Tag Archives: diamine

Salz Brothers Peter Pan (1920s)

Another eBay vintage find:

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Just…

Dating from almost a century ago, this was in such good condition I could scarcely believe myself. The Peter Pan pens used to be worn as jewellery (thus the ringtop) and it was a challenge to fit a completely functioning pen into something unobtrusive and very very light.

Mine is among the smallest specimens ever made. At 59mm capped and 51mm uncapped, it’s really quite something to behold…

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Size comparison: Lamy LX on top, the Peter Pan below.

Unlike most vintage pens, it’s easily taken apart. Because of its size there are no levers or sacs to deal with; even so, it holds a maximum of 0.25ml of ink, and I usually only fill it to 0.2ml.

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L to R from top: Cap, nib, feed, section, and barrel. 

That nib contains the magic of the pen: a size 0, it is the smallest gold nib ever produced. Mine actually happens to be a stub that is also rather flexible — but of course there is no chance of the feed keeping up with a nib this size! You’d also run out of ink almost immediately if flex was involved.

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Macro shot of nib. PETER PAN is visible, as well as the top of 14KT.

I have been tempted on many occasions to modify the feed on this, except I risk damaging something older than my grandparents. Anyway, it’s a rather crisp stub, though not quite as unforgiving as an italic. There’s plenty of line variation, which is surprising for a piece of jewellery!

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I wrote this unposted.

Later versions grew in size and eventually had lever fillers. Perhaps they even became large enough to use comfortably without posting… at any rate, since I don’t like to post my pens in case I scuff the barrel, I felt as if I were writing with a toothpick. This is a definite novelty, but such an unusual one!

Mabie Todd Blackbird (1930s)

There’s nothing more fun than trawling eBay and then realising you’ve got an absolute treasure when it lands in your hands.

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Very unassuming, until you open it up…

The Blackbird is regarded as Mabie Todd’s slightly lower-tier pen, beneath the Swan series. They come in a smaller range of designs, which, at least for someone like me, means a less bewildering time having to hunt them down. I managed to track down a date of 1933–38 for mine, which is pretty good indeed considering the condition of the pen!

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The imprint is still crisp, as is the chasing on the body and cap.

On the barrel it says “BLACKBIRD SELF FILLER” in the first line (see above), which is an early name for any pen that didn’t require eyedroppering or syringing ink into the barrel. This is a lever filler, and although the lever is a little rusted, the mechanism still works absolutely fine, and the sac must have been newly changed when I got it.

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Slight tarnishing on the lever bar.

The nib is a tiny little wonder, amazingly flexible despite its diminutive size. Made of 14k gold it is the only part of the pen that doesn’t have silver-coloured furniture and so it draws attention to itself. The stamped imprint on the nib is still crisp even though there the tiniest bit of brassing, probably from 80 years of exposure to ink.

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Made in England; the last line is set inside the section.

This is a rather small pen, on par with the size of the Pelikan M2xx/4xx series. It’s also rather light, though the metal lever mechanism draws the weight towards the back of the pen slightly; for me, the centre of mass rests just on the skin between my thumb and index finger, feeling perfectly balanced. The cap is a screw cap and mine opens with 2.5 turns, though this definitely varies between individual pens.

The true test of buying vintage is the moment of putting pen to paper. In this case, I was not disappointed at all! In fact, the nib was more flexible than I had hoped, judging from the photos the seller had posted. It does require a little pressure to flex, but the response is wonderfully snappy and it’s possible to get some really fine lines with high-angle writing.

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I cannot remember what recipe I used to mix this ink…

Mine is a rather juicy writer. I highly recommend anyone interested in vintage flex to search for these as a possible budget option to the high-profile Watermans (52/54, 42, 12) which tend to go for far higher prices online. To finish off, the Blackbird writes the word “blackbird”:

FPR Indus Demonstrator

Right back to the whole point of this blog: an addiction to flex!

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Looks pretty swank, no?

The humble India-based FPR offers a cheap pens to rival Noodler’s. FPR also has Pen of the Week deals where a pen in question is heavily discounted. I found out later that the Indus sells for as low as $15 when that happens, and bought myself a spare; the first one I bought cost me $22. Both arrived in London a week after I placed my orders. That’s pretty fast: East Asian sellers could take a leaf out of their book!

And it actually is really fun to clean, being very easy to take apart. However…

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L to R, from top: finial ring, clip, inner cap, outer cap; nib, feed, nib housing; barrel; O-ring, piston, blind cap.

Uh oh.

The first thing people say when I hand them the pen is Ooooh, followed by What’s that smell?  Undeniably, the FPR Indus has a slight stench of uncured resin about it. I’ve been told the Noodler’s pens smell similar, though I have never owned one. And being cheap resin, it stains way too easily; the yellow bits were coloured by Private Reserve Black Cherry.

That said, if you can look past these obvious cost-saving faults, it is a pretty good starter pen for flex writing. It looks like a Pelikan, has an easily-replaceable flex nib in a standard size (#5/5.5), and you can swap the nib out for normal point sizes if you wish (EF, F, M, B). They also come in stub sizes.

You get what you pay for, obviously, but then again, this nib is a surprise package in itself.

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Lovely two-tone design, and no breather hole!

By no means is this anywhere close to vintage flex. But when used with the right amount of force — in this case, quite a bit  it’s possible to get some very nice line variation. It is also surprisingly smooth, with just the right amount of bite to let you know how much you’re flexing and where you are on the paper. But enough talk: let the results speak for themselves!

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Lays down a nice fine-medium when unflexed, too.

And to cap it all off, here is a video of it hard at work:

Pilot Kakuno

Here’s what I call my “banana pen”!

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No banana for scale unfortunately.

One might easily consider this the Metro’s baby brother. Made of plastic and available in pastel-and-white or solid colour-and-dark grey, it is obviously aimed at children, with an ergonomic hexagonal shape, holes in the cap (so breathing is possible even if accidentally swallowed) and a really durable nib. There’s a roll-stop to prevent it falling off a (school-)table and it uses a snap cap. It’s also incredibly light: 12g capped and 8.5g uncapped!

Even better, it takes the CON-70, which the Metro (and even the resin Falcon) can’t handle. 1.1ml of ink is a huge amount for this Japanese fine nib, which, due to the way the cap is designed, doesn’t dry out even when left alone for weeks.

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It doesn’t get much simpler than this.

The nib is in fact swappable across all of Pilot’s entry-level pens: just grab the nib and feed and pull gently to pop it out of the section. After doing so, one might wish to swap in an EF from a Penmanship or a stub from a Prera. I bought mine in F, though, which is my preferable size for this pen. Being this light, I experience no fatigue at all even when writing for long periods, plus I don’t have to worry about running out of ink, since I check the converter every few days.

The funny thing about how good Pilot’s feeds are is that it will wick every possible bit of ink from the converter and then simply stop writing. But in the meantime, the nib punches way above its price point, and other makers’ £100+ steel nibs don’t come anywhere close to matching Pilot’s astounding QC. (I’m looking at you, Visconti.)

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No line variation at all!

With this entry, the two entry-level pens by Pilot have been covered, and this completes my starter-pen rainbow: