Glossopedia of Pen Terms

(This page revised April 25, 2017)

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Reference Info Index  ]

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galalith (Also galalyth, galalythe, galilith) See casein.
gallotannate ink See iron gall ink.
Gaydoul (Gaydoul Gold Pen Company) A nib manufacturer located in New York City; founded by George P. Gaydoul. The company operated from the late 1890s at least into the 1930s, producing nibs and offering one-day turnaround on nib repair and retipping services.
gel pen A ballpoint pen whose ink is a colloid (a “gel”). Gel pens are known for their smooth and easy writing, much like that of a good fountain pen. See also ballpoint, rollerball.
Gem (Gem Fountain Pen Corporation) A fountain pen manufacturing company located in New York City; founded in 1913 by William Lyman, Harry Wolfe, and Clarence M. Lewis. Gem manufactured pens of moderate quality under a variety of brands, including Ford, Gem, Improved Special, Kant Scratch, Monarch, Noxall, Schoolhouse, Trouble Proof, and others. During its history, the company did acquire one patent, U.S. Patent No 1,231,256, issued to Monroe E. Heilbrun, the company’s president and a member of the board of directors, for an improved pressure bar design.
General The General Manufacturing Company. See Houston.
Geometric Toothbrush pattern(colloquially “Toothbrush”) The Parker Duofold Geometric, manufactured in 1939 and 1940 and made in standard and slender sizes (shown below, the slender version). The Duofold Geometric was a mid-line button filler, not notably different from the Challenger except for its distinctive celluloid pattern, with figures resembling a toothbrush as shown to the right. Read a profile of the Duofold Geometric here. See also Challenger.
Fountain pen
George VI Rex A specially inlaid Chilton Wing-Flow produced in 1937 to commemorate the crowning of the new English king (Albert, Duke of York, who ascended the throne upon the abdication of his brother Edward VIII and took the name George VI to emphasize the continuity of the Windsors’ reign). Uncommon today, and highly prized by Chilton collectors. See also Chilton, Wing-flow.
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
German silver See nickel silver.
GF Gold Filled. See also gold filled.
GFC Gold Filled Cap. See also gold filled.
GFT Gold Filled Trim. See also gold filled.
ghosting Writing that can be seen faintly through the reverse side of the paper; occurs with papers that are not sufficiently opaque (e.g., onionskin). Contrast with bleeding.
giant A pen that is hugely oversize. The best known giants are the Parker Red Giant and Black Giant, which featured No 12 nibs, and Waterman’s Ideal No 20, whose nib was a No 10. Giants among modern pens include the Namiki Emperor and the BB eyedropper fillers made in 1999 by Bernard Bernolet Dethières (illustrated below with a Parker “51” for comparison). See also Black Giant, oversize, Red Giant, Ultra Giant.
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
glass cartridge A disposable single-use ink reservoir made of glass, to fit pens produced by a small number of manufacturers, including Eagle in the 19th century and Waterman (selling U.S.-made pens in France) from 1936 into the beginning of the 1950s (with a hiatus during World War II, after which the pens were made in France instead of the U.S.A.). Shown below are an Eagle cartridge pen, a Waterman glass cartridge, and a postwar Waterman Duo-7 cartridge pen. See also cartridge.
Fountain pen
Glass cartridge
Fountain pen
glass nib Glass nibA nib made of glass. Glass nibs are made by heating a bundle of glass rods and stretching with a slight twisting action to pull the individual strands together as they grow thinner, creating a tapered shape resembling a flame. After the glass cools, it is cut or broken at the thinnest point, which is then ground to shape. In use, ink flows to the tip by capillary action along the “cracks” between the strands of glass. See also capillary action, nib.
Glider A pen model produced by Conklin after the company’s 1938 move to Chicago and its consequent descent to the third tier. Early Glider production used high-quality nibs from existing Toledo-made stock; later pens used nibs of progressively poorer quality. Glider caps and barrels are attractive and well made of good celluloid, but the gold-plated furniture (steel clip and lever, brass cap band) is cheap and is rarely found without serious wear or corrosion. Read a profile of the Glider here. See also Chicago Conklin, Conklin.
