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Waterman 52 Review [Why You Should Consider A Vintage Pen!]


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21 replies to this topic

#1 Bornin1992

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Posted 26 March 2020 - 02:35

Hi, all, 

 

There are no shortage of Waterman 52 reviews, and as such,  this review applies more broadly to vintage pens. I started using fountain pens in 2014. I started with a Pilot Metropolitan and was soon purchasing my first "serious" fountain pen: a Pelikan M200. Since then, I have acquired a respectable collection of modern fountain pens ranging from a TWSBI Eco to a custom-pen made by Scriptorium Pens (am still waiting for my order to come up in the queue).

 

Before, I would have never considered purchasing a vintage pen because they were used, and almost all have some sign of use. I decided to purchase my first vintage pen: A Parker 51 from South Slope Stylos. Last summer, I took the summer to explore Ontario and the eastern provinces. When I went to a new city, I would search the classifieds to find someone advertising vintage pens, or ask a local stationary store for a referral. In my experience, nearly every city has someone known for dealing in vintage fountain pens. I would make contact, meet up for coffee or at a ferry terminal, try out pens, and make a purchase. I met incredible people, and there was only one experience where I felt uncomfortable and purchased a pen out of fear and to avoid an altercation. In my view, this experience cannot be replicated in a traditional fountain pen store that sells only modern pens. 

 

I have now acquired six vintage fountain pens: an Esterbrook J, a Parker 45, a Parker 21, a Parker Vacumatic, a Sheaffer Balance Oversize, and most recently a Waterman 52. While the Parker 45 and Parker 21 do not get used as often as the others, the Sheaffer and Waterman are in heavy rotation. 

 

The Waterman 52 is a great pen. It is light and fun to write with. Admittedly it is a bit sensitive, and I occasionally find it leaks a bit on the section. But what is great about vintage pens is the history, much of which will be unknown. The 52 is, at least, 90 years old. During those 90 years, I do not know who owned it, or what he or she wrote with it. As I do not know this information, it brings a sense of warmth that cannot be replicated in modern pens. 

 

My hope in writing this post is to encourage those who, like me, might be reluctant to enter the vintage pen realm, to give it a try. Yes, vintage pens might be physically dirtier than a freshly manufactured modern pen, but it is nothing a cloth with water cannot clean!

 

Cheers,

 

Bornin1992

PS: Given the Covid-19 pandemic, it is not advisable to meet strangers in public, but it is a fun experience!

PPS: Can someone please tell me what you would classify my flexibility as? I find it flexible, but am unsure whether it would be considered full-flex or not.

Waterman-52-Review.jpg


Edited by Bornin1992, 26 March 2020 - 02:50.

Jinhao X750, Wing Sung 601 (F), Pilot Metropolitan (M), TWSBI ECO (M), Sheaffer 300 (M), Faber-Castell Carbon Basic (M), (2) Pelikan M200 (F), Pilot Custom 74 (F), Platinum 3776 ( B ), Lamy 2000,(2) FPR Himalaya #5.5 (Fine, medium, broad, flex nibs), Parker 51 (M), Esterbrook J (2556)


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#2 taimdala

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Posted 26 March 2020 - 04:00

Wow, Bornin1992, great review!

Also, wow! you pen-shopped your way across Ontario? COOL!!!

I have a few vintage pens I purchased at the Triangle Pen Show in 2019. Two of them are inked.

 

One is a a small pointed cigar pen in red veined grey marble with "Sheaffer's" on the clip. It looks like it might be a Sheaffer's Balance-style pen. (Possibly in the Junior size?) 

The other is a red Esterbrook SJ. I managed to get several nibs for it and it's currently fitted with an extra flexible fine 2048 nib. I'm hoping to purchase the corresponding 9048 (extra flexible fine) or a 9128 (extra flexible extra fine) without spending an arm and a leg. Hard to do, as the vintage Esterbrook nibs are really popular in the flex sizes.

 

My Sheaffer is used only rarely, but my Esterbrook is used more often. I need to get a nice single pen case for my Sheaffer so I can use it as a daily writer and carry it with me in my pocket. I don't want the ink to dry up in the pen from non-use.

