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Glossary of pen terms

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ABS. Short for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (now you know why they use the acronym), a tough, lightweight, and rigid material used in many low-priced pens of quality.


acrylic. See methyl methacrylate.


adjustable point. A pen point that can be adjusted by the user in some fashion. The most famous is probably that of the early Parker 75; the point could be rotated or "dialed" into a position that the user found most comfortable with the pen's "tri-lobal" grip section (later, the 75 got a conventional round grip, which rendered the adjustment 'pointless' (sorry)). In the 1940s, Eversharp produced a very flexible point with a sliding brace; when the brace was moved toward the nibs, the point became stiffer and wrote with a finer point; move the brace back and the point could flex and shade for more expressive writing.

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

Amodex. Trade name for a useful preparation that can remove ink stains from clothing.


Art Deco. (short for les arts decoratifs) A school of design dating from before the second world war, which stressed simple lines and curves in stylized combinations. Many pens from the 1930s (such as the Eversharp Doric) exhibit Art Deco styling, as opposed to the older "fuddy-duddy" style known as Art Nouveau (which was in vogue when the fountain pen was invented).


bakelite. One of the first industrial resins, also sometimes known as Phenolic resin, developed by chemist Leo Baekeland in the early 20th century. It was used for many modest housewares and personal products (which are now collectible) as well as electrical components (such as insulators or early circuit boards). Although very few pens were ever made from bakelite (which is rather brittle), many antique dealers who don't know the pen market will claim that their celluloid pens are actually bakelite.


ball pen. (see ballpoint pen).


ballpoint pen. A pen that has a disposable refill unit consisting of a metal or plastic 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 transferred to the paper during writing. Some of the earliest ballpoints had "fixed" balls that were not part of the refill.

barrel. The body of the pen, from the section back. Usually contains the pen's ink supply and ink-filling mechanism.


BCHR. Black chased hard rubber.

BHR. Black hard rubber.

bill-signer. A pen used (e.g., by the President of the United States) to sign legislation. Typically, several copies of the law are signed by hand, and the pens used are then often given away as souvenirs. These often turn up in political curio shops or online auctions. Esterbrook desk-pens were favorites for this purpose back in the 1950s; more recently, ballpoints or rollerballs are used.


biro. A term used generically (outside the US) 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, often machined so as not to be visible as such. Usually covers (or is itself) a button, plunger, or knob used 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. Heavy rocker blotters with replaceable blotter paper were a standard accessory of the well-dressed desk through the first half of the 20th century.


blotting. A condition in which a pen lets out large drops of ink from the point and feed, rather than a smooth, controlled flow. Often happens just before a pen runs out of ink.


blow filler. An early (and mercifully short-lived) type of sac pen that had an air hole in the back of the barrel; to fill the pen, the user put the end in his mouth and blew into the pen to collapse the sac.


brassing. Condition in which gold plate has worn off a part (usually a trim item like 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 punched into the point at the base of the split of the tines. Some breather holes on vintage pens were shaped like hearts, keyholes, or other fanciful designs. The breather hole is commonly supposed to assist smooth ink flow, although many pens do not have a breather hole and do just fine without it. The most practical purpose of the breather hole appears to be as a stress relief to prevent the point slit from spreading into a crack.


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, and spills over into the reservoir or sac. 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 large and (usually) rounded nibs, 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; also now found on a few modern pens.

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 the Vacumatic filler.



calligraphy. From the Greek for 'beautiful writing,' designates various styles of largely decorative or ceremonial handwriting usually based on traditional forms. Most people today think of italic writing when they hear the term, but it actually includes other Western handwriting styles such as Spencerian and roundhand scripts, as well as the decorative writing found in Asia and in the Arabic tradition.


