Vintage Sheaffer Clear School Cartridge Fountain Pen
Updated: Apr 7
One of my favorite fountain pens to write with is the Sheaffer Clear School Cartridge Fountain Pen, manufactured from 1955 to 1970. It was an innovative pen that introduced features that have found their way into the design of modern pens. These popular pens were produced from the mid-1950s to around 1970. The basic design is still being used in current-day calligraphy pens without the transparent barrels and slim profile.
In the 50s, they cost about a dollar, and a pack of five ink cartridges cost 49 cents. They were more reliable than the early-day ballpoint pens, which had a nasty habit of clogging and either refusing to write or often producing thick, ugly blobs of ink. Nowadays we think of ballpoints as always writing without a problem and the refills lasting for ages, but that was not the case in the 1950s.
I converted my small collection of Sheaffer School Pens to eyedroppers because the barrel holds a ton of ink. They are lightweight and slim to hold, which allows me to write for extended periods without writing fatigue.
Sheaffer offered the School Pens with either a fine or medium steel nib, nothing fancy, just a plain nib and feed which are still reliable writers even today. I prefer an extra fine nib, but since the School Pens didn’t come with such, I settled for a fine.
They have a steel clip that carries the Sheaffer name and is strong and firm. There was very little chance that a student would spring this clip. A tough, sturdy, and inexpensive fountain pen that could stand up to almost anything a student might inflict on it. I accidentally dropped one of mine from a height of three feet without causing any permanent damage. In fact, there are few parts to break on this pen. Perhaps you could damage the nib if you dropped it point down on a hard surface, and the aging plastic barrel isn't as resilient as it was in its prime, so, one could cause the plastic material to crack. I'm not a gambler, so I won't challenge my luck, I handle my vintage Sheaffers with utmost care.
There are a number of these pens still around, which is a tribute to both their toughness and the inexpensive price at which they sold. You can find them at flea markets, pen shows, and on eBay. These pens compare quite favorably with modern pens. They are cheaper than almost every well-made modern pen and by greasing the threads with silicone you can convert them into eyedroppers (like I did with mine) and fill them with an ink supply that writes for three or four times longer than an ink cartridge.
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