Posted in Pens, Reviews, Stories

Kaigelu 316A

Company Back Story

Kaigelu is a brand of Lanxivi, a subsidiary of Shanghai Hero Pen Company. Hero has been manufacturing “high-quality” fountain pens since 1931. Initially known as Wolff Pens, they changed their name to Hero in 1966. Their pens are renown for their quality in Asia and are extremely popular with users in China and India.

I consider Kaigelu to be a “high-end” Chinese manufactured pen. I call them high-end because the typical Chinese pens sells for $7-$10 and this one sold for $26.

The Kaigelu 316 was initially released in 2014, and closely resembled the Parker Duofold Centennial. The pen is available in a variety of color schemes; however, I was interested in two, a golden brown/grey swirls called ‘Tiger Eye’ and white/black swirls called ‘Century Stars.’ I choose the white/black swirl. I am more inclined to say it resembles marble or pearl.

The pen is made of an acrylic celluloid (so they claim), something you don’t often see in contemporary pens. The celluloid has a lot of depth and complexity plus to my surprise it is semi-transparent. The pen clip, cap band and other accents are gold plate. The cap band contains an imprinted design with black inlay. The cap is topped with a jewel containing a kangaroo surrounded by a wreath, both in gold plate.

My pen is model 316A, the “A” designation I believe indicates a newer model, incorporating improvements over the initial pen. The seller called mine an “office gift pen.” I did a Duck-Duck-Go search and all of the 316 pens I found had black blind end caps and a black section, while mine has blind caps and section made of the same material and color as the pen. Maybe it is a “special edition.”

Other reviewers mention their pens are too heavy, tipping the scale at 46g, while mine weighs in at a mere 28g with converter. As I prefer pens with some heft to them, 28g is perfect. The pen feels solid in hand, and the construction seems sound.

The seller claimed it came with an iridium nib but it is stainless steel with gold plated accents. A kangaroo like the one in the jewel on the cap, scroll accent work, and the name “Kaigelu” is etched on the nib. The section is metal or brass, gold plated with “Kaigelu” and the model number etched into the opposite side.

The nib is labeled as Fine and it writes accordingly on 100gsm or better paper. On cheap paper the ink will flow.

The converter is attractive as far as converts go. It screws into the section but doesn’t appear to hold as much ink as other converters and contains a steel ball. I assume this keeps the ink “stirred, not shaken” which makes the pen rattle. The pen also accepts international converters as well as long international cartridges.

Vital Statistics

  • Capped length 137mm,
  • Barrel diameter is 13mm,
  • The cap diameter is 15mm,
  • Pen and converter weigh in at 28g,
  • The cap weighs in at 10g.

Cons

My complaints are: removing the cap did require 3 full turns, unscrewing the barrel from the section took a week (ok I exaggerate a bit), and the rattle the pen makes because of the steel ball in the converter. This is a feature to keep the ink from thickening up – a common occurrence for ink in Asia because of the heat and humidity.

Opinion

Unlike the experiences reported by others, the pen did not leak, it is not too heavy, the nib did not require smoothing or other fine tuning. I like the feel and weight of it in my hand. It wrote smoothly when I initially inked it up. I like it and for a mere $26 you can say I love it. Would I buy another – absolutely, maybe the tiger eye pen next.

In short, I liked the pen

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Posted in Pens, Stories

Vintage Demonstrator

All major pen companies, American, Japanese, German, and Italian have or are producing demonstrator pens. The success of clear and durable plastics has made the production of great see-through pens plentiful and common place.

The interest in how pens work is not a new phenomenon, pen manufacturers dating back as far as the 1920’s were eager to show off their unique filling systems, clip assemblies, nib and feed improvements and the ability to seal the nib inside the cap (safety pens). Thus all of the major manufacturers provided their sales representatives with hard rubber pens that were cut away to reveal the inner workings. This being the origin of today’s demonstrator pens.

Original functioning demonstrators

Parker demonstrated the button filler by incorporating a window into the side of the barrel, allowing a view of the pressure bar compressing the ink sac when that button is depressed. Sheaffer did the same with their lever filled pens. In the days of vacumatic pens, models were made using clear materials (I guess acrylic), thus maintaining the integrity of the barrel so that the filling mechanism could be observed in action without having to damage the pen. Today, these vintage demonstrator pens are uncommon, considered rare and collectible, hence I decided to make my own cut away demonstrator.

I bought an Arnold lever filler pen and removed the side of the barrel, don’t worry it is a 21 cent pen that I paid $5 for….. wait hmmm, I guess a sucker is born ever minute. Anyway, I got out the Dremel and proceed to remove a bit too much of the barrel but that oops provides us with a better view of the inside.

