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Aurora 88: The best post-war period fountain pen?


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#1 diplomat

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Posted 18 February 2008 - 14:24

Hello,
This is my first review here, hope you will enjoy it. It’s about one of my favorite pens. It’s not an “everyday writer” because I have too much respect for it… but I did use it frequently enough to write this.

Aurora 88


Pic: my four Aurora 88. From bottom 88P, 88K, 88, 88k (with 88P BP cap).

Design and engineering:


Yesterday I was discussing with a friend about fountain pens, and we ended up debating what was the best Fountain pen ever. After a while I started supporting the A88 and I came with the following reasoning:

The 88 model, being presented in the post world war II years (precisely in 1947), gather the best part of the two most advanced pre-war models:
    - The Parker 51, from which Aurora took the cigar body shape, the hooded nib, the metal "slip on" cap;
    - The Pelikan 100 series, from which they took the flawless piston filling system allowing huge capacity and reliability;

Then they improved what was proposed 10 years before from their "inspiring models" by:
    - making the hooded nib a "semi hooded", allowing for a double side writing tool and for easiness in cleaning;
    - selling the pen in 34 different nib sizes/stiffness;
    - adding a serial number to improve post service and tracking;
    - having the piston turning without increasing/modifying the space between knob and body;
The success of the pen is testified by the huge number of pens sold (especially considered the relatively small market in which it played) and by the great number of pens in good condition you are still able to find.

So, here’s my provocation: is the A88 the best post-war fountain pen ever? I hope to receive your feedbacks.

For the moment: in what this pen could have been improved?
    - Have more colors (than one, plain black)
    - Improving the possibility to open it for fast and easy cleaning of the section
    - Have different sizes
    - Full celluloid body


Pic: sections of my Aurora 88. The one object of the review is the second from bottom

the Handling:

The pen is rather big, 13,5 cm capped. Even the diameter is generous, but having big hands it is not a problem for me. The grip is ok. Your fingers will stay on the ebonite section (which means no sweat or skin will made you loose the grip), while the body is in celluloid (the knob is in ebonite again). The clutch ring is useful for quickly finding the optimal writing position. In the hand, the pen is well balanced, especially when posted. It is slightly heavy, but even posted the feeling is like the center of gravity is quite low, helping in releasing tension from the fingers. You can write for long time without feeling tired.

the Filling Mechanism

As already said the filling duty is being accomplished by a piston mechanism. You turn the ebonite knob and smoothly the piston reaches for the ink window. Do it again in the opposite direction and the ink crawls in. After some 60 years, it works flawlessly. I don’t know how much this specimen has been used, but it seems not that much for what I understand.
To be noted how the turning knob never parts from the pen body. Nice design feature but you need to be concentrated in order to know at what stage of the filling you are .

the Writing

I tested here the older A88 I have, in the pics above is the one with an unclipped silver cap. The section carries an 88 badge, without any “K” or “P” (they identify newer models).

This pen is fitted with a regular medium 14k nib.
The action of the pen is ok, no scratches or skips. It writes a smooth, thick black line (it’s Sailor Black). The nib is still very flexible (A88 came in two stiffness fashion, normal, the object of this review and hard) and you can rest the pen without a cap for a few minutes without compromising a quick start on the paper. I’ll post some writing examples as soon I’ll get a scanner.


The caps aligned.

Conclusions

Well guys, still reading? If you love vintage pens you should immediately log on ebay.it and look for one of these. At the present times it is really easy to find one at a good price, mkI, K or P doesn’t matter!
You will be pleased!

Cheers,

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#2 CharlieB

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Posted 18 February 2008 - 14:37

Very interesting. I never realized that this pen had a piston filler. I had always assumed that it was a straight knock-off of the Parker 51, to include the filling mechanism. Now I have much more respect for it.

Why do you suppose Aurora abandoned the hooded nib?

Edited by CharlieB, 18 February 2008 - 14:38.

CharlieB

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#3 diplomat

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 13:26

QUOTE(CharlieB @ Feb 18 2008, 03:37 PM) View Post
Why do you suppose Aurora abandoned the hooded nib?


Charlie,
I think hooded nibs were part of the "fashion" in FP design of the post WWII period. At the times they were ubiquitous because of the 51 success but even because it represented a design feature that made the pen look more futuristic and new. Additionally, hooded nibs were heading in the direction of the ball points design, the real novelty in the market after the war.

Nowadays things are much different. FP design MUST remember the purchaser how a FP is different from other writing instrument. And the nib is the focal point of it and consequently must be fully visible.
This is true especially for the Italian makers, a group of firms that play the card of the nostalgia and often refers to the past in their products.

However your question makes sense in relation of the new 88 range, a family of models that is inspired – by declared intention, name and design – to the old one. Why they did not maintain one of the old 88 most prominent features? Production cost? I think that my aforementioned reasoning is more in the right direction (i.e. currently people tend to identify FP with nibs).

