Pen Collecting Glossary

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aerometric filler. A Parker trade name originally, has since become somewhat generic, as it has been used on several brands of pens. Designates a "sleeve filler" which is permanently affixed to the pen or is provided as a cartridge converter. A metal tube contains a rubber sac, which is filled by depressing a metal bar (visible through a hole in the tube) to collapse the sac.

Art Deco. (short for les arts decoratifs) A school of design dating from before the second world war, in which classical (ancient Greek or Roman) design motifs and details are applied to modern objects and materials. Many pens from the 1930s (such as the Eversharp Doric) exhibit Art Deco styling


ball pen. see ballpoint pen.

ballpoint pen. A pen that has a disposable refill unit consisting of a metal tube containing a thick, greasy, slow-drying ink, with a tiny textured ball at the writing end. Ink is picked up by the ball and tranferred to the paper.

BCHR. black chased hard rubber

BHR. black hard rubber

biro. A generic term (used outside the U.S.) for ballpoint pens, in honor of their inventor, Ladislo Biro.

bladder. See sac.

blind cap. A cap that can be removed from the end of the barrel, usually machined so as not to be visible as such. Usually covers a button or plunger for filling the pen.

blotter. Absorbent paper in the form of a card or strip, commonly used to absorb excess ink from handwriting before immediate handling of the manuscript. Blotters printed with advertising messages were popular promotional giveaways during the fountain pen era, and are now avidly sought by collectors.

brassing. Condition in which gold plate has worn off a part (usually a clip or cap band), exposing the base metal (usually brass) beneath. Diligent polishing can disguise brassing, but the rapid oxidation of brass will make it visible again before long, and excessive polishing can actually remove more gold and make the problem worse. Parts can be replated if the value of the pen warrants this treatment.

breather hole. A small hole, drilled or stamped into the point at the base of the split of the tines. Commonly supposed to assist smooth ink flow, although many pens do not have a breather hole and do just fine without it.

breather tube. A small plastic tube that runs from the end of the feed through the inside of the sac or barrel. During filling, ink is drawn in through this tube. The breather tube was adopted by some manufacturers (notably Parker and Eversharp) as a means to minimize leakage from pens used on aircraft (where the cabin pressure is often lower than normal sea level atmosphere).

broad point. A point having a large rounded nib, which typically writes with a wide, wet line. Broad points are great for signatures or large writing, but work less well for typical notetaking or correspondence duties.

button filler. A type of sac pen that uses a small button in the end of the barrel (usually concealed under a blind cap) that, when pressed, compresses a spring bar to collapse the sac. Most commonly found on pre-WW II Parker pens and their imitators.

bulb filler. A type of pen in which repeated squeezing of a rubber bulb at the end of the pen draws in ink through a breather tube. Similar to vacumatic filler.


cap. A portion of the pen that covers the point while the pen is not in use, and usually can be posted (attached) to the back of the pen during writing.

cap band. A metal band around a plastic or rubber cap, designed to reinforce the cap lip and prevent cracking.

capillary filler. A filling system used by Parker (on its 61) & Waterman (possibly others) during the 1950s in which ink is drawn into a felt or fiber matrix by capillary action when the filler tube is placed in an ink supply.

cartridge. A vial of ink that is inserted in a modern pen for convenient filling, and that can be disposed of when empty.

casein. A natural resin formed from dairy byproducts. Also called "milkstone" or "galalith". Briefly used for transparent or colored pen barrels and caps before the perfection of celluloid.

celluloid. A natural resin formed from plant fibers, used commonly before the second world war as a material for pen barrels and caps (and many other consumer products, as well as motion picture film stock). Celluloid is strong and resilient, but cannot be injection molded and is highly flammable. Also known as Radite, Pyroxalin, Pyralin, Permanite, etc.

chased. Embossed with regular geometric patterns (fish scales, chevrons, etc.).

clip. A part that retains the pen in a shirt pocket, etc.

combination pen (or combo). A fountain pen and pencil in one unit. Not the most practical of writing instruments, since they often have short sacs (low ink supply) and have to use short leads. Still, they were made in great numbers during the 1930s by the lesser penmakers, and sometimes by big name penmakers as well.

converter. A part that fits in place of an ink cartridge, allowing a modern pen to be filled from a bottle or inkwell.

crescent filler. A sac pen (usually a Conklin or one of its imitators) that has a crescent or disk protruding from the side; the pen is filled by unlocking and then pressing in the crescent to deflate the sac. Crescent fillers were the first commercially successful self-filling pens.


