Tag: vintage

When Good Repairs Happen to Good Pens

lady sheaffer gold

I wanted to do a follow-up to what happened to my Parker Duofold in Atlanta. I wanted to share a GOOD repair story that happened at the Chicago Pen Show. I bought a low-priced Lady Sheaffer Skripsert on Thursday night on a vendor’s table only to discover that there was a crack in the nib plastic a couple days later. Now, I didn’t look closely enough when I purchased it to discover the crack so I know this was my fault.

I mentioned the crack to someone at the show on Sunday and was told that Ron Zorn at Main Street Pens was the man to see and that he might have parts to fix a Lady Sheaffer Skripsert. Later, he happened to come by the Vanness table while I was working and I mentioned my broken Lady Sheaffer and he told me to come by he table right then. I followed him into the ballroom and was able to watch him disassemble the complicated assembly of the partially hooded nib from the cracked housing. He had a spare housing and even had new-old-stock nibs and housings so I purchased a spare fine nib as well as having him replace the housing for the original nib.

lady sheaffer gold fine nib

He did the work quickly and talked me through the procedure. He even told me he had a lot of additional  parts for Lady Sheaffers and that if I had any others that needed repairs to let him know.

lady sheaffer gold

I thought it was interesting to see that the dolphin nose angle of the nib is less severe on the X-Fine nib than on the medium nib. They are both 14K nibs and very smooth.

I thought it would be good to share a repair story with a happy ending.

lady sheaffer gold fine nib writing sample

When I got back to Kansas City, I put a turquoise Sheaffer cartridge in it and was actually quite pleased with the color of the ink. I noticed a little bit a a red halo to it which was a pleasant surprise. I plan to use up the ink and then refill the cartridges because finding a converter to fit the Lady Sheaffers is kind of a challenging. The X-Fine writes beautifully and I love it!

the lady sheaffer brigade

The “new” gold Lady Sheaffer Skripsert came with a little carrying case but I thought I’d show the whole collection together — two Lady Sheaffer Skripserts and the Sheaffer Imperial plus the extra nib unit. Now to find some of those exotic Lady Sheaffer beauties in blue and red!

Vintage Fountain Pens: Lady Sheaffer Skripsert and Sheaffer Imperial

Sheaffer Lady Skripsert & Imperial

One of the pens I was hoping to find at the Atlanta Pen Show was a vintage Lady Sheaffer Skripsert. A friend of mine showed me hers and I fell in love with it so I knew it was definitely a pen style I wanted to keep my eye out for.

The story behind the Lady Sheaffer Skripserts were that they were pens (and pencils) designed specifically for ladies in decorative patterns and posh finishes as fashion accessories from the late 50s into the 70s. They were available with either steel or gold nibs and some of the designs included raised, jeweled bands around the middle of the pen for an even more glamorous look.

 photo skripserts_penworld-1.jpg

This ad for the Lady Sheaffer, lovingly known to collectors as “the shopping list” was published in Pen World magazine in 1994 and posted to the Fountain Pen Network Forum in a thread titled “Ladies in Tulle!” back in 2008.

Sheaffer Lady Skripsert & Imperial

Well,I totally lucked out because I found a vendor who had several different models to choose from including a very rare Christmas patterned one with holly berries on the cap (not to my taste but in retrospect, its incredibly rare!). I had a hard time picking just one of the many designs and he made me a deal on two different models, both with 14K nibs.

From what I understand, the later the Lady Sheaffer was produced, the more likely the ends are to be flat instead of rounded. So my guess is that the two I purchased are probably late 60s or early 70s.

Sheaffer Lady Skripsert & Imperial Nibs

Once I got home and could start doing more detailed research, I was able to determine that the black pen with gold “tulle” is definitely a Lady Sheaffer. The nib is referred to as a Stylpoint nib as it partially hooded. There’s also a bit of a flip up at the end of the nib which if you didn’t know that was how the nibs were designed might make you think the nib had been sprung. But its not. They were designed that way.