On a side note, as the barrel was cut it did not melt, it turned to powder and caught fire. Nothing melted and notice that there isn’t any scorch marks on the barrel. This leads me to believe the pen is celluloid opposed to a plastic resin.

Homemade Arnold cut away demonstrator

The ink sac is the largest component inside the barrel – surprise, it connects to the section near the cap teeth and runs the length of the barrel. Running parallel along the top of the sac under the lever is the pressure bar (aka J-bar). The lever is held in place by the snap ring, visible here bisecting the center of the barrel.

The mechanics of a lever filler pen is very basic, actually all fountain pens with an ink sac work by the same essential principle, a mechanism acts on a pressure bar which depresses the ink sac, when pressure bar is released, the sac expands to its original size and takes in ink.

Now you know the rest of the story.

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Posted in Pens, Stories

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

In 1932, Parker decided to dip their toes into the fountain pen lever filler market, they introduced the Parco (defined as frugal, sparing, moderate or temperate). Parker spared no expense, as they picked through the bins of old Duofold parts and built a new pen (did I mention frugal, sparing, moderate or temperate). Even though the pen was made of old Duofold parts it retailed at a significantly lower price point $1.75 vs $5 (that is $35 vs $100 adjusted for inflation) for the Duofold, making it a good deal.

I digress a bit, this month I thought it would be fun to compare how the Duofold and Parco pens compare, since they are first cousins. For transparency, my Parco is made from old Duofold stock, while my Duofold is made from new Duofold stock. It’s not entirely an even comparison. Also, the Duofold is sporting a fine nib while the Parco has a flex medium.

BTW, the “Vs” doodle was done using both both pens.

Anyway, what are you writing with this month?

Posted in Pens, Restoration, Stories

Conklin Crescent Filler

Company Back Story:

Roy Conklin’s patented the design for the first self-filling fountain pen in 1897, followed shortly by the distinctive crescent-filler pen. 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 circa 1930 when the landmark design was retired in favor of a lever-filler design. Author Mark Twain was so impressed with the crescent-filler he became the official spokesperson for the Conklin brand.

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, finally pens dating from the 1920s have crescents marked on both sides.

My Pen:

I have been trying to include vintage pens in my collection that made a significant impact in the world of writing instruments. I’ve been looking for a Conklin Crescent pen and stumbled upon one that looked promising plus the seller is in NOVA (Northern VA). I knew going into this the pen wasn’t in the best of shape but I felt it was better than many I’ve seen, and it dates to the 1920’s.

Let’s start with the general appearance, the lock ring that prevents the crescent from being depressed is miscolored and broken – its supposed to wrap around nearly 90% of the barrel but it doesn’t, a piece is broken off. It is black hard rubber as is the barrel and cap but only the ring it is showing signs of sun/water damage. A clear indicator it is from a different pen thus during the process of removing it from that pen it was broken.

Notice the discoloration of the lock ring

Next obvious issue is found on the pen cap, this pen has some off brand clip, not unheard of but it was hiding the hole where the original clip was originally attached to the cap. Then there is the 2 cm long hairline crack from the lip of the cap. Funny the seller did not mention any of these issues and the “for sale” photos strategically avoided the obvious.

At this point the curiosity on how the crescent worked got the better of me, so I started taking the pen apart. The section unscrews, there is an arrow on it indicating which direction it should be turned. The section also showed signs of being mistreated by pliers or a section puller. The nib and feed came out after applying heat. The feed looks to be in pretty bad shape, the nib a Warranted 14K #4 appears to need a little straightening.

The crescent lock ring popped right off and the crescent dropped into the barrel. The crescent is interesting, it is attached to a long pressure bar and is held in place by the ink sac opposed to a “J” shaped pressure bar. How does it work you ask, the lock ring prevents the crescent from depressing, when the ring is rotated to the unlocked position the crescent can be depressed, thus compressing the ink sac. Let go of the crescent, the sac expands, drawing in ink and returns the crescent to its normal extended position. Simply rotate the lock ring to secure the crescent and start writing.

Enough with the issues. I proceeded to clean the pen, repaired the damage done to the section, and polished the “brass.” The damage to the section was extensive and required multiple passes with sandpaper. When I was going over the barrel and cap with the Sunshine cloth, a disgusting brown yuck came off but they cleaned up nicely. I removed the cap clip and polished it. Applied a light touch of mineral oil to the barrel and cap. Now it’s time to put it all back together – Tah-Dah!

I’m pretty happy with how well the section cleaned up. It went through 3 sand paper sessions and could really use a fourth session.

