Yesterday I was cleaning my desk, and I found a Sheaffer Skripsert, a vintage cartridge fountain pen from the late 1950s. It was a gift to me, from a friend in the US. I looked around some more, and found my three Sheaffer No-Nonsense pens in a previously mislaid pen wrap – translucent purple, translucent grey, and red. The first two were from the 1990s, while the red was from the 1970s. Since they were discontinued about twenty years ago, I guess you could call them vintage. The purple one, in fact, was the first pen I ever bought with my first salary. I hadn’t seen them in over a year – I guess it was time to use them again.

I hadn’t bought a pen in a long time, because I (think I already) had all the significant pens in my usual price range, and couldn’t find any new ones that fascinated me. But seeing my old pens after a long time got me all thrilled all over again – I guess this is what’s called “shopping your stash”.


The No-Nonsenses still had their original squeeze converters, but I was thinking I would buy modern Sheaffer twist converters in case the rubber in the squeeze converters eventually failed. I asked a friend how much the converter was at National Bookstore, and was astounded that it cost Php500, or roughly USD10. In contrast, a Faber-Castell (standard international) converter from Everything Calligraphy costs only Php120, or USD2.40. Another friend told me I could try fitting a standard international converter in the pens. Alas, while the nipple fit the diameter of the converter opening, the entire converter was too long for the barrel of the No-Nonsense. The modern Sheaffer twist converter from my Prelude fit it perfectly.

The No-Nonsenses have some of the best steel nibs I have ever experienced. I told myself this is the year I’m going to let these humble pens shine.

Daily Prompt: Shine


Last May 2013, Sheaffer recently celebrated 100 years as a successful pen brand worldwide. The Manila celebration was held last May 29th, at the Yuchengco Museum, in Makati.   Walter A. Sheaffer originally built the company in 1913, in Fort Madison, Iowa.   While Sheaffer had been selling in the Philippines in the early 1990s, they pulled out and recently relaunched themselves a few years ago, in cooperation with the country’s foremost bookstore chain, National Bookstore.  They invited members of our fountain pen group, Fountain Pen Network – Philippines, most of whom are loyal customers.


The event was hosted by media personality RJ Ledesma.  We were greeted by BIC Asia Regional Manager Alejandro Rodriguez Tabo, with gracious remarks from National Bookstore’s doyenne Mrs. Socorro Ramos.  There were on-the-spot games with the audience, where my friend Raffy won some gift certificates for having brought the oldest vintage Sheaffer pen in the room (a 1920s black-and-pearl flat top lever-filler).


Among the items being featured that evening were the new Taranis, a hooded-nib fountain pen designed by US architect Charles Debbas, and the Sagaris, a fountain pen inspired by the earlier Sheaffer Triumph (1990s, a tribute in turn to the much earlier 1970s Imperials).   There were also three very special pens, collector’s limited editions:


The sterling silver commemorative pen has an 18k inlaid nib and is one of only 516 made.  The 18k gold commemorative pen is one of only 45 that exist.  It also has an 18k inlaid nib, and comes with a commemorative ink (although I was not able to ask what color it was).


The third commemorative pen was a sterling silver Legacy Heritage, with a palladium-coated 18k inlaid nib.  It is only one of 1,913 ever made.


Towards the end of the evening, there was a raffle, at which my friends Carlos and Allan won the top two prizes.  Carlos won a Sheaffer Valor in brown marble, while Allan won the grand prize, a Sheaffer Legacy Heritage.



We all went home with a Sheaffer Sagaris rollerball, stamped with Sheaffer’s centennial logo.


It was an enjoyable night, after which FPN-P members continued with another pen meet at a nearby ramen restaurant.





Many thanks to Robby da Silva, National Bookstore’s Sheaffer manager, for the kind invitation!



Few things give me greater joy than to resurrect something and make it useful again.  You can’t blame me for having a soft spot for these frankenpens – fountain pens cobbled together from various spare parts of the same model.   At the top is a Parker 51 demi with a vacumatic filler with the engraving “Josephine O’Hara”.  In the middle is a Sheaffer Craftsman lever-filler with an Admiral cap.  At the bottom is a Sheaffer thin model Touchdown.


These were created for me by a good friend, Tom Overfield, from spare parts in his pen repair cabinet.  The Parker 51 demi was a gift, in time for the first anniversary of our Manila pen group in 2009.  The other two were commissioned.  I had won a lot of three user-grade Sheaffers with slightly shrunken plastic barrels on eBay for a low price (the price of the 14k nibs alone was worth more than what I paid) and asked him if he could en-franken them.  I got a blue Sheaffer Craftsman lever-filler out of that, plus the two Sheaffers in the above photos.  I love them all.

Five years later, all are still in good condition.  None of the latex sacs or the seals have failed.  They’re not the handsomest pens in my little collection, but they do get a lot of love.  In fact, I use them quite often, even though I have other pens. I believe I got lucky with the quality of the nibs and feeds to begin with.

