Glossopedia of Pen Terms

(This page revised July 9, 2017)

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raden A Japanese decorative craft used principally in the creation of lacquerware and woodwork; can also be applied to metal and other surfaces. In its basic form, raden involves applying the cut linings of mother-of-pearl, abalone, ivory, and other shells into the surface to be decorated. Traditionally, the pieces of shell are cut into decorative shapes. In lacquerware, after the shell pieces are applied, further coats of lacquer are applied and then burnished or polished to the desired finish. Shown here are a Platinum 3776 and a Pilot Vanishing Point decorated in raden style.
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Radite  1  The name Sheaffer gave to the DuPont celluloid used in Sheaffer’s pens beginning in 1924.  2  (Radite II) The name Sheaffer gave to the Celanese Corporation’s injection-moldable cellulosic plastic (Forticel) that was used in Sheaffer’s pens from 1947 to 1952. Radite II was cellulose propionate, which is somewhat prone to decomposition that appears as shrinkage, distortion, or, in some cases, stress cracks. It is also slightly hygroscopic, and some Radite II pens exhibit a whitish surface bloom. (See illustration at Forticel). See also Bakelite (definition 2), Celluloid, Forticel.
railroading Colloquial term for two ink lines separated by white space, produced when a nib’s tines spread apart under pressure such that capillary action fails; so called for its resemblance to the two rails of a railroad track. Railroading occurs when a pen’s feed cannot supply enough ink to keep up with the dramatically increased demand of a flexible nib or when the nib’s slit is dirty enough to break the adhesion between the ink and the slit walls. Shown below is an example created with a pen that was dipped rather than filled so that the ink flow would fail quickly.
Rainbow The striped cap on early Parker 61s; made by layering metals of different colors and heat-welding them together. Three Rainbow patterns were produced: Heirloom, made of green and rose gold; Heritage, made of yellow gold and silver, and Legacy, made of sterling silver and nickel. Shown here is an Heirloom cap with the First Edition emblem. See also Empire, First Edition, green gold, nickel, rose gold, silver, 61, Watermelon.
Rainbow cap
Rapidograph Trademarked name for stylographic technical pens made by Rotring and Koh-I-Noor. See also stylographic pen.
Ratner (M. Ratner & Son Pen Company) A pen manufacturing company located in New York City; founded in 1922 and petitioned into bankruptcy in 1927 by a stockholder. Ratner’s pens were of moderate quality, and the company’s brand names included Bucksworth (for a dollar pen) and Gibson.
Ray The name Waterman gave to the celluloid pattern used on its Type 0 and Type 1 Ink-Vue pens, illustrated below by the drawing from U.S. Patent No D96,914, issued September 17, 1935, to John Hill and assigned to the Celluloid Corporation. The ink-Vue appeared in Silver-Ray, Emerald-Ray, Copper-Ray, and Jet patterns. See also Ink-Vue.
Ray pattern
Raymond & White A fountain pen manufacturing company located in Chicago, Illinois; founded sometime before 1889, lasted until at least 1904. The company’s pens, branded WINDSOR, were straight-cap hard rubber eyedropper fillers of high quality, fitted with 16K (not 14K) gold nibs. They appeared in a variety of designs, including one with cable-twist barrel decoration (shown below in a cut from the 1897 Sears catalog), and they were sold by jewelers and through mail-order catalogs and magazines. See also cable.
Fountain pen catalog
RB See rollerball.
RC-35 A “secret ingredient” in Sheaffer’s Skrip; claimed to provide permanent protection of writing (in case of tampering or erasure) by fluorescing under ultraviolet light. See also Skrip.
RCHR Red Chased Hard Rubber. RCHR pens like the Sheaffer’s ringtop shown here are relatively uncommon. See also chased, hard rubber.
Fountain pen
Ready Fill See Coit.
