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.
The production of Model 15 spanned a decade beginning in 1952. As with many vintage Conway Stewarts, this model is a fairly small pen (which is preferable, as I have small hands) and often made of Casein. Model 15 featured two versions, distinguished by the existence of a single band, or no cap band. The trim is available in chrome or gold plate and a choice of two clips (long vs short).
In his book “Fountain Pens for the Million: The History of Conway Stewart: 1905-2005,” Stephen Hull writes “during the 1950s the material [casein] was generally used in cheaper models (such as the 15/16/17 and 759) and was typically available in black and three mottled, or marbled, patterns”.
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. More information is available in my post: Casein; “the most beautiful of plastics.”
Identifying casein can be done by appearance and smell. The pen is black, thus identification by appearance is out, let’s rely on smell: rather than camphor, casein smells like antler, ivory, or vaguely like scorched hair. As I am not familiar with the smell of camphor, I don’t feel it would end well if I tried to sniff a deer or elk antler, I don’t have ivory and I am not going to catch my hair on fire, instead, I opted to compare the smell of my Parker Vacumatic (celluloid) with the model 15. SUCCESS! Now I can identify celluloid, casein, camphor, burnt hair, and antlers by smell without bodily injury.
I picked up this model 15 from an estate sale. At the time I was interested in it because it was a black pen. When I realized the pen was cherry, and the price was right – a done deal. Only recently did I realize it is manufactured from casein.
The chrome clip is attached to the cap with a chrome ring and a blind jewel. The lever looks more like nickel than chrome. The pen has matching conical ends.
For a pen that is upwards of 70 years old, this pen is in amazing shape, plus it was considered by Conway Stewart to be a cheap pen. The name imprint is crisp, there is no brassing, no scratches or teeth marks, and the nib is smooth.
The space between the tines is a bit too wide. This will make the nib wet resulting in a less than satisfying result on cheaper paper.
The nib is a a medium flex, 14k Conway Stewart 1A. Some model 15s, the imprinted logo on the barrel as well as the inscription on the nib simply said Conway.
The pen came with a new ink sac, whomever installed the sac failed to coat it with talc. Now let’s ink it up and see how she performs.
The ink began flowing immediately, I initially was journaling in a moleskin field journal but the paper is horrible and the ink feathered into blobs. This is a pattern I have been plagued by when using 14k nibs on moleskin. I pulled out a 100 gsm bullet journal experience a completely different result.
The nib could use a little smoothing but otherwise glided across the page with little resistance.
- Capped Length: 126mm
- Uncapped Length: 113mm
- Barrel Diameter: 11mm
- Cap Diameter: 13mm
- Weighs in at, 14g