor said too.) Thanks!



#11 Cob

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Posted 17 March 2016 - 08:49

Hullo again.

 

The London Hallmark includes a Leopard.  That pen was made well before 1937.

 

If the hallmark is from 1937 then those bands were added later.  Swan ceased using the "SF" prefix long before 1930, adopting numbers only for the self fillers and using a L prefix for the leverless models and of course V for the Visofils.

 

C.


fpn_1428963683__6s.jpg “The pen of the British Empire” fpn_1423349537__swan_sign_is.jpg


#12 ALeonardoA

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Posted 17 March 2016 - 17:08

Hullo again.

 

The London Hallmark includes a Leopard.  That pen was made well before 1937.

 

If the hallmark is from 1937 then those bands were added later.  Swan ceased using the "SF" prefix long before 1930, adopting numbers only for the self fillers and using a L prefix for the leverless models and of course V for the Visofils.

 

C.

 

I suppose I should get in the habit of using the quote feature.

 

A Leopard! That's right, I knew it was some kind of large cat, thank you for correcting me. I have a sterling silver flask from the 1880s with the same Leopard head and Queen Victoria's profile, I remember doing research on British silver hallmarks a while ago.

 

The hallmarks on the pen's bands are bit faded though, except for the (9) (.375) so I wouldn't be surprised if I misidentified the letter especially. I did have my doubts about it being a B, or at least that specific type of B, I just assumed the vendor was correct but he wasn't 100% sure himself. I need a more powerful loupe. SF stands for Self Filler?



#13 Greenie

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Posted 17 March 2016 - 22:07

If it is a simple capital "B" it could be part of the sponsor's mark, and not the 1937 stylized "B" year mark. Anyway, there is plenty of info on line about these hallmarks, and I am just looking it up. I don't know any of this off the top of my head!

 

So the bands a 9K, London assay, but not sure what year...  Still - beautiful example of SF pen with fantastic nib.  SF is Self Filler. L is leverless. SM is Swan Minor.



#14 ALeonardoA

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Posted 18 March 2016 - 22:32

Update: Good thing I sent the pen to be looked at. Apparently there were some substantial issues with the nib that only a trained nib-repair person could see up close and personal. What a shame. I couldn't justify the initial price, which didn't reflect these issues at all, plus the cost of repair. Thankfully the vendor offered a full refund, but a waste for all the shipping costs. Still better than paying too much for a damaged nib though. C'est la vie.


Edited by ALeonardoA, 18 March 2016 - 22:33.


#15 Cob

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Posted 18 March 2016 - 23:13

Was it cracked?

 

If not, judging by the writing you made, I should like a nib with issues that yours has!

 

C.


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#16 ALeonardoA

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Posted 19 March 2016 - 01:01

Was it cracked?

 

If not, judging by the writing you made, I should like a nib with issues that yours has!

 

C.

 

I was told that the tines are or had been bent, the tipping was not aligned, and evidently someone must have taken pliers to said tipping, which would have to be repaired as well. This confirmed my initial suspicions, but the kicker was that there are two cracks in or around the vent hole of the nib, which supposedly is the reason why the nib could flex as much as it does. I never noticed any cracks but then again I wouldn't really know what or where to look for unless it were painfully obvious.

 

Since the repair cost would have been 2/3 the pen's original price and because I purchased the pen with the understanding that there was actually nothing wrong to begin with, it just doesn't make sense to me. If I purchased the pen for much less then I'd probably go for it, considering the nib-repair person does very good work and relatively fast.

 

Looking at the pen, yes, it doesn't seem like anything is obviously wrong and the body is in very good condition and those lines look pretty tempting...but I'm just not convinced, though that could be my inexperience talking.



#17 Cob

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Posted 19 March 2016 - 16:27

 

I was told that the tines are or had been bent, the tipping was not aligned, and evidently someone must have taken pliers to said tipping, which would have to be repaired as well. This confirmed my initial suspicions, but the kicker was that there are two cracks in or around the vent hole of the nib, which supposedly is the reason why the nib could flex as much as it does. I never noticed any cracks but then again I wouldn't really know what or where to look for unless it were painfully obvious.

 

Since the repair cost would have been 2/3 the pen's original price and because I purchased the pen with the understanding that there was actually nothing wrong to begin with, it just doesn't make sense to me. If I purchased the pen for much less then I'd probably go for it, considering the nib-repair person does very good work and relatively fast.

 

Looking at the pen, yes, it doesn't seem like anything is obviously wrong and the body is in very good condition and those lines look pretty tempting...but I'm just not convinced, though that could be my inexperience talking.

Ah yes well if it's cracked that does make for a costly repair.  A shame really of course as it is a nice pen - and I have a nice MT NY nib here that would suit it a treat!

 

Best of luck

 

Cob


fpn_1428963683__6s.jpg “The pen of the British Empire” fpn_1423349537__swan_sign_is.jpg


#18 Ursus

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Posted 19 March 2016 - 17:52

:(

 

Heart shaped holes rarely cause hair lines to appear but of cause the tines migt bend at a line around the rather flat part of the heart or who knows what. Anyway, are you sure that you would not rather ask the seller for a discount and try your luck? These old nibs often have their personal flaws when you look at them, but no modern nib meister could do what the makers of those nibs did.

 

Best regards

Ursus


Edited by Ursus, 19 March 2016 - 17:56.


#19 ALeonardoA

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Posted 20 March 2016 - 20:59

Well, it seems you guys have inspired me. I shared the email from my "nib-meister" with the vendor explaining what the issues were. Also upon reviewing the original pen images (not the ones I uploaded) one of the cracks was actually visible, but just barely. You could only see it if you knew what you were looking for essentially. The vendor said he's willing to send me a replacement nib of "the same performance and age" (a M.T. New York No. 2) and this time he said he'll ensure everything is OK with it. He also offered to cover the cost of replacement and some kind of refund. So I'm glad you guys made me think twice about it. Hopefully it will be up and running soon! Cheers.

 

Leo


Edited by ALeonardoA, 20 March 2016 - 21:00.


#20 Cob

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Posted 20 March 2016 - 22:05

Well, it seems you guys have inspired me. I shared the email from my "nib-meister" with the vendor explaining what the issues were. Also upon reviewing the original pen images (not the ones I uploaded) one of the cracks was actually visible, but just barely. You could only see it if you knew what you were looking for essentially. The vendor said he's willing to send me a replacement nib of "the same performance and age" (a M.T. New York No. 2) and this time he said he'll ensure everything is OK with it. He also offered to cover the cost of replacement and some kind of refund. So I'm glad you guys made me think twice about it. Hopefully it will be up and running soon! Cheers.

 

Leo

You appear to have found avery good vendor.  I am sure that you will be happy in the end!

 

Best of luck

 

Cob


fpn_1428963683__6s.jpg “The pen of the British Empire” fpn_1423349537__swan_sign_is.jpg




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