Red Band “51” A short-lived (1946-1947) variant of the Parker “51”, fitted with a modified spoon filler arranged so that pressing a button at the end of the barrel levers the pressure bar into the sac. The original version had a red plastic threaded collar securing the filler mechanism; the color of this part identifies a given pen as the “Red Band” version. (The standard Vacumatic “51”, with its filler’s black anodized collar, became the “Black Band” model in the instruction sheet enclosed with new pens.) When the plastic collar proved too weak in use, Parker replaced it with a red anodized aluminum collar, as on the pen shown below. The “business end” of the Red Band pens was glued together so that no field repair was feasible; it may have been this engineering decision that forced the quick withdrawal of the model. See also “51”.
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Red Giant A huge eyedropper-filling pen featuring a No 12 nib, produced by Parker in the early 20th century. Now extremely rare and highly desirable. The Red Giant illustrated below is a reproduction using a mixture of vintage and modern parts, made by Chris Thompson in 2004, with a Duofold Senior (“Big Red”) for comparison. See also Black Giant, giant.
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Redipoint See Ingersoll Redipoint.
Red Robin See Blair.
Red Veined Gray Pearl Red Veined Gray Pearl A color used by Sheaffer, introduced in 1930 on the Balance and retired with the company’s 1936 change from marbled colors to the striated colors that provided a more attractive way to view the ink supply in its plunger-filling pens. Several third-tier companies used similar celluloids, as did Parker on its Parkette, which was introduced in 1934. See also Balance, Parkette.
Reform (Reform Füllfederhalter-fabrik GmbH) A pen manufacturing company located in Heidelberg, Germany; founded by Philipp Mutschler and some of his colleagues, who left Kaweco in 1928 as that company was failing. Mutschler’s new company, Certo, began in a shed with five lathes, a chaser, a polisher, and ten workers; it produced its first pens and received payment for them within six weeks. Certo survived the worldwide monetary crisis of 1932, and in 1938 the company built a new, larger, factory. A merger with another company named Reform, which had works in Nieder-Ramstadt and a subsidiary in Heidelberg, created a new and stronger Reform company, with a winged letter “R” as its logo. Reform was a pioneer of injection molding for pens, having built its own machinery. The company produced complete writing systems and also supplied parts and pens to several large manufacturers, including Geha, Herlitz, Rotring, A. T. Cross, Elysée, Dunhill, S. T. Dupont, Cartier, Caran d’Ache, and Christian Dior. Reform bought the Degussa and Rupp nib factories (in the latter 1940s and 1975, respectively), and it became known for the excellence of its nibs. Much of Reform’s production was piston-filling pens; during the World War II era, it offered the Reform-Rekord 18, a syringe filler that had a detachable piston rod (shown below), giving an ink capacity approximately double that of a typical piston filler. In 1963, Mutschler’s sons Peter and Otto took over the firm, and at its high point in the 1990s, Reform was producing 10 million pens a year. In 1999, Reform faced a financial crisis. Sanford tried to salvage the company, but the attempt failed, and Reform formally declared bankruptcy in 2003.
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Regina See Ceriani.
regrind To reshape a nib’s tip, e.g., from an ordinary round shape to an italic, by grinding and/or sanding and then finishing to the required smoothness. See also retip.
regular (archaic usage) Retronym for an eyedropper-filling fountain pen, used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to distinguish such pens from the then-new self-filling models. See also self-filler.
Reliable (Reliable Pen Company) A pen manufacturing company located in New York City; founded c. 1909 by Nathan H. Casperfeld, a retail jeweler. By early 1915, the company had passed into the ownership of Abraham Harris and Louis P. Lesoine, the latter a former pharmacist who had since at least 1908 been a salesman for J. Ullrich & Company, another New York pen manufacturer. As part owner of Reliable, Lesoine continued at least for a time to work for Ullrich. A Reliable advertisement in the back of the April 1934 issue of Popular Science Monthly was selling what appears to be a bulb-filler for $1.50.
Reliance (Reliance Trading Company, Inc.) A company located in New York City; established in 1902 by the Salvation Army as a for-profit business, with Evangeline Booth, then commandant of the Salvation Army, as president and Ransom Caygill, not affiliated with the Salvation Army, as treasurer and business manager. Reliance published the War Cry, the U.S. Salvation Army‘s official journal, and sold general merchandise of all sorts, including Post and, later, Reliance syringe-filling fountain pens. See also post (definition 1).
