N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z # Home
accommodation clip An add-on clip, not permanently affixed to the cap; many independent manufacturers offered such clips, as did a number of major penmakers.
account An extremely fine, firm nib suitable for account book entries.
adjustable nib A Wahl-Eversharp exclusive of the '30s: a slider atop the nib controls its flexibility.
Aerometric Nearly foolproof Parker filler, introduced 1948 on the Parker 51, originally hyphenated as "Aero-Metric"; a form of squeeze-filler or thumb-filler with a specially-designed vented silver breather tube for extra resistance to pressure changes; in unhyphenated form, widely used by collectors to denote a squeeze-filler with a breather tube.
Arrow nib Parker nib with a bold arrow imprint, used for Vacumatics and as replacement nibs for Duofolds; some late-production Duofolds were sold with such nibs.
artist's nib Waterman's term for a long-tined, very flexible, and extremely fine-pointed nib, capable of wide line variation; the designation postdates Waterman's 1925 catalog, although similar nibs were offered from an earlier date without any special appelation.
aspergillum Holy water sprinkler; sometimes made in pen form.
Autograph Sheaffer's designation for pens and pencils with a solid 14K gold cap band, intended for a personalized engraving; since engraving was included in the purchase price, unengraved examples are relatively uncommon.
baby bottom Used to describe the shape of a nib's tip, where the bottom inner edges of the slit are excessively rounded; some rounding will stop the tip's inner edges from catching, but too much will prevent ink from getting to the paper.
Bakelite Often misapplied as a generic term for any old plastic; Bakelite was a specific material, not often used for pens due to its brittleness.
banana To bend, as happens to pens in hot display cases at sunny flea markets.
bbl Barrel
BCHR Black chased hard rubber
BF Button-filler
BHR Black hard rubber
"Big Four" A modern collector's term for Waterman, Parker, Sheaffer, and Wahl-Eversharp, which are, in the USA, the top-line vintage pens most commonly found.
blind cap Piece at end of barrel that screws off, typically to reveal the filler underneath.
blow-filler A mouth-operated pneumatic filler: blowing into a hole at the end of the barrel to empty out the ink sac.
BP Ballpoint
brassing Area of wear on gold filled or plated metal, where the underlying base metal (usually brass) becomes visible; with gold filled items, replating is usually not a satisfactory restoration option.
breather hole See vent hole
breather tube A tube inserted into the back of the feed, essential for pump and bulb-fillers, but also used at times with squeeze, button, and lever-fillers.
bulb-filler A simple and efficient filling system, using a small bulb at the end of the barrel and a long breather tube extending the length of the barrel; air is pumped out by multiple squeezes of the bulb, and ink flows in.
"bullseye" jewel Vacumatic jewel c. 1939 consisting of an extension of the blind cap (rather than a separate piece) expanded over the tassie ring; the jewel end resultingly shows concentric laminations rather than stripes under bright light.
button-filler A button at the end of the barrel is pressed, bending an internal spring & pressure bar assembly which compresses the ink sac; in British usage, also called a stud-filler; usually, the button is concealed beneath a removable, screw-off blind cap, but in the push-knob filler, the cap and button are integrated.
capillary-filler No moving parts: when dipped, the reservoir absorbs ink. The best-known capillary filler was the Parker 61.
Cardinal Waterman's designation for its red hard rubber pens and pencils.
cartridge Although first introduced in the late 19th century, ink cartridges were not widely used until the advent of plastic refills in the early 1950s; top-line fountain pens did not embrace the cartridge until the 1960s, and many still prefer to use their cartridge-filling pens with convertors.
casein Milk-derived plastic, vulnerable to moisture; rarely used in American production, except as colored ends on hard rubber pens, more commonly used in the UK and Europe; also called Galalith.
celluloid First widely-manufactured synthetic plastic, made by plasticizing cellulose nitrate with camphor; dominant material for pen caps and barrels from the second half of the 1920s, able to be made in virtually any color or pattern. Easily machined but not fully moldable, slow to produce and flammable, celluloid was largely replaced by newer if less attractive plastics in the course of the 1940s. Though often mislabeled as such, celluloid acetate is not celluloid.
chalk marks stenciled marks applied to factory-new pens, typically denoting model, price, and nib grade; easily removed by rubbing.
chasing Patterns impressed into the surface of a pen or pencil, consisting of repeated lines of varying length; usually found applied to hard rubber, much less commonly to celluloid and colored hard rubber.
chatelaine Suspension fitting attached to a woman's dress or belt; attached items could include pencils and pens.
