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Well, Well, Well.

Posted by Dirck on 29 April, 2010

Esterbrook Model 444 Ink Well

Sheaffer ink well, Lifetime Model

Sheaffer "Fineline" budget inkwell

Wells. This is another fine mess you’ve gotten me into.

I mentioned a short time ago that I had put my hands on an Esterbrook inkwell. In the (successful) search for a pen to go with it, I went and bought two more of the same sort of thing made by Sheaffer. I hasten to point out that they were eminently affordable, and so the “mess” is not financial. I just find myself with a mess of inkwells.

The Sheaffer objects are functionally the same, just of different grades. The one with the white dot carries a gold Lifetime point, as was found in some higher-end fountain pens, while the other is from their “Fineline” bargain brand, and has a simple steel point. This latter is somewhat pitted, as I’m sure you can image, from long and persistent immersion in the somewhat angry inks of the mid-20th century. They share a mechanism, although that mechanism lies inside the base rather than in the pen, and it’s a mechanism similar to those pet water dispensers in which the level of fluid in the reservoir is kept higher than that at the exit. I’m sure physics has an explanation for it, but I find I trust the concept of the Esterbrook base more– in that, a little capsule full of rods provides capillary action to allow the ink to come above the the lever of the reservoir.

Each of the pictures above shows the access point to the reservoir; the Esterbrook has the whole pen-holding lid come off (potentially messy), while the Sheaffers have a feed-tube that unscrews and recieves a specially-rigged ink bottle (potentially messy, since I don’t have one of those), the closure for which is visible on the lowest picture.

They are not, as noted in the previous entry, fountain pens. I shouldn’t be interested in them. And yet, I find myself with a low-grade fascination surrounding the notion of a box’o’ink on the desk. I ponder the view of them in their hey-day. The wells were offered for public use in banks– I have seen versions of the Esterbrook set with a chain and little note asking that the pen be replaced upon use, but that rather pricey white-dot Sheaffer is not the sort of thing you’d have anywhere except a rich(ish) fellow’s desk. Was it thought of as the thing you’d use when you had to really had to do a ton of writing, with the fountain pen a second-best? You need to redip the well-pen, of course, but that’s a quick action that can be fitted in at the end of a paragraph when you pause for thought in any event, while a fountain pen will write for many pages without refilling but then needs a definite mental departure from the act of writing to reload. A novelist of the day, unwilling to batter his fingers or face the respooling which a typewriter called for, may well have preferred the idea of the desk pen and its vast ink stores.

I don’t know what I’m going to do with three of the things, though. The Esterbrook is destined to land at The Regular Job, to take over as my highlighting pen. I mentioned that I was tired of red gumming up the number two pen of my desk set, and I find that the green I’ve settled on is still a little cranky about not seeing use for more than three or four words in a twenty-four hour period, so I look to something with an actual puddle of ink and no interior channels as an alternative. The other two… well, there’s depths to plumb regarding the mysterious level-governor.

Well, that’s all for today. My well’s run dry.

Today’s portable pen: Parker 45 (steel medium point fitted)
Today’s mere dribble of ink: Hrebin’s Bleu Nuit


4 Responses to “Well, Well, Well.”

  1. TAO said

    I have one of the Sheaffer inkwell/pen combos you mention. I’ve not used it though. It came with a special ink bottle that fit into the port in the base. It’s very interesting and before I got it I had not known they existed. I have the box and instructions too but I’ve not even read them. LOL! Maybe I’ll try it out soon.

  2. Give it a go. It’s much the same in performance as the stiffer contemporary Sheaffers, apart from the oddity (from the modern perspective) of having to redampen frequently.

    If you’ve a scanner and a charitable urge, by the by, I’d love to see the instructions for these things. My email is my log-in name @gmail.com, if you’ve a mind, but I absolutely expect nothing at all. An imposition to even suggest it.

  3. […] of the little Herbin bottles. For those who remember and care, that’s about half as much as that Sheaffer box’o'ink I’ve got can take, which means Sheaffer was expecting their users to write a […]

  4. […] My haul comes to four; a Sheaffer/Fineline dip pen as belongs in one of that company’s “box of ink” sets, a homeless Esterbrook Model W , an apparently ready-to-run Esterbrook SJ in plain […]

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