Vintage Notes: Sheaffer Balance Junior (c. 1931)

Sheaffer Balance Junior with Iroshizuku Fuyu-syogunMy 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 tipPens 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

Sheaffers’s
Lifetime
Reg. U.S. Pat. Off.
Made In U.S.A.
5521242

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 measuredThe 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.

Inks

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.

Gallery

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2 thoughts on “Vintage Notes: Sheaffer Balance Junior (c. 1931)

  1. This is *almost* my pen. It looks the same, I know it comes from the same era because mine belonged to my mother. (Mine is, I think, about 1/4 inch shorter.) Just had it repaired at the Fountain Pen Hospital, because the nibs last forever but the bladders don’t.

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