Pen collectors have a vocabulary all their own. Here is your guide to commonly used terms and abbreviations.
Adjustable Nib – some Wahl nibs have a sliding attachment that makes the nib slit wider or narrower, resulting in a wider or narrower line of ink.
Aerometric Filler – a plastic ink sac mounted inside a metal adapter with a squeeze bar. Pumping the squeeze bar fills the sac with ink. Parker started it in 1948.
Bakelite – an early plastic (phenolic resin to be exact) used by a few pen manufacturers (like Parker). Colors were limited (typically red, yellow or dark brown) and tended to darken over time. celluloid offered more color variety and became the plastic of choice for pens.
Barrel – the part of the pen holding the ink, filling mechanism, and writing (nib and feed) assembly.
BCHR – the abbreviation for black chased hard rubber.
BHR – the abbreviation for black hard rubber.
Black Hard Rubber – a compound produced by mixing crude rubber with sulfur at high temperatures. Carbon black was used to dye it and give it higher tensile strength. It was the preferred material for fountain pen caps and barrels until plastics became popular during the 1920’s. Also called ebonite or vulcanite.
Bladder – another term for the rubber ink sac.
Blind Cap – the removable end of the barrel that covers the filling mechanism. Common on Parker pens.
Blow Filler – blow into a hole at the end of the barrel with your mouth to collapse the ink sac, then release to fill the pen. Mooney (a small Chicago pen maker, not a religious group) pioneered this filler.
Blue Diamond – a clip decoration on Vacumatic and Parker 51 pens indicating that the pen had a lifetime warranty.
BP – the abbreviation for ball point pen.
Brassing – when the gold outer layer wears away, exposing the brass underneath it.
Breather Hole – small holes drilled in the caps of early pens to equalize pressure inside and outside the cap, and prevent ink seepage. Also used to describe the holes (usually round, but also heart shaped, or crescent shaped) at the end of the slit in a pen nib.
Breather Tube – a tube inserted in the back of the feed to equalize air pressure. A must for some designs like pump fillers.
Bulb Filler – remove the blind cap and squeeze the bulb (small rubber ink sac) with your fingers to fill the pen. A very compact mechanism found on the Wahl Bantam, Wahl Stenographer, and Hicks.
Button Filler – remove the blind cap, then repeatedly press the button at the end of the barrel bending a flexible pressure bar, which squeezes the ink sac, creating a vacuum which fills the pen. Made famous on the Parker Duofolds.
Cap – the part of a pen that covers the nib, protecting it from damage, other things from ink stains, and the nib from drying out. A cap usually screws onto threads on the barrel, or may slip on and be held in place by friction.
Cap Actuated Pencil – the cap at the top of the pencil is pushed down to extend the lead. Also called an injector pencil or repeating pencil.
Capillary Filler – just dip the nib into ink and let the ‘collector reservoir’ absorb ink. Doesn’t hold much ink. Think Parker 61.
Cartridge Filler – these little cylinders have been around since the 1920’s (John Hancock), and became popular in the 1950’s (Sheaffer, Parker, Waterman).
Casein – a plastic made from milk by-products. Favored by some European manufacturers for its interesting colors, but has not been widely used as it tends to absorb moisture and deteriorate.
Celluloid – a nitrocellulose plastic made from wood by-products, containing pyroxylin and camphor. Highly flammable. Can be blended and laminated to produce beautiful decorative patterns. Celluloid was the brand name created by the Celenese Corporation. Other chemical manufacturers had their own names. Dupont called it Pyroxylin. Sheaffer was the first pen company to use it in 1924, and called it Radite. Also known by the trade names of Permanite, Pyralin and Stonite.
Chased / Chasing – decorative lined patterns on the surface of hard rubber pens. Some makers did this by hot stamping, while others did machine engraving. Can also mean the raised decoration (“nail” or spiral patterns) on metal overlay pens.
Coin Filler – a coin is inserted into a slot in the barrel collapsing the ink sac. Watermans’ made coin filler pens in the early 1900’s.
