Glossopedia of Pen Terms

(This page revised November 29, 2016)

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table A term for the flat end of a fountain pen’s gripping section (illustrated below), i.e., the surface that contacts the inner cap to seal the nib area when the pen is capped. See also inner cap.
Diagram of pen
tail See base.
talking A scratchy sound made by a nib that is actually smooth, not scratchy. (A nib that is perfectly tuned can still be talky.) Nibs that talk appear to cause the paper under them to vibrate rather than vibrating themselves as do nibs that sing, and the result is a sound reminiscent of the scratchiness of old dip nibs. See also clicking, singing.
Tamis (Louis Tamis & Sons) A high-end jewelry manufacturer located in New York City; founded in 1904 by Louis Tamis, a Russian immigrant. The firm initially produced gold boxes and objets d’art but gradually expanding to offer a mu;ch broader line. Tamis’ sons took over the business in 1948, and today it is run by the fourth generation of the Tamis family. The firm began selling gold, gold-filled, and sterling silver fountain pens and combos similar in appearance to those of W. S. Hicks and Edward Todd; it is not clear whether Tamis made or bought these pens. Fountain pen sales continued at least until 1971.
Tanager See Chinese Red.
taper (also desk pen taper, quill) A long shaft, usually smoothly streamlined, that is attached to the back end of a desk pen’s barrel for balance and a graceful appearance. Shown here is a Wahl desk pen; the image has been altered to emphasize the taper. See also desk pen.
Fountain pen
taper cap A straight cap that is extended into a long taper; posted, a taper cap resembles the taper of a desk pen and serves the same purpose. The taper-cap pen shown here is a Waterman’s Ideal No 24. See also cone cap, slip cap, straight cap, taper.
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Taperite A pen model introduced by Waterman in 1945, intended to compete with the Parker “51”. The Taperite was arguably the most successful of the “51” competitors. Illustrated here is a Taperite Stateleigh, the top of the model line. Read a profile of the Taperite here.
Fountain pen
Targa An Inlaid Nib pen model introduced by Sheaffer in 1976; always referred to in advertising as Targa by Sheaffer instead of the Sheaffer Targa. Produced in many variations, the slender, reliable Targa is arguably Sheaffer’s best pen from the latter half of the 20th century. Read a profile of the Targa here. See also Fred Force.
Fountain pen
tassie TassieA (usually metal) cup-shaped trim bezel applied to the end of the barrel or cap (or both), frequently as a ring surrounding a “jewel” or other decoration, as shown here. The ring to which the clip of a Parker Vacumatic or “51” is attached is technically not a tassie despite its ring shape and the presence of a jewel.
technical pen See stylographic pen.
teeth marks See tooth marks.
telephone dialer (also phone dialer) A desk pen with (usually) a taper that is shorter, thicker, and more rounded on the end than usual, for use in dialing a rotary telephone.
Television See Televisor, Visulated.
Televisor A button-filling mid-line pen model produced by Parker during the latter part of the 1930s, probably so named to promote the value of its partially transparent Television ink-view section. See the illustration below (section deeply ambered). See also Visulated.
Fountain pen
Tempoint  1  (Tempoint Pen Company) A pen manufacturing company located in New York City; flourished in the 1910s. The only contemporaneous reference I have found for Tempoint is a 1918 listing in White-Orr’s Reference Register; the company appears not to have survived past that date.  2  A series of pens made by Wahl to designs acquired from the Tempoint Pen Company c. 1918 (about the time Wahl acquired the assets of the Boston Pen Company) to c. 1921. Tempoint pens exist in both eyedropper-filling (illustrated below) and lever-filling versions. The Tempoint was probably discontinued as Wahl concentrated on increasing production and marketing of its own contemporaneous Wahl Pen. See also Wahl-Eversharp, Wahl Pen.