Just my two cents, btw.

Thanks for your comments and Ciao,

#4 Blade Runner

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 13:55

Hi,
That looks like a great model.
Is the 13.5 cm measurement correct? That's quite long. Is that "capped" measurement referring to the cap covering the nib or posted?
Do the vintage models use cork in their piston, and if so, do you know what part of the piston?
How do you care for a piston filler that uses cork, and how does one store it? Do you have to keep them filled with water to avoid dessication?
How durable is the cork component, and if it needs to be fixed or replaced, do you know who can provide that service?



#5 Shelley

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 20:31

Can you explain the difference between the models, two have a cap with a sloped top and two have a cap that is rounded (I prefer that one), I would be interested in getting one but want to make sure it is rounded not sloped, also you mention 34 differewnt nibs...I do not suppose you could let us know what these are?

Cheers
Lamy 2000-Lamy Vista-Visconti Van Gogh Maxi Tortoise Demonstrator-Pilot Vanishing Point Black Carbonesque-1947 Parker 51 Vacumatic Cedar Blue Double Jewel-Aurora Optima Black Chrome Cursive Italic-Waterman Hemisphere Metallic Blue-Sheaffer Targa-Conway Stewart CS475

#6 diplomat

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 21:32

QUOTE(jeen @ Feb 19 2008, 02:55 PM) View Post
Hi,
That looks like a great model.
Is the 13.5 cm measurement correct? That's quite long. Is that "capped" measurement referring to the cap covering the nib or posted?


Hi jeen,

Yes, the measure is correct and refers to the capped (with cap covering the nib) pen. It is slightly smaller than the P51 therefore.
I measured the posted A88 to be 15 cm. Diameter at the cap is 11 mm.

QUOTE(jeen @ Feb 19 2008, 02:55 PM) View Post
Do the vintage models use cork in their piston, and if so, do you know what part of the piston?
How do you care for a piston filler that uses cork, and how does one store it? Do you have to keep them filled with water to avoid dessication?
How durable is the cork component, and if it needs to be fixed or replaced, do you know who can provide that service?


Those are really interesting questions/considerations. Unfortunately I am not able to give an undisputed answer. From what I can see, the older models (88 and 88K) do have some brownish part of the piston (the bottom - towards the knob - is plastic white, the central part - touching the walls of the body - are brown, and the top - facing the ink - is black), while the 88P is all black. It is then possible that the first two are made of cork, while in the last one they switched to rubber.

I'd like to know the answers to your questions myself actually...

Ciao,

#7 Bill Smith

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 21:43

Calling the Aurora 88 the best post war FP design will get P51 Aero afficinados in a knot but I own a 88P with gold filled cap and it's a really nice pen to write with, a style icon along with a Ferrari 250 GT and Vespa Scooter.
"Life moves pretty fast, if you do not stop and look around once and a while you might just miss it."
Ferris Bueller



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#8 diplomat

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 22:17

QUOTE(Shelley @ Feb 19 2008, 09:31 PM) View Post
Can you explain the difference between the models, two have a cap with a sloped top and two have a cap that is rounded (I prefer that one), I would be interested in getting one but want to make sure it is rounded not sloped, also you mention 34 differewnt nibs...I do not suppose you could let us know what these are?

Cheers


Hi Shelley,

here's a reviewed version of the characteristic of the A88 models. The original list was published in November, but now I think I can do a better job, then I'll rewrite it.
  • Aurora 88 mkI - Introduced 1947.
      o Body: main body in celluloid, section and piston knob in ebonite. A88 is stampe inside a round badge on the section. Version in 9kt gold exists.
      o Cap: three different versions: gold filled cap, silver cap, nikargenta (a nickel/silver alloy) cap. All caps had the same style: closely spaced vertical lines around the cap with a domed top inset with a silver disc similar to the aluminum “jewel” of the 1941 “51”.
      o Clip: Rounded. Cap can also be without clip.
      o Box: The pen sold in an original two pieces semi oval aluminium case, also designed by Marcello Nizzoli. Originally gray with the picture of the pen on the outside, the case was later given a more cheerful look and appeared in shades of pink, blue and yellow. Inside were a yellow/red flannel polishing cloth with the Aurora 88 logo in red on it.
      o Serial number: the A88 - joy of the collectors - has a serial number stamped on the section, opposite of the A88 badge. The first series run for over 1.200.000 exemplares.
  • Aurora 88 mkII - Introduced sometime during early 50s.
      Not sure wheter this model really existed. My opinion is that was an interim period between the 88 and the 88k when some 88 models where sold with 88K (see below) caps.
  • Aurora 88K - Introduced 1952. After 5 years, the 88 got a deep restyling. Main differences with the original 88 were:
      o More Tapered end of the pen, slimmer rear ring (between body and knob);
      o Different top of the cap for the introduction of a "black insert";
      o New flat clip with again a black tear inside. The clip is more squared than the 88;
      o Different striped pattern of the cap which is larger;
      o The turning knob is built in black celluloid instead of black hard rubber.
      o The 88K model was besides fitted with a new laminated feed that better regulated the ink flow.
      o Last, the 88k had a different box (made for 88k only), the classic 88 box is the “legendary” metal box but for the 88k was produced a different
      box in red satin and signed 88k in the metal plaquettes.
  • Aurora 88P - Introduced 1958. Last evolution of the 88. Few changes from the 88K:
      o The cap is again different on the top: a flat top with black resin insert;
      o The striped pattern of the cap is made of blocks of five closer stripes;
      o The original section was dropped in favor of an entirely celluloid body.
      o Introduction of matte finish for some model.


