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Merlin 33


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#1 Matt

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Posted 22 February 2006 - 19:17

This is my first attempt at a fountain pen review, and at posting photos. Pardon the crude photos as I am a newbie at macro photography and I do not own a light tent or anything like that.

Merlin 33

I had never heard of the Merlin 33 when I stumbled across them at a vintage pen shop in Columbus, Ohio. I was there on business, as I am every summer. I had bought a couple pens from this shop when I was a graduate student many years ago, but vintage pens were not on my radar at that time. Since I had been bitten by the (vintage) pen bug I made it a point to re-check out this shop on North High Street. I went in looking for vintage Sheaffer Balances.



I was attracted to the Merlin because of its good looks and its soft writing nib, and the fact that it had an interesting filling system. The owner of the shop, Jack Price, told me an exotic story of how these pens came to be. His story talked about WWII, the French resistance, and a large cache of pens hidden in a cave in France, to be discovered many years after the war. This story only added to the charm of this diminutive pen. I later inquired on Pentrace about the origins of the Merlin 33 and received the following reply from Andreas Lambrou.

Historical Background

Made in the 1950s by a small family business in Germany for the Netherlands. In the 1940s and early 1950s there were many small family enterprises in Germany making pens. The launch and success of the ball pen brought many of these companies to their feet.

In 1987 a long standing friend, who had a pen store in Amsterdam, called me to say he was contacted by the widow of the Dutch Merlin Distributor. She wanted to sell the Merlin pen stock and go on a world tour. There were 10,000 pens and she wanted to sell them all as one lot. They were too many for him and asked if I would take some at his cost of $1.50 each. The pens were button fillers, nibs and feeds were fitted into the sections, buttons and bars were not assembled.

Along with a friend Keith Brown, who was also a Flavour Technologist and pen collector, we put together $9,000, formed Classic Pens and went over to Holland to pick our first stock, 6,000 Merlins pens. The models were the Merlin 33 and a smaller pen the Merlin Merlina.

There were 56 different colors and designs with the 33, almost as many with the Merlina. I fitted sacs to a few hundred of them, and sold them to Pen Stores in England, our first customer was Harrods of Knightsbridge. The majority I sold unrepaired to dealers in London Antique Markets or traded for other vintage pens. Gradually with the profits we embarked to develop and launch the sterling silver CP Series, the CP1 Targa was launched in 1990.

We still have a complete collection of Merlin 33 colors and designs, back in England, maybe some day David Isaacson will shoot them.

There is a black and white photo of some of them in Fountain Pens Vintage and Modern, page 139.

Andreas.


Appearance

The Merlin I bought is a striated gray plastic (perhaps celluloid) with a gold (probably plated) clip and single thin band. It also has a small 14k 585 nib. The pen is 4 11/16” long, capped, and 5 ˝ “ posted. The barrel is 7/16’ wide, with the cap being slightly wider. The clip has an “M” near the top and nib says “Merlin” over a sun within a diamond. I don’t think these details show up very well in the photos.

It is a nice looking pen, but by no means is it stunning.

Performance

The Merlins are button fillers and work well. Since the pen is small it does not hold a great deal of ink. It feels very small in the hand capped, but posted it feels good and is light and well balanced. The best thing about this pen is the nib. The pen I bought has a very fine nib, definitely an extra fine on western standards. In fact it is just slightly finer than my Sailor 1911 with a fine nib. What I like best about the nib is that it has a nice soft springy feel to it. It is not flexible in the vintage sense, but it has a nice soft, slightly flexy spring to it which makes writing with it a pleasurable experience. For an extra fine nib it writes very smoothly. It does not feel scratchy at all like many extra fine nibs. In fact, it is a tad smoother than my Sailor, probably because the nib is a bit more soft and springy than the 1911. I think this is pretty significant since Sailor makes such high quality nibs.


The Merlin is a great performer. It writes everytime without hesitation. Even after sitting for several weeks, it starts right up as soon as nib touches paper. It is a very reliable, trusted workhorse in my regular rotation. As far as reliability and quality I rank it with my Parker 51, and my Esterbrooks. Because of the extra fine nib I like to use it especially with small Moleskine and Clairfontaine notebooks.


