Posted in Pens, Restoration, Stories

Ink-o-graph Sty·lo·graph·ic

Definition of stylographic

  • used in stylography (that’s clear as mud)
  • being a fountain pen that has a fine writing point fitted with a needle which by the pressure of the point on a surface is pushed back to release the flow of ink (now we are talking)

Stylographic pens, sometimes called “stylos,” have a writing tip made of a metal tube with a fine wire inside to regulate ink flow. Stylos were the first mass-produced fountain pens to achieve broad market success. Duncan MacKinnon, a Canadian druggist, patented his “ink pencil” in Canada in 1875, followed by Alonzo Cross patenting his “stylographic pen” which holds its own ink in 1880.

Company Back Story

The Inkograph Company aka Ink-O-Graph, is a pen manufacturer founded in 1914 by brothers Joseph and William F. Wallace of New York City. The company produced Inkograph stylographic pens, Leadograph mechanical pencils, and Wallace fountain pens. Their products were retailed primarily by F. W. Woolworth & Co. In the 1930s, the company introduced its own brand of open-nib pens under the Ink-D-Cator brand. After Parker released the “51”, Inkograph produced similar pens. Inkograph was purchased in 1952 by the Risdon Manufacturing Company of Naugatuck, Connecticut, and continued operations into 1962.

My Pen

Is a mottled ebonite Model 20M (I believe) circa the late 1920s. It is a lever filler model with a weighted gravity feed wire. It is nearly flawless, with minor scratching, no brassing, no teeth marks – looking good!

Inside the tiny tube is a wire. When the pen touches the paper, the wire is pushed inward allowing the ink to flow. The wire assembly is weighted at the opposite end and moves freely.

I gave the pen a quick surface cleaning and then set about taking it apart. It does need a new ink sac, and the wire did not appear to be bent – cool. I can hear the weight sliding as the pen is tilted and the wire makes an appearance, better yet.

Installed a #20 ink sac, the barrel easily holds a large sac. The lever is a little loose and doesn’t stay snug.

I removed the wire assembly and found it is ebonite. The wire attaches to an assembly arm, cone-shaped. The cone acts as a plug regulating ink flow when engaged.

The wire measure 11mm, the cone 27mm (excluding the weight); 3mm wide at the weighted end. The entire assembly is 50mm long.

The feed is interesting, it clearly does not have any fins or traditional “nib” features so how does air get into the reservoir displacing the ink? I tracked down patent applications for confirmation and the G1 grove allows air to enter into the chamber between the threads. Air then transverses the h1 hole into the reservoir as ink flows out along the wire. This is the same process as the breather hole in a fountain pen nib.

Wondering how to ink it, I stuck the nib into a bottle of Pelikan 4001 black and worked the filler lever. The ink was drawn in! The 1928 advertisement says this pen never leaks, so I shook and shook the pen. It did not leak. Stylographic pens often need to be held nearly vertically. I wrote with the pen in the same fashion as a typical fountain pen (55 degrees). It worked perfectly, plus the ink flowed immediately. I’m super happy with the pen.

Vital Statistics

  • Capped length. 132mm
  • Uncapped length. 123.5mm
  • Barrel diameter 13mm
  • Cap diameter 16mm
  • Weighs in at 23g
Posted in Stories

Handwriting, a Lost Art, or Victim of Technology and Common Core Standards

I have never been proud of my handwriting, I thank Bic Cristal for that. Do you remember learning to write? The endless cursive letters along wide-spaced, blue, and red lines. Who could forget the top, middle, or bottom-line rules?

Handwriting remains an important skill; handwriting and reading are interrelated. The ability to write by hand not only improves motor skills but also the ability to better generate ideas and retain information. What we write and how we write matters.

Technology seems to have ruined our handwriting ability and by default made us “dumb.” Ok, maybe not dumb, but clearly less capable. The age of mobile devices has left us unable to jot down the simplest of notes or do math in our heads (thanks Steve). A third of us can’t even read our own writing, let alone anyone else’s.

