Oops, I’m doing it again. The good news still – this isn’t going to be a regularly featured post, only when I’m feeling inspired (or lazy) I will dig up and share an original post from yesteryear. I opted for an unusual pen, from a manufacturer not known for their pens. They made beautiful overlays. Corrected the spelling and grammar issues, plus I polished up the story a bit but only just a bit.
This Throwback Thursday post is going way, way back. I’m presenting my George W Heath lanyard pen. It is 90+ years old and there is a lesson to learn. Click the Ping Back to read the full story.
This pen has the phrase “Blue Bird Ring” prominently imprinted above the company logo. In the 1920s, Stein & Ellbogen of Chicago used the trade name “Bluebird Diamond” to market their bridal line of rings. Could this pen belong to the Stein & Ellbogen company? Can’t you just imagine a salesperson helping some nervous young man pick out the perfect engagement ring. Afterwards using this pen to write up the sales receipt?
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Casein aka Galalith (from Latin caseus, “cheese”) is a milk-derived plastic, susceptible to moisture. A synthetic plastic derived from 80% of the phosphoproteins in cow’s milk, and formaldehyde. It is rarely seen in American pen production; however, it is more commonly found in UK pens.
Identifying casein can be done by appearance and smell; rather than camphor, casein smells like antler, horn, or ivory, or vaguely like scorched hair. It appears more dull than celluloid and the curing process creates wavy striations. Alternatively, try the feel and color test. Is the pen a Conway Stewart model, highly colored and has an irregular colorful pattern? If the answer is yes to all these, it could well be casein. Hold the pen it in your hand, does it feel warm to the touch? Yes – chances are it is casein.
Casein has been described as “the most beautiful of plastics.” It takes a wide variety of colors including delicate pastel shades, pearls, and mottles, and can imitate tortoiseshell and horn.
Do’s and Don’ts
Never, ever, never soak a casein fountain pen in water to remove ink stains or dried ink. Casein will expand by about 10% and become very soft losing its shape in as little as 2 hours = damaged beyond repair.
In his memoir, Walter A. Sheaffer recounts how Sheaffer once produced a line of colored casein pens which proved quite popular until the Midwestern summer caused the casein to swell and the sections fell out. The heat was identified as the cause. But I’m willing to bet the high humidity was most likely the cause.
Casein does not seem to be the ideal material to make fountain pens but it does produce BEAutiful pens. How about these three?
Conway Stewart is the manufacturer most often associated with casein pens. They only recently (by 2010) shuttered their casein pen production. Their remaining casein pen blanks were sold off to independent pen manufacturers.
Make you own
There are people who make their own pens. Some do this for fun, while for others it is a vocation. Both invest in equipment and supplies. I have found casein “blanks” as well as casein look-a-like blanks for pen manufacturing.
Some of the Conway Stewart casein blanks are absolutely stunning. The point is if you make pens, you can use this material (I would really enjoy owning a casein pen – just saying).
Casein is a “compressed form of the primary protein from milk,” what should the DIY pen guys consider when working with this material? I found a very informative thread on the International Association of Penturners (IAP) website, which I will summarize.
Working with casein is not always the easiest, it is not very strong.
At all times keep the material cool, use a spray bottle of cool water with each step.
Do not drill or turn at high speed – use a slow speed.
Use sharp carbide tools.
Slow-speed sanding or the casein will burn (turn brown) and smell like burnt milk!
The most important word of advice… be patient…take your time.
If you have small kids and enjoy home science projects, welp, I have a project for you. Make your own casein.
Owning a casein pen comes with responsibilities. As an owner, it is imperative you gain an appreciation for the qualities that make this pen unique. I do not own one but one day I will find a Conway Stewart casein pen that wins me over.
If you own one please chime in, I’d love to learn of your experiences.
Monteverdi is a US pen manufacturer that was purchased by Yafa which owns Conklin, Monteverdi, Marlen, Stipula, Maiora, Tibaldi, Diplomat, Pineider, Yookers, and Delta pen brands. Yafa has a very polarizing effect on pen users, either they love them or hate them – there is a very little grey. I happily am one of the few in the grey. The Monteverdi is my second pen within their portfolio. After a quick review of my blog, you will see I have written about the Yafa Conklin brand – sometimes good and sometimes not.
I decided to dip my toe into the Monteverdi catalog of pens. The Black Tie pen appealed to me. I researched, read some favorable and not-so-favorable reviews, and decided on the Black Tie. I got lucky and found a used Black Tie, agreeably priced so I took the plunge.
The pen is a Monteverdi Invincia Black Tie made of carbon fiber surrounded by a clear lacquer finish. So what is Carbon Fiber? Welp, according to Wikipedia, it is the product resulting when carbon atoms are bonded together in crystals creating a fiber’s long axis with a high strength-to-volume ratio (in other words, it is strong for its size). Several thousand carbon fibers are bundled together and woven into a fabric. Carbon fibers are often combined with other materials to form a composite.
The carbon fiber that makes the barrel color scheme is achieved by weaving black and white ribbons of carbon fiber fabric.
Back to the pen, all accents (clip, section, end caps, barrel/cap rings, etc) are mirror chrome and sporting a medium stainless steel nib. The lacquer finish makes the pen feel cold and slippery. The cap is a snap-on.
The section unscrews providing access to a removable ink converter. The converter is made of semi-translucent green plastic thus making it impossible to know the color of the ink in the reservoir.
I inked up the pen and the ink started flowing immediately. The nib is a bit scratchy, (one of the reasons I laugh at the iridium claim) but otherwise writes well, for the price.
