Early thoughts on the Sheaffer Prelude cobalt blue fountain pen.

Whenever I go to our local John Lewis department store, I always pay a visit to the friendly and helpful staff in the Stationery department and take a look at the displays of fountain pens in the glass counters.

These contain the usual suspects from Parker, Waterman, Cross and Sheaffer. But this time, although I must have seen them countless times before, my eyes were drawn to a tray of Sheaffer Prelude fountain pens. They were in several different colours, including some metallic finishes, but the only one I really noticed was a beautiful deep, dark blue, accentuated by rose gold plated furniture. It demanded a closer look.

Sheaffer Prelude, cobalt blue with rose gold PVD trim.

I am not a big fan of faceted grip sections, which this pen has. I do not generally like them because (a) they make the section narrower and (b) they do not cater for lefty overwriters such as myself, who may want to rotate the nib inwards a little, whereupon the facets are no longer under your thumb and forefinger and instead you find yourself gripping a sharp edge. However, I tried the Prelude and found that with the cap posted, I naturally gripped the pen higher up, at the join of the barrel and the section so that the facets were not a problem at all.

I do very much like the shape of Sheaffer nibs and the attractive scroll work on them. I took a close look at the nib with a loupe and was excited to see perfectly aligned tines and a nib slit, with light visible between the tines, narrowing perfectly to the tip. It promised to be a smooth and responsive writer. I have since read that the rose gold coating is a PVD, or Physical Vapour Deposition. The science is beyond me but it looks lovely.

The rather vintagey-looking nib of the Sheaffer Prelude.

I decided to liberate the pen and was pleased that it came with a converter as well as a proprietary Sheaffer cartridge in blue and black and a lifetime warranty.

At home I filled the pen via the converter, from a bottle of Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue ink, which I have decided is probably my favourite blue ink. It is a rich dark blue, like the traditional colour of a Guernsey woollen jumper (which had for two years been part of my school uniform in the early 1970’s).

Cobalt blue pen with Cobalt blue ink. Genius.

The medium nib wrote smoothly and effortlessly as I expected but produced a line that was closer to a Fine than a Medium. I was quite happy with that.

But this combination of Sheaffer Prelude, Cobalt Blue ink and a Leuchtturm A5 journal was so enjoyable that I could not stop writing with it and quickly filled 14 pages of my notebook. The smooth, fine, wet nib leaving a wake of deep dark blue ink emanating from the rose gold coated nib were so appealing that it was hard to put it down.

My favourite Prelude pic. Look at that paper texture!

I did eventually stop, but only to take some photos of the pen and a few comparison shots with similar pens. Then, like having a new baby, I came down in the middle of the night to test it for hard starts (none) and to write a little more with it.

The Sheaffer Prelude (right) beside a near equivalent, the Parker Sonnet. Both with steel nibs but each taking its own proprietary cartridge or converter.

The pen is a of metal build, with a lacquer coat. There is an attractive white inlay in the finial, which helps to distinguish the pen in the pen cup. The pocket clip (topped with the Sheaffer white dot) is very firm. The snap-on cap posts securely and closes with a reassuring click. The barrel has metal threads on the inside, which are extremely long. I counted fifteen twists to get to the end of the threads and remove the barrel. The section, with its two grip pads, has a black cylindrical plastic housing to support the cartridge or converter, which I liked as I have seen another Sheaffer, the 100, with no such side support and just a platform with the tube sticking up to puncture your cartridge.

Priced at £75.00, the Sheaffer Prelude is a superior model to the Sheaffer Sagaris, the 100 and the 300. In terms of its specification, it seems on a par with the steel nibbed Parker Sonnet which for a time was my best and costliest pen.

I am pleased to have discovered the Sheaffer Prelude and very glad that I stopped to give it a proper look. It is reliable, enjoyable, attractive and robust which all go to make it a great daily carry.

A look at the Sheaffer 100 Translucent blue and chrome fountain pen

What is it about the combination of electric blue and chrome which makes it so captivating and (to me) irresistible?

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This year marks the 225th anniversary of WH Smith, the high street  book shop, newsagent and stationer chain that is a familiar sight in our towns and cities. Our local branch, at Brent Cross shopping centre, North London has reinvigorated its fountain pen display cabinets. This was a welcome find, when I visited recently. I enjoy looking around for anything new. This time I was rewarded with their dedicated self contained glass display cabinet showing a range of fountain pens from Parker, Cross, Waterman and Sheaffer each arranged in a fan shape although closer inspection revealed that the brands were intermixed.

It was there that I spotted what I now know to be the Sheaffer 100, in translucent blue, with polished chrome section and a brushed stainless steel cap, featuring the trademark Sheaffer white dot. The pen, with cap posted, looked stunning with its vibrant blue barrel and contrasting silver coloured section and cap. The nib, with its decorative scroll work, harks back to the glory days of Sheaffer when they were made in Fort Madison, Iowa.

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Sheaffer 100 Translucent blue and chrome

The pen looked to be good value, particularly in comparison with some of the other offerings on display with similar specification. With its striking good looks, needless to say, I succumbed to buying another pen.

The pen comes in a decently made and typical, black gift box with a removable padded tray, underneath which is a Use and Care Guide and 1 year warranty leaflet. Whilst this is for a Sheaffer pen, the name on the back of the leaflet nowadays reads A.T.Cross Company. You also get two Sheaffer Skrip cartridges, one blue and one black but no converter.

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A feature of this pen is the shiny grip section. But there we have a contradiction in terms. Shiny sections are difficult for me to grip. I know this. I have a Cross Aventura with the same issue. The section looks pretty and photogenic but slips around in my hand.