The Science of Notetaking: Writing vs Typing (Clearvue Health)

So who cares – right. Welp, lots including the National Handwriting Association (UK) established “to raise awareness of the importance of handwriting as a vital component of literacy”. In the US, there is the National Handwriting Day (created by Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association) on the 23 of January each year – the birthday of John Hancock.

In addition to the writing benefits mentioned, studies have identified a link between handwriting and information retention (learning ability). A study comparing students typing notes vs those taking handwriting notes found that handwritten note takers performed better. Handwritten notes used fewer words because the note taker was thinking about the subject matter and paraphrasing.

Sam Anderson, a staff writer for the New York Times magazine, writes by hand because it “slows him down and puts him in touch with his thoughts. Drafting by hand lowers the stakes, he said, because it doesn’t feel like “official” writing yet, which helps him avoid writer’s block.” He goes on to say that writing on a laptop presents endless opportunities for procrastination. “It’s hard to get truly quiet or focused,” he said. “Writing by hand takes away 17 million options for distraction.”

Anderson is in good company, with Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Joe Hill, each handwrites the first draft of their novels. All three agree, that the process of handwriting their drafts is a more holistic practice that keeps them in touch with their writing and the story.

Since 2010, 45 states have adopted the Common Core standards, which do not require cursive instruction but leave it up to the individual states to decide whether they want to teach it. Sadly, many school system has removed cursive writing curriculums from their classrooms, arguing that in the Digital Age where even the youngest can point and click, why waste time and money teaching cursive?

Cursive writing is a traditional skill that has been replaced by technology, Instructional time is now consumed with teaching to a standardized test.” I fear that one day we will succeed in raising a generation of functional illiterates.

It appears handwriting has fallen victim to the times, to the intellectual, to the idea of progressive thought. In my humble opinion, clearly, it is a better method for teaching and a great memory aid. At work, the young people don’t understand me when I say I’m rewriting my notes…. Only time will tell if the generation of functional illiterates appears and centuries of writing are lost.

Here are some links to improving your handwriting:

——————————- Reference Material ————————-

Posted in Pens, Reviews

The Conklin Empire (Strikes Back)

The Empire

According to Conklin, the word empire means absolute control and the inspiration for their design. In actuality, it is inspire by the last pen designed by Conklin prior to the Yafa Brands acquisition, but let’s not get technical.

My Pen

This is the third Conklin (Yafa Brands) that I have reviewed. So far they are batting 500. The All American grew on me while the nib on the Duraflex Element was so appalling I sold the pen.

Conklin Empire (top) vs Conklin All American (bottom)

As you can see they are comparable in length but the All American is fluffier (we don’t say “fat” in the household, we don’t want to hurt its feelings). The Empire is just as heavy as its big sibling the All American – yes, it is a solid pen. The pen color is designated as “oatmeal.”

The very first time I inked up the pen and the ink converter filled completely! I’ve never had a converter fill this full. The ink is Diamine Aurora Borealis. The last time I used this ink I wasn’t impressed, but I’m giving it a second chance.

According to Conklin, the torpedo-shaped pen has a fluted cap and body design created from a shimmering acrylic resin. Torpedo-shaped pens are not high on my list of faves. Yes, I have several, I prefer the blunt-ended pens similar to a Duofold. That being said, there was something oddly appealing to me in the design of the pen; let’s read on.

The design is different but not so much as to be odd or weird. All hardware including the nib and section is stainless. The clip is attached by the typical Conklin method – a small metal flange. The ‘Conklin’ logo is stamped into the clip.

The body and cap contain a distinctive fluted. Both ends of the pen are squared. I would not post the cap. The pen is then 175mm long and you are liable to poke your eye out.

The medium nib is steel (I believe it is a German-made JoWo) as is the section. A couple times the nib “stuttered” when first contacting the paper. The Conklin website indicates the default nib is a two-tone omniflex, clearly not the nib on this pen. The nib writes better when the hand motion is slower. It writes well, a significant improvement over a Duraflex.

