View Full Version : Vintage Conklin Glider

May 11th, 2013, 10:25 PM
I recently posted a review of the modern Glider, now here is the vintage one. They are not related, aside from the name.

This is a review of the vintage Conklin Glider, not the modern one, for the record. This was considered a budget pen in its day, but its performance is quite excellent.

I. Appearance: 9/10
The Glider is made of celluloid which features some very nice, luminous stripes. This model has blue and grey, with brown tones mixed in. The shape of the pen is generally a streamlined shape in the vein of the Sheaffer Balance. However the very ends of the pen are not perfectly finished, rather they're somewhat pointed. This probably was to help keep production costs low. The The metal trim was originally gold plated, but the plating was so thin on the clip and lever that it's all worn off. The cap ring has done a bit better. The section is amber celluloid, which was originally dyed black. However over the years, the dye has worn away and the section is now translucent. It does allow the ink level to be viewed. The cap clip has "Conklin" engraved on it. I especially like the celluloid stripe pattern on the Glider, and despite its cheap price, this is a very attractive pen. The nib itself is gold and quite attractive in its own right. The clip itself seems to just be a piece of metal clamped into the cap. It's not very good. The script Conklin logo looks nice though.


II. Feel In Hand: 8.5/10
The pen is of medium girth and is fairly lightweight. The section is relatively smooth and not rough, like some of the Gliders (a symptom of dull and worn tools used to make the parts). The pen posts alright, but I prefer to not post. The pen is adequately comfortable, and the section is long enough to handle most fingers. I would describe this as being somewhere between a Sheaffer full Balance and a Sheaffer slender Balance in terms of how wide this pen feels. The celluloid is quite smooth and well-finished, and I sense no roughness in this particular pen. Beware though that some of these pens are not entirely well-finished due to poor tooling. I would desribe its feel as "plain vanilla"-- not very heavy, neither thick nor thin, comfortable enough to write with. There's not much remarkable in this category.

III. Filling: 9/10
As mundane as a lever action is- it's common for a reason: it's reliable and simple. The lever fill system fills simply and once you're familiar with the process you really can't go wrong. The down side, of course, is that you need to make sure your sac is pliable and the press bar is working correctly, but beyond that there isn't too much to it. I actually go higher in this category for the lever than for the Touchdown model. I know some people will certainly disagree- but the lever fills simply and reliable without the use of air seals (which often require fixing for restorers in addition to the sac). The lever is timeless. The only drawback on this particular design is that the lever is very thin and cheap feeling. You have to really dig your nail in underneath to get under and life the lever. But frankly that's isn't a big deal; it's more of a convenience thing. While a good Sheaffer lever is easier to work and has a better feel, this functions just as well when in proper repair. The internal spring works well enough. It fills fine. This is the best filling system ever devised for the simple reason that it's usually easy to fix, reliable, and not any more complex than it needs to be.

IV. Writing: 9.5/10
Many Gliders came originally with Conklin Toledo "Cushon" Point nibs (sometimes also called "Cushion"). You can identify these by the little crescent shape near the breather hole. These nibs are often gems-- very smooth, and varying in flexibility. This particular nib is semi-rigid, with just a little bit of spring to it. Its smoothness is second to none and writes with a very wet line. The nib is every bit the equal of a Sheaffer Lifetime, and it's hard to believe you could get such a good writer for so little money. As far as I can tell, this pen represents one of the single best values in a vintage pen because many people assume it's a junky, third-tier pen. The nib is what makes this pen a real bargain and a sleeper pick. That said, as nice as they look, I wouldn't buy this pen for more than a few dollars if it has a lesser nib in it. The real beauty of these pens is in the Cushon nibs. They not only look nice, but write very well, in general. They're 14k gold, by the way. My only complaint is that it's a touch softer than I'd like it to be. That's nitpicking though.

V. Durability: 8.5/10
The plated parts will almost always be bare, or almost bare. The plating they used on these is among the poorest I have ever encountered, and is probably where they cut corners the most in terms of keeping this pen's cost low when it was new on the market. The metal parts, aside from the nib, seem to be the basic stamped steel sort of thing you'd see on lower grade depression-era products. However everything works properly. I will admit that as bad as the plating is, and as corrosion-prone as the metal parts are (aside from the nib)-- they do clean up well and do still perform their function. The cap rings seem to fare a little bit better, but are still a cheap item. However the celluloid is actually pretty durable, as celluloid goes. It appears they used a little bit thicker celluloid stock than the leading companies like Parker and Sheaffer. As a result, this celluloid actually tends to hold up better than the more expensive pens. Watch out for the usual cap lip cracks, but this celluloid really seems to hold up quite well, all things considered. The nib is quite durable and corrosion resistant as a 14k gold item. As a result, I give a balanced out durability score, with a deduction for bad plating and cheaply stamped metal parts, but with a boost for more durable celluloid and a 14k nib. The section dye does seem to wear away, but it doesn't seem to harm the function at all.


What to look for:
-CUSHON NIB: this is the main saving grace of this pen, along with the beautiful celluloid patterns. You want that.
-new sac and a functioning lever that moves without a struggle, and doesn't flap around freely
-Cushon nibs can vary in terms of flex- take your pick of them. The nib, as always, should be free of defects and should write fairly smoothly. These nibs are often gems.
-be aware that the clip and lever will probably be corroded. But it should still be functional. The clip will probably not be very helpful.
-the section should fit snugly and tightly to the barrel
-check the cap lip for cracks
-you will need bottled ink as the pen doesn't take a modern cartridge
-with celluloid models beware of celluloid damage like cracks or celluloid shrinkage. A little shrinkage may be present, but heavy-duty shrinkage could cause problems
-as always with a lever fill- watch out for cracks around the lever slot


The Final Word
This pen is a true sleeper. They usually sell for very little money today (aside from near-perfect ones), but with the Cushion nib will write well. The lever system works, but the metal parts aside from the nib are pretty cheap and low grade. You really can't go wrong if you can get a Cushon nib glider on the cheap because the nibs are often so good. They make perfect vintage user pens because of the low price, but great writing characteristics. This is one of the best kept secrets in terms of vintage pens. I'd love to acquire more of these to add to my stable because for under $100 you can grab several at the going rate. Restoration shouldn't be a problem, as it's a basic lever filler.

Jon Szanto
May 11th, 2013, 10:27 PM
Xlnt post, Ray. Glad you're around!