deco. See Art Deco

derby. A decorative part inserted in the end of a cap (usually more elaborate than a tassie or jewel)

diaphragm. Term used by Parker for the "inverted" rubber sacs used in vacumatic filling pens (Vacumatics, 51s, etc.). The sac seals the pen barrel and helps create the vacuum during filling, but does not hold the ink in the sense that a conventional sac does.

dip pen. A pen, typically with a replaceable split sheet metal point, that must be repeatedly dipped into an external inkwell during writing (hence not a fountain pen). Dip pens were used for general writing through the 1950s, and are still used by artists and calligraphers.


eydropper pen. An early form of fountain pen which was filled from a bottle using an eyedropper. This pen is little more than a sealed ink vial with a feed and point inserted at one end.


feed. A part that fits into the section of the pen, tight against the point, which provides for the smooth flow of ink from inside the pen out to the point. Feeds are typically made from hard rubber or plastic, and may be either smooth or comb-like in appearance.

felt-tip pen. A pen with a dense, shaped fiber point. Ink is drawn from inside the pen through the point by wicking or capillary action and left on the paper. Typically, the ink is itself stored inside a less dense matrix or wick of fibers. Felt-tip pens were first used in commercial and graphic arts, but became popular for general writing during the 1970s. They are less popular now, perhaps because the points wear rapidly and the ink is prone to evaporate.

fiber-tip pen. See felt-tip pen.

filigree. A type of overlay made up from wires into elaborate patterns (floral, spider-web, etc.) Often, basic pens were fitted with filigrees after purchase by jewelers or silversmiths. Very popular decoration on more expensive pens up through the 1920s, filigrees can be found today on limited-production or custom made pens.

fine point. A pen point that has a small nib, and writes with a very thin line.

flexible point. A pen point that "gives" readily under hand pressure; such a point gives a natural shaded effect to handwriting, and is commonly found on dip pens and older (pre-1930) fountain pens.

fountain pen. Generally, any pen that holds, and automatically feeds, its own ink supply (including ballpoints, rollerballs, and stylographs). Specifically, a pen with an exposed or hooded split metal point, possibly with a hardened nib, fitted against a feed.

füllfederhalter. The German word for fountain pen, literally "fillable quill holder".


GF. gold filled.

gold-filled. Describes a base metal part with heavy gilding (typically thick enough for engraving of monograms, etc.).

gold-plated. Describes base metal part with thinner gilding (typically applied by electroplating).


hard rubber. Material used for pen barrels, caps, and other parts. Derived from natural latex resin, vulcanized (boiled with sulfur or other reagents) to form a solid, resilient, lightweight plastic-like material that can be machined into shape. Can tarnish or dull with age and exposure. Also called vulcanite or ebonite.

hooded nib. Describes a pen in which the point is largely covered by a plastic shell (first seen in Parker 51s, widely imitated).


ink. The fluid used in a pen. Modern fountain pen inks are generally water solutions of aniline dyes, with various additives to improve flow and inhibit mold or other growths.

inner cap. Fits inside the cap, to provide a tight seal against the end of the section to slow the evaporation of ink from the point.

italic. A form of shaded writing practiced by modern calligraphers using stub or chisel pointed pens. Based on old-style italic typefaces, which were in turn based upon an Italian handwriting style of the renaissance.

italic point. A pen point that is ground off perpendicular to the length of the pen, and that has no nib. Used for italic calligraphy.


j-bar. see pressure bar.

jewel. A decorative part on the end of a cap or barrel, typically resembling a gem or a pearl, often used to hide a screw or to neatly finish off the end of a machined barrel or cap.



lever filler. A type of sac pen that has a lever built into the side of the barrel that, when lifted, compresses a pressure bar which collapses the sac.

Lucky Curve. Parker's trade name for its early j-shaped feed that extended into the barrel and curved outward to drain ink from the point when the pen is not in use (thereby to prevent leakage or dripping).


manenhitsu. The Japanese word for fountain pen, literally "never-ending brush"

manifold point. A rigid pen point that could be used to make carbon copies.

medium point. A pen point that falls somewhere between fine and broad.

methyl methacrylate. A synthetic resin used in the caps and barrels of more expensive pens. Also called acrylic, Lucite, plexiglas, etc. First used on the Parker 51 in 1941.

music point. A pen point specially adapted for music manuscript, usually similar to an italic point.


new old stock. Describes an older pen that has never been sold (i.e. is still in its factory packaging). Such pens are usually more valuable to collectors than "used" pens.

nib. Properly, a small bead of iridium or other hard metal soldered to the very tip of the pen point. Also popularly used to mean the point itself (although many points, such as italic points, do not have nibs).