The 88K serial numbers went on at least until 2.200.000. 88P at least until 3.200.000. If someone can correct this, I'll be glad.
Others variant of the 88 were the 88 Duocart (introduced 1954 one of the first C/C FP ever), the 888 and 888P, the 88K and 88P cartridge versions, the 98 that was introduced in the 60s was the squared evolution of the 88 family.

As for the nib, here's the original 88 leaflet:

Attached File  A88nib.bmp   369.19KB   628 downloads

You can count 17 of them, but then double it because they all came in two different version: normal and hard, signaled with an "H" in front of the nib size indicator ("HM" for the hard medium).

I'm glad for the interest around this pen!

Cheers,

Edited by diplomat, 19 February 2008 - 22:22.


#9 antoniosz

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Posted 20 February 2008 - 01:00

Well, I do have a mark I Aurora 88 with a flex nib. It is a great writer but a pain in the behind to maintain.
Guaranteed that it will leak sooner than later.... So, for the collection yes, but as a user this is not a good pen.



Edited by antoniosz, 20 February 2008 - 01:01.


#10 Blade Runner

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Posted 20 February 2008 - 02:00

QUOTE(jeen @ Feb 19 2008, 08:55 AM) View Post
Do the vintage models use cork in their piston, and if so, do you know what part of the piston?
How do you care for a piston filler that uses cork, and how does one store it? Do you have to keep them filled with water to avoid dessication?
How durable is the cork component, and if it needs to be fixed or replaced, do you know who can provide that service?


Can anyone answer any of these questions regarding piston fillers with cork elements in general?
Thanks, J

#11 antoniosz

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Posted 20 February 2008 - 02:34

QUOTE(jeen @ Feb 19 2008, 09:00 PM) View Post
QUOTE(jeen @ Feb 19 2008, 08:55 AM) View Post
Do the vintage models use cork in their piston, and if so, do you know what part of the piston?
How do you care for a piston filler that uses cork, and how does one store it? Do you have to keep them filled with water to avoid dessication?
How durable is the cork component, and if it needs to be fixed or replaced, do you know who can provide that service?


Can anyone answer any of these questions regarding piston fillers with cork elements in general?
Thanks, J



Well, here is sme info: http://www.thepengui.../tech/tech.html
Some say they should be stored wet. Some others disagree...

#12 Shelley

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Posted 20 February 2008 - 02:54

Most educational diplomat, thank you, I had always intended to add an 88 to my Optima, now I think I may go for an older model.
Lamy 2000-Lamy Vista-Visconti Van Gogh Maxi Tortoise Demonstrator-Pilot Vanishing Point Black Carbonesque-1947 Parker 51 Vacumatic Cedar Blue Double Jewel-Aurora Optima Black Chrome Cursive Italic-Waterman Hemisphere Metallic Blue-Sheaffer Targa-Conway Stewart CS475

#13 Blade Runner

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Posted 20 February 2008 - 03:06

Thanks for link Antioniosz.

Does anyone know a repair person who routinely restores pens with cork seals?
I get the feeling they are not ubiquitous.

#14 Garageboy

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Posted 20 February 2008 - 12:10

Anyone who deals with vintage Pelikans is a safe bet.
BTW: why is the modern 88 called the 88 at all, theres no design similarities

#15 Dib

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Posted 20 February 2008 - 19:42

Hello,
there was a question on the piston. It does not use cork. Of corse all of you are members of the PCA, so just take the spring 2006 issue of the Pennant and read the words of Giovanni Abrate:"The piston itelf was made up of a stack of small alterning rubber and leather disks."
This is also my experience. But for repair it is possible to put a cork into the piston. I think the pens can still be repaired in Torino in the factory.
Best Regards from Germany
Dirk
I search for all pens and informations made in Pforzheim, e.g. Sarastro, Fend

#16 xplanell

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Posted 22 February 2008 - 11:14

Hello,

I have several Aurora's 88. They are a pleasure to write and very well balanced on the hand. The problem is that they leak ink if you move a bit. I sent one of them to the official OMAS service but they don't repaired it well and the leaks continue.

