Mildred’s Pen: Sheaffer Lady Balance (Marine Green Striated)

Sheafffer Lady Balance

This Sheaffer Balance is another vintage pen that I picked up from Dan Smith, my go-to vintage pen supplier of late. As I’ve said, I’m a total novice when it comes to vintage pens, but I liked the look of the marine green striated celluloid and I trust Dan, so I happily plunked down a little bit of money for this Lady Balance.  I don’t have many green pens, so that might be what caught my eye initially, but what really tugged at me was the engraved name on the barrel— MILDRED F THAYER.

Mildred F Thayer

Though we all know that vintage pens once belonged to someone else, I apparently have a soft spot for pens where the original owner is named. Especially if the name is as “vintage” as the pen. I mean, how many babies named “Mildred” do you run into these days?

Striated Celluloid & Clip

The pen arrived in very good condition (to my eye), and the green striated celluloid looks as good in person as it does in Dan’s photos. It’s a petite thing— measuring 4.75″ capped and 5.78″ posted—and weighs a mere 12.2 g, thus the “Lady” designation.  Dan noted in his description that there’s a small amount of wear on each side of the ball at the end of the clip, but to the naked eye that’s not visible. For being 70-ish years old, it’s in great shape, with a crisp SHEAFFER imprint and an easy-to-read engraving of Mildred’s name.

Sheaffer imprint

The Sheaffer’s Feather Touch nib is very fine and was initially on a little on the dry side, just as Dan noted in his post. As I’ve been using it, though, it seems to be getting just a bit wetter, while still putting down an extra-fine line. Despite its fineness, the nib is quite smooth, with just a hint of feedback— very  pleasant. Dan was able to coax some flex from the nib, but I haven’t been able to do that as yet— which I’m sure is more a reflection of me and my light touch than the nib.

Feather Touch Nib

The blind-cap reveals a narrow piston which I’ve used to vacuum fill the pen with Montblanc’s Jonathan Swift Seaweed Green— a very dusty/vintage looking green that I initially wasn’t all that crazy about. But as I hoped, it’s a perfect match for the pen. I mean, c’mon— seaweed colored ink in a marine green pen. And over time, I’ve come to love the ink as much as the pen. It’s a muted, antiquey green— not a screaming green— which matches my personality and the way I use my pens.

Blind cap & piston

So those are the pen’s details, but back to Mildred. Where did she live? What did she do? Who gave her this pen? I googled her name and found a 12-year old Mildred F Thayer in the 1940 census who lived in Petersburg, Virginia with her father (William), mother (Janie), one sister, and three brothers. Is this MY Mildred? I’ll never know. And I’ll never know if she used the pen to do school work or office work; if she used it to write grocery lists, letters, journal entries, or poems. If only the pen could talk. If only it could tell Mildred’s story.

Sheaffer Balance

But since that’s not possible, I’ll use Mildred’s pen to tell mine.

Ink With a Twist: Levenger’s Facets Fountain Pen

Levenger’s Facets fountain pen caught my eye a while back, but I didn’t make my move until a sale popped up. I love that— getting a deal on a pen that’s been on my radar.

Levenger Facets FP (Oxblood)

As my fountain pen collection grows, I find myself dismissing pens that don’t offer something a little different. (Don’t hold me to that— I’ll randomly throw that rule out the window when I feel like it.) This pen brings a number of interesting features to the table— the rich/warm color, the shimmering depths of the resin, and, of course, the gently spiraling facets of the cap and body. All of these add up to a pen that’s as great to look at as it is to use.

Facets Fountain Pen

Levenger calls the color of the pen “oxblood,” but to me it looks more like burgundy wine— or very interesting grape juice (which, I guess, is what wine IS). There’s a swirly marbleized effect that gives the pen’s resin more depth and interest than I can capture in my photos. It’s one of those fun-to-stare-at-while-twirling pens because the light, bouncing off of those facets, brings out a gorgeous range of purples and deep pinks. It’s like like looking into a purpley hologram. Mesmerizing.

Facets Fountain Pen

I’ve filled this cartridge/converter pen with Noodler’s Black Swan In English Roses a color I WOULD call “oxblood”—that satisfies my “ink should match pen” need. It doesn’t hurt that I’m fascinated with the name of that ink.

