They’re BACK! I’m commemorating Nurses Day (the 6th of May) in this flashback. “Nurse’s Pens” are a special genre of fountain pens marketed to nurses throughout the 1940s and ’50s, mainly by Waterman and Esterbrook. Sounds interesting? Nurse’s Day is the 6th but “TBS” doesn’t sound correct. Click the PingBack below to read the whole story.
“Why did nurses need a specialized fountain pen? Because hospital medical charts were written by hand in different colored inks designating the shift. These pens came with different colored top jewels, in black, green, and red – representing all three common nursing shifts at the time: 7am to 3pm (BLACK ink), 3-11pm (GREEN ink), 11pm-7am (RED ink).”
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As I’ve already mentioned, numerous times, I am a “loser.” Today I am proving it. I am not affiliated with or receiving any kickbacks on the following but I thought it sounds like fun. Did you ever read Dracula? I have, several times. It reads like diary entries. Welp, this website Dracula Daily is offering daily emails of the book so you can enjoy it in “real-time,” and it is FREE! We all know I like free. Yes, they will hit you up for a donation or ask you to buy their companion book, but those are not required.
The story of Dracula starts on May 3, which means we’re just two weeks away. Dracula is fun to read along with people, so if there’s anybody in your life you’d like to join this book club with, get ‘em on board now! 🙂
On May 3 you’ll get the first section of the book, as we meet Jonathan Harker. After that, you’ll get emails on days when there’s action in the book.
Get the classic novel Dracula delivered to your email inbox, as it happens.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula is an epistolary novel – it’s made up of letters, diaries, telegrams, newspaper clippings – and every part of it has a date. The whole story happens between May 3 and November 7. So: Dracula Daily will post a newsletter each day that something happens to the characters, in the same timeline that it happens to them.
Now you can read the book via email, in small digestible chunks – as it happens to the characters.
Doesn’t this sound like fun? I thought I’d blog about this for two reasons, 1) the original book was written by hand with a dip pen, and 2) just to give interested readers an option to sign up before May 3rd. I have included a link to their “About” web page if you would like to learn more.
I wrote about this pen in April 2021. It was my 6th post, and I’m afraid to read it. Anyway, I got this pen at a great price from a seller in Michigan, it really looks more green than brown to me and the presence of white spots is prominently indicating extensive light damage with complications caused by water damage. But fear not…….
Pen Back Story
A late first-generation Esterbrook Dollar pen, so called because they cost a dollar in their time when the average hourly salary was 70 cents per hour.
Esterbrook manufactured this style pen from 1934-1942, a new wider clip design was introduced in 1938 as was a new fishtail shape lever.
I believe this pen was manufactured at the very beginning of 1938 using both old and new component parts. This pen sports the new design fish tail lever and the original clip design. The contradictory parts could also indicate the cap does not belong to this pen.
A notable feature of the Dollar Pen was the use of expensive material. Most notably the company had chosen to use the newly available wonder metal – stainless steel. The pen is made of hard rubber (aka ebonite or vulcanite) and is very durable but subject to damage by sunlight. Light damage is not immediately obvious, after some time the pen will turn to a brown color, and its gloss will fade to a light tan color. The good news is the damaged areas can be repaired but henceforth the pen is also susceptible to water damage (spots).
I set about refurbishing the pen and all went better than I hoped. I encourage you to read the original unremastered post here, Brown is the new black.
When choosing a pen to enter rotation this month I said to myself, “self, you have never reviewed a pen you refurbished, now is a good time.” Agreed, I present to you my 1938 Esterbrook Dollar pen. Let’s begin with the overall condition of the pen. I just published a rating system I apply to vintage pens primarily and this one scores well. I give it a B.07 – Micro defects. There are no significant scratches or teeth marks, the logo on the barrel is crisp, and the cap clip and lever are both stiff and have a spring to them. Overall a very impressive pen. The A quality code is because I could have done better in the refurb. The pen is stellar.
This is an awkward review, the pen is 85 years old, and that comes with baggage not found with a contemporary pen. The first thing I noticed is the feel of the barrel, it is warm to the touch compared to a contemporary acrylic and very lightweight. Capped the pen is a hair longer than a Pilot Prera. The metal accents of the pen are all stainless steel. The clip is short (31mm), extending only half the length of the cap. It bends at the top of the cap and becomes an end piece with a script Esterbrook stamped in it.