Relief Relief nib(also relief) Term used by several manufacturers, notably Esterbrook, to designate a nib with left-foot obliquity, usually a stub. Shown here is an Esterbrook 2314-B broad Relief stub. See also oblique.
RELLIM See Miller Rubber Co. Inc.
Remex See Waterman, L. E..
Remington A brand used on cheap, poorly made syringe- and lever-filling pens produced in the 1930s and early 1940s by a now-unknown manufacturer. Remington pens had untipped steel nibs (imprinted DURIUM or DURIUM TIPPED) and were not designed to be repaired. It is not unlikely that this name was chosen to suggest a relationship with Remington typewriters; the prospective purchaser might infer therefrom that the pens were of high quality, as were the typewriters. See also DURIUM.
Renew-Point Nib(originally Re-New-Point) Esterbrook’s name for its interchangeable nib system, the best known and most successful of such systems in vintage pens. Shown here is an Esterbrook 9788, part of the company’s Master Series. See also Fineline, Personal-Point, Select-O-Point.
Rentz (Rentz Pen Company) A pen manufacturer located in Wells, Minnesota; founded by George Rentz, a jeweler who had come up in his father’s business. The company, a family business, operated during the first two decades of the 20th century and made stud-filling pens based on U.S. Patents Nos 896,576 and 1,036,149 by George Rentz and 955,475 by his son Bert.
repeater pencil See mechanical pencil.
repel See mechanical pencil.
repoussé Cap(also embossing) Relief decoration on metal, made by pressing a thin sheet into a mold by hammering or burnishing from the reverse side. Frequently used to produce the high-relief trim rings on early hard rubber pens. The example shown here is on a Beaumel eyedropper pen.
resac (past tense resacked, sometimes seen as resacced or resaced) Strictly speaking, to replace the ink reservoir (sac) in a sac-filling pen such as a lever, twist, pneumatic, or squeeze filler. Frequently misused to mean replacing the rubber component(s) in any pen containing them; hence, to “resac a Vacumatic.” Resacking certain pens (e.g., a Snorkel) should include replacement of other rubber items such as O-rings and gaskets because the aging of a sac is invariably accompanied by aging or wear in the pen’s other rubber parts.
reservoir The space within a pen in which ink is stored.
resin A class of materials of which pens are made; includes acrylics, cellulosics, styrenes, and vegetal resins. See also ABS, acrylic, Celluloid, polystyrene, vegetal resin.
R. Esterbrook See Esterbrook
retip To replace a nib’s tipping material by removing the existing material (if necessary) and welding new material in place. After the new tipping material is welded on (usually by laser or spotwelding), it must be ground and/or sanded to shape and then finished to the required smoothness. Retipping is a way to save nibs that are worn or damaged beyond use, and it also provides a means to create nib types, e.g., very broad italics, that a given manufacturer does not include in its line. See also regrind. tipping material.
retractable nib (also disappearing nib) A nib attached to a retracting mechanism so that the nib can be withdrawn into the body of the pen. Retractable nibs were a common feature of early safety pens, and the click-retractable Pilot Capless, introduced in 1964 by Pilot of Japan and still in production through several name changes, made fountain pens almost as convenient as ballpoint pens. Illustrated here is the Pilot décimo, c. 2005. See also safety.
Fountain pen
reverse oblique Indicates an oblique nib that is ground at an angle opposite the usual angle; generally a right-foot oblique. See also left oblique, nib, oblique, right oblique.
reverse trim Term for a pen whose furniture (trim) is the opposite of the usual color. Often applied to pens of the 1930s and 1940s, when gold-filled furniture was prevalent; at that time, gray pens were almost the only pens fitted with chrome-plated furniture. Uncatalogued specimens exist of gray pens with gold-filled furniture and of pens in other colors with chrome-plated furniture (e.g., the postwar Sheaffer pen shown here). These reverse-trim pens are relatively uncommon, and they command higher prices than similar pens with the more usual trim colors.