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 hard rubber cap, designed to reinforce the cap lip and prevent cracking, or to carry decorative engraving, personalization, or factory nomenclature.

capillary filler. A filling system used by Parker (on its 61) and possibly others during the 1950s in which ink is drawn into a rolled plastic wick by capillary action when the filler tube is placed in an ink supply. Not to be confused with 'capillary action.' which was Eversharp's trade name for its early ballpoint pens.

cartridge. A capsule or 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 the processing of milk. Also called "milkstone" or "galalith". Sometimes used for transparent or colored pen barrels and caps (by Parker, Conway Stewart, and others), but not as prevalent as celluloid. Casein can absorb water, which will ruin its shape and color; casein pens should never be soaked or wetted for long periods.


celluloid. A natural resin formed from plant or wood fiber, 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 cast or molded and is highly flammable. Celluloid is nearly transparent in its natural state, but can be given opaque solid colors, or colorful marbled or geometric patterns. Also known under trade names such as Radite, Pyroxalin, Pyralin, Permanite, etc.

chased. Machine-embossed or engraved with regular geometric patterns (fish scales, chevrons, etc.).

clip. A part that retains the pen in a shirt pocket, etc. Usually attached to the cap. The clip may be of a distinct shape (e.g., Pelikan's "beak" clip) or may carry other details identifying the brand or model.


coin-filler. A type of early sac filler that had a slit in the barrel (looking like a lever filler with a missing lever); the user inserted a dime or other thin coin-like object to mash the pressure bar and deflate the sac. Waterman used this system briefly before adopting a lever-filler design, and furnished tokens that could be worn on a watch-chain and used to operate the filler. Lever pens whose levers have broken or gone missing can often be operated as coin-fillers.


combination pen (or combo). An instrument that typically has a capped fountain pen at one end, and an uncapped mechanical pencil at the other. 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).

desk pen. A pen with no cap and a long taper, designed for use in a desk set rather than to be carried in purse or pocket.


desk set. A plinth or base fitted with sockets to hold one or more desk pens. Older desk sets would often have inkwells (for dipping or for filling), while newer ones (from the middle of the 20th century) often had ornaments or cast sculptures (birds and animals being popular subjects), or doodads like clocks, calendars, and even radios.

diaphragm. Term used by Parker for the "inverted" rubber sacs used in Vacumatic filling pens (Vacumatics, 51s, etc.). The diaphragm seals the pen barrel and helps create the vacuum during filling, but does not contain 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.


ebonite. synonym for hard rubber.
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.


faceted. Having a number of flat sides or surfaces. Faceted barrels and caps were Art Deco inspired features of some pens from the 1930s and beyond.
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.

feed knockout block. (or feed block) A tool consisting of a block drilled with deep holes of various diameters; used with the aid of a mallet and a pin or dowel for extracting a pressure fit feed and point from a section.

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. With origins perhaps tracing back to the stiff brushes used in Asian calligraphy, 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 dry out in the pen.
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. See medium and broad.

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. The flexible point is typically made from thinner-gauge metal so that it bends more easily. See rigid point.
fountain pen. Generally, any pen that holds, and automatically feeds, its own ink supply (which could include ballpoints, rollerballs, and stylographs). Specifically, a pen with an exposed or hooded split metal point, possibly with hardened nibs, fitted against a feed.  
frankenpen. (from 'Frankenstein') Collectors' slang for a pen that has been assembled from mismatched parts (e.g., different color caps and barrels).  

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



gel pen. A ballpoint pen that uses opaque inks of a gelatinous texture, often in bright or fluorescent colors; some can leave legible writing on dark paper. Gel pens are an innovation of the 1990s; Parker's gel refills allow any ballpoint pen (that uses a Jotter-style refill) to be converted to a gel pen.
GF. See gold filled.
gold. A precious metal (atomic number 79, symbol Au) used for making (or coating) points and trim for fountain pens. Gold is extremely ductile (stretchable), making it easy to work into very thin sheets (gold leaf) which can be fused to base metals as gold fill. Gold is also fairly noble (impervious to chemical attack) which makes it a good choice for parts that must be exposed to corrosive fluids like ink. Gold in pens is usually found as an alloy with copper or some othe stronger metal, usually in 14k (58.5% by weight) or 18k (75%). Gold is very rare; it is estimated that all of the gold mined and worked in history could be melted into a cube 20 meters on a side. [Web Elements entry for Gold]  

gold-filled. Describes a base metal part with a layer of heavy gilding (gold leaf) fused to its surface (typically thick enough for engraving of monograms, etc.).