Pilot Prera vs Esterbrook Dollar pens
The cap is a screw-on and is removed after 1 full turn. The pen is best suited for smaller hands. The section is minimal, only half the length of a Prera section. As I normally hold a pen at or behind the cap threads, this doesn’t affect me. The pen fits nicely in my hand, even unposted.
The pen came with a 2556 nib that was heavily stained. Turns out the tip on the right tine is missing. I changed out that nib for a 9461 Rigid Fine Manifold nib and inked up the pen (SCRIBO Rosso Chianti) then gave it a go.
The nib was not the most smooth which I was initially surprised by. The 9xxx series Esterbrook nibs are their best, but wait, this is a manifold nib. The term “manifold” is an older, more formal description meaning “many.” The nib is rigid to support use with carbon paper. For those too young to know, carbon paper was a means of making duplicate copies. It was placed between sheets of paper, as you wrote, applying a little more pressure than normal the carbon paper created one or more copies simultaneously.
For a pen that has seen a bunch of decades, it worked wonderfully. I left it in my pen cup – nib up – for the weekend and it started instantly on Monday morning. There were no ink accidents, the nib was a bit wet. Overall I am impressed and can only hope I work so well when I’m 85.
I have to admit I was surprised to learn (years ago), that over the last 100 years pen manufacturers have made use of talc or chalk as a lubricate. This should not have surprised me, I’ve done lots of hiking and backpacking and welp let’s just leave it with I take a little bottle of baby powder (talc only) when I hit the trails.
Recently I stumbled upon a blogger, who only posts once annually, and that one time this year was last month. The topic was pen talc and asbestos. That got my attention.
Apparently, in March 1976, the New York Times published an article warning of the talc/asbestos connection but it got no one’s attention. Researchers found 10 of the 19 baby powders tested contained upwards of 20% asbestos. Got your attention now – right!
Talc is a naturally occurring mineral composed of magnesium, silicon, oxygen, and hydrogen. Chemically, talc is a hydrous magnesium silicate.
Asbestos is also a naturally occurring silicate mineral. When mining, both are often found in close proximity, hence the problem, there is a potential to contaminate the talc with asbestos. There are those (lawyers involved in class action lawsuits to name no one) who contend talc is naturally contaminated with asbestos.
Risks associated with talc powder stem from the toxic effects of talc dust contaminated with asbestos. Contaminated talc tends to contain highly carcinogenic forms of asbestos such as tremolite or anthophyllite. Which are more carcinogenic than chrysotile, the most-used type of asbestos. The chances of contracting cancer from a wisp of talc dust emanating from a fountain pen are minimal. However, that little wisp of white floating out of a lever slit now feels ominous, instead of satisfying.
Assuming a talc/asbestos mix is not for you, 100% pure talc (USP grade) is still available. Alternatively, how about graphite powder, a form of carbon (CAS Number: 231-955-3) is readily available everywhere, or precipitated calcium carbonate (CAS Number: 471-34-1)? This powdered chalk produced from limestone has been used for centuries in bookbinding and shoemaking. (credit: Restorer’s Art). You don’t need much, 100 grams (3.5oz) of any of these choices should be enough to last for years.
As my wife stockpiled baby powder made with talc when manufacturers announced no more talcum powder (think Seinfeld S7E9). They replaced talc with corn starch which is for soups and stews. Having a never-ending supply of talc, I will continue using unscented baby powder when I replace ink sacs.
Oops, I’m doing it yet again, the good news, this is the last TBT post till May. In this flashback, I’m highlighting a Keystone pen I purchased. Overall in very good shape and attractive, but some idiot tried to “restore” it and did some really bad things. Sound interesting? Click the Ping Back below to read the full story.
“Keystone was also a pen model name used by David Kahn, Inc. for one of the Wearever pens. Kahn, a manufacturing company operating in New Jersey, was founded in 1896 by David Kahn, a Jewish immigrant. Kahn’s company manufactured ornate pencil cases, mechanical pencils, and pens. The Wearever brand of fountain pens was introduced circa 1918. In the late 1920s, Kahn adopted the injection molding process developed in Germany, making them the first manufacturer to produce injection-molded pens.
This Keystone is a model, or is it a brand name …. we know that Wearever used Keystone as one of its model names, and this pen looks very much like the Jefferson pens produced by Wearever. I’m inclined to believe this pen is one of the Wearever models known as Keystone.”
