Posted in Pens, Stories

For the many, not the few

In the spirit of the coronation, I decided to highlight the British pens in my collection. While musing a title I came across this political slogan, “for the many, not the few.” I felt it exemplified the intention of my post – to expound on the vastness of British fountain pens by presenting my few. To be clear, I am not supporting any political party. I personally believe politicians are the reason for the issues in the world.

Conway Stewart Commemorates

The following should by no means be considered encompassing, it merely scratches the surface. All my British pens are vintage. I do not own a contemporary British pen, but maybe I should remedy that.

My British Pens

Mabie Todd

Mabie Todd is one of the longest-lived manufacturers of writing instruments. Mabie Todd became a wholly-owned British company in 1915. Mabie Todd and the Swan brand were known internationally as “the pen of the British Empire.”

Although the company initially prospered in the postwar years, production ceased prior to the conclusion of the ’50s. Here we have two Swans, a lever-filled and self-filling flanking a Black Bird eyedropper.

Conway Stewart

Conway Stewart was a major manufacturer of fountain pens in England for a hundred years, from 1905-2005. During the pre-WWII years, they sold far more pens than any other brand in England; possibly more than all the other companies combined.

Entering receivership in 2014, fountain pens with the “Conway Stewart” brand are manufactured and marketed by Bespoke British Pens. Here we have two model 15s, a Nippy #3 pencil, and a Relief pen they made for Esterbrook.


Osmiroid roots run deep, having invented a metal pen with a slit to provide flexibility and controlled ink flow in 1819. Manufacturing pens in Manchester, Birmingham, and London. Their success rivaled Esterbrook, making them the second-largest manufacturer of pen nibs in the world. Post World War II, the company focused on fountain pens.

Acquired by Berol in 1989, independent manufacturing and general operations ceased. Newell acquired Berol in 1995, discontinuing the Osmiroid. Ending a 170-year-old company. Here I present a white model 65 and an Easy Change model.


The Mentmore was founded in 1919 in London. Platignum Pen Company was established in 1925 focusing on low-end models. For some time both brands were produced together. During the war, it was reported that the company produced pens for spies with maps, compasses, or with poisonous darts.

The company adopted the Platignum name in 1981, yet Mentmore and Platignum remain independent brands. I found an odd Platignum with a hooded nib and a piston-filler Mentmore.

For more information

If a contemporary British pen is more your speed, might I suggest reviewing the list of British Pen Manufactures by Dapprman. The list includes independent, corporate, and kit pens.

An amazing source of information on vintage British Pens (common and uncommon) I suggest a visit to Goodwriterspens blog. Though retired now, Deb still continues to publish the occasional article on unique British pens.

Posted in Nibs, Stories

Osmiroid Interchangeable Nibs

Osmiroid produced regular writing nibs (Rola) and their well-known calligraphy nibs. The nibs associated with Osmiroid 65 and 75 models are interchangeable with vintage Esterbrook pens as well as the Esterbrook Renew-Point nibs. The later Osmiroid models are totally different as they have the nib integrated with the section. I will not be discussing these.

The Rola-Tip refers only to the nib type — these nibs don’t have a hard tipping element (like “iridium”), but instead, have a tip formed by rolling over the material of the nib (ordinary steel) prior to plating on the gold. The lack of hard tipping means the tip can actually wear out within our life – provided it is used frequently. Rola nibs were available in the following styles: Fine Hard, Medium Hard, Medium Soft, and Broad. I assume soft provides flexibility and welp I only have a hard one.

Except for the nipple (extended butt) on the Osmiroids, the nib/feed assembly of the Osmiroids and Esterbrooks are the same. But, the Osmiroid Italic nibs are shorter than the Osmiroid Rola nibs. That may make a difference in whether or not the nib tip collides with the inside of the cap.

Yes, the Osmiroid nib (B3) is dirty, I’m a slacker and should be ashamed of not taking better care of my stuff.

Nib reciprocity

I have 4 Osmiroid nibs all are interchangeable; three are calligraphy and one is a Rola. I bought these because I wanted calligraphy nibs and as I have many vintage Esterbrook pens I could double up on the enjoyment.

