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The Evolution Of Pneumatic Filling Pens


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8 replies to this topic

#1 sztainbok

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Posted 27 September 2019 - 15:53

A long time ago the Sheaffer Snorkel pens became my favorite pens, for its ingenious mechanism and the clean fill concept. They are also great writers I used one to take class notes through secondary school, (a lifetime ago).

This interest lead me to investigate the origin and evolution of pneumatic fountain pens and in this post I am going to try and identify the key milestones in their evolution.

 

First I will attempt a definition of a pneumatic filling system. A pneumatic filling pen has a rubber sac enclosed in a barrel where air pressure can be introduced which collapses the sac and when the air pressure is released, if the nib is immersed in ink the sac will recover its original shape drawing ink into it. There may be a better definition and I would appreciate the input.

 

The earliest such pen I am aware of is the Crocker blow pen, introduced in 1901. It has a hole at the end of the barrel. You have to blow through it and release the pressure when the nib and feed is immersed in ink. The cap also has a hole, so this can be done with the cap posted which may be more comfortable.

 

fpn_1569596976__crocker_pneumatic.jpg

 

The next improvement to the concept was in 1924 with the Chilton touchdown pen. This model had a tube sealed with waxed twine, with  a hole at the barrel end. To fill, you have to extend the tube, cover the hole with your finger and push it in a rapid stroke. When the finger is removed the sac expands and fills with ink

 

fpn_1569597765__chilton_pneumatic.jpg

 

It was in 1948 that Sheaffer came up with the Sheaffer Touchdown model. It worked very much like the Chilton above, except that there was no need to block the hole with the finger. This was achieved with a hole near the top of the barrel that would relieve the pressure in the up stroke. The availability of o-rings probably enabled this solution. Sheaffer continued to use this filling system for many decades in a variety of models. At this time I don't have a picture to show this pen

 

So it was in 1952 that the Sheaffer Snorkel was introduced to the market. Probably one of the most complex pens ever. It filled like the touchdown, except that the nib didn't have to be immersed in the ink bottle, just the snorkel tube that is extended to fill and then retracted afterwards without the need to wipe the nib. The Snorkel system was also used later on on the PFM model and then discontinued in favor of the Touchdown system, probably because of the complexity of the Snorkel mechanism.

 

fpn_1569598574__snorkel_pneumatic.jpg

 

 

The last pen design iteration came in 1995 with the Sheaffer Legacy. This model included a touchdown converter that enabled the pen to be filled with a cartridge or if the converter was used as a touchdown pen.

 

fpn_1569595762__sheaffer_legacy_pneumati

 

As indicated above, I just attempted to list significant milestones, I am aware that there were some French pneumatic pens. Perhaps members of the community could help to fill in the blanks in this story.

All the best,

Victor.


Edited by sztainbok, 27 September 2019 - 16:29.


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#2 Greenie

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Posted 28 September 2019 - 15:31

I would include the Chilton variant, the Chiltonian.  The inner metal tube slides out of the barrel, and you cover the end hole with your finger.  It is the evolutionary step between Chilton's classic filler and the Sheaffer Touchdown.

 

fpn_1569684572__chiltonian.jpg



#3 sztainbok

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Posted 28 September 2019 - 16:08

Thanks Greenie! It would be interesting to date the introduction of this model. Can you tell from the markings where the pen was made? That could give us a clew,  In the early 1930's the Chilton factory was moved from Boston to Long Island NY.



#4 sztainbok

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Posted 28 September 2019 - 16:25

And in the late 30's they moved to Summit NJ



#5 Greenie

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Posted 28 September 2019 - 19:36

It is marked Summit NJ. It has a steel nib marked "Chiltonian Summit NJ U.S.A."

the plastic end of the filler is imprinted 

CHILTONIAN

SUMMIT, N.J.

MADE IN U.S.A.

 

It is clearly a lower end model. Inexpensive washer style clip with thin plating, bandless, steel nib, etc.

 

Functionally, I think the picture explains it.  It  is like the Chilton, but the tube pulls out of the barrel and you cover the end hole with your finger while depressing the plunger tube.  The Sheaffer Touchdown was very clever improvement in that there is a crimp near the plastic knob, so the metal sleeve is sealed by itself, and when the sleeve reaches complete insertion, the crimp relieves the pressure on the sac.

 

An additional "cheap" feature of the Chiltonian is a lack of threads on the plunger knob. it can just be pulled out and pushed back in.



#6 sztainbok

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Posted 30 September 2019 - 13:28

Further researching, I came across this post http://www.fountainp...matic_filler/en on fountainpen.it on Pneumatic filling pens.

There is a listing of patents and I found interesting to see some patents issued to Kaweco, Montblanc and Parker.

There is also a post on Blow Fillers, http://www.fountainp.../Blow_filler/en


Edited by sztainbok, 30 September 2019 - 13:31.


#7 sztainbok

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    Victor S.

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Posted 30 September 2019 - 14:00

Reviewing the patents on fountainpen.it, it appears that the design of the Chiltonian shown on post #2 was predated by the Montblanc Compressor. Chilton's patent is dated 1930 and Montblanc's 1924.



#8 sztainbok

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Posted 11 October 2019 - 14:22

Here is a picture of a Sheaffer Touchdown I just received in the mail.

 

fpn_1570803344__sheaffer_touchdown.jpg

 

It would be interesting if someone could add a picture of a Montblanc Compressor to this thread.

Victor.


Edited by sztainbok, 11 October 2019 - 20:00.


#9 sztainbok

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Posted 11 October 2019 - 14:56

The Sheaffer Touchdown was very clever improvement in that there is a crimp near the plastic knob, so the metal sleeve is sealed by itself, and when the sleeve reaches complete insertion, the crimp relieves the pressure on the sac.

 

 

The development of the Sheaffer Touchdown, was also enabled by the use of an O-ring for providing the seal between the metal sleeve and the barrel. The O-ring is installed in a recess of the barrel, allowing the crimp to go past it to provide the relief. The Chilton waxed twine seal had to be on the metal sleeve, which required the use of the finger to establish and relieve the vacuum.

I am not familiar with the Montblanc Compressor, but I assume it also had a waxed twine seal.

 

O-rings were invented in 1937 and became available during WWII, and were not available when Chilton invented their touchdown pens.

 

Victor.








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