Vintage Heartbreak

Broken Sheaffer Balance Oversize

It’s been a bad few weeks for me and my vintage Sheaffer Balance Oversize fountain pens. First my pearl grey Oversize wouldn’t fill, probably a pinhole in the sac. At least that’s within my ability to fix, as long as I don’t crack the pen removing the sac. But then things went downhill fast at the end of March. I inked up my Marine Green Balance Oversize and had been using is sporadically during the month. While nice, the big stub isn’t suited to my writing style so I just used it when I wanted a little variation. Plus it’s a gorgeous pen. Unfortunately when I went to pick it up the other day the cap came off and the pen stayed behind. I soon saw it wasn’t because the cap was simply loose, but it had sheared off above the cap band.

I can’t say I know how it happened. Because the pen isn’t suited to me it doesn’t travel out of the house. There isn’t any point since it’s extremely unlikely I’d use it. It lived in my Visconti 3-Pen Case most of the time where it’s well protected, or occasionally in a Dudek Modern Goods pen stand where it’s stored cap up, and the cap is completely above the stand.

I suppose I could have hit the pen and not noticed, but this seems unlikely. What I have noticed is that when I pick up a pen to use and twist the cap off (or on) I usually twist it from the top. I imagine this puts some stress on the cap as I twist it. So I’ll be changing my habit and start twisting the cap from down at it’s base by the cap band.

This damage is well beyond my ability to fix, and I may eventually see if I can send it off to be repaired. I’m conflicted about that decision. The pen is gorgeous, one of my favorites based strictly on looks. Yet, the nib just isn’t well suited to my writing style so I don’t use the pen very much.

The Sheaffer Balance Oversize was inked with Diamine 150th Anniversary Terracotta. I liked the ink and the wide stub nib provided some subtle shading.

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Ink & Pen Notes: Sheaffer PFM I with Montblanc Lucky Orange

Sheaffer PFM I (capped) with Montblanc Lucky OrangeIt’s been awhile since I flushed a fountain pen of ink before I’ve written it dry. I’ve been writing them dry unless they become annoying to use. My vintage Sheaffer PFM I with its fine nib and Montblanc’s new Lucky Orange ink became that annoying pen and ink combination.

Other reviewers have mentioned that Lucky Orange has a tendency to dry out on the nib but it did OK in my Sailor King of Pen so I decided to give it a try in a thinner nib. The PFM I would be dry after spending the night stored nib up. But then gravity would quickly bring ink to the tip and the pen would write perfectly the rest of the day. So it wasn’t annoying or especially unusual.

The Sheaffer PFM I was in use for a couple of weeks, during which I enjoyed using it. The find nib and bright line meant it got used every day, even if it wasn’t a lot of use. Typically short notes or marking up a document. Then it spent a couple days flat on my desk and needed more than gravity to get going.

Sheaffer PFM I (extra fine) with dried Montblanc Lucky Orange

Dried ink clogging the feed

I could see the dried, crusty ink between the nib and the feed. A dry towel wasn’t enough to get things going. A little water would have fixed it, I’m sure. But I put the pen aside and picked another. When I did bring the pen to water it was to flush it out. I have little patience for finicky fountain pens these days. A problem that makes me get up from my desk to resolve is unforgivable.

As expected, cleaning the pen was a pain. This pen is a pain to clean even with the easiest to flush ink. In this case it was made worse because there was still plenty of ink in the pen. Staining wasn’t a problem and the crusty ink washed away quickly. But the orange dye remained, and remained. Once I got most of the ink out I started filling it with water and leaving it nib down in a tissue for several hours, then repeating whenever I get around to it.

I like the Montblanc Lucky Orange ink and will use it in another pen, although I’ll pick one that’s easy to clean and has a wet nib. The Sheaffer PFM I remains a favorite writer. The nib and size are ideal for me. I’ll stick to known well-behaved inks.

Sheaffer PFM I (extra fine) with Montblanc Lucky Orange writing sample

Sheaffer PFM I (extra fine) uncapped with Montblanc Lucky Orange

This Just In: Sheaffer Balance Oversize C.1934 In Gray Pearl and Red Veins

Sheaffer Balance Oversize Pearl Gray & Red Veins - capped on standMy second pen purchase at the 2016 DC Pen Show occurred Friday afternoon and gave me my vintage fix. It is a Sheaffer Balance Oversize c. 1934–1935 from Sarj Minhas.

I didn’t have any specific vintage pens in mind as I walked around the show. I like Parker Vacumatics and the Maxima is the model I can use regularly. The materials and nibs of vintage Sheaffers always draw me to them and the Balance Oversize is the model I can use regularly. These were the two most likely to draw my attention.

