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Supersize My Nib! Redux - Thirty Pens In Thirty Days

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There is a separate 'Comments' thread HERE

After having deleted my photos accidentally, I'm attempting to re-piece together the reviews in one place. My original review thread is locked so I've started this new one and will upload ten days at a time for the next three days.

Days 1-10

I have far too many pens to be healthy and yesterday discovered that I'd schlepped five pens into work to serve varying functions during the day. Which led me into thinking how fulfilling it would be to use only one pen per day for the next thirty days.


So I've decided to do just that. The 'reviews' as such will be 24hrs in the life of the pen with a picture or two - so from getting it going (if it isn't going already), what it got used for, whether it has any strengths/weaknesses, and whether I want to put it down in the evening or not. I haven't got an exhaustive collection, but I'm only missing something Italian and pre-war US (although I have a Swan eyedropper I could fix up along the way) - as you can tell, I haven't even chosen which pens yet! The idea is to galvanise me into keeping pens which I would use daily - I have to say I'm really excited at the thought of choosing and using - I'd recommend everyone with a collection too large to cope with to do it!


For the moment, here is a photo of the shortlist:



I'll be shoving the final choices into a hessian bag, jumbling them up and pulling out the first pen tonight.*


*Obviously the pens will be written on pieces of paper.


Update: first choice made - Day #1 will be the Pilot Custom Regal, kindly IDed by Ron Dutcher.



Day One


Make: Pilot

Model: Custom Regal

Date: 1980/90s?

Nib: 14k-fine-open

Size: 135(L) x 12(W) mm

Ink: Noodlers Eel Blue

Cost: approx. £11 (eBay)


This was a little bit disappointing when it came out of the hat, as I've been using this one on-and-off for the last week!

My first confession on this journey is that I'm not a fan of fine nibs; they tend to accentuate the worst parts of my handwriting and usually feel scratchy.

That said, I've spent the day trying to like this pen. It's great for annotating reports and I really like the size (think 'Sheaffer Targa'), heft (quite light) and looks. I'm particularly surprised at how 'expensive' the plastic feels, but I think I would really need a Pilot broad to feel truly comfortable with it. By the way, I think the nib looks superb: a nice shape and the info stamped on it in a functional way like an aircraft part. Not fancy, but purposeful.





An okay start, but I'll be happy to get onto the next pen; off to the bag to draw the next one!



...which is: a Cross Century I! See you tomorrow...



Day Two

Make: Cross

Model: Century I 10k rolled gold (made in Ireland)

Year: 1980s

Nib: 14kt-medium-open

Size: 134(L) x 100(W) mm

Ink: Noodlers Eel Blue

Cost: approx. £20 (£75 in the April 1987 Pricelist)



I had a chrome Century biro that I bought at Harrods sale in about 1985 (£9!), and I got a catalogue at the same time. I'd always hankered after the fountain pen and so eventually bought this about eight years ago along with a matching biro.



I like the size of this pen; it is weighted best when the cap is posted and it is pleasing to the eye. I have trouble accepting newer fatter Cross pens as I had been so used to them making this slender, un-bloated, classic-looking shape.

The section is good to hold for a slim pen and the nib is a smooth but stiff medium. The only downside of this pen is that the nib lays down lots of ink on the page which makes it difficult to use at work (I need things to dry more quickly there!). You can tell by how dark the Eel Blue looks in the review, compared shading in the Pilot review.



The finish is also good. My chrome biro shows brassing, whereas the 10k plated ones still look good (usage scratches aside). If you are after an elegant, slender pen with retro class, choose an original Century. If I got rid of this one, it would only be because I had a Sterling silver one on the way!



Now a small confession. since about 10am this morning, I've had a vintage Montblanc Meisterstück 142 sitting on my desk and taunting me. Up until this evening I've resisted it to give the Cross a fair crack of the whip.

It wasn't one of the original thirty, but I'm going to play my joker and review it tomorrow and let you know what got bumped to make way for it!


