Ink Drop Soup: The Curious Case of the Moldy Sheaffer

8 03 2014

This story begins the slow summer of my first job, when I and my lab-mates tackled the task of cleaning up the lab and discovered, tucked away abandoned in a drawer, a few old Sheaffers that probably belonged to the previous professor of the lab. The current professor of the lab gave us his blessing to keep them, and thus the unknown Sheaffer entered my personal collection. This was also the summer I discovered JetPens—my memory is shoddy but I suspect the two are causally related.

If this looks like a classy old man pen, that's because that's probably exactly what it was

If this looks like a classy old man pen, that’s because that’s probably exactly what it was

For quite some time, the pen wrote well. We probably used some bottled black Cross ink from the university bookstore in the beginning, up until I found the converter sac had a leak, and I switched to self-contained cartridges. I ran through a pack of lovely turquoise cartridges, and then made the switch to the ill-fated brown.

Here they are, complete with ill fate. Or perhaps that ill-fated feeling was just the hot dogs and potato chips I unwisely had for dinner

Here they are, complete with ill fate. Or perhaps that ill-fated feeling was just the hot dogs and potato chips I unwisely had for dinner

What exactly happened, I don’t know. Perhaps the pen was low on ink, and I was intending to clean it before switching to the next cartridge. All I can say is that I opened the cap and found this:

Cue the terror-violins

Cue the terror-violins

That’s not cotton candy. That is the horror that haunts this earth. That is a waking nightmare beneath a twist cap.

SCREAMING WILL NOT SAVE YOU

SCREAMING WILL NOT SAVE YOU

My reaction beyond a wordless “HUAGHUHHGGH!” was to put the cap back on, mentally brace myself first, and come back to clean the pen once armed with some information.

euhghghhh??

euhghghhh??

Time only made it weirder. The cotton candy transformed into black crusts. The black crusts were probably the last step before the mold gained sentience.

White crusties was a new, but no less concerning color

White crusties was a new, but no less concerning color

With no end of conflicting advice available, I decided on a cleaning regimen: first water, then vinegar diluted in water, then water, then J.B.’s Perfect Pen Flush, then water again. The vinegar, I somewhere read, could turn the nib black if it wasn’t real gold; my nib is still golden, so either it’s real-deal gold or that tidbit of advice was bunk. But in spite of all the cleanings, the pen just wasn’t right. The flow was off—I suspected the feed, in which you could see new white crusties had formed, and got in contact with Sheaffer.

Old feed: misleadingly easy to take apart

Old feed: misleadingly easy to take apart

We were making good progress in resolving the situation (no, I don’t want new cartridges; cartridges caused this problem in the first place; yes, I do want a new feed because your nefarious ink killed this one), and it even seemed like I’d be getting that new feed around the beginning of December. I sent Sheaffer my address and waited patiently, while my contact at Sheaffer presumably embarked on an epic quest to hand-forge my new feed in the mouth of an active volcano, because I didn’t hear from her for about 3 months.

The squeaky bird gets the grease

The squeaky bird gets the grease

I sent follow-up emails to no avail, and had given up all hope of ever hearing back from Sheaffer when I tweeted my disappointment. And almost as soon as I sent the Sheaffer twitter people my contact information, lo and behold the person I’d originally been emailing suddenly emailed me back! She survived the Ordeal of the Mt. Sheaffer Feedforging! I was so worried.

Not exactly the same! But compatible! And the only reason I figured out what this Sheaffer pen actually was? Listed on the part inventory: Connaisseur feed

Not exactly the same! But compatible! And the only reason I figured out what this Sheaffer pen actually was? Listed on the part inventory: Connaisseur feed

And whaddaya know, I got the new feed and the pen works now, the flow back to normal. Granted, I can’t get the nib to go on this new feed as far as it would go on the old feed—probably need special tools, or at the very least the legendary Mjolnir because I swear this new feed was friction fit with the force of the gods and only Norse magic can get this nib to go all the way in. I certainly couldn’t get the feed to come out. I doubt Sheaffer could either, since they sent the whole screw-in grip section with the feed.