Fountain pen
thermometer case A case for a mercury oral thermometer, made to resemble a pen and often included as part of a doctor’s set with a pen and a mechanical pencil. Although its clip is of high quality and resembles that on Sheaffer’s pens, the thermometer case shown here was made by an unknown maker. See also doctor’s pen.
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
thermoplastic Describes a plastic (resin) material that is solid at ordinary temperatures and softens when heated; many thermoplastics are suitable for injection molding. Celluloid, polystyrene, and acrylics are thermoplastics. See also thermosetting.
thermosetting Describes a plastic (resin) material that is manufactured as a liquid and sets (hardens permanently) when heated. Bakelite is a thermosetting plastic. See also Bakelite (definition 1), thermoplastic.
third tier Term applied to a pen of relatively poor quality, made with thin celluloid or other body material, with thinly plated furniture and almost always having an untipped steel nib. Also applied to a manufacturer of such pens. Many third-tier pens were made with remarkably beautiful celluloids. Among the third tier of U.S. manufacturers were companies such as Arnold, Majestic, Stratford, Travelers, and Welsh. See also first tier, second tier.
threaded cap See screw cap.
350 See Sheaffer numbers.
375 A designation indicating an alloy that contains 375 parts of gold, by weight, per 1000 parts of the total metal content. The same as 9K. See also 9K.
3-25 A Sheaffer model designation indicating a pen that had a No 3 nib and was warranted for 25 years. See also 5-30, 7-30.
Thrift Time Any of three low-priced Parker pen models produced from 1932 to 1934: the Duette (U.S.) and the Moderne and Premier (Canada). These models are known as a group to modern collectors as Thrift Time pens based on the “Thriftime” tag used in one of the few advertisements for the Duette. They are notable for having been offered in more than 20 colors, some of them remarkably beautiful and used only on these models. These pens were Parker’s means of preserving brand value while still producing revenue during the Great Depression; they met the need for inexpensive pens without forcing Parker to dump its marquee Duofold at bargain-basement prices. They were sold in dime stores and drugstores instead of stationers’ and pen stores, and the limited advertising done for them appeared in general-merchandise catalogs. Shown here is a Moderne. See also Duette (definition 2), Moderne (definition 2), Premier (definition 1).
Fountain pen
thumb See sleeve.
Tiffiny (Tiffiny Pen Company) A pen manufacturer located in Cleveland, Ohio; produced cheap lever fillers during the 1920s. Tiffiny may have been trying to cash in on its name’s similarity to that of New York’s Tiffany & Company, but it did not mark its pens, possibly for fear of litigation.
tine One of the nib’s tapered “fingers”, separated from each other by the slit. The tipping material, or “iridium,” is welded to the ends of the tines. See illustration at nib.
tip The pointed end of a pen’s nib. See also nib, tipping material.
TIPdip An open-nibbed Touchdown-filling pen line produced by Sheaffer in the 1950s as a lower-priced companion to the Snorkel line. A TIPdip pen’s feed is drilled through lengthwise, as for a Snorkel tube, and then fitted with a center feed that extends the entire length of the drilled hole. With an opening at the exposed end of the feed, the pen can take in ink with only about half of the nib and feed immersed (“dipped”).
Tip-Fill Tip-Fill feedA feed design introduced by L. E. Waterman in 1933, illustrated to the right. Conventional in most respects, the Tip-Fill feed has a cover over the channels for most of their length, leaving about half of the exposed length open. With the channels covered in this way, the pen was said to be able to take in ink with only about half of the nib and feed immersed. The design was poorly conceived; pens using it did not write as well as pens with Waterman’s venerable Spoon feed, and the Tip-Fill was withdrawn before 1940. See also Spoon feed.
tipped Describes a nib made with the addition of a hard alloy at the tips of the tines to reduce wear. See also tipping material, untipped.