The term “frankenpen” doesn’t always have a good connotation.  It usually refers to pens that pretend to be the complete, original model (in order to sell at a higher price), when actually the parts are mismatched or come from different brands or even time periods.  These don’t pretend to be anything other than functional revivals of pre-loved vintage pens – they wear their colors proudly!  A number of us on FPN-Philippines own multi-colored frankenpens made by Tom, and we all cherish them deeply.  So much so they have been given unique names like Frankensnork (Leigh Reyes’ pen), Bride of Frankensnork (Caloy Abad Santos’ pen), Tuckenstein (a Tuckaway, Raffy Abrina’s pen), Thinenstein (Jenny Ortuoste’s thin Touchdown), Demistein (my Parker 51), etc.  Some of them are also with his friends in Europe and the USA.

If only some modern production pens wrote as well as these frankenpens!



The other night I was cleaning a vintage fountain pen-and-pencil set that I wanted to sell.  It was a 1930s Marine Green Sheaffer Balance mismatched pair – while the fountain pen was the standard length, the propelling pencil of the same pattern was shorter, sized for a vest pen.  (I originally acquired them together, from the Fountain Pen Network Classifieds section a few years ago.  Since then I was able to find a White Dot version in the same celluloid, so it was time to pass this pair on.)

I find that for some enthusiasts, the vintage pencil is an afterthought.  Not many actually use the pencils as much as they would the fountain pens.  Sellers sometimes break up sets in order to more easily sell the items.  Maybe that’s how my little vest pencil got orphaned, and later matched up with the wrong size pen.  Some people, on the other hand, end up collecting vintage pencils for their beautiful celluloid (unblemished by latex sacs or staining ink).

Propelling pencils are writing tip-loading twist action pens.  To expel old lead, you twist the pencil clockwise to push the lead upwards and out.  Then you twist the other way until the metal pin that pushes the lead is fully retracted.  You place the appropriate size lead in through the pen’s nose cone and press the protruding tip onto the paper to make sure the lead is securely lodged.  If you’re not sure how to load your pencil, the blog Dave’s Mechanical Pencils gives instructions, according to brand and era.

It was while learning how to refill the pencil that I realized it contained the wrong size lead.  It was a 0.9mm lead that kept falling out.  I cleaned out residue from the nose cone with a straight pin and tried some vintage Scripto 1.1mm lead that a friend gave me. It was a perfect fit! By the end of that exercise I realized I had fallen in love with the tiny pencil and just decided to keep it.


Richard Binder mentions that vintage Sheaffers and Parkers usually use 0.9mm leads, but Dave Nishimura is more specificPendemonium is another good source for vintage leads (the site navigation is not that intuitive, but go to Pen Repairs Supplies and select Pencil Leads).  The most common sizes sold locally are 0.5mm and 0.7mm leads for modern mechanical pencils, but 0.9mm is available if you look for Japanese or Korean pencil brands (I use MonAmi).


I couldn’t resist checking out the Waterman Ideal No. 3 propelling pencil that I received as a gift last January.  I took it apart and discovered that the cap end unscrews to expose the eraser.  I heard pencil lead rattling inside the eraser tube, so I pulled the eraser tube out and found a stash of short 1.1mm leads!  The nose cone twists to propel the lead, but there wasn’t much traction, so I lined the mechanism with a bit of latex and gently turned it with my pliers.  I’ll see later if a layer of dried shellac can thicken the diameter of the brass tube and provide traction for the nose cone (no, I’m not gluing them together). I’m not using the vintage eraser on this one – I have my favorite modern eraser (Staedtler Mars Plastic) for that.

For most daily use my 1940s Sheaffer Crest pencil with 0.9mm lead is pretty good.  It’s part of a set, too.  I do have a couple of other modern plastic mechanical pencils, but right now they’re not getting that much attention.  The pretty vintage celluloid and the solid build appeal to me.  It’s not a collecting direction I’ll be taking, but I sure do appreciate the fact that they’re decades old and still work!

To learn more about vintage pencils, check out Jon Veley’s The Leadhead’s Pencil Blog.  Jon Veley also wrote the book The Catalogue of American Mechanical Pencils and maintains The Mechanical Pencil Online Museum.



(Waterman inks photo by Cesar Salazar.)

More and more people are growing interested in using fountain pens here in Manila, as evidenced by the growing membership in our pen group Fountain Pen Network-Philippines.  For a long time Parker, Waterman, Cross and Montblanc were the only brands readily available in the local fountain pen market.  Now there are new brands available:  Lamy, Pelikan, Sailor, to name a few.  Waterman,Aurora, Cross and Rotring are now no longer being sold here, while Sheaffer recently reintroduced itself.  The local Pilot distributor sells only school pens, not the fine writing instruments, nor the ink.