You couldn’t ask much more from a $40 pen. I look forward to returning to Columbus in July so I can buy another of these fine vintage pens. And I did get a nice Sheaffer full size Balance in striated gray while I was there as well.

Attached Images

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Edited by Matt, 22 February 2006 - 20:24.


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#2 chupie

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Posted 22 February 2006 - 20:36

I think it is quite distiguished looking!
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#3 Matt

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Posted 22 February 2006 - 21:47

Here are some more photos of the Merlin 33.
[img]http://server5.pictiger.com/img/66158/other/-users-matthewchristensen-desktop-merlin-1.php][IMG]http://images5.pictiger.com/thumbs/46/406eb972722f44af86febdac6f366546.th.jpg[/img][/IMG]

#4 Matt

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Posted 22 February 2006 - 22:09

Here are some more pictures of the Merlin 33.

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#5 TheNobleSavage

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Posted 23 February 2006 - 16:32

I am glad you wre able to get your pictures posted. I was away from my work email yesterday and I replied to your email this morning, I see I was a bit too late, sorry!! :( ;)

Wonderful review and a great looking pen. I was looking at a few of these at the LA Penshow. They are very nice pens and I love the Button filler!! Button fillers are one of my favorite filling pen!!!

Great job and keep up the good work my friend!!!

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#6 davyr

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Posted 23 February 2006 - 17:27

job well done on your first review matt! keep 'em comin'. the story behind the merlin is quite wonderful.
sounds like a lot of pen for just $40. :)
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#7 krz

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Posted 26 February 2006 - 06:22

I've got a Red striped Merlin 33 on the way. I'll post a pic when it gets here. :)
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#8 ychri

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Posted 12 October 2007 - 22:09

hello forum,

i've got a blue striped merlin 33. it's a really nice pen, i like the technic! and the special material, celluloid. unfortunately it is a little bit damaged on the top and the gold plating isn't in best condition.

i bought it about 15 years ago from "manufactum" (es gibt sie noch, die guten dinge). they had a limited lot of about 1000. if i remember correctly, they bought the rest from a shop or factory that crashed long time ago. when the buildings were sold, they found the pens. manufactum is the right dealer for such things...

greetings, yvonne

#9 irish_monk

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Posted 19 July 2009 - 16:01

I just picked up a breen Merlin 33 from the same dealer in Columbus and I got the same story. I was actually surprised at the writing quality of the pen.
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#10 jimhughes

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Posted 19 July 2009 - 17:57

QUOTE (irish_monk @ Jul 19 2009, 10:01 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I just picked up a breen Merlin 33 from the same dealer in Columbus and I got the same story. I was actually surprised at the writing quality of the pen.

Aren't these the NOS pens Richard Binder just added to his site last week. I've got a green striated on the way. I'm hoping it's an XF vs a F nib. Check out Binder's site for more info. Usual disclaimer, no affiliation, just a satisfied client. Jim

#11 Saturninus

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Posted 19 July 2009 - 19:08

QUOTE (jimhughes @ Jul 19 2009, 10:57 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (irish_monk @ Jul 19 2009, 10:01 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I just picked up a breen Merlin 33 from the same dealer in Columbus and I got the same story. I was actually surprised at the writing quality of the pen.

Aren't these the NOS pens Richard Binder just added to his site last week. I've got a green striated on the way. I'm hoping it's an XF vs a F nib. Check out Binder's site for more info. Usual disclaimer, no affiliation, just a satisfied client. Jim



You ordered a green striated one? You must have gotten one before they sold out. Or do you mean the Palmetto Merlin 33? I wanted a green striped one, but I had to go for a red striped Merlina because I thought the green stripe was sold out. I wish I could see full size pictures of these pens - I wanted to get a black cherry also, but it's hard to make the call based on just a swatch of color as opposed to a picture of the entire pen. I'm hoping mine comes out as a XF full flex, but I can't wait to get it whatever it turns out to be.

#12 jimhughes

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Posted 19 July 2009 - 23:19

QUOTE (Saturninus @ Jul 19 2009, 01:08 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (jimhughes @ Jul 19 2009, 10:57 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (irish_monk @ Jul 19 2009, 10:01 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I just picked up a breen Merlin 33 from the same dealer in Columbus and I got the same story. I was actually surprised at the writing quality of the pen.