Fountain pen
glitter ink See shimmer ink.
gold A soft, lustrous, very malleable yellow metal (atomic number 79) that is virtually impervious to corrosion or tarnish. Used to make pen bodies, furniture, and nibs. The purity of gold is measured in karats (24K = pure gold) or parts per thousand (1000 = pure gold). Pure gold is too soft to be used alone; mixing it with various other metals creates alloys of the desired hardness or color. See also gold filled, green gold, karat, rose gold, white gold.
Gold Bond See National.
Gold Crown See National.
Golden Age The period spanning the years from about the end of World War I (1918) to the end of World War II (1945), during which the fountain pen flourished to its greatest extent. The preceding decades of experimentation had laid the groundwork, with the design difficulties largely worked out and the materials and technologies becoming available to support large-scale production of inexpensive, reliable, and durable pens. After World War II, the ballpoint pen’s ascendancy rang in the decline of the fountain pen. ¶ Most of the pens that collectors today recognize as classics, including such greats as the Conklin Nozac; the Eversharp Doric and Skyline; the Parker Duofold, Vacumatic, and “51”; Sheaffer’s Flat-Top, Balance, and “TRIUMPH”; and Waterman’s No 7 and Hundred Year Pen, were products of the Golden Age.
Golden Arrow The name applied to Parker’s pump-filling pen during its test marketing in 1932 and 1933; changed to Vacuum-Filler upon the pen’s official introduction in early 1933, and shortly thereafter to Vacumatic.
Golden Quill The last high-quality pen model produced by Chilton (introduced at the 1939 New York World‘s Fair); distinguished by its elegantly austere styling, which contrasted dramatically with that of the immediately preceding model, the Wing-flow. Not widely advertised, the Golden Quill was not a great success in the marketplace; remaining stock was sold off by a mail-order company after Chilton filed for bankruptcy. Today it is rare and highly collectible. See also Chilton, Mohawk, Wing-flow.
Fountain pen
Golden Web Collectors’ name for a color pattern used on the Parker Vacumatic Junior (standard-girth and slender sizes) c. 1938–1940 and called simply Brown by Parker. Shown here is a standard-girth Golden Web pen. The dark areas of the barrel are transparent in order to retain the Vacumatic’s ink-view feature; in the cap and blind cap these areas are opaque. See also Vacumatic.
Fountain pen
gold filled (abbreviated GF; also rolled gold) Made of a metal “sandwich” consisting of a layer of gold alloy pressure-welded over a thicker layer of base metal (usually brass). Gold-filled objects are sometimes marked to indicate their gold content. A marking of 1/10 14K on an object indicates that the layer of 14K gold contributes 110 of the weight of the object; thus, since 14K gold is 5851000 gold by weight, the actual amount of gold in the object is 5.85% of the object’s weight. High-quality vintage pens frequently have gold-filled clips, bands, and other trim parts; today, virtually all parts consisting of gold over a base metal are electroplated. See also plated, vermeil.
gold in (also gold-in) Term for a two-tone nib on which the gold-colored areas are surrounded by silver-colored areas, at least to the extent that the gold color does not extend to the tip. Of interest primarily to nib workers: a gold-in nib made of gold with rhodium or palladium plating is more difficult to finish neatly when being reground due to the risk of plating damage near the tip, while a gold-in nib made of steel with gold plating is easier to finish because the worker can polish out scratches in the silver-colored metal near the tip. See also gold out.