Christmas tree feed See spearhead feed
clip mark Circumferential mark on a cap made by the clip ball when the clip is moved from side to side.
coin-filler Early and uncommon self-filler, in which a slot in the barrel allows a coin to be pressed directly against the pressure bar; most examples are minor-brand, the notable exception being the very rare Waterman.
collector Finned ink trap inside the hood of pens such as the Parker 51 and 61.
combo Pen and pencil combinations have been around for a long time, but their main period of popularity was in the later 1920s and 1930s, chiefly in the United States.
cone cap Slip-fit cap of cylindrical form, not to be confused with a taper cap; the term originated with Waterman, and refers to the slightly tapering internal profile of the cap, which wedges onto matching tapers at either end of the barrel, the cap's outside diameter being significantly greater than that of the barrel.
Continental Obsolete, used to describe the distinctive overlays found on Italian-market pens and especially safeties from the 'teens through the 1940s. The term was originally borrowed from the antiques trade by Anglo-American pen collectors as a generic term for "European" in an era when further differentiation was not yet possible. Use "Italian" instead.
cork Used for piston seals, safety seals, and many plunger-filler packing units, alone and in combination with rubber.
cracked ice Distinctive Conway Stewart pattern of irregular black blocks separated by thin lines of silver. Recently also applied to pearlescent USA-made celluloid Esterbrooks of the 1930s, though "crushed ice" would be a more accurate description in this case.
crescent-filler Conklin's signature mechanism, in which a flat metal crescent protrudes from the barrel; after rotating a lock ring, the crescent is pressed, flattening the sac.
Deco Band Collector term for the Wahl-Eversharp oversized Gold Seal flat-top pen, after its Greek key pattern cap band; also often applied to the same pen when furnished with rhomboid pattern bands. The term has also be applied to other large pens with similar banding, such as certain early 1930s Chiltons.
Demi Shorter model of the Parker 51 or late English Aerometric Duofold; sometimes misapplied to other Parker and even non-Parker models.
demonstrator A pen or pencil that has cutouts, or that is made of transparent materials; originally, such pens were made in very limited numbers for salesmen only, and were not offered to the general public.
doctor's pen Either a pen in white, sometimes found with a matching thermometer holder, or an eyedropper-filling pen with a compartment in the barrel holding a thermometer.
doughnut, donut Collector slang for a Conklin crescent-filler lock nut.
drop action Pencil or porte-crayon which extends and retracts by gravity, with a manual release catch; sometimes also called a dropper.
ebonite Another name for hard rubber
ED Eyedropper-filler; the simplest fountain pen, typically opened by unscrewing the section, and filled with an eyedropper (at the time, called a "dropper").
FDW Initials of Frank D. Waterman, head of Waterman 1901-1938, nephew of founder Lewis Edson Waterman; found on English-hallmarked Watermans as a maker's mark.
feed The part on which the nib rests, and which carries ink to the nib from the pen's internal reservoir.
ferrule The metallic portion of a dip pen into which the nib is inserted.
filigree An overlay with pierced work; technically incorrect, as true filigree is wirework, but common parlance in the American jewelry trade of the late 19th and early 20th century, and so adopted by penmakers as well.
Flighter Parker designation for models with caps and barrels of stainless steel; not applicable to non-Parker pens and pencils.
German silver Same as nickel silver; anti-German sentiment during WW1 led to the abandonment of this appellation on products made in the USA and UK.
GFT Gold filled trim
gold filled A laminate of gold and another metal, usually brass, made by welding together sheets under heat and pressure; the gold layer is generally much thicker than with gold plating.
Gregg A system of shorthand; several makers produced Gregg models, which often have an enamel Gregg logo set into the top of the cap.
half-Balance Collector-coined term for Sheaffer pens with streamlined cap & flat-bottomed barrel, hybrids produced to get rid of old parts after the introduction of the streamlined "Balance"; often mistakenly called "transitional".
half-overlay Pen with its barrel but not its cap metal-covered.