Fountain pen
Rex (Rex Manufacturing Company) A novelty and jewelry manufacturing company located in Providence, Rhode Island; active in the early decades of the 20th century. In addition to Rexhold bracelets, watches, and other fashion jewelry items, the company made Criterion pens and pencils and E-Z-Rite pencils; it also produced the earliest pencils offered by Eclipse. See also Criterion, Eclipse.
Rexall A chain of drugstores operated independently by members of the United Drug Stores retailers' coöperative, which after World War I contracted with various pen manufacturers to produce pens under the Belmont and Monogram names for sale in Rexall stores. Read a discussion of Rexall pens here. See also Belmont, Monogram.
Reynolds (Reynolds International Pen Company) A pen manufacturing company founded in 1945 by Chicago entrepreneur and serial bankrupt Milton Reynolds to make ballpoint pens based on Bíró’s patent. Reynolds saw Biro pens while on a trip to Argentina, purchased some, set up a company to reverse-engineer the design, and rushed to market his pen ahead of Eversharp (which had in 1943 purchased exclusive U.S. rights to the design). See also biro, CA, International, Rocket.
RG Rolled Gold. See gold filled.
rhodinated (also rhodanized, rhodinized) Plated with rhodium. Gold nibs are partially or completely rhodinated for appearance. Sterling silver furniture and body parts or overlays are sometimes rhodinated to prevent tarnish, and furniture of other materials may be rhodinated to impart the appearance of silver. See also rhodium.
rhodium A hard silver-white metal (atomic number 45) of the platinum group, very similar in appearance to silver; sometimes used as a plating material because of its resistance to oxidation (tarnish).
RHR Red Hard Rubber. See also hard rubber.
ribbed See Hundred Year Pen.
ribbon ring See ringtop.
Richter-Leblang (Richter-Leblang Company) A corporation located in New York City, with offices there and in San Francisco, California; founded in 1914 by Henry Kohn, David Richter, and Joseph Leblang to handle pens, novelties, and general merchandise. Little is now known about the company other than that it handled cone-cap piston-filling pens, of which some were imprinted and sold as souvenirs of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. The piston mechanism in these pens was a standard single-action screw, a modification of U.S. Patent No 834,373, which was issued to Frank O. Ellis on October 30, 1906. The photos below illustrate two versions of these pens, differing in detail sufficiently to suggest that Richter-Leblang jobbed them from two different manufacturers. See also piston.
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Rider (J. G. Rider Pen Company) A pen manufacturing company located in Rockford, Illinois. Founded in 1905 by Jay G. Rider, the company was incorporated in 1907 and appears to have survived into the mid-1920s. At some time after 1920, Rider himself moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he operated a pen shop. There exists an Annual Report from 1925, stating that the company had ceased operation in Illinois. The corporation was dissolved in 1927. ¶ Rider’s principal product was a simple but elegant eyedropper filler that had no separate gripping section (U.S. Patent No 739,720). To fill the pen, the user used the cap’s clip (U.S. Patent No 919,244) to pull the special notched feed out for filling with an eyedropper. (The intent of the design is that the nib remain in place during this operation, and it usually does so.) The feed is keyed into the barrel in a way that does not permit misalignment during reinstallation. Shown below is a Rider “Perfection” No 5. ¶ In 1918, Rider patented a self-filling design in which the user pulled a small cliplike tab away from the barrel at its distal end to pull the pressure bar into the sac, squeezing it as would a lever filler. (Waterman’s Jif Matic, made in the 1960s or 1970s, used a variation of this design.) See also eyedropper filler, Jointless, middle joint.
Fountain pen
right oblique Nib shapeAn ambiguous term for an oblique nib. The ambiguity arises from the fact that some manufacturers call the usual oblique nib, illustrated here and intended principally for right-handed writers, a right oblique while others use the term for a nib that slants in the opposite direction based on the direction of slant. See also left oblique, nib, oblique, reverse oblique.
Ring Colonial (Often incorrectly called Ringed Colonial) A chasing pattern used by Wahl on metal pens, with very fine, closely spaced longitudinal parallel lines running the length of the pen but interrupted periodically by sets of triple rings that are filled with black lacquer. Shown here is a close-up of the Ring Colonial pattern. The same pattern of lines, without the rings, is Colonial.
