These Just In: Sheaffer Balance Oversize Lifetime (Marine Green) and Diplomat Aero Volute

Photo of the Sheaffer Balance Oversize Lifetime (top) and Diplomat Aero Volute (bottom)I’m combining the introduction of these two fountain pens since they are similar to other pens that I’ve written about. Plus, I’m getting really tired of this string of This Just In posts.

The Sheaffer Balance Oversize Lifetime is my favorite pen style. I love the acrylics, and the nibs are great writers. The Marine Green from the early 1930s is the best ever. I’ve also seen it referred to as “Green Marble.” Unfortunately, the cap on my original Marine Green Balance Oversize broke into two pieces, making it unusable. I’ve been on the lookout for a replacement since then.

Comparing my two Marine Green Sheaffer Balance Oversize fountain pens

The new Sheaffer (left) compared to the original, now broken, Sheaffer (right)

This Sheaffer Balance Oversize Lifetime in Marine Green was an eBay purchase that arrived in early March. This was from a trusted seller that I bought from in the past. Even so, I still always assume the pen looks better on eBay than in reality, and bid accordingly. Even if it’s because I missed something in the photos. In this case, the color looked less vibrant and darker than my original Marine Green Balance. From experience, I knew this seller usually had well lit and accurate photos, so I figured this was true. It was also a solid gold-colored nib, and I prefer the two-tone nib. On the positive side, it was a fine nib, and I love vintage Sheaffer fine nibs.

I’ve really, really wanted a Marine Green Sheaffer Balance Oversize ever since mine broke, and my recent pen show visit had been a bust. So I decided to bid on the pen since the next pen show was obviously going to be in the distant future. I set a maximum bid pretty close to my personal ceiling for an eBay Balance, despite the less than vibrant color and the lack of a two-tone nib. I ended up winning the auction. As a side-note, the same seller had a second Marine Green Balance Oversize go on sale a couple of weeks later. This one had a two-tone nib and what appeared to be slightly more vibrancy. By the time I decided to bid, it was already near the maximum I would spend on eBay for this pen, even if in seemingly excellent condition. So, I didn’t bother even bidding. It eventually sold for over $500, which is well above my eBay fountain pen comfort level. So, if that’s the new price level for this pen, it will take a pen show or other in-person sale before I get one. So for now, this pen is it.

Photo of the Marine Green Sheaffer Balance Oversize Lifetime on a pen stand

The fountain pen arrived, and it was what I expected. The Marine Green material is clean, but it is subdued and on the dark side as I expected. The flat-top ball on the clip, along with the marine green, date the pen from 1934 or 1935. It’s a lever-filler, which is my preference over the vacuum (plunger) fillers. The cap does fit my original Marine Green Balance, although the colors are way off. If I wanted to use the stub nib on the original, I could use this cap.

Photo of the Diplomat Aero Volute - cappedI inked the pen up with Sheaffer Green to inaugurate it. As I expected, it was a smooth and consistent writer. The Balance Oversize form factor is comfortable in my hand. The pen wasn’t inked up when I started drafting this post, but before it was done, I missed the pen and had to ink it up.

I’m not disappointed with the Marine Green Sheaffer Balance Oversize Lifetime since it was what I expected. Although it isn’t the ideal replacement for the Marine Green that I loved.

The second fountain pen, a Diplomat Aero Volute, is a more recent arrival. One problem with discovering a new pen brand, and then realizing that they make great pens is that I start exploring other options. While Diplomat is not a new brand, I only recently bought one of their pens. This was the Orange/Black Diplomat Aero, which I got at the Long Island Pen Show. I was pleasantly surprised by this pen when I used it. So I was browsing other Diplomat pens when I came upon the Aero Volute. The barrel and cap have a base color of grey with a black design on top of it. The black design is applied using a process called hydro-dipping or water transfer. (While a pen isn’t used as an example, this video shows the hydro-dipping technique.) Black and grey are my aesthetic these days. Recently purchased furniture and linen have been black and grey. The Volute is a limited edition and has a list price that is $100 higher than the regular Aeros. So, while prices varied, they were still expensive, especially since I already had an Aero. While I used to go crazy with fountain pen models that I like, I now try to limit myself to one fountain pen per model. But I still added the pen to my watch list.

I then came across a Pen Chalet sale, which dropped their price down to $177 (the price has moved back up). Not the absolute lowest price I saw (which was $175), but the lowest I saw from a retailer that had the pen is stock and ready to order. Like a former boss once said, businesses can list any price they want it they don’t have to actually take the order. So with the lower price and one of Pen Chalet’s always easy to find 10% off coupons, the price dropped to a more reasonable amount, so I ordered it. The fountain pen drop-shipped from Yafa, the distributer, but arrived in a reasonable time. It was only a couple days later than the Benu pen that was in the same order.

The packaging was the same as my Orange/Black Aero, although with a limited edition card included. Mine is number 524 of 1000. There’s no number on the pen itself that I could see.

Photo of the Diplomat Aero Volute with the authentication cardLike other Aero pens, it is made of aluminum. The hydro-dipping process means no two pens are the same. My pen thas some lines between the cap and the barrel that do line up and cross from one to the other. While there are other lines that just end, and don’t cross over. Also, while not a literal seam, there’s a visual seam running down the length of the cap & barrel. It’s where lines seem to end and don’t match up. But the design is random, and I only notice these things upon close inspection. They don’t stand out or bother me at all, so this isn’t a complaint or something I consider a flaw. I assume it’s the result of the way the pen was dipped.

I bought the fountain pen with a fine steel nib to provide a slightly different writing experience than my Orange/Black Aero and its extra-fine nib. Like my original, this is a nice smooth nib. Diplomat continues to impress me with the quality of their pens, and I’m glad to see they expanded into more elaborate designs. I wouldn’t buy the Volute at the typical street price, which is around $236. While I do love the design, that would be an $80 premium over the regular production Aeros. I’m sure there’s more labor involved, just like their flame version. However, I find that I do grow tired of distinctive designs, so I couldn’t justify the premium to myself since I already had one Aero. But thanks to Pen Chalet’s often weird pricing and ubiquitous 10% discount coupons, I was able to get one for only a couple dollars above the standard pens. That made in an insta-buy.

I’m thrilled with the Diplomat Aero Volute, and I’m enjoying the pen.

Writing samples: Sheaffer (top) and Diplomat (bottom)

Sheaffer Balance Oversize Lifetime (Fine) writing sample on top. Diplomat Aero Volute (Fine) writing sample on bottom.