Most of my pens are modern and purchased new but these vintage pens are a pleasant surprise and have a fun bit of flex to their nibs. ^_^



#3 Marcwithac

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Posted 26 March 2020 - 04:25

Welcome to the club, Bornin1992.  I have been collecting and writing with vintage fountain pens for almost 30 years.  While I also buy and use more modern pens, for the most part I get more enjoyment from the oldies.  As many here on FPN will attest, with a few exceptions, they just don't make flexible nibs like they used to (and your Waterman 52 seems to be plenty flexy).  And, as you have observed, when you write with a vintage pen, you're writing with a piece of history.  In my case, when I began this hobby I was living in Prague and placed ads in the classified sections of some Czech newspapers saying I would buy vintage pens.  A great many of the pens that I bought at that time were sold by the original owners, their surviving spouses, their children or their grandchildren, and I often heard colorful stories about the original owners and the pens.

 

By the way, be careful cleaning vintage hard rubber pens with water.  Water can cause the hard rubber to turn brown (I won't get into the technical details here, but if you look around this website there are many good explanations).



#4 Bornin1992

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Posted 26 March 2020 - 04:36

Wow, Bornin1992, great review!

Also, wow! you pen-shopped your way across Ontario? COOL!!!

I have a few vintage pens I purchased at the Triangle Pen Show in 2019. Two of them are inked.

 

One is a a small pointed cigar pen in red veined grey marble with "Sheaffer's" on the clip. It looks like it might be a Sheaffer's Balance-style pen. (Possibly in the Junior size?) 

The other is a red Esterbrook SJ. I managed to get several nibs for it and it's currently fitted with an extra flexible fine 2048 nib. I'm hoping to purchase the corresponding 9048 (extra flexible fine) or a 9128 (extra flexible extra fine) without spending an arm and a leg. Hard to do, as the vintage Esterbrook nibs are really popular in the flex sizes.

 

My Sheaffer is used only rarely, but my Esterbrook is used more often. I need to get a nice single pen case for my Sheaffer so I can use it as a daily writer and carry it with me in my pocket. I don't want the ink to dry up in the pen from non-use.

Most of my pens are modern and purchased new but these vintage pens are a pleasant surprise and have a fun bit of flex to their nibs. ^_^

Thanks! How flexible do you find the Esterbrook 2048?

 

Welcome to the club, Bornin1992.  I have been collecting and writing with vintage fountain pens for almost 30 years.  While I also buy and use more modern pens, for the most part I get more enjoyment from the oldies.  As many here on FPN will attest, with a few exceptions, they just don't make flexible nibs like they used to (and your Waterman 52 seems to be plenty flexy).  And, as you have observed, when you write with a vintage pen, you're writing with a piece of history.  In my case, when I began this hobby I was living in Prague and placed ads in the classified sections of some Czech newspapers saying I would buy vintage pens.  A great many of the pens that I bought at that time were sold by the original owners, their surviving spouses, their children or their grandchildren, and I often heard colorful stories about the original owners and the pens.

 

By the way, be careful cleaning vintage hard rubber pens with water.  Water can cause the hard rubber to turn brown (I won't get into the technical details here, but if you look around this website there are many good explanations).

Thanks! That's a good idea. When this pandemic situation slows and such, I will have to make an ad. I never thought of making people come to me...

And thanks for the warning on using water with hard rubber pens. 

What would you classify the flex on my 52 as? I am searching for a new pen, and I am content with the flexiness of this one. I, however, am unsure whether it is considered semi-flex, full flex, etc.


Jinhao X750, Wing Sung 601 (F), Pilot Metropolitan (M), TWSBI ECO (M), Sheaffer 300 (M), Faber-Castell Carbon Basic (M), (2) Pelikan M200 (F), Pilot Custom 74 (F), Platinum 3776 ( B ), Lamy 2000,(2) FPR Himalaya #5.5 (Fine, medium, broad, flex nibs), Parker 51 (M), Esterbrook J (2556)


#5 KBeezie

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Posted 26 March 2020 - 06:18

Thanks! How flexible do you find the Esterbrook 2048?