Collector – the array of tiny fins that hold ink inside the front part (hood) of a Parker 51 or 61.
Combo – a writing instrument that is a pen on one end and a pencil on the other end. Sometimes called a ‘banker’s pen’.
Cork – the material used for seals in various filling mechanisms like piston and plunger fillers.
Crescent Filler – when a lock ring is rotated, a flat crescent protruding from a barrel slot collapses the ink sac. Conklin’s invention.
Demonstrator – early ones had cutouts to demonstrate how the ‘internals’ of a pen or pencil worked. Later ones are made of transparent plastics.
Desk Base – the holder for a desk pen. Traditionally, a piece of stone, metal or glass with an attached socket in which the desk pen is placed.
Doctor’s Pen – special models of pens made for doctors to use. Early ED pens had a separate compartment containing a fever thermometer. Later ones featured pens with white caps and barrels, and a matching thermometer holder. Sometimes called nurse’s pens.
Ebonite – another name for hard rubber.
Eyedropper Filler – the section containing the nib is unscrewed from the barrel, and an eyedropper is used to fill the open barrel. Popular in the earliest days of fountain pens with nearly every brand.
Feed – the part of the pen containing a channel for ink to flow from the ink supply to the nib. It usually fits underneath the nib.
Filigree – a decorative metal overlay with openings that show the body of the pen underneath.
Filling Mechanism – The basic principle is the same in most cases. Air is expelled from a closed chamber (a rubber ink sac or the inside of the pen barrel) and the resulting vacuum pulls ink into the chamber. The vacuum can be created in numerous ways (30 different filling mechanisms are described in this summary). The most common method is to use a thin, flat metal bar (called the pressure bar) to press against the rubber ink sac mounted inside the barrel.
Flexible Nib – a nib with ‘spring’ so that it flexes as you write, producing lines of varying width. Seldom seen on newer pens.
German Silver – a tarnish resistant alloy of nickel, copper and zinc that resembles silver. Also known as nickel silver.
GFT – the abbreviation for gold filled metal trim.
Gold Filled – not an alloy, instead a layer of gold laminated to a base metal, usually brass. The gold layer is much thicker than gold plating.
Green Gold – an alloy of gold with silver and nickel to give it a slight greenish hue. Popular on metal overlays in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
Guilloché – machine engraved decorative patterns on the surface of pens.
Half Overlay – pen with a metal overlay on the barrel but not on the cap.
Hand Engraved – patterns created by skilled artisans as they engraved patterns (vines were popular) on each pen. These were top-of-the-line pens from makers like Watermans’, Sheaffer, Parker, and Wahl.
Hatchet Filler – a hatchet shaped lever is used to collapse the sac. John Holland’s way to compete with lever fillers.
Hard Rubber – a compound produced by mixing crude rubber with sulfur at high temperatures. It was the preferred material for fountain pen caps and barrels until plastics became popular during the 1920’s. Black is the most common color. It was formulated in other colors for greater aesthetic appeal. Also called ebonite or vulcanite.
Hooded Nib – a plastic hood covers all of the nib except the tip area. The Parker 51 was the first to do this.
Injector Pencil – the cap at the top of the pencil is pushed down to extend the lead. Also called a repeating pencil, cap actuated pencil, or clicker pencil.
Ink Shutoff – a device to cut off ink flow when the cap was put onto the pen. The Wahl system does not work, but Onoto’s does.
Ink Vue – an articulating lever squeezes a small rubber bulb, creating a vacuum that pulls ink into the barrel (not the sac). Used in Waterman’s pens in the late 1930’s.
Inlaid Nib – a nib permanently fixed to the outside of the section. Moore ‘Fingertip Nib’ and Sheaffer PFM nibs are examples.
Inner Cap – a separate liner that fits inside the cap to seal it with the section to prevent ink leakage when the cap is on.
Integral Nib – a nib that is part of the metal barrel. The titanium nib/barrel of Parker’s T-1 is the best known example.