tipping material Nib shape(also “iridium”) A small pellet or ball of a very hard alloy, welded to the tip of the nib and then ground to shape and polished to provide a smooth, durable point (shown to the right, the silvery gray area at the tip of the nib). Although “iridium” is a common term for the tipping material, modern tipping materials rarely contain the actual element iridium; the most common element used is ruthenium, with admixture of such other metals as platinum. See also Durium, iridium (definition 1), iridosmine, osmiridium, osmium, Plathenium, platinum, retip, ruthenium, tipped, untipped, and the illustration at nib.
titanium A hard silver-gray metal of the transition series, noted for its lightness, strength, and difficulty of working. Used by Parker for the body and integral nib of the T-1 (1970), a short-lived pen that wrote poorly and cost more than its wholesale price to manufacture. Used more recently as a nib material; produces a somewhat springy nib that is difficult to adjust and prone to bending if treated as if it were a true flexible nib. See also flexible, nib.
TM “Thin Model,” a descriptive name applied to Sheaffer’s newly designed, thinner Touchdowns in 1950. The company also applied the TM designation to its Snorkel pens (“Snorkel TM”) upon their introduction in 1952 but later dropped it from the model name. See also Touchdown.
Todd (Edward Todd & Company) A pen and pencil manufacturer located in New York City; founded in 1871 by Edward Todd, who was then a partner in Mabie, Todd & Company. The company produced both gold and steel nibs as well as complete pens. Incorporated in 1897, the company continued in business under Edward Todd, Jr., until 1932. In 1881, the company introduced the “Paragon Fountain Pen,” apparently some kind of piston-filler. See also Mabie Todd.
Toledo  1  A marketing name used by Pelikan to identify its pen models fitted with barrel Binden of hand-engraved sterling silver and niello in the style made famous by the swordmakers of Toledo, Spain. Some Toledo models have the silver portion plated as vermeil, while others leave it unplated. Shown below is a Pelikan M700 Toledo. See also Binde, Damascened, niello, silver, vermeil.  2  A Toledo, Ohio, company that produced excellent copies of Conklin pens until ordered by the Federal Trade Commission to desist. See also Conklin, Skidmore.
Fountain pen
T-1 A titanium fountain pen (shown below) produced 1970-1971 by Parker and called the “Space Pen,” in tribute to the U.S. Apollo space program. The T-1 had an integral nib that was user adjustable by means of a screw on the underside of the feed. (U.S. Patent No 3,606,556). Because of the difficulty in working titanium and in procuring titanium sheet of sufficient quality, the T-1’s manufacturing cost was so high that the pen cost more to make than its retail price of $20.00. One major problem that resulted from the difficulty of working the metal was that weld securing the the nib tipping material was weak, and even a slight impact can break the tipping material off. In 1978, Parker introduced a second integral-nib pen, this time made of stainless steel and called the Falcon. See also Falcon (definition 2), integral nib.
Fountain pen
tooth The microscopic surface roughness of a nib’s tip that allows ink to cling to the tip. A tip lapped to perfect smoothness will not write. A nib with somewhat more than the usual roughness is said to be toothy, and such a nib gives the impression either that it is somewhat reluctant to glide across the paper or that the paper is slightly rougher than it really is. See also feedback, scratchy.
Toothbrush See Geometric.
tooth marks (also chew marks, teeth marks, colloquially “toothies”) Dents in the surface of a pen, usually at the ends, made by a person with the habit of chewing on pens. Tooth marks seriously devalue a pen and are generally irreversible.
torpedo shaped A term describing a pen that is cylindrical in shape (not tapered or barrel-shaped) with one or both ends roundly streamlined. The classic torpedo shape is exemplified by Sheaffer’s pens of the 1929-1941 period, as illustrated here by a c. 1934 Oversize Lifetime Balance in Marine Green Pearl. See also cigar shaped, Flat-Top.