Upon further study, the gold pen with black diamond pattern is actually a Sheaffer Imperial Sovereign rather than a Lady Sheaffer Skripsert. The inlay nib should have been the givaway but I did not know enough about the long history of the Skripsert line to know all the nib variation so I took a chance because it was beautiful. I ended up with a great pen regardless.

Sheaffer Lady Skripsert Sticker

The Lady Sheaffer Skripsert was NOS (new old stock), complete with its original sticker, so really how could I pass it up?

Sheaffer Imperial Band

And the Sheaffer Imperial was hallmarked on the barrel with a crown and “14K G.F. Sheaffer U.S.A.” So I think the barrel and cap are gold plated as well as the nib. Swank!

Sheaffer Lady Skripsert & Imperial widths

What should have also been the give away that Imperial was a different beast is that the barrel is a bit wider than the Lady Sheaffer. They are the same length but the Lady Sheaffer is a little bit more tapered overall for a slightly more diminutive silhouette. Its not good or bad but it shows that doing your homework prior to a show is important. I ended up with a happy surprise and learning more about vintage Sheaffers in general but more research would have made me better informed overall.

Sheaffer Lady Skripsert & Imperial Writing Samples

Both the Lady Sheaffer and the Imperial wrote beautifully. The Lady Sheaffer had a medium nib which wrote pretty wet and its flip up angle took a bit of getting used to. I had heard the flip was designed to enable writing at more angles but could not find any information on the internet to corroborate that so I’m not sure. If you know why the Stylpoint nibs were designed with a flip, please leave a note in the comments. I theorize that it is a bit like the Fude de Mannen Japanese nibs that allow for a wider range of stroke widths at a wider range of angle but again, I don’t have any proof nor have I used the pen long enough to prove my theory.

The Imperial has a fine nib that is perfect! It writes beautifully and as soon as I get cartridges or converters for these two pens, I have a feeling that they will end up in regular rotation. They are both comfortable in my hand, lovely to look and and beautiful writers. How can you beat that?

In the end, I’m pleased with my vintage Sheaffer purchases but I would have been happier with myself if I’d been better informed before I got to the show. But knowledge comes with time and asking the right questions.

For more information about Lady Sheaffer Skripserts:

When Bad Repairs Happen To Good Pens

Parker Duofold

I’ve spent a lot of time this past week trying to decide the best way to talk about what was the saddest part of my Atlanta Pen Show experience. I mentioned to a vendor that I had a beloved vintage Parker Duofold vac filler but that the vacuum-filler didn’t work and he said “Oh, there’s a guy here who specializes in fixes those. You should take it over and have him look at it.”

I was very excited at the possibility of getting my pen in full working order so I hopped over to the repairman and he seemed fairly convinced that for a reasonable fee and a couple of hours he could get my pen in working order. I left him my pen and my phone number and headed off to lunch.

This is where things went sideways and I should have probably talked to people with more experience getting pens repaired to know what questions to ask and what outcomes I could expect.

Parker Duofold

I dropped off my pen around noon and did not hear back from the repairman by 4pm. I started to get concerned but didn’t want to pester him. I know how busy tables can get and the potential to get backed up but I also knew that the show floor closed up at 5pm and if he was not going to get time to work on my pen, I wanted to be retrieve before 5pm and either bring it back next year or make arrangements for shipping.

When I got to his table, he informed me that the prior owner of the pen must have epoxied the vac into the end of the pen and, as a result, when he attempted to remove it, the barrel of the pen melted and warped. In other words, my pen was returned to me more damaged than when I left it with him and I only received a cursory apology and a “these things sometimes happen”.  I was not charged for the mishap but I was not compensated in anyway for the damage either.

As one of my first vintage fountain pens and a thrift store score at that, I have a lot of sentimental attachment to the pen. Yes, most of my love is a result of the pen having a beautiful, slightly flexible gold nib but still!

