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Review: Sheaffer Valiant Touchdown Set


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15 replies to this topic

#1 Ray-Vigo

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 05:15

Here is a brief review of a well-known classic, the Sheaffer Touchdown. Under review is a set from the early 1950s: Thin Model Touchdown Valiant and Thin Model Touchdown-era Mechanical Pencil. The ink for this test was Sheaffer Blue.




I. Appearance: 9/10
The first thing you notice about any pen is how it looks. Even before you pick it up to write, you get to look it over. This set is the classic "Thin Model" profile in the color "Persian Blue". The White Dot appears above the clip. They look quite simple, with rounded ends and medium bands on their caps. The fountain pen is larger overall than the pencil, including diameter all around. The fountain pen features the conical Triumph Nib. The Valiants fell in the range above the non White Dot models, but below the metal models like the Sentinel and the Crest. It really doesn't have any extra frills, but it does have the classic 1950s "bullet" look like the cars of the early 1950s. It gets a 9/10 for its non-cluttered design, and classic profile.



II. Feel In Hand: 8/10
It is actually quite light in-hand. Despite the presence of the metal Touchdown tube and the metal sac protector, it still is not heavy. Posting adds noticeable weight, but unposted the pen is quite light. Posted the pen feels to be of medium weight. Posting is a preference matter though. I usually don't post. The pen gets an 8 because it really doesn't off the perfect balance. It is somewhat heavy for me when posted, somewhat light when not. This is subjective.

III. Filling: 8/10
The Touchdown filling method takes some getting used to. The Touchdown tube actually extends quite a distance. Be sure and remember not to immerse the nib while extending the Touchdown tube. This is actually somewhat counterintuitive because the filling is actually done by pushing down the tube, NOT by pulling it out. The pen fills a moderate amount of ink- more than many small converter pens, but less than a larger piston pen or a large eye dropper. The pen holds enough ink to be suitable for regular working conditions. This is NOT a purely signature pen. It gets an 8/10 because the Touchdown mechanism is, quite honestly, awkward at times. The pen supposedly can be filled one-handed, but it seems it needs two- one to steady and one to operate the tube. The filling is not as sure as a modern pen as well- you don't get to see the ink actually enter into the pen and how successful the fill was. Besides that, provided you have proper seals and a new sac, the pen fills well though.

IV. Writing: 9/10
The core of any pen is how it writes. The Triumph nib is long and rigid. The tip is tapered up. It writes in a fine line, despite being coded a medium. Compared to a standard Pelikan 400, the pen is not as wet writing and puts down a thinner line. The nib is smooth, with just a bit of feedback. It is not as smooth as the Pelikan, but still very nice for longer writing sessions. The nib is much easier to control than a Pelikan medium. The pen gets a 9/10 because it offers a nice feel, though it is a touch dry for someone used to wet, modern pens. It's a great writer still, especially with the rigid Triumph nib.

V. Durability: 9/10
These pens were actually well-known for being tough. It's basic plastic, but the innards rely on a pneumatic system. A leak compromises the pen's ability to fill. The Triumph nib's conical structure has great strength. The cap screws on with metal threads- a big plus.


A Bit About the Mechanical Pencil:

The mechanical pencil is your basic item- a clutch system holds the (often) 0.9mm lead. It extends and retracts by turning the cap. A small eraser is housed under the cap. To access it you just pull the cap straight off. The pencil's simple design makes it quite robust and reliable. However the old eraser under the cap is probably not going to be useful anymore because of its age. Just remember that it loads from the muzzle/tip and not from the cap (as modern ones do).


What to look for:
The fountain pen-
-new sac and seals: in order for the air to be moved around and the partial vacuum created the seals need to be good and not have leaks. A leaky sac can be trouble- if ink gets into the barrel it can cause the sac protector to rust or stick to the sac.
-Triumph Nib- the nib's apparent "bend" is actually the way it's supposed to be. The nib, as always, should be free of defects and should write fairly smoothly.
-the pin hole in the barrel is supposed to be there and free of obstruction
-the touchdown tube should move freely and smoothly and should not be stuck or corroded. Corrosion of the touchdown tube and sac protector are bad signs and may require restoration.
-the blind cap should turn on the threads. It should fit snugly against the barrel.
-you will need bottled ink as the pen doesn't take a modern cartridge

The Mechanical Pencil
-make sure the lead and clutch engage and that turning the cap extends and retracts the lead.
-get yourself some 0.9mm leads: you can get them at office supply stores still. I even got mine at a corner drugstore.
-get yourself a new eraser, preferably a free-standing one. The old eraser will probably be dead, and you probably don't want to be taking the cap off all the time; so it may actually be easier just to get a little block eraser. I got one locally for a few cents.

