Michael A. Shelley's

Fountain Pen Reviews


Sheaffer pens

For an aid to dating Sheaffer fountain pens, go here. But keep in mind that it's usually impossible to determine the date a pen was made more accurately than within a couple of years.


Sheaffer Triumph Imperial (recently discontinued)

nib: steel (medium)

Fill System: Cartridge / Converter (aerometric, or whatever you can find)

Cap: pull-off

approx 137mm (5-3/8") capped

The working man's version of Sheaffer's sizable snorkel-fill PFM. Various versions had converters, touchdown fill systems, 14k nibs, body-colored sections, differing nib styles, and ink view windows. I paid $25 for mine, still in the blister pack.

Like most 'budget' pens, mine wrote perfectly right out of the box. Typical Sheaffer slightly heavy ink flow, with a smooth and firm nib. The spring clip is a nice touch. Not a bad pen at all, if a bit smaller than I like. The plastic body is not the most durable, though, and picks up scratches and cap posting marks easily.


Sheaffer Touchdown (I think this is a 1960's Craftsman model)

nib: 14k gold #5 (medium-fine)

Fill System: Touchdown

Cap: threaded

approx 130mm (5-1/8") capped

Nothing special about this pen, other than the Touchdown filling system, which (along with the similar Snorkel) is one of the coolest ways to get ink into a pen. There are lots of varieties of the postwar Touchdown and Snorkel pens -- this one is basic black, with a wire inset at the edge of the cap band. The cap takes a bit of force to post, which I'm always afraid to do, but the pen is too short for me to write comfortably without posting. Because of that, I almost prefer the cheaper Cadet models, which have the cap band set back from the edge a bit.

Otherwise a pretty decent pen. You can find these in varying states of repair for just a few dollars -- I think this one was $25, fully restored, not a showpiece but very usable. Ink flow is a touch dry for my taste, but that's easily fixed. The line is a typical Sheaffer medium-fine width, which seems pretty common on their postwar pens. A very slight amount of flex in the nib gives a bit of sping to the feel, but pretty much nothing when it comes to varying line width. Visulated section so ink level can be seen.

The Cadet is almost identical, but seems slightly lighter and may not be quite as large in diameter. They often are found with steel nibs.


three Balance-style pens, capped. From top: Tuckaway, Standard, Balance II.


Sheaffer Balance II (maybe still in production)

nib: 14k gold new Lifetime (right oblique)

Fill System: Cartridge / Converter

Cap: threaded

approx 146mm (5-3/4") capped

The new Balance II models are more or less the same size as the old Oversize pens. When they first were introduced, they had a reputation for poor quality control. This one has no problems, other than those related to my inability to use a right oblique nib. (Sheaffer's right oblique looks like a right foot, and gives wide downstrokes and narrow sidestrokes when used by a right-hander.)

This one is smooth, but has to be held at just the right angle to work. Ink flow is good enough for the nib. I'd have preferred an Aspen model with the two-tone 18k nib, but the plain navy blue single-tone was on sale. Not a bad pen at all. Large size, medium weight.

I believe production may have recently (2004) ended for these pens.


Sheaffer Balance '500' (approx. 1941?)

nib: 14k gold #5 Lifetime (fine semi-flexible)

Fill System: lever

Cap: threaded

approx 132mm (5-3/16") capped

This is the full-sized balance, with a military (over the top) clip, which is just a regular clip put on upside down and bent over to top of the cap. Personally, I don't like the looks of the clip, but it works fine and the rest of the pen makes up for it. Writes very well, smooth, and it's a good size for my hand.

The '500' isn't a model number, but was the original retail price ($5.00). I think I prefer the 'Feather Touch' nib such as the one on this pen over the more expensive 'Lifetime' nibs, which were more durable and even less flexible.


A selection of Balance-style pens showing relative sizes. From the left: Balance II (current production), Tuckaway, possibly a 1950's Autograph (wide band), '500' military clip Standard, 1930's Standard, 1940's Junior.


Sheaffer Balance '1250' Tuckaway (approx. 1949)

nib: Triumph (material?) (medium)

Fill System: Vac-Fil

Cap: threaded

approx (size) capped

Sheaffer made these little Tuckaway pens for quite a while in the 1930s and 40s. When posted, they are long enough to use comfortably. The little stubby clip works better than I expected, as it's spring-loaded.

This one is a Vac-Fil, which is the predecessor to the Touchdown system. Instead of filling a sac, ink is sucked up into the barrel on the down stroke of the piston.

The fillers are a pain to repair, I'm told. This one was repaired before I bought it, and I don't flush it out much to keep it in working order.

I really like this little pen. It's wider than the later TM (Thin Model) Touchdowns and Snorkels, has a nice medium Triumph nib, and a funky filler system.


Sheaffer Snorkel (approx. 1960)

nib: Triumph Pd-Ag or standard; single or two-tone

Fill System: Snorkel

Cap: threaded

approx (size) capped

The Sheaffer Snorkel, made from 1952 to about 1963 in a variety of solid colors with varying cap materials. One of my favorite pens, especially with medium or broad Triumph nibs (which seem to be rather uncommon.) A bit thinner than I like, but generally smooth, firm writers with few problems once they've been restored. Restoration usually consists of replacing the sac and two O-rings, and possibly a seal under the blind cap. Snorkels are medium weight compared to most other pens.


a Targa and an Intrigue showing relative sizes

Sheaffer Targa (1970's-1980's)

nib: 14k gold inlaid (fine)

Fill System: Cartridge / Converter (aerometric converter)

Cap: pull-off

approx 138mm (5-7/16") capped

I don't use this pen -- my first fountain pen, a high school graduation gift -- very much anymore because it developed a leak around the inlaid nib and a tiny crack in the barrel. No flex at all, but fairly heavy ink flow and very smooth. I find the cap hard to remove and the pen as a whole to be too heavy to use comfortably (the barrel is brass.) A good writer if you like a heavy, medium-width pen, and not too hard to find.


a Targa and an Intrigue, capped, showing the Intrigue's filler withdrawn

Sheaffer Intrigue (2000)

nib: 14k gold inlaid (medium)

Fill System: Cartridge / Converter (piston converter)

Cap: pull-off

approx 140mm (5-1/2") capped

A very modern style, with some neat features. Most obvious is the partial overlay contrasting with the colored barrel. Inlaid nib, which seems like a typical modern Sheaffer -- smooth, rigid, and fairly wet. A new clip design, which works well. The tapered cap makes the pen hard to remove from a pocket, and the metal surface scratches and scrubs fairly easily. Overall, the pen is rather heavy but balances very well in the hand. I find it more comfortable to use than the Targa, which seems a bit narrower.

The filling system is unusual, in that the blind cap unscrews and is pulled to reveal a tray. A cartridge or converter is inserted and the tray is slid home and screwed down. As a result, there is no way to check your ink level without making a mess. If the converter is used, a smaller blind cap is pulled out to engage teeth on the converter to operate the piston. Pretty neat, but mine came with a converter that has flow problems. Either a rinse with very dilute detergent or a couple of fillings of ink (which is what I did) should clear it right up.

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Last updated 02 November 2004