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The Evolution of Pocket Fountain Pens



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sztainbok

I have been collecting writing instruments for a few decades and currently have about 300 of them in my collection. They are mostly vintage, and a few new ones.

I try to follow technical evolution as themes of my collection such as filling mechanisms, nib characteristics, materials, etc.

I recently became interested in pocket fountain pens and I really don`t have much knowledge about them, so I propose to start with what I know and perhaps members of the community can contribute.

There are examples of writing instruments of the Victorian Era, that were meant to carry in pockets or pouches, such as telescopic mechanical pencils, dip pens or combination instruments.

At the turn of the Century Safety fountain pens came about, in an attempt to prevent ink spillage when carried in a pocket or pouch. For the most part, these pens were of large size for a pocket.

For the purpose of this discussion, I would like to propose the following definition. 

A pocket fountain pen is one that is short enough to fit in a pocket comfortably and by some means it is enlarged to become comfortable for writing.

To my knowledge, there are to methods to achieve this purpose.

1 - Pens with a short barrel and long cap and long section. The threads of clutch ring where the cap engages with the barrel is at the end of the long section, so when capped they are short enough to pocket and when posted they become long enough to fit in the hand.

2 - Telescoping fountain pens. 

The first example of short barrel and long cap that I am aware of is the Kaweco Sport, that appeared in this format in the 1930's as a piston filled fountain pen with a matching mechanical pencil. Since the pencil doesn't require a cap, the concept doesn't apply to it and it ends up being just a short pencil. This pen is 4" capped and 5.5" posted.

 

1927173789_KawecoSport1.thumb.jpg.188e9d237ea6182affec93c387034f47.jpg

 

In the 1960's in Japan Sailor Pilot and Platinum started offering beautiful renditions of short / long fountain pens. The Japanese development of these pens is covered in depth in Richard Binder's e-book Japanese Pocket Pens.

Below I show a Pilot Elite and a Pilot MYU from my collection. 

 

33249223_2bf91.jpg.08cf4187c9fe85fe309230819f4221ae.jpg 

 

myu2.jpg.32b15b73f4eb8a87803f4f84f793c6a3.jpg

 

While telescopic dip pens where common in the late 19th Century, the first telescopic I am aware of is the Pilot telescopic fountain pen in the 1960's. There are probably earlier ones.

 

1695841534_Pilottelescoping3.thumb.jpg.557e90b770fbe5790f6d7af5379b4dd8.jpg

 

587016378_Pilottelescoping4.thumb.jpg.3da1682462d3f8b71d0e373b5d64f38a.jpg

 

In the mid 2000's, rOtring came out with telescoping fountain pens, mechanical pencils and ballpoints, the model Esprit Mini, which is currently produced by Parker.

 

469361750_RotringEspritTelescopefp6.thumb.jpg.96d40592196c8579bdcb578ad0dac879.jpg

 

1848206491_RotringEspritTelescopefp9.thumb.jpg.0abb90f039aa789431a9462a1a6a229f.jpg

 

I am sure there is much more to this story than what I was able to present here.

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I too am fascinated by the concept of the pocket fountain pen for its compactness and portability and when writing in cafes. I have tried many, but the only one that provides me with a full-sized fountainpen feel is the Sailor Mini (formerly, I just learned, the Sapporo Mini--I've been away from FPN for years!). I never tire of writing with it, unlike the Kawecos, which are okay for short sessions but can never (in my opinion) replace a full-sized fp. The construction of the Sailor Mini is exquisite in every detail, and it writes like a dream, smooth despite having a very fine nib. Unfortunately, the black version seems to be out of production, except for a Japan-only version (with rhodium instead of gold trim), branded "the penstyle." It is purportedly made by Sailor, and it does look the same, but the nib is even finer, almost needle-like, and not as smooth. And--it lacks the lovely golden anchor on the top of the cap! Jetpens has a few Sailor-branded minis but only in colors, not black. 

 

Other than that I have tried the Pilot Elite, which didn't really feel solid to me for extended writing (it would dry out quickly, too), and the Pilot MYU with a gorgeous integrated nib. The MYU is excellent, but as it is very rare, I don't feel compelled to use it in the field. More recently I tried a Moonman mini, using Parker short cartridges--it feels cheap and writes about below average. 

 

To me, nothing beats the original Sailor Mini. 