"halo" imprint Parker's logo of an arrow superimposed on an ellipse; the trademark application is dated Dec. 23, 1963, and dates the mark's first use in commerce to Sep. 1958.
hard rubber Also known as ebonite or vulcanite; early naturally-derived plastic made by vulcanizing latex rubber with a large proportion of sulphur; the usual material for fountain pens up until the second half of the 1920, and used for decades thereafter for feeds and sections.
hatchet-filler John Holland's filler of the 'teens, an attempt to get around Sheaffer's lever-filler patents: a hatchet-shaped piece is used to depress a pressure bar; often used to describe Crocker's system as well, which might better be called an end lever filler.
holder In older fountain pen parlance, the "pen" was the nib, and the rest of the pen was termed the holder.
hooded nib A conical hood conceals all but the tip of a small nib inside; the Parker 51 was the first and by far the most popular such design.
HR Hard rubber
injector pencil Same as repeating pencil.
ink-pellet pen A number of firms made pens with a compartment to carry ink pellets, which were to be placed in the barrel and dissolved in water; most such pens were eyedroppers, but lever and button-fillers were also produced; sometimes also called a trench pen, in allusion to their military-oriented marketing during WW1.
ink pencil Another name for a stylographic pen
ink shutoff Safety valve to prevent leakage; the most successful was Onoto's, a system widely adopted in Japan for eyedropper-fillers.
Ink-Vue Waterman filling system introduced in 1935, essentially a lever-operated bulb-filler; Profile here.
inlaid nib A nib permanently fixed to the outside of the section or hood.
inner cap Internal cup that seals against the front of the section when the cap is on.
integral nib Nib made as part of the section or barrel; Parker's T-1 is a prime example.
iridium Generic term for nib tipping material, though other platinum-group metals are more often used instead.
italic Chisel-like tip, which makes thick downstrokes and thin cross-strokes.
J-bar Cheap one-piece pressure bar used in low end lever-fillers, consisting of a piece of spring bronze with the end bent into a J-shaped loop. In recent years the term has frequently been misapplied to all lever-filler pressure bars with spring action.
jewel Decorative boss found on some pens at cap top and/or barrel end (though often not purely decorative, as when used to retain a clip or tassie).
JiF Waterman's French agency; from the initials of the franchise holder, Jules Fagan.
Jointless Parker eyedropper design where the nib assembly was inserted en bloc inside the end of the barrel; read more here.
ladies' pen General term for a clipless pen with a ringtop fitting, usually a smaller pen; also see vest pocket.
LE Abbreviation for "limited edition"; also the first two initials of Lewis Edson Waterman.
LEC In Waterman's numbering system, a suffix on overlay pens denoting "Lower End Covered".
lever box Sheaffer's original lever was pinned directly to the barrel; Waterman and others pinned it to a lever box, which was held in the barrel by tabs.
Leverless Mabie Todd/Swan's twist-filling system utilizing an entangling bar and a conventional sac; read more here.
LF Lever-filler; the most common filling mechanism, first mass-produced by Sheaffer -- who was not, however, the first to patent it.
lid Pots and pans have these; pens have caps.
LL Liquid Lead: a Parker exclusive, a ballpoint that wrote with liquid graphite; refills are no longer available.
long and short
Pocket pen with a long cap that covers most of the barrel when closed; when the cap is posted on the barrel end, the overall length is some 50% greater.
Lucky Curve Parker's patented feed, whose part that extended inside the pen's body curved to contact the inside of the ink reservoir.
Lustraloy Parker's name for its matte-finished stainless steel, as used on 51 and 61 caps.
magic pencil Retractable pencil with complex internal mechanism: when the end is pulled, the nozzle extends.
Mandarin Parker's Mandarin Yellow, also called Chinese Yellow, a color used in Duofolds of the late '20s and early '30s; unpopular then, highly sought-after now.
manifold A stiff nib, used for making copies with carbon paper.
marbled An irregularly patterned combination of translucent colors; used to describe plastics such as celluloid, but not hard rubber.
matchstick filler A hole in the side of the barrel allows a matchstick to be used to depress the pressure bar; some pens have a nub atop the cap which may be used similarly.
