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The Case of The Dubious Imperial

Posted by Dirck on 5 June, 2013

Back in September, I mentioned that I had got into my clutches, and I’ll quote from that previous entry, “a touchdown-filling Imperial/Triumph desk pen with the short ‘dunce cap’ point” which had a horrifying deformity of its tines.  Since then, it has been something of a pen-repair doodle pad for me; worked upon in what would otherwise be idle minutes at the bench, while something whose completion was more pressing got sufficiently wet, dry, warm or cool to carry on to the next step.  In the course of this pursuit, I learned a few new lessons and got a few refreshers on the contrary nature of threaded components, the adhesive qualities of ink, and the capacity of the words “metal fatigue” to induce a palsy of terror.  However, yesterday I declared the exercise at an end, with the final threading together and test-filling.  Here’s the patient, prancing down the front steps of the clinic:

Not all the scars will fade, but there's every hope of a long and productive life.

Not all the scars will fade, but there’s every hope of a long and productive life.

Another think I learned as I finished up the task was that I had not, as I had formed the intention to back when it first hit the bench, taken any “before” pictures, and so I am today wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the words “I’m With Stupid” printed upon an arrow pointing upwards.

As the work neared an end, I started looking not at the damage, but at the pen as a whole, and I find myself in a state of puzzlement (moreso than my perplexing photographic failure produces).  This pen is… funny.  The description I quote in the first line is correct, as far as it goes, but it leaves out some things.  The real confuser is the point impression.  It is not SHEAFFER, but the earlier Sheaffer’S.  To those who haven’t gone up to their elbows in the viscera of Sheaffer’s history, this isn’t such a big deal, but to those who have, it should provide a useful clue to the age of the pen.  Should.

At some point between 1962 and 1965, the company switched from the apostrophized imprint to the ungarnished name.  Well and good.  It was roughly 1965 that saw the “dunce-cap” point being used on pens outside the by-then-defunct Compact line, so one might say that this is a very late example of the imprint, or a very early appearance of the point-style.

But there’s also the barrel impression you can’t read.  Sheaffer’S – MADE IN CANADA – R.D. 1960.  Chilling.  Those last characters indicate a registration with what is now the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, and if they’re accurate, they suggest that Sheaffer’s Canadian output had more oddities in it that just a non-US-spec Craftsman in the late 1950s.  I had a look in the CIPO database, and I find for 1960 three items.  Two are the cap and barrel of the PFM, although the description seems broad enough to encompass the Imperials as well.  The third is a description of the inlaid point.  A very specific one, which includes a picture to help one with any visualization difficulties:


Say, that’s darned iconic!

That is no dunce-cap.  What I hope is that the section is a late-comer to the barrel, a swapping of a damaged part from a pocket pen.  I’m not right up on the desk sockets of the 1960s, but I have a sense that the clutch studs on this section are out of place; that step in the barrel ought to serve as the stopping point and gravity itself would hold the pen in the mounting.

If that’s not the way of things, then Canada’s production begins to look wild and freakish for Sheaffers as well as Watermans and Parkers.  This isn’t bad in an absolute sense, but the essence of the “interesting times” curse wafts from it.  By way of diffusing that essense, I’m about to pop over to a forum and present the item for consideration of a pile of other obsessives.  We may not be able to be decisive, lacking the actual history of the pen, but we can at least invent an illusion founded on consensus, which is close enough to knowing the truth for the current purpose.

Today’s pen, no mystery attached: Franklin-Christoph 27 Collegia

Today’s ink: Pelikan 4001 violet


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