It’s the Little Things


Did I need another Lamy Safari? I did not. And yet I now have another Lamy Safari.

Despite what this sounds like—that I have no willpower when it comes to stationery purchases—I’ve actually been flexing my muscles of resistance quite regularly. Just lately I’ve taken a pass on Blackwing Volumes No. 10 (still available), Write Notepads extremely limited run of their “Fourth of July” pocket notebooks (sold out in a flash), a handful of small batch offerings from Karas Kustoms (some sold out, some still available), and the Graduate Hotels edition from Field Notes (which was a particularly tough one since I work at a college and love the academic vibe).

Rest assured, I’m no saint. I’ll soon be placing an order for Lemur Ink’s new Blackstone Lemur Lime and J. Herbin’s Kyanite du Népal. I do not need more ink and yet I’ll soon have two more bottles.

But back to that Lamy Safari. The red clip and red finial got me. Those seemingly small details are what, for me, flipped the switch from “I’ll (begrudgingly) pass” to instabuy.


Like the Lamy Safaris, I certainly don’t need any more pencils but who can resist that Swiss cross on the red dipped Caran d’Ache Swiss Wood pencils? If you were here with me, you’d notice that I’m not raising my hand. I absolutely LOVE that detail.

So while I’m trying to be much more discerning in what I buy—by sitting on purchase decisions for a few days or longer, by trying to figure out exactly WHY I want the object of my desire, by looking at the stationery stash that already occupies a chunk of my dining room—there will be those items that speak to me. There will be a tiny detail that lights a little fire of happiness and makes me smile, even on a tough day. Who can say no to that?

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.