February 2022 Mtg – Vintage Safety Pens

Seven members called into the zoom meeting before the Super Bowl to hear one member share his knowledge on vintage safety pens, which included show & tell of multiple models as well as disassembly of a Waterman 14.  The ability to retract the nib and fill the pen, eyedropper-style, is quite ingenious.  We saw the two main types of safety pen – the “Boston-style” pen made by Moore, and the Waterman versions.  The Boston safety pen retracts the nib with a rod, whereas the Waterman uses a helix.  The innards being manufactured from ebonite make them quite fragile, so whatever you do, do not over tighten anything!

My takeaways on this terrific exhibition were:

  1. These pens don’t have any sacs that can leak or need replacing.
  2. The retractable nibs also have their down sides.  If you tilt the pen down while the nib is retracted, all the ink will pour out.  Rumor has it this only happens once per owner.
  3. The nib stays immersed in the ink while retracted, which has the benefit that these pens can be more tolerant of less-fountain pen friendly inks.  Another limitation is that you must retract the nib prior to screwing on the cap as you will damage the nib otehrwise.  

There are also some modern safety pens, we discussed Noodler’s version following the Boston style design with a rod rather than a helix for the nib retraction mechanism.  Nathan also made a series of inks specific to the safety pen (the “Committee of Safety” that cannot be used in regular fountain pens).  

As a special bonus, following discussion of the volume of ink safety pens vs. others can hold, another member shared his custom-made adaptor that turns a 30ml Diamine ink bottle into an eyedropper.  It does burp, apparently audibly.  The audacity of such a creation was applauded. Gasps may have been heard.