NOS. See new old stock.


oblique point. A chisel point ground at a small angle from the perpendicular, used for italic writing or for left-handers.

open nib. A "retronym" designating a pen with a fully-exposed point (i.e., not hooded like the Parker 51).

overlay. A decorative covering, typically solid or filigreed precious metals, fitted to the barrel and cap of a pen. Typically found on pens made up through the mid-1920s, top-quality overlays add greatly to the collector value of a pen.

over-under feed. A feed that contacts both surfaces of the point (found principally on some older Onoto pens and on the Parker 180)


piston filler. A pen that has a piston which can be screwed up and down inside the barrel to take in or let out ink.

point. The metal portion of a fountain pen that fits against the feed and conducts ink down a split to the nib. The most desirable points are of solid gold (either 14k or 18k), although points have been made from other precious metals such as titanium and platinum. Steel points are functionally identical but esthetically less acceptable to some, and typically of less value to the collector.

pressure bar. A metal strip inside a lever-fill pen that compresses the sac when the lever is lifted, and also provides spring resistance against accidental operation of the lever.



resin. The "raw" form of plastic. Resin isn't a very descriptive or precise term, as it can be applied to any material from bakelite to celluloid to acrylic. Often used as a euphemism for the p-word by fine pen makers.

RHR. red hard rubber.

ringtop. Usually a small pen, which has a ring at the top of the cap (instead of a pocket clip) for attachment to a chain or ribbon.

rolled gold. See gold-filled.

rollerball pen. Similar in construction to a ballpoint pen, but uses a liquid ink. Gives some of the appearance and feel of fountain pen writing.


sac. A small bladder or pouch, usually of natural latex rubber, which holds a supply of ink inside a pen.

safety pen. A type of eyedropper pen that can be sealed tightly against leakage. The point is typically withdrawn into the pen (like a lipstick) before the cap is replaced.

self filling pen. A fountain pen that can be filled without using an eyedropper or other external device.

shaded writing. Writing that shows natural variations in thickness due to variable pressure and rotation of the pen point in the hand, due to flexible, stub, or italic points.

sleeve filler. A sac pen in which the sac can be exposed by sliding back a sleeve or panel. The user fills the pen by pressing directly on the sac.

slip cap. A cap that is pushes straight onto the pen and is retained by friction or by mechanical springs or bails. Most modern pens (beginning the second world war), as well as the very earliest 19th century pens, use slip caps, while most others use screw-on caps, which can lead to confusion to those using a vintage pen for the first time.

snorkel filler. A Sheaffer filling system based on the touchdown filler, but having a tubular "snorkel" that extends from inside the feed to draw in ink without requiring the point to be submerged in the ink.

sprung. Said of a metal part (typically a point or a clip) that has been bent past its elastic limit and permanently deformed.

stub point. A pen point that has a large, flat-ground nib, used most frequently for shaded or italic writing.

stylographic pen. A pen with a narrow tubular point; ink flows through the point onto the paper during writing, and is kept from leaking by a thin wire whisker through the point. They were made by various companies all over the world, and may have actually predated the conventional-point fountain pen, but were never as popular. Modern drafting pens are the direct descendants of the stylograph.

Sumgai. A mythical figure first identified on the Zoss list, someone who arrives at a sale or shop ahead of you and buys up all the good pens. As in "We had some nice pens here, but last week Sumgai came in and bought them all."


technical pen. see stylographic pen.

touchdown filler. A Sheaffer filling system in which a sac is collapsed by a surge of high air pressure inside the pen (when the user "touches down" the filler).

tassie. A decorative plug inserted in the end of a cap.

threaded cap. A cap that that is retained by screwing it onto the pen.

tines. The two halves of the point, formed by slitting the point during manufacture. The tines must be in perfect alignment and must both have smooth nibs or tips to write well.

Triumph point. Sheaffer trade name for a ring-shaped point (i.e., point completely encircles the feed). Offered on Sheaffer pens starting in the mid-1940s.



vacumatic. A filling system used by Parker in which successive taps on a plunger draw in ink through a breather tube.

vermeil. Gold plate over silver.


warranted. Term sometimes stamped onto an unbranded pen point. What is being warranted, and who is warranting it, are not always clear. Commonly supposed to mean a point that is warranted to be solid 14k gold, although this is by no means always true. The term is also used by collectors as a shorthand for an unbranded replacement (non-original) point found on a name-brand pen. Not to be confused with "lifetime guarantee" of some pens (such as Sheaffer Lifetime)





This file last posted on:
2005-Jan-20 17:50:23 CST
MCMVIII, the red network