Anyone knows a reliable technical service in europe capable of working with this problem in Aurora88s?

Regards,

Xavier

#17 Dib

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Posted 22 February 2008 - 19:02

Hi,
send a pm to labeo
or a email to the sane person:
info@italianfountainpenacademy.it
I search for all pens and informations made in Pforzheim, e.g. Sarastro, Fend

#18 dayonfire

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Posted 01 June 2009 - 15:34

I really want one of these pens...anyone have a resource to get one for (crazy, I know) under $50?

Thanks,
Michael


QUOTE (diplomat @ Feb 18 2008, 09:24 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Hello,
This is my first review here, hope you will enjoy it. It’s about one of my favorite pens. It’s not an “everyday writer” because I have too much respect for it… but I did use it frequently enough to write this.

Aurora 88


Pic: my four Aurora 88. From bottom 88P, 88K, 88, 88k (with 88P BP cap).

Design and engineering:


Yesterday I was discussing with a friend about fountain pens, and we ended up debating what was the best Fountain pen ever. After a while I started supporting the A88 and I came with the following reasoning:

The 88 model, being presented in the post world war II years (precisely in 1947), gather the best part of the two most advanced pre-war models:
    - The Parker 51, from which Aurora took the cigar body shape, the hooded nib, the metal "slip on" cap;
    - The Pelikan 100 series, from which they took the flawless piston filling system allowing huge capacity and reliability;

Then they improved what was proposed 10 years before from their "inspiring models" by:
    - making the hooded nib a "semi hooded", allowing for a double side writing tool and for easiness in cleaning;
    - selling the pen in 34 different nib sizes/stiffness;
    - adding a serial number to improve post service and tracking;
    - having the piston turning without increasing/modifying the space between knob and body;
The success of the pen is testified by the huge number of pens sold (especially considered the relatively small market in which it played) and by the great number of pens in good condition you are still able to find.

So, here’s my provocation: is the A88 the best post-war fountain pen ever? I hope to receive your feedbacks.

For the moment: in what this pen could have been improved?
    - Have more colors (than one, plain black)
    - Improving the possibility to open it for fast and easy cleaning of the section
    - Have different sizes
    - Full celluloid body


Pic: sections of my Aurora 88. The one object of the review is the second from bottom

the Handling:

The pen is rather big, 13,5 cm capped. Even the diameter is generous, but having big hands it is not a problem for me. The grip is ok. Your fingers will stay on the ebonite section (which means no sweat or skin will made you loose the grip), while the body is in celluloid (the knob is in ebonite again). The clutch ring is useful for quickly finding the optimal writing position. In the hand, the pen is well balanced, especially when posted. It is slightly heavy, but even posted the feeling is like the center of gravity is quite low, helping in releasing tension from the fingers. You can write for long time without feeling tired.

the Filling Mechanism

As already said the filling duty is being accomplished by a piston mechanism. You turn the ebonite knob and smoothly the piston reaches for the ink window. Do it again in the opposite direction and the ink crawls in. After some 60 years, it works flawlessly. I don’t know how much this specimen has been used, but it seems not that much for what I understand.
To be noted how the turning knob never parts from the pen body. Nice design feature but you need to be concentrated in order to know at what stage of the filling you are .

the Writing

I tested here the older A88 I have, in the pics above is the one with an unclipped silver cap. The section carries an 88 badge, without any “K” or “P” (they identify newer models).

This pen is fitted with a regular medium 14k nib.
The action of the pen is ok, no scratches or skips. It writes a smooth, thick black line (it’s Sailor Black). The nib is still very flexible (A88 came in two stiffness fashion, normal, the object of this review and hard) and you can rest the pen without a cap for a few minutes without compromising a quick start on the paper. I’ll post some writing examples as soon I’ll get a scanner.


The caps aligned.

Conclusions

Well guys, still reading? If you love vintage pens you should immediately log on ebay.it and look for one of these. At the present times it is really easy to find one at a good price, mkI, K or P doesn’t matter!
You will be pleased!

Cheers,



#19 Robert Hughes

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 14:31

I don't have experience with the 88, but do have a 98 with the piston mechanism, and still use it daily. My pen writes - well, but with caveats. There seems to be a bit of "baby bottom", perhaps - It tends to skip if not oriented correctly.
The moment we want to believe something, we suddenly see all the arguments for it, and become blind to the arguments against it.

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#20 libertee

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Posted 04 June 2009 - 21:24

I got my 88k one month ago on a second hand market. It is my first fountain pen with a piston, and it still works flawless after 50 years, I am really impressed. However, the nib of my 88k EF is not flexible, it writes like a normal steel nib. Well, I should not complaint, I only paid 12 euro for it.






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