I’ve compiled a list of stores that sell fountain pen inks, in bottles and cartridges as of 2013: (click on links to see directory info)

National Bookstore branches  – Parker, Lamy, Sheaffer, Inoxcrom (cartridges)

Montblanc branches – Makati (632) 813-3739, Powerplant Mall (632) 898-2347, Shangri-la Mall (632) 633-4636, Manila (632) 521-1140, Robinsons Place (632) 551-2095, Ayala Town Center (632) 850-5532

Scribe Writing Essentials – 3/F Eastwood Mall, QC.  (632) 900-0053, Shangrila (632) 654-5071, Glorietta 5 (632) 386-4826. – Herbin, Lamy, Sailor, Pelikan (4001 and Edelstein), Noodler’s

Cutting Edge (Greenbelt 5, Trinoma, Eastwood, Megamall, Mall of Asia) – Waterman

Times Trading– Lamy

Updated:  We now have a distributor for Diamine inks!  Since I don’t have permission to post the contact details here yet, please join the Fountain Pen Network-Philippines forum or on its Facebook page and make your order there, addressed to Peter.

Updated September 2013:  Scribe Writing Essentials now carries Noodler’s inks!  Contact Cindy Fulo at 0998-9983998 for which branches carry specific Noodler’s colors.

Updated August 2014: Scribe Writing Essentials now carries Platinum Mix Free and Carbon inks!

As of this time, there are no local distributors yet for Rohrer & Klingner, Aurora, Visconti, De Atramentis, Pilot (regular and Iroshizuku), and other popular brands of ink.  For these, we resort to buying from eBay or online stores based overseas.


sheaffernononsenseOne of the first things I ever bought with my first ever paycheck in the early 1990s was a Sheaffer No-Nonsense fountain pen.  It was translucent purple, it had a fine nib, and best of all, I could afford it.  I bought it at National Bookstore, whose Sheaffer kiosk shared space with Parker, Waterman and Cross pens.  I still have this pen, and it still writes as well as ever.  I also now have a handful of vintage Sheaffer pens, thanks to eBay and my pen group, Fountain Pen Network-Philippines.

In those two decades or so, fountain pen use and sales seriously declined, since Sheaffer disappeared from the stores, to be followed by Rotring and Waterman brands.  Imagine my pleasant surprise one day when I read an email that 20 of us FPN-P members could sign up to attend the Sheaffer Pens Launch (held last February 21)!

sheafferlaunch-01Jeweler Walter A. Sheaffer started the W. A. Sheaffer Pen Company in 1912, in Fort Madison, Iowa.  He wanted to create attractive fountain pens that wrote well and were easy to refill, and successfully came up with lever-filler pens.  From the 1920s to the 1940s the Sheaffer lever-filler became the US industry standard; some of these pens came with a lifetime guarantee symbolized by a white dot.  Sheaffer also trailblazed with revolutionary and innovative designs in nibs (the conical “Triumph” nib, the inlaid nib) and other filling systems (the Snorkel, the Touchdown).  Many iconic pen models were produced throughout the years:  the Balance, the Pen for Men, the Imperial, the Targa, the No-Nonsense.  Since the 1960s the company has changed owners.  In 1997 it was bought by its current owner, Bic USA, the American subsidiary of the French ballpoint pen manufacturer.  Click here and here for a detailed history of the Sheaffer Pen Company.

sheafferlaunch-02sheafferlaunch-03So, after about 25 years, National Bookstore returns Sheaffer to its stores.  Sheaffer pens are marketed from Singapore by BIC Product (Asia) Pte. Ltd.  They held the launch party at The Gallery in Greenbelt 5, last February 21.  The program was hosted by the lovely Daphne Osena-Paez. They borrowed fountain pens from the collections of Jose “Butch” Dalisay, Jr. and Clement Dionglay to create a historical exhibit.  Daphne took the audience on a tour of the historical Sheaffer pens, to today’s current product offerings.  She interviewed Butch and Clem about their how their collections started, and why they choose to write with fountain pens.  There was also a raffle, at which I was one of the lucky winners.  There was a confusion between the announced prize and the awarded prize, which led to me being presented a pricey Legacy Heritage instead of a Prelude.  Fellow FPN-P member Caloy Abad Santos, who won the Legacy and got the Prelude instead, graciously allowed me to keep the pen.  Another lucky gentleman won the Valor.

After the raffle we got to chat with Alejandro Rodriguez Tabo, General Manager for Asia.  He told us that the Sheaffer pens were now manufactured in different countries (although no longer at the Fort Madison plant, which closed down in 2006), with the Valor being manufactured in Italy.

sheafferlaunch-04I inked the Legacy Heritage at once when I got home.  It was a black lacque metal-bodied model (inspired by the Pen for Men design) with palladium plate trim, and filled via a converter.  It sported a very smooth and juicy 18k medium nib.  It was quite solidly built and well-balanced in the hand.  I was very glad to see that this particular modern Sheaffer pen was a well-made pen worthy of Sheaffer’s long history of fine writing instruments.  In fact, I made up my mind to get myself the more affordable Prelude next…
National Bookstore is the exclusive distributor of Sheaffer pens and inks in the Philippines.  This blog is not affiliated with National Bookstore.