MHR Mottled hard rubber
middle joint A feature in some eyedropper pens, where the screw-joint was placed centrally; read more here.
military clip A clip that permits the pen to sit flush with the top of the pocket, so that a uniform's pocket flap can close over the pen; the term is not generally used for pen models whose clips all fit the above criterion (e.g., the Parker 51).
mottled Multicolored hard rubber, almost always red (orange) and black; the colors are mixed in a random pattern, as opposed to the more regular patterns of woodgrain or Ripple hard rubbers.
music nib A very flexible nib with two slits instead of one, specially made for musical notation.
nib A pen's point; in older parlance, the point itself was called the "pen", and the rest, the holder.
nickel silver Tarnish-resistant nonprecious alloy resembling silver; same as German silver.
Night & Day Overlay pierced with longitudinal slots; in most instances, this was not the name originally used by the manufacturer ("Moderne" being Waterman's appellation for this pattern, at least in the USA).
Nozac The only American vintage screw-action piston-filler, made by Conklin in the 1930s.
nozzle The part of a pencil which holds the lead; in 19th-century and early 20th-century parlance, a pen's section.
NPT Nickel-plated trim; in most cases, the trim is solid nickel silver under any plating.
oblique A chisel-like nib with a tip that angles back at its left; confusingly, also sometimes called a "right oblique".
Octanium Parker's name for its stainless nib alloy used for economy-line pens of the 1950s and 1960s, such as the Parker 51 Special and the 21.
overfeed An early type of feed which lies atop the nib; usually extends below as well, and would thus be more accurately termed an over-under feed.
overlay A pen (most commonly made of hard rubber) covered in precious metal, or the metal covering itself; the term is not used to describe pens with all-metal caps or barrels.
packing unit Seal through which a shaft passes, whether rotating (as with most safety pens), or reciprocating (as with plunger-fillers and Moore safeties).
palladium silver White metal alloy (Pd-Ag) used for some Sheaffer nibs from the '50s on; these were originally cheaper than gold nibs, but this has changed as palladium prices have risen.
PCA Pen Collectors of America: nationwide collector-run nonprofit organization.
pearl Short for "pearlescent", referring to celluloid displaying this property; generally off-white or yellowish if color not further specified. The effect comes from an extract from fish scales.
pen We now call the entire writing instrument a pen, but up until at least the 1920s, "pen" was often used to denote the nib alone.
Permanite A trade name for celluloid.
Personal Point Wahl's system of user-interchangeable screw-in nib assemblies; late '20s-'30s (click for illustration).
PF Plunger-filler (see definition below).
PFM "Pen For Men": short-lived oversized Snorkel introduced 1959.
piston-filler Pen with a screw-action piston, filled by turning an end knob; the European standard by the 1940s, nearly the only American example being the Conklin Nozac.
plastic To pen collectors, celluloid, cellulosics, and acrylic (as opposed to hard rubber, even though hard rubber is technically a plastic as well).
platinum Black striated silver-grey celluloid of luminous pearlescence; used in the 1930s by Montblanc and OMAS, a highly prized material.
Pli-glass Parker's term for its transparent vinyl ink sacs used on Aerometric-filling pens.
plunger-filler Fills on the downstroke by creating a vacuum behind the piston (see Onoto illustration); sometimes called "vacuum-filler"; somewhat tricky to repair.
pneumatic filler The sac is flattened by air pressure, usually generated by a plunger.
POC In Waterman's numbering system, a suffix denoting a screw-cap eyedropper (short for "pocket").
porte-crayon Metal holder for a short wooden pencil or lump of graphite, which can be extended or retracted by means of a sliding collar.
post To place the cap on the end of the barrel opposite the nib (gently, please!).
posting Fine firm nib designed for bookkeepers posting entries into account books.
pregnant Parker Modern collectors' term for the Parker 47, an early 20th-century pearl-slabbed eyedropper with a bulging barrel profile.
Presidential Parker's term for models with caps and barrels of solid gold, from the 51 on.
pressure bar Rigid bar used to flatten the ink sac; a spring element is often incorporated. A one-piece bar used in cheap lever-fillers is known as a J-bar.
propelling pencil Mechanical pencil; an older term, and preferred in British usage.
propel-repel Pencil mechanism that both advances and retracts the lead.
pump-filler A general term for multistroke filling mechanisms.
push-knob-filler A button-filler with a non-detachable blind cap; the blind cap is unscrewed and then pressed to compress the sac.
Pyralin Trade name for celluloid.