The pen sports a hidden mechanism, an all-new twist magnet lock system that allows a swift, soft, and pleasing operation of the cap. The barrel behind the section contains 4 tiny fins. These fins guide the cap onto the barrel until the magnets take hold of the cap then the audible click indicates the cap is secured.

Now that it’s inked up, let’s give it a go.

Welp, I was doodling with it and a couple of the usual suspects. Can’t say I knew what I was drawing but I liked the medium nib. The pen is heavy and fluffy. I’m thinking the weight will tire my hand.

Vital Statistics

  • Capped length. 144mm
  • Uncapped length. 128mm
  • Barrel diameter 14mm
  • Cap diameter 15mm
  • Weighs in at 31g
Posted in Pens, Stories

Lifetime Guarantees and FTC

In the mid-1920s, the major US pen manufacturers began offering competitive and comprehensive warrantees on their top-line models. The warranties or guarantees are reflected in model names such as Lifetime (Sheaffer), Endura (Conklin), and Eternal (Mabie Todd). While some manufacturers created special symbols denoting their guarantees like Sheaffer’s White Dot, Parker’s Blue Diamond, and Wahl-Eversharp’s Gold Seal.


Walter Sheaffer was known to personally inspect every pen and place a small white dot on each that passed his quality inspection. In 1924, Sheaffer launched its Lifetime Warranty, symbolized by the white dot guaranteeing quality. The Lifetime Pen, launched in 1920, retailed at three times the price of competitor pens, yet Lifetime guarantee repairs were 4% of sales.

No Ifs, Ands or Buts!

By the early 1940s, Sheaffer, Parker, and Waterman were suffering the effects of their lifetime guarantee. Having found that honoring the lifetime guarantee without a mitigating service charge was eating away at their profits, thus they began repair service fees. Naturally, their customers filed complaints with the government.

Federal Trade Commission

It is commonly believed that in the later 1940s the FTC outlawed “lifetime guarantees” – this it did not do.

The FTC’s 1945 ruling forbade “unconditional” warranties if there is an associated fee (shipping, insurance, etc). Waterman and Parker challenged the ruling, with Waterman withdrawing its challenge a year later. Parker didn’t win nor did they lose. In 1948, the courts agreed to allow such warranties but only if the fee was conspicuously detailed in writing within the warranty statement itself – so much for the “fine print.”

Except as noted

FTC stated that pen manufacturers could offer long-term guarantees if they did not say they were “unconditional” when a service (shipping, insurance, etc) fee applied. If the guarantee included a service charge, the charge had to be more prominently displayed in advertising.

Cross offered a lifetime guarantee then and still does today. Sheaffer has returned to offering lifetime guarantees, though not on all pens and, were offered, with qualifications.



Fountain pen manufacturers.–W. A Sheaffer Pen Co., Fort Madison, Iowa (4337); The Parker Pen Co., Janesville, Wis. (4338); Eversharp, Inc., Chicago (4590), and L.E. Waterman Co., New York (4617), were ordered to cease making unqualified representations that their fountain pens are unconditionally guaranteed for the life of the user or for any other designated period, when a service charge, usually 35 cents, is made for repairs or adjustments. The respondents were ordered to discontinue using such terms as “Lifetime,” “Guaranteed for Life,” “Life Contract Guarantee,” “Guaranteed Forever,” or “Guaranteed for a Century” to describe or refer to their pens, and representing that the pens are unconditionally guaranteed for any designated period of time, unless the respondents, without expense to the user, make repairs or replacement of parts which may be necessitated during the designated period by any cause other than willful damage or abuse. The orders did not prohibit the respondents from (pg 42) representing truthfully that the service on their pens (as distinguished from the pens themselves) is guaranteed for life or other designated period, even though a charge is imposed in connection With such servicing, providing the terms of the guarantee, including the amount of the charge, are clearly and conspicuously disclosed in immediate conjunction with such representations.

Posted in Pens, Stories

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

Just have to mention, that this is a special post – not because it is a new month but because this is the 101st blog post. Yup, I was so busy doodling I failed to notice the 100th blog post – yeah me! Who would have thought I could think up 100 topics relating to pens, etc..