Parker Duofold nib

So, from my cautionary tale, I want to provide some advice to anyone seeking pen repairs, nib tuning or other manipulations from someone, either at a pen show or online:

  • Be sure to ask is there a possibility that the pen might sustain additional damage?
  • If so, whose responsibility is it? (Go into the transaction knowing ahead of time if the repairman is not held responsible for someone else’s janky repair work like epoxy so you are not taken by surprise like I was)
  • Does the repairman have spare parts on site should the pen need to be modified due to breakage or damage? At a show, he might not have all his spare parts but might be able to take the pen back to his shop and finish repairs and mail the pen back to you.
  • Get good cost estimates up front. If the repairman want payment up front, verify what refund policy he has should he be unable to complete the repairs.

In the end, it can’t hurt to ask all the questions and if a repairman (or person) is unwilling to answer them, feel free to share my experience as the reason you’re asking. Not that you distrust them but you know that bad things have happened to good pens.

Parker Duofold

Art of the Day: Paper-Mate poster from 1956

Paper-Mate pen, Sioux boy with a sioux war bonnet made of pens instead of real eagle-feather. Beautifully printed in stone-lithography. Herbert Leupin was one of the leader of the Basel school and the hyperrealism style, also called "SachPlakat".
Paper-Mate pen, Sioux boy with a sioux war bonnet made of pens instead of real eagle-feather. Beautifully printed in stone-lithography. Herbert Leupin was one of the leader of the Basel school and the hyperrealism style, also called “SachPlakat”.

Original Vintage Posters keeps a fabulous assortment of vintage posters including vintage typewriter images and other vintage pens. Does your office need some art on the wall?

His (or Her) Majesty’s Stationery Office

Collage of images from H.M.S.O.

This is a fascinating collection of vintage office supplies from the official Stationery Office of the King or Queen of England. The office was in existence for over 200 years providing office supplies to civil servants. Each item is marked with the letters “S.O.” and a crown. Lito has collected and beautifully photographed dozens of products from the S.O. Check out her Flickr Album to see and read more about the items.

(via Lito Apostolakou of Palimpest and Inklinks)

Kickstarter: Qwerkywriter


Even typewriter lovers among us occasionally have to use a modern-day computer. Why not experience the beauty and feel of a vintage typewriter while you pound out your emails or Twitter missives? That’s where the new Kickstarter Project, the Qwerkywriter comes in. Its a USB keyboard (though there are plans for a Bluetooth adaptation if they exceed funding) that has a 88-key mechanical keyboard with the classic good-looks of a vintage glass-key typewriter. The “paper feed” doubles as a tablet stand for your iPad or Android tablet.

At the $289/$299 funding level, you can receive this unique keyboard. The developer is about a third of the way to his funding goal so if you’d like to see this project come to fruition, support it today. The funding period end July 3.

Qwerkywriter with tablet

Esterbrook 9314F: Fine Stub

Esterbrook 9314F writing sample

Do you ever come across a pen or a nib you think “this is my signature pen?” The one that makes your handwriting look better without doing anything but using it? That’s how I feel about the Esterbrook 9314F Relief Fine Stub. Its from the “higher end” line of nibs from Esterbrook, the Master series and I was lucky enough to borrow a NOS version from Harvey  from the blog, My Antique Pens.

Esterbrook 9314F nib

The 9314F  has a nib that is flat at the tip like a stub but its angled slightly down to the left. I had previously fallen in love with the 2442 Falcon nibs which also have the angled nibs but this was my first opportunity to compare Durachrome (the 2000-series) to Master Points (the 9000-series) Renew nibs in a head-to-head. I guess its almost a head-to-head since there is also a 2314F nib that is labelled a “Fine Stub”. I am not sure what the difference is between the 2442 fine stub and the 2314F fine stub so I guess this is as close as I’ll get at the moment.

Esterbrook 9314F writing and comparison

It became obvious when comparing the three nibs that my original, well-worn 2442 is definitely lost its crispness but it writes very smoothly and consistently. The NOS 2442 writes similarly to the 9314F but I noticed that the finest cross strokes were not quite as fine in the 2442.

