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The Grippy Bit

How’s “grippy bit” for a technical term?  There are several different styles of fore-end to fountain pens:

Traditional

Prior to 1941, the portion of the pen nearest the point, which you held onto, was the section.  Since the Parker “51″ appeared and forced a change in vocabulary, we now speak of this kind of thing as a “traditional” section.  Even in that, there is some room for consideration, since some pens (like certain runs of Waterman’s Crusader or the Parker VS) have a section which is functionally “traditional” but is of a rather non-traditional shape.  How pens like the Waterman 12 and the Pencil-Quill play into the use of that word… I decline to pursue.

A fine representative for the average traditional section

To avoid that sort of hair-splitting, let us define the “traditional” section as a cylinder which fits into the fore-end of the barrel and holds in its inner diameter the pen’s feed and point, and from which these other two parts are entirely distinct; let us also stop putting it in quotation marks for the rest of this page.  That’s broad enough to let in a lot of different shapes, which is good, since there is a lot of variation possible.  The majority of traditional sections are more or less bell-shaped, which provides a shoulder to keep the writer from inadvertently running a finger out onto the inky parts of the pen, but this is not a universal feature.

Hooded

With the appearance of the Parker “51″, there came a neologism– the “hooded point”, and with it of course, the hood itself.  Most sources refer to this part as the shell.

A Parker "51" with its top off looks a little more like a fountain pen.

Unlike the previous form of the section, the fore-end of the pen becomes an enclosure for the feed and point and in many hooded pens, these interior parts are either mounted in the barrel or the front end of the filler, and are only just barely supported by the shell.

The advantage to this set up is mainly in the area of ink-flow– by reducing the number of ink-bearing surfaces exposed to air, there is less evaporation, so the writer can sit pondering the next line with the pen cocked in a thoughtful pose by an ear and be fairly certain of ink coming out when inspiration arrives.  Some people like the freedom of being able to hold the pen almost anywhere without threat of getting inky fingers, but others find the concealed point troublesome when trying to align it to the paper (some pens, like the Parker 61 or Hero 330, actually have a little “this way up” indicator).

Semi-Hooded and Inset

Waterman Taperites are a good example of semi-hooded pens

After the introduction of hooded points on a remarkably popular pen, there was an inevitable bandwagon effect.  Some of those hopping on did a quantity of engineering, while others just revised the traditional section to wrap the leading edge around the point and feed for the look of a hooded pen.

As the name implies, a semi-hooded section generally has rather more of the point showing than in a hooded pen, which in some cases allows for a flexible or at least springy point– hooded pens are almost all extremely firm.

 

Waterman's Carène is an excellent modern example of an inset point

I include the “inset point” style of forepart in this area, since they are in essence a semi-hooded pen with rather more of the point exposed than is usually considered as part of the style.  Functionally, they are not so different from the more obviously semi-hooded models, apart from the point being arranged flush to the shell.

Annular Point

Sheaffer invented this sort of point, although some Chinese and Indian makers have tried it

I wrestled somewhat with not simply lumping these in with the traditional section, but there is enough of a difference between them and the regular section to bear comment.  This style of point does not sit in the section, of course, and so a traditional section cannot support it.  Rather, the leading edge of the section is milled to accept threads found on the point, or more usually on an intermediary mounting collar.  The feed sits in these sections more or less in the traditional manner, but usually more trapped by the point than held by friction with the walls of the section.  For the purpose of this chapter, the difference between a traditional section and one joined to an annular point is purely cosmetic; in neither case should one grasp the metal part.

Inlaid

The inlaid point

An inlaid pen’s shell is very nearly the same as a hooded pen’s, the difference lying in the fact that the point is an inseparable part of upper surface rather than a discrete and mostly hidden part.  Typically, there is a connector of some sort at the back of the shell which serves to support the feed, but this is essentially the same as one finds in hooded pens with press-bar fillers.  When using a pen with an inlaid point, one is best advised to be cautious about putting fingers on any portion of the point, as ink can migrate along the seams between plastic and metal (moreso as the pen ages).  So far as I know, Sheaffer is the only maker to offer this sort of point.

The difference between an inlaid point and an integral one is that while the former involves two different materials, the latter involves only one.  An integral point is just a continuation of the shell surrounding the feed– these are, as you may imagine, metal-bodied pens.

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