Inked with Black Swan In English Roses

Levenger’s Facets fountain pen is only available with a medium stainless steel nib, but it’s a very smooth and juicy writer. To my eye, it leans just a hair to the fine side, so it works well for me as an everyday writer. I have yet to have an issue with a Levenger nib and this pen just continues that streak of excellent nibbage. The pen wrote right out of the box and hasn’t sputtered or hesitated since. I can get a line from the pen even when I apply very little pressure. It’s just superb.

Facets Fountain Pen

The threaded cap posts solidly, and I’m finding that the pen feels well-balanced both posted and unposted. The body is lightweight (22.7 g/0.8 oz) but still feels, and looks, substantial. The pen measures 5-9/16″ when capped, 6-3/8″ posted, and 5-7/8″ unposted, and has enough room in the barrel to store a spare cartridge. With its chrome trim and clip, this is one sharp pen.

Levenger Facets Pen

There is one piece of bad news— it appears that the Oxblood version is no longer available from Levenger. There IS, though, a Midnight Blue version that’s still available. And I think you’ll probably be able to find the Oxblood version if you do a little hunting around online.

So if you’re looking for a pen with sparkling good looks, a wonderful nib, and just enough of a twist to keep things interesting, Levenger’s Facets fountain pen delivers. I think it’s a beauty.

Notes: Though this may sound like a commercial, I was not compensated in any way for this review. I’m just a very satisfied Levenger customer.

Flawed and Wonderful: Parker Vacumatic in Azure Blue

Parker Vacumatic Azure Blue

When I was at the DC Pen Show, I found myself completely overwhelmed and intimidated by the stunning array of vintage pens. I shied away from exploring them because I felt like I needed to know [much] more to be able to recognize an acceptable pen at a good price. Sarj Minhas has a staggering vintage collection (so nice that it paralyzed me, both physically and verbally). I was especially blown away by his “Ripley” Vacumatic— simply stunning— with a hefty price tag that I’m sure is well worth it. So, while in DC, I stuck to moderns and remain very pleased with those purchases.

Vacumatic striations

But gosh darn, those Vacumatics speak to me. And wouldn’t you know it— one popped up for sale on Dan Smith’s site. I slobbered over it, then had a bit of a twitter conversation with Dan before deciding to go for it. During this exchange, Dan asked me, “What is it about the Vacumatics that you like?” I quickly answered, “The stripey bits.” It really is that simple— I love the look of the striations (aka stripey bits). And at $65, I knew this would be a good “starter” Vacumatic.

Vacumatic with Duofold nib

Going in, I was well aware that there are a few things wrong with the pen— and they’re undoubtedly big things if you’re a collector. The nib is a Parker Duofold, which is the wrong nib for this pen. The barrel is badly ambered so that it’s not at all translucent. I’m not able to judge the ink level by looking at the barrel— it just stops writing. And I may or may not be having some filling issues (TBD; working with Anderson Pens on this…pretty sure it’s just me being impatient when filling).

Vacumatic imprint

Despite all of this, I love this pen. LOVE. It puts down a perfectly wet, smooth, medium line— pure fun to write with. The barrel imprint is crisp and completely readable. The cap and clip are in great shape. Amazing, really, for a pen that was made in 1945. And those striations. Yeah, they’re what really got me.

Vacumatic barrel

Myke Hurley recently said, on Episode 75 of “The Pen Addict” podcast, that he overheard someone at the London Pen Show describe a Vacumatic as looking like the lit windows in a skyscraper at night. I SO agree with this description. (I was driving at the time I heard this, but nodded and laughed a little because I’d been thinking the exact same thing.)

Blind cap & vac

The filling system is very easy to use, but as I said, requires a bit of patience in that, according to Brian Anderson, one needs to pause at the bottom of the plunger’s downstroke, as well as at the top, for a second or two. I’m not sure that I’ve been doing that so my fills may have been a little short. Next time, I’ll take my time.

Uncapped Vacumatic

Like so many pen lovers, I’ve been on the elusive hunt for the “perfect pen,” as if such a thing exists. Does perfect mean that it has to be expensive or super smoooooooth or drop-dead gorgeous, or does it just have to fit our hand or our tastes or our writing style? Heck if I know. I’m pretty sure, though, that “perfect” is a moving target. And maybe (undoubtedly) “perfect” is overrated.

