More Retro 51 Metalsmiths

Retro 51 jefferson and Franklin

After reading The Clicky Post’s review of the Retro 51 Jefferson Metalsmith Series rollerball I had to order one and give my Lincoln some company. And while I was there I decided to give in and include the Franklin in the order. Complete lack of will power.

I’m glad I’m not the only one who didn’t get the relationship between the pen names and finishes. But a commenter at The Clicky Post suggested it was related to the coins, Lincoln being on the copper penny and Jefferson on the nickle, but that only works for those two pens. Eisenhower has stars on it so that makes sense. But the now discontinued Monroe and the Franklin defy logic. The closest I can come for Franklin is that the pattern on the pen is reminiscent of his mapping of ocean currents.

My Lincoln is smooth copper so I was concerned the raised grooves in the Jefferson would bother me. But they don’t bother me at all and are mostly smooth. They’re obviously raised, but not at all sharp. The raised design on the Franklin isn’t bothersome either. If anything, the raised design helps grip the potentially slick metal.

I always liked the designs used on the Metalsmith pens and these two pens exceed the pictures. The Jefferson has a brushed nickel finish where the indented areas are slight darker as the raised areas reflect light. The Franklin is a darker finish but it’s highly reflective and looks bright.

Ever since Brad Dowdy reviewed the Schmidt P8126 refills I’ve been using them in my Retro 51’s due to the slightly thinner .6 mm line so I did swap out the stock refills.

Rather than repeating what’s already been written I’ll post some pictures and refer you to other reviews. The Jefferson is linked to above. The Pen Addict reviewed the Lacquer Retro 51 (similar design) and the Schmidt P8126 refill.

Now I’m off to search for the Monroe which is discontinued.

Six Indian Pens – Introduction

Photo of the six pens

After visiting China, via eBay, to get some inexpensive pens I decided to head to India to see what their pens are like. All these pens came from India and ordered through (FPR). I’m trying to reduce the number of pens I have inked up, so these haven’t been used yet. This is an introduction to cover my first impressions on the pens and their build quality.

I recently reviewed the FPR Dilli which is their own branded pen, but they started out selling other brands from India and continue to do so. Shipping is a flat $3 per order to the U.S. so the pen prices below are without shipping. They also have a “Pen of the Day” on sale. Shipping was prompt and took two-weeks to reach me. No tracking number was provided but they do say they’ll provide one upon request. I did have to sign for the package which arrived via the US Post Office. A range of nibs are available for most pens although the price increases between $1 and $4 for medium, stub and flex nibs.

Serwex MB with a Flex Nib

Serwex MB photo

The is the most expensive pen of the bunch. It lists for $21 (including $4 for the flex nib) but was the pen of the day for $18.50 when I ordered it. It’s also the only all metal pen of the group. The “MB” could stand for Montblanc. I’m not familiar enough with MB to recognize a specific pen, but it’s been compared to a MB pen by others.

The clip on my pen was slightly off center (more noticeable in the picture) put I could nudge it back into alignment.

Serrwex MB Capped

The pen posts securely, more or less. The design allows the cap to snap into place over the end jewel. Unfortunately the cap still spins when posted and gravity forces the clip to turn towards my hand. I don’t typically post my pens, but if I did this would annoy me.

The pen comes with a lever convertor that I’ve heard referred to as a Parker convertor. The ink capacity is on the small side and the lever was hard to slide.

There’s also a warning that the inner cap can catch and bend the nib when capping the pen. FPR also provided an extra nib in case it does.

The pen is 5.198″ (132.03 mm) long capped and 4.742″ (120.45 mm) long uncapped.

Stephen Brown has a video review of this pen.

Chelpark Antic with a fine nib

Chelpark Antic photo

Another relatively expensive pen at $16.00. It’s an eye drop filler and a basic pen. I assume much of the cost is from the metal on the cap. It’s a screw-on cap which is kind of nice for a low cost pen.