Osmiroid nib in an Esterbrook J

The calligraphy nibs write very similar to the Pilot CM nib (it is a calligraphy nib). They do not have a normal tip writing surface which means the angle of the nib to the paper is very important. They do not write well on textured paper and will dig into smooth paper if the angle is wrong.

I do not own an Osmiroid 65 and 75, but I do have a nice selection of vintage Esterbrook Dollar and J series pens. Let’s show off my nibs. From left to right is Rola Medium Hard, Italic Fine Straight, B3 calligraphy, and Italic Broad Straight.

I inked up an Esterbrook J with Waterman’s Serenity Blue and got to work. Except for the Rola, the other three nibs provide some flex/variation to the letters. It is interesting to note, I simply replaced each nib without emptying the pen. One of the advantages of a screw-on nib I guess. As an added bonus, I managed to minimize inky fingers and did not spill any ink as I changed out nibs.

Having 32 Esterbrook nib options plus an additional 25 Osmiroid nib options it is nearly impossible making a decision. I only need one pen and can write with all 57 nibs in a single day – way more options than any simpleton like myself can manage. This is great!

Unique Special Purpose nibs I wish I had

Osmiroid made an interesting Left-Hand series of nibs available in Rola and Italics styles. I’m right-handed but have considered acquiring one of these unique nibs just to give them a go.

Left-hand Osmiroid Nibs

I came across two Sketch nibs, one with a reservoir on top and one without. Also in their repertoire is a Music and Copperplate special purpose nib.

Pretty cool don’t you think? I think it is safe to say, vintage fountain pens exciting. Especially when compared to gel, felt-tip, and roller-ball pens. Even contemporary fountain pens are boring in comparison.

Posted in Collection, Pens, Stories

Flat bottom pens make the journaling world go round

Ok, this is really about Flat-Top pens, I couldn’t pass on an opportunity for a Freddy Mercury parody.

Fountain pens come in just about any and every size and shape imaginable. I have a preference for flat-top pens including those referred to as “baseball bat” & “tube” pens. Contrary to the “Balance” style pens aka torpedo or cigar shape.

Flat-top pens are characterized as having a larger, prominent cap and a smaller body. There is a noticeable step between the cap and the pen body when the pen is capped, while the cap and the bottom end horizontally. I know “flat-top” means the top is flat, so who cares about the aft end, welp I do. Ever look at a cigar before it is smoked? Flat on one end and round on the other.

Little Flat-Top History

The Sheaffer Pen Company produced Flat-Top fountain pens from 1912 until some time after the middle of the 1930s, possibly as late as 1940. It is important to note that the name flat-top (or flat-top) is a collector-coined name for the earliest Sheaffer pens. Sheaffer never referred to them as such.

The Sheaffer Pen Company produced Flat-Top fountain pens from 1912 until some time after the middle of the 1930s, possibly as late as 1940. It is important to note that the name flat-top (or flat-top) is a collector-coined name for the earliest Sheaffer pens. Sheaffer never referred to them as such.

Aesthetics of a Flat-Top & Bottom Pen

My interest in vintage pens is well established and yes Sheaffer Balance is the progenitor of torpedo or cigar shape pens and it is vintage but no. For me, it is aesthetically pleasing to see sharp angles created by the flat ends (maybe I should have named this post “Flat Ends”?). They provide a pleasant contrast to the curved tapered body of a Balance-style pen.

When I was a young man prior to attending university I was interested in architecture. I enjoyed trips which offered an opportunity to view historic architecture. Yes, I love arches but my real enjoyment was always the angles of a structure. “Good design is about the beauty of line.” A flat-top pen is all about lines. Yes, a Balance-style pen has smooth lines but I find them boring as the pen gradually begins and fades away.

Apparently, I am not in the majority. Balance-style pens are more popular, they sell better. I came across a thread on Reddit that is interesting. The contributor preferred round-end pens because “geometrical discontinuities lead to jumps in the stress of a body [pens in our case] under load or in the event of impact [drop the pen].” Interesting rationale but these are pens, not bridges.

