Ink and Pen Notes: Sheaffer VFM with Diamine Prussian Blue

Sheaffer VFM with Diamine Prussian Blue cartridgesI just reviewed the Sheaffer VFM so this is going to be short. I inked the Sheaffer VFM up back on February 26th. I didn’t write it dry. Instead I pulled the cartridge once the review was done. It wasn’t a bad pen & ink combination, but I was always reaching past it to pick up another pen. As I mention in the review, the nib is wider than I want for taking notes and the pen is thinner than I can comfortably use for longer writing sessions.

The Diamine Prussian Blue ink flowed well from the cartridge, I didn’t have any hard starts. There was some minor skipping at times but never enough to be annoying. The nib was ready to use even after being stored nib up for a couple of days.

I never intended for these ink & pen notes to coincide with a review but I’m a completest and I can’t bring myself to skip writing this up. After all, how else will I count how many pens I ink up this year? So these photos are the same ones that appeared in the review. Not much new here.

Review: Sheaffer VFM

Sheaffer VFM with capThe Sheaffer VFM is a strange bird. It’s the only fountain pen in the Sheaffer line that doesn’t take Sheaffer’s proprietary cartridges. It uses standard short international cartridges, and only short international cartridges. It’s too narrow for a standard converter or a long cartridge. (It might take the small Kaweco or Monteverde converters but I haven’t tried them.) Sheaffer says VFM means “Vibrant, Fun and Modern.”

The VFM is Sheaffer’s entry level fountain pen, selling for about $17 these days. I bought mine when they were a buck cheaper.

Why I Got It

I already had an order going and I decided to add a cheap modern Sheaffer to see what they were like. I’d grown to love vintage Sheaffers but I like modern Sheaffers less. My youngest Sheaffer was 10 years old. I actually got this before the Sheaffer 300 I have already reviewed.

I picked the Maximum Orange finish, expecting to get a nice bright pen.

What I Got

As I mentioned, a strange pen that takes only short international cartridges. There’s no room to carry a spare cartridge either. The pen arrived in a box with two cartridges, one black and one blue. The barrel is too narrow for Sheaffers proprietary cartridges. Usually short cartridge only pens are pocket pens and too short for anything longer. This barrel is long enough for a cartridge or converter but quickly tapers and is too narrow for anything longer.

The pen is already on the thin side, even at its widest point, to begin with so it doesn’t take much to make it too thin. The metal barrel makes this unsuitable for use as an eyedropper filler.

The orange color was more subdued than I expected, especially since it was called “Maximum Orange”. In my opinion it doesn’t live up to either “V” for vibrant or “Maximum”. It also looks like it has some texture that would help in gripping, but it doesn’t. It’s not a slippery fountain pen per se, but if your hands sweat in the summer it will be slippery.

The nib is a medium stainless steel nib that has a plain design. “Sheaffer” is engraved into the nib along with an “M” for medium, but it’s a plain engraving that lacks the stylized “S” seen in other Sheaffer nibs. The Sheaffer website lists a fine nib option but I’ve only seen mediums for sale. When I bought mine the medium was the only option, otherwise I’d have picked the fine nib.

Sheaffer is also engraved around the cap band, three times as a matter of fact. So there’s no doubt who made the pen. The trim and nib are all silver which is my preferred trim color. Sheaffer says the trim is nickel plate.

While I threw out the box before I took any pictures it was a pretty nice box, although simple. It wasn’t a blister pack and would have been suitable for wrapping as a gift.

The pen is a slip cap design and the cap does hold securely when the pen is capped. It has a simple chrome that does have the trademark Sheaffer white dot but no other designs or the split clip seen in other recent Sheaffers.

The VFM has a metal body so it does have feel like a solid pen. It’s a simple design which appeals to me although I don’t like the orange finish.

The Numbers

  • Length Capped: 5.4255″ (137.81 mm)
  • Length Uncapped: 4.7545″ (120.76 mm)
  • Length Posted: 6.0240″ (153 mm)
  • Section Length: 0.9065″ (23.02 mm)
  • Section Diameter (near nib): 0.2970″ (7.54 mm)
  • Section Diameter (below barrel): 0.3705″ (9.40 mm)
  • Section Diameter (mid-section): 0.3380″ (8.58 mm)
  • Cap Diameter: 0.4570″ (11.61 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter (widest near cap): 0.4570″ (11.61 mm)
  • Weight (with ink cartridge): 20 g
  • Weight (body only – with ink cartridge): 20 g

Writing With The Pen

This is the type of pen which probably wouldn’t be cleaned first by most users since it’s an entry level pen. So, while I did have the pen for over a year before inking it up, I popped in a cartridge without flushing it out. The Sheaffer supplied cartridges had been separated from the pen so I picked a Diamine Prussian Blue cartridge as the first ink for this pen. The ink took about 5 minutes to reach the tip of the nib, using just gravity and capillary action.

