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  1. Hi everyone! I received a lot of old Japanese fountain pens that appear to be old plunger fillers, all of which appear to need new seals as they do not vacuum in any ink (the pen pictured leaked from the blind cap end when I syringed some water into the body). The blind cap unscrews, but the plunger has no resistance when pulled up and can be shifted around to various angles. I can see inside the pen with the section removed that there is a small bulb attached to the end of the rod with a small rubber washer not too far behind it. I did some looking around but had trouble finding a lot of information regarding how to fix these types of pens. Any help would be greatly appreciated! P.S. If anyone knows anything about what this pen is, I'd appreciate any help identifying it. The label reads "shiruba" or Silver
  2. ParkerBeta

    Opus 88 Fantasia

    As I wrote in my review of the Opus 88 "Flow" in May last year, I almost bought the resin-and-ebonite Koloro before the Flow was introduced, but backed off at the last minute because I felt that the smaller #5 nib of the Koloro did not match the size of the pen. Well, the Flow is really such an excellent pen that ere long my thoughts turned fondly toward Opus 88 once more, and I was tempted again by the unique resin-and-ebonite combination of two of their models, the larger Koloro and the smaller Fantasia. Once more, the Koloro lost out, and for the same reason as before. I bought the smaller Fantasia that has the same #5 nib as the Koloro, but this smaller nib is a perfect match for the smaller size of the Fantasia. Actually getting a Fantasia in hand in the US proved to be a challenge -- it looks like Opus 88 may have stopped distributing them here, as the only online store actually having them in stock was Vanness pens, and even they did not have all the colors available. On the other hand, several European retailers seemed to have them in stock. At any rate, the Fantasia offered the interesting option of a steel 1.4mm stub nib, which I chose for the sake of variety, since all my other stub nibs are 1.1mm (except for one Visconti tubular steel nib that is 1.3mm). For those who may not be aware of Opus 88, it is a Taiwanese manufacturer of eyedropper filler pens with injection-molded plastic instead of hand-machined ebonite as in the high-end Japanese manufacturers' models, and with steel JoWo or Bock nibs instead of gold nibs. This drops the price of these pens from the stratosphere ($500+) down to earth (about $100). Every Opus 88 pen still has the characteristic shutoff valve that Japanese eyedropper-filler pens are famous for: when the shutoff valve is fully screwed in, the tip of the rod inside the barrel closes off the mouth of the barrel so that the ink in the barrel cannot get to the feed and the nib will run dry after the ink already in the feed is exhausted. In other words, to write for more than a paragraph or two, you need to open the shutoff valve (as shown in the photograph below). Fantasia with "Brick Red" ebonite cap (with multicolored rings) and Amber barrel. The section is the same amber resin as the barrel, and the eyedropper shutoff valve (shown open in this photograph) is also made of the same ebonite material as the cap. The build quality of the Fantasia is above reproach. Opening and closing the screw cap, the shutoff valve, and the section is always perfectly damped, with no wobbliness, and indicating tight tolerances. There is absolutely no play or wobble anywhere. I do not know how the multi-colored rings are fastened onto the cap, but they are absolutely flush with the cap itself and look as if they are painted (but they are not). The pen feels jewel-like, a similar feel to a very different small pen in an altogether different price class, the Montblanc Boheme (the small model with the retractable nib). The Fantasia comes in a small flat box with a glass eyedropper to fill it with. The pen itself is quite small: just 4.5in (11.5cm) capped. The bottom of the barrel has threads for you to post the cap. I have small hands, but even then using the pen without posting is uncomfortable, so posting the cap is a must for usability. After posting, the pen is very well-balanced and becomes a comfortable 5.75in (14.5cm) in length. But the Fantasia hides another trick up its sleeve -- the cap can be used to open the (rather thin) shutoff valve for writing! See the nice sunken (for a reason -- see below) medallion on the cap, with "Opus 88" and "Fantasia" inscribed on it, separated by a raised ridge? That raised ridge is not ornamental but functional. (Note, by the way, that the ridge is exactly perpendicular to the clip -- a