As I mentioned, the cap is a snap-on, which I don’t feel securely attaches to the barrel. The slightest pressure will force the cap loose.
I was seated on the patio as I reached for the pen, securing hold of it by the cap, and weeeeeee the pen went flying across the patio. The result was a bent tine which I did correct with some effort using dapping tools.
I haven’t detected any damage to the writing surface on the tines.
I have been applying multiple coats of shellac to the inside of the cap in the hope it will result in the cap becoming more secure. So far I am still hoping.
After fixing the bent tine, I was feeling a Dilbert moment. As you can see the pen wrote well.
The bottom line is this, the pen cap does not securely attach to the barrel and it will come off. Possibly resulting in damage to the nib. This is very disappointing as I like the pen.
Roy Conklin’s patented the design for the first self-filling pen in 1897, his company to thrived and gained the approval of author Mark Twain, who became the official spokesperson for the Conklin brand. His great innovation was the distinctive crescent filler. This model is renowned for being the first mass-produced self-filling pen as well as the first mass-produced pen to use a flexible rubber ink sac. Patents for the pen were granted in 1901 and 1903. Production continued until 1930ish when the design was retired in favor of a lever-filler design.
Early pens dating to 1907 have unmarked crescents while pens made up to 1920 have the crescents marked “CRESCENT-FILLER/TRADE MARK” on one side only. Pens dating from the 1920s have crescents with marks on both sides.
My pen is a Crescent Model 50 (aka S5) with a #5 nib and surprise it was in working order when I purchased it. Someone replaced the ink sac but didn’t bother to clean the crescent, the pressure bar was highly oxidized. The nib we’ll talk about later. The pen is black chased ebonite (hard rubber) and is in excellent shape – for its age (it’s like 102-104 years old). There are no cracks, the chasing is distinct and the logo imprint is crisp. There is some brassing at each end of the cap clip and the crescent. The pen color was black originally but has an ever so slight brownish tint. I don’t believe it has been chemically treated to return the black color.
The crescent only has markings on one side, establishing the pen as the second model (1908-1920). The cap clip contains the patent date May 28,1918, thus dating the pen between 1918-1920.
The nib is a semi-flex gold #5 Toledo, it writes Fine. I tried removing the nib and feed from the section but they are held fast. I polished the top as best I could but the underside is still a little dirty and the feed is misaligned. I’ll get to those soon.
The pen was dirty when I purchased it but nothing a Sunshine cloth couldn’t handle. The haze of dirt was quickly removed producing a typical ebonite lacquer-like gloss.
Capped length, 143mm
Uncapped length, 132mm
Barrel diameter, 12mm
Cap diameter, 14mm
Weighs in at 20g
Ok time to ink it up and give it a go! The nib is flexible. A little scratchy as the ink starts to flow but that stops after a letter or two. It is a wet nib, the ink likes to flow.
In mid-July, I inked up the Conklin Empire for a review. I was so amazed when the converter was completely filled I continued using the pen until it ran dry. I am happy to say the pen did not disappoint. The first Conklin I’ve purchased that I enjoyed straight out of the box.
The usual suspects are inked up and still in use; Pilot Prera, vintage Esterbrook J, and the Scrikss 419 (with red ink).
Last month I bad-mouthed the Esterbrook JR; however, I gave it another go and this time the results were different. To be honest I believe the issue is in part caused by the nib. The pen is using a Broad nib and when the ink level gets low in the converter, there is a pressure issue and the ink stops feeding. You can read more about the review below.
For September, I am running with the used Monteverdi Invincia Black Tie pen I picked up. As I plan on publishing a review later this month, it seemed like an opportune moment to ink it up.
Did you miss any of the past month blog posts? Welp, here is your chance to catch up…
It’s a new month, what’s in your pen cup?Let’s see how I started August with a review of July. 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 the pens from last month fared. A recap of the month’s postings.
Esterbrook – Made in England – Too Esterbrook, America’s Original Pen Company by the 1930s, they entered into licensing arrangements with John Mitchell to produce Esterbrook Pens in Birmingham, England. Then the acquisitions began.
Esterbrook Jr (‘J Reborn’) Pocket PenBack in the day (the 40s and 50s) the Esterbrook J series was as familiar as a Bic pen. They were affordable and dependable. Kenro Industries acquired the brand, making rebirth a tenant of the company’s vision. The JR Pocket Pen is modeled after the classic Esterbrook J.
#Throwback Thursday This is not a new idea, matter of fact it is probably passé. From time to time when I’m feeling inspired (or lazy), I will dig up and share an original post from yesteryear. This time I am highlighting the Ambassador pen.
“A Texas school district has pulled dozens of challenged books from its library shelves—including the Bible—just before the start of the academic year under a new policy introduced by conservative leaders. The books were snatched up due to a new compliance policy the school district’s board adopted Aug. 8. The new policy requires every once-challenged book to go through a review process.”
This feels a bit “different” than most months, not in a bad way, just a little different. Normally, I seek out pens with the owner’s name imprinted on them just so I can research the owner. I know – loser – right? Anyway, last month there was a Parker 51 I was watching with a unique name imprinted on it. I did the usual groundwork and contacted the seller, and they had the estate info, etc. Did some research on Ancestry, then I made a half-hearted bid, and lost. Meh, I simply wasn’t interested. I must be falling ill or something.
Straight from the pages of “You aren’t going to believe this….” I have 4 pens in rotation and 3 of the 4 pens ran out of ink within hours of each other. What are the odds?