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Vintage pens-Handmade books-Silly statements

Never Sleep Three in a Bed

Posted by Dirck on 10 October, 2012

Ah, there’s your daily requirement of CanCon.

The recent influx of new items I was slightly lamenting yesterday included an uncommonly large boxed set from the early 1950s.  Observe:

How’s that for regal splendour?

Luxurious, is it not?  That is a Sheaffer TD Statesman set in its fullest expression.  Pen, pencil and… yes, that’s a ball-point in there.  I assure you, when I made my flutter on the set, it was not because it had that object involved.  However, as a student of writing history, I was not displeased to have in my hands an example of one of the early high-priced semi-novelty expressions of the ball-point.  It’s sort of like an epidemiologist discovering an early strain of plague in an amber-trapped flea; one doesn’t want to use it, but it’s jolly interesting.  Let’s have a closer look at the little devil:

If you squint, you might think it a pen. Sheaffer didn’t agree.

It is, I’ll freely admit, as sturdily made as the pens Sheaffer was producing at the time (interestingly, Sheaffer’s internal documents referred to “pens” and “ball-points” as completely separate concepts; they didn’t consider the latter to be, quite, an example of the former).  I think a modern pen fancier might actually prefer the slightly greater weight of the ball-point, and the balance is quite good.  There’s a tiny raised lump on the face of the clip to differentiate the ball-point from the pen (hee hee) what it’s in the pocket.  To complete the examination, lets get to the heart of the matter:

That’s a lot of aluminum in one place; good thing the wartime restrictions are over, eh?

There it is.  The Micro-Crafted Stratowriter cartridge (ooooh!), which if you really like the way it writes you can never refill (despite what Popular Science thought might be the case).  This is a vexing object, because unlike the seemingly eternal Parker ball-point cartridge, this pattern is long since discontinued.  The whole thing screws into the body of the pen, rather than the more modern standard of having some spring loading.  When this thing hits the paper, there is no shock absorbing.  Sadly, I can’t provide a writing sample; it doesn’t seem to be empty, really, but the lines it makes are so faint that I can’t get a legible scan in.

Which, I guess, suggests something about the reason there was an initial rejection of this sort of writing implement.  I will gloat only quietly, and in the main privately.

{Fade out on satisfied chuckling}

Today’s pen: Mabie, Todd & Co. Blackbird
Today’s ink: Noodler’s Starry Night

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9 Responses to “Never Sleep Three in a Bed”

  1. Maja said

    I have a similar set, also in black. I purchased a (so-called) “brass widget” from Sam & Frank Fiorella at Pendemonium (http://www.pendemonium.com/ink_sheaffer.htm) in order to convert the pen to one that can take modern Sheaffer ballpoint refills.Those earlyish ballpoints had a nice weight to them, as you said, and I would also recommend the Sheaffer Stratowriter ballpoint (an even earlier Sheaffer BP) if you are looking for more examples of those kind of things.

    • ravensmarch said

      I’m contemplating the buying of Ye Widget, just to render the item in question properly functional (after an experimental light toasting of the cartridge to see if any inky goo can be convinced to run to the business end), but given my… antipathy I don’t think is too strong a word, towards the ball-ended writing instruments of the world, I’m not REALLY seeking out others.

      …although now I really need to look into my references. I thought this was a Stratowriter.

      • Maja said

        The widget is well worth the cost. The Stratowriter is this pen here:
        http://penhero.com/PenGallery/Sheaffer/SheafferStratowriter.htm
        (which, as far as I know, never came in fountain pen form). A handsome pen but the opening for the refill tip is rather large (I suspect the original refill had a larger diameter c/f a modern Sheaffer refill) so the tip might ‘wobble’ a bit when used. I believe the ballpoint model in this blog post is a Statesman (if the fountain pen is the Statesman model). Hope this helps.

      • Ah-hah! Looking down the article, I see we’re in the happy state of both being right:
        “Sheaffer continued to use the Stratowriter name for ballpoint pens through the changeover from lever-fill and Vacuum-Fill fountain pens through the new Touchdown model and until the introduction of the Thin Model, or TM Touchdown pens in 1950, when the name was phased out.”

        …although it seems I’d be MORE right if I said Statesman Stratwriter, but that’s far too much typing.

  2. I have a black TD Statesman as well, but just the fountain pen, not the set. It’s a great pen, very utilitarian.

    • Another consideration in buying this was a lasting regret at having sold a previously-held example. That giant two-tone point can distract from almost ANY writing task.

  3. Maja said

    P.S. Just to avoid confusion (and we all know how confusing Sheaffer nomenclature can be)….The word “Stratowriter” also utilzed in conjunction with a fountain pen model (as seen in the PenHero.com article above), but when one says “Sheaffer Stratowriter”, one tends to think only of the ballpoint model.

    • I’d left a comment on FPN yesterday, with reference to the various conjugations of Imperial and Triumph, about Sheaffer’s decades-long plan to instill madness in the collectors’ community. Sometimes one feels much like we’re not only pronouncing the same thing in slightly different ways, but that one also finds “tomato” written as “zither”.

      • Maja said

        Agreed. I find it almost easier to just post a link to a photo and say “That’s the Sheaffer pen/pencil I’m talking about!”.
        Not to beat a dead horse….. but I finally pulled out my Gostony & Schneider ballpoint book and found this bit on page 26: “Sheaffer added other Stratowriter models (my note: ie. ones that came after the first Stratowriter ballpoint—the one in the Pehero link) to the line in 1947. In all there were fourteen variations.” And to further correction myself, the Stratowriter name was *not* used for the naming of fountain pen models (note to self: try to avoid posting comments late at night while half-asleep).

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