testament to the attention to detail in the construction of this little jewel of a pen.) Now, the use of that raised ridge in the cap top is to engage like a screwdriver with one of the slots cut into the shutoff valve at the bottom of the barrel: That's also why the medallion with the raised ridge is sunken into the cap and not flush with the top. This little bit of gadgetry is an unexpected pleasure on this little pen. However, it is not really necessary, as the shutoff valve, narrow though it is, still affords enough purchase for one to open it by hand. Nevertheless, I enjoy going through the additional motions of unscrewing the valve using the cap, then flipping the cap over and posting it into the threads at the bottom of the barrel. When posted, the cap not only does not touch the shutoff valve but also aligns the clip perfectly with the nib. Well, at least that perfect alignment of clip with nib appears to have been the intention of the designer. However, my pen arrived with the clip out of alignment with the nib, which bothered me rather more than it should. At the suggestion of another fellow-Opus 88 fan and fellow-buyer of both the Flow and the Fantasia, I unscrewed the nib unit and screwed it back in starting from exact alignment, and to my delight, when fully screwed in, the nib was again in perfect alignment with the clip. The barrel is a translucent amber on my pen, and there are a few other choices of color amongst the Fantasia models. And this brings me to the first of two issues I have with the Fantasia, namely the relatively short grip section (seen in the photograph above). Unfortunately for me, after a couple of weeks of use, I cannot train myself to hold the pen by either the grip section or further up by the barrel -- instead, my fingers naturally gravitate to the joint where the section meets the barrel and where, alas, lie the cap threads. In other words, when I hold the pen, my fingers always find themselves exactly on top of the cap threads. The cap threads are not sharp, but after a while, they do feel uncomfortable. The second issue is one that manifested itself after I had written extensively with the excellent and smooth steel 1.4mm stub nib, a very wet writer. I found, to my surprise, that the nib suddenly ran dry even though I could see a good deal of ink at the bottom of the barrel and even at the top of the barrel, just below the section threads. You can see a dark ring of ink at the top of the barrel in the above photograph as well. It turns out that on that one occasion (and only that one occasion) something about the viscosity of the ink (Montblanc Irish Green) combined with the barrel caused the ink to adhere to the inside of the barrel in a ring instead of going into the feed, and the nib ran dry. I had to unscrew the section and shake the ink back to the bottom of the barrel, then screw back the section in order to get the ink to flow into the nib again. This is my first load of ink in this barrel, so I do not know if this is likely to happen with other inks. Moreover, it only happened once with this ink too, but I will be on the lookout for it. Here's a sample of writing with the steel #5 JoWo 1.4mm stub nib. Although I did not do any careful comparisons, it does not appear to be significantly wider than my 1.1mm stub nibs, and appears a little less wide than my Visconti 1.3mm steel stub nib. At any rate, this 1.4mm stub nib is very smooth, very wet, and an excellent writer. A writing sample with the #5 JoWo 1.4mm steel stub nib and Montblanc Irish Green ink, on a little "Minerva" Italian writing pad that Vanness sent with the pen. To sum up: the pen is superbly made. It will be hard to find a better-made pen for the price (list price is $125), and the thoughtful details about alignment of the cap medallion with the clip, and the alignment of the clip with the nib, coupled with the cute little conceit of having the ridge on the sunken cap medallion fit right into the groove on the shutoff valve in order to open it, add greatly to the enjoyment one gets from the pen. The nib performs excellently, as is expected from a JoWo. I did experience a strange phenomenon of ink sticking to the inside of the barrel instead of going down the section into the feed, but that only happened once and may be specific to the ink I used. The main issue I faced when using the pen extensively the past two weeks was the discomfort of having the cap threads always under my fingers when writing. I wanted to train myself to hold the pen by the barrel but could not. If you can do so, your enjoyment of this pen will be greatly enhanced. As it is, I like the pen but for writing comfort, it loses out to its bigger brother, the Flow.
