Nibs: The “TRIUMPH” Point, by Sheaffer

(This page revised February 5, 2013)

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1944 “TRIUMPH” point advertisement Magnifying glass

This 1944 Sheaffer adver­tise­ment from Life Magazine shows the manufacturing steps to produce a “TRIUMPH” point unit. Note how the feed becomes an integral part of the assembly.

Nib Sheaffer's “TRIUMPH” point, introduced in 1942 on a new series of pens dubbed “TRIUMPH”, represents a true innovation in nib design, one that earned U.S. Patent No D130,997). Although manufacturers work continually to enhance the nib’s basic design, improvements such the addition of hard tipping material are incremental; and most “improvements,” such as the elimination of the breather hole, are actually only cosmetic. There have been few significant changes in nib design since the advent in the early 19th century of steel dip nibs like the one shown here. NibThe “TRIUMPH” point, or Sheath Point, looked and performed better than its predecessors, and its conical design even forced us to come up with new vocabulary: before 1942, a nib was a nib. After the “TRIUMPH”, we had the “TRIUMPH” point and traditional “open” nibs. Unlike the open nib, which is a curved “tab“ of metal fitted to one side of the feed, the conical sleeve of the “TRIUMPH” wraps all the way around the feed and section.

The illustration below shows an early “TRIUMPH” Lifetime Crest. This pen has a Visulated section (unfortunately darkly ambered) and uses Sheaffer’s Vacuum-Fil plunger filling system. Sheaffer also produced lever-filling “TRIUMPH” pens and sold them alongside the Vacuum-Fil models for the same prices. This pen’s White Dot is on the tip of the barrel (actually, the blind cap); Sheaffer later began affixing the White Dot to the cap above the clip.

Fountain pen

Early Crest with “TRIUMPH” pointSheaffer made the earliest “TRIUMPH”-point nibs from sheet stock, formed and then welded together on the underside. Sheaffer craftsmen then ground the seam, gave the nib its final shape (with the distinctive turned-up “snub” nose) and polished it, and rolled it onto the edge of a coupling ring that encloses the feed and adapts the entire assembly to screw into the section.

Early Crest with “TRIUMPH” pointThe nib’s taper lines up with the tapered surface of the section to create a continuous smooth curve, and the resulting streamlined assembly is very attractive. The knurled surface of the section has circumferential grooves to provide a good grip. The illustration to the left shows top and side views of a very early “TRIUMPH” point, on the Golden Brown Junior-length Triumph Lifetime Crest pen shown above.

The Visulated section, which had been popular in the 1930s, began to lose its attraction, and Sheaffer soon replaced it with either a plain black section (on inexpensive models) or a self-colored section; that is, a section whose color matches that of the barrel. The illustration to the right shows the nib on a Lifetime Triumph Crest that is identical to the one above except that the right-hand pen has a self-colored section and is imprinted with a price mark of 1000.

Sentinel Snorkel with “TRIUMPH” pointNew models with the “TRIUMPH” point appeared, such as the Sentinel and Statesman. In 1949, Sheaffer introduced the Touchdown filling system, and the “TRIUMPH”-point pens took a step forward. A year later, in accordance with the dictates of fashion, the TM (Thin Model) made its debut; with this change, the designers trimmed the “TRIUMPH” point down and gave it a rounder taper to yield an even more streamlined profile with the section. The tip of the new TM nib still turns up, but not as much as on the earlier nibs. There was also an invisible change that proved useful to repairers; the manufacturing process for the “TRIUMPH” point was changed, and instead of being formed and welded, the nibs were spun from tubular stock. Clipper Snorkel with “TRIUMPH” pointThey also gained screw threads on the inside, so that they would screw onto the coupling ring rather than being rolled on; this change allows access to the feed should it need mechanical cleaning. Plastic parts were now made of polystyrene in solid colors; in another bow to fashion, striated celluloid was gone. Lower-priced pens such as the Valiant had self-colored sections, but the higher-end models like the Sentinel and Statesman acquired a plain black section, dignified and utilitarian. Then, in 1952, Sheaffer stunned the world with the “dunkless” filling of its new Snorkel system. Pens changed little in external appearance, although the lineup of colors changed. The illustration to the left shows the TM nib on a Sentinel Snorkel.

During the 1950s, Sheaffer experimented with nib materials, and introduced nibs, both open and “TRIUMPH”, made of palladium silver. The pen to the right is a Clipper Snorkel, identical to its Sentinel sibling except for the material of which its nib is made.

Because of the process used to make them and because flexible nibs were no longer popular, “TRIUMPH”-point nibs range from very firm to nail-like. Their tips usually have a very good shape, and the nibs’ rigidity means that tines very rarely get bent out of alignment. As a result, most of these nibs write exceptionally nicely without adjustment, 50 years and more after they were made.

The “TRIUMPH” point took a back seat at the end of the 1950s, when Sheaffer introduced the PFM with another innovation, the Inlaid Nib. During the 1960s, a line of pens called the Imperial appeared, shaped like the PFM but narrower. Among the various PFM-like models were some with the old “TRIUMPH” point design; dealers sold these pens alongside the Imperials and later the Targas, for lesser prices. The “TRIUMPH” point continued in production into the 1990s, on models such as the Stylist, shown here.

Fountain pen

Snub-nosed open nibLeading up to the development of the “TRIUMPH” point was the application of the unique turned-up “snub” nose to some of Sheaffer’s open nibs during the late 1930s and early 1940s. These open nibs are very firm, like the “TRIUMPH”, and their tips are finished in the same way. This design gives them the same writing qualities and exceptional stability that are inherent to the “TRIUMPH”. It is unfortunate that Sheaffer failed to maintain this design; as time passed, open nibs reverted to their former straight-line shape, possibly as a cost-saving measure. The illustration to the left shows the nib of a Lifetime Balance made in the years immediately before World War II.

Modern Crest with “TRIUMPH” pointIn 1991, Sheaffer introduced a new series of pens bearing the Crest name, which had last flourished in the 1950s. This new Crest, retired in the late 1990s, was the final model to carry the venerable “TRIUMPH” point. These pens are thoroughly modern; although they resemble the older Crest externally, they have a cartridge/converter filling system, and they feature attractive gold-plated or lacquered barrels and caps with the usual tasteful Sheaffer gold trim. The nib on these pens differs slightly from its earlier cousins in two ways. The nib’s taper is much less pronounced; and its tip, instead of curving upward, is almost entirely straight, as shown by this illustration of a Crest with a custom-ground cursive italic “TRIUMPH” point.

The gripping section, which in earlier models is smoothly tapered to provide a continuous curve with the nib, exhibits a longer taper like that of the nib, and its end is “necked” down in a sharper taper, to fit the nib in much the same way as a rifle cartridge casing is necked to fit the bullet. This distinctive “step” renders the overall design less aesthetically pure than the earlier versions. The section also lacks the knurling that earlier models had.

In Conclusion: The “TRIUMPH” point has a long and illustrious history. That it is an excellent writing nib as well as an aesthetically pleasing one makes it a true standout in the field. Sheaffer’s innovation, brought to fruition in the middle of a great war and nurtured for more than half a century, has stood the test of time and is truly a collectible classic.

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