Day Three

Make: Montblanc

Model: Meisterstück 142-G

Date: 1950s

Nib: 14kt-medium-open

Size: 127(L) x 110(W) mm

Ink: Quink Black

Cost: £86.52 (eBay)



This one came through the post yesterday, so I felt I had to review it. It's (I think) the smallest Meisterstück MB made, although the girth is thicker than the modern 144 (see pics). The pens itself writes okay - the nib needs a little smoothing (which I didn't have time to do today!), but there is a nice variation in line thickness to be had from it. The grip is comfortable, and the pen is comfy in the hand.





The looks are obviously classic MB. In terms of build quality there are the usual blemishes (loose cap ring, slight crack on the cap lip, yellowing cap star) but one thing I was surprised about was the feel of the celluloid. I have English-made Parker AF Duofolds that feel more expensive than this. Maybe it just needs a good polish (as yet I have only filled it & written with it), or maybe the modern resin truly IS 'precious'.


It's nice to have a vintage piston filler in this size and shape. The modern 146 is as big as my hand can cope with and this is much more usable for everyday writing. It also feels much more unobtrusive than modern MBs; in conclusion it's an enjoyable addition to my collection.


And for tomorrow: the Parker Duofold Centennial



Day Four


Make: Parker

Model: Duofold Centennial

Date: 1989 3rd Quarter (date code 'IN')

Size: 135(L) x 15(W) mm

Ink: Noodlers Eel Blue

Cost: £40 (£165 in 1990)



This is a big meaty pen! I hankered after it when I worked for Parker as a student in the early nineties. When I finally got one (at the right price!) at the beginning of this year, I was truly impressed with how it feels.











This is a BIG pen (see pics for a comparison with a MB 146). Everything from the nib, to the grip, the cap, and even the barrel threads is substantial. Despite the size, it feels easy to use with or without the cap posted, and although the nib feels a long way from the grip, you do still feel in control of your writing.



I have to say I really love using this pen, but a word of warning. Until yesterday it was filled with Quink Black and has written beautifully. The stickier Eel Blue seems not to flow so well on the downstroke.

In conclusion, I normally have problems with large pens being unwieldy, but not this one. It has become a 'go-to' pen during the time that I have owned it.


Edited: forgot to say that tomorrow is the Lamy cp1.


Day Five

Make: Lamy

Model: CP1

Date: 1980s/1990s

Size: 133(L) x 8(W) mm

Nib: 14kt-medium-open

Ink: Lamy Black (cartridge)

Cost: £6.50 (eBay)




I have quite a few Lamy pens; I admire their timeless but modern designs and the CP1 is no exception. How many other objects designed in the early seventies still look this good today?



The CP1 is a thin pen in its usual guise, but this pen is even thinner (see pics - the one I'm reviewing is in the middle): so thin it won't take a Lamy converter. This one is the forerunner of the platinum-plated version - the body and cap are in Sterling silver and the nib is platinum-plated 14kt gold.



The grip is comfortable for a thin pen, and it isn't as tiring on the hand as some can be. The only downside is that the cap is heavier than the original CP1 and when posted it makes the pen a little top-heavy and unwieldy. The nib is great; all you get from the Safari-type steel nib with a bit of extra flex.


As with most Lamy designs, the look is subdued but purposeful, classic and classy. One of my favourites this one!!


Next instalment: the Waterman Concord

"Truth can never be told, so as to be understood, and not be believ'd." (Wiiliam Blake)


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Day Six


Make: Waterman

Model: Concord

Date: early 1970s

Size: 136(L) x 11(W) mm

Nib: 18kt-broad-semi-hooded

Ink: Waterman Florida Blue (converter)

Cost: £20 (eBay)




I saw this on eBay as an "18kt nib Waterman pen" and thought that with a nib like that it must be fairly good even if I didn't recognise it. Fortunately it was identified by a fellow FPNer and the beautifully reviewed by MYU .

Mine is the plastic-barrelled version and so I'm guessing it is lighter in the hand than the metal-bodied pens. Capped, the pen is reminiscent of Montblanc's seventies designs (I've put it next to a MB Classic for comparison).






But the remarkable design features are the chamfered sides on the cap, the round-to-hexagonal cross-section on the barrel, and the half-hexagonal, half-round grip. These make the pen and unusual object to hold, and I'm still not sure whether it works or not.




No such worries about the nib though. This is a beautiful writer, nicely poised between being a wet writer and a quick dryer. The only other thing to mention is the clip which, while it works perfectly well, looks a little cheaper than the rest of the pen.


