Posted in Collection, Pens, Stories

Building a Collection of Pens & When to Say Enough

Earlier this month, I was in a meeting with my work colleagues where I diligently took notes. Throughout the meeting I got odd looks …. as I was writing with my 1928 Duofold. The discussion eventually turned to my pen. I gladly passed the pen around for each to examine and use. None could believe the pen was 90+ years old. I explained that collecting and refurbishment of vintage fountain pens is a hobby of mine. That I bought this pen, restored it and since it was personalized researched the original owner.

My collection, to the amusement of myself, “is not a collection” as I don’t collect pens (lying to myself). Initially, I would not admit to collecting pens, but as fountain pen people know, they have a way of accumulating – it just happens. My collection generally hovers around 40 pens after periodic culling. So how did it all begin?

Glad you ask and truth be told, I do not know how it happened. At first, I owned a couple inexpensive Waterman and all was perfect. A decade later, I inherited a couple inoperative Esterbrooks, taught myself how to repair and restore them. BAM, I was hooked. Magically, my interest expanded to include French, and English pens now most recently, Turkish, Chinese and Indian pens.

There are three primary types of pens: 1) dip pens which are dipped into an inkwell, 2) fountain pens with a self-contained ink reservoir, and 3) ballpoint pens with a little ball that allows ink to flow out when the pen is put to paper. All three types are available as contemporary or vintage pens. Vintage pens are highly collectible and come in a wide variety of colors and styles, ranging from those with elaborate gold casings to simple plastic cigar-shaped designs. Contemporary pens are readily available with lazer etched designs, amazing color schemes, custom designs or simple plastic designs.

Vintage, Modern or Both

Keep in mind, collecting pens is not a good investment, I do this for fun. The people who collect vintage pens tend to be history nerds or enjoy nostalgia, which is why my wife calls me a “loser.” There is nothing stopping you from including both vintage and contemporary pens in your collection.

How does one make a decision and not break the bank. For starters, I focused on pens a little off the beaten path, something odd just like me. Do not let anyone tell you what you should or should not like. When you’re first starting off or simply focusing on a small collection – every choice counts, and to me I’d think twice before looking at “boring” pens because someone told me I “had to have it” in my collection.

To me dip pens are interesting, ballpoint pens are boring – I primarily focus on fountain pens. A couple pointers that may help you skinny down that list of potential pens:

  • Aesthetically pleasing or unique
  • Something with everyday comfort
  • Something fancy and shiny
  • Cool filler system
  • And always consider the nib

Acquiring Pens

Let me begin with once you find and acquire pen #1 it’s not long before you find another one to lust after. Even worse, you develop FOMO (fear of missing out). With that warning in mind, contemporary pens are readily available at Amazon, Jetpens, Pen Boutique, Vanness, Etsy, even Kickstarter plus the better stationary stores – the internet provides many options. Vintage pens are more for the individuals who enjoy the chase. A good place to search for fountain pens is at flea markets and some antique shops. Be aware some dealers may expect a premium that is not justified by quality. eBay is also a popular destination, the pen will most likely not be functional and don’t forget the ever present “buyer beware.” As with contemporary pens, the internet is a good place to acquire refurbished quality vintage pens, like David Nishimura’s VintagePen.com, and Tim’s Vintage Pens. A fun option is a pen show, where both contemporary and vintage pens are available.

Not so much about acquisition, but look for a local pen enthusiast group. Most often they can be found on Facebook. These groups are an invaluable source of information and support.

How Much Should This Cost?

Chinese pens can cost as little as $5 while premium pens can sell for over a $1,000. I do not buy expensive pens, I enjoy the challenge of finding inexpensive pens that write well, so 90% of my pens cost under $50. I recommend before making any purchase, take the time to research selling prices. And lastly, always stay within your budget.

Final Thoughts

Our expectations disappoint us, not our collections. There is obviously nothing wrong with having goals and dreams but don’t expect to achieve them quickly or reach those goals within a small or specific amount of time. – New-Lune.com

I’d rather buy a variety of inexpensive pens than a single expensive pen. This allows me the flexibility to explore options without feeling guilty and to enjoy myself. Also, it is easy to sell inexpensive pens. So be yourself and have fun.

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Posted in Restoration

Esterbrook Green Pastel

Company Back Story

In 1858, entrepreneur Richard Esterbrook established the “Esterbrook Pen Company” in Camden, NJ, which would become one of the biggest and most beloved pen makers in the world. The company started out producing dip pens before concentrating on fountain pens in 1932. At its height, Esterbrook was the largest pen manufacturer in the United States, employing 600 workers, producing 216,000,000 pens a year.