Chelpark Antic capped

When I cleaned out the new pen some of the maroon dye came off on the tissue I was cleaning it with. Not enough to color the ink, but some. The opening to the feed isn’t circular like I’m used to seeing. There’s a thick plastic bar cutting the opening in half. The nib is removable and it will nned to be removed if this pen needs to be flushed for an ink change or storage. There’s no obvious way to force water through the feed.

The pen is 5.212″ (132.39 mm) long capped and 4.616″ (117,24 mm) long uncapped.

Serwex 1362 with a fine nib

Serwex 1362

This is a $6.00 piston filler with a screw-on cap. The piston may be removable but I was afraid to apply too much force and break it before I ever used the pen.

Serwex 1362 capped

The clip is attached with a thin piece of metal and it’s easily knocked off center but it makes it easy to open the clip. Despite the thin metal there’s quit a bit of pressure and it doesn’t easily slide over pocket material.

Considering this pen is only $6 it seems pretty solidly built. The pen is 5.228″ (132.8 mm) long capped and 4.576″ (116.24 mm) long uncapped.

Serwex 162 with a fine nib

Serwex 162

This is an even cheaper piston filler, priced at $5. This also has a screw-on cap. The piston is removable as is the nib. There’s is a plastic barrier (with holes of course) behind the nib so the inside of the pen isn’t accessible unless the piston is removed.

Serwex 162 capped

The pen is 5.251″ (133.39 mm) long capped and 4.626″ (117.51 mm) long uncapped.

Serwex 101 with a stub nib

Serwex 101 black

This lists for $9, with $4 of that being the premium for the stub nib, It’s an eye dropper fill with a clear body.

Serwex 101 black capped

There’s some excess plastic around the feed opening, probably leftover from the molding process. It isn’t noticeable until the pen is opened and it doesn’t seem like it would affect ink flow.

The pen is 5.363″ (136.22 mm) long capped and 4.663″ (118.45 mm) long uncapped.

Serwex 101 with a fine nib

Serwex 101 green

This is the same as the above pen, except with a fine nib. The pen lists for $5 but was included free with the order. The pen appears green but this isn’t an available color when ordering the pen.

Serwex 101 green capped

Wrapping Up

I haven’t inked any of the pens as I’m trying to use the pens I’ve already inked, but I look forward to giving these a try. The MB and the Antic are on the expensive side, compared to the other pens or the Chinese pens.The FPR Dilli seems to have a slightly better build quality than this group, even the comparably priced pens. What really matters are the nibs, and I’ve yet to use them.

Four Chinese Pens

Not long ago there was some controversy (or rabid discussion) about the Visionnaire Fountain Pen Kickstarter Project (already funded and closed). When I looked at it the first thing I thought was “Chinese Pen”. Not because it was made in China, but because of the over the top marketing.

The minimum pledge level at the time was $35 so I decided to see what I could get for the $35 minimum pledge level. I should point out, Brad Dowdy, the Pen Addict found a similar pen for $4.00 (delivered). Also listen to that podcast if you want info on the Visionnaire project. I wasn’t looking for that exact pen since I didn’t really like it, but rather any pens I liked the look of. I ended up with theses four pens, costing $37 including shipping.

Four Chinese Pens and a Lamy
l -> R Jinhao 159, Jinhao x450, Jinhao 450, Hero 7035. Lamy AL-Star for comparison
Four Chinese Pens and a Lamy
l -> R Jinhao 159, Jinhao x450, Jinhao 450, Hero 7035. Lamy AL-Star for comparison

Like most inexpensive pens, I flushed them with water and a couple drops of dish soap to remove any oils or manufacturing residue. Other than that, the pens are used as received.

The pens are all very similar. They’re lacquer over metal, probably brass, that makes them heavy pens. All are medium steel nibs and were surprisingly smooth. Not Faber-Castel Emotion smooth, but a rather nice nib. Better than the out of the box experience for some more expensive pens.

All the pens are comfortable to hold and to write with, except for the weight. They may become tiring after writing for awhile.