Aren't these the NOS pens Richard Binder just added to his site last week. I've got a green striated on the way. I'm hoping it's an XF vs a F nib. Check out Binder's site for more info. Usual disclaimer, no affiliation, just a satisfied client. Jim



You ordered a green striated one? You must have gotten one before they sold out. Or do you mean the Palmetto Merlin 33? I wanted a green striped one, but I had to go for a red striped Merlina because I thought the green stripe was sold out. I wish I could see full size pictures of these pens - I wanted to get a black cherry also, but it's hard to make the call based on just a swatch of color as opposed to a picture of the entire pen. I'm hoping mine comes out as a XF full flex, but I can't wait to get it whatever it turns out to be.


I was Johnny on the spot when I first saw the note on FPN from Richard. Probably last Wednesday if my memory isn't failing. I looked at the 2 greens and again, IIRC, the stripe was a final choice, not the solid. Of couse, after the big decision I've sufferred a couple of days why didn't I get a -----Colour.
I've not heard it was sold out so maybe I picked the solid green and I'm having a senior moment on stripes. I'll post when it arrives to let you know. My choice was the shorter Merlina, if that makes a difference. Jim

Edit:
Looking back at Richards site I did choose a Modern Stripe Greeen. But it didn't say OOS, when I ordered. I've not heard that I chould rechoose so maybe I'm getting that. My colour choice was arbitrary at the time and I was torn on making the final call, colour wise. I don't have to have green stripe.
So if your really sold on that, and I get it, it's no problem for me to send it your way and swap out with you. My big deal breaker is I want the shorter model. I'm funny that way. Let me know whats your pleasure and I'll post if its a stripe on not. It's definitely NOT a palmento I requested. Jim

Edited by jimhughes, 19 July 2009 - 23:26.


#13 jimhughes

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 00:05

QUOTE (jimhughes @ Jul 19 2009, 05:19 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (Saturninus @ Jul 19 2009, 01:08 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (jimhughes @ Jul 19 2009, 10:57 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE (irish_monk @ Jul 19 2009, 10:01 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I just picked up a breen Merlin 33 from the same dealer in Columbus and I got the same story. I was actually surprised at the writing quality of the pen.

Aren't these the NOS pens Richard Binder just added to his site last week. I've got a green striated on the way. I'm hoping it's an XF vs a F nib. Check out Binder's site for more info. Usual disclaimer, no affiliation, just a satisfied client. Jim



You ordered a green striated one? You must have gotten one before they sold out. Or do you mean the Palmetto Merlin 33? I wanted a green striped one, but I had to go for a red striped Merlina because I thought the green stripe was sold out. I wish I could see full size pictures of these pens - I wanted to get a black cherry also, but it's hard to make the call based on just a swatch of color as opposed to a picture of the entire pen. I'm hoping mine comes out as a XF full flex, but I can't wait to get it whatever it turns out to be.


I was Johnny on the spot when I first saw the note on FPN from Richard. Probably last Wednesday if my memory isn't failing. I looked at the 2 greens and again, IIRC, the stripe was a final choice, not the solid. Of couse, after the big decision I've sufferred a couple of days why didn't I get a -----Colour.
I've not heard it was sold out so maybe I picked the solid green and I'm having a senior moment on stripes. I'll post when it arrives to let you know. My choice was the shorter Merlina, if that makes a difference. Jim

Edit:
Looking back at Richards site I did choose a Modern Stripe Greeen. But it didn't say OOS, when I ordered. I've not heard that I chould rechoose so maybe I'm getting that. My colour choice was arbitrary at the time and I was torn on making the final call, colour wise. I don't have to have green stripe.
So if your really sold on that, and I get it, it's no problem for me to send it your way and swap out with you. My big deal breaker is I want the shorter model. I'm funny that way. Let me know whats your pleasure and I'll post if its a stripe on not. It's definitely NOT a palmento I requested. Jim

Boy I'm getting to be a pest about this. Double checked my PAYPAL invoice. It Shows Modern Strip Green, but a fine nib. Dang. I think Richards site said F and XF nibs, they'lll choose that, you pick the colour. Offer stands if I get a Green Stripe Modern, it's yours swap even for whatever youre getting, Jim

#14 Richard

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 00:40

All of the pens will show fine nibs when you purchase them. Most of the fines are smallish, closer to extra fine.

