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Posted 28 October 2008 - 18:54
Of any of the major countries who contributed to the growth and development of the fountain pen, perhaps the country that has (or seems to have) the least in the collective body of knowledge is Italy. Save for a few articles here and there on long-forgotten websites, and a precious few folks here on FPN, it seems like thereís not much out there. So, when this one came up for sale, I didnít waste any time in acquiring it. Iím glad I did, too. This is a really neat pen.
As best as Iíve been able to tell, this celluloid beauty dates to the mid-30s. Iím not sure where in Italy it was made, but judging by the close resemblance to several of the old Montegrappa and Omas designs, it may have been made nearby (possibly in one of their factories). This is an all-celluloid model (save for the blind cap, the section, and the disc on the top of the cap - which I think are ebonite) in a beautiful pattern that Iíve never seen before. The depth of the celluloid layers amaze me; the camera doesnít do it any justice.
The cap has two trim rings, and a traditional Italian roller-style clip, but they are the only outward adornments. Other than that, an imprint on the barrel that reads BLACK STAR (oddly enough, in a very retro-70s font), and the markings on the nib, thereís absolutely zero identity markings. Frankly, I have no idea whether this pen is made by Black Star, or made by another company and called the Black Star.
At any rate, itís a beautiful pen, and save for a bit of brassing to the nickel-plated trim and a nick here and there that I wasnít able to completely buff out, itís in perfect shape.
Make no mistake - this is a big pen. When capped, itís approximately 5.5Ē tall, and when posted, itís over 6.75Ē! Still, despite the size, itís actually pretty lightweight (26-28g fully loaded) and very well-balanced in the hand. Itís comfortable to use (for me, anyway) posted or un-posted. One thing I really like about this pen is the section design. For those of us with big fat fingers, this one works really well, as it has mild enough taper so that we donít have to choke up on it like we would with other pens like a Vacumatic Major, etc.
Oh baby...what a cool nib! When I got it, it was just a little out of alignment, and had a couple of rough spots, but it didnít take much time to tweak it just a little and get it back to what it should have been. Itís a steel #5-sized nib, but what I wasnít expecting was the ridiculous amount of flex it has! Iíve written with one or two other steel flex nibs (Esterbrooks, I think), and wasnít really impressed with them. This one, on the other hand, is outstanding! It flexes from about a fat (F) to a (BB) or better! Iím not entirely sure how to judge a wet noodle from a regular olí flexy nib, but if I had to guess, Iíd say that this one is at least Ďal denteí!
Since Iím a lefty, Iím probably the wrong person to own this nib, but without regard to that, itís a lot of fun to write with! Iím still in the process of learning how to use it properly, but the one thing I have learned is that a lighter touch is better with this one. The flow is fairly generous, and as such, it took a little getting used to. Lots of fun, though!
As with many vintage Italian pens, this one is a button filler, and itís been recently serviced. It holds a whole bunch of ink, too (I canít remember the sac size, but itís a big one). The button shows some age (either dirt or corrosion), but without regard to that, it works just fine. Iíll probably clean it up the next time the pen is empty.
Cost and Value
In my opinion, I got a first-rate bargain on this one, and I really do enjoy it a lot. As for the actual value? Iíd guess that itís probably worth at least 2x what I paid for it...maybe 3x. Iíve only seen one other Black Star for sale, and it was on eBay back in January. I donít remember what it sold for, but I know that it was black, and identical to this one except for the color of the trim, and a single Greek-key capband. I didnít find it to be nearly as appealing as the one I own.
As an intro to vintage Italian pens, Iím really happy with my Black Star. If you get the chance to acquire one of the countless brands out there for a reasonable price, donít waste time in doing so! Youíll be really glad that you did!
Posted 28 October 2008 - 20:11
Posted 28 October 2008 - 21:15
I checked right now and the Black Star brand is mentioned. Unfortunately the book split the Italian brands (more than 350!) in three categories: major producers, minor producers and other. BS is listed in the "other" section, so no a single word about it is spent.
What I think is that most probably your pen comes from the "Settimo Torinese" district, which, during the 30s was the most busy FP district of Italy, it has been reported that more than 200 small firms worked (in some way) in that area. Settimo is also close to Turin, home of Aurora.
Enjoy your pen and keep on with the vintage italians!
Posted 28 October 2008 - 21:33
I did a little looking on her site, but Letizia didn't mention them in her list of brands, either. Bummer.
Still, it's a neat pen, and an interesting piece of history!
Posted 30 October 2008 - 00:16
Great review. That pen looks and sounds like one awesome find!!
Edited by AJP, 30 October 2008 - 00:17.
Posted 11 November 2008 - 23:18
I should have known that flex doesn't work well for lefties. Try as I might, I just couldn't get comfortable with the nib on that one. However, that said, I wasn't willing to simply put it back up for sale and not be able to enjoy it. I did a little improvising, tore the pen down to the bits and pieces, and swapped in a thoroughly different nib. It's actually the very rigid steel nib (and just the nib) from one of those screw-in Schmidt nib units that Bexley puts in their Simplicity. It's fairly generic, but it's an identical size match and fit in the section just fine.
To boot, this is a nib that I ground myself into an XF cursive italic/stub! Before I pulled it out of the Schmidt collar, this was the nib that was seeing lots of use in my Levenger Decathlon!
So...nib round-robin tends to net some really great results when you do it long enough!
Posted 19 November 2008 - 05:29