RB Rollerball (a ballpoint using water-soluble ink).
Relief One of Esterbrook's most popular nib designs, with an oblique tip cut at a shallow angle (15 degrees).
repeating pencil The lead is advanced by pushing on the top of the pencil, new leads are automatically fed from a magazine within; same as injector pencil.
resin Modern pen marketers' fancy name for plastic.
reverse oblique A chisel-like nib with a tip that angles back at its right, viewed from the top.
reverse trim Trim of color opposite from the norm for a given model and color: chrome instead of gold filled, or vice versa.
RG Rolled gold (see definition below).
RHR Red hard rubber; note that the "red" is actually more of an orange.
Ripple Waterman's term for its distinctive ladder-patterned two-color hard rubber pens; most are red and black, other color combinations are much scarcer; not to be confused with woodgrain.
rolled gold Same as gold filled; this term is used more frequently in the UK (NB: although there are technical differences drawn between rolled and filled in modern manufactures, this distinction is relatively recent).
roller clip Clip with a rolling ball at its end; chiefly associated with Wahl-Eversharp, though previously licensed to Boston Safety and others.
RR Ribbon-ring or ringtop; also known as ladies' pens, though they could be used by men as well, hung on a watch chain.
ruler mark Notch-shaped wear on the side of a nib, from bearing against a ruler or straightedge.
sac Elastic rubber ink reservoir.
safety Fountain pen with a retractable nib; also used prior to c. 1920 to designate a pen with a screw cap and an inner cap, as with the Parker Jack-Knife Safety.
section The tubular piece which holds the nib and feed, usually but not always a separate piece from the barrel; originally "gripping section".
self-filler/filling Eyedropper-era label applied to any pen with an integral filling mechanism, not requiring a separate device (such as an eyedropper) to be filled.
Senior Model name for the largest Duofolds; sometimes used by collectors to refer to the oversize versions of other models and brands, often inappropriately, in that most were not so denoted originally.
Signet Parker's term for models with gold filled caps and barrels, from the 51 on.
silicone grease The most useful general-purpose pen sealant and lubricant, and the safest on plastics and rubber; not to be confused with automotive silicone greases with a petroleum base.
sleeve-filler A form of squeeze-filler, with a movable sleeve that covers the pressure bar opening when not in use.
snowflake Irreverent collector term for Montblanc's trademark six-lobed star.
Snorkel Sheaffer's pen with a extending tube for clean filling (see Profile).
spearhead feed Original feed for Parker Duofolds, Jack Knife Safeties, and earlier eyedroppers, characterized by coarse sawtooth side cutouts, looking like a barbed spear tip; also called a Christmas tree feed.
Special As used by Parker, either a slender Duofold of Senior length and Junior diameter, or an economy version of the 51 with an Octanium nib.
Speedline Vacumatic filler with aluminum plunger but without the lockdown feature, c. 1937-41.
spoon feed Waterman's second feed design, patented in 1899 (and 1903), incorporating semicircular ink-trapping cutouts alongside the capillary feed channel.
sprung Describes a nib or clip that has been bent out of shape by application of excessive pressure or tension.
squeeze-filler Fills by manual depression of a pressure bar through a cutout in the barrel or the filler housing.
star clip A clip used on some Vacumatics c. 1939-40, incorporating a five-pointed star, which appears to have been a precursor symbol to the Blue Diamond.
star nib Early Waterman nibs with a star imprint; most seem to date to the last years of the 19th century and the very beginning of the 20th.
Stonite Trade name for celluloid.
straight cap Small, short slip-fit cap, the same outside diameter as the barrel, which fits on smaller-diameter sections at each end of the barrel.
stub Historically, the same as "italic"; now generally used to denote a slightly more rounded chisel-shaped tip.
stud-filler Another term for button-filler, most commonly used in the UK.
stylo Short for stylographic -- a pen with a fine tube with a wire inside instead of a conventional nib, similar to a modern drafting pen.
syringe-filler Fills by pulling on a plunger shaft; a long blind cap is usually necessary.
taper cap A variation of the straight cap, extending in a long taper; not to be confused with the cylindrical cone-cap.
tassie Decorative trim ring at the end of the barrel, held in place by a "jewel".
test mark Removal of a small patch of metal with a jeweler's file; crude and usually totally unnecessary method of ascertaining if material is solid gold or gold filled.
thumb-filler Another name for a squeeze-filler.