I don’t typically post my pens so take this for what it’s worth. When I first posted the cap I thought it was secure, thanks to friction. But I did write with it a bit when posted and it’s really not all that secure. It doesn’t wobble when writing but if the cap is bumped, even lightly, it does come loose. Some ink from inside the cap transferred to the barrel when posted. The pen remains well balanced when posted.

The pen is just barely long enough for me to use it unposted which is my preference and how I used this pen.

The Sheaffer VFM is thin and light which means it’s not a pen I can write with for any length of time. I tend to grip pens like this much too tightly and get fatigued or even cramps after writing about 10 minutes. This isn’t really a criticism of the design, the pen is what it is and would be perfectly suited for others. It was expected, and one reason it took me so long to ink up the pen.

I did have a couple of skips with the pen but not enough to be annoying. It was usually after a minute or two pause right after writing quickly. It’s not the smoothest steel nib but I didn’t expect it to be. It’s comparable to my Pilot Metropolitan although the Metropolitan may have a very slight edge. But they’re both inexpensive pens and the difference was so minor that a different two pens could have their positions reversed due to manufacturing differences.

I prefer extra fine nibs, especially thinner Japanese extra fines, but I didn’t find this nib too wide for me. Unfortunately the nib is a size I prefer for longer writing sessions, when I don’t need to write small, but the pen is a size I can’t use for long writing sessions. So it’s taking awhile to run through the cartridge of ink and I’ve yet to write it dry. I ended up pulling the cartridge early so I could include cleaning the pen in this review. I decided not to put it back.

Inks Used

Diamine Prussian Blue, in a cartridge, is the only ink I’ve used in this pen. Performance was good and it was easy to clean from the pen. See the next session about cleaning.

Cleaning the Pen

The pen does not come with a converter so flushing the pen could be difficult if this is your first pen. Although if this is your only fountain pen you may not be putting it on the shelf very often. So cleaning the nib under the faucet may be enough. If you have a bulb syringe or a international converter from another pen then it is easy to clean.

I used a bulb syringe and the feed was ink free with just a couple flushes.

Wrapping Up

I have more positive feelings about this pen than negative even though this pen isn’t for me (too thin and light) but if you like this size pen then that’s not a problem. The Pilot Metropolitan is usually considered the gold standard for entry level fountain pens and unless you like the look of the Sheaffer VFM more than the Metropolitan I can’t come up with a reason the pick the VFM over the Pilot. The Pilot uses a proprietary filling system but will take a converter. (The European version, called the MR, takes short international cartridges, making this moot.)

This is my second modern (meaning currently available new) Sheaffer and both performed well out of the box. I don’t think of Sheaffer as being to deliver a consistently good nib for their pens but my experience, although limited, is making me reconsider. Still, I can’t bring myself to recommend Sheaffer over Pilot as a first fountain pen.

I’m not convinced that cartridge only is a big negative in an entry level fountain pen but unfortunately for Sheaffer, this may be their entry level pen, but it’s priced to compete with more versatile fountain pens and those manufacturers have even less expensive offerings with very nice nibs but the same limited versatility. Most pens at the VFM price point seem to be converter capable, except for the ones designed as compact pocket pens. The Sheaffer VFM is long enough for a converter, just not wide enough.

The Sheaffer VFM is not a keeper for me. It’s not a bad pen, but just not for me.

Additional Reading

YouTube – SBREBrown

YouTube – Fountain Pen Shootout #39: Sheaffer VFM vs. Pilot Metropolitan – SBREBrown

The Fountain Pen Network

Gallery

Ink and Pen Notes: Sheaffer Balance II with Sheaffer Emerald Green

Sheaffer Balance II Jade Green with Sheaffer Emerald Green ink

This may read a lot like my previous write-up for the Crimson Glow version of this pen. No surprise there since they are the same pen except for the acrylic and I got both of them at the same time.

The Jade Green Sheaffer Balance II is new to me and the details are in my This Just In post. I was drawn to use inks made during the same time as the pen, and probably in the same city. This pen seems to call out for green ink. Luckily I had a green ink that fit the bill. This is my first time using the ink which came in a 12 ml bottle. It was sold in packages of two different colors, labeled for Calligraphy use (at least that’s how I got it). The nib was too big for the bottle so I filled the converter directly.

I’ve always wanted a jade green pen but the vintage materials had a tendency to darken or otherwise discolor. Any mint specimen would be to expensive for me. So this was a nice compromise (mint but not vintage) and I do really like the design.

The medium nib is narrower than most modern mediums nibs, at least western mediums. There’s a “M” engraved on the bottom on the section so it is a medium. It’s line is within my comfort zone. Flow was good although I did experience the occasional skip on the first stroke after uncapping the pen, just like the Crimson Glow with Peacock Blue ink.

