Tale of a Vandal Pen Collector: Unexpected Acquisition

Queuing up Don McLean’s American Pie

A long, long time ago,
I can still remember

My first fountain pen was a Sheaffer cartridge pen. In the fifth grade, I thought the pen was horrible. It was scratchy, and the tines were splayed. I used the pen for the only thing it seemed good for: to gouge a wooden desk.

Very harsh admonitions and disciplinary actions followed.

Recently a “NOS” aka new old stock of a pen fall into me hands. When those who love you know you love fountain pens, they tend to bring you the ones they find; things they ordinarily would ignore if you weren’t lurking in the background somewhere in their minds. And so, another Sheaffer cartridge pen came to me. Complete in its original blister pack.

Sheaffer Cartridge pen circa 1978-1988
Sheaffer Cartridge pen circa 1976-1986 (ink in carts evaporated)

These Sheaffer cartridge pens are often referred to as “school pens,” supposing because so many students used or were given them.  Sheaffer merely packaged these fountain pens without so much as a name other than “Sheaffer cartridge pen.”

There was a pen that Sheaffer marketed as a school pen. It looked very different from these pens. The site Ravens March Fountain Pens posts an example here, along with a bit of history.

Some of the earlier versions of the cartridge pens had nib markings of 304 or 305. (There may have been others, but these are the two most commonly found in the wild today.) Sometimes you will see these pens referred to as “Sheaffer 304″ or “Sheaffer 305″ pens, but those were not labels Sheaffer gave to these pens.  The numbered nibs appeared on other Sheaffer pens as well, such as the Skripsert, and Fineline series.

The nib numbers translate as follows:

  • 304 – fine point nib
  • 305 – medium point nib

The nibs in these pens are steel.

Sheaffer made, and continues to make, a lot of cartridge style pens. We’re concerned here with those simply packaged as “Sheaffer Cartridge pens,” circa 1956-1998, with chrome caps, and with opaque or clear color bodies.  Well, even that is too simplistic. If you look, you may see many other pens labeled “Sheaffer cartridge pens,” and wonder why I’ve not listed those as well. An informative history exists, again on the wonderful Ravens March Fountain Pens site. Read it here.

Quick Super Simplified Dating of Sheaffer cartridge pens aka “School” pens

  • The first generation had rounded ends (barrel and cap) – approximate dates 1958-1963.
  • The second generation had conical ends (barrel and cap) – approximate dates 1963-1975.
  • The third generation had flat ends (barrel and cap) – approximate dates 1975-1998.

As I recall, my desk gouging pen was circa 1965-66. That would’ve been a second generation pen. It was a blue opaque version of the fifth pen from the left in this wonderful illustration from yaakovashoshana’s Photobucket public stream:
 photo fpn_1318195720__schoolpens.jpg3 generations of Sheaffer cartridge pens / All rights reserved by Yaakovashoshana’s Bucket

A semi-hooded nib model existed as early as the 1950’s. Some examples of those pens are found in Google’s magazine archives:

If you have found a Sheaffer inside an intact blister pack, you may be able to get a little more precise in dating your cartridge pen.  Some helpful pieces of information, IMHO:

  • 1907 Walter A. Sheaffer invents the lever-filling fountain pen.
  • 1913 W A. Sheaffer Pen Company is incorporated.
  • 1966 Sheaffer was sold to manufacturing company Textron, Inc.
  • 1976 Sheaffer was merged by Textron into its paper division, Eaton.
  • 1987 Textron sold Sheaffer Eaton to Gefinor (USA) Inc.
  • 1997 Gefinor sold Sheaffer Eaton to Bic.
  • 2002 Sheaffer’s ink manufacturing moved from USA to Slovenia.
  • 2008 closing of Sheaffer manufacturing in USA.

