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…about Sheaffer?


WhtDotI’ve mentioned a few times that Sheaffer was my first partner in this long dance of writing, coming into my life nearly three decades ahead of the onset of pen madness.  I only ever knew one model in those early days, but I’ve made up for lost time since, having handled at least one of just about every thing the company made between 1924 and 1985, if not one of each of the sometimes-bewildering multitude of sub-models Sheaffer seemed intent on throwing out (yes, I am looking at you, Targa.  You and Imperial stop whispering in the back, there), and a good representative sample of more recent efforts.  While these little write-ups are meant to be powerfully subjective exercises, I’m not befuddled by misty recollections of my youthful dalliance with fountain pens.  Whatever follows is, while my own opinion and nuts to yours, the result of mature consideration.

The fact is, I’m a little bicameral when it comes to Sheaffer.  On one hand, what I’ve come to realize about Sheaffers is that they are astoundingly consistent.  There’s not a lot of difference in the feel of point on paper between a high-end 1920s flat-top and a popular-level modern item.  There are some variations, particularly in things made prior to about 1970 or so, but for the most part, as far as the pen/paper/hand feedback goes, a Sheaffer is a Sheaffer is a Sheaffer.  If you like extremely firm points, this is just fine; those who prefer some give may think otherwise.  This consistency does, at least, encompass the good elements of fountain pen writing– smoothness, ease of flow– but it’s seldom something to set the heart on fire.  On this level, at least, I’m only room-temperature in my ardor for Sheaffers.

On the other hand… as items of art, I frequently find myself pausing in the middle of writing to just admire a Sheaffer as an object which is pleasing to the eye (with the certain exclusion of the Award).  These pauses are more frequent when the pen is one with a conical point, but inlaid and even open-point pens exhibit this power over me.  I just sit there, pen a short distance from my face, turning it so that it catches the light, while the ink dries in the feed.  This is good, in as much as it feeds my soul (for what is art but numinous nourishment?), but it can disrupt the flow of thoughts when writing a letter.

I guess the latter effect makes for what we might think of as a mild addiction.  This is not a good thing, really, but at least it’s easily fed and doesn’t require constant infusion of fresh drugs; I get as much of a hit off my first TM Valiant now as I did when I bought it almost a decade ago.  What do I really think about Sheaffer, then?  It’s a much-loved back-monkey, and while I think I’d feel better about the world post-rehab, I’m in not hurry for an intervention.

It took me roughly a half-hour to post this picture, because I was looking at this picture.

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