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I forgot to mention another pocket pen that I love: the Pelikan M300. Like the Sailor Mini, it is a masterpiece of craftsmanship. Many find it far too small for practical use, but, posted, I find that it works rather well for slightly longer writing sessions. It does not however have that perfect girth of the Sailor Mini---I think girth might be the secret to the Sailor Mini after all. 

 

The Pelikan M300 is a piston filler (how did they create such a tiny piston!) and has a matching mechanical pencil (perhaps also a ballpoint, but I've never seen it). The pen and pencil fit snugly in a little Kaweco zippered case.

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Sorry, but, what about the 1/2 lines of pens? There were many, among them safety pens, since the turn of the past Century.

 

The Peter Pan, and the ringtops were made tiny and small too, not just for pocket wearing but also purse (in a time purses were really tiny.

 

I have several piston fillers that would easily fall in the pocket size... only they were most likely sold as for kids or women.

 

I think that there are/have been many more than the OP suggest. And have a gut feeling they were so pervasive as not to draw any special attention -hence not turning as such on searches.

 

There is a thread on tiny pens here on FPN where one can find out more.

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shalitha33

In early days pocket pen would have had an entirely different meaning. It might not mean a short pen at that point in time (i.e waterman 14 poc). In this case the comparable size would be V. 

https://archive.org/details/WatermanFountainPenCatalogs/Waterman Pen Catalog 1925/page/n43/mode/2up

 

I have one Waterman 52 1/2v with a telescoping cap.  In this case cap itself is of 2 parts with the ability to have a long or short pen by extending out. 

There is also a safety version of it according to 1925 catalogue 

https://archive.org/details/WatermanFountainPenCatalogs/Waterman Pen Catalog 1925/page/n29/mode/2up 

 

Although i dont have any examples or proof my guess is that short type pens would go all the way in to late 1800s pens like waterman 22 /24 wouldn't count in this case as they only shifts the length around from cap to body when posted. safeties like caw and wirt where cap gets plugged in to the back of the pen might be a question mark .

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sztainbok
On 3/28/2021 at 4:36 PM, shalitha33 said:

In early days pocket pen would have had an entirely different meaning. It might not mean a short pen at that point in time (i.e waterman 14 poc). In this case the comparable size would be V. 

https://archive.org/details/WatermanFountainPenCatalogs/Waterman Pen Catalog 1925/page/n43/mode/2up

 

I have one Waterman 52 1/2v with a telescoping cap.  In this case cap itself is of 2 parts with the ability to have a long or short pen by extending out. 

There is also a safety version of it according to 1925 catalogue 

https://archive.org/details/WatermanFountainPenCatalogs/Waterman Pen Catalog 1925/page/n29/mode/2up 

 

Although i dont have any examples or proof my guess is that short type pens would go all the way in to late 1800s pens like waterman 22 /24 wouldn't count in this case as they only shifts the length around from cap to body when posted. safeties like caw and wirt where cap gets plugged in to the back of the pen might be a question mark .

Shalitha33,

The pens you describe, appear to meet the criteria of being able to be lengthened to be comfortable to be held while writing. It looks like they are drop filling pens.

Not all tiny pens fit this criteria, but I am sure that there are many more that do, and I would like to see if they could be identified, particularly early ones.  

 

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shalitha33

Waterman 0572  1/2 v I have is an eyedropper but any pen form 0552 1/2v or 0532 1/2v.s. or 0532 1/2v.s baby set can be had with the telescoping cap I believe. And probably more pens which I have no idea about. top part of the telescope cap is around the same size as a safety pen's cap.

 

IMG_20210401_105621.thumb.jpg.b69a69d2364aca9788942806058a156a.jpg

 

when cap is extended its somewhat closer to a full length pen. a little short though .

 

74987428_IMG_20210401_105802(1).thumb.jpg.0fbd530d50cfbfb605a57603d5dec9c5.jpg

 

Im not sure if there is a non-overlay model with this kind of a cap.

 

IMG_20210401_105913.thumb.jpg.153aa970f4253fb653dd8f246e745a30.jpg

 

from 1925 waterman catalog. It looks like for an extra charge its possible to get the telescope cap and ring. Im unsure if extending is useful to begin with. pen feels very flimsy when extended and there is a good chance of the top bit falling off. half posting the cap may have been a more solid option compared to this. Im not sure if its just the pen i have though. 

 

1716704327_Image1-04-21at11_29AM.thumb.jpeg.e1b913a6792dc2be6383b96247423ea8.jpeg

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sztainbok

Thank you for the pictures. Those are beautiful pens. The ones with the telescoping cap appear to be dropper filled. Do you know if there would be some with a lever filling system?

