Vintage Notes: Sheaffer PFM I

Photo of a capped Sheaffer PFM I

The Sheaffer PFM (Pen For Men) started production in 1959 and were produced through 1968, making them late model vintage pens. There were 5 main models (PFM I, II, III, IV, V) although I’ve seen references for 9 models.

The Sheaffer PFM has intrigued me, although not necessarily in a positive way. I went to the D.C show wanting to see them, more for curiosity than to buy one. One thing that intrigued me was why they were so expensive. The seemed like a basic, simple pen yet were significantly more expensive than the earlier Snorkels. At least on eBay for ones in restored or excellent condition. At the show I learned prices varied across the models and the scarcity of the color. Generally the lower model numbers are less expensive, mimicking their original selling prices.

Why I Got It

I like the pen size and the snorkel filling system. The pen felt comfortable in my hand and seemed suitable for long writing sessions. It had a fine nib. It’s a PFM I which puts it at the low end of the price spectrum so the price was right. The pen came from Sarj Minhas.

What I Got

It’s a blue Sheaffer PFM I that was produced between 1959 and 1963 with a fine nib. The barrel and cap are both plastic while the clip and band are chrome plated. The inlaid nib is palladium silver (PdAg). The PFM I is the only Sheaffer PFM model that doesn’t sport the white dot. At the time this pen was made the white dot didn’t signify a lifetime guarantee but it did identify the higher end pens. So I assume mine was the lowest priced model – $10 when new.

The Numbers

  • Length Capped:  5.389″ (136.90 mm)
  • Length Uncapped:  4.652″ (118.17 mm)
  • Length Posted:  5.575″ (141.62 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter:  0.492″ (12.51 mm)
  • Cap Diameter (at the widest part):  0.597″  (15.18 mm)
  • The section is different than most pens due to the inlaid nib. The barrel tapers directly into the nib. The gripping section is 0.471″  (11.97 mm). I didn’t measure the section length since there’s no obvious start and stop. It’s 1.593″ (4.047 mm) from where the taper begins to the end of the nib (the end that writes).

Using The Pen

Photo of a Sheaffer PFM I inlaid fine nib

It’s when I started using the pen that I began to learn why it’s so sought after. The pen holds a lot of ink and I got a full pen with one cycle of the snorkel filler. The gripping section is large and tapers right into the nib without a traditional fountain pen section. This makes it comfortable to hold and feels natural even though it’s a big pen.

The fine nib is a smooth writer and glides easily across Rhodia paper. There’s a bit of feedback to it on Doane writing paper. Just enough to feel it and even hear it a little. I can hold the top end of the pen and drag it across a page with only the pen’s own weight keeping it on the paper and get a consistent line.

Since the pen is made of plastic it’s a light pen despite its size, even when posted. The cap does post securely

On the topic of posting, I don’t typically post my pens, but I’ve been posting this pen most of the time. Early on I posted the cap a couple of times because holding it or putting it down wasn’t feasible. One of those was a long off and on writing session and I wasn’t fatiqued at all when done.

One reason I don’t post my pens is that I’m constantly capping and uncapping the pen. For some reason I find this cumbersome with this pen. Maybe it’s the pen size, maybe it’s the plastic, I can’t exactly figure out why. But that hasn’t been a problem with this pen. I can post the pen and put it down for extended periods of time without the nib going dry. I timed it for over 15 minutes without going dry (MB Bordeaux ink on Doane Jotter paper). That’s more than enough so I stopped trying to figure out how long it could sit. There’s no hesitation, even after being put down for 15 minutes.

Just recently I had a couple drops of ink seem to come from the snorkel. I’m not really sure what to make of this. I’ve read that air leaks can cause this. But this has only happened twice and both times as soon as I uncapped the pen and moved it to the paper. Both occurrences were shortly before the pen went dry. So maybe it’s air expanding or “burping” similar to an eye dropper. It’s possible it could be coming from the nib, but it seems to be from underneath even though I don’t see ink around the snorkel tube. It never happened while writing, only immediately after uncapping.

Bottom line on using the pen – it’s a joy to write with.

Inks Used

Only one – Montblanc Bordeaux. It’s one of my favorite inks, if not my favorite. It seems especially appropriate for vintage pens. The ink works so well with this pen that I haven’t had any desire to use another ink.


I had been refilling with the same ink but I finally did completely flush it out once it went dry this last time. If was no easier or harder than my other snorkel. The pen doesn’t come come apart so it’s just continuously filling and emptying it with water until it’s clean. It wasn’t especially difficult to clean.

Wrapping Up

This pen has me doing a bunch of one-eighties and busting of my per-conceived notions.

  • I couldn’t understand the pricing, especially when compared to other snorkels. Plus, it’s a relatively recent vintage pen, and plastic no less. One-eighty turn – the pen is a great writer and I can see why they’re in demand.
  • I used to say I only post a pen when it needs to be posted to use, such as a small pen. I find myself posting this pen quit a bit, which is bizarre to me but it feels very natural. It’s a big pen so there’s not need to post for comfort. Added to that is I’m always concerned that posting will mare a pen. Maybe I subconsciously don’t care because it’s plastic. Thanks to the inlaid nibs ability to keep ink from evaporating I can put the pen down and the cap keeps it from rolling. So whatever the reason, I do post this pen quit often.
  • It’s an inlaid nib. I prefer to see a full nib. At least it’s not hooded and I can see it. A small price to pay for the benefits.

How much I like something is often inversely proportional to my expectations. I was reluctant to spend the money on the Sheaffer PFM because I didn’t expect much. So when I say the Sheaffer PFM I is a great writer and a great pen it’s safe to assume it’s somewhat colored by my wildly exceeded expectations. So much so I just bought a second one.

Additional Information

Sheaffer PFM Information at penspotters.

Sheaffer PFM Information at PenHero.

3 thoughts on “Vintage Notes: Sheaffer PFM I

  1. I am a fan of Sheaffer pens and have been curious about the legendary PFM, recently I saw this exact model for sale. It’s the Pd Ag that makes me doubt, I would prefer gold just because it is more traditional. I am glad to see it surprised you in a positive way.

    However I am not sure how an inlaid is not a full nib. I think it actually lets you see (and touch!) nearly the whole nib itslef.

    I am intrigued by the frequent posting, btw. In my experience Sheaffers with this profile do not post securely, but maybe the PFM does.

    • Hi Kurazaybo,

      I do really like this pen and the price (the lowest of all models) is what made me select this model. I’ve never been tempted to pay more for one of the higher end models. The PFM does post securely, at least the two I have do, the plastic probably provides enough friction. Although I’ve since reverted to my practice of not posting as I normally do (or don’t) most of the time.

      I see your point of the inlaid being a full nib. But I still much prefer the look of the traditional nib although they can’t touch this for keeping the ink from evaporating and this pen wouldn’t be the same without the inlaid nib.

      Thanks for reading,

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