gold-plated. Describes a base metal part with thinner gilding (typically applied by chemical or electrical plating with gold).  
gold-wash. Describes a base metal part with very thin gilding (typically applied by electroplating with gold). Many steel points on cheap pens were given a gold-wash treatment, which is very easy to remove completely with an abrasive polish like Simichrome.  


hallmark. A small logo or mark that identifies the origin or gold content of a part. These are often fairly obscure symbols best known to those in the jewelry or goldsmithing industry.
hard rubber. Material used for pen barrels, caps, feeds, 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.
hatchet filler. An early type of sac pen that used a hatchet-like device to deflate the sac. There were actually two distinct mechanisms that bore this name; in one (used on Crocker pens), the user flipped up what looked like a lever, but which turned out to have a small tab on its underside (like the blade of a hatchet); when pressed, the tab would mash the pressure bar and deflate the sac (as in a crescent filler). In the other (used in John Holland pens), the blind cap swiveled up and away from the pen, its metal hinge contacting the pressure bar and deflating the sac in the process. [Pentrace article 266]  
hooded nib. Describes a pen in which the point is largely covered by a plastic or metal shell (first seen in Parker 51s, and widely imitated). As well as being an interesting bit of design, the hood keeps the point from drying out and also protects it against damage. It also makes servicing these pens more difficult and hides what many consider to be the most attractive feature of a fine fountain pen.


ink. The writing 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.
inkwell. Generally, refers to the bottle or vial from which you fill a fountain pen. Specifically, refers to decorative containers especially designed to hold writing ink, particularly for use with dip pens. The collection of such inkwells has become a thriving enterprise unto itself.
Ink-Vue. Waterman's name for its "sacless" pen, a response to the Parker Vacumatic. The Ink-Vue, made at the end of the 1930s, had a diaphragm-style filler (operated by an articulated lever near the end of the barrel) and a translucent barrel allowing the user to see how much ink remained in the pen.
Inlaid point. A style of pen point associated with Sheaffer since its introduction on the PFM series in the late 1950s. The Inlaid point is a compound-curved unit of sheet steel or gold, with a large cutout section that shows the barrel color; it seems simply to lay on top of the pen rather than being firmly inserted into it.
inner cap. A part that fits inside the cap, to provide a tight seal against the end of the section to slow the evaporation of ink from the point. Inner caps were also often used to help secure clips or other parts to the cap.
iridium. (1) A very hard precious metal (atomic number 77, symbol Ir) used for tipping of fountain pens due to its resistance to wear and corrosion. (2) A generic term for the tipping material of a fountain pen, which may often be an alloy of other materials with iridium (particularly other hard metals in the platinum group, such as osmium or ruthenium).
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 (usually) has no nibs. 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. May not be (in fact, seldom is) a gemstone.  



lever box. A metal flange that holds the lever of a lever-fill pen in place. This is primarily a feature of Waterman pens, and was a way for Waterman to avoid infringing the early Sheaffer patent on lever fillers (Sheaffer's original design suspended the lever on a pin driven through the barrel).
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. Patented by Sheaffer around 1912, the lever filler soon became the most popular kind of filler, lasting well into the 1950s with Esterbook and Waterman models.
limited edition pen. A pen deliberately produced in limited quantity, usually with a serial number stamped on its surface. Often, the pen is issued to honor some person, place, thing, event, or idea.
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).


maki-e. (pronounced roughly "ma-keee") A style of Japanese decoration that features hand-painted scenes or designs, often executed in abalone, pearl, gold dust, etc. and lacquered to bring out the depth of the design. Japanese craftsmen today continue to decorate fountain pens with maki-e as they have done since the early 20th century.
manenhitsu. The Japanese word for fountain pen, literally "ten-thousand-year brush"
manifold point. A particularly rigid vintage pen point that can be used to make carbon copies.
matchstick filler. An early type of sac pen that had a small hole in the barrel, suitable for inserting a matchstick (or similar object) to mash the pressure bar and deflate the sac.  
medium point. A pen point that falls somewhere in nib size (and stroke width) between fine and broad.
methyl methacrylate. A cast synthetic resin used in the caps and barrels of moderately and higher-priced pens. Also called acrylic, Lucite, Plexiglas, etc. First used on the Parker 51 in 1941, the material was probably the first cast resin widely used in penmaking.
music point. A pen point specially adapted for music manuscript, usually similar to an italic point. The design permits music engravers to create fine strokes (for note stems) as well as broad ones (for flags). Some music pens, such as those once made by Platinum, have two slits (and three nibs) for more ink delivery.