You may now cue your favorite mystery music as appropriate

You may now cue your favorite mystery music as appropriate

What was it about those fateful brown cartridges that caused the pen to mold? Why does Sheaffer probably use hard to reach volcano gods to create impossible-to-take-apart feeds and grips? These mysteries may never be solved. What matters is that this old Sheaffer Connaisseur writes once again, and with that I’m willing to conclude the curious case of the moldy Sheaffer.

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Sheaffer Taranis Roller Ball (Stormy Wine Feat. Gold Plate Trim)

6 12 2013
Fanciest Roller Ball I've Reviewed Yet! -- and just in time for my 150th review!

Fanciest Roller Ball I’ve Reviewed Yet! — and just in time for my 150th review!

Unless you are temporally challenged like yours truly, you’ve realized by now that the gifting holidays fast approacheth. Not to worry—Sheaffer is on top of it, and kindly sent me this sample to review and to pique your gift-buying interest. Thank you, Sheaffer.

Gift experience simulation: engaged

Gift experience simulation: engaged

Maybe you’re a jaded pen aficionado who has so many fancy pen boxes that you make box forts in your spare time—I’m not. Maybe this box is simple, but I was impressed. THE BOX COMES IN ANOTHER BOX, how much fancier does it get without turning into a Russian nesting doll of pen containment? And the box for the box? So perfectly wrappable that I couldn’t resist.

This picture is probably the closest to accurate color I could get. Reproduce the color in your home: put some red wine in a glass. I used Cabernet Sauvignon. Drink the wine. Keep drinking the wine. (If you are underage, make someone else drink the wine for you). Leave about a sip in the bottom of the glass. Look at that sip and squint.That's about the color.

This picture is probably the closest to accurate color I could get. Reproduce the color in your own home: put some red wine in a glass. I used Cabernet Sauvignon. Drink the wine. Keep drinking the wine. (If you are underage, make someone else drink the wine for you. If you are against wine, make someone else perform this experiment and take pictures for you.) Leave about a sip in the bottom of the glass. Look at that sip and squint.That’s about the color.

True to the name of its color, my Stormy Wine Taranis Roller ball arrived on a cold, stormy afternoon—and though I couldn’t have wine at the time (had to go to work) this is a perfect warm wine color. If this had been the fountain pen version, I could think of some perfect matching colors of ink…or if Sheaffer made a fountain-pen-ink-to-rollerball-tip converter…hint, hint, Sheaffer; my money dollars are waiting.

The ends are squared, like chopsticks. Using Sheaffer Taranis pens as chopsticks is not advisable. Talk to your doctor before eating roller ball pens as part of your heart healthy diet. Wwait

The ends are squared, like chopsticks. Using Sheaffer Taranis pens as chopsticks is not advisable. Talk to your doctor before eating roller ball pens as part of your heart healthy diet.

The Taranis (named after the Celtic god of thunder) is a design piece, no doubt. I might have to bust out my top hat, just so I can take my hat off to its designer, U.S. architect Charles Debbas. The details are simple but deliberate, and undeniably classy. I come down on the side favoring the long clip, but if it’s too plain for you I’d suggest finding someone to engrave a Celtic knot band down the face of it. But that’s just me; originally I thought (with my bad eyesight) that the SHEAFFER branding on the grip was something Celtic.

Haha, not even close. Does pronouncing "Sheaffer" with an Irish accent make it marginally more Celtic? Probably not.

Haha, not even close. Does pronouncing “Sheaffer” with an Irish accent make it marginally more Celtic? Probably not.

Even though the branding is upside-down for my left-handed perspective, I love this grip. It’s streamlined art deco. It’s modernized classic. Everything about this pen is lining up perfect for my hand—the ridge for the cap to snap on doesn’t hit anything, nor does the posted cap edge, and the weight feels nicely balanced. The cap posts smooth and snug, and doesn’t throw off the balance.

Seems the pen world is determined to start learning me a thing or two about roller balls.

Seems the pen world is determined to start learning me a thing or two about roller balls.