Fountain pen
Tortoise Shell (also Tortoiseshell, Tortoise-Shell) Widely used name for a pattern resembling the color of real tortoise shell, which is usually a mixture of brown and translucent amber. Interpretations of the color have varied widely; shown below are five different examples: upper row, from left to right: vintage Pelikan 101N, modern Pelikan M400, modern Pelikan M101N; lower row: Parker 75 & 180, modern Bexley and Gate City Pen. Note that the Parker chip illustrates lacquer over brass, not a translucent resin.
Color chip Color chip Color chip
Color chip Color chip
Touchdown Filler schematicA series of pens made by Sheaffer beginning in 1949; supplanted in 1952 by the Snorkel but resurrected in the 1960s as a version of the Imperial line. Operates by pneumatic ink-sac compression.The sac is protected by a close-fitting metal tube. A second metal tube, called the “Touchdown tube,” slides within the barrel on an airtight seal. A blind cap is attached to the Touchdown tube to secure it in the retracted position and to give the user a suitable “knob” to operate. There are a small hole partway along the length of the Touchdown tube and a small dimpled groove in the tube adjacent to the blind cap. When the Touchdown tube is extended, a partial vacuum builds until the small hole passes the barrel seal; air is then drawn into the barrel. The partial vacuum would normally distend the sac, but the sac protector prevents this distension. When theTouchdown tube is returned to its rest position, the air within is compressed, squeezing the sac. Pressure is released as the Touchdown tube nears the end of its travel and the dimpled groove passes the seal, and the sac draws ink in by resuming its normal shape. View filling instructions here. See also TM.
Fountain pen
Tower A “house brand” of fountain pens produced by the National Pen Products Company for Sears, Roebuck & Co. See also National.
translucent feed See transparent feed.
transparent feed (also translucent feed) A feed that is made of a transparent material, usually either machined acrylic (e.g., Parker VS, 1940s) or molded polystyrene (e.g., most Wearever models, 1950s). See also feed, Kahn, VS.
trench pen Pellet compartment(also ink-pellet pen) A pen design invented by Edward K. Bixby shortly before World War I and popularized by Parker during America’s involvement in the war; has a small compartment at the back of the barrel, in which the user stored pellets of dried ink. Mixing a pellet with water in the pen’s barrel produced a supply of ink. Bixby’s trench pen has a removable blind cap that is the pellet compartment; other manufacturers produced pens of similar design or with improvements such as Mabie Todd’s nonremovable screw-open compartment (illustrated to the right). See also Bicks, Camel, ink pellet, Instant Ink.
Triad A brand of high-quality fountain pens and pencils with a triangular cross-section, produced during the 1930s by the Tri-Pen Company of Providence, Rhode Island. Triad pencils are relatively ordinary except for their shape, but the triangular shape imposed a clever — and problematical — design on the pen. To uncap a Triad pen (shown below), you must turn the knob at the cap crown. Most people who are not “in on the secret” will attempt to remove the cap by pulling it off or by unscrewing it and in so doing will almost always break the pen. For this reason, very few Triad pens survive from the company’s small and short-lived production; Triad pens are today highly prized and priced accordingly.
Fountain pen
tribute pen A modern pen made after the design of a vintage pen, usually because the maker respects the older pen for its classic looks. Shown here are a Bexley Americana (upper) and the Wahl-Eversharp Doric whose design it emulates (lower).
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
trim See furniture.
Tri-Pen See Triad.
triskelion Triskelion (also triskele; plural triskelia or triskeles) An ancient sun symbol used by many cultures worldwide, consisting of three curved arms or three stylized human arms or legs that radiate from a common center. Parker used triskelia of Mesoamerican form (illustrated to the right) in the decoration of the so-called “Aztec” overlay eyedropper pen. See also Aztec.