For tomorrow: the Swan Leverless



Day Seven


Make: Mabie Todd

Model: Swan Leverless 1401

Date: mid-late 1930s

Size: 130(L) x 13(W) mm

Nib: 14kt-medium-open (flex)

Ink: Waterman Florida Blue (pen not properly flushed!)

Cost: approx. £15 (eBay)




The poor man that had to sell this to me had just spent more money having it serviced than I paid him for it!

It is a truly sumptuous pen, made superbly by a firm proud enough to stamp all the removable parts (section, feed, nib, cap and barrel) with their name.




The plastic is incredibly beautiful; I have a lizard version as well, but prefer this one for looks. The large no. 4 nib adds to the sense of expensiveness.





The filling system is clever; the filler knob is turned and a bar is rolled across the sac. It isn't the most efficient of fillers but it is relatively clean and simple. As an example it ran out of ink while writing the review which means it has lasted less than a day!








Ps. Notice the safety cap instructions - how many of us would do that these days?!!


Tomorrow: Caran d'Ache Ecridor Retro

"Truth can never be told, so as to be understood, and not be believ'd." (Wiiliam Blake)


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Day Eight


Well, it was supposed to be the Caran d'Ache but I've either left it on my desk at work, or (more likely), it's fallen out of my bag while running up the escalators at the tube station. Oh well - in the meantime I'll do this one, which I wasn't planning to take to work anyway.


Make: Del La Rue

Model: Onoto

Date: 1921

Size: 147(L) x 10(W) mm

Nib: 14kt-medium-open

Ink: Noodler's Eel Blue

Cost: zero, zilch, null, nada




I found this pen (minus its nib) in my father's box of scrap silver (he used to be a jeweller) when I was about 15 years old. this was just as i was getting into fountain pens, so I kept it. After I identified it in 'Fountain Pens Vintage & Modern', I found a nib for it and had it serviced by Jim Marshall of the Pen & Pencil Gallery.





I think that Onotos have to be my favourite British pens: they have great looks, an ingenious filling system, they are well-made and fun to repair! They also have lovely nibs and the earlier pens have manual flow control, which doubles as a safety mechanism. The filler knob shuts off the ink supply when screwed down and so to write you must open the valve with a half-turn.

In other respects the pen is very comfortable even though it is thin: the grip is excellent, and the pen is balanced and light whether the cap is on or not.




The nib is medium but writes very fine for a medium. It lays down quite a lot of ink (some parts still hadn't dried when I had finished writing). This is the Sterling silver model but BHR ones are always available on eBay and they nearly always have the potential to be wonderful writers.




So tomorrow: either the Caran d'Ache (if found) or the Cross Metropolitan


EDIT: Caran d'Ache was on my desk this morning (phew!) so that will be done later on, with the Metropolitan on Saturday.

"Truth can never be told, so as to be understood, and not be believ'd." (Wiiliam Blake)


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Oy Vey, what a dilemma you have! This is one reason I trimmed my pens down to 8.

I also collect pocket and straight custom knives and I recently sent out 6 for sale.

Sometimes, for me, it seems that the "gotta have" is ruinous to my wallet. Don't

get me wrong, I don't condemn anyone their passion for their hobby whatever they collect.

30 years ago it was 35mm cameras and some smaller view cameras. Recently last year it was wrist watches.

Gave this up too and now have two watches, one a MKII Seafighter and a manual winding Paneri Radiomir homage.

It has an Asian Unitas clone that keeps very decent time...Satisfied, yes!

So what happens when you finally get the GRAIL pen, push on to the next grail pen? When does it stop?

Happy collecting!


Lee Rappeport

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So rugman; which part of that first sentence IN CAPITAL LETTERS did you not understand?!


Don't want to be argumentative, but this is a forum, characterized by interaction and commentary. If there's no conversation, what's the point of posting?


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It is IWantThat, it is...


...but forums are also about reading, and if you'd read the second sentence of the first post you'd have realised that there IS a place to interact and comment about these reviews.


**sighs heavily**

"Truth can never be told, so as to be understood, and not be believ'd." (Wiiliam Blake)


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Okay, let's crack on...