 

 

I can't speak for the OP, but having had this nib before, it's pretty firm for even a semi-flex, it does however seem to tolerate the pressure required to get the line variation without hurting it. 

It basically gives the line variation of roughly what you might consider a modern EF up to about a Medium-ish width without having to push too hard, in normal jotting it has a little bit of springiness to it with very minor shading due to a slight increase in pressure. 

 

Don't expect to use it for large dramatic line variation, but rather if you like a bit of bouncy/springy nib that has a tiny bit of conscious flair to it during normal writing.

 

Far as what I consider flex to be (again not speaking for op), is the degree of ease in terms of flex. If the nib changes line variation with very little conscious pressure (making jotting thru a bit crazy looking) then it's flex, but if you can jot thru with a light to normal hand with very little line variation, it's semi-flex. Flex/Semi-flex to me has nothing to do with the degree of line variation since you can have a very flexible nib that only gives you about Fine to M~Broad, or a semi-flex that has a wider range of EF to BB (but I find vintage wise, it's not too hard to find a 'flex' nib, but you definitely pay a premium if the nib was designed for a larger line variation). 

http://www.vintagepen.net/ for example, seems to use the same designation as I do, the flexibility is based on the ease, but will further specify the line variation (start-to-end) as needed which you'll notice some "Super flex" nibs have small variation while others have larger variation. 



#6 praxim

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Posted 26 March 2020 - 07:24

KBeezie says all I might say and still more on flex, so I will restrict myself to endorsing:

The Waterman 52 is a great pen. It is light and fun to write with.

although I have not had the leaking problems you mention.

 

 

I have several Waterman 52 and 52 1/2V (and other vintage in the brand). Every one of them has gone straight into the "keep this great pen" category, and one or two of them are outstanding. It is hard to fault any except the short ringtops (not a problem for everyone) whether as a daily writing pen or as a great vintage pen.


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#7 Marcwithac

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Posted 26 March 2020 - 11:43

Thanks! How flexible do you find the Esterbrook 2048?

 

Thanks! That's a good idea. When this pandemic situation slows and such, I will have to make an ad. I never thought of making people come to me...

And thanks for the warning on using water with hard rubber pens. 

What would you classify the flex on my 52 as? I am searching for a new pen, and I am content with the flexiness of this one. I, however, am unsure whether it is considered semi-flex, full flex, etc.

 

 

I’m no expert but it looks like full flex to me.  Designations, of course, can be in the eye of the beholder and you really have to write with a pen to know whether you like the flex.  While a lot of early pen manufacturers had good flex nibs, one that I’ve always liked is the Conklin crescent filler.  Great nibs and the filling mechanism is very cool.

 

As for the ads, I had great success because I was in Prague shortly after the fall of communism.  Many people had hidden away their family treasures for decades.  The internet and eBay were still in their infancy.  So, I was really the only market available, other than antique shops which were less generous.



#8 Bornin1992

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Posted 26 March 2020 - 20:33

 

I can't speak for the OP, but having had this nib before, it's pretty firm for even a semi-flex, it does however seem to tolerate the pressure required to get the line variation without hurting it. 

It basically gives the line variation of roughly what you might consider a modern EF up to about a Medium-ish width without having to push too hard, in normal jotting it has a little bit of springiness to it with very minor shading due to a slight increase in pressure. 

 

Don't expect to use it for large dramatic line variation, but rather if you like a bit of bouncy/springy nib that has a tiny bit of conscious flair to it during normal writing.

 

Far as what I consider flex to be (again not speaking for op), is the degree of ease in terms of flex. If the nib changes line variation with very little conscious pressure (making jotting thru a bit crazy looking) then it's flex, but if you can jot thru with a light to normal hand with very little line variation, it's semi-flex. Flex/Semi-flex to me has nothing to do with the degree of line variation since you can have a very flexible nib that only gives you about Fine to M~Broad, or a semi-flex that has a wider range of EF to BB (but I find vintage wise, it's not too hard to find a 'flex' nib, but you definitely pay a premium if the nib was designed for a larger line variation). 

http://www.vintagepen.net/ for example, seems to use the same designation as I do, the flexibility is based on the ease, but will further specify the line variation (start-to-end) as needed which you'll notice some "Super flex" nibs have small variation while others have larger variation. 