Touchdown Sheaffer's pneumatic filling system, abbreviated "TD" (see Profile).
tooth Friction between nib and paper; preferred (in moderation) by some as more responsive than a frictionless glide; to be distinguished from scratchiness, which is generally used to describe a nib that catches on the paper.
trench pen WW1-era term for an ink-pellet pen, although by all evidence such pens were not actually used in any significant numbers in the trenches.
Triumph nib Sheaffer's conical nib, introduced in 1942.
turn-up nib Nib with tip angled upwards; also called "turned up" and "ball point" in older catalogs.
twist-filler A filling mechanism in which the sac is emptied by twisting it via a knob at the end of the barrel.
two-tone nib Gold nib partially plated with a white platinum-group metal -- although occasionally white-metal nibs were given partial gold plating to similar effect.
underfeed The usual type of feed, which lies below the nib.
Vacumatic (Vac) Parker's pump-filling pen, c. 1933-48 (see Profile); or, the filling mechanism used in these pens and in the Parker 51 from 1941-48.
vacuum-filler Often used to denote a plunger-filler, but rather confusing since many pens with diverse filling mechanisms bore this monicker or close variants; capitalized, a name used for the Parker Vacumatic while in early release.
vent hole The hole in the nib at the end of the slit, serving both to allow air to return via the feed channels to the ink reservoir, and as a stress relief device to prevent crack propagation from the end of the slit; most dip pen nibs are ventless, while most fountain pen nibs have vent holes; also, small holes drilled in the cap, on slip cap pens, intended to prevent ink from being sucked out when a snugly-fitting cap was removed, and on pens with inner caps, intended to reduce condensation on and adjacent to the section, though usually dispensed with on modern pens; "vent hole" and "breather hole" are often used interchangeably.
vermeil Gold over silver
vest pocket A small, pocketable pen, with or without a clip or ringtop fitting; many ladies' pens could equally accurately be termed vest-pocket pens.
visulated With a transparent area, used in reference to sections; Sheaffer coined the term in the mid-1930s to describe its lever-fillers with a section ink window and an insulated barrel, and strictly speaking never applied it to the section per se. The term was never applied to other brands until collectors adopted the word decades later.
VS Short-lived Parker button-filler, introduced in 1946, resembling a 51, but with a conventional nib; the letters stand for "Vacumatic Successor", though that title more accurately belonged to the 51; also a now long-obsolete lead size, 1.5 mm in diameter, a Victorian standard.
vulcanite Another term for hard rubber.
VV clip An early spring-loaded rocker clip, used on Parkers, Conklins, Moores, and others; made by Van Valkenburg, US patent 844061.
warranted nib An unbranded gold nib, typically marked "WARRANTED/14K", "warranted" meaning guaranteed as to gold content; many minor-brand pens originally came with warranted nibs, and such nibs were also widely used by independent repairmen as replacements.
Waverley nib Macniven and Cameron dip pen nib of distinctive form; sometimes improperly used to denote a turn-up nib.
web Celluloid pattern with a freeform network of colored lines like a draped net (also called "candy stripe"), or the longitudinal brickwork-like pattern of the c. 1937 "Golden Web" Vacumatic.
washer clip Clip with its top end formed as a ring of the same diameter as the cap, and held between the cap body and a screw-in cap top; introduced by Parker in the 'teens on its Jack Knife Safety line.
woodgrain Multicolored hard rubber patterned with longitudinal striations, almost always red (orange) and black; not to be confused with Ripple or mottled hard rubber (although, confusingly, Waterman catalogs used "mottled" to denote both true mottled and woodgrain, without differentiation).
1/8 14K Imprint on gold filled components, indicating a gold layer of 14K purity and constituting 1/8 the total weight of the laminate.
18KR Not solid 18 karat, but rather a common Italian abbreviation for 18K rolled gold, the "R" standing for "rinforzato".
375 375 fine, or 375/1000; decimal equivalent of 9K (usually only used in the UK).
585 585 fine, or 585/1000; decimal equivalent of 14K (though 14/24 = .583).
750 750 fine, or 750/1000; decimal equivalent of 18K (the legal standard for gold in certain countries such as France and Italy).