I inked it up and thought I’d give it a try and this is what happens when you forget to return the lock ring into position. The smallest amount of pressure on the crescent and the ink flows.

I purchased this Crescent filler from the same seller I purchased the Gold Starry 256. This seller has made it to my “do not buy from” list and wouldn’t you know it, they are the only seller on the list.

Posted in Pens, Stories

Parting is such sweet sorrow

I have a problem, I’ve spent too much money on the chase and the delusion that I needed ever “flavor” of pen – ya know, so the collection is complete. After researching the impact our personalities have on our collections, it occurred to me I was going about this all wrong, spending too much money on the idea of completeness or inclusion instead of substance – mind over matter, or is it matter over mind.

After I wrote the blog Our Personalities, They Determine Our Collection’s it occurred to me I have a problem. What does my collection say about me? It lacks direction, I’m not feeling “it.” After a “Come to Jesus” discussion with myself, I’ve decided to “thin the heard,” to cull the collection, to single out those pens that don’t really “get the job done” for me. In short, time to have a sell off. This way I can focus on stuff I really, really like opposed to focusing on the completeness of the collection. Besides isn’t the collection saying something about me? Of the five personal traits I’m thinking “conscientiousness” is probably the most accurate but I’m not feeling this anymore,

So, how do I decide what stays and what goes, what has meaning and what was an impulse, and most importantly, what is going to be the guiding force and direction behind my collection going forward? Should I focus on pens to restore and sell? Or nicely restored pens? Or commit to a particular manufacture or material? Welcome to my nightmare..

Time to make the selection! I took all my pens and spread them across the floor, by manufacture of course. Those that were of a lessor quality were an easy choice, others were duplicates or nearly so (had to acquire minor variations) and finally pens I acquired which needed to be restored but I lost interest and didn’t bother.

Finally tally for now, 1 Schaefer, 5 Esterbrook, 2 Parker’s. Not all of them need restoration before their sale so they will go first. Now it’s time to focus on the direction of my pen collection so I am going to focus on the following for now; black pens, European pens (currently I have a thing for English and French pens), and mottled hard rubber.

After I wrote this (over a month ago) an issue surfaced, I started the process of prepping the pens for sale and wouldn’t you know it, one cleaned up so well I was amazed and it got to stay. Which one, well that’s for me to know and for a future blog to tell.


Posted in Pens, Reviews

Conklin Duraflex Elements “Fire” Limited Edition

Inspired by the wonders of nature, the Conklin Elements fountain pens feature semi-translucent bodies in dappled patterns aptly named Earth, Water and Fire. The Duraflex Elements are an extension of the popular Duragraph line. I got a deal on the pen at $39, it is discontinued by Conklin and available at most online pen dealers for $56. Of the different elements I though the “Fire” model was the most attractive. Considering the price I paid, this pen qualifies as a budget friendly pen.

My Pen

The pen ships in a clamshell box with an outer cardboard sheath brightly colored based on the “element” and printed with the Conklin Duraflex Elements label. The box itself has a cream faux suede interior, plus 2 ink cartridges and a converter.

First Impressions

I opened the box and was immediately struck by the color, it is as impressive as I hoped. The pen is partially translucent because of the dappled finish on a clear resin. The cap is removed with two quick twist (one complete rotation), revealing a stainless Omniflex nib, a plastic feed… wait the nib has wings? The pen feels good in hand, there is a pleasant balance without posting the cap. Capped, the pen measures 140mm, 13mm across the barrel and tips the scale at 24g (0.85 oz) with an empty converter.

The pen trim is chrome with a simple tear drop cap clip. The cap ring is engraved with “Conklin” on one side and “Duraflex” with moon shapes on the other. The barrel is etched with the collection name “Duraflex,” “Limited Edition” and “1505 of 1898.” Indicating I have pen 1505 out of the 1898 they produced.

Performance

Time to ink up the pen with Waterman Serenity Blue ink and see how well it writes. It started writing immediately, better first impression than with the All American. The nib is stiff, but writes smooth otherwise. I was unable to get the line variation expected with a flex nib.

Then I began noticing the ink bleeding on the paper. I know it is not quality paper but none of the other nibs, Fine, Medium or otherwise have bled on this paper. The ink flow is out of control.

Well . . . I would beg to differ, as mentioned this nib is stiff. Getting any flex out of it requires a good amount of pressure contradicting the Omniflex literature. That said, all I’ve gotten so far is too much ink.