Iridium – the hard metal ball that is welded to the tip of the nib. The provides the writing surface that touches the paper. This ball may only have trace amounts of iridium. Usually it is made of an alloy of various hard metals from the platinum family of metals.
Italic Nib – a nib designed to write with broad down strokes and narrow cross strokes. Often used for calligraphy. The edges of the nib are squared to give crisp lines. As a result, italic nibs can be a bit ‘scratchy’ for general purpose writing. Stub nibs are the same, except the edges of the nib are rounded.
Jewel – a round decorative piece found at the top of a pen cap or the bottom of a pen barrel. Parker Vacumatics and 51’s are described as ‘single jewel’ (on the cap only) or ‘double jewel’ (on the cap and barrel ends).
Jointless – an early method where the nib and feed were inserted directly into the end of the barrel, i.e. there was no section between them.
Ladies Pen – a pen (usually smaller size) with a ring at the top rather than a clip. The ring is used for a ribbon or a chain so that the pen could be worn like a necklace, or attached to a lapel pin.
Lever Filler – a lever bar swings up and collapses the rubber sac. Lever bar is pinned in the barrel or mounted in a lever box. Sheaffer was the first, but their patent for the lever mechanism was openly pirated by many others.
Leverless Filler – turn an end knob to wring out the rubber sac. Mabie Todd (Swan) did not attach the sac to the knob.
Limited Edition / LE – Pens produced in a numbered series of a specific quantity. The notation is typically written “8/88” meaning number 8 in a total series of 88 pieces.
Lucky Curve – Parker’s patented design to reduce ink seepage through the feed when the cap was on. The feed has a curved ‘arm’ that touches the inside of the ink reservoir. The idea was that ink from the feed would flow back into the ink supply where the two surfaces touched, preventing ink seepage. Sounds great …. didn’t really help.
Lustraloy – Parker’s trade name for the matte finish on the stainless steel caps for its Parker 51 and 61 pens.
Mandarin – a bright yellow color used for Parker Duofold pens in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Reputedly inspired by a trip that Mr. & Mrs. George S. Parker made to China where they saw porcelain in this color. It was unpopular then for pens … and is rare and sought after now.
Manifold Nib – in the days before photocopiers, carbon paper was used to make multiple copies of a document. A manifold nib is stiff so one can press hard enough to make legible copies using carbon paper.
Match Stick Filler – a match stick can be inserted into a hole in the barrel to collapse the ink sac. Some have a tab on the cap to use instead of a match stick. Weidlich of Cincinnati made these.
Middle Joint – a design for early ED pens that placed the joint for opening and filling the pen in the middle of the barrel rather than where the section joins the barrel. The idea was to make it less likely to get your fingers stained by ink seepage.
Military Clip – a style of clip that became popular in the 1940’s. The clip attaches at the top of the cap, allowing the pen to sit low enough in the pocket so that the pocket flap of the uniform can be buttoned.
Mottled Hard Rubber – A mixture of red and black hard rubber in an irregular pattern of streaks and blotches.
Music Nib – a special nib made for writing music notation. It is quite flexible and has two nib slits.
Nickel Plated Trim / NPT – Since this is not a precious metal, it is usually solid nickel silver (German silver) rather than nickel plated.
Night & Day – a pattern where the dark (night) body of the pen appears through rectangular slots in the silver or gold overlay (day) on the pen.
Nozak – the best known American piston filler. As the name implies … no ink sac. Made by Conklin in the 1930’s.
Oblique Nib – a nib with a tip that is cut at a slight angle back to the left to make it easier to write smoothly. Made for right-handers, while the reverse oblique is for left-handers.
Octanium – the trade name for the white metal alloy nib that Parker used in the 1950’s.
Overfeed – an early design which has feeds fitted both above and below the nib in an effort to get better ink flow.
Overlay – the precious metal covering on the cap and/or barrel of a pen.
Packing Unit – the part of a plunger filler that seals around the plunger rod.
Palladium – the trade name for the white metal alloy nib that Sheaffer used beginning in the 1950’s.
