Openinkstand Art & Calligraphy

My vintage oblique penholders


I am a bit of a penholder hound, especially vintage penholders… I don’t exactly know why, maybe because they are so beautiful and reminds me of a long cigarette holder designed by Chanel, or maybe there is such an amazing history behind them, or maybe it is the mystery of who may have owned them before, or perhaps the magic that they may impart to me on my writing, or possibly they just look like magical wizard wands. Either way, whenever one shows up on ebay, I get really excited!


From top: Maggie, Naughty, Sweetheart, Tammy, Rainbow, Kelly, Starbuck and Riddick

And yes, I name my pens… lol. Here are their names and their respective makers, from the top: Maggie (Magnusson), Naughty (Magnusson), Sweetheart (Magnusson), Tammy (Tamblyn), Rainbow (unknown), Kelly (Keller), Starbuck (Zanerian Fine Writer), Riddick (probably Zanerian something).


Five of my eight, from top: Sweetheart, Kelly, Naughty, Tammy and Rainbow

And in case you’re wondering, the reason for their names: Maggie is short for Magnusson. Naughty has a Notch near her tail, also her flange is set in a rather high position, ooh cheeky! Sweetheart is just so pretty, all plain with a little drop of white on her end. Tammy is short for Tamblyn. Rainbow is the colorfullest of them all. Kelly is short for Keller. Starbuck was my first vintage penholder, won in a Starbucks from an ebay auction. Riddick is short for Ridiculous, cos he’s 11.5 inches long!

IMG_7514Boy I sound crazy. Anyway, because these are all from the 1890-1930-ish, and previously used by their owners (except Sweetheart and Keller may be completely new, no shred of ink on them), they have presumably been adjusted to suit their respective owners tastes. Therefore, all their flanges are set a little differently and as you can see, they do not all hold the nib exactly the same way. So I have to readjust myself to suit the pen, as it were, rather than suit the pen to me. I don’t mind really, as I don’t want to change the flange on these pens.


As for whether or not it better to use a vintage pen or a modern one. Well.. it’s kind of like a Stradivarius to a violinist. One can use a regular violin perfectly well, in fact most do, from beginners to professionals you can find all kinds of amazing violins made from all over the world. But a Strad, well, it has a certain mystique, ooh it’s made of special wood, aah it has special lacquer that makes it awesome.. but cmon, it’s not necessary to have all that just for writing. It’s more like a collectors thing. Yes, I find much more enjoyment using a vintage holder but in addition to great balance and a nice feel in hand, a lot of it is derived from owning a part of history, feeling my hand over where someone else’s hand was, enjoying the patina and stains on the flange. I bet Itzhak Perlman can play wonderfully using either his Strad or a regular violin from the shop. The differences may be so subtle that it would not be worth it to some!

Anyway, I love and use them all. I am fully supportive of the idea that penholders are meant to be used and not just displayed somewhere gathering dust.. but of course handled very carefully. However, while these are sturdy enough, I don’t use them as workhorses or for jobs.. they are much too delicate for that and I don’t want to risk staining or (gasp) breaking. I use these when I’m writing special ornamental letters or envelopes, during my meditative writing sessions when I can have my cup of tea and some music on and carefully select the right penholder for the right nib and letter. Bliss!

Next time I will blog about my workhorse modern penholders. Stay tuned!

2 Responses to “My vintage oblique penholders”

  1. Heebs

    I wish more of these vintage holders came in a larger grip so I could use one for more than 10min without my hand cramping up :(


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