The refill it came with is a Sheaffer rollerball refill II (306), and it’s taking me some getting used to. I haven’t used a lot of rollerballs like I have gel pens, fountain pens, and ballpoints, so I don’t know if it’s common for the pen angle to so dramatically change the ink flow. It’s great for line variation in drawing, but for writing I’m still trying to get it under control. When I’ve got it, holy rollerball it’s smooth. It’s glorious. Like writing with power and butter. When I don’t, I cry out to the Celtic god of thunder to show me mercy and let my lines be consistent again.

Bartender! Quickly! Fill my glass! No, not with wine; more pens!!

Bartender! Quickly! Fill my glass! No, not with wine; more pens!!

The Taranis comes in five finishes, with boss-sounding names befitting a Celtic god—Stormy Night, Icy Gunmetal, White Lightning, Stormy Wine, and Sleek Chrome (translated: black, gray-silver, white, purplish red, more different silver) and is available as a ballpoint, rollerball, or fountain pen. Thanks again to Sheaffer for providing this sample!

Sheaffer Taranis by Sheaffer





Ink Drop Soup: Raleigh Pen Show

7 06 2012

BABY’S FIRST PEN SHOW! (Beautiful pens from the Anderson Pens booth)

My very first pen show, and I made it all three days, even though I worked Saturday and Sunday nights (and was asleep most of the daytime, thank you night shift life), I still brewed up extra coffee, woke up early (for me), and made my way over. The only other kind of major convention I’ve been to before is an anime convention. The main difference is that no one here was dressed up as a pen.

Spoils of war!

It was great meeting other pen enthusiasts in person—usually I am otherwise skeptical when someone in person shows interest in the office supply world. I make a very good attempt at raising one eyebrow, and ask in my most dubious voice, “Are you sure you really want me to go on about this? Don’t lie, because I will go on at great length. The full wrath of my pen-ADD will be unleashed upon you.” But here was a whole room full of nice people who also like to talk about pens! It was like living inside the internet.

The majority of the goods

The pen holder/binder/whatever this is called, along with a pack of purple Sheaffer cartridges (not pictured, except for the one inside the wee Sheaffer pen) I picked up from the booth of  Bertram’s Inkwell. The Lamy Pur EF nib fountain pen to the far left (and the Clairefontaine notebook in the previous picture) both came from the booth of my local pen store, Office Supplies and More (I’m still trying to convince him to have an online presence, still to no avail). The two tiny coral-pink items are a lead pencil and fountain pen set by Arnold’s of Petersburg, VA. They are alleged to be from 1825…which I’m going to have to call horsefeathers on, as I’m pretty sure either the plastics or whatever material these two are made of weren’t available in 1825, OR (/and) lever-fill fountain pens didn’t even EXIST in 1825. It’s very clearly written on the price tag, but maybe whoever did this meant to write 1925 and had a moment. Alas, I forget the name of the booth where I got the Arnold’s mini set, but it was only $25 for the both of them (and I don’t know a blasted thing about antique pens, so that sounded good enough to me, especially considering they are both in working order).

Beautifully overwhelming quantities of pens everywhere. I wonder if my pens would look this awesome with dramatic lighting and majestic-colored resting spots in wooden trays.

The little iridescent-purplish Sheaffer pen and the blue Esterbrook (and the Sheaffer converter, which I apparently decided was worth including in the picture) all came from the above collection of one Arthur D. (Dan) Reppert. I’m thrilled with both of those pens, and I’m especially happy with my very first Esterbrook. Clearly I will have to look into Esterbrook more.

Me: “Oh, you need paper? I have some—“
Martin (rummaging for Rhodia notebook): “But this is good paper—“
Me (waving a spiralbound Clairefontaine): “Yeah, so is this!”

I finally got to see some Snorkel pens in person! And even though I didn’t buy one (it’s going on the long-term want list), I did pick up a Hero 616 from Martin‘s booth. He’s a cool guy who understands the importance of good paper and the dangers of Private Reserve fountain pen ink. Like talking to a brain mirror.

So many tempting colors….