Printed on the back of the Sheaffer blister pack I received:  “Sheaffer Eaton Division of Textronic Inc., Fort Madison, Iowa 52627.” That tells me, so I believe, that my pen was manufactured between 1976 and 1987. The nib has a “Made in USA” imprint.

close-up of manufacturing information
close-up of manufacturing information
backside blister pack
backside blister pack

There is a model or ordering number printed on the cardboard, underneath the pen: B703-0769-0040. But that number has not been helpful.

Sometimes the cartridge pens can be found in the wild still in blister packs. More often than not, you will find them in used condition. They range in price from as low as $6.00, to as high as $30 in some cases. Average price in 2014 seems to be around $20.

Inking It Up

Someone once paid $1.98 for this particular cartridge pen, and then lost it in a drawer, leaving it unopened and uninked. It was tempting to leave the pen in its packaging, intact. Of course I could not resist, and had to ink the little pen up to see how it wrote.

Sheaffer Cartridge pen, green barrel
Sheaffer Cartridge pen, green barrel

Some folks perform the ubiquitous eyedropper conversion on these little pens. For the eyedropper (ED) obsessed, I measured with some water that the pen barrel will hold 3ml of ink. As good as any pen today, ay?

I opted to test out the pen with a cartridge because, hey, “cartridge pen,” right? Being ED obsessed myself, cartridges are not something I normally use. Still I found an old empty Sheaffer cartridge—never a surprise what’s found in a fountain pen person’s storage bins—and filled it with Waterman Blue-Black. After installing the cartridge, I set the nib in the ink for a little soak because I thought the feed might need a little help after all those years of sitting around doing nothing. (Leaving the nib and feed in the ink bottle like that jump starts the capillary action.)

Soaking the feed in ink
Soaking the feed in ink

The little pen wrote excellently, right like that. While the writing wasn’t crisp, the F (fine) nib was smooth. Even flipping the nib over, for a finer point, the pen wrote without any scratchiness.


No skipping, hard starting, blobbing of ink anywhere—just laying down words like a pen should. Even after several days, the aforementioned qualities remain true.

Pretty good for a pen that’s some 30 years old, ay? It’s easy to see why these little pens are favorites among many fountain pen aficionados.

The pen came with two ink cartridges marked as Sheaffer Deluxe Blue. The ink in both carts had evaporated, leaving only dried ink chunks clinging to the plastic walls.

Sheaffer Deluxe Blue evaporated
Sheaffer Deluxe Blue evaporated

I’d been told to add water to the carts to reconstitute the ink. Using a syringe holding a little distilled water, I wanted to see how hard it was to revive this dead ink.  Wasn’t hard at all, as the ink quickly dissolved. I put some putty over the hole in the cartridge because I’ve still got the Waterman B-B to write through before testing the cart of reconstituted Sheaffer Skrip Deluxe Blue.

skrip2 copy

Deluxe Blue revived
Deluxe Blue revived

The pen is small, and pencil thin. Posting the pen gives it more heft and balance. Can’t believe I wrote that, as I never post pens, yet this one I do. Even the tiny Pilot MYU701, I never post.

The word “never” is such a jinxy word to use.

Just the Stats

  • Weight inked:  11 grams with cap. 5 grams without cap.
  • Length: 12.2mm capped. 10.9mm uncapped. 14.5mm posted.
Pencil. Sheaffer Cartridge Pen.
Pencil. Sheaffer Cartridge Pen.
Left to right: Pilot MYU701, Pilot Decimo, Sheaffer Cartridge pen, Platinum Kanazawa-Haku
Left to right: Pilot MYU701, Pilot Decimo, Sheaffer Cartridge pen, Platinum Kanazawa-Haku

The arrival of this little Sheaffer on my desk made me laugh. It was my inroad into vintage Sheaffer pens that made me draw back and say, “Woa! The fountain pen trail is an endless one filled with acquisitions.”

Even with the reduction of my pen acquisitions over time, the one vintage pen that remained was a Sheaffer, another unexpected gift in the form of a Tuckaway.

Now there are two Sheaffers in the tiny hoard.