natural resin. A resin obtained by simple processing of natural materials such as plant fiber (celluloid), milk (casein), or rubber-tree sap (hard rubber). See synthetic resin.  
new old stock. Describes an older pen that has never been sold (i.e. is still in its factory packaging, or has price stickers or markings intact). Such pens are usually more valuable to collectors than "used" pens. They're often found in the backrooms of old jewelry or stationery shops, or in manufacturers' or distributors' warehouses.
nib. Properly, a small bead (actually, one half of the 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 some italic points, do not have prominent nibs).
NOS. New old stock.


oblique point. A nibbed chisel-like point ground at a small angle from the perpendicular, used for italic or shaded writing. Most such points are "left obliques" because they slant upward to the left (when you hold the pen for writing).
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 luxury 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. The modern piston filler was invented by Theodor Kovacs and made its first big market success on the Pelikan 100 of the 1930s.
plastic. A material made from hardened polymeric resins, natural or synthetic, usually used for pen caps and barrels. This definition takes in older resins like celluloid and casein, as well as newer ones such as acrylic, styrene, or ABS. Many pen makers and sellers prefer not to use this term, since it has acquired conntations of cheapness or inauthenticity, although the crafting of colorful, artistic, and exotic plastics for pens was a hallmark of the 1930s.
plunger filler. A type of pen that has a piston connected to a long rod inside the pen. To fill it, the user unscrewed the blind cap and pulled out the rod, then put the point in the inkwell and slammed the piston home; the breaking of a vacuum near the end of the stroke caused the pen to draw in ink. First used by Onoto, later by Sheaffer (in its Vac-Fil pens), and later still by some modern makers (such as Visconti).
pneumatic filler. A type of sac filler (produced by Chilton) in which the blind cap was unscrewed and pulled out to reveal a metal sheath; the user put the point in the inkwell and pushed the blind cap back in to create an internal air pressure surge that deflated the sac . Later revived (in modified form) by Sheaffer as the Touchdown filler.  
point. The metal portion of a fountain pen that fits against the feed and conducts ink down a split to the nibs. 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.
postal filler. Named for the Postal brand of pens; a simple filling system based on the principle of the syringe, used in less expensive pens
posted. Said of a cap that has been removed from a pen and placed on back of the pen's barrel (i.e., for writing). Some people prefer not to post caps on particularly valuable or rare pens (to avoid marking the barrel or putting stress on the cap lip), while some pens are so large and heavy that they may be more comfortable to use if the cap is not posted.  
precious metal. A metal prized for its appearance or rarity (above other properties it may posses). A short list of such metals includes gold, silver, palladium, rhodium, and platinum.  
precious resin. A rather pretentious advertising term-of-art for a decorative, expensive, or exotic plastic.
pressure bar. A metal strip inside a sac-fill pen that compresses the sac when the lever is lifted (or the button is pressed), and also (usually) provides spring resistance against accidental operation of the filler.


quill. A pen made from a long feather or quill of a bird. Goose or turkey quills were used for ink writing in the days before the invention of the steel dip-pen point and the fountain pen.  
Quink. Parker's long-time trade name for its aniline-based fountain pen ink.  


