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 Pens, Stories

It’s winter time, who doesn’t enjoy a hooded … Pen

Initially, I was not a fan of the Parker 51 and its hooded nib. I thought it was ugly and why would anyone want to hide their nib? I am a lot of things, and being close-minded is not one of them. Hooded nibs are an acquired taste, these simply grew on me, to the point, I thought traditional nibs were ugly. Good news, I got over that as well.

Having a hood over the nib seems like a great idea – the pen becomes much more resistant to drying out while idle, accommodates temperamental inks, and reduces ink loss due to evaporation. Thus pens write longer using the same amount of ink.

Hooded nibs came into being as a necessary extension of a super fast-drying ink called Superchrome, developed in the 1930s by Parker. Superchrome contains isopropyl alcohol and is fairly corrosive. The ink dried so fast it would dry out in a traditional open nib/feed arrangement while the pen was in use.

The solution was simple, invent a pen for the ink, which became known as “51”. The ink was pulled from the shelf when it became evident that long-term use dissolved the stainless steel nibs on Parker pens and corroded the breather tubes in the “51.”

Here we have my two 51s, (1945 & 1941).

Long after the withdrawal of Superchrome ink, hooded Parker pens remained popular. Hooded nibs were not necessary but they performed more like a ballpoint, from rigidity to resistance to drying, thus making them more susceptible to ballpoint competition.

Parker 21 (post-1948)
Parker 61 (post-1956)
Parker 45 (post-1960)

Parker did a good job copying with their own success, no surprise so did others.

I present my hooded Platignum and my sorta hooded Sheaffer Taranis.

Since the hooded pens have been compared to ballpoints, I decided to give the 51 (inked with Waterman Black) a go against a BIC Cristal. Remember, this is a scientific test published on the Internet prior to peer review – Believe at your own risk.

BIC Cristal above, Parker 51 Below

No surprise, the Parker 51 is far superior, and yes it writes like a ballpoint (very stiff), startup favors the Parker, and the overall appearance of the ink.

The Parker did not have that BIC ink smell that I grew up with and harbor the fondest of memories. I wasn’t going to try the “lint” test – carry the pen in my back pocket without a cap. After a long weekend, the 51 required a hard start while the BIC simply worked.

Hooded pens are still made today, primarily by Chinese pen companies and Lamy. While researching this topic I came across a Wing Sung 601 hooded demonstrator (a blatant Parker 51 knock off). Lacking self-control, I bought it ($17 + free shipping!).

Inked up with Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue. I really thought the blue would “pop” in the demonstrator, alas not. Maybe Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-Peki would have been a better choice? Too late now.

With hooded pens, the nib hood protects the nib fins, minimizing evaporation. This model, it also acts to channel the ink to the nib. Examining the pictures note how the ink populates the nib while encapsulated by the hood.

As for the pen, much like the 51, it too writes like a ballpoint. I had no issue with the nib straight out of the box. Actually, I’m rather impressed, considering, but that is a discussion for another day.