Day Eleven


Make: Pilot

Model: Sporty 15

Date: 1960s?

Size: 130(L) x 11(W) mm

Nib: 14kt gold-fine-hooded

Ink: Quink Black (converter)

Cost: $15 (eBay)


This pen piqued my interest because of its design. I don't think it qualifies as a 'short pen' although the barrel is short compared to other pens. The main feature is the long cap which has a button-actuated clip on it. A spear-like 14kt nib finishes the look off.


The design works quite well, moving the clip away from the cap so that it can be attached to thick materials without damaging the clip or clothing. It also means the pen is very secure once the button is released.


The pen is light and comfortable, and although the nib isn't to my taste it writes satisfactorily. The colour scheme gives the pen a wonderful retro look, and the nib has a very purposeful look to it. The only fault I can find is that the button housing has come slightly loose at the top of the cap. This may be because of the pen's advancing years though. I haven't had the nerve to disassemble it yet.


One more thing to note: the pen takes now-unavailable 'double-spare' cartridges. I have modified a converter using an empty cartridge supplied by fellow FPNer Merzig. If you find a pen with empty double-spare cartridges - KEEP THEM! They are useful to someone!


Ps. The pen was IDed HERE by Ron Dutcher - there are some more photos plus an advert scan on the thread.



Coming up: the Esterbrook Relief No. 1

"Truth can never be told, so as to be understood, and not be believ'd." (Wiiliam Blake)


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Day Twelve


Make: Esterbrook

Model: Relief No. 1

Date: early 1930s

Size: 131(L) x 13(W) mm

Nib: 14kt gold-oblique medium-open

Ink: Noodler's Walnut

Cost: a present from my wife


In twelve years my wife has only ever bought me two fountain pens, and coincidentally that have both been Esterbrooks. This isn't your run-of-the-mill Estie though. It was made in England for them by Conway Stewart and so has more in common with CS pens from that era.


The pen is good solid BCHR with nice chasing and a good deep barrel imprint.


The clip and lever are nickel plated; the cap is finished off with a red ring above the clip which makes it look a little like a Rotring. It (the ring) is made of casein and has shrunk over the years, giving the impression that the pen is less well-made as it now looks ill-fitting.


But the best part of this pen is the classic pre-war CS gold nib which wrote perfectly 'out-of-the-box'. It really is a writer's pen - all of the expense has gone into the 'business' end, and because it doesn't look particularly flashy, it is one of only a few vintage pens I have that I would feel comfortable using every day.


Tomorrow: Lamy 2000

"Truth can never be told, so as to be understood, and not be believ'd." (Wiiliam Blake)


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Day Thirteen


Make: Lamy

Model: 2000

Date: mid 1990s

Size: 138(L) x 13(W) mm

Nib: 14kt platinum-plated gold-medium (!)-hooded

Ink: Noodler's Eel Blue

Cost: Approx. £40 new (DM180 in the 1997 German pricelist)


Until I joined FPN at the beginning of this year, the L2K was one of my go-to pens. Then I discovered it all over the forums like a rash; it seems to be the stock answer to every 'what pen should I get' question. So I started using everything BUT this pen (peer pressure has an inverse effect on me!).



Coming back to it after six months after six months of reading good things about it, I view it a little differently. I won't go over all the other plus points mentioned elsewhere in the review section, but here are some observations: 1. If you grip close to the nib, the metal part can get very slippery, especially as it tapers. 2. The 'ears' can be annoying, but they can also be a useful gripping point. 3. The cap posts nicely but becomes very easily 'unstuck' when writing. 4. If you consider taking it apart to clean, it will never feel quite the same afterwards (finding out how to do this was the reason I joined FPN!) 5. The ballpen and pencil are also great and look good as a set.




Tomorrow: Tropen Gold!

"Truth can never be told, so as to be understood, and not be believ'd." (Wiiliam Blake)


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Day Fourteen


Make: Tropen

Model: 200 Gold

Date: late 1950s

Size: 125(L) x 10(W) mm

Nib: 14kt gold-fine-open

Ink: Noodler's Eel Blue

Cost: DM10 (approx. £4)


Tropen aren't particularly well known outside of Germany but they were one of the major German pen manufacturers of the post war era. Their main business is injection moulding and they still make pen parts for other manufacturers, but they were making injection moulded pens in the 1950s.


