Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Pen Review: Sheaffer “school pen”

(Note all photos are clickable)
I don’t know that these pens ever had an official name from Sheaffer. There were several generations of similar pens from Sheaffer, from the 1960s into the 1990s. They don’t currently make anything that’s quite the same. I think that’s a shame.

From the packaging, I’d say this was made in the mid-1960s. My reasoning is thus: The Sheaffer address on the pen packaging does not have a ZIP code on it. The packaging for the ink cartridges does, but the state name is spelled out in its entirety. ZIP codes were introduced in the US in 1963, and became mandatory for certain mailings by 1968; the use of the two-letter state code came into vogue at about the same time. So, it appears this pen was made – or at least packaged – during that transition time.

I had several of these in high school in the 1970s and the design was identical, so these were made for many years. They overlapped the No Nonsense line during the 1970s, and then were largely replaced by them.

These pens consist of a plastic barrel, a steel nib, and a metal cap. They are cartridge-only pens, and take a proprietary Sheaffer cartridge which is basically a closed tube of ink which is pierced by a sharp metal fitting on the end of the nib section. This cartridge design is still available. It was a bit shocking to see the 49 cent price tag on the box, and realize that now a 5-pack of these cartridges sells for $5 – 7. Just a bit of inflation, eh?

The “unbox” of this pen, if you could call it that, was kind of interesting. In its plastic bubble package it was much more accessible than things in bubble packaging these days. No risk of slicing one's fingers off here.

You can see that the ink cartridges have largely evaporated over the years. I ended up flushing one out and refilling it with Sheaffer Red ink for initial testing.

The first few sentences were pretty scratchy, and this is definitely a fine nib, unlike most modern US "fines" which are somewhat of a thin medium to me. The more I use the pen, though, the more it's breaking in. And for a pen that's probably 45 years old, albeit unused, I can't complain about its performance. Started right up, keeps on going, doesn't dry up between uses. I don't think I can ask for much more.

So, if you're looking for an inexpensive pen, consider picking up one of these. They were easily found in their day, which means there are a lot of them left out there. eBay is a good source. The one downside, as noted above, is that they are cartridge-only, but if you are at all adept in refilling cartridges (and it's not that hard - consider Private Reserve's cartridge refill syringe for the job - link here is to Goulet Pens, but it's readily available) you can use whatever ink you wish, as I did.

I had fun with the nostalgia aspect (for me) of this pen. And I think I'm going to have fun using it too!


  1. I have what I believe is the version that came after this one. Mine is flat at the end of the cap and barrel. It has proper tipping material, unlike the Reacktor that followed, whose nib is folded over--I also have one of those, still in the packaging. I have no desire to try it out; just got it as a novelty.

  2. Note that a Sheaffer squeeze type converter will also fit, so you can fill directly from a bottle.

  3. True, and I bought one with a No Nonsense. I'll have to give it a shot! Thanks for the comment!