Ring Colonial pen barrel
ringtop Cap(also chatelaine-tip, ribbon ring, ring-top, or ring top) A pen whose cap has affixed to its closed end a swiveling ring (as shown to the right) through which the user can thread a chain, braid, or other “string” to hang the pen around the neck when it is not in use. Almost all ringtops lack clips. See also chatelaine, clipless, sautoir, w.r. [Historical note] Soldiers during World War II often carried ringtops because, with a sautoir around the owner’s neck, a ringtop was less likely to fall out of the pocket and be lost than a clip-style pen. The common term for these pens was “ladies’ pens.”
ripple  1  Descriptive term for a pattern, somewhat resembling bargello, in hard rubber that is made with two colors (most commonly red and black, abbreviated RRHR for Red Rippled Hard Rubber, shown below (upper) on a Waterman’s Ideal No 7). Among vintage pens, the rippled pattern is unique to L. E. Waterman, which began producing rippled pens in 1926 or 1927 and called the pattern Ripple-Red. Waterman also produced blue-green (Ripple-Bluegreen), black-olive (Ripple-Olive), and red-yellow (Ripple-Rose) rippled pens. See also hard rubber, mottled, woodgrain.  2  A chasing pattern used by Wahl on metal pens, with zigzag longitudinal lines offset so as to create a triangular wave pattern. Shown below (lower) is a close-up of Ripple.
Fountain pen
Ripple pen barrel
Rival See Beaumel, Smith, H. M..
RMHR Red Mottled Hard Rubber. Because mottled hard rubbers combining black with colors other than red are exceedingly rare, the use of “Red” in the term is almost redundant, and some collectors refer to this material simply as MHR. See also hard rubber, mottled.
rocker blotter Rocker blotterA handheld desk accessory designed to carry and support a piece of blotting material, and shaped so that the blotting material presents a cylindrical surface that can be “rocked” back and forth over the paper to absorb the excess ink. Most, but not all, rocker blotters have some form of handle. Rocker blotters can be quite plain or very ornate; Victorian blotters frequently featured repoussé silver over wood forms. The elephant-shaped blotter illustrated here is an Art Deco figural piece made of glass. See also advertising blotter, blotter, desk blotter.
Rocket Arguably the best known of the ballpoint pens marketed by the Reynolds International Pen Company. The Rocket was made in at least three length versions, including two of relatively ordinary length and one extremely long (commonly thought to have been marketed as a secretary’s pen). Produced initially with a sliding snap cap made of aluminum, the Rocket later acquired a cheaper plastic snap cap as shown below. See also biro, CA, International, Reynolds.
Ballpoint pen
Ballpoint pen
Rodensteiner See Merz &qmp; Krell.
roll engraving Application of an “engraved” design to a metal part by passing the part under a hardened steel roller on which the design is engraved in reverse, so that the design protrudes from the roller’s surface and therefore cuts into the surface of the workpiece. Commonly used to engrave cap bands and the caps and barrels of metal pens such as the Waterman’s Ideal No 055212V shown here. See also engraved, etched, hand engraved.
Fountain pen
rolled gold See gold filled.
rolled-under nib (also folded-under nib) A cheap nib design used for third-tier pens, primarily in the first half of the 20th century. A rolled-under nib is made of steel without iridium tipping; the tips of the tines are bent under to provide a rounded writing pad, as illustrated below. See also butterfly nib, spoon nib.
Nib diagram
roller Roller clip(also roller ball) A very small wheel or rolling ball affixed to the end of a clip to provide smoother entry into and exit from the user’s pocket. The roller clip illustrated to the right is on a 1920s Wahl Gregg pen. See also clip.
rollerball A ballpoint pen that uses water-soluble ink. See also ballpoint, gel pen.
roller clip (also rollerball clip) A clip having a roller at its end.
ronce Ronce lacquerA lacquer pattern (shown to the right) designed to simulate the appearance of burled brier wood; used by Parker (Sonnet), Sheaffer (Targa), Caran d’Ache (Genève), and others. Ronce is usually a light reddish brown with darker grain markings that resemble the natural coloring of the wood, but some manufacturers have produced pens featuring red, green, and other non-natural ronce colors.
