Can you find love on the internet? Sure. I mean, that’s how I met my husband. But you can also head on over to Ebay and find a vintage fountain pen!
I’ve loved the idea of fountain pens for quite some time, though I only started actually buying them a few years ago. It’s a dangerous hobby, as it’s addictive and can be quite expensive. There are plenty of cheap fountain pens out there (like the Jinaho X450), but I find myself gravitating toward the more expensive ones (like the Pilot Custom 823, which I definitely don’t own yet).
Though I haven’t yet felt I could justify spending $300 for a pen, I was quite interested in trying a gold nib. The cheapest way to do this was to go vintage, and that’s when I found this beauty.
This vintage Shaeffer Balance had everything I was looking for: a gold nib in medium flex, a vacuum system (something I hadn’t tried yet but wanted to), and fully restored internals.
That last part was really important! Many older pens are lever fill, which means they have an internal rubber sac that degrades over time. The vacuum systems have rubber diaphragms that can also break down. I’ll admit that I considered restoring a pen myself, not only to save money but also to make sure I got exactly what I wanted. I need another hobby like a hole in the head, and in the end it was easier to spend a little extra cash instead of doing all the research and work.
The next challenge with this particular pen was finding the right ink. Someone in the online fountain pen group I joined pointed out that anything permanent, corrosive, glittery, or difficult to clean shouldn’t be used in a vintage, vacuum-fill pen. That filling system also meant this wouldn’t be the sort of pen I’d want to constantly swap colors in.
After a lot of late-night shopping and indecision, I settled on Monteverde Olivine. I already knew I liked Monteverde inks from previous experience, and the price was too good to pass up. I knew I wanted this ink to match the pen (I told my daughter I was looking for ink the color of an old couch, and I meant that in the most loving way possible), and since I like a smooth writing experience I wouldn’t mind that it’s lubricated.
Okay. After all that, you probably just ant to know about the pen itself, right? Honestly, it’s amazing. The Shaeffer Balance feels wonderful in my hand, with just the right Goldilocks size and weight to avoid fatigue during a long writing session. The gold nib is mostly smooth with just a touch of feedback. It writes beautifully, and since the pen is close to one hundred years old I can forgive it for a few hard starts here and there. The vac-fill holds a lot of ink and is pretty easy to fill.
If you really want to know how I feel about this pen, I’ll tell you this: I told my husband recently that if I had to sell all my fountain pens and could only keep one, the Shaeffer Balance would be it.
What’s your favorite pen? Have you had any luck buying vintage? 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 Detective. Her 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.