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I was reviewing my “unpurchases” from the last two years. These are pens I wanted to buy, intended to buy, and thought I was going to buy but did not buy. Not because I feared buyer’s remorse or had a change of heart. Nope, these are unpurchased because I failed to think the unthinkable – that someone wanted these pens more than I did and that I wasn’t entitled to them.
In the spirit of the holiday season, I am not going a rant about missing out, about being disappointed because I didn’t get what I wanted. Instead, I am going to offer up a couple pens, with my thoughts, congratulations to the buyer, and a recommendation to others.
Wyvern No. 5 circa 1928 mottled
Wyvern, a now shuttered pen manufacturer located in Leicester, England; was founded in 1896 by Alfred, Alexander, and David Finburgh. Known for its high-quality nibs, the company also manufactured nibs for competing pen companies.
This model is particularly attractive to me. I have a thing for mottled or woodgrain ebonite, plus I prefer pens that resemble a Duofold – it’s all about those flat ends. Torpedo-shaped pens are just not appealing to me. I’ve run into other No. 5s but they have all been black ebonite, which is not mottled. An interesting side note, on the listings of the other 5s, the sellers have specified the pens were calligraphy pens. Nothing on this nib or pen supports the claim of calligraphy.
A glass nibbed pen from 1920s Japan (possibly made by Platinum), distributed in the US by Spors of Minnesota. The crescent says “Made In Japan,” thus from the pre-WW2 days when that phrase meant cheap, cheaper, cheapest.
I was looking at glass pens when I stumbled upon Spors. Just look at those colors; however, they are known to be a nightmare to refurbish. The manufacturer used glue to hold their pens together – remember cheap, cheaper, cheapest.
I kept my eyes open and found another. Not quite as colorful but it is in overall better shape. This pen doesn’t have the ink stains that the previous pen had, plus this pen has a slip-on cap clip.
The Balance was introduced in 1929, heralding a streamlined design that was quite extraordinary at the time. It set a new standard in design plus kicked off a design craze – two tapered ends resulting in a torpedo shape – that continues today. Yeah, nope still not appealing to me.
The model name comes from the balanced design when the cap is posted. The pivot point for the pen is just about midway, making it a comfortable pen to write with.
This pen was personalized with the owner’s name (Roxie Kessler) engraved into the barrel. Feeling confident I had this pen in hand, I spent more time researching the owner than paying attention to the auction. I was prepared to call this “The Ironic Pen.” The owner was involved in a car accident resulting in a fatality, 20 years subsequent he was killed in a car accident.
During each auction, I was 100% convinced I would own the pen when time expired. In each case, I was outbid at the final second. Yes, the winner was lurking in the shadows watching the last seconds tick by so they could pounce. If I had been paying attention, making note of other bidders, the number of watchers, etc. I would have realized it was prudent to up my bid just in case. But Noooooo. I assumed I had each pen and that my bid was solid, even though the difference between the next highest bid and my own was often only a couple dollars different.
Congratulations winners, enjoy your purchases. If by chance you have a change of heart….. you know where you can find me.
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 held 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 followed suit. Inkograph was purchased in 1952 by the Risdon Manufacturing Company of Naugatuck, Connecticut, continuing operations into 1962.
Is a black celluloid Model 70-200 dating from the 1940s. It is a lever-fill model with a weighted gravity feed wire. When the wire comes in contact with the paper, it is pushed inward allowing the ink to flow. The wire assembly is weighted at the opposite end and should move freely, but it doesn’t move at all. Spoiler alert, this becomes an adventure.
The pen looks good in this picture, all accents – cap clip, cap ring, and lever are gold plated showing little to no brassing.
I made an effort to ascertain if it was made of celluloid acetate, celluloid nitrate, a resin, or even ebonite. I’m settling on celluloid nitrate as there is a faint tell-tale odor. Using a Sunshine cloth, the pen received a good surface cleaning. The gold plate polished up nicely without removing any finish.
After a working the cloth, I realized the “stuff” on the pen was still … on the pen. SURPISE! It appears to me that the finish has been damaged resulting in a pitted surface and discoloration. +#$%&*
Since the wire is stuck and protruding from the tube, I removed the tube/nib assembly from the section. Discovering that the weighted wire structure is broken free of the weight which is lodged in the section. It is possible that by removing the tube/nib assembly I am responsible for the damage, but there was no other way. I removed the wire from the tube, it is bent but repairable.