The Final Word
These instruments are great and very user-friendly. They offer a classic 1950s look, but with the simplicity of a good user pen. They offer a good value too, as they can be had for less than many new pens sell for, and certainly much less than high-grade collector pens sell for. They also offer a simpler alternative to the snorkel should you venture to try a repair. As an added bonus the pencil runs on lead and eraser supplies that can easily still be had. (remember it may be 0.9mm NOT the smaller, modern 0.7mm). If you're into collecting you can keep quite busy trying to acquire all of the different models and colors in this and the related Snorkel series. I recommend them highly if you're looking for something classic, simple, and ready for daily use.


Edited by Ray-Vigo, 18 September 2007 - 05:22.


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#2 Roger W.

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 05:37

I've got to comment on just one thing - Touchdown filling system an 8?! You've got to be joking! This is the perfection of Sheaffer trying to leave the lever since the mid 30's and they finally get it absolutely right. So, you've really got to give it a 10 and just explain that you didn't care for it personally or something. The touchdown system given anything less than a 10 just strikes me as absolutely stunning.

On a side note I really don't get these reviews at all and that is just me. I'm guessing they are useful to people looking for that certain something in a particular pen, just not my thing really - no offense. I do admire the work people put into these reviews though.

Roger W.

PS - I've never found snorkels or touchdowns to post worth a damn so you've a point there in general. Working pens were meant to be light so unposted it's a great pen and if you can keep the cap from wobbing off while posted it's fine too but, the cap usually takes a dive which could explain all the dents in gold fill and 14K caps.

#3 Brian

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 06:20

Thanks for the review. It's informative for anyone wanting to know more about these classic Sheaffers.

#4 Ray-Vigo

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 15:31

I rather like the Touchdown filling mechanism actually- when everything is properly restored it works quite well. I think a score of 8 is a good score considering the top is 10. The reason for not getting a 10 is primarily because with older pens, the more they rely on rubber seals working, the more age can take its toll. I figure new seals are the norm if you want to bring it back to working shape. I actually think it's a great mechanism once everything is restored- and this set is my daily user of late.

#5 extrafine

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 18:49

I have one of these which I often use as a daily writing pen (among many others). It's an old workhorse, truly reliable, and comes with a wonderful nib. It'll also take any ink I can throw at it. I'm really fond of Triumph nibs generally, I'll have to admit. All the ones that I've come across that aren't damaged are wonderful writers.

#6 michael_s

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Posted 18 September 2007 - 22:38

Personally, I'd rate a Snorkel filling system a 9, since unlike a pure TD (Touchdown), I don't have to wipe the nib after filling it. But I do agree that it's a bit counterintuitive to remember not to dip the snorkel tube when extending the TD tube, hence a one point deduction.

Given that, I guess I'd also rate a pure TD system an 8, too.

How clean is the TIPdip system, compared to a TD and a Snorkel?

-Mike

#7 Roger W.

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 00:20

Mike and Ray;

Tipdip is essentially the same as a touchdown.

Ray, if replacing seals is a deduction then OK, but almost all my pens use sacs which need replaced as well over time. Wear parts that were meant to be replaced seem like working as designed to me though.

Roger W.

#8 michael_s

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 00:38

Roger, thanks for the info on the TIPdip.

Ray, in my first post I forgot to thank you for posting a nice, thorough review smile.gif

-Mike

#9 Maja

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 06:05

Very nicely done review, Ray--bravo!
I am certain there are people reading this review who have never used a vintage Sheaffer Touchdown filler pen and who may be somewhat intimidated about acquiring one because they think it's difficult to use. I think Ray has put out a well-balanced review that incorporates some of the pluses and minuses of the Touchdown filling mechanism. For someone like RogerW with his amazing collection of vintage Sheaffers drool.gif , this stuff is old hat...but to a person who is new to Touchdown filler pens and curious about their ease of use, this sort of review is just what the doctor ordered, IMHO.
Oh and that "What to look for" section was, IMO, very useful smile.gif

Thanks again, Ray! thumbup.gif
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#10 Roger W.

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 11:26

Ray;

I have to agree with Maja that the "what to look for" section was very well done.

Roger W.

#11 simonrob

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 13:36

QUOTE(extrafine @ Sep 18 2007, 06:49 PM) View Post
I have one of these which I often use as a daily writing pen (among many others). It's an old workhorse, truly reliable, and comes with a wonderful nib. It'll also take any ink I can throw at it. I'm really fond of Triumph nibs generally, I'll have to admit. All the ones that I've come across that aren't damaged are wonderful writers.


