It gets interesting here: this is (half of) the first vintage purchase I made, and it has a real flex nib. I bought this off eBay, and it came fairly cheap because of a previous owner’s personalised engravement on the cap. I didn’t mind that at all; it was really strange to realise that this was a pen used by generations of people up to a hundred years previously. It was the first time I felt like I was holding a real piece of history in a writing instrument.
I sent it to John Sorowka in Oxford, who gave mine a date of 1913–20. There are several kinds of Swan out there; the earliest were made in 1887, and there were lever fillers as early as the 1910s. But here we go:
A very slim pen, made of finely chased hard rubber, the cap unscrews to reveal a very interesting feature: a slim gold stalk with a little hole in it.
I have been told this is rare in Swans, and indeed I haven’t managed to find another example like it.
That’s an overfeed, and it keeps the ink flow to the nib going even when the nib is flexed hard away from the (under)feed, as below:
The overfeed still exists today in nibs like the Sailor Emperor series, though that is not designed to deal with flex like this.
The nib itself is pleasantly fine for my taste, if slightly toothy on the upstroke. A little 12000-grit micromesh made it sufficiently smooth for reverse writing as well.
That’s a 5mm Fabriano dot grid, the same paper as I used for the Namiki Falcon review. And with all of that business going on in the section, it still remains very slim – all of these parts are delicately balanced. I had some trouble with the way the parts came together, and initially had to readjust positions so that the overfeed did not touch the paper when I flexed. And for the true test…
That’s a line thickness that varies from 0.3mm to 1.5mm easily; 1.8mm would perhaps be possible with a little pushing. But I’m not risking springing this nib! What a beautiful piece of art.
In closing, here is a complete tear-down of the pen:
My pre-1920 Mabie Todd Swan 2C, dissembled for a clean-up. At bottom left is the 14-carat gold flex nib and the overfeed – a rare variant, apparently! The ink all over my hand is Pelikan Edelstein Turmaline. #fountainpens #cleanup #mabietodd #swan #vintage #flex #flexible #pelikan #edelstein #turmaline #inkyfingers