I view vintage pens differently than modern pens. While any new vintage would have to be a pen I could expect to use regularly, I’m unable to sell off vintage pens I know I won’t use. It feels like I’m selling a piece of history. But this made me determined to only buy one vintage pen and to make it one I knew I would use. Even though I’m a user and not a collector I wanted a pen as close to pristine as I could find and and was reliable. So even though Sarj’s pens are at the high end of the price spectrum I was willing to pay the price if I could find one.

I’ve always liked the pearl grey with red vein celluloid. This was the only Balance Oversize I saw in this material during my browsing on Friday. At least in a condition that was this good. It was also the only vintage pen I saw that I wanted. So despite the price I decided to get it. The pen is difficult to photographs as the gray in the pen changes depending on the light. This also makes it easy for the pen to mesmerize me as the color changes, often looking as different as green and red.

Since all my available inks were new to me I didn’t want to try them in a vintage sac filler, so the pen remained uninked on Friday. Then on Saturday I found some vintage (well, 1980–90’s) Sheaffer Sheaffer Peacock Blue in the yellow box/label. I had the dark red bottle version of this ink so it wasn’t entirely new to me and they would be a similar, if not identical formula. The ink seemed fine despite it’s age so I bought it and filled the pen later that day.

The pen is comfortable in my hand, as expected and the nib is great, also as expected. The nib is unlabeled but it’s approximately a fine. Writing is smooth with a good flow. It’s not a gushing writer yet the ink does noticeably pool a little bit between the nib and feed. Some ink also creeps out the heart cutout that’s above the nib slit. After writing a couple A5 pages a drop of ink did drop onto the paper while writing. Since then I’ve been more conscience of it and have dabbed the nib on a tissue if I see ink bleeding from the heart after a couple of pages. Carrying the pen around doesn’t result in any ink dripping or spatter and neither does moving the pen around normally like reaching for a paper or turning a page with pen in hand. So I won’t really call it a leak and the ink could be a contributing factor. It’s something I can live with and it won’t prevent me from taking the pen with me if I go to a coffee shop to do some writing. I wouldn’t bring it to a meeting to take notes, but I don’t use vintage pens in this situation anyway.

It’s a good performing pen and I love the material. The Sheaffer Balance Oversize in Pearl Gray/Red Veins joins my Marine Green Balance Oversize as one of my favorite vintage fountain pens, and it has a nib I’ll use more than the stub on the Marine Green.

Sheaffer Balance Oversize Pearl Gray & Red Veins - uncapped on stand

Sheaffer Balance Oversize c1935 writing sample with Sheaffer Peacock Blue (yellow label)

Exposed for the writing sample, terrible photo of pen.

This is a post about the 2016 Washington DC Pen Show. My show summary and links to other show posts are here.

Ink and Pen Notes: Sheaffer Balance II and Noodler’s Berning Red

Sheaffer Balance II Crimson Glow with Noodler's Berning Red bottleThis is the second Sheaffer Balance II to be written dry this week, it’s the one with the bright Crimson Glow acrylic which finally got filled with a red ink. Sheaffer Peacock Blue was the exclusive ink for this pen until March 13th which is when I filled it with Noodler’s Berning Red.

The ink is named after Bernie Sanders, the US Senator and Presidential aspirant. Nathan Tardiff has always been opinionated about his ink names but this seems to take it to a new level. The introduction video goes on for over 20 minutes before the ink makes an appearance. Noodler’s Berning Red is formulated to be a quick drying ink and Nathan says it’s a ink for lefties which is also word play for Sander’s politics. The quick dry property is achieved by fast absorption into the paper.

I have mixed opinions about the ink. It’s a nice enough red color and I like it. So that’s a positive. Another positive is that the quick drying ability let’s me use the ink to mark up documents or emphasize notes with little concern about smudging. But the quick drying, since it’s from fast absorption, has its drawbacks. The line put down is consistently wider than the nib and prone to feathering. Since it’s absorbed by the paper show-through was a problem, although I never experienced actual bleed-through to the next page. The ink was easily flushed from the pen with no signs of staining.

As I mentioned before I really like the Sheaffer Balance IIs. They look great, the nib is a joy to write with, and they fit my hand well. Like it’s Jade Green sibling the nib could benefit from a little tuning. I’m afraid I’ll ruin it ,so it too has been added to the list to get some attention at the Washington DC Pen Show in August.

The Sheaffer Balance II and Noodler’s Berning Red are a nice enough combination, but not great, so I didn’t consider a refill. I’d pick Sheaffer Red or Montblanc Corn Poppy Red over this ink unless I specifically wanted it’s quick drying benefits. I’ll use it, but the bottle will last a long time. The pen will probably remain in storage until the nib gets tuned in August.

