This Just In: Sheaffer Balance Oversize Grey Marble

photo of the Sheaffer Balance Oversize grey marble on a pen stand I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth repeating – I have a soft spot in my heart when it comes to Sheaffers, and I get weak-kneed when-ever I see a Sheaffer Balance Oversize from the 1930s. So, when this fountain pen became available from a trusted seller, it was an insta-buy, even though it was at the high end of what I was willing to pay. Who am I kidding? For a vintage Balance Oversize, I have no high end. The only question is if I can spare the money.

This is a vacuum-filler. Although I do I prefer lever-fillers since they are easier to repair. Mitigating this drawback is that this one was recently restored by Sherrell Tyree, so I’ll be worry-free for the next several years. I bought the pen from Anderson Pens, and Brian added a note about who did the restoration.

While grey may not be a popular color, I’ve always liked it, and I’m currently going through another grey phase, with many recent purchases picking gray as the color. The pen has a grey marble design, also called Grey Pearl, with good transparency. The barrel has a sharp gray pattern with some subtle color variation. The transparent areas have a ruby red color. I’m not familiar enough with these pens to know whether the ruby is original or the result of age. At least it’s uniform and looks like it could be the original color. Although my guess would be it is not, especially since in the right (or wrong) light, the edges of the grey can look brownish due to the ruby transparency beneath it. The cap has the same grey pattern, but it’s on an opaque black base rather than the transparent ruby red.

closeup photo of the Sheaffer Balance Oversize nib

Thats ink and reflections on the nib, it’s actually in great shape.

It has a 14K gold two-tone nib. I’m not a fan of gold-colored nibs, preferring silver, but the look of these nibs is my favorite. It’s stamped “Sheaffer’s Lifetime” along with the patent info. Any nib size identifier is buried beneath the section if it exists at all. It’s the size Sheaffer nib I love and consider a medium/fine. It’s as slim as, or thinner than, many modern western fine nibs. It’s not labeled as a Feather-Touch nib, but the flow is excellent. I need to do some research to see if the Lifetime nibs were the same as feather-touch nibs, with the Lifetime moniker being used on higher-end pens.

closeup photo of the Sheaffer Balance Oversize capThe pen is a white dot model, which still signified a lifetime warranty at the time the pen was sold. The clip is the hump style with a flat-topped ball. The clip and pen material dates the pen from around 1935. As mentioned, it’s a vacuum-filler, not a lever-filler. The blind-cap that controls the plunger is solid black. The plunger works smoothly, and I was able to get a proper fill with one plunge. Juggling the ink bottle while trying not to smash the nib into the bottom of the bottle made me a bit timid, which affected the amount of ink that flowed into the pen. I don’t doubt that a bottle with enough ink to cover the nib while the bottle is on a flat, stable surface would result in a completely filled pen.

I expect great things from this nib, and like all vac-fillers, the pen can be tedious to clean. I wanted an ink that would flow well and be easy to clean. Or even better, refilled with the same ink without cleaning. I picked Rohrer & Klingner Blau-Schwarz LE ink. It’s a smooth flowing blue-black ink that’s already proven it can be used for 18 straight problem fee months in a fountain pen. The only drawback is that I’ll soon run out of this limited edition ink.

The Balance Oversize gets along well with the ink. The flow has been perfect, with no skipping. There haven’t been any hard starts, but since I’ve used the pen every day, the nib hasn’t had the chance to dry out.

The Sheaffer Balance Oversize Grey Marble is about to be written dry. I picked the ink since it is easy to flush out of a pen. In this case, it will be a quick refill so that the pen can remain in active use. A great addition to my Sheaffer collection, which now has the distinction of being a core pen.

photo of the Sheaffer Balance Oversize Gray Marble with the barrel resting on the cap.

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.

Favorite 5: Vintage Fountain Pens

It’s been just over six months since I last updated my Favorite 5 Vintage Fountain Pens. As I mentioned when I updated my Favorite 5 Modern Fountain Pens, I have instituted a new rule – to be considered the pen must have been used since I last published my favorite five list. In this case this made picking the pens a non-event, I only used 5 vintage pens since October. I do group my Esterbrook J’s and nibs together which does reduce the overall number. A vintage pen is any pen manufactured before I was born. Here’s my current list.

1. Parker Vacumatic Maxima (1942) Silver Pearl with Nickel Trim

Parker Vacumatic Maxima (1942) Pearl GreyThis moves all the way up from the fifth position six months ago. I love this particular finish, it seems I’m attracted to black and gray finishes, and even though the finish is worn through use, that merely enhances its beauty.

The nib is very nail-like but that’s what I like. It’s performance never disappoints me.