 

To clarify my understanding, a nib's flexibility has more to do with the ease with which one can flex rather than the level of line variation? 

KBeezie says all I might say and still more on flex, so I will restrict myself to endorsing:

although I have not had the leaking problems you mention.

 

 

I have several Waterman 52 and 52 1/2V (and other vintage in the brand). Every one of them has gone straight into the "keep this great pen" category, and one or two of them are outstanding. It is hard to fault any except the short ringtops (not a problem for everyone) whether as a daily writing pen or as a great vintage pen.

 

I carry my pens a lot (to and from school), and I think it was disturbing it and leading to ink being dispelled. Since I have been home, there have been no issues. 

 

 

I’m no expert but it looks like full flex to me.  Designations, of course, can be in the eye of the beholder and you really have to write with a pen to know whether you like the flex.  While a lot of early pen manufacturers had good flex nibs, one that I’ve always liked is the Conklin crescent filler.  Great nibs and the filling mechanism is very cool.

 

As for the ads, I had great success because I was in Prague shortly after the fall of communism.  Many people had hidden away their family treasures for decades.  The internet and eBay were still in their infancy.  So, I was really the only market available, other than antique shops which were less generous.

That's awesome! :)


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#9 Freddy

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Posted 26 March 2020 - 20:46

Bornin1992..Enjoy usin' your Waterman #52.....

 

Stay safe..Stay healthy!

 

     Fred



#10 Honeybadgers

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Posted 26 March 2020 - 21:30

a well sorted 52, eversharp skyline /w flexy nib or pelikan 140 are the meth, heroin, and coke of getting into vintage pens.

 

Yes, I am proud of that analogy.


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#11 Honeybadgers

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Posted 26 March 2020 - 21:31

Thanks! How flexible do you find the Esterbrook 2048?

 

For a steel nib, pretty good.

 

But it's a firm semiflex at BEST, with VERY limited shading. It's a great nib for practiced spencerian, but it ain't throwing down fat shades anytime.

 

I do enjoy mine, but for someone really hunting flex, I wouldn't go out of my way. But if I had an esterbrook and wanted to get something fun for it, I absolutely recommend it (along with the PO nib)


Selling a boatload of restored, fairly rare, vintage Japanese gold nib pens, click here to see (more added as I finish restoring them)


#12 corgicoupe

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Posted 26 March 2020 - 22:58

I sense that my Esterbrook 2048 is slightly more flexible than my 9048.


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#13 Honeybadgers

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Posted 26 March 2020 - 23:57

I sense that my Esterbrook 2048 is slightly more flexible than my 9048.

 

Back to back, I barely notice, both of mine were NIB.

 

Likely with a little training one could be a bit more flexible.


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#14 Bornin1992

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Posted 27 March 2020 - 01:28

 

For a steel nib, pretty good.

 

But it's a firm semiflex at BEST, with VERY limited shading. It's a great nib for practiced spencerian, but it ain't throwing down fat shades anytime.

 

I do enjoy mine, but for someone really hunting flex, I wouldn't go out of my way. But if I had an esterbrook and wanted to get something fun for it, I absolutely recommend it (along with the PO nib)

Is semiflex better for learning spencerian?

a well sorted 52, eversharp skyline /w flexy nib or pelikan 140 are the meth, heroin, and coke of getting into vintage pens.

 

Yes, I am proud of that analogy.


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#15 Honeybadgers

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Posted 27 March 2020 - 02:50

Is semiflex better for learning spencerian?

 

Yes and no. I'd say the estie semiflex is not good for learning because it takes VERY good pressure control to handle. It's the exact same reason a wet noodle sucks too, just on the opposite end of the pressure spectrum. Unless your hand is very well trained on the motion of the stroke, the pressure required to give it a shade (the downstroke that adds flare) should be very middle of the road. Think about trying to learn to drive properly in a car with far too harsh and far too soft suspension. The harsh suspension (firm nib) doesn't have any forgiveness so getting those precise shades requires precise work. And the soft suspension (wet noodles) just don't give you the feedback you need when you're trying to learn.