  3. When I acquired a year ago a Conklin Crescent fountain pen, similar to that for which Mark Twain wrote an endorsement (1903), my next object was to get an early Paul E. Wirt eyedropper filler (ED) that Twain previously had considered (1889) “an absolutely perfect reservoir pen, a pen compared with which all other pens are frank failures.” I spent some months hunting such an ED, as close as possible to that the famous writer referred to. Finally, it came some days ago and, as it were, it exceeded all anticipation. The ED is an early model for sure. Its dimensions suggest an old stylograph: 145 mm long capped (5 11/16 in), 170 mm posted (6 11/16 in), and a tubular thin body (7.5 mm in diameter). It has a short straight slip-cap (36 mm) and weighs only 6.8 gr. A slender, delicate fountain pen! Another feature proving its age is the section with its distinctive gracious shape of a Grecian Urn neck and a three-rope band at the end, specific to an early Wirt ED. The black hard rubber is well conserved, showing very few hardly perceivable oxidation. The chasing on the barrel has a checkerboard (rare?) pattern. There are two shiny gold filled repoussé bands on the barrel ends. Another mark betokening its age is the two-line imprint on the barrel: PAUL E. WIRT FOUNTAIN PEN PAT'D JUNE 27, 1882 FEB 3, 1885 Not the earlier one-line imprint, but – after some searches on the net – I found that imprint was used by Wirt until April 1903[1]. Could I date the ED more precisely? Maybe, but not VERY accurately. I unscrewed the section to see the overfeed tail and instantly felt a thrill: it was the very two-rubber-shaft type, the first patented by Paul E. Wirt, on February 3, 1885[2]. On October 13 of the same year, the pen maker from Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, patented a second overfeed[3], a single-shaft one. His “famous paddle feed”[4] was to be introduced much later, in 1901. Therefore, I concluded that my ED was certainly manufactured in the end of the 19th century. I did not find a logical explanation for which Paul E. Wirt would have used concomitantly his both overfeeds after 1885, as Dr. Ron Dutcher suggests[5]. I neither found when Wirt began imprinting on the barrel the date of Marvin C. Stone’s patent from June 27, 1882, concerning the capillarity[6]. A remark of George Kovalenko[7] was useful to me however, referring to the collection of The American Stationer[8] where it is said that Stone sold his patent to a William Nicholas who, in his turn, sold it to Wirt on June 13, 1888. Wirt bought it for showing himself a supporter of the patent rights, in a time when he was to carry on lawsuits with some pen manufacturers who had infringed his own patents. Did Wirt imprint Stone’s patent data on barrels before buying the patent? I doubt. More likely, he printed this data since June 1888 on. In conclusion, having the earliest Wirt’s overfeed and the above mentioned two-line imprint on the barrel, I dated my ED between 1888 and 1900, most likely at the beginning of this interval. This was precisely the period when Mark Twain wrote his first endorsement, few years after buying a Wirt pen from Horace M. Smith’s shop on Nassau Street in Manhattan, in November 1886[9]. Twain’s endorsement was extensively used by Wirt in advertisements. In The American Stationer[10] it can be read that Wirt already had sold 200.000 pieces of this model, but the number was to increase in the next years to 250.000 and, finally, to 350.000 pieces sold. Involved in many other businesses, even Wirt was to patent his own trendier “vented underfeed” in April 1903, and Twain wrote for him a second, widely disseminated endorsement, he lost the competition with L.E. Waterman in the first decade of the 20th century. A competition that Wirt had led until 1899. As for Marvin C. Stone, few people know nowadays he patented the working principle of the fountain pen, based on capillarity, as long as he remained famous in the history for patenting in 1888… the drinking paper straw. The above image is a writing sample after I tested the ED inked with Pilot/Iroshizuku Syo-ro. To write with a fountain pen like this, which could have the venerable age of about 125 years, is just pure chance for any collector. Note: As background of the above pictures I used the vintage photo of a Bloomsburg Normal School class taken in the spring of 1899. I can only suppose that some of those girls used them also Paul E. Wirt’s fountain pens like mine’s in their daily school activities. Each vintage fountain pen carries with it a fascinating story. More often than not, we do not know it and will not know it ever but, at least, we can imagine it at will. [1] Ron Dutcher’s site, http://www.kamakurapen.com/Paul_Wirt/Paul_Wirt_Imprints.html. [2] Patent US 311,554. [3] Patent US 324,169. [4] http://www.kamakurapen.com/Paul_Wirt/Paul_Wirt_Feeds.html. [5] http://www.kamakurapen.com/Paul_Wirt/Paul_Wirt_Feeds.html. [6] Patent US 260,134. [7] George Kovalenko’s blog, http://fountainpenhistory.blogspot.ro/2014/08/wirt-v-wirt-himself.html. [8] The American Stationer, vol. XXXIX, No 1 (1071), January 2, 1896, p.56 – not January 9, as G.K. mentioned in his article. [9] See Dear Mark Twain: Letters from His Readers, Univ. of Columbia Press, 2013, p.127. [10] The American Stationer, vol. XXX, No. 1 (706), January 3, 1889, p.436.





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