Esterbrook nib drawing

I still feel like I’m learning about falcon nibs, this sub-category of nibs. Some say the Falcon (also called Relief) nib is designed for people who write with a backwards slant. Others say it was meant for left-handed writers. For a bit more information about Relief/Falcon-style Esterbrook nibs, this thread on FPN is quite enlightening.

What I discovered with all three of these nibs is that I can easily write with them and get a broader stroke with some pleasing thins without altering my left-handed, overhanded writing position. I often have difficulties with broad nibs entirely and wider stub nibs are a challenge as I can’t always get the nibs to make even contact with the paper. Ah, the challenges of lefties!

Esterbrook 9314F writing close-up

(A huge thank you to Harvey at My Antique Pens for letting me take this little rarity out for a spin)

(UPDATE: Corrected post title and link to Harvey’s blog. Sometimes, I swear I should not be allowed near a keyboard before 10am and a WHOLE pot of coffee!)

A 300-Year-Old Color Swatch Book

colors-1 colors-3

If you think we pen geeks get a little OCD about documenting our new fountain pen inks or testing papers in various notebooks, then you’ll appreciate this. In 1692 an artist created an 800-page handwritten book of paint swatches and documenting color at that time. Many comparisons are being made between this book and the modern day Pantone swatch books. Pretty epic, huh?


There are even more photos available to view, all collected in hi-rez though the server is clearly overburdened at present.

(via Colossal and linked from Erik Kwakkel. Thanks to Bob, Teri and everyone else who sent me the link)

The “Upstairs” Typewriters

Manual Typewriter Army
1. Olivetti-Underwood Lettera 22, 2. Smith-Corona Empire, 3. Royal Royalite, 4. Hermes Rocket, 5. Adler Tippa, 6. Brother/Webster XL-747

I admit it. I have a typewriter collection. All my machines are manual typewriters, no power needed other than my fingers bashing about on the keys and a good ribbon.

When one must describe a portion of the collection and the  “upstairs” typewriters, clearly there’s some typewriter hoarding going on here. The “upstairs” typewriters are mostly functional, though the Royal Royalite is being moved downstairs until I can get it fixed, or at least looked at by a professional to see if its worth fixing. The others are diamonds, or at least diamonds in the rough.

The "Upstairs" Typewriters

After getting my new Lettera 22, I just had to see how much overlap there is in the collection and was pleasantly surprised to discover there isn’t any. Okay, technically, there is a “spare” super-wonky Hermes Rocket in the basement that needs to be repaired but that’s the only case where I have two of the same machine. But, seriously, no self-respecting typewriter collector would ever walk away from an Hermes Rocket. Nope. Not a chance.

So, would you like to see how these all type?

Royal Royalite Typing sample

This is the wonkiest of the bunch, the Royal Royalite but I love the typeface so much I’m willing to see what it would take to fix it up. Besides, it has one of the most beautiful shapes of all my manual typewriters. I bet Mary Tyler Moore, or maybe Rhoda would have typed on a machine like this.

Olivetti-Underwood Lettera 22 typing sample

This is my newest acquisition, the Lettera 22. It needs a new ribbon but it has instantly made it into my top three typewriters. It requires a pretty light touch for a manual typewriter and has no noticeable flaws in performance. What a score this was!

Hermes Rocket typing sample

I want to love this Hermes Rocket, I really do but it has a wonky ribbon advance and it cuts off the ink on uppercase letters. The ribbon might be too big for the machine or something but its been nothing but frustrating.

Adler Tippa typins sample

Oh, Adler Tippa, how I love you! This is my coup de gras of typewriters. It was in pristine condition when I bought it on Craig’s List and the cursive script face was a total bonus. This is one of those items I’d be sure to grab if there was a fire/tornado/etc.

Smith-Corona Empire typing sample

I think the only flaw of the Empire by Smith-Corona is that it was never really used and could use some oil. Otherwise, its a little trooper with some sticky keys.