All four of the pens did experience some minors skipping although not enough to be frustrating. All four of the pens suffered from surface tension in the converter that kept the ink from flowing in the convertor. A tap broke the tension. This isn’t uncommon with converters and some now include a metal ball to keep the ink flowing. All the pens take short international cartridges. I don’t have any long cartridges to see if they fit, but they might, there’s a lot of room on there.

The pens are available from numerous eBay sellers, most with Buy It Now pricing. Just search for “Chinese Pens” or get brand specific. also sells many Chinese pens and they say they inspect/align nibs before shipping (I’ve never bought from them).

Writing Samples

Kind of boring, but here’s a sample from each pen. (Click picture for full size)


My First Pen Repairs

I purchased 10 beat up Esterbrooks awhile back since they are supposed to be good choices to learn how to re-sac a pen. I finally got around to repairing the first two this past weekend.

I followed these instructions to re-sac the pens. Apologies for the poor photos, I just snapped with my camera phone as I went along.

I started the first pen a couple of weeks ago. It came apart easily, no heat needed to remove the section. The sac was in one piece, until I touched it at which point it crumbled. as shown here.

My Esterbrook J pulled apart

But the pen was clean, no need to scrape it out. I just needed to scrape the sac off the section nipple. I gave the section and nib some time in the ultrasonic cleaner and let them dry.

Originally, I fumbled around trying to get the new sac on, finally giving up and ordering a sac spreader. But when I used it this weekend it wasn’t much help and I decided to go back to fingers only, This time the sac went on easily. Go figure. I was less timid this time and did put more shellac on the nipple this time which probably helped lubricate things a bit more.

After it dried it was just a matter of putting talc on the sac and putting the pen back together.

Barrel, talced sac and cap ready to go
The re-saced pen

The second pen, a Esterbrook LJ, also came apart easily, no heat needed to remove the section, just some gentle pressure. The time the sac was still pliable but a corroded (and borken) j-bar and a spacer tumbled out.

The pulled apart Esterbrook LJ

I hadn’t read anything about a spacer. I assume it was originally there but someone could have added it, In any event, I cleaned it off and replaced it, pushing it to the top of the pen barrel. The sac was covered in corrosion dust but seemed pretty good. Still, I pulled it off and replaced it.

The j-bar was also replaced. It was easy to do, just line up and push in with a thin rod. This video shows a good example. Some of the instructions I saw around the internet suggested washing out the inside of the barrel. The risk of leaving moisture behind didn’t seem worth it, especially since the lever was still attached. I used a circular brush to clean out the barrel and there wasn’t much crud at all in there.

The new sac went on the section nipple with relative ease, without needing the tool. The only issue I had was minor. When putting the section back on it felt like the sac was pressing against the end of the pen, it was “spongey”. I checked the measurements and all seemed fine, and the j-bar seemed out of the was. After a little fiddling it went on fine. [Update: Aug 20 – after Brian’s comment (below) about the j-bar reaching the section nipple I checked the pen and it was reaching. I cut it back and the section went on without any “sponginess”.]

Section, talced sac and cover ready for reassembly
Reassembled Esterbrook LJ

I used the pens for a day and they seem fine, no leaks are apparent and they hold a lot of ink. Both pens could use some polishing but are in good cosmetic shape. One of the nibs needs some smoothing but the hard part is done.

It’s not exactly the hardest thing to do, it’s actually much easier than it seems. I imagine I’ll eventually encounter a pen that’s hard to pull apart. It seems like it’s almost been too easy. I’ll probably feel better after I break or ruin my first pen and learn how much pressure or heat is too much.

The best investment I made was in a cheap ultrasonic cleaner. Both pen had what seems like bottles of ink in their caps and the nibs and feeds were pretty ink encrusted too. The UC made cleaning them out much easier. I don’t use the US on the pen barrels themselves. Doesn’t seem worth the risk of trapping moisture inside.