Pearl and Black – a popular celluloid pattern in the 1920’s and 1930’s. It contains chunks of black and creamy pearlescent material. The ‘pearl’ portion often discolors to a beige or a light amber due to age.
Permanite – a trade name for celluloid.
Personal Point – an innovation that enabled Wahl dealers to interchange nib assemblies on a given pen to give it the customer’s desired nib style.
PFM / Pen for Men – Sheaffer’s oversized snorkel filler. Made from 1959 to 1965.
Piston Filler – a turning knob moves a piston down the barrel, then back up the barrel creating a vacuum that fills the barrel with ink. Used on most European pens, like Pelikan and Montblanc.
Platinum – an especially beautiful celluloid in charcoal gray with luminous silver gray ‘grained’ highlights. Used in the 1930’s by European manufacturers like Montblanc and OMAS.
Plunger Filler – fills by creating a vacuum behind a piston, Pull out, then push back in slowly. Also called a vacuum filler. Sheaffer’s innovation after the lever filler.
Pneumatic Filler – the ink sac is flattened by air pressure from a plunger. Sheaffer’s Touch Down works this way.
Post – to open a pen and place the cap on the end of the barrel. Posting can cause cracks in cap lips when done carelessly.
Propelling Pencil – a pencil with a mechanism that extends the lead, but does not retract it.
Propel-Repel Pencil – a pencil with a mechanism that extends and retracts the lead when a part of the pencil is turned.
Pump Filler – describes several filling mechanisms that require multiple strokes to fill the pen, like an aerometric filler or button filler.
Push Knob Filler – Montblanc’s version of the button filler.
Pyralin – a trade name for celluloid.
RB – the abbreviation for rollerball.
Red Hard Rubber / RHR – Waterman called it Cardinal. Most people would call it more orange than red. Iron oxide is the dye that makes it red. Is more brittle than black hard rubber.
Repeating Pencil – the cap at the top of the pencil is pushed down to extend the lead. Also called a injector pencil, cap actuated pencil, or clicker pencil.
Resin – as in “ade from precious resin”. What you and I would call plastic.
Reverse Oblique – a nib with a tip that is cut at a slight angle back to the right to make it easier to write smoothly. Best for left-handers.
Ringtop – the term for ladies pens with a small ring at the top. Also called ribbon ring pens. In the days when ladies wore dresses without pockets, pens were often mounted on a ribbon, cord or chain worn around the neck like a long necklace.
Ripple – Watermans’ first used this term to describe hard rubber pens with a ripple pattern in two colors. Red and black ripple is the most common. Blue & yellow, rose & yellow, and olive & yellow ripples are much less common.
Rolled Gold – another term, used mainly in Europe, that means gold filled. Note: Pens marked 18KR means gold filled, not solid 18 carat gold.
Roller Clip – a clip with a rolling ball mounted at the end. Designed not to snag the fabric of one’s pocket. Well known on Wahl & OMAS pens.
Rose Gold – an alloy of gold containing a higher percentage of copper, giving it a rose or pink hue.
Rosewood – red and black hard rubber that has been mixed in a way that resembles the grain and color of rosewood. Also known as woodgrain hard rubber.
Sac – the rubber ‘finger shaped’ ink reservoir. Open at the end where it attaches the the back of the feed.
Saddle Filler – John Holland tried this unusual approach around 1920. A flat metal saddle wrapped about one-third of the way around the barrel. When pulled it squeezed the ink sac between the pressure bar and barrel. Also called a pull filler.
Safety – generally used to mean a pen with a retractable nib. The nib is retracted to allow the barrel to be filled with ink from an eyedropper. When the nib is extended, it forms a leak proof seal with the barrel to allow normal writing. The nib must be retracted to screw on the cap. When the cap is on, the inner cap and section form a tight seal … thus the name “safety”… a relative term … not the safest way to carry ink. Watermans’ are the best known safeties.
Section – also know as the grip section, as it is where most people grip the pen when writing. It is the tubular piece holding the nib and feed.
