My first Sheaffer Balance II was the limited edition Aspen. I fell in love, despite some early problems. It joined my accumulation over 5 years ago, and it’s been filled at least 10 times since then. I say “at least” because I’m not consistent in recording when I refill a pen with the same ink. I liked it so much that I added two more Balance IIs within four months, the Jade Green and the Crimson Glow. All three pens have the same 18K gold two-tone Feather Touch nib.
The Aspen was released in 1999, while both the Crimson Glow and the Jade Green were part of the original regular product launch in 1998. There were some earlier limited editions in 1997.
The Aspen was know to have some flow issues when it was new, and mine had those issues when it arrived. It would write for about a page, then stop completely until the feed was primed. I sent it off to Mike Masuyama for adjustment and it’s been perfect since then. The Jade Green and Crimson Glow have both been fine from the start.
Officially, the nibs are all mediums, but they are much closer to a medium/fine. I’ve had western fine nibs that are wider (as was a Pelikan extra fine). I’m not typically a fan of two-tone nibs but I adore these nibs. Their look reminds me of vintage nibs, and there’s a lot of detail in the engraving.
The acrylic used for all three of these pens has a reputation of easily, and spontaneously, cracking. Mine are all in great shape (knock on wood). From what I read, it’s compressed acrylic with a lot of fractures that can cause cracking for no apparent reason. I buy my pens to use, and these are no different. I do handle them carefully. I don’t post the caps, which isn’t a problem since I don’t typically post my pens. I carry and store them in a slotted, cushioned, fully enclosed Visconti case. I never use the clips. I try to avoid my usual habit of fiddling with the cap in my left hand while I write.
The solid color versions of the Balance IIs don’t share the reputation for cracking, but they aren’t nearly as beautiful.
Based simply on the number of pens in my accumulation, Sheaffer is my favorite brand and these are among my favorite Sheaffer. The Aspen topped my favorite pen list in November 2015, although it dropped off a year later since I hadn’t used the pen that entire year. If I was to redo the list today (and it’s long overdue) I would put all three Balance IIs on the list, to share one of the top 5 slots.
I tend to use brown or gray inks in the Aspen. Although a couple other colors have found their way into the pen. Montblanc Permanent Grey is the ink I’ve used the most in this pen. All the inks have worked great. I don’t experiment with this pen, so it only gets ink I already know have good behavior.
A expected, the Crimson Glow often gets red ink, although the most used ink was Sheaffer Peacock Blue, from the days of inkwell bottles and maroon boxes. While I don’t usually like blue inks, I like the idea of using a classic Sheaffer ink in these pens. The turquoise ink has grown on me and the contrast with the red pen is nice.
The Jade Green Balance II has been used exclusively with green inks. Sheaffer Emerald Green is the most used ink while Montblanc Irish Green is the only other ink to be used more than once.
The Aspen is my clear favorite among the three pens. It has been pulled from the pen case and filled far more often than either of the other two.
In difference to their brittle nature, the Sheaffer Balance II fountain pens are not used for note taking, but only when I sit down for the sole purpose of writing. This is to limit the the number of times I uncap and cap the pens. Plus, when taking work notes I can be somewhat absent minded and be a little rougher with the pens, such as laying them on top of the ring binders in a notebook,being a little rough when putting it on my desk, or absently knocking it out of my way. Because of this, they can go a long time without being used. Occasionally I may need to hold the pen nib down to get the ink flowing, or even prime the nib, but they mostly start writing without any hesitation.
The Sheaffer Balance II Aspen, Jade green and Crimson Glow are among my favorite fountain pens. They look great and are terrific writers. What’s not to like? Well, their fragility mainly. It’s what keeps me from using them more. Even though I’m working to trim the accumulation these pens will be staying with me, despite breaking the rule to avoid keeping pens that are similar in every way, except the acrylic.