Being still almost completely clueless about how things work in the vintage fountain pen market, I tried to keep myself from getting sucked in too deep (read: buying too many / too expensive pens), so I was thrilled to see TWSBI pens and accessories. My TWSBI up there is still the same ole Diamond 530, but thanks to Anderson Pens it now has a brand-new fine nib, and an ink buddy.

The silver will match any ink color I decide to put in there. Pen accessory and ink coordination is a fine art.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a terribly big ink presence, so someone like me looking for the rarer/stranger/more out there colors of bottled ink was a little boxed in. Aside from the Sheaffer cartridges, I didn’t buy any ink (not that I really REALLY need more ink…)

Pen wizardry

You may recall my early vexation with my otherwise lovely Pilot Vanishing Point—so it was no contest as to which pen I’d pick for my very first customization of a nib. What was once finicky now freely flows, and it’s incredible! Richard Binder is truly a god among pens.

Pens yet to come…

And finally, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Alan Shaw, and explain to him the as-yet-fruitless grail quest I’m on for the perfect, dark-purple-bodied fountain pen. Since he is a maker of custom pens, and I am in search of a custom color, well….let’s just say…there’s a good chance I might be getting into my first custom fountain pen here in the future! He’s got a lot of custom pens with really creative materials. If I made business money, there was a pen of his there with huge bird feathers in clear resin that I would’ve snatched right up. Why I didn’t take a picture of it, I don’t know. To instill regret in myself, I suppose.

All in all, a very fun and exciting first pen show! Now I need to start plotting out when the other East Coast pen shows are, see if I’ll be off. I’m hooked now.





Sheaffer VFM Matte Black Medium Point Fountain Pen

9 12 2011

This blog post will be typed with my keyboard hidden under my desk, where my cat can't get to it. In retaliation, this post will also be written with over 70% of my screen vision blocked by a furry feline presence.

I first heard about the Sheaffer VFM—Very Fancy Mango—from Goldspot Pens. Another $15 fountain pen? PREPOSTEROUS.

L. L. Bean: The very best boot for taking pictures of your fountain pens on

I held off on buying one at first, since the VFM came in a beautiful plum-colored body…but not for the fountain pen model. But I caved on my second-ever trip to the Art Brown International Pen Shop, and added this pen to a pile of Noodler’s Ink bottles.  It’s a very modern-office kind of pen. Thinner-than-your-average-fountain-pen profile, matte metal body, minimal branding beyond the “White Dot®” on the clip, and the name SHEAFFER printed three times around the trim.

This is the brand that offers an 18 karat solid gold fountain pen, WITH A DIAMOND ON IT, for about $20,000. How much attention are they even going to bother with on a dinky $15 pen?

I have been dissatisfied with the low-cost fountain pen options from some other brands; they may have great high-end products, but when the entry-level options are so shoddy, why would I want to risk throwing more money down that hole? I am delighted to say that Sheaffer is no such brand, and this, my friends, is an excellent pen.

They weren't BSing that whole "Sheaffer® White Dot® of quality" thing. Does this mean, if I extract these Dot®s and apply them to inferior fountain pens, they will be magically transmogrified into quality pens?

This thing is the real deal. This is what you get and give to the fountain pen curious individual. It takes standard international cartridges, it’s simple, it writes wonderfully.

It's not going to win a fountain pen nib beauty pageant, but then again, no one is, because those don't exist.

It only comes in a medium nib at the time of writing this, but I think it’s on par somewhere between a medium and a fine. At the very least, it’s not too thick for my blood. I’ve been favoring this pen for work lately, because when I need to write something, I need to write it fast; the cap pops right off, pen hits the page, and everything is 10-4 writing happy funtimes. I daresay this pen might currently be the front-runner for my favorite in the Approximately $15 Entry-Level Fountain Pen category.

No frills, no fuss, just fountain pen, pure and simple, and I can’t argue with that.

I couldn’t find a handy link on the Art Brown site for this particular pen, so instead, Goldspot takes the link:

Sheaffer VFM Pens (the fountain pens are the ones you want) at Goldspot Pens