Category Archives: pens

Diving into the World of Vintage Fountain Pens

I’ve always loved the idea of fountain pens, and a few years ago I started buying a few. More recently, I was interested in trying out some vintage pens, but I didn’t know where to start. When I asked for advice in an online group, some folks guided me toward websites for professional restorers. Other told me not to bother with anything vintage, because I was guaranteed to get a dud and be bummed about wasting my money.

Just because I ask for advice doesn’t mean I always listen to it! I’ve since purchased several vintage model through eBay. I have had a couple of duds, but I’ve also experienced the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Honestly, my Sheaffer Balance (c. 1937-1942) is my absolute favorite pen. If I had to get rid of all my fountain pens and only keep one, this would be the one on my desk.

Though I’m by no means an expert, I thought I’d pass along a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Restored or Original Condition: You have to know ahead of time if you want to buy a pen that needs restoration or one that’s already been restored. The ink sac in many older pens will likely be crumbled and useless, so you have to be prepared to replace this (and possibly work on other parts of the pen) if you buy a pen that’s not already been worked on. Read the listing carefully so you know if the item is in working condition and has a new sac. You’ll spend a lot less money if you’re willing to do the work yourself, but you’ll need to the know-how and the supplies. Personally, I have enough on my plate without another hobby, so I always buy restored.

Research: It helps to do your research ahead of time, before the auction is down to the last minute and you’re desperately trying to outbid someone. If a pen catches your eye, hit that search bar and see what you can find out about it! An internet search can tell you a lot about the history of the pen, including how old or rare it may be. Don’t forget to look for other eBay listings of the same pen so you know if you’ll have another chance. It also helps to know what kind of nib and filling system you’re interested in.

My favorite vintage finds: Sheaffer Balance, Eberhard-Faber Perma-Point, and Conklin Endura

Know Your Filling Systems: I still have plenty to learn myself, and since most vintage pens aren’t cartridge/converter pens, it’s wise to know what you’re getting into. For instance, that Sheaffer Balance I mentioned is a vacuum-fill. I wanted it because I thought it was neat, but a fellow aficionado made a good point: vac-fills are difficult to clean, so using any ink that’s waterproof, shimmering, corrosive, or iron gall would be a bad idea. Instead of changing colors out regularly, it’s better to pick a color and stick with it. (I chose Monteverde’s Olivine.) Other pens may be lever fill, touchdown, snorkel, etc., so figure out what will work best for you!

Know Your Nibs: What kind of nib do you like on a fountain pen? It seems that most vintage pens are fine or extra fine, with a few flexible nibs to be had. If you’re looking for medium, broad, or stub, you have a little more work ahead of you. Check for writing samples as part of the listing, and ask for one if it isn’t available. If the seller refuses because they don’t want to dirty the interior of the pen with ink, then you should move on. (A pen can also be dipped, tested, and rinsed, and I personally prefer writing samples so I know this is a nib I’ll like.)

There are also numerous different nib materials. It could be gold or steel, and the tipping material may yet be something different. If you don’t yet know what you like, this could be a great time to try it out!

Check the Seller: Like any listing on eBay, check the seller’s feedback and number of transactions to make sure they’re someone reliable to deal with. Find out what their return policy is. Look at their other listings, so you know if this is someone who deals with pens all the time or just happened to come across them at an estate sale. Ask questions before you buy.

You might not always get a pen you’re happy with. I have one that has a crack in the section that keeps it from feeding correctly. Another had a new ink sac, but the cap doesn’t fit correctly and it just dries out. My husband snagged one that writes beautifully…when you can get it to start. There are going to be some issues, as you may be dealing with something that’s close to a hundred years old. Do your research, be patient, and don’t get caught up in the urgency of an auction.

Have you purchased any vintage pens? I’d love to know!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

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Fountain Pen Review: Monteverde Essenza

I can’t tell you how many times I drooled over the Monteverde Essenza online. I constantly checked the prices on several retailers’ websites, hoping that someone would have it one some wild flash sale if I only managed to catch it at the right moment. It was just one of those things that reached right through the screen and told me it wanted to come home with me.

And now that it is home, let’s talk about it! The first thing I have to say is that this pen just looks nothing like the pictures online. It looks smooth, but the barrel and cap actually have long facets. Also, because it’s a resin pen, the colors are going to be slightly different on each one. I was personally hoping for a little more yellow, whereas mine is mostly blue. It’s still beautiful and a bit shimmery, but not what I expected.

This pen is heavy! I love a good heavy pen, though it can be a bit fatiguing for long writing sessions. It’s worth a little bit of muscle-building to experience this buttery smooth nib. This thing just glides!