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. Usually more delicate and fragile than black hard rubber, since it has not been subjected to the same kind of vulcanization process.
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. These are usually considered "ladies' pens," although men might also have opted for such pens, attaching them to their watch-chains.
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.
sac filler. A pen that keeps its ink in a sac. Sac pens varied by the type of mechanism used to deflate the sac (and effect the filling); common types included lever fillers, button fillers, crescent fillers, coin fillers, hatchet fillers, matchstick fillers, twist fillers, and blow fillers.
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.
screw cap. See threaded cap.  
section (or grip section). The part of a pen that joins the point, feed, and barrel, usually contoured for gripping and often made transparent to reveal the state of the ink supply.
section pliers. A tool used for removing the section (or other parts) from a pen. Rubber-gripped automotive spark-plug extraction tools are often sold for this purpose.
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. This term was coined to distinguish these pens from eyedropper or safety pens, although the term became rather superfluous when these older pens disappeared from the market by the 1930s.
Simichrome. Trade name for a German-made household polish (in paste form, sold in tubes) that is widely used for polishing and cleaning pens. Simichrome has both a chemical and a mild abrasive action, and works well both on gold and on plastics.  
skipping. A condition in which a pen does not write a continuous line, but sporadically fails to feed ink.
Skrip. Sheaffer's trade name for its aniline-based ink. For decades, Sheaffer referred to Skrip not as ink but as 'writing fluid.'  
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 on the pressure bar or directly on the sac.
slip cap. A cap that 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.
stainless steel. Iron that has been alloyed with carbon and other materials, and then carefully refined to produce a very strong, hard, and highly corrosion-resistant material. Used in the barrels, caps, and points of many pens.
striated. Said of a pen that has stripes along the length of the barrel or cap.
stub point. A pen point that has a large, flat-ground nibs, used most frequently for shaded or italic writing.
stylo. (or stylo-plume) French term for fountain pen.
stylographic pen. (also stylo, but see above) 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 believed to have been invented by collector Bill Riepl; 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."
synthetic resin. A resin made through more complex laboratory or factory processes, usually from petroleum derivatives. Such plastics can be designed to suit many requirements (including esthetic ones). Examples used in penmaking include acrylic and ABS.  


urushi. A traditional lacquer used in Japanese artwork, and often applied to hard rubber pens made in Japan.



taper. A long tapered tail fitted to a desk pen. The taper was often removed from the pen before boxing (since otherwise very long boxes would be required to ship and store them). The early Parker Duofold could be fitted with a taper (replacing the blind cap) to convert it to a desk pen.


taper cap. The sort of conical caps used on many early eyedropper pens.


technical pen. see stylographic pen.


Touchdown filler. A Sheaffer filling system (based on the earlier Chilton pneumatic filler) 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 barrel or cap.


threaded cap. A cap 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.


titanium. A very hard and strong (but rather dull-looking) metal (atomic number 22, symbol Ti) used in the Parker T-1 pen of the 1970s, and in the point and trim of the modern Stipula 22., as well as in the overlay of the Visconti Skeleton.

trim. Items or parts (usually of metal) added to a pen largely for decorative purposes, although they may also serve practical purposes (like cap bands and clips).


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

twist filler. See wringer filler.



vacumatic. A filling system used by Parker in which successive taps on a plunger draw in ink through a breather tube. thanks to vacuum created by a displaced rubber diaphragm.

vacumatic tool (or vac tool). A jig for removing the reverse-threaded filler unit from Parker Vacumatics and other pens that used the vacumatic system. Repairing vacumatics is very difficult without such a tool.


vac-fil. Sheaffer's trade name for its plunger filler pens, made during the 1930s.

vermeil. Gold plate over silver.

visulated. A term describing a transparent section that could show the ink remaining in a sac pen. Early Parker Vacumatics were said to have a "Television" barrel, completely translucent to show the full ink supply.



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)


wing nib. (or wing point) A style of point developed by Montblanc in the 1950s, and imitated by many other makers (particularly in Germany). It resembles the wing of a bird; it is usually widest at the base or heel, and tapers gradually toward the nibs, with "squarish" shoulders. It can be made more flexible than an equivalent point of normal design.

word gauge. A fanciful feature of certain Conklin Nozac pens from the 1930s, which had a calibrated scale on the barrel to show how many words the user could write with the remaining ink supply.


wringer filler. (or, twist filler) A type of sac pen (found mainly among French makers) that is filled by twisting the blind cap, which "wrings out" the sac; when the blind cap is returned to its normal position, the sac takes in ink.





Zaner-Bloser. The name of a school of handwriting (which still exists today); for their students, during the fountain pen era, they commissioned special pens (mainly from Parker) that had radically "waisted" or "coke-bottle" barrel shapes, which they felt to be ideal for gripping.