Tim's Thoughts

A Restorer’s Mystery 

Benchtop surprises are part of restoring vintage fountain pens, and one appeared on my bench this past week. As I have worked my way through the large batch of a collector’s vintage pens, I knew there was a dark blue 1950’s Summit awaiting its turn. Summits, like Wyverns, Stephens, many Conway Stewarts, and the better Burnhams and Mentmores, are working British gentlemen, not aristocrats. Surviving Summits are usually black or dark blue, with or without chasing, made of plastic after WWII, with nice soft English gold nibs. I pulled it out of the box, thinking “nice, like mine”, and suddenly realized that it wasn’t! I found my typical S125 to compare, and sure enough, the clip and crown were quite different and there was no Summit imprint, in fact, except for the overall appearance, only the nib confirmed that it was a Summit at all. After a bit of searching around, I discovered that 175’s, a step above 125’s, existed and had clips like this pen’s…but this 175 didn’t fit either any picture or description I saw or the pictures of known 175 variants. Which, of course, leaves me with a Summit 175 I can’t fully identify. How will I find out what it is?
At this point, I may not…right now the best I can do is say that fountain pens in the vintage era (for me, 1920-1970) were generally produced in the thousands, including the finest brands. All of the manufacturers built variants, for smaller, focused markets and some that were not meant for the market at all — experiments, test balloons, and lunchtime specials that leaked their way out into circulation and have survived. The result, and probable end of my story, is that we will never be able to definitively name every pen we see — some are like my outlier Summit:  oh so close to a typical 175, but just…not. A daughter of mine would say “Dad, live with it.”  I can live with it, for sure; in fact I like it!