Vintage Notes: Sheaffer Snorkel Saratoga

photo of Sheaffer Snorkel Saratoga and Diamine Syrah ink

Sheaffer Snorkel Saratoga with Diamine Syrah ink sample

Last weekend I received my first snorkel filler, a purchase from FP Geeks forum member Rick Krantz. The snorkel is generally considered the most mechanically complex filling system ever made. It’s their Touchdown filling system with a narrow tube that extends from the feed so the nib does not need to touch the nib. The nib doesn’t need to be wiped.

Jim Mamoulides at Penhero.com  described the snorkel filling system:

Essentially the Snorkel is a Touchdown filler with a narrow tube that extends through the feed to allow filling without immersing the nib in ink. As with standard Touchdown pens, the filler uses pneumatic air pressure in the down stroke of the cylindrical plunger to compress the sac inside the cylinder and fill the pen. The principal difference is the only thing that gets inky is the Snorkel tube, which retracts back into the section, underneath the nib, after filling. No wiping, and ready for use!

Why I Got It

Plain and simple. Filling systems are my current fascination and this is a new filling system for me. It is an extra fine nib which is my preference. Finally, he price was right and I was confident I’d be getting a pen that worked right and would be a good example of the filling system. While the color wasn’t a big factor I do like burgundy.

What I Got

My model is burgundy with gold trim. It has a two-tone nib that’s 14k gold with a platinum mask. This is the non-white dot model so it’s not a conical nib. Conical nibs seem to be popular with Sheaffer collectors but I like the the look of an open nib, especially with the shaded style. The two-tones add a little character to a otherwise plain pen.

The Numbers

There’s some wiggle room (literally) in the measurements as I didn’t want the calipers scratching the pen.

  • Length Capped: 5.582″ (141.84 mm)
  • Length Uncapped: 4.892″ (124.26 mm)
  • Section Length: 0.655″ (16.64 mm)
  • Section Diameter (at thinnest point near nib): 0.347″ (8.82 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter: 0.422″ (10.73 mm)
  • Cap Diameter (at band): 0.452″ (11.50 mm)

photo of capped Sheaffer Snorkel Saratoga

Using The Pen

The pen is thinner than I would typically be looking for these days. Despite this, the pen is extremely comfortable when writing. Unlike other thin pens I don’t get fatigued when writing with this pen. The pen fits comfortably in my hand. The section appears to have threads but is really just a spiral design that provides a solid grip with a light touch,

The ink flows easily from the pen which also contributes to the comfortable use. I don’t need a tight grip on the pen and I don’t need to apply any pressure to write.

photo of Sheaffer Snorkel Saratoga nib and sectionThen nib is not super smooth and there is some feedback when writing. I think this helps prevent fatigue, at least for me. I sometimes find a light pen and a smooth nib means I grip the pen tighter to prevent my writing from getting sloppy. There’s not much feedback at all on smooth paper such as Rhodia. On courser paper, even my Doane paper, there is more feedback although some of that may just be the extra fine nib griping some paper fibers. I still consider the nib smooth and see no need for additional smoothing.

Filling the pen was simple. Unscrew the blind cap so the snorkel extends. Lift the Touchdown plunger then put the snorkel in the ink and lower the plunger in one smooth motion. Leave the snorkel in the ink for several seconds to let the ink flow into the pen. I filled from an ink vial and is was cool to see the ink level drop so much during the fill. The nib had ink as soon as I retracted the snorkel, screwed down the blind cap, and got the nib to paper. There wasn’t any need to wait for the ink to flow into the feed.

Cleaning the pen wasn’t as difficult as I thought. Not really any more tedious than a sac or vacuum filler where the pen is sealed. It took awhile but was just repeated filling and emptying of the pen until there was no trace of ink. I always end up with more ink when I fill what appears to be a clean pen and then shake it to get the ink hanging around in the sac. No exception here. I typically let the pen dry nib down on a paper towel to extract any remaining water or ink. I ended up with a little ink on the paper towel. In this case I was re-inking immediately so didn’t care, but if I was putting the pen in storage I probably would have given it another flush although I probably shouldn’t obsess about it so much.

Inks

Diamine Syrah is the only ink I’ve used in the pen so far. The snorkel is perfect for filling from a sample vial so I picked from my ink samples. Syrah seemed like a good compliment to the burgundy pen. The ink is great in the pen but I can’t compare it to anything. No hard starts or skipping. Ever.

Wrapping Up

The looks of the Snorkels don’t really appeal to me. I don’t dislike them, but they’re no Parker Vacumatics or Sheaffer Balance. I do like the look of the two-tone non-conical nib.

The pen may be plain in the looks department, but as a writer the pen excels. I’ll probably look for more at the Washington DC show to see what variety of nibs there are. I can see adding a couple more if the nib/price combination is right. I understand why people collect these pens and an affordable price makes collecting them easier than many other vintage pens.

I expected a nice Snorkel example from this pen, but what I got was a really nice writer.

Additional Reading

PenHero.com has a long write-up of the pens with information on the various models. I used this to identify my pen as a Saratoga.

Sheaffer Snorkel Collectors Guide at Vacumania

Anatomy of a Snorkel and Sheaffer Snorkel profile at RichardsPens.com

An FPN member writes about a Snorkel repair

Gallery

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3 thoughts on “Vintage Notes: Sheaffer Snorkel Saratoga

  1. Lovely pen, nice pictures. I have a black/gold Sheaffer’s Sentinel TM (Thin Model) Snorkel, which is very much like your pen but with the conical nib. The interesting thing about my Snorkel is that it is made in Australia. I have found the barrel imprint to be very light, if even non-existent on these TM pens. My nib is a medium. Also, both the open and conical Sheaffer’s fine nibs to be a bit too fine for me – and often a bit scratchy. The medium nibs however are a dream. Just my experience though. Thanks for sharing your pen with us. David

    • Hi David,
      Thanks for the info. I’m just getting into Snorkels. I’d been put off by the thin barrels but this one was surprisingly comfortable.

      I have to agree that the nib isn’t the smoothest but I’m a fan of thin nibs.

      I still can’t keep track of the models yet and have to look them up whenever one is mentioned.

      Thanks,
      Ray

  2. Whoops, made an error in my post above, the Snorkel pen I’m referring to is a Sheaffer’s Valiant, not Sentinel. Sorry. David

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