“TRIUMPH”  1  The general name Sheaffer gave to the new “TRIUMPH”-point pens it introduced in 1942, during the first few months of the U.S.A.'s involvement in World War II. Produced in both lever-filling and Vacuum-Fil models, these pens (shown below, upper) are notable for the extravagantly broad cap band they feature. This band allowed the pen’s designers to extend the slender barrel silhouette to the cap without using an all-metal cap — which, in view of wartime restrictions on the use of brass and steel, would have been much more costly. Read a profile of the “TRIUMPH” here.  2  The specific model name Sheaffer gave to its all-gold-filled overlay Touchdown TM and Snorkel pens (shown below, second).  3  The general name Sheaffer gave to its Inlaid Nib pens in the 1970s (below, third); the name resurfaced again in the 1990s, as Triumph Imperial, for the company’s line of Inlaid Nib pens that were essentially a cheapened remake of the ’60s Imperials. See also “TRIUMPH” point.
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Triumph Imperial See Imperial.
“TRIUMPH” point 1940s “TRIUMPH” point(also Sheath point) Sheaffer’s unique conical nib, introduced in 1942 (U.S. Patents Nos 2,303,373 and D130,997). Illustrated here by artwork from a wartime Sheaffer adver­tise­ment. Initially, Sheaffer made the nibs by forming shaped cuttings from a gold sheet and welding the joint on the underside; later, the company devised a way to form the nibs from tubing. See also hooded nib, Inlaid Nib, nib, open nib, “TRIUMPH”, turned-up nib.
True Blue See Modernistic Blue.
trumpet (also bowl, sheath, or tulip) The cup- or bell-shaped socket portion of a desk-set base, into which the pen is inserted. The trumpet is frequently swivel-mounted. Some Parker repair manuals refer to this part as the bowl. In some desk sets it is shaped like, and is called, a tulip. Waterman referred to it as a sheath. Shown here is a Parker Duofold desk base from the 1920s; the image has been altered to emphasize the trumpet. See also desk pen, desk set.
Desk base trumpet
Trupoint A “house brand” of fountain pens produced probably by the National Pen Products Company for Sears, Roebuck & Co. The Trupoint name sometimes appeared as a model name within the Tower brand. See also National.
Tuckaway Fountain penA series of pens made by Sheaffer; notable for their small size and uniquely abbreviated clip design. Frequently abbreviated “Tucky” in speech. The Tuckaway’s short clip (also called a clasp), shown here on a Touchdown Valiant Tuckaway’s cap, is sometimes mistakenly called a “military clip.” Shown here are three Tuckaways, the original clipless version of 1940-1941, the 1942 revision, and the more common version with a clip, from about 1945 onward.
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Tuckersharpe (Tuckersharpe Pen Company, Inc.) A pen manufacturer located in Richmond Virginia; founded in 1952 by Percy A. Tucker, with himself as president, Raymond L. Scott as vice president, Robert J. Steinle as advettising manager, and Barnett Feldman as sales manager. The company produced third-tier fountain and ballpoint pens as well as mechanical pencils, including licensed Roy Rogers ballpoint pens during the 1950s. In 1960, the U.S. Tobacco Company acquired Tuckersharpe and began using its pens for advertising various tobacco produce such as Bruton Sweet Snuff. The company operated well into the 1970s, largely on the success of its 39¢ Tucker Mustang ballpoint. Tuckersharpe fountain pens were slip-cap lever-fillers that featured a clear plastic gripping section. Screw-out nib units, also of clear plastic, were interchangeable with Esterbrook nibs.
tulip  1  Collectors’ term for the flower-shaped clip attachment on certain late-1920s Wahl pen models. Illustrated below is a Wahl cap with a Tulip clip.  2  See trumpet.
Pen cap with Tulip clip
Turban Top (also Turban-Top) Nickname for the earliest version of Parker’s Jack-Knife Safety pen (illustrated below), which featured a patented two-part cap design. To cap the pen, the user attached the main cap and then screwed the inner cap against the end of the section to effect a leakproof seal. The inner cap’s decorative knob gave rise to the nickname. See also Jack-Knife Safety.
