In Praise of Sheaffer Pens

I come from a Parker pen family. All pens in our family were Parker 51s, except for those belonging to small children – we got Compactor pens instead (the Compactor Escolar model, piston-filling, with a tendency to leak in a boy’s pocket – definitely, one should not play soccer with a fountain pen in one’s shirt pocket). It was with great pride that we were upgraded to Parker 51’s upon entering senior high school.

The other brand widely available back then in Brazil was Sheaffer. But we were Parker fans! No Sheaffers allowed!

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The set I got from my godfather on graduation day.

When I graduated from University, my godfather gave me a very pretty gold-plated set from Sheaffer’s, with a ballpoint (the model where you press the clip to push the refill into writing position) and matching 0.9 mm mechanical pencil. I still own and cherish these fine writing instruments, and I enjoy the clip-clicking mechanism of the ballpoint and the turn-to-push movement of the mechanical pencil. But as I am no big fan of ballpoints and thick graphite leads, I do not often use them.

When I lived in Guatemala in the eighties, however, I used to visit a shop called Foto Europa to buy photographic supplies. That shop had a counter full of wonderful pens, including three models of Sheaffer fountain pens with extrafine inlaid gold nibs. Who could resist buying such beautiful pens, with their great touchdown filling mechanisms? I, for one, certainly could not. I saved and for three years in a row I bought one pen a year: my beautiful gold-plated Sheaffer Imperial, my Sterling Silver Sheaffer Imperial and my big blue Sheaffer PFM (“Pen For Men”) with a gold-plated cap, and which I had them engrave with my name.

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My first Sheaffer fountain pen: PFM (“Pen For Men”) with extrafine nib, plus “The Snorkel” filling mechanism.

By then these pens had been discontinued, so what they had to sell was new old stock – but I did not know that then.

Since that time I have used those pens constantly. But, alas, the Sterling Silver Imperial now has a stub nib. Due to the pen’s weight, it was easy to drop – and once it landed tip first, breaking one of the tines. I took it to Foto Europa, but all they could ask their nibmeister to do was to grind the nib to a stub. I liked it so, and have grown used to writing with its italic slanted nib.

Of course, those pens are irreplaceable, so I handle them with care. In those thirty years since then all I had to do was to replace the filling sac of all three once, but they are marvelous writers to this day, and I use them as often as possible. But since they are so hard to replace, for my daily carry I have added one other vintage and two modern Sheaffer pens.

First, I got a Brazilian-made Sheaffer touchdown pen, gold-plated, and thinner than the Imperials. Also, it lacked the inlaid gold nib: instead, it had a ring shaped stainless steel nib that was also mounted flush with the grip section. It is also some sort of inlaid nib, because it cannot be removed, and the feed remains hidden from view (as in the Imperials). It came with an M nib, and, as is the case with all later Sheaffer pens, it has a very reliable, very smooth and rather wet nib. This pen belongs in my daily carry, inked with the very pretty Pelikan Edelstein (purplish blue) Sapphire ink.

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The Brazilian-made pen (above) has a ring-shaped inlaid stainless steel nib, as opposed to the American-made Imperial with a 14 k gold nib.

Second, I got a very charming pocket pen called the Agio Compact. Mine is a black lacquer model. It is a tiny pen, and to use it one needs to post the cap, which falls superbly into place. The little pen thus capped becomes extremely comfortable to use, even for someone with very big hands like me. This is a cartridge-only pen, because it is so tiny it won’t fit a converter. But I use Sheaffer Violet ink, of which a have a large stock, both in cartridges and in a bottle (from which I easily refill the empty cartridge with an ink syringe).

 

Unfortunately, that pen is not manufactured any more – but the other day I saw one for sale at Casa Cruz, in Rio de Janeiro, for less than US$ 40.00 – but only the stainless steel version, not the black lacquer one. Anyway, the pen has a medium nib, writes marvelously, the ink flow is very generous, and the cap slides smoothly and positively to completely seal the the pen. I carry it along with me all the time and have never experience a leak or a dry out.

More recently, I got a Sheaffer 100, a relatively inexpensive pen that is also very pretty – brushed steel cap and black lacquered body – and a great writer. Also a gusher, also with a medium nib, and this one takes a converter. I currently have it inked up with the wonderful Parker Penman Mocha ink, which was the object of my previous post. This pen also goes in my daily carry.

All in all, I do not care if Bic or Cross or whoever it may be has bought the Sheaffer brand, or if the pens are not manufactured in the U.S. any more. Sheaffer is still a great brand, the pens are solid writers and all are very good-looking pens with that distinctive white dot on the clip. I like the fact that they still have affordable pens, and that they also still manufacture the beautiful Legacy series that revives, for a price, my beloved classic Imperial Sheaffers from the sixties.

And let us not forget the wonderful Sheaffer inks – a very limited choice, but including the best true red, the best blue black, a great brilliant brown and a wonderful violet (I call it violet, not purple, because it is the only big name purple with a bluish instead of reddish tint). The other three colors (and have them all) are turquoise, blue and green. Only the green is odd – a pale, almost turquoise color, not a true, vibrant green.

Write always, with pride.

 

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