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.