While many pen people call these school pens “vintage,” I’m hard pressed to do so because it is not older than I.

Sheaffer Cartridge pen (circa 1976) and Sheaffer Tuckaway (circa 1932)
Sheaffer Cartridge pen (circa 1976) and Sheaffer Tuckaway (circa 1942)

Funny how pens, like so many things or themes, keep circling round and round, and come back to you in some way. Except today there’s no one to yell at me for how I might use a pen. Rest assured, no longer do I gouge desks with them.

Resources for Sheaffer fountain pen information

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What Goes Around Comes Around: Pen Friends

Friend @trhall has entered the blogging fray. One might even say, “finally!”

Thomas’s impact on my own fountain pen collection can be seen in these posts:

He’s pushed a little Pilot my way, and I’ve pushed a little urushi his way. That’s what friends do, ay?

If his first post, “Making of the Double Ended Edison Pearl,” is any indication of blog quality, Thomas’s blog will become a go-to place for informative posts about pens. And who knows what else?

I look forward to reading.  He calls it:  Penucopia.com

Screen capture from @trhall blog "Penucopia." Click on image to read his blog.
Screen capture from @trhall blog “Penucopia.” Click on image to read his blog.

Tale of a Vandal Notebook User: #Chronodex Update

watchEven though much of my time is “my own” it’s surprising how elusive it can be. Wanting to see where my time was being siphoned off, I began logging it several months ago.

Logging my time confirmed some things I already knew. Like, I’m the most productive in the morning. Yet, I also discovered an interesting surge of project activity later in the day that I didn’t consciously realize was there. Plus I was surprised to find a project for “down the road” was taking over a lot of my time during a day.

Writers know that sometimes new ideas pop up, and they distract us from the story that needs finishing. New ideas are always bright shiny things. Like pens or ink or balloons, they’re fun to play with.

My thing, though, is to make a note of the new idea, and continue on finishing what’s already been started. Otherwise no story ever sees the words, “The End,” or “End Play,” or “Fade Out.”

Logging my time helped me to send one story to the back burner, and let another take over. It’s rare I do that. In this case, I’m delighted I did. I’m happy with the results, and the decision to track my time.

Chronodex Revisited

Originally, logging my time with Chronodex quickly abandoned Patrick’s design as too “not right for moi.” Instead, I used my own re-design. Once I was comfortable logging time with my own “dial”, it was eventually abandoned, too.

I did it my way...
For a time, I did it my way…

What happened? I returned Patrick Ng’s original Chronodex design. Why? Because I felt I was missing something more… fun.


Apparently I needed a transition to get to the Chronodex!

Bringing the Midori into the Mix

I thought a lot about how Patrick Ng used his Chronodex in his Midori Traveler’s Notebook (referred to herein as “TN”). Patrick’s Chronodex diary pages  require using the TN “sideways.” (From this American perspective anyway.)

The dimensions of the TN are 8.5″ x 5.1″.  With Patrick’s pages, you are using the Chronodex by writing and reading with the longest side turned toward you.

Midori Traveler's Notebook, with Chronodex pages
Midori Traveler’s Notebook, with Chronodex pages (long side view)

Many people have adapted his design into one that works for them. For instance, printing the diary or calendar pages so that the pages sit “portrait” style. Still others (myself included), have adapted the Chronodex to fit into the smaller sized notebooks.

Pocket sized portrait-view Chronodex pages
Pocket sized portrait-view Chronodex pages

Indeed, I thought hard about continuing to use the Chronodex in my Oberon Design pocket notebook.

Yet I also pondered Patrick’s diary design, and thought about the advantages of reading and writing using it. Even though he encourages folks to use the Chronodex in a way that works for each individual, I thought there might be something to be found in using it “his way.” (Or close to it.)

It’s important to think for ourselves, and to find our own way. Yet at the same time it’s important to pay attention to those who’ve already blazed the trail we are trapising along on. A wonderful life paradox.

