Vintage Notes: Sheaffer Balance Junior (c. 1931)

Sheaffer Balance Junior with Iroshizuku Fuyu-syogun

My Sheaffer collection’s newest addition is a pen I picked up from Greg Minuskin’s website. While I’m new at Sheaffer identification, I put this as a Sheaffer Balance Junior from between 1931 and 1934.

Why I Got It

Sheaffer Balance Junior - nib tip

Pens on Greg’s site generally go quickly. For this one my timing was all luck. I happened to refresh my RSS feed after catching up on the current reading and this was one of the new posts that came through.

I bought the pen because of the nib –  a 14k custom fine stub. I liked the design although the coloring seemed off, but that wasn’t a major concern. I wanted the nib and it was a vintage working Sheaffer. I didn’t do any additional research before sending off the “I want it” email.

What I Got

I researched the pen after receiving it. I put this as a Sheaffer Balance Lifetime Junior from between 1931 and 1934. I placed the date due to the Pearl & Black color being available from 1929 to 1934. Then the clip seems to be the shortened version introduced in 1931 or 1932. So I figure 1931 to 1934 is the possible date range. The size is closest to the Junior model. The identification information came primarily from Richard Binder’s Sheaffer Balance reference page.

The discoloration is pretty heavy with much of the pearl on the barrel discolored to brown. Discoloration seems to be common and unavoidable with these pens, the only variable seems to be the degree of discoloration.

The engraving on the barrel is still pretty crisp and says

W.A. Sheaffer Pen Co.
Fort Madison, Iowa U.S.A.
Pat. D-78,795

Patent D-78,795 is a design patent filed Nov. 21, 1928 and issued to Craig R. Sheaffer on June 18, 1929.

The nib is engraved

Reg. U.S. Pat. Off.
Made In U.S.A.

The Numbers

As usual, there’s wiggle room in the measurements so the calipers don’t scratch the pen

  • Length Capped: 4.651″ (118.14 mm)
  • Length Uncapped: 4.209″ (106.92 mm)
  • Section Length: 0.553″ (14.05 mm)
  • Section Diameter (top): 0.405″ (10.30 mm)
  • Section Diameter (near nib): 0.352″ (8.95 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter: 0.452″ (11.50 mm)
  • Cap Diameter (at band): 0.518″ (13.17 mm)

Using The Pen

Sheaffer Balance Junior - barrel and cap measured

The pen is a bit shorter than I expected, although from the pictures it obviously wasn’t long when unposted. The pen can be posted but I typically don’t post my pens and It’s just long enough for me to use unposted. This pen is comfortable unposted and that’s how I’ve been using it. I did use it posted for awhile and also found it comfortable. Since the pen is already discolored I’m not concerned about the posted cap marring the finish. The cap is light so there’s not much added weight and the pen is still well balanced. I can see myself using it posted if there’s no place to put the cap and I don’t want to hold it.

The first, and so far only, ink I’ve used is Iroshizuku Fuyu-Syogun which is an ink I like for every day writing.  In addition to liking the color I love the subtle shading between the down-strokes and cross-strokes of a stub nib. While the variation is subtle with a thin nib, there is some upon close inspection.

The nib is an extremely smooth writer which I suppose is to be expected of a pen from Greg Minuskin. The flow is also extremely consistent and puts down a nicely saturated line, not too wet but not dry either. Perfect for every day writing.

Filling the pen was done like any lever filler. Open the lever, insert the pen into the ink covering the entire nib, close the lever and wait about 15 or 20 seconds so the sac can fill. Based on my water test the sac can hold a lot of ink with just one pull. I’m still on my first ink fill and I’ve done a lot of writing, maybe a dozen or so pages worth. There’s no ink viewer so the amount of ink left is a mystery.

I don’t expect the pen to be any harder to clean than other lever fillers but I’ve yet to do so.

Clip comparison
Sheaffer Balance Junior – Esterbrook J, Sheaffer Sentinel Deluxe

While the clip itself is on the short side it also sits low on the cap so a lot of the pen sticks out my pocket (or pen case), more than most of my other pens.

Unlike many of my other vintage pens this one clips onto my pocket without any hassle. The rounded ball at the end of the clip is still smooth and slides easily over the material.

It makes a good shirt pocket pen, the only downside is that it’s not one I would lend to someone asking to borrow a pen and it sticks out enough to be obvious.


The only ink I’ve used so far is Iroshizuku Fuyu-syogun. The ink has behaved as well in this pen as it has in any other. There’s been no skipping or hard starts. There is some ink spatter on the nib. I’ve noticed this is fairly common with my vintage pens when I carry them around, more so than modern ones. I rather like ink showing on pictures of nibs, after all my pens are users, not show pieces. The pictures in this article show a nib that’s been used for a couple of days, including carrying it around in my pocket. There’s some ink on the nib but no real nib creep.