Don't be too hasty to trade away a pen you've bought if someone else likes the color. We're prepping only six of a given color at any given time. We already have four more Modern Stripe Green Merlinas assembled but not yet treated to final prep.
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#15 jimhughes

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Posted 20 July 2009 - 01:40

QUOTE (Richard @ Jul 19 2009, 06:40 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
All of the pens will show fine nibs when you purchase them. Most of the fines are smallish, closer to extra fine.

Don't be too hasty to trade away a pen you've bought if someone else likes the color. We're prepping only six of a given color at any given time. We already have four more Modern Stripe Green Merlinas assembled but not yet treated to final prep.

Richard:
Thanks for the info. I really couldn't decide on colour and just grabbed one last Wednesday night. Since then I've been going maybe this or that would have been a better choice. Hence, if somebody was realy sold on a Green Stripe, I am glad to swap with him on another colour. I like the XF nib but willing to gamble. At this low ball price, for a nice pen, there are no losers colour or nib wise. Thanks, Jim

Edited by jimhughes, 20 July 2009 - 01:40.


#16 JonW

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Posted 24 July 2009 - 15:08

My Merlin 33 from Richard arrived yesterday. It’s a button filler. So it must have a sack in there. One quick question:

How long do the sacks last before they start to fall apart and need to be replaced?

Just curious about the expected lifetime. I imagine these sacks are as old as the pens and may degrade at some point soon.

I have not yet had much of a chance to write with it. So far it looks and feels nice. It’s much smaller than I expected, even though Richard posted the measurements and I compared those to my Pelikans. It’s my first celluloid pen- something different. I’ll give it some writing time before being able to say much. But it seems like a nice pen with a nice history and not expensive for all that. Thanks for offering them, Richard.

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#17 Johnny Appleseed

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Posted 24 July 2009 - 15:48

The life of a sac depends a lot on the conditions it is subjected too. Certian inks seem harder on sacs, as are hot climates. Ink left to dry in a sac will shorten the life of the sac as well. That said, I think under normal conditions you can expect 8-10 years from a new sac.

If you bought one of the Merlins from Richard Binder, it will have a new sac, properly installed.

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#18 Pfhorrest

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Posted 24 July 2009 - 18:51

I'm loving the ballpark-signature-like engraving on the side of the pen.
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#19 Woody

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Posted 25 July 2009 - 07:32

QUOTE (JonW @ Jul 24 2009, 08:08 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
My Merlin 33 from Richard arrived yesterday. It’s a button filler. So it must have a sack in there. One quick question:

How long do the sacks last before they start to fall apart and need to be replaced?

Just curious about the expected lifetime. I imagine these sacks are as old as the pens and may degrade at some point soon.


I'm not Richard, nor do I play him on tv; however, quoting directly from his site:

"We have disassembled, checked, and rebuilt each Merlin to ensure that it will perform like new (or maybe even better). "

I assume this means that they've gone and removed the old sac, and installed a new one. It makes no sense for a guy like him to make a statement like this and NOT change out the sac.

#20 Richard

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Posted 25 July 2009 - 14:58

QUOTE (Woody @ Jul 25 2009, 03:32 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I'm not Richard, nor do I play him on tv; however, quoting directly from his site:

"We have disassembled, checked, and rebuilt each Merlin to ensure that it will perform like new (or maybe even better). "

I assume this means that they've gone and removed the old sac, and installed a new one. It makes no sense for a guy like him to make a statement like this and NOT change out the sac.

In many cases, "assume" can spell something rather infelicitous, as in "[making an] ass* [of] u [and] me," but in this case you are correct. All of our Merlins have fresh sacs taken from our repair parts stock (purchased from the Pen Sac Company). We're working this weekend to put up a complete fresh selection of Merlin 33 colors; Allison is resacking pens as fast as her overworked hands can move (with due care to maintain our quality standards). smile.gif

---------------------
* i.e., a jackass, or fool

Edited by Richard, 25 July 2009 - 15:01.

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