My Pens

As mentioned, my Flat-Top pens can be categorized into two groups; fo-real Flat-Top pens and what I’ll call hybrid Flat-Top pens. Sheaffer doesn’t have a monopoly on Flat-Top pens. I have pens manufactured by Sheaffer, Parker, Osmiroid, Esterbrook, TWSBI, Pilot and Inkograph.

My pile of Flat-Top pens, according to me

Hybrid Flat-Tops are more prevalent thus I have excluded them. Pens in this category include Mabie Todd, Gold Starry, Conway Stewart, Waterman, Geo W. Heath, Esterbrook, Worth, Hero, Kaigelu, Pilot, and Sheaffer. Can you imagine the size of that pile?

Why own something that reminds me of a banana (shape not color), a torpedo, or cigarish when you could have these beauties? As is evident, my idea of a Flat-Top pen is broad. These pens have soooo much more personality and appeal – to me.

Oh, and BTW, I own Balance-style pens; however, I do not own a Sheaffer Balance pen.

Posted in Pens, Reviews, Stories


Osmiroid roots run deep, all the way back to the early part of the nineteenth Century. James Perry an educationalist promoted an idea based on a revolutionary idea, peak a student’s interest and they will enthusiastic pursue their studies. Students of the time wrote with a quill pen and quills required constant attention. While in class, they would sit idol waiting for the usher to pass by and mend their quill.

In response to the wasted time, James inventing a metal pen with a slit to provide flexibility and controlled ink flow in 1819, patenting his design in 1830. Soon after, James and his brother started a pen (nib) company, manufacturing pens in Manchester, Birmingham and London. By 1876, their success rivaled Esterbrook, making them the second largest manufacturer of pen nibs in the world.

Post World War II, the company changed direction after a century plus of manufacturing nibs for dip pens and bet their future on fountain pens. Keeping in touch with their roots, the company focused on the needs of school children, introducing the “Osmiroid 65” fountain pen. They also produced a large range of nibs suited for left handed users. In 1971, the Company began marketing a range of teaching aids, having great success in the U.K., Australia, America and the Far East.

Osmiroid Squeeze Converter

Osmiroid’s new design with improved ink flow was introduced around 1980. Marketed as “The Pilot”, “The Sonic” and “the Easy Change” . This model didn’t use the screw in nib unit common to the models 65 and 75 but combined the nib, the section and the feed into a single replaceable unit. The nibs are the same used in the previous assemblies and available in a wider range of sizes aimed at the calligraphy market. These pens accept ink cartridges or a “Squeeze fill converter.” The pens were plagued by an issue with the plastic of the cap – it is too thin and prone to cracking.

Osmiroid New Design pen

The beginning of the end….in 1989, Berol acquired Osmiroid. Manufacturing and general operations consolidated into Berol by 1991. Newell acquired Berol in 1995, discontinuing the Osmiroid line of products in 1999. Thus ends the story of a 170 year-old company.

My Pen

Is a new design Easy Change model I believe. It sports a B3 nib – “medium width lettering nib for general illuminating.” The ink reservoir is a squeeze fill converter. The pen is black plastic with a wide stainless cap band and clip terminating with a round metal jewel – reminiscent of a the Esterbrook Dollar pen.

Yet the pen has several characteristics associated with their Viscount model, including a clip with the boxed “O”, a wide cap band and a metal ring around the base of the section to better secure the cap. The new design Easy Change typically has “Osmiroid” imprinted on the clip, with multiple thin cap bands and does not include the metal ring around the section.

The nib is worth noting, as I’ve never written with a calligraphy nib. I wasn’t sure what to expect, it is 2mm wide with 2 slits. I soaked the nib for 2 days removing the old ink. As you can see, some ink remains in the feed.

I inked up the squeeze converter, which was probably a mistake. I should have filled the reservoir through the nib. It took an effort getting the ink flowing but as you can see it works.

Obviously, the lettering is large compared to a normal medium nib. I like the way the letters form, must be the calligraphy aspect of the nib.

The next day I could not get the ink flowing, what a bummer, though the pen may have been out of ink as I didn’t add much for the demo and well it uses a lot of ink.

Vital Statistics

  • Capped length 129.5mm,
  • Uncapped length 118mm,
  • Barrel diameter 12mm,
  • Cap diameter 12.5mm,
  • Pen weighs in at 11..