Gold Medal See National.
gold out (also gold-out) Term for a two-tone nib on which the silver-colored areas are surrounded by gold-colored areas, at least to the extent that the silver color does not extend to the tip. Of interest primarily to nib workers: a gold-out nib made of gold with rhodium or palladium plating is easier to finish when being reground because the worker can polish out scratches in the gold near the tip, while a gold-out nib made of steel with gold plating is more difficult to finish neatly due to the risk of plating damage near the tip. See also gold in.
gold pen Gold pen(archaic) A dip pen nib made of gold. Gold pens are usually tipped with iridium or some other durable alloy, and they do not wear rapidly. Some early gold pens were tipped with ruby. Illustrated here is a No 2 gold pen by E. S. Johnson. See also dip pen, nib (historical note), ruby, steel pen.
Gold Seal Gold SealA small metal trim piece (pictured to the right), introduced in about 1928 by Wahl to identify its top-line pens. Shaped to resemble a wax seal and inlaid into a pen’s cap, the Gold Seal featured a pair of checkmarks resembling a stylized letter W, to signify that the pen was “Double Checked” for quality. The company discontinued the Gold Seal in about 1941, replacing it on the new Skyline with a squared “seal” stamped into the clip. [Historical note] Some Gold Seal pens turn up with a small hole drilled through the seal. Current thought among knowledgeable collectors is that these pens may have been discontinued models sold off at discounted prices without the usual warranty, with their seals drilled for identification purposes.
Goldsmith (Goldsmith Bros. Smelting and Refining Company) A bullion dealer with offices and plants in various cities, including Chicago, Illinois; New York City; and Toronto, Ontario. Important to the fountain pen industry primarily because it was for several decades a principal supplier of gold and osmiridium for the manufacture of nibs. See also osmiridium.
Gold Starry (Société Anonyme Gold Starry) A pen manufacturing company located in Paris, France; founded in 1909 by Maurice Jadelle, of the publishing house Éditions Delagrave. Jadelle initially called his company Gold Star and imported BHR retractable safety pens made by Conway Stewart. Because the name Gold Star had previously been registered as a trademark, however, Jadelle renamed his company Gold Starry in 1912, and Conway Stewart pens imported after that time were remarked with the new name. Gold Starry continued to import pens from England until about 1921, when Paul Jeanvrin and André Petit, who had been making pens near Paris, joined Jadelle and established Gold Starry as a wholly owned French corporation with its own Paris factory. Shown below is a typical Gold Starry safety pen. The company introduced a lever filler in 1927, and in 1931 it introduced the Rapex pen, featuring a cam-actuated button filling system that was apparently not very robust and did not do well in the market. After World War II, Gold Starry began producing accordion-filling pens and also diversified to produce a line of luxury office accessories. The company failed in 1980. See also accordion, Conway Stewart, Leverless (definition 1, the postwar version).
Fountain pen
Good Service A “house brand” of fountain pens produced by the National Pen Products Company for Sears, Roebuck & Co. Illustrated below is an oversize Good Service pen of typical appearance, from the latter half of the 1920s. See also National.
Fountain pen
GP Gold Plate or Gold Plated. See also plated.
GPT Gold Plated Trim. See also furniture, plated.
Gothic L. E. Waterman’s name for a bar-and-checkerboard engraving pattern the company used on full-overlay pens during the 1910s and 1920s (illustrated below, upper). Other manufacturers such as Mabie Todd (below, lower, on a Swan pen) and Wahl-Eversharp used similar patterns but did not refer to them as Gothic. See also Greek Key.
Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass
grade See nib grade.
gray feed gray feedA rare feed variant (illustrated to the right on a Golden Brown Pearl Admiral); used c. 1939-1940 by Sheaffer, fashioned to Sheaffer’s standard comb-feed design of that period, but made of a gray plastic material instead of the usual black hard rubber. See also feed, white feed.
greasy Colloquial adjective describing an ink that lubricates extremely well. (Note that there is no actual grease in fountain pen ink.)
Grecian Border A chasing pattern used by Wahl on metal pens, with lines in a Greek Key design. Shown here is a close-up of the Grecian Border pattern. See also Greek Key.