Esterbrook’s most popular and best selling pens were the J series. Of which, the double jeweled models came out around 1948, expanding in the 1950’s with the Pastels. First generation pastels have double black jewels while subsequent models came with matching colored jewels. The Pastels are very “of that era” 1950’s. They are shorter than the Esterbrook J, and came in solid pastel colors. The pens were marketed primarily to women as purse pens.

My Pen

I bought this pen in part as an impulse buy because the dog had just eaten my first Pastel. Though I acted on impulse, I did exercise good judgement focusing on the quality of the pen. That being said, this pen is in exceptional condition, yes I’d go so far as call it cherry much like the one the dog ate. The pen has no tooth marks, scratches nor is the barrel discolored by sunlight.

To my surprise, while cleaning the nib and preparing to remove the section I learned that the last ink used in the pen was green, image that. Another interesting surprise came about when I was removing the old ink sac. A large portion with “Esterbroo”k printed on the side came out. I guess this is the original sac.

Since the pen was in great shape, remember no tooth marks or major scratches, a light cleaning was all that was needed. I installed a new #16 ink sac and we are back in business. Looking good don’t you think?

And YES, I am keeping it away from the dog.

Vital statistics

  • Capped 108mm in length
  • Barrel diameter 8mm
  • Uncapped 100mm in length
  • Weighs in at 11g capped
Sorry my hand writing is so horrible.
Posted in Pens, Reviews, Stories

Kaigelu 316A

Company Back Story

Kaigelu is a brand of Lanxivi, a subsidiary of Shanghai Hero Pen Company. Hero has been manufacturing “high-quality” fountain pens since 1931. Initially known as Wolff Pens, they changed their name to Hero in 1966. Their pens are renown for their quality in Asia and are extremely popular with users in China and India.

I consider Kaigelu to be a “high-end” Chinese manufactured pen. I call them high-end because the typical Chinese pens sells for $7-$10 and this one sold for $26.

The Kaigelu 316 was initially released in 2014, and closely resembled the Parker Duofold Centennial. The pen is available in a variety of color schemes; however, I was interested in two, a golden brown/grey swirls called ‘Tiger Eye’ and white/black swirls called ‘Century Stars.’ I choose the white/black swirl. I am more inclined to say it resembles marble or pearl.

The pen is made of an acrylic celluloid (so they claim), something you don’t often see in contemporary pens. The celluloid has a lot of depth and complexity plus to my surprise it is semi-transparent. The pen clip, cap band and other accents are gold plate. The cap band contains an imprinted design with black inlay. The cap is topped with a jewel containing a kangaroo surrounded by a wreath, both in gold plate.

My pen is model 316A, the “A” designation I believe indicates a newer model, incorporating improvements over the initial pen. The seller called mine an “office gift pen.” I did a Duck-Duck-Go search and all of the 316 pens I found had black blind end caps and a black section, while mine has blind caps and section made of the same material and color as the pen. Maybe it is a “special edition.”

Other reviewers mention their pens are too heavy, tipping the scale at 46g, while mine weighs in at a mere 28g with converter. As I prefer pens with some heft to them, 28g is perfect. The pen feels solid in hand, and the construction seems sound.

The seller claimed it came with an iridium nib but it is stainless steel with gold plated accents. A kangaroo like the one in the jewel on the cap, scroll accent work, and the name “Kaigelu” is etched on the nib. The section is metal or brass, gold plated with “Kaigelu” and the model number etched into the opposite side.

The nib is labeled as Fine and it writes accordingly on 100gsm or better paper. On cheap paper the ink will flow.

The converter is attractive as far as converts go. It screws into the section but doesn’t appear to hold as much ink as other converters and contains a steel ball. I assume this keeps the ink “stirred, not shaken” which makes the pen rattle. The pen also accepts international converters as well as long international cartridges.

Vital Statistics

  • Capped length 137mm,
  • Barrel diameter is 13mm,
  • The cap diameter is 15mm,
  • Pen and converter weigh in at 28g,
  • The cap weighs in at 10g.

Cons

My complaints are: removing the cap did require 3 full turns, unscrewing the barrel from the section took a week (ok I exaggerate a bit), and the rattle the pen makes because of the steel ball in the converter. This is a feature to keep the ink from thickening up – a common occurrence for ink in Asia because of the heat and humidity.

Opinion

Unlike the experiences reported by others, the pen did not leak, it is not too heavy, the nib did not require smoothing or other fine tuning. I like the feel and weight of it in my hand. It wrote smoothly when I initially inked it up. I like it and for a mere $26 you can say I love it. Would I buy another – absolutely, maybe the tiger eye pen next.

In short, I liked the pen

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Posted in Pens, Restoration, Stories

The Lady Sheaffer “writes like a dream…refills like her lipstick”

The Back Story

“Extensive research” was conducted by Sheaffer to determine if there was a market for a pen designed exclusively for women.