This pen is solid German fare; black with gold bits, a semi-flex nib and a piston filler. The most direct comparison I can make is with a modern Pelikan M250.


For a pen made in the 1950s, it feels incredibly modern and quite light, almost insubstantial. It's very comfortable to write with either cap on or off and is just solidly dependable. But despite the pen's staid feel it does have a bit of a blingy cap wit the sunburst motif on the cap end and the feathered clip. It's a very nice instrument, and a reminder that there is more to well-made German pens than big-beaked birds and white stars...



Tomorrow: the Conway Stewart 58

"Truth can never be told, so as to be understood, and not be believ'd." (Wiiliam Blake)


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Day Fifteen


Make: Conway Stewart

Model: 58

Date: 1950s

Size: 129(L) x 14(W) mm

Nib: 14Kt gold-oblique broad-open

Ink: Waterman Florida Blue

Cost: £10


I bought this from a man at an auction; he;d bought a desk that it was in and by buying the pen I halved what the desk cost him - he was happy, I was happy!


I've seen a few vintage Conways over the years and they are a make that can veer between very good condition and very poor indeed (water damage being the usual culprit!). This pen is probably the best condition one I've seen and it's gorgeous. It has good heft, it feels luxurious without being super flash, solid but extrovert


The nib is a delight, delivering good line variation and a very smooth writing experience.


When you wonder why people wax lyrical about certain vintage pens, it isn't nostalgia talking but that their design and function hasn't been bettered in fifty years, plus that certain 'other' quality that the modern homage pens can only approach.



Up next: Parker Vacumatic

"Truth can never be told, so as to be understood, and not be believ'd." (Wiiliam Blake)


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Day Sixteen


Make: Parker

Model: Vacumatic Slender Lockdown

Date: 1938, 3rd quarter

Size: 118(L) x 12(W) mm

Nib: 14kt gold-fine-open

Ink: Waterman Florida Blue

Cost: approx. £20


I decided on this one because it's the nicest looking of my Vacumatics. I'm not sure if the nib is correct or not as this is a Canadian-made pen with an English nib. I have other similar combinations, although this nib has no arrow so I think it's a replacement.


(pictured with an Oversize for comparison)

Upfront, I'm not a big Vacumatic fan. I find the filling system to be tricky to fill properly (lockdown while the pen is still over the ink, a blind cap that can be lost), and replacing the diaphragm is not for the faint-hearted (but fulfilling when completing a pen for the first time).



Having said that, once filled they are lovely to write with and look both modern and vintage at the same time. They are also eyecatching when they catch a bit of sunlight and tend to get people asking about them in a way that other pens don't - they are very unlike Parkers of the immediate post-war period.


This one is a nice pen to take out occasionally but I don't think I would go back to it every day.


Tomorrow: Pelikan M250

"Truth can never be told, so as to be understood, and not be believ'd." (Wiiliam Blake)


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Day Seventeen


Make: Pelikan

Model: M250 (old style)

Date: 1989

Size: 126(L) x 18(W) mm

Nib: 14kt gold-medium-open

Ink: Quink Black

Cost: £9 (new!)


This was one of the first pens I bought when I began collecting pens. A jeweller's shop was closing down and it was offered as half price (EDIT: actually it was 75% off judging by the price list) but they gave me a 250 instead of the 200 that they should have (I only discovered this afterwards when I went to purchase the matching biro and pencil).



It has been a mainstay pen for twenty years (through college, work and long-distance relationship maintenance). It's no-nonsense, classic-looking, and an expressive writer. It has never not written, always filled perfectly, and nothing has ever broken, come loose or fallen off. The only battlescars are brassing on the cap rings and clip, posting marks, and marks on the barrel where the cap has been screwed on so many times.


In fact it is so much one of my favourites that I didn't get another Pelikan until this year. I now have a 100N and a 120 and it's obvious that the 2xx range was the direct successor to the 120/140.



The older pen is almost exactly the same in feel; only the looks have changed. I am constantly wondering whether I could buy a 'better' Pelikan, when the truth is it probably won't match how this one works for me.



The next review is the Montblanc Titano.