The Emerald Green ink exhibits some line variation with this nib although not as much as the Peacock Blue did. The nib is a little wider and wetter than I like when taking notes or marking up a document so I mainly used the pen for dedicated writing sessions. Like the Crimson Glow, I really do enjoy using this pen. Part of it could be because the pen is so new, but I do think I’ll still enjoy it a year from now.

The pen was super easy to clean. There’s a spike that sticks up and into the converter or cartridge. My bulb syringe fits easily over this and all traces of ink are gone with a few flushes. It actually took me longer to clean the converter, although that was no harder than any other converter. I’m always concerned I’ll snap off that spike as several of my Sheaffers have no protection around it, but it hasn’t happened yet.

I didn’t refill the Sheaffer Balance II in Jade Green yet, but that’s because I have several other enjoyable pens already inked. It is on the short list to be inked and it will be refilled with Sheaffer Emerald Green. Emerald Green will be an ink dedicated to this pen until the bottle is empty.

Ink and Pen Notes: Sheaffer Balance II with Sheaffer Peacock Blue

Sheaffer Balance II with Sheaffer Peacock Blue inkThe Crimson Glow Sheaffer Balance II is new to me and the details are in my This Just In post. I’ve had the ink for awhile and have used it a couple of times. While true blue or turquoise inks aren’t ever going to make my favorites list I really did enjoy this ink in this pen. It seems a pen this color should be using a red ink. But I was drawn to use inks made during the same time as the pen, and probably in the same city. I don’t have any reds that meet that requirement but plenty of other choices. Peacock Blue provides a nice contrast to the bright marbleized Crimson acrylic of the pen.

Maybe I like the ink in this case because I like the pen so much. I have to say that I’ve enjoyed this ink more in this pen than any other. The medium nib is narrower than most modern mediums nibs, at least western mediums. There’s a “M” engraved on the bottom on the section so it is a medium. It’s line is within my comfort zone. Flow was good although I did experience the occasional skip on the first stroke after uncapping the pen.

The Peacock Blue ink exhibits some nice line variation with this nib. The nib is a little wider and wetter than I like when taking notes or marking up a document so I mainly used the pen for dedicated writing sessions. The pen is well suited for that since the bright color of both the pen and the ink , along with the line variation from the ink makes me smile.

The pen was super easy to clean. There’s a spike that sticks up and into the converter or cartridge. My bulb syringe fits easily over this and all traces of ink are gone with a few flushes. It actually took me longer to clean the converter, although that was no harder than any other converter. I’m always concerned I’ll snap off that spike as several of my Sheaffers have no protection around it, but it hasn’t happened yet.

I didn’t refill the Sheaffer Balance II in Crimson Glow yet, but that’s because I have several other enjoyable pens already inked. It is on the short list to be inked and it will most likely get Sheaffer Peacock Blue again.

Sunday Notes and Links

Sheaffer Balance II Jade Green with Sheaffer Emerald Green inkThis week’s favorite fountain pen and ink combination was my new (to me) Jade Green Sheaffer Balance II with Sheaffer Emerald Green ink, both of which were manufactured around the turn of the century. Unfortunately I have only a small 12 ml bottle of that ink.

Some links of interest…
Pressed for time this weekend, so just the links, no commentary.

World War II code breaker’s notebook sells for $1M in N.Y. – msn.com

Parker Urban – Inklode

Review: Platinum 3776 Century — Alt. Haven

Pen Review: Sheaffer 300 – The Pen Habit

An Opportunity in the Pen Market — Fountain Pen Economics

Pilot Birdie Fountain Pen Review – Hey there! SBREBrown

Sailor Fude DE Mannen Fountain Pen Review – Pens! Paper! Pencils!

Graf von Faber-Castell Intuition Platino Magnum black – mycoffeepot.org

Romillo Essential #9 Fountain Pen Review – THE UNROYAL WARRANT

Check out all of this week’s links at Fountain Pen Links. If you’re looking for information about a specific pen or ink be sure to visit Pennquod.

This Just In: A Couple Sheaffer Balance IIs

Sheaffer Balance II Jade Green and Crimson GlowBrowsing the Classic Fountain Pens (nibs.com) website is both enjoyable and dangerous. The danger rose up a bit me when I was browsing about two weeks ago. There were several newly listed NOS and pre-owned post–1950 Sheaffer pens listed. Several of them caught my eye and despite my plans to enjoy the pens I already have I couldn’t stay away and after an internal struggle I broke down and ordered two of them. They arrived Monday of last week.

