Vintage Kaweco Sport V16: a pocket masterpiece

Tags

, , , ,

IMG_0216

With the exception of around 15 years between 1980 and 1995, there has been a pen named “Kaweco Sport” in production since 1934. First as a pocket safety pen, then piston-filler, finally as a cartridge filler, the little pen that’s big in hand has withstood the test of time. And for good reason: when closed, the Sport is not much bigger than a tube of lipstick. But when posted, it becomes the size of a standard fountain pen.

The modern Kaweco Sport is strictly a cartridge pen, with some attempts at a tiny converter being made. The vintage Sport is an entirely different animal. The pens from the 1950s and 60s are wonderful little things, built like tiny tanks with celluloid or acrylic bodies, piston mechanisms and flexy gold nibs (especially the open-nibs). Our subject today is a Sport V16 in green, and was one of the countless corporate gift pens produced in Germany back then by Kaweco, Pelikan and most other makers.

IMG_0218

If you think the modern Kaweco Sport is tiny, it dwarfs the vintage Sports. Our little green wonder checks in at 103mm long capped, 98mm uncapped, and 133mm posted. Filled with ink, it weighs 18g capped and/or posted: if you are over the age of about 3, there is no way you can use this unposted. Even yours truly, who is as vehement an anti-poster as there is, must post the vintage Sport.

IMG_0221

Build quality is as one expects from that time and location: top notch. Acrylic construction, small but very solid feeling piston mechanism that moves like a hot knife through butter. Older Sports had cork piston seals, but this model has a nylon head and seal: I believe the seller that it was never used, as it was spotless when I received it. I haven’t measured the ink capacity, as personally I think it’s more trouble than it’s worth, but I would say this pen hold about the same as a short international cartridge, or roughly 0.6ml.

IMG_0220

The nib is 14k, as most vintage Sport nibs were. It is marked B on nib and piston knob, and it is a good old-fashioned German B: almost square cut, stubbish, but as smooth as velvet. There is no catching the corners of the nib on paper, no scratching or squeaking, just great big packets of smooth. I lament the day back in 1965, when most German makers switched to ball-tipped nibs. Before then, nearly every nib made in Germany had built-in line variation. The only modern nibs I know in this style are the B and BB nibs of the Lamy 2000, and the new 14k Bock nibs available for larger Kawecos like the Dia 2, Student, and AL Sport.

There is also a great deal of flex in the nib, but the semi-hooded construction limits it somewhat. The semi-hood also makes cleaning more difficult, as ink tends to get trapped under the hood when filling. I’ve also yet to find a way to remove the nib and feed. Similarly styled Lamy and Montblanc pens from the period have sections that unscrew from the barrel, and the nib/feed unit drops out the back for easy rinsing and cleaning. This is the one complaint I have about these particular Sports.

IMG_0222

My green Sport arrived in its green leather pouch with a friend, a matching Sport 619 ballpoint pen. The refill is long dead, but any D1 sized refill will fit. Here is the pair of them, with their leather pouch that’s in remarkably good shape. It took me a while to figure out that the ballpoint extends with a half click, and retracts with a full click. I don’t use ballpoint enough to warrant buying a refill: I would much rather have a pencil to go with the fountain pen.

IMG_0223

Both FP and ballpoint are engraved with the name Junker, which I can only assume is a reference to the aircraft firm. And strangely enough, neither pen is engraved with the usual “Kaweco Sport”. They are a product of Kaweco, though, both having the usual tiny gold discs engraved with KA-WE-CO.

IMG_0224

Writing with the V16 is a pure joy. The nib is glorious, smooth and perfectly balanced in wetness. The line variation is just enough to make things interesting without needing a lot of care in nib placement.  The piston mechanism feels rock solid, and while not holding a lot of ink will at least equal a modern short cartridge.  Give one of these a try, if you can. With patience, one can be had on eBay.de for around $30-$50, which isn’t bad when you consider there are modern Sports that cost twice that.

IMG_0226

 

 

Advertisements

Kaweco Sport Cognac

Tags

, , , , ,

image

I’m a sucker for the Kaweco Sport: I think they’re great little pens. Compact, nice Peter Bock nibs, and versatile: they can easily be made into eyedropper pens with a little silicone grease around the threads.

I have black, green and brown Sports, and a vintage piston-filling one from the 50s. The other colours I wasn’t crazy about, but I couldn’t resist this cognac colour: it reminds me of amber.

This cognac Sport seems to be available only from Seitz-Kreuznach, in Germany. I’ll never be a shill for anyone, but they are good people, with reasonable, flat-rate international shipping.

Pen Review: Montblanc 3-42G

Tags

, , , ,

Welcome to the first of what I hope will be many reviews of writing instruments, and the things that go into them. I will cover both ends of the spectrum, from cheap and cheerful Chinese pens to classic designs of bygone days. This is my choice for the first go because it is something I thought I wouldn’t like, but have fallen for big time.