Opinion

As Captain Lee would say, “Once is an accident and twice is a pattern.” Conklin disappoints me yet again. I really like the pen but hate how it writes. I’ve read other reviews involving Conklin Omniflex nibs and I’m not the only person with the same issues. Some reviewers replaced their Omniflex nibs with standard Conklin nibs as the solution to the problem.

If you like this pen or it’s cousin the Duragraph, make sure you DO NOT choose an Omniflex nib.

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Posted in Pens, Stories

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

I know there are a lot of new pens available after the DC Pen show just itching to facilitate the meeting of ink with paper. Here we are, at the beginning of a new month – so it’s time to rotate the pens you are using. I’ve been binging Madman (again) and it is making me feel nostalgic for the late 50’s early 60’s. So my pen of choice this month is the Esterbrook M2 Aerometric – Esterbrook’s response to the Parker 51.

The pen comes with a 9450 nib (Firm Extra Fine) but I am not loving it. Definately writes best at a 45 degree angle plus I have to apply a little more pressure than I’d like.

My M2 Aerometric dates to circa 1957. When I was inking the pen it occurred to me that I’d forgotten all the novelties that make this pen unique. Obviously, it needs to be the subject of a featured blog.

On a different note, as I watch Madman I am being inspired to improve my home office with the addition of Draper’s beverage cart. Not so sure my employer will feel the same inspiration. Feel free to leave your favorite “old fashion” recipe in the comments.

Anyway, what are you writing with this month?

Posted in Pens, Stories

Vintage Trendsetting Pens, the original “Influencers”

I was reading a blog the other day by Deb Gibson (of Goodwriterspens) where she was musing about pens that she thought were the primary influencers impacting the direction fountain pen appearance has taken over the years. I was considering a posting about the history of fountain pens and felt her blog was far more interesting and considered “reblogging” it. In her humble opinion, the following are the biggest influencers:

  • Parker Duofold
  • Sheaffer Balanced
  • Parker 51

I’m not going to go into great depth summarizing her thoughts, she does such a great job. I invite you all to read her blog; however, I would venture the Conklin Crescent should be on the list, replacing the Sheaffer Balance. But more on this later.

The Sheaffer Balanced, I’ll be honest I don’t know much about this pen, I honestly don’t like it, though Walt Disney was a big fan. It’s claim to fame is the torpedo shape and there are plenty of contemporary pens with the same shape.

I absolutely agree with her choice of the Duofold, clearly a landmark design and development. Many a contemporary pen is designed with the Duofold in mind. The Parker 51, I can see that as well. It’s influence is less pervasive because it came into being when the ballpoint pens were coming of age, but I feel the design impacted the appearance of all “clicker” ball point pens.

Missing from the list is the Conklin Crescent, why you may ask? I am getting a little off topic by adding this pen based on it’s self filling mechanism which impacted it’s appearance.

The Conklin Crescent is renowned for two firsts 1) first mass-produced self-filling pen and 2) the first mass-produced pen to use a flexible rubber ink sac. The crescent filling system employs an arch-shaped crescent attached to a rigid metal pressure bar, with the crescent portion protruding from the pen through a slot and the pressure bar inside the barrel. Which in turn compressed the internal rubber sac, creating a vacuum to force ink into the pen.

The crescent filling system is the basis for the Sheaffer introduction of the lever filling system in 1912, and the subsequent Parker button filler system. Clearly the pressure bar, and ink sac self filling system introduced by the crescent filling system became the primary direction of fountain pens for the next 60 years. In order to accomplish this, pen manufactures had to incorporate self fill levers, which petruded from a slot cut into the barrel – like the Crescent fill. Or they introduced a button under a blind cap which depressed a pressure bar. I know it is a stretch but it’s just my opinion which is the reason for the post.

So I ask, what are your thoughts? Do you agree, disagree, what pens do you think made a significant impact to fountain pen appearance over the years?

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Posted in Pens, Restoration, Stories

Arnold: the Original Disposable Fountain Pen

Company Backstory

Remmie Arnold started his company in 1935, operating out of Petersburg, Virginia after his tenure with the Edison Pen Company. Arnold became one of the largest producers of fountain pens in the world, concentrating on very inexpensive pens sold primarily in low end stores.

Good can be cheap, but Cheap is never good.

How cheap were Arnold pens you may ask? Retailers could buy a gross for $22.50 or 15 cents per pen, reselling them at a 40% profit. Wow, I paid $4 for a pen that originally sold for 21 cents, hmmm…. been had again. Obviously, with such a low price point, these pens were not built to last. The Arnold Pen Company survived through 2005 having switched from fountain pen production to become a ballpoint pen manufacturer.