It’s nice to be able to bring a couple pens back to life.  I’d highly recommend finding a cheap, beat-up Esterbrook and giving it a try. I expected it to be frustrating but it’s not (at least as long as I walk away before frustration sets in, such as my first attempts to install the new sac.

Washington DC Pen Show Haul

This was my first visit to the Washington DC Pen Show (or, as it calls itself on the website – ‘The Washington D.C. Collectible Fountain Pen SUPERSHOW The Largest Pen Event in the World’). I’d been saving all year and had a pretty good budget. I had no problem spending it. My pen haul is shown here…

Photo of my latest pens
My fountain pen haul from the 2013 DC Pen Show

The Esterbrook nibs came from Anderson Pens and complete the 9314 nibs in my collection.

The next three pans, all Sheaffers, came from Sarj Minhas. There’s a reason he’s called “the one man pens show”. He had some amazing pens. Just looking at what he was selling made me wonder what his personal collection is like.

The Marine Green Balance was my first pen purchase of the show and was before lunch on Friday. His table was right across from Richard Binder’s and the pen called out to me as I was waiting for some nib work. I did try to resist by looking around the room but soon returned to buy it. It’s got a custom Mottishaw stub nib and is a lever filler.

The other two Sheaffers weren’t mine until Saturday. Both have fine nibs. The Balance is a lever filler. Unlike the Marine Green Balance this one has a ink view window. The dark blue PFM I is my second Snorkel filler and my first PFM.

The first two modern pens were also Friday purchases. I stopped by the Edison Pens table to see the new Menlo filler and select some possible materials for a future pen order. Instead I walked away with the Menlo Pump filler shown. The picture doesn’t do justice to the material for this pen.

The small pen is the Franklin-Christoph Model 40 Pocket in the Smoke and Ice finish. It has a Needlepoint nib which F-C has ground by Mike Masuyama. I don’t think any Needlepoint nib can be called smooth, but with smooth paper this nib is very smooth. The pen is just big enough to jot a quick note without posting, but in general the pen is meant to be posted since it’s small.

The final pen was also the most expensive of the bunch and one I’d been debating about all day Saturday. It’s an Omas 360 Vintage Collection Turquoise with a medium nib. (It’s a modern pen, “Vintage” is just part of the name) Being able to handle it at the show confirmed the triangle design wouldn’t bother me. It was also the first time I’ve seen a new one selling for less than $500. By late Saturday I decided to buy it. I considered returning on Sunday to have the nib ground to a fine (the medium was the last pen they had) but decided I’d try the medium nib for awhile.

I also had nib work done on three pens. Richard Binder stubbed my Sailor 1911 Sterling with a medium nib. It’s a Sailor medium so it makes for a thin stub, but I like it.

Mike Masuyama stubbed a Pelikan Broad nib for my M620 cities series pens (I have three, the nibs are swappable). During the conversation I asked for a grind on the smooth rather than crisp side and on the thin (dryer) side of writing. I don’t like wet noodle nibs so this was perfect. The Pelikan Cities have gone unused because they all have wide nibs. This one adds some character so I’m going to use it more.

Finally, Ron Zorn repaired the nib on my Sheaffer Triumph. It’s again a usable pen.

In addition to the pens and nib work  I also returned with Franklin-Christoph Penvelope Six and 40 Pen cases along with a couple of their pads to try. There was also some ink and paper from Anderson Pens in addition to those Esterbrook nibs. While I skipped the Fountain Pen Hospital parts blow-out on Friday they still had bags of parts available on Saturday. I found one with some Sheaffer Balances and a Parker Vacumatic all suitable for practicing repairs so picked it up for $50.

I also returned with a sore throat which has added all the features of a cold, probably from the constant and cold air conditioning in the hotel. Hopefully I can shake it soon. It’s the only thing I don’t want to keep from the show.

All in all it was a successful pen show. Friday was leisurely enough to be able to browse and talk with the sellers (and other attendees). More detailed pen reviews will follow as I use them.

Did you attend the show? Return with any loot?