At the beginning of June, I inked up an uncommon Parker Parkette circa 1951. I am happy to say it performed marvelously. The only issue, which was my fault, as I left it lying horizontally over the weekend and we had a “monsoonal” weather pattern blow through resulting in much-needed rain and a variety of pressure changes, thus causing the pen to leak. When you live at 7,000′ the weather can be crazy.

As a side note, the Parkette and the usual suspects all took part in the doodling post.

The usual suspects are inked up and still in use, including a Pilot Prera, Esterbrook J, and the Scrikss 419 (with red ink).

For July, I have inked up the Esterbrook Jr, in Tuxedo Black with Palladium trim (whatever that is). This is the first time I’ve used this pen so I am super geeked. It is sporting a steel Broad nib. The ink is DeAtramentis Document Brown. At first glimpse, the ink color does not impress me. More on that next month.

Did you miss any of any of these blog posts? Here is your chance to catch up…

  • It’s a new month, what’s in your pen cup? It’s a new month and time to shelve your current choice of pens in favor of new pens or those that may be long forgotten and feeling neglected. Also, let’s review how did the pens from the prior month fare? A recap of the month’s postings.
  • Wait, My Pen is Made of What Pens are manufactured from an interesting variety of materials, many of them you “know” but do you really? I’m willing to wager you will think twice before putting another pen in your mouth.
  • TWSBI, Nope, Notta, Not Now I had planned on spotlighting my TWSBI today but notta. Instead, I thought I’d highlight their poor behavior and bring you other Pen/Pencil-related news stories.
  • 10,004 Days (part 1) I am going way off topic but that is my prerogative. As a warning, if you are of a sensitive nature read no further, this doesn’t end well. This begins the 5th anniversary of the worse nightmare any parent will experience.
  • 10,004 Days (part 2) I am going way off topic but that is my prerogative. As a warning, if you are of a sensitive nature read no further, this doesn’t end well. Today marks the 5th anniversary of the worse nightmare any parent will experience, part 2.
  • The 1950’s Parker Parkette The Parkette is Parker’s first pen to make use of a lever-filling system, generally considered a third-tier pen. It is common for pen companies to introduce pens based on past names. Parker introduced this last model to the Parkette family in 1950.
  • Breathe Just Breathe(r Tube) Breather tubes were unknown to me until I unexpectedly ran into one in the 1951 Park Parkette. I got to thinking “what are breather tubes and why are they only in some pens?”
  • Doodling: Scribble absentmindedly, Stress relief, and Creativity A doodle as defined is “an aimless or casual scribble, design or sketch.” Or it’s a memory aid, a natural stress reliever, a creativity stimulus, and a relaxation tool.

In the News

There has been an update in the TWSBI drama. Narwhal and TWSBI have issued a joint statement (on Narwhal letterhead) announcing the cessation of hostilities. TWSBI has half-ass apologized and did not acknowledge their poor behavior unless you consider “any confusion” an acceptable definition of that behavior. I recommend this post on Rachel’s Reflections blog for an in-depth, cynical discussion of this topic.

Excerpt from the joint letter:TWSBI acknowledges that Narwhal has not violated any intellectual property rights of TWSBI or any third party. In particular, TWSBI’s primary concern was Narwhal’s use of the piston filler mechanism, which was the subject of U.S. Patent No. 1,706,616 titled “Fountain Pen” issued to Theodor Kovacs on March 26, 1929. This patent expired on March 26, 1946. After reaching an understanding on that issue, TWSBI has been convinced that its use of the terms “knock-offs,” “unethical,” and “design infringement” concerning the Narwhal fountain pens was unfortunate and retracts those terms. TWSBl and Narwhal agree the piston filler mechanism is available for anyone to use as a result of the expiration of the patent. TWSBI apologizes for any confusion that may have been caused by its statement sent to retailers.

Gianfranco Aquila, known as “The Lord of the pens,” and owner of “Montegrappa” and “Tibaldi” companies for over 40 years has died. To his credit, the Montegrappa name is now synonymous with Italian quality. No immediate successor has been named.