My Pens

I bought 3 Arnold pens to experiment with, 2 came from a seller in Richmond. Both of those were supposed to be NOS, right out of the box. Yup the pens were never used, which doesn’t mean they aged well – actually they are both butt ugly.

Even ugly pens need love – right, so I set about pulling the green pen apart. The section pulled free of the barrel and lookie there, the original ink sac is still intact and pliable. That is cool, I need to ink it up and see how well it writes. Well maybe later.

Looking at the feed, it has 2 ink channels or fissures as Waterman liked to call them. It is super cheap, the manufacturing process used a 2 sided mold to create the feed. The sides didn’t fit well and the residue plastic was not trimmed off.

Good stuff cheap

I decided to ink up the pen, it took ink without any problems. The lever is super small so it is difficult to maneuver. I have to admit for a 21 cent pen it writes really well and I’m impressed the ink sac holds ink. The sac is probably upwards of 60 years old.

I got out my old Sunshine cloth and went to work on the cap band and clip. I failed to make any progress, so I switched to a new Sunshine cloth and that made a difference on the cap band, the clip improved but not by much. The filling lever is beyond hope. The nickel finish is gone and there are signs on the barrel of discoloration by the threads. The pen has clearly been exposed to the sun in the hot, humid Virginia summers. I am toying with the option of using my DIY nickel electroplating process to restore the missing nickel plating. But that folks is the topic of a future blog post.

Posted in Pens, Reviews, Stories

Scrikss 419 Piston filler

Company Backstory

Scrikss is a pen manufacturer based in Istanbul, Turkey – established in 1964. Yup they make fountain pens in Turkey. The company name is of Spanish origin, derived from the word ‘Escriure,’ which means ‘writing’ in the Catalan language.

During the Spanish Civil War, Scrikss started producing fountain pens in Albacete, Spain. In the late 50s, rights to the name Scrikss are sold to a Swiss company. Subsequently, all rights to the brand are sold to Turkish investors and Scrikss Maden ve Plastik Sanayi A.Ş. is born.

Since 1964, the company has been producing Scrikss ballpoint pens in it’s factory at Bahçelievler, followed by fountain pen production in 1966. Except for the nib, everything relating to the fountain pens was manufactured domestically in Turkey.

In 1974, Waterman agreed to a deal licensing the production of the Jif-Waterman fountain pen, cartridges and ink to the Scrikss company in Turkey. Jif-Waterman is credited with the first commercially successful ink cartridge, which was made of glass ink cartridges in 1936.

My pen a Scrikss 419

Scrikss pens are not generally available in the US; however, they can be found on eBay and at the odd pen retailer. In 2020, Scrikss re-introduced the 419 model with new colors, a piston filler, and an acrylic resin barrel. I picked up a red one because it was cheaper ($28 vs $32) and I don’t have a red pen.

First impressions

The pen came in a big box, trying to make a positive impression I guess. The pen itself is very light, topping the scale at 11g (or 0.40 oz). Not a surprise as it is only made of resin. Capped, the pen measures 125mm while the barrel is 11mm across. A couple twists (one complete rotation) removes the cap revealing a gold plated Scrikss medium nib with a plastic feed – pretty standard stuff. The cap band is gold plate and tapers down to the barrel, with the name “Scrikss” repeating on the band. The cap clip is also gold plated with a large “S” within a crest.

The pen comes with a piston feed, meaning it doesn’t accept cartridges or a removable converter. Simply turn the end-cap on the barrel and a piston moves down the ink reservoir. Dip the nib into the ink and turn the end-cap the other way, and the piston retracts filling the pen with ink. When the piston is fully retracted the cap fits snuggly against the barrel. Sorry I am the vintage pen guy and I got the biggest kick out of this feature. Plus the barrel nearest to the section is clear acrylic so you can see the ink reserves.

All inked up, time to apply pen to paper, it instantly began writing. I was surprised at how well the medium nib did on cheaper paper. There are far more issues with my bad handwriting than the pen. Because it is a medium nib the ink dried noticeably slower than let’s say the Conklin All American with a fine nib. Both test I used Waterman Serenity Blue ink.

Opinions

Other then the lack of weight to the pen, I really liked it. I enjoyed how the pen felt in my hand, I am not one to post the cap but the size was good. The lack of weight does give it a cheap feel, but I’m am biased towards pens with some weight to them. Added bonus, my wallet liked it! Would I buy another? Well let’s say I was searching for other models they offer and their Heritage Black GT caught my attention. The bad news is I could only find it at a pen dealer in Romania, selling for $178. I am adding the Black GT to my wish list of pens.

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Awesome little, great pen!