vintage sheaffers flex their muscles…

…or rather, their nibs. This is why I love vintage pens – invariably, their gold nibs have the spring, bounce, and/or flex that give a range of line variation depending on the pressure you exert. The less pressure, the thinner the line.

I seem to be hiyang to Sheaffers. I do have vintage Parkers, one a 1940s Vacumatic, but I haven’t yet come across a lot of Parkers with this amount of flex. (I’m still hoping, though.)

Here’s a Jet-Black Balance from Leigh Reyes, inked with Caran d’Ache Sunset also from Leigh. You can see the line variation in the “J” and “y”.

These next two pens, from Butch Palma’s stash, are also Balances with spring and joie de vivre.



But the flexiest, sexiest nib in my collection comes from Professor Butch Dalisay. A black hard rubber (ebonite) ringtop that dates back to the Roaring Twenties, it’s a veritable grandma in terms of age.


Yet leaning just a little bit on the nib yields gloriously voluptuous lines, easing up grants you fine strokes – perfect for calligraphic flourishes for wedding invitations and signing peace treaties. Or just doodling.


Contemporary pens are mostly “nails”, stiff nibs made for hands that grew up on the unyielding balls of ballpoints. They’re fine for quick note-taking, but once you’ve used flexible nibs, there’s no going back.

Here’s my Holy Grail: the Nakaya Piccolo Aka-Tamenuri (reddish-red urushi lacquer finish) with a Fine Flexible nib. Much thanks to Leigh for allowing me to try out her Nakayas so I could discover which nib I really wanted.


This is what the pen looks like (image from


Until I can actually afford a Nakaya, I’m content with my vintage, flexible Sheaffers. Together we shall write the Great Filipino Novel, one worthy of a Palanca Award!

Or we can just doodle.

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