Two events conspired to shut down my incessant pondering, and move me back to Chronodex. First, Patrick released the July-Dec 2014 Chronodex pages. Second, MyMaido had a huge sale on the Traveler’s Notebooks. (Nearly 35% off and free shipping!)  I bought a brown TN.

Using Patrick’s Chronodex Diary Pages

Patrick’s pages are meant to be printed on A4 paper. Not having any blank A4, I simply used 8.5″ x 11″. On my printer (an HP laser printer), printing the A4 design to American letter-sized paper meant making sure the pages were scaled at 100%. I had to hand feed the pages for printing the calendar back to back. Lastly, the pages were cut down to fit the TN.

Then I simply stapled the Chronodex pages at the center fold, and inserted the Chronodex into the TN.

I made some mistakes in the cutting, but nothing earth shattering. The pages can be cut shorter for a better fit next time. Like in January 2015.

There you have it: picking up Patrick Ng’s design again, I used it in earnest.

The Chronodex was no longer disorienting. I no longer worried about how the time was noted in the design. I simply used it, and made the time slots my own as I filled them in.

What is different between the two radial formats? My more traditional dial seemed flat, not really much different that capturing information in a linear fashion.

The Chronodex is, well, it’s alive. The Chronodex grows arms, legs, and webbed feet.


The pages are far more visually stimulating as they’re filled up. Looking at pages sometimes leads me to think about my projects in different ways. There are patterns, certainly, in how a project takes over any given day. Yet there are also interesting spurts of work on one idea over another that stand out better on the Chronodex. Also, instead of flipping through individual days, I can see a week at a time.

These are not facts that you can apply ad hominum to your own life. These  musings are merely how I experience using the Chronodex.

Using the Midori

The Midori Traveler’s Notebook came with a blank notebook insert. That too, I’m using in “landscape” format. The blank notebook serves as my current gratitude diary.

Sharing the TN: Chronodex and Midori blank notebook
Sharing the TN: Chronodex and Midori blank notebook. My Chronodex pages are a little long, ay?

The Midori TN is far heftier than my little Oberon notebook.

Oberon Pocket Cover next to Midori Traveler's Notebook
Oberon Pocket Cover next to Midori Traveler’s Notebook

Adding to the TN’s heft is the HP #32 paper I used to print out the Chronodex.

For the truly weight obsessed, the Chronodex Jul-Dec 2014 planner printed on HP #32 weighs 94 grams! The blank Midori insert  is only 69 grams. I might print next year’s pages on less weightier paper, yet I do love the feel of the nib against the HP paper, as well as the “pop” of the white pages.

With Chrondex pages, a DIY pocket folder, and the Midori blank notebook my TN weighs 289 grams. My Oberon with three DIY notebooks weighs a mere 157 grams. Empty the Midori TN weighs only 113 grams; the Oberon 78 grams.


The Oberon still gets lots of use. It’s simply not devoted to time anymore. The Oberon is the one that fits in my back pocket. The TN I carry in my laptop or book bag.

If anything, I hope my Chronodex experience serves as a reminder that sometimes we need to look beyond what’s comfortable, outside our own imaginations in order for new inspirations to seep in. When we are too comfortable with how we live with, like, or perceive things, we may miss something useful, something inspiring, or something important.

Yeah, somethin’ like that.


And because Rumi states it so well and with great humor, here’s one of his poems:

   Who makes these changes?
I shoot an arrow right.
It lands left.
I ride after a deer and find myself
chased by a hog.
I plot to get what I want
and end up in prison.
I dig pits to trap others
and fall in.

I should be suspicious
of what I want.

Barks, Coleman; Jalal al-Din Rumi (2010-09-14). The Essential Rumi – reissue: New Expanded Edition (Kindle Locations 2057-2059). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

To download Patrick Ng’s Chronodex here you go. The URL is at bottom of his post.

Going Indie with Notebook Posts