Wrapping Up

While the discoloring is a bit of a downer, the brown isn’t as nice as some of the other variations (or the original pearl) but I don’t consider it downright ugly. I rather like the look and after all, this pen is about 80 years old. There is some depth left to the color so it’s not a solid brown patch. The coloration gives the impression it’s had a useful life. The discoloration is also liberating. I don’t have to worry about ruining the look of the pen or causing a few scratches. If I want to post this pen I also won’t have to worry about marring the finish. I won’t be ruining it’s value and I’ll be adding more character.

Additional Reading

Richard Binder’s site seemed to have the most complete Sheaffer Balance information in one place.

Sunday Notes and Links

Picture of my recent acquisitions
Recent Deliveries.

A lot of new goodies this past week. The green Sheaffer Sentinel Deluxe inked for the week ahead arrived earlier in week, and the stuff shown above arrived Friday and Saturday. Most of the Esterbrook nibs came in one batch. Some I already have but the price was good just considering the ones I wanted. The Sheaffer is from Greg Miinuskin and I can’t wait to ink it up. It will probably be my next pen review. Finally, there the Esterbrook SJ. I bought it for the nib but the pen is in good condition so it’s a keeper.

Some Links I Found Interesting…

A classic Sheaffer video via Greg Minuskin.

Sheaffer PFM Video Review

Inkdependence reviews Franklin-Christoph Olde Emerald ink

This Week’s Ink: July 27, 2013

I inked up a lot of pens two weeks ago, all my vintage pens in fact. My daily carry was my Esterbrooks and three of them remain. I added my five Sheaffers to the caryy. All of my vintage Sheaffers except for the Triumph in need of a nib alignment,

The green Sheaffer Sentinel Deluxe is a new arrival, arriving in Thursday’s mail. Montblanc Racing Green seemed to be the perfect ink choice for the pen. I’d been holding off using the Montblanc Bordeaux and Racing Green inks since they’re discontinued. I decided that was foolish. I like them, I should use them. Not using them to save them isn’t any different than not using them because I ran out. Not writing with them is not writing with them.

The Iroshizuku Tsukushi (Horsetail) is a new brown ink for me.

The Pens

Photo of pens ink for this week's carry

Esterbrook J (#2668 medium firm) – Montblanc Bordeaux // Esterbrook J (#2048 flexible fine shaded) – Diamine Oxblod // Esterbrook SJ (#2314F relief fine stub) – Iroshizuku Fuyo_syogun // Sheaffer Triumph Sentinel Deluxe (fine) – Montblanc Racing Green // Sheaffer Snorkel Saratoga (extra fine) – Diamine Syrah // Sheaffer Balance (brown) (fine) – Diamine Ancient Copper // Sheaffer Balance (red) (fine) – Iroshizuku Tsukushi //Sheaffer Craftsman Tip-Dip (medium) – Sailor Jentle Epinard

Ink Samples

Photo of writing samples for this week's ink

Sunday Notes and Links

My Esterbrook J pulled apart

I stopped procrastinating last weekend and began my first fountain pen re-sacing. The pen came apart easily. Despite the broken sac in the above picture it came out of the pen in one piece and didn’t break until I touched it. Cleaning the old sac off was pretty easy too. I didn’t run into problems until it came time to put the new sac on. My fingers weren’t coordinated enough to get the sac on. Since I didn’t seem to have anything usable already I ordered a $5 sac spreader. It’s arrived and I hope to return to the pen later today.

Links I found interesting…

FP Geeks has a Clairefontaine 1951 Notebook review. I ordered a couple of these recently and started using one. I’ve been using it for writing samples and playing with pens.

The Pen Addict has a review of Diamine Red Dragon ink.

And All Other Tasks talks about Where Nibmeisters Differ (via Peaceable Writer)

Leigh Reyes writes about improving one’s handwriting.

Last Week’s Ink: The Nibs

No new carries this week. The Esterbrooks from last week will be around for another week. Since all were new nibs for me I figured I’d recap my initial impressions. These pens will stay my daily carry throughout the coming week.

These are all vintage pens and nibs, so there’s likely to be variations even among the name nib types, so these can’t really be considered reviews,  just my experience.

Click on any of the pictures to get a higher resolution image of the nib. All pictures are straight from my Penvelope 6 case and the nibs reflect any ink spattering or creep that has occurred.

Esterbrook J with nib #2668
Esterbrook J with nib #2668
Esterbrook #2668 nib
Esterbrook #2668 nib

Even though the #2668 nib is listed as a “firm medium” and I prefer fine nibs, it looked looked to be on the thin side of medium. so I figured this would be my daily writer and I filled it with Montblanc Bordeaux, my favorite ink.

I liked the nib. It was a smooth writer without any skipping or hard starts. Unlike some of the other nibs it wrote immediately whenever I pulled it from the case. The longest it went unused was about 2 days.

The line put down is on the thin side of a medium, very nice, but nothing spectacular. This will make a good daily writer which is how I used it the past week. I used it to take work and meeting notes.