Results showed that women generally considered pens made for them were nothing more than scaled down reproductions of men’s writing instruments while their fashion interests were centered in fabrics, costume jewelry and accessories. The results was a new line of cartridge pens named ‘The Lady Sheaffer’ developed to include all these features. The Lady Sheaffer Skripsert fountain pen debuts in April 1958, offering 19 models with patterns inspired by fine fabrics, like tweed, corduroy, paisley and tulle.

The Lady Sheaffer Skripsert VI is a periwinkle colored enamel over metal, with a gold basketweave that gives the pen a textured finish. The pattern was officially called “Paisley,” and fitted with a stainless steel Triumph wrap around nib. Unfortunately, the periwinkle enamel was prone to flaking off.

My Pen

Lady Sheaffer Skripsert VI

When I got my pen it was dirty and there was a big “stain” on the cap. I planned on cleaning it up but it got lost in the shuffle and my enthusiasm for it faded. After evaluating the direction my pen collection was headed I decide to sell off some pens and this one wasn’t making the grade, but it needed to be cleaned. I set about cleaning it and what a difference that made. The color became so vivid, I had a change of heart.

With the change of heart came a renewed interest in removing the “stain” on the pen cap. Assuming it was oil based, I washed the cap with Dawn dish soap which made the cap really shine but did not remove the stain. Next, I used the nylon circular brushes and the dental picks. This made some progress. Then I got the bright idea to let the cap soak over night in water. That morning I went over the stain again with the brush and removed the periwinkle enamel. F@&#.

It gets better, I’m not done. Since the Dawn soap did such a great job on the cap I used it on the barrel. A metal object covered in soap can be slippery when wet. It didn’t drop far but it landed nib first. F@&#, F@&#, F@&#. The damage isn’t too bad, but the nib is a Triumph circular nib and well ya need a special tool to remove it. OMG I was ready to scream. Doing the best I could with a 1.3 mm dapping punch tool, I managed to remove the majority of the damage.

As this is a cartridge only pen, I dipped the nib in some ink and gave it a go. Damn it looks good and I am impressed with how well it writes. Definitely keeping this pen. The question is can I save it from me?

Posted in Restoration, Stories

Vintage Demonstrator

Today all the major contemporary pen companies, American, Japanese, German, and Italian have or are producing demonstrator pens. The success of clear and durable plastics has made the production of great see-thru pens plentiful and common place.

The interest in how pens work is not a new phenomenon, pen manufacturers dating as far back as the 1920’s were eager to show off their unique filling systems, clip assemblies, nib and feed improvements and the ability to seal the nib inside the cap (safety pens). So all of the major manufacturers provided their sales representatives with hard rubber pens that were cut away to reveal the inner workings. This was the origin of the demonstrator pen.

Original functioning demonstrators

Parker demonstrating the button filler by incorporating a window in the side of the barrel allowing a view of the pressure bar compressing the bladder when that button is depressed. Sheaffer did the same with their lever filled pen. In the days of vacumatic pens, models were made using clear materials, thus maintaining the barrel so that the filling mechanism could be observed without cutting a hole in the barrel. Today, these pens are uncommon, rare and collectible, hence I decided to make my own cut away demonstrator.

I bought an Arnold lever filler pen and removed the side of the barrel, don’t worry it is a 21 cent pen that I paid $5 for….. hmmm, a sucker born ever minute. Anyway, I removed a bit too much but that oops provides a better view for us.

The sac is the largest component inside the barrel, it connects to the section near the nib and run the length of the barrel. Running parallel along the top of the sac under the lever is the pressure bar (aka J-bar). The lever is held in place by the snap ring, visible bisecting the center of the barrel.

Arnold cut away demonstrator

The function of a lever filler pen is very basic, actually all fountain pens with an ink sac work with the same essential principle, a mechanism acts on a pressure bar which depresses the ink sac, when pressure bar is released, the sac expands to its original size and takes in ink.

Other Reviews

Posted in Pens, Stories

It’s a new month, what’s in your pen cup?

In 1932, Parker decided to dip their toes into the fountain pen lever filler market, they introduced the Parco (defined as frugal, sparing, moderate or temperate). Parker spared no expense, as they picked through the bins of old Duofold parts and built a new pen (did I mention frugal, sparing, moderate or temperate). Even though the pen was made of old Duofold parts it retailed at a significantly lower price point $1.75 vs $5 (that is $35 vs $100 adjusted for inflation) for the Duofold, making it a good deal.

I digress a bit, this month I thought it would be fun to compare how the Duofold and Parco pens compare, since they are first cousins. For transparency, my Parco is made from old Duofold stock, while my Duofold is made from new Duofold stock. It’s not entirely an even comparison. Also, the Duofold is sporting a fine nib while the Parco has a flex medium.

BTW, the “Vs” doodle was done using both both pens.

Anyway, what are you writing with this month?