Return to Speedball


Maker: Speedball.

This is as steampunk an object as the heart could desire, although it was made long before the concept got any footing in popular culture.  It is a fountain pen only by the broadest of conceptions; yes, there is a built-in ink reservoir, and yes, the ink gets to the paper via a split piece of metal, so it does fit my own definition, but the specifics are extremely strange.  The whole affair is made to mount the Speedball dip points (and, frankly, no others).  Rather than an underslung feed as one finds on the usual sort of fountain pen, this thing has a little tube which juts from the face of the section and ends beside the back-mounted reservoir of the point.  Ink dribbles out this stem, into the point, and the user is thus saved dipping.

Because this arrangement lacks the usual complications of a fountain pen’s feed that move the ink along in a sensible way, there is a little button on the section to make the operation a manual one.  Pressing that button moves a little stub of a secondary pressure bar, giving the sac a tiny squeeze and forcing out a drop or two of ink.  This reduces the convenience of the thing slightly, but it is still a little better than dipping mid-sentence, as one doesn’t have to move the writing arm away from the page, nor wrestle to clear an over-abundance of ink from the ends of the tines before resuming the task in hand.  This may seem like small beans to most folks, but I’m sure any dip-pen calligraphers reading this will understand what a boon such freedom from the ink-pot represents.

Another point of difference between this and standard fountain pens is that one may fill it with the more dangerous sorts of ink, even India ink, without spelling doom for it.  The feed is, after all, a straight-walled tube, with nowhere for pigment to hide during a flushing.  That flushing, however, should take place immediately once the project is set aside for the day; the fact that the pen has a cap and the little feed-stem has its own shut-off valve do not mean that one can treat thicker dip-pen inks with any more negligence than a someone who works with tigers at a circus can assume his co-workers are safely domesticated. I would also suggest that the flushing include something like “Rapido-Eze” or some other ink-specific solvent, and make sure to follow the directions on the label.

Production Run: I have a guess and say somewhere in the space between 1945 and 1960.  I encourage people with the necessary data to set me straight on this to hit the Contact Us button.

Cost When New:  I dare not even guess.

Size: 15.4 cm long capped, 17.8 cm posted, 12.5 cm uncapped (the last two measured to the end of the little feed-tube, rather than a point).

Point: Steel and brass.

Body:  Given the way it responds to efforts to get in and replace the sac, I’ll say PVC.

Filler: Lever, capacity approx. 1.8 ml.

The Hunt Speedball Autofeed – the only way it could be more steampunk would be to add some pointless cog-wheels

This is not a presentation box, as such.



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