Sheaffer Balance II Crimson Glow on a mirror

Both pens were manufactured around the turn of the century when Sheaffer still made fountain pens in the USA. While this makes the pens sound old both pens were introduced in 1998 which does make the modern and not vintage. Like my Sheaffer Balance Aspen these have the reputation of being prone to cracks. While called “Balance” when they were released and thus the official name they are often referred to as “Balance II” because they were based on the vintage Balances.

Both pens are in mint condition. The Jade Green Balance could be NOS as it arrived with a box, papers, converter and a couple cartridges. The cartridges appear to have suffered some evaporation. The converters are the more modern piston type and not the older style aerometric converters. The Crimson Glow model Balance had only the converter but appeared mint.

Sheaffer Balance II Jade Green on a mirror

For their first ink I had no choice and used Sheaffer ink from the same era and possibly the same factory. The Sheaffer Glow got Sheaffer Skrip Peacock Blue while the Jade Green Balance was filled with Sheaffer Emerald Green. The Emerald Green was sold as calligraphy ink in 12ml bottles. Since I had several enjoyable pens inked I only gave each about half a fill.

I really like the 18K gold feather-touch nibs. I’ve said it before, while I don’t like gold trim or nibs I really like the Sheaffer nib despite the gold color in the nib. The find the two-tone nibs to be classy and reminiscent of the vintage nibs. Both are the same, medium nibs but on the thin side which is to my liking. They are comparable to my Sheaffer Balance Aspen nib which is a little wide for note taking but I really enjoy when doing regular writing.

I’ve used the pens since April 6th and have enjoyed them quit a bit. The pens fit well in my hand and the flow is good. There were occasional skips on the first stroke when I uncapped the pen but other than that they were skip free until the ink got low. Skipping returned when the ink was low, by which I mean there wasn’t any ink in the converter but there was still some in the feed. I could get about half a page after the skipping started. My Aspen does well right to the last drop but that pen was tuned by Mike Masuyama.

Despite their reputation as fragile I’m not as protective of these as I am with my Aspen. I have clipped them in my pocket to carry out and about. I also clipped them in my Nocko Lockout pen case although I’ve avoided letting that case bounce around my computer bag.

I really love the marbled acrylic that these are made of. There’s a nice depth to it. Classic Fountain Pens did have all four models in the marbleized acrylic from this line of pens but now they’re all gone, which is a good thing as I’d be tempted to return for the the remaining two.

I’m happy with both of these Sheaffer Balance IIs and glad to add them to my accumulation.

Ink and Pen Notes: Sheaffer PFM and Montblanc Daniel Defoe

Sheaffer PFM I and Montblanc Daniel Defoe ink bottleYou ever have one of those fountain pens that just wants to make you feel stupid? No? Well let me tell you about mine.

It’s a Sheaffer PFM I with a fine nib. It’s not my only snorkel filler, in fact I have a Sheaffer Snorkel currently inked. It’s been nearly a year, but I’ve inked this PFM before and it wasn’t out to get me back then.

Last week I went to ink it up with Montblanc Daniel Defoe and it decided to put me in my place. I had a terrible time filling it. It just didn’t want to take in ink. I finally got what I thought was a good fill and went to work using the pen. I did use it a lot over the next two days but it went dry far to soon if it had been full. I again tried filling and after a couple obvious failures I thought it was full. Bit it barely lasted a day.

While unexpected since the pen was purchased with a new sac, I figured I had a bad sac but decided to try another ink first. Since I was changing inks I cleaned out the pen. It took in plenty of water and didn’t seem to be having any problems. So I was optimistic when I open the bottle of J. Herbin Lierre Sauvage. But I continued to have problems getting a good fill. Back to water and it’s fine. Then the sledgehammer hits me and knocks some sense into me. I realized I was being timid and pushed the plunger down must slower when holding the pen in the relatively small and narrow ink bottles than I was with the large glass of water. Once I punched the plunger at a normal speed I got a good fill.

Suitably humbled, I’ve been using the pen several days and the ink is still flowing strong.

Despite the Sheaffer PFM making me look stupid I still like the pen. It fits my hand well and I really like the nib. I also like the Montblanc Daniel Defoe ink (also called Palm Green which is more descriptive). It’s a rather unique green, at least among the inks I’ve used. Unfortunately it does better in wetter or wider nibs. I say unfortunately because my nib preference is thin and on the dry side. I also wish the ink dried a little faster, there were some smudges.

The ink was relatively easy to clean from the pen although snorkels are notoriously difficult to get all traces of the ink out. I was refilling so I didn’t need to remove every trace.

As I mentioned, I’ve re-inked the Sheaffer PFM I, but now it has J. Herbin Lierrer Sauvage ink.

The MB Daniel Defoe ink ran through the pen so quickly that I didn’t get any nib photos with the ink. The Daniel Defoe ink didn’t creep or splash onto the nib at all. So, since it looked a lot like any other nib photos I included some with other ink.