Review: Sheaffer Balance II Aspen SE

The Sheaffer Balance II Aspen Special Edition is a 1999 revival of Sheaffer’s iconic Balance pens of the 30’s. Although these have a more mundane cartridge/converter filling system. PenHero has a good overview of the Aspen Special Edition. From the article:

In 1999, Sheaffer introduced the first of several special edition Balance II pens, these being unnumbered limited production pens with special materials and packaging. The first in the series was the Aspen Special Edition, offered in a special and vivid pearlized blue, gold and brown marbled resin. As with the regular Balance II line, the Aspen Special Editoin was offered as a fountain pen…

Why I Got It

Look at it. ‘Nuff said

Photo of the capped Sheaffer Balance II Aspen LE

It helps that I’m a Sheaffer fan.

I purchased the pen from Franklin-Christoph where it was in their “Stockroom” section.

What I Got

As I said, it’s a Sheaffer Balance II Aspen Special Edition, which I’ll refer to as “Aspen” for brevity. The acrylic is a gorgeous vivid pearlized blue, gold and brown marbled resin. The 18K gold feathertouch nib is a medium that resembles my vintage Sheaffer nibs. The vivid colors also remind me of the the vintage Sheaffer Balances, especially my Marine Green Balance.

The pen has a reputation of having brittle caps and clips. I don’t post my pens so the cap should survive just fine unless I’m careless. I do make use of the clip on my pens, both in my pocket and it my pen cases. But I’ll probably skip using the clip on this one except with the thinnest of material. I have a 1 pen Franklin-Christoph case that I hadn’t particularly liked, but it’s hard shell is perfect for this pen.

Sheaffer Balance II Aspen feedEarly production models also had flow or nib skipping problems. While this was fixed during production it appears my pen was made prior to these changes. The pen wrote great for a about a page at which time the nib was starved for ink which became worse until it become unusable and ink had to be forced into the feed. But that was enough to show me this pen could be a great writer. So I sent it of to Mike Masuyama for adjustment and this review was done after it’s return. The nib is still stock, just adjusted.

Medium nibs aren’t typically my style and even though I sent the pen out to Mike Masuyama who could have turned it into a very nice fine, I kept the stock nib. I’d used it enough to know I liked it and I couldn’t bring myself to modify the pen from stock.The nib was smooth when I got it so I wouldn’t have sent out the pen except for the feed problem.

The Numbers

There’s some wiggle room to avoid scratching the pen.

  • Length Capped:  5.5975″  (147.25 mm)
  • Length Uncapped:  4.9325″  (125.29 mm)
  • Length Posted: I did not measure this myself but PenHero says 6 3/8″ posted
  • Section Length: 0.5900″  (14.98 mm)
  • Section Diameter (narrowest):  0.3815″  (9.69 mm)
  • Section Diameter (near threads)  0.4170″  (10.59 mm)
  • Barrel Diameter:  0.4980″  (12.64 mm)
  • Cap Diameter:  0.5555  (14.11 mm)

Using The Pen

Photo of the Sheaffer Balance II Aspen taken apartThe pen is a cartridge/converter, unlike the vintage pens that the Aspen takes its design queues from. I’m not a fan of the way the converter connects to the section. It slips over a spike that sticks up. This seems fragile to me and far to easy to snap it off, but I haven’t heard of any problems. Still, I’d prefer a metal collar around the converter at the section. It does require I hold the converter itself while filling, otherwise it just spins as I twist the plunger.

The pen is a good size for me, even unposted. It’s light and comfortable to write with. The curve of the section is well-suited to my grip and an unexpected bonus that adds to the comfort of the pen. The 18k gold nib has a bit of spring to it. I’ve written about 8 pages straight and don’t feel a bit fatigued. (Plus no signs of the earlier feed problems – thanks Mike!). All-in-all, a very nice writer.

The two-tone feathertouch nib also hearkens back to the vintage Sheaffers. It’s fun to watch the light reflect off the two-tone nib as I write. Between the writing quality and great looks this pen is hard to put down once I start writing.

The pen isn’t one I’ll use at work for making notes as I work. I cap/uncap/pickup/put down the pen far to frequently and I’d be afraid to damage it. While I don’t abuse my pens this is one I’d want to be extra careful with due to its reputation for being fragile. It’s a pen I will use for long writing sessions, mostly in the safety of my home, and it’s well suited for that.

Cleaning the Pen

The cartridge/converter is easy enough to clean. The spike the converter slide onto sticks up and has me concerned I’ll be careless and break it. So, I tend to use the ultrasonic cleaner rather than the bulb syringe to avoid a careless accident. But a better alternative may be to clean the bulk of the ink out and then refill it and not worry about getting every last bit of ink out.

Inks Used

This is a tough one. The flow problem were unrelated to the ink when I used R & K Scabiosa and Waterman Florida Blue. So as long as the feed stay saturated both inks wrote well without any skipping. Neither was in the pen very long and they were easily flushed from the pen.

I used Montblanc Bordeaux after the pen was adjusted. The flow was consistent without a trace of skipping. There weren’t any false starts although longest this pen sits unused is about a day (put down one night, picked up the next).

Wrapping Up

The Sheaffer Balance II Aspen Special Edition is a finicky, fragile pen. Mine is chip and crack free but some of what I read leads me to believe this pen will crack if I look at it wrong. Plus I had the flow problem that had to be fixed. Is the pen worth it? Absolutely! It will be treated with care, but it will be used. It’s a keeper.

Additional Reading

The Sheaffer Balance II Aspen at PenHero.com

A Aspen Review on FPN

A FPN thread on the Aspen fragility

Gallery

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5 thoughts on “Review: Sheaffer Balance II Aspen SE

  1. Pingback: Just another pen ?!Blick über den Tellerrand vom 23. February 2014 » Just another pen ?!

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