Webster Brother XL-747 typing sample

My Brother/Webster is not the prettiest machine in the house, even with its shiny blue paint, but it has been a workhorse. I found it at a thrift store and paid $20 at the time which my dear husband thought was ludicrous. Poor delusional boy. The red ink is running dry on the ribbon but this machine stills gets used more than any other.

Do you have a typewriter? Or several?

Typewriter Acquisition: Olivetti-Underwood Lettera 22

Olivetti-Underwood Lettera 22

I’m an equal-opportunity office supply junkie. Pens? Yes, of course. Paper? Yep. Staplers, paper clips, clipboards? Don’t mind if I do. And the coup de gras of old office goodies, manual typewriters? Oo la la!

This weekend we went out to our favorite antique mall which is often a hot bed of vintage office supplies like old staplers, pocket notebooks with feed store logos and the occasional bullet pencil but typewriters tend to be of the dusty-and-rusty variety and never anything serviceable or useable. Until this weekend when I stumbled across a minty Olivetti-Underwood Lettera 22.

Olivetti-Underwood Lettera 22

The mall was having a “meet the vendors” night with free cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and special discounts on merchandise so this fine piece of mid-century mechanics was 35% off. I grabbed this beauty and hopped to the register faster than you can say “shabby chic” and then we headed over to Skylab Letterpress to do some light cleaning and oiling.

Olivetti-Underwood Lettera 22

It cleaned up beautifully and the keys work beautifully. I just need to order a new ribbon for it. It has a switch for two-color ribbon so I’ll keep that in mind when I order a new spool.

Sadly, the typewriter no longer had its carrying case so I’m keeping an old bit of fabric over the top of it to keep it from getting dusty until I find a case for it. Holler if you happen to find one!

Olivetti-Underwood Lettera 22

Do you peruse thrift stores, antique markets or yard sales for vintage office supplies, pens or pencils?

Happy Ester(brook) Sunday!


Spring is the perfect time to pull out the Esterbrooks, dust them off and see which ones need a little spring cleaning. This is my whole Esterbrook collection and I can see a gaping absence of a brown or rootbeer model as well as a need for several more pastel pocket pens to fill out my collection. And I don’t have even one mechanical pencil.

Happy Ester(brook) Sunday!

Of the eight shown, five are in full working order with nibs installed. Two have my favorite stub nib, the Falcon Fine Stub 2442, the gray on the left has the legendary 9128 flex nib, the pastel pink has the 9788, the blue has the 9550.

Of course, while I had the pens out, I felt it necessary to do a little record keeping so I created a little spreadsheet inventory of the nibs I currently have and which pen they are residing in.

nib #



in pen?


Firm extra-fine, Bookkeeping



Firm Stub, Signature Stub



Fine Stub, Falcon


grey pearl


Fine Stub, Falcon


red pearl


Firm fine, Fine Writing



Firm fine, Fine Writing



Firm medium, General Writing



Firm medium, General Writing



Flexible Extra Fine, Fine penmanship (Pitman shorthand) 


grey pearl


Firm Extra Fine, Bookkeeping


blue pearl


Firm Fine, Shorthand



Firm Fine, Shorthand


pink pastel


Firm Fine, Fine Writing, Records and charts



Firm medium, General Writing


Clearly, I have more nibs than pens but not nearly all the possible nib options that are available:

(image via Rick Binder)
(image via Richard Binder)

I would really like to try the 9314F Master Point version of the Fine Stub, the 2048 or 9048 “Shaded Writing” and several others. Like jelly beans, with Esterbrooks, you can’t have just one!

Happy Ester(brook) Sunday!

What’s The Big Deal About Vintage Pencils?


I realized I’d never really talked about what I like about vintage pencils, beyond the obvious that they look cool and are old and are often relics of domestic factories of companies still in business. So I thought I’d take a moment to show you some vintage pencils in action.

Vintage Pencils

One of the great things about vintage pencils is that, no matter how old they are, they are going to write if you sharpen them. If it has an eraser, avoid it completely though. The erasers will dry out in a matter of a year or two so trust me when I tell you that a 40 year old eraser will either do nothing at all or leave a dark smudge on your paper. So don’t bother with it. But the lead? Its all good.