Ink and Pen Notes: Sheaffer Balance II and Omas Green

Sheaffer Balance II with Omas GreenThere really isn’t anything about the Sheaffer Balance IIs that I don’t like. The acrylics are lovely,the nibs are great and they fit well in my hand. This one is a Jade Green Balance II with a medium 18ct gold nib that Sheaffer branded as Feather Touch. I inked it up back on March 13th and was surprised to see it had been uninked for over nine months. In my head I had used it recently.

The last time I used this pen it ended up with ink all over the inside of the barrel, either from a leak or ink creep. This time around it was uneventful from first fill to the last drop.

A bright green pen demands a bright green ink. This time around it was Omas Green. I’ve liked other Omas inks but this was my first time with green. I liked the ink so much that I picked up a second bottle before it vanishes from store shelves. The ink has a little line variation, giving it some character, while also being saturated enough to give it a nice bold color that pops off the paper. While not an exact color match, the character of the ink makes it a rival for my favorite green – Montblanc Irish Green. The ink was easily cleaned from the pen.

I did get a reminder as to why this pen went unused for so long. It still has a tendency to skip, although never bad enough to be put down. So this is another pen that gets added to the list for a nib tuning at the DC pen show. I really want it to write as well as the Balance Aspen that I have. It has such a nice soft gold nib. I don’t think I trust myself to smooth it out myself without making it worse. While it’s officially a medium it’s more a medium-fine so it works well for me.

Omas Green will make it into another pen soon enough, although I do have several other greens that are new to me and seem rather nice. The Sheaffer Balance II (Jade Green) will probably remain unused until I get the nib tuned.

Ink & Pen Notes: Sheaffer Balance Oversize with Montblanc Racing Green

Sheaffer Balance Oversize c. 1935 Marine Green with a stub nib and Montblanc Racing GreenThe second fountain pen to go dry on me this week is my vintage Sheaffer Balance Oversize (c.1935) in a gorgeous marine green with a custom stub nib and Montblanc Racing Green ink. Montblanc Racing Green used to be on of my Favorite 5 Inks although it was dropped from the latest list. The ink’s appeal to me grows and diminishes over time but I do still like the ink. I find the more time between uses and the more I like it. Maybe I’m just trying to psychologically prepare myself for when I run out of this discontinued ink or make it last longer.

I inked it up back on December 27th so it lasted just over three weeks. The nib isn’t thin and I did use this pen more than a little, but I suspect I only got a partial fill from this lever filler.

Thin nibs are my preference for everyday writers and this nib isn’t thin. I do like stub nibs and this is a nice one, but it’s not a pen I use everyday or when I want to write quickly. I mainly use it at night when I’m writing to relax. It’s not a factory stub, but it was stubbed before it joined my accumulation.

The fountain pen and ink performed well right up until it went dry. There was some nice variation between the horizontal and vertical strokes but there’s not really a lot of shading from the Montblanc Racing Green.

Cleaning a lever filler is never quick and easy, but as far as lever fillers go this as quick to clean up. It was less than 10 minutes of tedium to remove all traces of the Montblanc Green.

The Sheaffer Balance Oversize will be returned to storage since I have plenty of other pens inked up. The pen is fun to use and looks great, but it’s not a daily writer.

Ink & Pen Notes: Sheaffer Balance Aspen and Sailor Skrip Gray

Sheaffer Balance Aspen with Sheaffer Skrip Gray Ink BottleThe Sheaffer Balance Aspen sits solidly atop my favorite 5 modern fountain pens list. The pen has been inked up nearly every day since I got it. Well, more truthfully, every day since I had the feed problem fixed by Mike Masuyama.

Montblanc Permanent Grey is typically my ink of choice for this pen but I decided to change it up a bit this time. I picked Sheaffer Skrip Gray (the old Burgundy bottle version) back on September 19th. It did take awhile to write it dry this time.

I didn’t like the Sheaffer Skrip Gray anywhere near as much as the Montblanc Permanent Grey. I do like gray ink in general and the color of Sheaffer Gray is fine. It’s not great, it doesn’t have much character, but it’s fine. The performance varied based on the paper. It performed really well on Tomoe River paper and provided a very nice writing experience. It was less enjoyable on Doane Paper which is what I typically use. The ink seemed to provide less lubrication and the nib seemed to drag on the paper. This explains why it took so long to write dry, it wasn’t a good choice for my most common paper.

This pen also lasts longer because it’s the one fountain pen I have that I won’t carry out of the house. It’s a beautiful pen but has a reputation of being fragile. So I use it around the house. Even there I keep in in a single pen case that has hard sides.

I do plan to ink the Sheaffer Balance Aspen up again very soon but I did decide to clean it out which was fast and easy. I’m undecided on the next ink but will be one of my favorites I may return to Montblanc Permanent Gray or may switch to Montblanc Bordeaux.