Faber-Castell School fountain pen; initial impressions.


Whenever I get the chance to travel, one of the joys is to visit the stationery shops and supermarkets to see whether they have anything different from the familiar range of fountain pens found in our local WH Smith, Rymans or Paperchase.

The hope is that I will discover a nice new pen, from a well known and respected brand, which writes like a dream, targeted at school students and costs very little.

Last week, without even travelling, I was browsing in a local Waterstones book store and was distracted by the sign for Stationery.  There, among the greeting cards and notebooks, on a revolving stand, was a Faber-Castell Schulfüller School pen, for just £4.99, in a blister pack with a box of 6 Faber-Castell cartridges.


This looked to be a good find. The design was a basic, bright coloured plastic barrel and cap, a black rubberised section with two flat grip surfaces left and right of centre, (like a Lamy Safari), and an attractive-looking stainless steel nib. With 6 cartridges included, it was a no-brainer and it just remained for me to decide whether to go for blue or red. I chose blue. There was only one of each colour left on the rack and it seemed greedy to take them both.

On closer inspection, the packaging declared that the pen featured a tough stainless steel nib with iridium tip, a rubberised grip zone and was for right and left handers and had a tough plastic barrel with metal clip. The ink cartridges were made in Germany and the fountain pen made in Slovenia.

On first inking the pen, using one of the supplied cartridges, I was delighted when the pen wrote immediately with no shaking, squeezing or coaxing, very smoothly and with good flow. The Royal Blue ink is very pleasant having some shading when a little added pressure is applied to the nib.


I will not go overboard in describing what is a very simple and inexpensive pen. It measures around 133mm capped , 122mm opened and a very comfortable 150mm with cap posted. It takes standard international cartridges. A very useful feature is that there is room to carry a spare cartridge in the barrel so that you are unlikely to run out in a day.  The barrel does not have an ink window. It does have some air vents at the base of the barrel as an anti-choking feature and so this is not suitable for converting to eye-dropper. You could however use a converter, for bottled ink although none is included.

For such an inexpensive pen, there is a lot to like. I was disproportionately pleased for my modest £4.99 outlay. I particularly liked the following:


  • Respected, long-established German brand;
  • Attractive stainless steel Medium nib, with dimple pattern (similar to the Faber-Castell emotion and Ambition range) and jousting knights logo;
  • Writes smoothly with good flow and lubrication; nib is firm but can provide a little line variation with some pressure;
  • Comfortable to hold either posted or unposted; light-weight cap posts well, without upsetting balance;
  • Barrel has space for a spare cartridge;
  • Secure, snap-on cap has a springy, metal pocket clip with Faber-Castell name in black letters (the correct way up for left handers like me, when posted);
  • A white plastic inner cap to stop the nib from drying out;
  • Good, practical and simple design; does not look like a child’s pen;
  • Excellent value.


I could not find much to dislike, especially for the low price. I did notice that the nib and feed seem to point downwards, (like the droop-nose design of the Concorde when taking off and landing). In a photograph on a mobile phone camera, the distortion made this even more pronounced. It is not a concern as the pen writes very well. However I was curious to see whether this was just a one-off or whether this was by design. This was all the excuse I needed, to go back to buy the red one.


Well, the red one had the same nib droop as the blue. I was not quite so fortunate with the nib of the red pen at first, as the tines were not quite aligned, viewed with a loupe and there was a little bit of scratchiness in side strokes. This was easily remedied by a little gentle bending of tines until they were level. Thereafter the pen wrote smoothly, like my blue one.

I decided to put a red cartridge in the red pen. I had a bag of 50 standard international cartridges in assorted colours from Paperchase which had cost just £2.00, although they might be a bit more now.

I have not experienced any hard starts with either of the pens (although, admittedly, both have been in quite frequent use so far) and I think they make ideal pens for carrying around without worrying too much. In conclusion, these are very enjoyable pens to use and would make great gifts, if you can bear to part with them.


Off topic warning: the story of an unexploded bomb.


Today I was asked to put together some notes about an unexploded bomb which had remained in the family for over 40 years before moving to a museum.

It seemed impossible to tell the story without saying a little about my late father, who died in 1983.  It is not about fountain pens but there is a little about collecting things. And so here is an abridged version.

The story of dad’s bomb.

My late father was born in Ealing in 1929, and grew up in Hangar Lane, West London. He was ten years old when the Second World War broke out in 1939 and remained with his parents throughout the war.

From the 1950’s until 1974 (when made redundant) he worked for Ultra Electronics, in Perivale as a general and electrical maintenance engineer. He then moved to a similar position at EMI in Ruislip. He had left school with minimal qualifications but was very practical and experienced at making and fixing equipment.

One of his main hobbies was target shooting. He had a firearms licence and always kept a variety of pistols and rifles, which he would shoot at Bisley or our local gun club, often bringing me with him from a young age. He also had a few old muzzle-loading flintlocks and percussion cap pistols and one which he had built himself. He enjoyed casting his own bullets in lead, in his garage. He also built a small cannon on a wooden carriage, which he fired in the garden at midnight every new year’s eve to see the new year in.

He collected old incendiary bombs and tall, brass anti-tank shell cases, which, along with his cannons and large jagged pieces of shrapnel, were arranged on the floor around our TV set.

Against this background, the largest item in his collection was an unexploded German 500 pound bomb. As I recall, he got this in the mid 1970’s from an industrial estate, possibly near Perivale or Kew, West London where, probably since the war,  it had served as a speed limit bollard, standing upright by the roadside, with its base set in a car tyre filled with cement. It was painted white with the speed restriction painted in black figures, for vehicles entering the estate.

I remember going in the car with him, to collect it. I have a vague recollection of him telling me that he had heard the bomb fall during the war. I suppose if you heard a bomb falling, you would wait for the explosion and if none came, you would be curious to find where it had landed.

I cannot recall now how he knew it was there or why it was being disposed of. Perhaps the site was being redeveloped and he might well have simply asked whether he could have it.  I believe we went there in his grey Vauxhall Cresta Deluxe, a 1966 model, which he had bought second hand with part of his redundancy money and so it would have been around 1974 or shortly after.  The bomb went in the large boot of the car. I imagine we left the plinth behind.

At home, he set about cleaning it up, at the back of the garden, near his bonfire patch behind the garage.  He was confident that it was safe. The cylindrical metal detonator device had been removed. He had read several books about the various types of detonators and tense stories of bomb disposal work, on UXB’s (unexploded bombs).

Originally there would have been metal tail fins on the bomb but these had long since gone. He was able to access the inside of the bomb case, through its base. It was largely empty, the explosives having been removed but there were vestiges of this (TNT perhaps) around the inside, which he chipped away and which came out in thick, rusty brown clumps. These, he assured me, were quite safe and he chucked them on his bonfire, where they fizzled and spat a little.

Once satisfied that he had got the inside as clean as he could, he gave it a new coat of paint, in British Racing Green. He then made a sturdy wooden cradle for it and a bench seat at the top (pictured). For the next 15 years or so, it remained in our house in Ickenham, either as a seat around the dining table or latterly, in the hallway beneath the coat pegs.  We enjoyed having it. It was a rather different and eccentric, to have a 500 pound bomb in the house.

Dad died in 1983. The bomb stayed in the house until my mother moved some six years later and since then has been in the wider family, in the custody of my aunt until she also moved house in 2016 and then my cousin. Now, having survived for over 70 years in these various unexpected roles, it will be great for the bomb to move to a museum.