Vintage Pencils

Some pencils will have unusual grading as opposed to the modern B (for black or soft leads) and H (for hard and therefore lighter leads). Some vintage pencils may simply say HARD or VERY HARD like the ones shown above or a combination of text.

In the past, pencils were used for lots of purposes beyond just Scantronic tests and math homework. Remember, the pencil had its heyday in the world before computers and the power of the undo.

I have a few “film lead” pencils that were designed to write on plastic film for printing or photography. Hard lead pencils were favored by draftsmen and artists and soft leads could be used to write on wood. Pencils allowed folks to apply pressure to their writing in order to easily and cheaply use carbon copies like a store receipt or invoice.


This is a writing sample of several of my vintage pencils. There were three stand-outs in writing quality: the Futura Medium F, the Eagle Chemi*Sealed Mirado 174 and the USA Black Flyer 4500. I was stunned at how smoothly they wrote.

I also loved writing with the Press 260 Jet Black. It reminded me of the Faber-Castell Design Ebony pencil and the General’s Layout Extra Black but when I compared them, The Press 260 was light years darker and smoother. If you like either of those modern pencils, its worth it to seek out the Press 260 Jet Black.


On the second page, I wanted to also include some modern pencils so you could have a point of reference for how dark or light the writing is.

I would say that the USA Black Flyer is comparable to the Blackwing 602 but the Flyer is a smooth round barrel while the Blackwing is a hexagonal. The Flyer is unfinished on the end. Potentially, you could sharpen it from both ends or add an eraser cap were you to find one of these at a yard sale. The Faber-Castell Grip 2001 has a similar feel, graphite-wise, to the vintage Mirado but the barrel shapes are different, not to mention the overall appearance.

I love modern and vintage pencils with equal enthusiasm. Would I give up my stash of modern Blackwing 602s for another vintage Mirado? No way. I like having the chance to sample old pencils like rare, fine wines. I enjoy them while I can and save the little, stumpy ends like corks. And modern pencils provide me with a steady stream of writing enjoyment.

Writing sample was done on Rhodia blank pad and all erasing was done with a Staedtler Mars Plastic eraser.

A.W. Faber Sure-Grip 6803 Clutch Pencil

A.W. Faber Sure-Grip Clutch Pencil

Thanks to the fact that my neighborhood is filled with artists both working and retired, yard sales tend to be a jackpot for vintage office supplies. This little gem is a vintage A.W. Faber Sure-Grip 6803. Its a clutch-style leadholder pencil that takes 2mm leads. These are popular with architects and draftsmen (draftspeople?) as the lead is strong and can be sharpened to a wicked point using a lead pointer. It’s stamped “USA” as well.

Digging in Wikipedia and various web sites, Faber was actually part of the Castell empire as far back as the 19th century so they must have had a manufacturing facility in the US. This looks like a mid-20th century lead holder by which time, I suspect, the pencil empire required manufacturing facilities in many countries.

A.W. Faber Sure-Grip vintage clutch pencil

This particular leadholder had a pre-sharpened lead so sharp I think I could have impaled someone with it. Isn’t it fantastic? I suspect the previous owner is responsible for this and that it did not come from the factory like this.

The pencil body itself is a combination of a metal knurled grip section and a metal clutch with a metallic painted hexagonal pencil body. The button on the end to release the clutch is also metal (painted a nice red).  I like it because the painted plastic section makes the whole pencil lighter and with a lower center of gravity than an all-metal leadholder.

Overall, I can tell by the construction that this was an everyday tool on the budget side of the spectrum. As a collector’s item, its probably not worth more than about $5 but I really like it and know that it came from the nice, retired draftsman down the street who was thrilled to know it was going to someone who would appreciate it. Oh, if he only knew!


Film King Dur-O-Lite Twist Pencil

Film King Dur-o-Lite

This Film King Dur-O-Lite pencil. It is one of those weird and wonderful pencil goodies that occasionally find their way to me. This one came from my pal Bryan over at Field Notes (much obliged!).