Why is this important? We look at writing samples to see how nibs perform, how wide the line is, how dry or wet the ink flow is, whether it skips and so on. But there is another factor at work here. Is the pen comfortable to hold? And part of feeling comfortable with a pen, means being able to hold it securely and confidently so that you can exercise sufficient control of the pen as you write. At the same time, you do not want to be overly aware of how you are holding the pen, which you will be if you are gripping too tight as your hand will tell you after a little while.

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A pen which cannot be gripped securely will manifest itself in shaky and erratic writing. Happiness does not shine through.

In the case of the Sheaffer 100, I have been writing with it for a few weeks now and have become accustomed to holding the pen just above the join of the section and the barrel. In this way, I can hold the blue barrel between finger and thumb, whilst the cool and shiny section rests on my second finger. This works for me. It feels slightly higher than I would normally hold a pen, but not too much higher like chopsticks.

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Holding the pen further back from the nib also means that you still need sufficient length for the back of the pen to rest in the crook of your hand. The pen unposted measures 120mm (4 3/4 inches) but happily, the cap posts securely (if you give it a firm push) and brings the pen up to 149mm (about 5 7/8ths inches) which is a very comfortable length, for me. The pen weighs 28g capped or posted. Uncapped it is 18g, with the cap weighing 10g.  I like to use it posted and this is not too heavy.

As for the writing experience, I tried the pen first with the supplied blue Sheaffer Skrip cartridge. The medium nib wrote a nice wet line, on the fine side of medium. The nib looks very attractive. However, seen under a loupe, the tipping on my nib looked just a little off, with the nib slit at the tip being not quite perpendicular when viewed head on, but leaning towards a 1 o’clock to 7 o’clock line. I decided to leave it to wear in naturally and I think it will wear smooth as I use the pen.

Whilst having a lovely ink flow, the blue Skrip did bleed through quite badly on a particular Paperchase notebook that was using such that when I finished the first cartridge I syringe-filled it with Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt blue, which I am using now and without the bleedthrough.

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Sheaffer 100 with Medium stainless steel nib and Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt blue ink on Rhodia 90gsm paper. Words by William Wordsworth.

I have adapted to holding the pen a little higher than I might otherwise, in view of the slippy no-go area of chrome section. But it is good to adapt and be comfortable with using different pens, rather like being able to drive different types of car.

If I had not liked the look of the pen I would not have persevered with it but I am fond of Sheaffers and it has been worth the effort.

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My grandmother had a sugar bowl like this one.

 

 

 

My current EDC fountain pen

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Today’s post is dedicated to my current Every Day Carry pen, a Sheaffer Sagaris. More particularly, I was reflecting upon what are the necessary qualities that we require in an EDC. Of course, people’s needs will differ and almost any pen could be carried for use every day although with differing levels of suitability. Here is my list.

Reliable. First and foremost, you will need a pen that will not leak in your bag or pocket whilst in transit, will not let you down and will not hard-start. If you get out your pen to make a quick note, you do not want to wait for two minutes while you coax the ink down to the nib. I was once at a charity event when a well-known TV actress was asked for her autograph and I overheard her reply that she had not got a pen. Standing nearby, I offered her my blue  1990’s Waterman Expert, prompting her to say “This is a posh pen, this must be a posh man!” Thankfully the pen wrote.

Robust. The pen must be tough enough to withstand being carted around in the wild, rather than being cosseted in a plush cabinet or pen cup.  It should within reason be able to survive being accidentally dropped or sat upon.

Secure. It must not come apart in your pocket, either coming adrift from its cap or the barrel unscrewing itself from the section.I have had a pen with a screw cap, which lacked bite so that the pen once came loose in my pocket, which can be messy. Note that this does not entirely rule out carrying the pen, as you can of course use a pen pouch or case. Also the pocket clip is important, as it needs to be sufficiently tight to keep the pen in your jacket pocket, in the event that you remove your jacket in a dark theatre and in folding it, turn the pocket upside down. But the clip should not be so aggressive as to chew holes in your clothing.

Expendable. Although too awful for pen-enthusiasts to contemplate, your EDC could, despite your best efforts, be lost or damaged in the call of duty. It is sensible not to carry your most valuable pens around unless you happen to be very careful.

Comfortable. The pen should not be too heavy or bulky. If it is to be carried in a shirt pocket, it will need to be short enough to fit. In a jacket, a slimmer pen has the advantage of not making unsightly bulges in your smart business attire. I was told in a store that the slender Diplomat Traveller was popular with gentlemen for this very reason.

Re-fillable. It is very useful to be able to check the level of ink before you leave your home or work place where your supplies of ink are kept. Cartridges are easy to bring, if you remember. If your pen is filled from a bottle, then you can always refill it beforehand, if it might otherwise run dry while you are out.

Presentable. Depending upon where you plan to use the pen, it will need to strike the right balance of quality and professionalism but without being ostentatious.

Enjoyable. Let’s not forget how much we enjoy using a fountain pen and so bring with you, one that brings you joy and brightens your day.

I think my Sheaffer Sagaris embodies all these attributes. It is a fairly simple, slim metal bodied pen with a laquer finish (I think the colour was called grape) with a steel medium nib which never fails to delight. The cap snaps on firmly to give confidence that it will not come off. I have been using the pen regularly for over a year. I used it a lot as a journal pen with Skrip blue cartridges, one of my favourite blue inks, but currently am using the converter with Caran D’Ache Idyllic Blue. The pen also reminds me fondly of my late mother, who had a Sheaffer Touchdown in a similar colour.

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