"Truth can never be told, so as to be understood, and not be believ'd." (Wiiliam Blake)


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Day Eighteen

Make: Montblanc

Model: Titano

Date: 1987

Size: 138(L) x 10(W) mm

Nib: 14kt gold-medium-open

Ink: Montblanc Turquoise

Cost: EUR38 (£89 when new)


My father worked in a jeweller's shop in the eighties which stocked MB and bought himself a Titano biro. I fell in love with broad MB ballpoint refills at this time and promptly bought myself a SlimLine set (FP, BP & MP). I always hankered after the fountain version of my Dad's biro though, and it took me until earlier this year to find one.


The look is of an upmarket SL (although not quite as flash as the Nobelesse). The barrel and cap are of extremely glossy lacquered metal, while the section is in matt ribbed titanium. A classic MB wing nib completes the look.


For me, I find the combination of slimness, plus the slightly slippery section make it difficult to hold comfortably; the gold ridge between the barrel and section adds to the discomfort. I'm not sure whether this was the reason it was discontinued very soon after release. MB also repositioned itself upmarket at this time and there was no room for a middle-tier pen like this one.


A nice pen, but one that doesn't suit my hand, and consequently I don't use it as much as I had expected I would.


Incidentally, the ink is from 1989!


Tomorrow, in as a late substitute: Sheaffer Imperial II

"Truth can never be told, so as to be understood, and not be believ'd." (Wiiliam Blake)


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Day Nineteen


Make: Sheaffer

Model: Imperial II Touchdown

Date: early 1960s

Size: 133(L) x 13(W) mm

Nib: Palladium Silver (PdAg)-fine-open conical

Ink: Quink Black

Cost: £5


I was aware when I began these reviews that I didn't possess a Sheaffer worth reviewing. I used to have an Imperial IV and a Sentinel Triumph Tuckaway set but these have long since left the collection. Then my father visited on Saturday with a bag of pens from a house clearance, of which only two, a safety pen and the Sheaffer were worth keeping. I gave him a tenner for the two.


I think my problem with Sheaffers is twofold: first, I've never chanced upon a cheap Balance or Lifetime to turn my head and secondly, I find their post-war designs to be a little bit nondescript. This pen is a good case in point. The feel of the pen is good, but no attention has been drawn to the nib and the cap is marginally more interesting than a Skripsert cap. They make very good everyday writers because they don't look worth anything!!


The nib is extremely stiff and the experience is as close to writing with a biro or rollerball I can think of. Not quite my scene but I can see how it could have its devotees.


Now a small confession: the gasket of the filler needs replacing, but I used it as a bulb filler to get the ink in there. Otherwise (from previous experience), the Touchdown filler is simple and trouble free.


In conclusion, I feel that this pen is a bit of Cinderella trapped in an Ugly Sister's clothing - the pen is usable in every situation and performs like a far more expensive pen should. Definitely a workhorse pen.


Tomorrow: Esterbrook J Double Jewel

"Truth can never be told, so as to be understood, and not be believ'd." (Wiiliam Blake)


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Day Twenty


Make: Esterbrook

Model: J Double Jewel

Date: early 1950s

Size: 121(L) x 12(W) mm

Nib: steel-1551 firm medium-open

Ink: Waterman Florida Blue

Cost: a present


My wife bought me this pen many years ago when we first knew each other. It has always been on display but I have never used it properly until now.


If you are looking for a good place to start collecting vintage pens (especially in the US), this is the place to start. They are solid pens, there are oodles of colours and nib types to keep you happy, they are fairly inexpensive, and there is a good support group in FPN - I forgot to mention when writing that there is also Brian Anderson's www.esterbrook.net which is a great resource.


This one looks like it did the day it was first bought; the chrome is good, the plastic still glimmers, and everything is as it should be with the nib. It's very comfortable to write with and proves that you don't need to be covered in gold plating to be a head-turner.


This pen also teaches a good lesson in the finickiness of inks and pens. I'd originally filled this with Noodler's Walnut and it just wasn't happening at all (flow problems, skipping etc.). A change of ink and it's writing like a star. So, before you dismiss a pen, consider a change of ink!


Next up: Pelikan 100N

"Truth can never be told, so as to be understood, and not be believ'd." (Wiiliam Blake)


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