Rose Glow Rose Glow (also Rose-Glow, colloquially Roseglow) Arguably the most collectible of the striated colors that appeared on Sheaffer’s Balance. Used from 1936 to 1939, the color is called Rose-Glow in the 1936 catalog and Rose Glow in 1937 and 1938. Sheaffer discontinued Rose Glow and introduced Carmine, a more vibrant hue, in the 1939 catalog. See also Carmine.
rose gold (also pink gold) An alloy of gold, copper, and silver in which copper is predominant; has a salmon-pink color. Frequently used decoratively together with yellow or green gold as shown on the Parker “51” Empire cap below. See also gold, green gold.
Fountain pen
rose ripple See ripple.
rosewood Wahl-Eversharp’s descriptive term for its particularly attractive woodgrain pattern in red-and-black hard rubber, illustrated below. See also hard rubber.
Fountain pen
rotation Adjustable nib 1  A “rolling” of the pen about its long axis so that the nib is not aligned straight upward when the writer holds the pen in his or her usual way. See the image to the right. People who rotate their pens typically do so unconsciously. In most cases, a right-handed person who rotates will rotate the pen counterclockwise so that the nib is more or less leaning toward the left shoulder. Left-handed underwriters who rotate typically rotate clockwise, so that the nib is leaning toward the right shoulder; left-handed overwriters’ rotation is more often counterclockwise. Rotation can be dealt with by forcing oneself to rotate the pen back into a neutral position or by using an oblique nib that might or might not produce line variation. See also oblique, overwriter, underwriter.  2  The group of pens a writer uses, not all of which will be inked for use (“in the rotation”) at any given time.
round hand (also roundhand) A style of handwriting developed in England c. 1665 by writing masters such as John Ayers and William Banson. Round hand scripts feature organically flowing curves and the subtle contrasts between thick and thin strokes that result from the use of metal nibs. (Quill writing generally shows more dramatic contrasts because quills are more flexible than metal nibs.) Because writing masters published books that were printed from engraved copper plates, round hand is now generally known as copperplate. Shown below is a style called Young Baroque. See also calligraphy, copperplate, Palmer, Spencerian, Zanerian.
Blackletter exemplar
ROWI (Rodi & Wienenberger, currently Rowi Präcisiontechnik GmbH) A jewelry manufacturer located in Pforzheim, the jewelry capital of Germany; founded in 1885 by Eugen Rodi and Wilhelm Wienenberger, incorporated in 1889. The company focused on jewelry until 1920, when it began making pocket watch cases; in 1929, the line grew to include wristwatch cases and watchbands. During World War II, the Allies decided that Pforzheim, because of the precision manufacturing carried on there, was a legitimate military target, and in 1944 the corporate building was nearly completely destroyed in a series of bombing raids. It was rebuilt after the end of the war. At some point, the company began producing writing instruments, using the same case material it had developed for its other products, an alloy called Americ, containing gold, silver, copper, and zinc. The late-1970s fountain pen shown here is made of gold electroplated Americ. ROWI began international distribution in 1989. In 1991 the corporation was restructured to become a limited company, and beginning in 2000 it began offering custom precision machining of small parts.
Fountain pen
Roxy A third-tier brand produced from the 1930s to the 1950s by the Union Fountain Pen Company, a Morrison subsidiary. See also Morrison, Union.
RR Ribbon ring. See ringtop.
RRHR Red Rippled Hard Rubber. See also hard rubber, ripple.
ruby A red-colored gemstone. Ruby is a variety of the mineral corundum (aluminium oxide, Al2O3) in which a small fraction of the aluminum3+ ions are replaced by chromium3+ ions. Until the mid-19th century, tiny bits of ruby were used as nib tipping material. See also nib (historical note), tipping material.
runny nose See blotting.
ruthenium A silver-gray metal of the platinum group, used as a nib tipping material because of its hardness (2160 MPa on the Brinell scale). Most modern tipping alloys are composed primarily of ruthenium. See also Plathenium, tipping material.

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