It’s branding includes where is was made “Melrose Park, Illinois” (yeah!) and “Film lead D-1”. It appears to be a wood case pencil but it has a twist mechanism to reveal the lead. Around the lead point end of the pencil is a metal graduated cone in weirdly Clearasil flesh color with a gold clamp ring keeping it taut. Twisting the fleshy end will reveal more lead. I attempted to hack the pencil to see if it could be refilled and it seems a bit fussy in that regard.

Film pencils were designed with a different type of graphite to hold up better on film, mylar and other plastic-y papers used in drafting, print pre-production and by photographers and the motion picture industry. The characteristics of the graphite that made them write better on film is not as important to a modern pencil connoisseur as very few people have need of this specialized ability. I like the history of tool like this though. Dave’s Mechanical Pencils has a longer article about film leads, if you’re curious.

Leadholder has some great images of an ordering brochure for the Dur-o-Lite Pencil Company which has a great typography and a fabulous illustration. From the brochure, I can establish that D-1 is probably on the harder end of the lead grades offered and that it was touted as a disposable pencil with a cedar casing.

Finally, I found a short stub on Wikipedia that indicated that Dur-o-lite and Auto-Point were rivals in their hey day. Dur-o-lite shuttered its operations in the 90s but Auto-Point is still in operation. I love that they still produce their classic Twinpoint.

I found one Dur-o-Lite film pencil on Ebay with a Buy It Now price of $3.35.

TOT Staples Solution

Vintage TOT stapler and MAX No. 10 staples

I love vintage staplers. They are good looking and often still work after all these years. Some of my favorite vintage staplers take the difficult-to-find TOT staples. Well, I took a chance and got a packet of Max No. 10 staples in green (of course) and lo and behold they fit and work perfectly in TOT staplers. They are also available in red and blue. All colors are available for $3.30 per box. If colored staples are not to your taste, plain silver No. 10 staples can be purchased in a box of 1000 from Jet Pens for $1.50.

Vintage TOT stapler and MAX No. 10 staples

Book: A Collection A Day


Lisa Congdon’s book A Collection A Day has lots of beautifully composed photos and drawings of the many bits of ephemera she collects including vintage office supplies.


I thought I’d share a few pages from the book that I found particularly inspiring.


The erasers and pencil leads are probably my favorite spreads. I wish there was a poster available of these. They would make lovely office decor, wouldn’t you agree?


(Book is available through Uppercase Magazine and comes in a tin, perfect for starting your own collecting. $25)

The History of the Trapper Keeper


Oh, yes. You read that correctly. The History of the Trapper Keeper. Do you remember these jewels of high school? I sure do. Mental Floss published an exhaustive history of the design and development of the iconic notebook system. There’s details about market research, focus groups and patents. Yep, it was scientifically created to be fabulous.

Best quote:

John Mayer called Trapper Keepers “the genesis of OCD for my generation.”



(via Mental Floss)

Vintage Sealing Wax

Vintage Dennison Red Sealing Wax

A kind friend found a full box of vintage Dennison Sealing Wax and gave it to me. The sticks are huge at almost 12″ long and only one was broken. Now, I think I need to find a seal. Anyone know of a good source for them? Something unique?

Vintage Dennison Red Sealing Wax

Esterbrook 2442 Falcon Nib


Reader Cliff offered to send me an Esterbrook Falcon nib and I gladly accepted. What I didn’t realize until it arrived is that it is the same number as my favorite Esterbrook nibs — the #2442. It turns out that the #2442 is also called a Falcon nib or a Fine Stub. Needless to say, I was thrilled to have a second one as I have far more Esterbrook pen bodies than I do nibs but first, I needed to do a little research about what exactly made a nib a “falcon” nib.

a handful of Esties

As best I could glean from the Internet is that a Falcon nib was also a term used to describe a left-leaning italic nib which is also sometimes considered a left-handed italic. This does not mean only left handed writers can use it but that it does seem to benefit lefties who tend to write leaning a bit to the left.