In the world of writing instruments, the name Montblanc sits at or near the very top of the pyramid. Today, Montblanc is part of a large consortium of luxury goods, and their pens represent only a small part of its range and priorities. Modern examples of its writing instruments are seen more as status symbols than anything else, and the company has other fish to fry such as watches, cologne, and $300 belts.

But back in the day, until the late 1970s, a Montblanc pen was a serious pen, a proper pen; built to last, built to write. The company had a large range of pens at all price levels, even student pens, and were highly respected by both the public and the industry. The fact that there are still so many vintage Montblancs around is a testament to their quality.

Throughout most of their existence, Montblanc produced three levels of products, numbered 1xx, 2xx, and 3xx. Our exhibit today is a number 3-42G, an example of Montblanc’s third-tier or lowest quality product line: this particular example is from the mid-1950s. The fact that this pen is “third-tier” really can’t be seen by its quality: Montblanc’s third tier products were as good or better than some companies’ flagship models. The acrylic may scratch a little easier, the gold plating may be thinner, but the main difference in the product lines is size.

Our example here, the 3-42G, is a small pen from any angle in modern terms; however, this was a standard size pen in those days. Dimensions are as follows:

  • Capped length – 127mm
  • Uncapped length – 113mm
  • Posted length – 141mm
  • Capped weight, inked – 16g
  • Uncapped weight, inked – 10g

The average thickness is about 10mm. This was a rather upscale student or entry-level pen: the ‘G’ in the name signifies a gold nib, since it was also available with one made of steel (the 3-42 with steel nib was eventually sold under the Monte Rosa name as model 042).

But good things can come in small packages, and the 3-42 (or 342, depending on the vintage) is a good example. Being so light and small, it reminds me of an Italian sports car: nimble, deft, it darts across the paper with lots of pep for its size.

The tiny 14k nib is very soft, flexing with slight pressure. Being left-handed, I can’t really take advantage of this, but the writing sensation is still soft and springy. This particular nib is a Medium. Being a German nib made in the 1950s, the tipping is not round or ball-shaped like a modern medium nib; as shown in the writing sample, there is some subtle line variation to be had here (a future post will discuss this tipping phenomenon in more detail). The line is smooth, with a wetness I would put at 7 out of 10.

Like all Montblancs of the 1950s, the 3-42 is a piston filler. I have tried quite a few piston fillers of various makes, and this particular one is the smoothest I have ever tried. It is easy to move, and doesn’t feel like it’s going to snap like some modern pistons I have tried. I haven’t measured the capacity, but I’d say it’s very close to 1ml which is not bad at all.

The plating on the hardware of these pens doesn’t always withstand the test of time, like most lower-priced pens, and our example here has certainly seen some mileage. Being an early 50s example, this Montblanc has the old logo with mountain range engraved on the cap. I’ve cheated and filled the engraving in with a sharpened china marker, as well as the outline of the snowflake at the peak of the cap. Later examples of the 342 have the more conventional solid white snowflake, and a straight section as opposed to the concave one here.

When I first held this pen, my first thought was that it was too small for me to use. I’m so glad I didn’t move it on as originally planned. I tend to hold my pens quite far up the barrel, sometimes over the threads or even above them. Holding it in my hand almost like a paintbrush, the 3-42 zips and parries across the page, darting like an epée in the hands of an Olympic fencer. The ride is soft and cushiony. It’s times like this where I am grateful I was trained to have a light touch: when I write, the nib basically brushes the paper. If I press with my over-writing left hand, the nib will dig into the paper. I envy right-handers who can take advantage of this kind of flexibility and create wonderful, flowing script.

For a “third-tier” pen, the quality in this small instrument stands out proudly. A soft nib full of character, a quality filling system, and a solid build equal a very fulfilling writing experience. These diminutive wonders can be had for as little as C$100, if one shops around on ebay.de.

I hope this has been even a little educational, or at the very least entertaining.

The First Step Is the Hardest…

And so it begins, my very first blog post. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, as Lao Tzu said. Here is my own little corner of the internets, where I can pontificate, ramble, babble incoherently about anything I like. But most of it will be about writing: the words, how they are put down, and with what tools.

I’ve been a sort of poet for most of my life, and a fountain pen user since before starting school: my grandfather had me.writing cursive before my first day of class. Looking back, it’s when I hit high school and started using a ball-point (because I could) that my marks began nosediving.  About five years ago I began using a fountain pen again because of health issues, not having the strength in my hands to press sufficiently with a ball-point. Since then, my handwriting has improved and I can write longer with less pain. The way I have my pens set up, I barely touch the nib to paper.

So, here will be ramblings about writing equipment, inks, papers, poetry (my own and that of others), and of course music. If not for music, I can assure you I wouldn’t be writing this now. Come along if you like, and let’s have some fun together!