Fountain pen
turned-up nib (abbreviated T. U.) An open nib whose tip is curved upward slightly so that the nib presents to the paper at what appears to be a lower angle of elevation. This design, invented in 1864 by Duncan Cameron and used by the Macniven and Cameron Pen Company for its Waverley-branded steel pens and, later, on Waverley-branded fountain pens, results in smoother performance. It also offers more usable surface toward the end of the tip so that the nib works better for users who hold the pen at a high angle of elevation, and it is consequently well adapted to many left-handed writers. Shown below are an original 1920s Waverley nib (left) and Sheaffer’s 1930s/1940s turned-up nib (right); the latter led directly to the design of Sheaffer’s famous “TRIUMPH” point. Note that Sheaffer never used the Waverley name in reference to its products; the name was a trademark of Macniven and Cameron. See also ball point, “TRIUMPH” point, Waverley.
Waverley nibWaverley nib
turquoise Turquoise 1  An opaque mineral (a hydrous copper/aluminum phosphate) that is often “robin’s-egg blue,” a light blue-green, in color. The exact hue varies depending on place of origin. In its finer grades, turquoise has been prized since ancient times as a semiprecious stone.  2  When capitalized as Turquoise, Waterman’s name for a celluloid color consisting of gold/brown marbled patches on a rich blue ground, as shown to the right. First used on the Patrician.
Tuscan Sheaffer BurgundyTuscan A burgundy-like color used by Moore and Chilton (most notably for the Wing-flow). Tuscan (near right) is somewhat browner than most versions of burgundy. Shown for comparison (far right) is the earlier (and darker) of the two Burgundy colors used on the Sheaffer Snorkel.
1250 See Sheaffer numbers.
“21” A low-priced pen model introduced by Parker in 1948 (U.S. Patent No 2,645,205); remained in production until the early 1970s. The “21” has a hooded nib that is otherwise ordinary in design. There are two versions of the hood design: the first (included in the patent cited here) is a thin shell that covers the nib and much of the feed without playing any part in the ink delivery system, and the second is a thicker housing, much like an ordinary gripping section, into which the nib and feed are pressed. This latter design places significant tensile stress on the shell, and shell cracks are increasingly common as the pens age. Shown below is a first-version (Mark I) “21”. Read a profile of the “21” here.
Fountain pen
21K (also 21KT, as used on nibs by Sailor of Japan) A designation indicating an alloy that contains 21 parts of gold, by weight, per 24 parts of the total metal content. The same as 875. See also karat.
Twinpoint Brand name for a combo introduced in 1923 by the Pen-O-Pencil Company of New York City.
twist Filler schematic 1  (also wringer) A type of filling system; operates by mechanical ink-sac squeeze. The sac is secured at both ends; turning a knob at the end of the barrel “wrings the sac out” by twisting it at that end. View filling instructions here.  2  (as Twist Filler) Esterbrook’s name for its 1943 piston-filling pen (illustrated below; note the black collar and knurled knob at the distal end of the barrel), the immediate predecessor of the Model J. Because the filler mechanism is made of clear celluloid, the parts tend to become brittle with age and are often broken; Twist Fillers in working condition are rare and command very high prices. See also J.
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
275 See Sheaffer numbers.
2000 See Sheaffer numbers.
two-tone nib
(also 2T nib)  1  A yellow gold nib that is partially plated with a platinum-group metal (white or silver), such as the Sheaffer’s Lifetime Balance nib shown to the right (upper). In some instances, the nib is partially or entirely plated with a platinum-group metal and then, in the areas that are not to be silver in color, plated with gold of a different hue; on the Montblanc 75th Anniversary Meisterstück pens, for example, the second plating is rose gold.  2  A steel nib that is polished very brightly to resemble a richer metal and then partially plated with gold to simulate the appearance of a two-tone gold nib. Two-tone steel nibs are used on some moderately priced pens and also on certain counterfeit models; the Dupont Orpheo nib shown to the right (lower) is a Chinese counterfeit.

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