2. Esterbrook J (any of them)

Esterbrook J with 8440 nibThis is certainly my most used vintage model. It’s a rare day when at least one Esterbrook isn’t inked. I’d prefer a bigger pen but like my modern KarasKustoms Ink this pen makes the list thanks to its variety. No real review of the pen but the nibs are indexed here with links to their reviews.

3. Esterbrook Dip-Less with #7550 nib

Esterbrook Dip-less in an empty #407 inkwell

Esterbrook Dip-less in an empty #407 inkwell

This has been inked, so to speak, since August 2014 and I use it almost every day, at least for a few words. Part of the attraction is that the pen is different. But I do enjoy writing with it. Review

4. Sheaffer PFM I

Photo of a Sheaffer PFM I on a mirrorThis is borderline vintage. Since most were sold before my birth I choose to believe my specific pens were manufactured before I was born. This is the low end trim for the PFM line but it works well for me. The photo and the review are of my first PFM which was blue. I bought a second PFM I in green which is my color preference. The pens are identical in every way except color. Even the nib performance is identical, at least as much as I can tell. Review

5. Parker Duofold Senior c1928 “Big Red”

Parker Duofold Senior This has always been the classic fountain for me so this makes the list based strictly on emotion, and the fact that is was one of only five vintage pens I used since October. This pen has a tendency to leak a bit from the nib into the cap when being bounced around in my bag, so it tends to stick around the house. While it’s never actually leaked I also hesitate to carry it in my shirt pocket since it is one of the few vintage pens I have where I am paranoid about it leaking. Review

Wrapping Up

I was a little surprised that I only used five vintage fountain pens in the last six months. I have a couple that could have challenged these if I had used them. The Duofold certainly has the a tenuous grip on the list which is no surprise since it’s been on the list and then dropped in the past.

What’s your favorite vintage pen?

Favorite 5: Vintage Fountain Pens

It’s been over a year since my Favorite 5 Vintage Fountain Pens list changed. I revisited the list six months ago but decided there weren’t any changes. In the last six months I’ve been almost all modern. Because of this, picking a favorite 5 was a bit easier since by definition (at least my definition) a favorite pen should be one that is used. So I didn’t have to decide from among my entire vintage accumulation. A vintage pen is any pen manufactured before I was born. Here’s my current list.

1. Esterbrook J (any of them)

Esterbrook J with 8440 nibI moved the Esterbrook J to the top spot since it was easily the most used vintage pen these past six months. Maybe it’s a cheat since I used several barrels and many different nibs, but that’s what makes the Estie J a favorite. Now that I’ve run through all my nibs (although there are many I don’t have) maybe I can narrow it down to a favorite nib or two (or six) for the next update. No real review of the pen but the nibs are indexed here with links to their reviews.

2. Sheaffer Balance Lifetime Oversize c1935

Sheaffer Balance Oversize - Marine GreenThis pen gets used so often because of it’s looks. The custom stub nib is a smooth writer. While the stub is far wider than my typical fine or extra fine preference my horizons are expanding and I’ve grown to love this nib. It was a coin toss between this and the Esterbrooks for the top slot. The Esterbrooks won on volume. I was surprised to see I haven’t reviewed this pen. At the very least I need to do a photo post.

3. Sheaffer PFM I

Photo of a Sheaffer PFM I on a mirrorThis is borderline vintage. Since most were sold before my birth I choose to believe mine were manufactured before I was born. This is the low end trim for the PFM line but it works well for me. The photo and the review are of my first PFM which was blue. I bought a second PFM I in green which is my color preference. Review

4. Sheaffer Balance Junior c1931 with custom stub nib

Sheaffer Balance Junior c1931This ugly pen used to top my Fav 5 list. It’s still a smooth stub nib that I love, but I’ve used it less over the last six months. Review.

5. Parker Vacumatic Maxima (1942) Silver Pearl with Nickel Trim

Parker Vacumatic Maxima (1942) Pearl GreyThis was second vintage pen (an Esterbrook $1 was my first) and it’s still a favorite. I love the vintage Vacumatic finishes and this one is in pretty good shape. I haven’t used it recently but since this article jogged my memory I’ll be inking it up.

Wrapping Up

The Parker Duofold Senior c1928 (Big Red) is a sentimental favorite but it was reluctantly dropped from the list in favor of the Sheaffer PFM I. Big Red leaks a bit around the nib which has kept me from using it. But I have to admit, sentiment aside I’d have to pick the PFM over Big Red even if it didn’t leak. The other four pens were on my first Fav 5 list although they’ve swapped positions around. What’s your favorite vintage pen?