Parker Vacumatic clip

Our jobs/partners/kids/pets/churches/schools/movies/books/art are all imperfect— well-marbled with flaws along with the good stuff. And yet we love it all. We love our messy, sticky lives. This pen is the same— flawed, and yet still wonderful.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.


  • My Parker Vacumatic is currently inked with Pilot’s Iroshizuku tsuki-yo.
  • The Sassafras pen case prototype by Nock Co. provided the colorful backdrop for a number of these photos, and is where I’ve been storing this Vacumatic.  I’ve been carrying the Sassafras case with me EVERYWHERE and it looks as fresh as it did on day one.  Check out Nock Co.’s project on Kickstarter.
  • That Ripley Vacumatic? Unforgettable.

Bullseye: The Quiver Pen Holder

The Quiver Pen Holder was provided to me for review purposes. I was not otherwise compensated, and all opinions are my own. I swear on my Girl Scout sash with the three badges.

Quiver Pen Holder

Way way back in the 1970’s, archery was a sport that I seemed to have a knack for. In fact, I actually made the varsity team while I was still in junior high. Because I was one of the least athletic people to roam the halls of Perry Junior High, my unexpected sporting success caused a crack in the universe and the archery team was de-funded and disbanded before I ever got a chance to compete.

Even though my archery career lasted just a millisecond, I did learn that a quiver is the thing that keeps your arrows close at hand. Which is important. To, you know, have critical items at the ready.

Fast forward from junior high to 2013, and the sport I’m NOW best at is “Where did I put that (fill-in-the-blank)?” Glasses, phone, a favorite pen. I tend to set them down without thinking and then make laps around the house checking the usual haunts in an attempt to track down the missing, and quite necessary, item. Talk about a time suck.

Quiver Pen Holder
Large (A5) Quiver with orange stitching

So when I was given the chance to test-drive a Quiver Pen Holder, I couldn’t refuse. The Quiver I received is a great-looking (and smelling!) leather pen holder that easily straps to my Moleskine’s spine so that my favorite pen is right there when I’m ready to write. No hunting required. If you’re like me, just before racing off to a meeting, you’re trying to gather up everything you need including your notebook and pen. With the Quiver installed, I just grab the notebook and I’m good to go. The pen automatically comes along for the ride.

How to install
In case you get confused (though you probably won’t)

I had a momentary mental lapse when I took my Quiver out of the package and couldn’t quite figure out how to install it on my large Moleskine notebook. (Rough day, I guess. It’s really quite obvious and simple.) But never fear, the folks at Quiver include a nice little pamphlet that shows you, with drawings, exactly what to do. As they say, when all else fails, follow the directions.

Inside the Quiver
Inside view

For this model, the two elastic bands slip over the front and back covers and the leather Quiver wraps around the notebook’s spine. Very simple.

From the inside of the Moleskine
Inside the notebook cover

Holding my rOtring ballpoint
Keeping my rOtring ballpoint protected AND ready for action

The view from above
The view from above

Even with the Quiver installed on the spine, my Moleskine opens flat and is easy to write in. Until the leather softens and bends easily, there is a little bit of a “lump” on the spine, but I don’t find that this hinders my ability to write on either side of the page. My Quiver holds slim (rOtring) to medium-sized (Karas Kustoms Render K) pens. Should you wish to carry a thicker pen like the Lamy Safari, the two-pen, cover-mounted Quiver can be used to accommodate a single, thicker pen.

Moleskine with Quiver installed
Open Moleskine with Quiver installed

Along with the model shown in this review, Quivers are also available in one and two pen styles that are installed on a notebook’s front cover rather than around the spine. All Quivers are hand-sewn using high-quality leather and marine-grade thread for a product that will last for years. Each is triple-inspected and comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you’re ever unhappy, return the Quiver for a replacement or a full refund.