Grecian Border pen barrel
Greek Key Greek KeyAn ancient Grecian design element, shown to the right in a simple early form. Various pen manufacturers have adapted the Greek Key as a motif on chased and engraved pen bodies (e.g., the Grecian Border pattern used by Wahl, illustrated above) and on cap bands (notably Omas). See a photo of a Wyvern pen with a Greek Key band at Deco band. See also Gothic.
green gold An alloy of gold, copper, and silver in which silver is predominant; has a slightly greenish yellow color. Frequently used decoratively together with rose gold as shown on the Parker 61 Heirloom cap below. See also gold, rose gold.
Fountain pen
Gregg Gregg emblemA phonetic shorthand writing system for stenographers, devised by John Robert Gregg and first published in 1888. The rights to Gregg shorthand were owned by the Gregg Publishing Company, founded in 1896. The Gregg company licensed pen manufacturers to produce pens to Gregg’s specifications and use the Gregg name; these pens are relatively thin and have very firm fine nibs. Some Gregg pens were fitted with an enameled Gregg emblem inlaid into the end of the cap, as shown here on a Wahl pen from the late 1920s. Esterbrook produced several versions of Gregg nibs in its Renew-Point system, numbering them n555. Illustrated below is the first sentence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” in the simplified Gregg system. (Exemplar provided by Andrew Owen.) See also Pitman.
Gregg writing sample
Grieshaber (Grieshaber Pen Company, Inc.) A pen manufacturing company located in Chicago, Illinois; founded c. 1884 by Benjamin B. Grieshaber to produce gold pens (dip nibs). (He had learned his trade working for his father, Burghardt Grieshaber, as a pen maker in Detroit, Michigan, beginning in the 1870s). Eyedropper-filling fountain pens entered the line c. 1900, and there is speculation that these pens were produced by Parker in exchange for Grieshaber nibs. In 1910, Benjamin Grieshaber patented a hump filler (U.S. Patent No 956,895) that featured an innovative locking mechanism with an internal helical cam operated by a knob at the distal end of the barrel. This pen remained in production until the early 1920s, when it was replaced by a standard lever filler. Grieshaber's hard rubber pens were mostly plain or chased black; there were a relatively small number in mottled hard rubber (see the oversized model pictured below) or fitted with overlays. The company seems to have been reluctant to adapt to the changing demands of the public; it did not make clips standard until about 1920, and not until 1929 did it switch its production to celluloid or begin to move away from traditional flat-top styling by softening the lines of its pens. Early in World War II, Grieshaber was selling a streamlined pen called the Graph-O-Matic, which was claimed to make its own ink when filled with water. See also Camel, Dictator, Water.
Fountain pen
gripping section Gripping section(also neck, point section, section) A small tubular part, usually about the length of a finger joint, that is attached to one end of the barrel and into which are inserted the nib and feed. In pens that do not use the entire barrel as an ink reservoir, the gripping section provides a mount for the sac, cartridge, or other reservoir. In the illustration here, the gripping section is the black part between the gold nib and the marbled red barrel.
guard See sautoir.
guilloché (from the French word for the tool used to produce it; pronounced GEE-yo-shay, with the g as in go; also called engine turning) A decorative surface treatment. The guillocheur uses a complex hand-operated machine tool to cut geometric patterns in a moving pen barrel (usually one made of metal) with a stationary cutting tool. The tool is either a straight-line engine or a rose engine, depending on the design to be cut, and the design to be cut (and therefore the motion of the pen barrel) is specified by a pattern embodied in one of a set of interchangeable pattern bars (straight-line engine) or “rosettes” (rose engine). Although a machine tool is used, the process nonetheless requires great skill on the part of the guillocheur to ensure that alignment is perfect and that each thread (engraved line) is cut to the same depth. The sterling silver guilloché surface treatment illustrated below is called Flamme (French for “flame”). Some makers use guilloché to excellent effect by applying vitreous enamel over it as illustrated at enamel. See also chased, enamel, engraved.
Guilloche pen barrel
gushing See flooding.

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