 

I'd look for a vintage 14k semiflex no name pen or a rough user grade version of something less popular than the 52, like the waterman commando. They're everywhere for sub-$50 in good condition with a new sac. Semiflex 14k stuff is way, way cheaper and more common than the full flex and wet noodle stuff.

 

Honestly though, the best tool for learning the basics of Spencerian in my mind is also by far the cheapest. A simple 2mm lead holder with some good (don't get cheap lead for holders, it can be the difference in writing with sandpaper to writing with glass) HB lead, and a good sharpener like the steadler rotary tub. All in you're around $20

 

The "Default" best lead holder with some extra lead and good eraser, $10

https://www.amazon.c...6_t1_B000YQEFGU

 

The best pencil sharpener ever - $10. This one is great because it has a felt-like insert that cleans off the lead dust after sharpening, has two little notches you can use to set the depth of the sharpener (either hypodermic needle or juuuuust right) and fits nearly every other lead holder on the market

https://www.amazon.c...products&sr=1-3

 

Pencil requires no pressure so it takes away the worry when all you need to do is learn the strokes, and once you're getting better, adding/reducing pressure gives PRECISE shades on downstrokes, and the 2mm leads won't break like a mechanical pencil. Weirdly, I find the shading properties of 2mm 2H-2B to be very in-line, pressure wise, with a semiflex nib. It doesn't go as "wide" as the shading with a flex nib (it does do somewhat) but the dramatic difference in the darkness of shade gives the same effect.

 

When I pull out my workbooks to practice the standard letters and nothing ornamental, I'm using a lead holder. The flexy stuff only comes out when I'm practicing ornamental.


Edited by Honeybadgers, 27 March 2020 - 02:56.

Selling a boatload of restored, fairly rare, vintage Japanese gold nib pens, click here to see (more added as I finish restoring them)


#16 Freddy

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Posted 27 March 2020 - 04:32

Re: 2048..9048.....Ersatz flex...

 

                   Fred



#17 WLSpec

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Posted 27 March 2020 - 15:09

Very nice, thanks for sharing!



#18 corgicoupe

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Posted 27 March 2020 - 17:25

Re: 2048..9048.....Ersatz flex...

 

                   Fred

Quite true, but I have begun attempting pen and ink sketching and some line thickness variation is possible with only a little pressure.  They are surely not suitable for Spencerian.


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#19 KBeezie

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Posted 28 March 2020 - 03:45

 

To clarify my understanding, a nib's flexibility has more to do with the ease with which one can flex rather than the level of line variation? 

 

 

That's been my way of looking at it too. But there are quite a few people now days when they say "very flexible", they're also expecting a very large line variation. Like how some people would expect a "wet noodle", to have a huge line variation, and not just next to no effort to cause flex. 



#20 Addertooth

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Posted 29 March 2020 - 13:56

The model 52 family had a huge variation in nibs.  While most have some flex, a small amount were super flex, and a very small amount were stiff Manifold/Purple nibs. 

In the most general sense, they are known for being flex, you need to look at the pictures of the nib, so you can make a "best guess" on flex.  Keep in mind it isn't just the length of the tines.  It is also the thickness of the tines which must be examined (side view of nib).  I have a nice long-tined Purple nib in a #2 nib, which is extremely stiff and has no trace of flex.  Side view of the nib reveals a lot of thickness and no taper. I will have to dig through my pens, but as I recall, there is even one stamped "manifold".  

 

HoneyBadger's list of addictive pens closely matches my choices as well.  The first superflex pen I got was a Skyline which has 2.5mm of flex, but I have since learned that its level of flex is uncommon in a Skyline. 

I tend to toss in certain Waterman Keyhole Nib pens, as well as Wahl-Eversharp pens which had the adjustable flex nibs too. I was surprised to see a Pink Keyhole pen go for only $565 last night, but then the writing samples showed it was only about a medium flex, which is unusually stiff for a Pink Nib (only about 1mm flex).  

 

For those sitting on the fence on the Waterman #2 nib, and they just want to try out the nib without spending much money... Ringtop pens tend to be less expensive, but due to their diminutive size, most people find them problematic for long writing.   But it is a low entry price point to see if you like the Nib/spoon-feed. 








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