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shalitha33

I use to have a lever filler 0552 1/2 v with telescoping cap. i currently have the eyedropper 0572 1/2 v .Caps are interchangeable between both so there is no way to be 100% sure . Waterman catalog mentions that its available for lever fillers as well in both gold , gold filled and silver. They all tend to be ring tops and all with a full overlay. yet to see one that has a hard rubber cap with no / partial overlay.

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Greenie
38 minutes ago, sztainbok said:

Thank you for the pictures. Those are beautiful pens. The ones with the telescoping cap appear to be dropper filled. Do you know if there would be some with a lever filling system?

I have two Victor telescoping pens, one dropper filled and one lever filled. These telescope twice to reach full length.  Here is one of them. I have not taken pics of the other, but it is quite similar except the filling (and a smooth finish).

IMG_2269.JPG

IMG_2267.JPG

IMG_2268.JPG

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Beautiful pens. I wonder how they write, or if they are prone to leaks. Restoration of them must be expensive.

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Greenie
16 hours ago, adair said:

Beautiful pens. I wonder how they write, or if they are prone to leaks. Restoration of them must be expensive.

Only the narrowest short portion of the pain contains a sac for the lever filler, or nothing on the dropper filled.  Not complicated at all.

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Chinchy
On 3/23/2021 at 3:12 PM, sztainbok said:

 

 

myu2.jpg.32b15b73f4eb8a87803f4f84f793c6a3.jpg

 

 

 

This photo is very interesting.  I thought that the Pilot Myus came out in Fall of 71 (Sept-Oct?) but the date stamp on your pen is clearly marked June-71.  I recently found a Myu on Japan auctions that had a date stamp of 4-71.  Both Apr and June are much earlier than I had thought the Myus were released.  So I'm wondering if anyone knows exactly what is the earliest date stamp on a Myu?

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  • 4 weeks later...

I started out in his hobby buying mostly new pens before discovering the wonderful world of vintage pens.  To be honest most new pens are just too heavy and big for pocket use.  The older pens circal 1960s and before that were really made for long writing.  Really nice review!

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CS388

Great topic.

 

I became interested in pocket pens, a few years ago.

Didn't go that far with it, because I got a MYU701 - and everything else paled in comparison.

I've thinned out my entire pen 'collection' recently, but kept the MYU - it's a triumph of design, imho.

 

Chinchy: not sure of the start date of production. I'm sure I've had a mid 71 pen, but cannot verify that. The only one I have left is February 74.

 

Thanks

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Chinchy

Here is the date code on my Myu.  It's the earliest one that I've seen thus far...  (Not sure why the photo goes in sideways)

 

Myu_471_sm.thumb.jpg.7163c4a028d506d14635bf489ca182a9.jpg

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sztainbok
On 3/28/2021 at 4:36 PM, shalitha33 said:

In early days pocket pen would have had an entirely different meaning. It might not mean a short pen at that point in time (i.e waterman 14 poc). In this case the comparable size would be V. 

https://archive.org/details/WatermanFountainPenCatalogs/Waterman Pen Catalog 1925/page/n43/mode/2up

 

I have one Waterman 52 1/2v with a telescoping cap.  In this case cap itself is of 2 parts with the ability to have a long or short pen by extending out. 

There is also a safety version of it according to 1925 catalogue 

https://archive.org/details/WatermanFountainPenCatalogs/Waterman Pen Catalog 1925/page/n29/mode/2up 

 

Although i dont have any examples or proof my guess is that short type pens would go all the way in to late 1800s pens like waterman 22 /24 wouldn't count in this case as they only shifts the length around from cap to body when posted. safeties like caw and wirt where cap gets plugged in to the back of the pen might be a question mark .

Hello

Does the telescopic cap extension of your Waterman 52 1/2V pull to a stop, or you can pull to the point that it comes off?

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sztainbok
On 5/4/2021 at 2:51 AM, Chinchy said:

Here is the date code on my Myu.  It's the earliest one that I've seen thus far...  (Not sure why the photo goes in sideways)

 

Myu_471_sm.thumb.jpg.7163c4a028d506d14635bf489ca182a9.jpg

According to the dating system described in Richard Binder's book about Japanese short pens, this pen was manufactured in the Hiratsuka, factory on April 1971.

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sansenri

I'm not sure whether lady pens fall into the pocket category, and mini pens have been covered in another thread if I recall, but of course some of them were pocket pens, or perhaps to be more precise purse pens.

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