I haven’t had any issues with leaking or assembling, and it feels like it’s well-made. It’s definitely one of my favorites!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Fountain Pen Review: Pilot Metropolitan

What makes the perfect pen? One that’s not too thick or thin, not too heavy or light, and comes in all sorts of both conservative and wild colors? Oh, and it writes beautifully and consistently? Yes, the Goldilocks pen. And it’s the Pilot Metropolitan.

As I already said, the Metropolitan is a great size. It has just the right thickness, length, balance, and weight to make for long writing sessions without fatigue. The matte finish on the metal body just feels wonderful. The classic cigar shape and the multitude of colors means it’s pleasant to look at as well as to work with.

I actually have this in two colors, one in a fine nib and one in a medium. I love the fine when I’m working with cheaper paper, so that I don’t have to worry as much about bleedthrough. What I’m really looking for in a fountain pen is the smoothness of the writing experience and the ability to lay down a lot of ink without stopping, so the medium is great for plotting out novels.

I think it’s also really important that we talk about the price point on this pen. Though of course the price fluctuates a little from one retailer to another, the Metropolitan is around $20. I admit that there was a time when I felt that was expensive for a pen, which now makes me laugh. Even if this is at the high end of your pen budget, I promise it’s worth it.

The only downside to the Metropolitan is the included converter. It’s a bladder style, which means you can’t see exactly how much ink you’ve drawn up into it. That’s not a huge deal if you’re working at home right next to your ink bottle, but it’s a problem on the road. Fortunately, the pen is compatible with the Pilot CON-40, which is more like a traditional converter. I’ve heard this converter leaks some, but so far I haven’t had problems with mine.

In short, I’m just crazy about the Pilot Metropolitan. It feels amazing, writes wonderfully, and works extremely well as an everyday pen. I already own two and am considering a third, and my husband has a few of them as well. Five stars!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Fountain Pen Review: Conklin Duragraph ‘Water’

I’m running behind on my pen reviews, so it’s time to catch up!

This Conklin Duragraph is from their Elements series, and I just couldn’t resist the mix of clear and colored resin for the ‘Water’ finish. I ordered it in a medium nib. I have it inked up here with Tobacco Sunburst by Diamine.

What I Love: I’ve had this pen since March (told you I was behind!), so I’ve had some time to really get to know it. This thing is just rock solid. It’s always a ready starter, with no need to encourage the ink to get flowing. I noticed as I was taking the pictures that there’s a bit of ink splattered on the inside of the cap. I can only conclude that this is from dropping it a few times, because it’s never leaked on me. The enclosed converter holds plenty of ink, and the nib is quite smooth. The pen is a great weight, and I feel like I could write with it all day without issue.

What I Don’t Love: This nib is really stiff, so it doesn’t always give me quite the feel I’m looking for when I’m writing. As I’ve noted, though, it’s still very smooth. The nib is black while the trim is rose gold, which I think looks a little silly.

Overall, I think this is a pretty great pen. I liked it enough that I my very next pen was a Conklin as well, but that’s a different review!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keepingand The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Pen Review: Sheaffer Ferrari 100 Fountain Pen

I might not have a true sports car, but the Ferrari 100 truly lives up to its name!

This pen came in the July 2018 iPenBox.  I’ve been meaning to post a review about it ever since!  The theme of the box was “fast,” and that seems very appropriate in this case.  Not only is the pen named after the iconic vehicle, it writes swiftly, efficiently, and smoothly.

The pen came with two cartridges, but the converter included also works beautifully.  There are no skips, and the pen has a nice heavy weight to it.  The Ferrari really lays down some ink, so whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing just depends on your use.  If you’re a fountain pen connoisseur and you typically use premium paper, then I think you’ll absolutely love it.  If you just use regular paper (like me), then be prepared to only use one side of it.

Like any sports car, looks are just as important as performance.  The smooth red pen is good looking on its own, and it doesn’t hurt to have the Ferrari logo on the end of the cap!

The Ferrari with the rest of the iPenBox from July of 2018.

What’s even better than having a nice pen to write with that also looks great on your desk?  Texting your friends and family and telling them you now own a Ferrari!

This pen can still be purchased through the iPenstore or Amazon.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

 

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Pen Review: Parker Vector Fountain

I received this pen as part of the May iPenBox from the iPenstore.  While it took me a minute to get around to it, I’m pretty pleased!