Self Filler – describes pens that had an internal filling mechanism, and did not have to be filled with an eyedropper.
Signet – the trade name used by Parker to denote models with GF caps and barrels. Used beginning with the Parker 51.
Slip Cap – an early style of cap that simply slipped onto the barrel, rather than screwed on. Simple to make and use … but easy to crack the cap lip.
Sleeve Filler – a sliding sleeve on the barrel opens to reveal the ink sac, which can then be squeezed. Tendency of the sleeve to come open meant that Watermans’ and Century sleeve fillers pens weren’t on the market too long, and are rare today.
Snorkel Filler – Sheaffer’s unique system with a tube that extends below the nib to suck up ink.
Spear Feed – the term for the feed used on Parker Duofold and Jack Knife Safety pens. The shape of the front of the feed resembles a spear.
Special – a trade name used by Parker for some Duofold models. These pens were long (Senior length) and thin (Junior diameter). Also used to denote an economy version of the Parker 51 with an Octanium alloy nib.
Speedline – Parker’s name for its Vacumatic filler with aluminum plunger from the late 1930’s.
Spoon Feed – a Waterman design from 1899. It improved ink flow with small concave openings beside the main feed channel. The grand daddy of modern feed designs.
Stonite – a trade name for celluloid.
Straight Cap – the cap is cylindrical with the same diameter as the barrel, and slips onto the smaller diameter section. These pens have a smooth line from end to end.
Stub Nib – has the same writing characteristics as an italic nib (broad down strokes & narrow cross strokes) but the edges of the nib are more rounded. Better suited to general purpose writing than an italic nib.
Stylo or Stylograph – a pen that feeds ink through a small tube rather than a conventional nib and feed assembly. Pressing down as one writes opens a small valve allowing ink to flow. Frequently used for drafting pens.
Syringe Filler – works like s syringe. Requires a long cap to cover the plunger in its extended position.
Taper or Desk Taper – the long tapering piece on a desk pen. Parker introduced the idea that their pen could be converted from pocket to desk use by removing the blind cap and screwing on the taper. The base was designed to use the pen cap as the pen holder. Hence, the name… Duofold.
Taper Cap – a cap style popular on ED pens of the early 1900’s. The cap tapers down with a graceful curve.
Tassie – the small metal trim ring at the top of the cap (or barrel bottom) which is fastened in place by the ‘jewel’. Common on Parker Vacumatics & 51’s.
Touch Down Filler – Sheaffer’s pneumatic filling system.
Triumph Nib – Sheaffer’s conical nib, first introduced in 1942.
Twist Filler – the ink sac is attached to a knob which is twisted to empty it. A.A. Waterman made many of these.
Two-Tone Nib – a gold nib that has a thin (don’t polish it off) decorative plated overlay of white metal, typically rhodium.
Vacumatic (vac) Filler – Parker’s name for its plunger filling pens, Vacumatic and the Parker 51.
Vent Hole – the hole in the nib at the end of the slit. Intended to aid the flow of ink through the feed channel by capillary action. Also called breather hole.
Visulated – a portion of the pen that is translucent, usually to allow one to see if ink is present. Usually refers to a visulated section or visulated barrel.
Vulcanite – another term for hard rubber.
Warranted Nib – these nibs are usually marked, ‘warranted 14K’, indicating that they are warranted to have that gold content.. They were sold by nib manufacturers to small pen companies that did not make the investment in tooling to put their own name on the nib. Pen repairmen also used them to replace damaged nibs when a factory replacement was not available.
Washer Clip – a clip connected to a washer that fits between the top of the cap and a screw top that fastens it to the cap body.
White Dot – Sheaffer’s symbol used on numerous models to denote a top-of-the-line pen with a lifetime warranty.
White Gold – an alloy of gold containing a palladium, platinum and nickel to give it a silvery rather than yellow hue.
Woodgrain – red and black hard rubber that has been mixed in a way that resembles the grain and color of wood. Also known as rosewood.