While I admire both snorkel and touchdown mechanisms (I like Sheaffer plunger mechanism even better, if only because such pens typically have visualated sections so you can see how much ink's inside), one of the virtues of the snorkel - cleanliness - is also a flaw; because of how it fills, it's not easy to flush old ink out of the nib itself, which is a problem if, like me, you like changing ink colours (of course, one not entirely disagreeable solution is to have several, each dedicated to a particular range of colours...). Then again, for sheer ease of use, it's hard to beat a button filler.

Simon

#12 jd50ae

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Posted 19 September 2007 - 13:49

A well thought out review. Pleasure to read. Even as I admire these pens they are too small for me and hope one day to latch onto an oversize.

#13 dmukai

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 08:16

I found (today) what I believe to be a 1949 Touchdown Valiant set (fountain pen, ballpoint pen, and mechanical pencil) among some pens I received from my Dad. Your review was very, very informative for me. I have cleaned them all up and the sac *was* working for a while, but cracked. Also, the touchdown mechanism wasn't working - probably needs a new o-ring. I am in the process or ordering a new sac, shellac, talc, and new o-rings and lubricant. The mechanical pencil won't turn and I am not sure I will be able to find refills for the ballpoint pen. Along with this was a working esterbrook J double jewel. I will resac this as well when my supplies come in.

I have done calligraphy in the past with dip pens, but have never really had a proper fountain pen. I'm excited about the prospect of restoring my dad's pen and using it.

#14 georges zaslavsky

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Posted 04 January 2010 - 20:18

very nice review thanks for sharing :clap1:
Pens are like watches , once you start a collection, you can hardly go back. And pens like all fine luxury items do improve with time

#15 Ray-Vigo

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 20:39

I found (today) what I believe to be a 1949 Touchdown Valiant set (fountain pen, ballpoint pen, and mechanical pencil) among some pens I received from my Dad. Your review was very, very informative for me. I have cleaned them all up and the sac *was* working for a while, but cracked. Also, the touchdown mechanism wasn't working - probably needs a new o-ring. I am in the process or ordering a new sac, shellac, talc, and new o-rings and lubricant. The mechanical pencil won't turn and I am not sure I will be able to find refills for the ballpoint pen. Along with this was a working esterbrook J double jewel. I will resac this as well when my supplies come in.

I have done calligraphy in the past with dip pens, but have never really had a proper fountain pen. I'm excited about the prospect of restoring my dad's pen and using it.



http://www.pendemoni...m/penrepair.htm


Go down to the "widget" for Sheaffer early ballpoints on the page. One of these adapters can be used to turn a modern refill into one that works for your old Sheaffer ballpoint.

With the pencil, if it's a standard Touchdown or TM Touchdown pencil, the whole top half of the shell should pull off the mechanism. I would pull this off and have a look inside. Sometimes lead or debris gets into the mechanism and jams the pencil core from turning. I also have used a little powdered graphite (maybe could use pure talc too) to smooth out the turning of the mechanism once it's free.

#16 dmukai

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Posted 05 January 2010 - 23:53

I found (today) what I believe to be a 1949 Touchdown Valiant set (fountain pen, ballpoint pen, and mechanical pencil) among some pens I received from my Dad. Your review was very, very informative for me. I have cleaned them all up and the sac *was* working for a while, but cracked. Also, the touchdown mechanism wasn't working - probably needs a new o-ring. I am in the process or ordering a new sac, shellac, talc, and new o-rings and lubricant. The mechanical pencil won't turn and I am not sure I will be able to find refills for the ballpoint pen. Along with this was a working esterbrook J double jewel. I will resac this as well when my supplies come in.

I have done calligraphy in the past with dip pens, but have never really had a proper fountain pen. I'm excited about the prospect of restoring my dad's pen and using it.



http://www.pendemoni...m/penrepair.htm


Go down to the "widget" for Sheaffer early ballpoints on the page. One of these adapters can be used to turn a modern refill into one that works for your old Sheaffer ballpoint.

With the pencil, if it's a standard Touchdown or TM Touchdown pencil, the whole top half of the shell should pull off the mechanism. I would pull this off and have a look inside. Sometimes lead or debris gets into the mechanism and jams the pencil core from turning. I also have used a little powdered graphite (maybe could use pure talc too) to smooth out the turning of the mechanism once it's free.


Thanks! I was able to get the pencil to turn and I'm ordering the widget right now along with a new sac and o-ring. I really appreciate the tips.






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