The first thing I noticed is that there are very few skips, even on paper not meant for fountain pens.  It writes very smoothly, and I only noticed I was getting more skips when I was about to run out of ink.  Then all of a sudden, the ink was gone!  To add to this, the Vector picked right back up even after having left it for three days, and I didn’t have to scribble or coax it into restarting.  The nib is a nice shape and feels very solid.

The Vector is incredibly lightweight.  That’s not something I usually like in a pen, and the weight made me think I wouldn’t like this pen at all.  But since it writes so well, it kind of works.

I used this pen with the blue ink cartridge that came with it.  The cartridge held quite a bit of ink, but it wasn’t anything particularly special.  It was actually a bit watery.  It didn’t run or drip, but it didn’t make a nice bold mark on the page.  When I get around to trying this pen with a converter (which it doesn’t come with), then I think I’ll really enjoy it.

This pen is very slim.  That can be a great thing if you’re slipping it into a pocket or purse, but the willowy build and the straight grip can be a little tiring after a while.  I actually grabbed my Shaeffer POP ballpoint when I ran out of ink and needed to finish a thought.  I’m not the biggest fan of the POP just because it’s so fat, but it was a relief after an hour with the Vector.

Overall, I recommend the Vector if you want something that writes smoothly and without giving you trouble, but you don’t mind a skinny pen.  It’s an inexpensive pen in the $12-$15 range, and it’s available on the iPenStore.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

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Pen Review: Sheaffer POP Ballpoint

As with many of my other pens, this one came from the iPen subscription box in May 2018.  The theme was purple, and this giant purple pen fit right in!

Sheaffer POP

With a comfortable grip and smooth tip, I thought at first this would be a pen I would truly enjoy.  Unfortunately, the barrel is just too big!  It makes my fingers sore after a while, and I feel like I climbed up a beanstalk and stole this pen from a giant’s desk.  While overall it’s a nice pen, it’s not one that I tend to reach for.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

Interested in having your work featured here?  Contact me.

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Pen Review: Baoer 801 Slim

This pen came in the June 2018 iPen subscription box and I really only have one thing to say:  I’m in love!

Baoer 801 Slim

This pen is lightweight but is balanced beautifully.  Everything on it exudes quality, from the way the lid attaches to the top to the way it comes apart.  The nib is technically a medium, but it’s very much a fine (my favorite).  It writes so smoothly and easily that I have occasionally forgotten I’m not writing with a ballpoint.  As soon as I got this pen, I went through three converters full of ink.

Baoer sample

You want to hear the kicker?  This pen is less than $7!  It feels and writes like it’s much more expensive.  It’s definitely one of my favorites.  I recommend the Baoer to anyone who likes writing with a nice fountain pen but doesn’t want to invest a lot of money.

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

Interested in having your work featured here?  Contact me.

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Pen Review: Retro 51 Slim Tornado Ballpoint Pen

I don’t often feel compelled to do a review on a ballpoint pen, but I was beyond excited when I received this in the June 2018 iPenBox.  I’ve been eyeballing the Retro 51 pens for quite some time, but I’d never actually broken down and gotten one.

Retro 51 Tornado

Let’s talk about aesthetics, first.  I was thrilled to see that I ended up with the lavender version, since purple is my favorite color.  The finish is a beautiful satin that looks and feels great.  It also comes in an adorable box that I just can’t seem to throw away.  And since it doubles as a pen stand, I don’t have to!

This pen instantly went into my desk rotation, meaning it’s in the special cup of pens that I use on a regular basis.  It had a nice, heavy weight to it and writes so smoothly I almost feel like I can’t keep up!  The Slim Tornado is an absolute joy to use, and it’s definitely one that I’ll be buying refills for.

This pen retails for $23.97 on iPenStore.com.

Retro 51 with box

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Dragon’s Napalm – An Ink Review

What do you do when you buy some ink that happens to come with a free pen, and you discover that you’re absolutely in love with said pen?  You buy more ink, of course!

I fell in love with the Charlie pen by Noodler’s that came with my purchase of Heart of Darkness.  These larger bottles with pens were a special edition limited run, but they can still be found out there on Amazon, eBay, and several other sites.

I couldn’t resist an ink named Dragon’s Napalm, and so I’ve now added it to my collection.  As fun as it was to watch black ink slosh around inside the pen, it’s even more fun with Dragon’s Napalm, which is rather bloodlike.  I can sign all my future contracts in blood now, yay!

The ink comes out in a brilliant cherry red, reminiscent of dragons guarding their hordes of gold deep in the mountains of 1960’s fantasy novels.  Like all Noodler’s inks that I have experienced, it flows well and is such a joy to write with.  It’s perfect for proofreading or plotting the death of antagonists.

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