Posted in Pens, Stories

Happy Nurse’s Day – Pen Sets

At the end of the 19th century, “The Lady With the Lamp” — or as she is more widely known, Florence Nightingale — founded modern nursing. Each year, in recognition of the importance nurses, play in our lives, a week is dedicated to all things nursing beginning on “Nurse’s Day” and ending on May 12th, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. I’m highlighting specialty pens used by nurses before the digital age.

“Nurse’s Pens” are a genre of fountain pens that were marketed to nurses throughout the 1940’s and 50’s, mainly by Waterman and Esterbrook. Scheaffer also had a minor role in the nurse pen market.

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).

Waterman’s made different varieties of nurse’s pens, their standard set came in “lustrous satin Pearl of white.” They offered the most diverse options, including sets with one pen and a pencil, sets with two pens for two different colors of inks, and sets with a pen case that included a thermometer inside!

Esterbrook manufactured a series of small, white Nurse’s Pens based on their J-Series. Their pens had colored cap jewels, in the familiar black, green, and red to coordinate with the nurse’s work shifts, The green jeweled pens are the least common, while black jeweled pens are the most common.

My Esterbrook Nurse’s Pen Set

I picked up an Esterbrook Nurse Pen set (a pen and pencil) which clearly involved a mix and matching of various pens. The cap of the pen matches the pencil while the barrel is noticeably more white, but that’s ok. I haven’t begun their restoration. It doesn’t appear much is needed. The pencil works, and I believe a new sac is installed. We shall see.

I imagine different pens for different work shifts seem archaic, but how can we appreciate where we are today if we don’t know where we’ve been. At one time, the pen was a necessary nursing tool and the color of ink on the paper patient chart could be vitally important with respect to patient diagnosis and care.

Let’s add some perspective, in 1946, a Register Nurse could expect to earn $170-$175 per month and pay $8.50 for a Waterman Nurse pen set (5% of her monthly salary). That same pen today would set a nurse back $130, which is way more than the cost of a decent stethoscope.

Pen Vital Statistics

  • Capped length. 121mm
  • Uncapped length. 110mm
  • Barrel diameter 11mm
  • Cap diameter 12mm
  • Weighs in at 12g
Posted in Pens, Stories

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

So this month I am going to continue with the Zenzoi eco-friendly bamboo pen. Overall the pen has really impressed me. I did a quick review of their entire online catalog and they have some attractive pens at an affordable price.

Have you heard the fountain pen myth “don’t lend out your fountain pen to the others because the way a person writes can cause changes to the nib.” Well In January I inked up a used Waterman Lauret I. The pen wrote well with one exception – the sweet spot. Unless I held the pen at a 45-degree angle to the writing surface then turned the pen to the left 45 degrees it would skip. Must be some truth to the myth.

Waterman Lauret I

Overall, I enjoyed using the Waterman Lauret and as it is still inked I’ll continue. Some people will not like how thin it is, or mention the lacquer makes it slippery but hey, I have short stubby fingers and it suits me well, It definitely brings back memories of the Waterman Hemispheres, which I still have. I think one needs to make the rotation later this year.

Posted in Collection

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

What is old is New again.

Let’s start the new year off with an old friend, we’ll sort of. I’m inking up the Waterman Lauret I, which is new to me in 2021 but is 30 years old. By old friend, I mean this pen feels just like the Waterman Hemisphere in hand. If you recall, the Hemisphere is the pen that got me started down this rat hole. Also, I adding a little excitement and opened the Papier Plume ink Cafe Diabolique which I picked up on Fountain Pen Day.

Papier Plume‘s special FPD ink: Cafe Diabolique which was blended to be an exact match for Cafe Brulot, a trance-inducing after-dinner coffee ritual which is still being performed by a few old-school waiters skilled in the flaming at-table ritual.

What did Santa bring you?

Posted in Restoration

Waterman Ideal 52 Vest Pen

The Backstory:

Waterman began production of the Ideal fountain pen in the 1880’s, with production lasted to the 1950’s. The most popular model being the Ideal #52. Waterman began producing lever-filed pens in 1915, when they devised a lever box mechanism to circumvent Walter Sheaffer’s lever-filling patent. Waterman apparently believed “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” thus making few to no improvements to the Ideal #52, much to their detriment, including the continued use of hard rubber when the competition was manufacturing beautiful pens in celluloid. They finally made the switch in 1934, nearly a decade behind the competition.

The Pen:

This refurbishment is the first Waterman I’ve purchased in 10 plus years and the first one that is vintage. I purchased the pen from a seller in Frederick, MD. I’m placing the age of the pen at about 96 years. It is made of black chased hard rubber (BCHR) and showing significant signs of sun damage plus the nib appears to have some damage. Capped, the pen measures a mere 4.25” long and doesn’t contain a pocket clip or a lanyard ring.

Waterman “Patented” Lever Box

Based in part on the manufacture code, the pen dates to around 1925ish making it the oldest pen in my collection. Waterman began phasing out the model codes in 1927. This pen contains the code 0852V;

  • 0 – gold filled,
  • 8 – broad 14k gold cap lip band,
  • 5 – Lever Filler,
  • 2 – nib size,
  • V – vest.
Model Code

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. Now the feed is very different when compared to Parker, Esterbrook and others. The ink channel contained groves running the length of the said channel and is known as the “Three Fissure Feed” system, patented initially in 1884. The design regulates the flow of ink, preventing blotting. On the underside is a divot, creating a secondary ink reservoir with an access hole to the feed fissures. The feed contains what appears to be the letters “ST” above the numbers “17 16.” After a Duck-Duck-Go search that called google.patent…. I determined that this design is detailed in patent 1,201,951A and the mysterious markings are the patented date Oct 17, 1916.

The feed


The nib and feed were easily removed, but the section wasn’t budging. Since the pen is BCHR there was no way I was soaking it in hot water. Instead, heat was applied lightly until the section just popped out – surprise. The old dried up ink sac came out with little effort, but removing the residual ink sac attached to the section was a different story. To clean up the section, sandpaper was used beginning with 1,000 grit paper working to 7,000 grit. The sandpaper also removed ink stains or some odd discoloring on the section.

Focusing on the cap, it soon became evident that there was green ink stains on the band and in the chasing. Initially, a Sunshine cloth was used on the cap which seemed to be of benefit. But, there was residual green grime along the cap band so a soft bristle toothbrush was used. Afterwards, I applied a very light coat of mineral oil which removed more green based grime. The teeth and leaver box on the barrel were also brushed then minimal mineral oil applied and immediately removed. Guess what, more green grime. On the cap, there is a small crack and a piece is missing. I considered adding some glue to the inside of the cap in the hope of adding stability but haven’t as yet.

The nib is the oddity, the pen came with a #2 Mabie Todd nib, I assume it is not the original nib. The nib cleaned up well and yes it is damaged. The right side of the tip is missing and there is definitely an outward bend in the nib. Regardless, I measured and attached a #16 ink sac, the correct size is a #15 but I don’t have one. After the shellac dried, the pen was reassembled and I debated if I should ink it up, but as the nib is not in the best of shape why bother.

Nib Before and After
Refurbished pen