Esterbrook J with #2442
Esterbrook J with #2442
Esterbrook #2442 nib
Esterbrook #2442 nib

The Esterbrook #2442 nib is listed as a Falcon stub and I didn’t know what that meant. I’ve also seen it listed as being used for backhanded writing. When I looked that up it seemed to refer to a grip used by lefties. I’ve also seen this described as a firm smooth nib that was popular with executives. No offense to lefties, but it doesn’t seem like a nib for lefties would have been popular with execs sixty years ago. So I was confused and anxious to give this nib a try. I filled it with another favorite but discontinued ink –  Montblanc Racing Green.

The nib seemed OK at first, then I started having problems, mainly skipping but with the occasional hard start. With some experimentation I found the angle of the nib affected performance. It performs better at a lower angle. I’m not a lefty, but the flow was good when I wrote with my left hand, of course my writing was terrible. It also wrote well when I used an overhand grip with my right hand above the pen, similar to the way some lefties write to avoid smudging ink.

As you can see from the pictures there’s ink all over the nib. It was carried with my other Esterbrooks and this is by far the worst. They all travel in my Penvelope 6 case but do bounce around in my computer bag as I travel.

One useless fact is that the nib is knife sharp. I accidentally stabbed myself through the fingernail with it but the nib seems no worse for wear. Short story – I reached for stuff sliding off a table with the pen in one hand and it found the fingernail on the other hand. That was after all my experimentation so it didn’t affect my experience.

Esterbrook Dollar Bandless with Nib #1554
Esterbrook Dollar Bandless with Nib #1554
Esterbrook #1544 nib
Esterbrook #1544 nib

I put the #1554 nib in my Esterbrook Dollar Pen. It’s listed as a firm fine nib used for clerical and shorthand writing. I expected to like this pen and picked R & K Sepia. A newer ink for me but one I’ve liked in testing.

This was my most problematic nib. The nib was dry after being unused overnight and it took some coaxing to get going the first time I pulled it out each day, even if it was first thing in the morning.

The nib was also rough and caught on and dug into the paper while writing, even smooth paper like Rhodia. Rhodia was better but that was relative, it was still a rough writer.

Not a pleasant nib to write with.

Esterbrook J with nib #9128
Esterbrook J with nib #9128

When I pulled this pen out to use the #9128 nib the first time at work there was ink all around the cap threads. I figured it was leaking but when I got home and took a good look I saw it was a blue-black ink, not the light green that I filled it with. This is the pen that had all that old ink in the cap. The pen was ink free when I did the initial writing samples a couple hours after inking it. So I took the pen apart thinking there might be ink in the body. But it seemed ink free. So I’ll give the pen another thorough cleaning and try again.

Because of this I haven’t used the nib.

Esterbrook J with nib #9048
Esterbrook J with nib #9048
Esterbrook #9048 nib
Esterbrook #9048 nib

The Esterbrook #9048 nib is an extra flexible fine nib which I’ve seen described as for shaded writing, I’m not experienced with flex nibs so flex nibs are lost on me. Still, it’s a fine nib so I wanted to give it a try. I picked Noodler’s Apache Sunset for this nib since even I can get some shading from this ink.

There is some flex to the nib, even though it’s a steel nib and I did get some line variation. I won’t go as far as to say there was any shading to speak of. The nib also seems suited for general writing. I didn’t have any flow problems with general writing.

With flex I did have some railroading and some inconsistent ink flow. But this is from an inexperienced flex writer so it could be me.

Esterbrook J with nib #2048
Esterbrook J with nib #2048
Esterbrook #2048 nib
Esterbrook #2048 nib

The Esterbrook #2048 nib is referred to as a Flexible Extra Fine Falcon and a Flexible Fine (shaded). It’s a thin nib so I’d put it in the extra fine category. After the experience with my other Falcom nib (#2442) I expended some discomfort using this nib, I was wrong.

I picked Diamine Oxblood ink for this nib since I like it in my thin nibs. I don’t see shading in this ink with my thin nibs and didn’t see any here. I did get some line variation when I varied the pressure but it wasn’t really noticeable since the nib is so thin.

This nib was a joy to write with. My favorite of the batch. It seems to glide along the paper and it’s not a nail. It helped that I really like Diamine Oxblood as I’m partial to burgundy inks.

Esterbrook SJ with nib #2314F
Esterbrook SJ with nib #2314F
Esterbrook #2314-F nib
Esterbrook #2314-F nib

The Esterbrook #2134-F nib is another one I was looking forward to using. It’s a fine oblique nib also called a fine stub.

The nib took a little practice. It provides the best shading when I hold the pen normally but rotate the pen counter-clockwise about 15 degrees so the nib is at an angle to the paper.

I used Iroshizuku Fuyo-syogun (gray) ink. Despite the thin line there’s some nice shading from light to dark gray, This is another nib that performed well without any skipping once I rotated the nib,

I’m beginning to enjoy stub nibs the more I used them and I think this is one I’ll grow to like more over time.

It’s been an enjoyable week getting to know these Esterbrook nibs. It’s the many nib selections that piqued my interest in Esterbrooks and it’s been fun exploring them.