Next, I removed the section from the barrel. SURPRISE! Someone had installed an ink sac that was a fraction of the length needed to reach the pressure bar. Not to mention it was rotting. With the ink sac removed, access to the weight was easy.
Using a thin screwdriver inserted into the section from the ink side I pushed out the weight and SURPRISE! The weight was coated in a plastic shell, which had split repeatedly and now gave off an odor reminiscent of vomit. Fortunately, a little soap and water eliminated most of the odor. I was successful in sanding down the malformations created by the splits in the plastic coating. The weight was not perfectly shaped but almost free-flowing within the section. SURPRISE, a large portion of the plastic covering broke off. @#$%&*
What all this means is I have not finished my refurbishment. I will probably leave the surface issues as is, but I am considering recoating the weight. Here lies my issue. What do I coat it with that I can be comfortable will not damage the writing wire, dissolve in ink, or damage the section? The latter I believe is celluloid acetate or a resin.
Oops, I’m doing it again. I had a different topic planned but I’m not feeling inspired (or maybe it is lazy). I’ve dug up and am sharing an original post from yesteryear. Don’t worry, I’ve 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 Waterman Ideal 52 vest pen – it is 97 years old. (Click the Ping Backlink to read the full story.)
It is made of black chased hard rubber (BCHR) and shows significant signs of sun damage plus the nib appears to have some damage. The nib is an oddity, the pen came with a #2 Mabie Todd opposed to a Waterman #2 nib. The nib is over a Waterman feed with what appears to be the letters “ST” above the numbers “17 16.” I determined that this design is detailed in patent 1,201,951A and the mysterious markings are the patented date Oct 17, 1916.
It looks really ugly above, but it cleaned up nicely. Just click the link to read all about the process and see the refurbished pictures.
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The Waterman Expert was introduced circa 1995, as a lightweight plastic-bodied pen featuring a distinctive two-tone, beveled steel nib. The Expert I nib has a little piece of plastic going through the nib which maintains the nib in relation to the feed. The trademark “W” is aft of this plus “Waterman Paris” is engraved on the underside of the nib diameter.
On the cap between the trim rings is their trademark script “W,” with “Waterman Paris” on the opposite side. The jewel atop the cap is solid plastic embossed with “W”. The first generation of Experts had a much more robust and durable snap cap system than its predecessors.
Circa 2000, Waterman introduced the second-generation Expert. The body is now made of lacquer over brass much like the Hemisphere which dramatically increased the pen’s weight. The Expert II also sported a redesigned yet inferior nib. The clutch was also redesigned in the cap however, it failed to engage the barrel securely.
Is Bordeaux in color (sounds so much better than burgundy) with gold trim accents. When I acquired the pen the nib was heavily crusted with dried ink, but the barrel and cap were free of scratches and tooth marks. Plus, there was no brassing of the cap rings or the clip.
The feed used in generation 1 Experts is unique. There is a small piece of plastic that protrudes through the nib, henceforth known as an anchor block. This piece of plastic sits atop of the fins of the feed. In this picture, the anchor block is facing in the wrong direction. It is so small I could not determine which direction it was facing. It is very easy to lose, especially on a carpet – experience speaking x2. The anchor block is about the size of an uncooked grain of rice.
Now things get interesting, where do I begin? I bought the pen knowing the tines needed some TLC. The tines bowed outward yet coming together at the tips. This I could correct and I did.
But when I removed the nib and feed from the section – SURPRISE! The diameter portion of the nib was heavily damaged. It appears the owner was an ignoramus having inked the pen with some sort of gallic ink and failed to clean the pen.
Welp iron-gall inks should only be used in dip pens, they contain gum arabic or maybe Ferro-gallic to increase the permanency of water-based ink. These chemicals are corrosive and both increase the already corrosive level of the ink. Resulting in damage to the nib and pen. I’m now looking for a gently used Expert I beveled steel nib and a feed.
With all this damage, I suspect the pen will have issues holding a vacuum inside the ink reservoir. However, I am considering making a go at repairing the nib using silver solder – what do I have to lose? The lesson to learn is this, Gallic ink is bad, while the pen is good. The previous owner used the wrong ink, did not clean the pen, and welp I now have one or two new topics to blog about. I look forward to the day when I can use 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.