Esterbrook 2442 side-by-side

At close inspection, the two 2442 nibs look a little different. The one on the left is the one I’ve had for some time and my go-to pen. The cleaner one on the right is the one that Cliff sent me and the tines seem tighter and the angled tip looks a bit sharper in the corners.

Easterbrook 2442 writing samples

When I put them to paper side-by-side, a mysterious and slightly unsettling thing occurred. My older 2442 wrote like butter, like it was made for my hand. With the feathery-lightest of touches, it applied ink to the page. No scritchy noises, no snags or skips. When I put Cliff’s shiny, new 2442 to paper it revolted against me. It skipped, stuttered and  behaved most uncivilized. How could this be the same nib? One would think the new nib would behave well and the old nib would be grumpy and fussy but no. It was the other way around. How could this be?

I pouted for days and grumbled and wondered. My instinct is that the new nib needs a little tuning to match my writing angle, to smooth the end for my somewhat wonky writing angle. It requires some pampering and adjustment to grow up to be as fabulous and flaw-free as the older 2442.

My takeaway from the experience is that not every nib, even from the same manufacturer, is going to be perfect, or perfect for me. We, as pen lovers, can either choose to pass it on to someone else who it might be perfect for, or tweak it, tune it or manipulate it to work with our needs. This is not the first pen that did not perform as I anticipated. I’ve had a vintage Parker that were actually broken and leaked like a sieve. I have had brand new pens from manufacturers respected for their craftsmanship fall short of my expectations (one due to an inherent flaw and one to do a user flaw). Over time though, I’ve learned not to let these experiences sour me on fountain pens. Each is a learning experience and what may be a jewel to you may not be for me. That’s part of what makes the world of pens and fountain pens so wonderful.

Feel free to share your own pen experiences in the comments, for better or for worse.

(Nib sent to by reader Cliff, aka Caleath. Thank you for your kindness. I will make this work!)

Country Living Featurette: Mad-Men Style Vintage Office Supplies

Country Living Sept 2013

Yesterday was a big day for me. The September 2013 issue of Country Living magazine showed up in my mailbox and included a Collecting featurette about collecting vintage office supplies that featured some of the jewels from my personal collection. Yep, you read that correctly.

I sent my beloved Adler Tippa typewriter and some of my other favorite vintage office supplies to the Country Living office to help them put together this feature together. I’ve had to be a bit hush-hush about it but now I can shout it from the rafters. That’s my typewriter!!!

Country Living Sept 2013

(via Country Living, September 2013 now available on newsstands)

What’s a Swivodex?


Ever heard of a Swivodex? Its an ink wells designed by the same people who invented the Rolodex. Its a tip-proof ink well that can be tilted (think “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down!”) to get more ink out of the bottle without making a mess — hopefully. They were produced in the middle of the 20th century, best guess is the 40s and 50s. If you spy one at an antique store, grab it! Could be a great way to dispense your favorite inks!

(photo via Pendemonium)

Dennison Desk Tray

Dennison matchbox desk tray --rearranged

I fell in love with my Dennison Bookshelf mathcbook set I got for Christmas this year. So much so that when I saw this vintage plastic desk tray, I knew the two needed to meet. The tray is a marbled brown plastic and is in excellent condition.  I think the center section was originally designed to hold an ink bottle. On the front are slots for pen and paper clips and the whole tray is angled for easy use. The streamlined design details make me think this is from the 1940s but the plastic is in such good shape I can’t imagine its quite that old.

I only have six Dennison boxes which do not quite fit perfectly in the tray but with a little creative arranging, I fit a Diamine ink bottle on one side and arranged the matchboxes across the left and top.

Mad Men Modernist


Even Don Draper needs to upgrade his office furniture every season or so. The set designers for Mad Men worked hard to make the office furniture appropriate for the time period using both vintage and reproduction pieces. The article on Midcentry Modernist goes into extensive detail about the specific pieces used and the subtle upgrades made throughout the series.

(via Midcentury Modernist)