Quivers are available in three sizes— A6 (for notebooks measuring 5.5-6.5″ tall), A5 (for notebooks measuring 8-9.25″ tall), and A4 (for notebooks measuring 9.25-12″ tall). The extra-large, A4, size works very well on Apple iPad cases so that a stylus or stylus/pen can be paired with the tablet. Choose from brown, black, mocha, and pink leathers, as well as red, orange, or yellow stitching with the black leather. That’s a lot of options!

Holding my Delrin Render K
Holding my Delrin Render K

Quivers fit on the following hard-cover notebooks:

  • Rhodia
  • Quo Vadis
  • Moleskine
  • ecosystems by Barnes & Noble
  • Leuchtturm 1917
  • Letts of London
  • Piccadilly
  • Black n’ Red

Quiver also offers a soft cover notebook adapter. It’s obvious that they’ve really thought this through!

Available from and Amazon, as well as from many retailers across the globe (including one of my personal favorites, Anderson Pens), getting your own Quiver is a snap no matter where you live.

Quiver Pen Holders

The Quiver Pen Holder makes it simple for me to carry my notebook and my favorite pen as a pair, and does it with style. Though my archery career was extremely short-lived, I know when something’s right on target.

The Quiver Pen Holder? Well, that’s a bullseye.

Bright: Sassafras Pen Case by Nock Co.

The future looks very bright for the pen case dream team of Brad Dowdy and Jeffey Bruckwicki. Brad, our beloved pen addict, and Jeffrey, a master tailor, partnered to form Nock Co., and just yesterday launched their line of made in the USA, great-looking and durable pen cases on Kickstarter. Within ONE HOUR, they’d reached their $5000 goal and have been steadily adding backers ever since. They’re excited! We’re excited! Heck, even my pens are excited!

Nock Co. Sassafras
Nock Co. Sassafras pen case

Brad sent along a prototype of their five-pen bi-fold case, the Sassafras, for me to use and review. All of their cases are made in the USA and feature 1000 denier Cordura exteriors and nylon pack cloth interiors which means that they’re tough, durable, and resistant to tears and scuffs. Along with all of that toughness, my case pops with the Mandarin/Mango color scheme. (Like Brad, I have a thing for orange, and this case scratches that orange itch perfectly.) It’s bright. You know, like the future of Nock Co. Yes, THAT bright.

Sassafras by Nook Co.
The mango interior

The Sassafras model holds at least five pens, is lightly padded, and features inner flaps that cover the pen clips. Because of the flaps, when the case is folded, there’s no pen-to-pen contact, and no danger of a scratch or a nick or a ding. These guys know what they like and they know what they’re doing.


I’ve been carrying six pens in this case (I have a couple of Render K’s in one of the wide pockets), but if you’re strictly a “one pen per pocket” person, that’ll work, too. As someone who doesn’t like their pens knocking into each other (especially some of my easily scratched acrylic pens), I especially appreciate the individually stitched pockets. It’s like each pen has its own little sleeping bag.


And though this case isn’t specifically designed to hold a notebook, as some of their other offerings are, I’ve been tucking my doane paper notebook (also in a lovely orange color) inside for easy carrying. Works great.

Sassafras with doane paper notebook

Along with the Sassafras, Nock Co. is offering five additional models, one of which is sure to meet your pen and/or notebook carrying needs. Let’s take a look at the others (the following photos are courtesy of Nock Co.).

There’s the Chimneytop (small and medium), which is a zippered pen pouch.

The Maryapple, a two memo bi-fold:

The Lookout, a three pen holster:

The Hightower, a three + one bi-fold case:

And the Brasstown, a zippered roll case (very cool design!):

When the project launched, I quickly browsed their page and got a little panicky wondering which reward to choose, then noticed the ALL THE CASES option and had to go for it. This reward level gets you all seven cases, in your choice of the three color schemes, for a pledge of $75. That’s less than $11 per case— certainly a very reasonable price to pay for protecting my beloved pens.

When I think of the word “bright,” I usually think of bright colors, like my mandarin Sassafras case. But “bright” can also mean “intelligent and clever,” and “auspicious and promising,” and even “radiant with happiness.” Nock Co. is a bright company, and I mean that in every sense of the word.

If you’d like to learn more about this project on Kickstarter, check it out HERE.

You can also follow Nock Co. at, as well as on Twitter ( and Facebook (

Protecting my Delrin Render K