Blackbird Mabie Todd with unusual nib.

Fountain pen presentation?


Performance awaiting assessment once an ink sac is fixed in place. Initial considerations? The section part came apart from the pen’s barrel extremely easily. The lever is springy and strong. Patina?  It has had decades to get where it is now considering the appearance of the pen. No sudden onset where hard rubber is concerned. Slowly oxidising and changing bit by bit over years upon years re: patina. The pen was built in and around the 1920s so is either, or almost, a hundred years old.


It has taken a while for it to get to where it is now. That being a visual presentation of a very old and worn pen. However. All that matters is that it acts in the manner appropriate to what it should do. Simply write words. Although. It is nice to add to the performance abilities an added bit of extra friendship value. A consistency where you uncap, write a couple of words and smile because it delivers well. When a pen does get it right, it feels like you’re in synergy. You whisper to it and say thank you for not letting me down.

Please tap on individual photographs to enlarge.


This pen looks to have been loved. It shouts it out with little clues. The stamped/engraved information on the pen’s barrel and section looks worn down and shallow from being handled. The pen isn’t battered and torn. However the pen cap has been repaired. Not professionally it seems. The repair is not rough, but it is visible and slightly uneven. It has really been tended to and considered in its ongoing needs. It shouts it out, albeit very quietly. It even has a different nib housed too. And not any ordinary replacement either. More later.

Please tap on the individual photographs to enlarge.


To get started I needed to scrape off the old ink sac and shellac from the sac’s  location on the section. It was rock solid and brittle. A #16 sac was going to be used. I hoped that it was only this ink sac away from sleeping, to suddenly awakening and raring to go. I gently blew through the ink feed and it showed no resistance at all. Air was felt quite strongly on my hand. I thought it may well be a fairly wet ink writer with this freedom. Right. Ready to have a go.


‘Where is my old Master of the Flourishing Hand? You are not He!’ says Blackbird.


‘No. I am not He. I am I. And….. I am about to intervene and apply myself to ensure your continuing journey in your glorious, up to now, pen life’ I state. Sad fact. I actually do make up these imaginary conversations. Don’t worry. I don’t bite. It’s just a bravado piece of spoken nonsense to gee up confidence.


The pen proffers itself up quite nicely. I settle into a mode of ‘get on with it then’. I hope it acquiesces to being looked after by someone it is not used to. No hidden problems I’m not aware of. Basically, it’s fingers crossed, breathe in and pray to the God of Pens to be kind to this patient. If you consider what the seemingly simple act of a flourishing pen has achieved over the centuries, there must be a God of Pens. Google will no doubt give over the information who it is. Pen-ship is embedded in life. A writing implement wielded by hands belonging to minds containing a plethora of emotions that present on papyrus in inky black considerations is a pretty impressive history to show on a CV. We all know that written words are powerful entities don’t we? Even a shopping list has repercussions.


This Blackbird Mabie Todd fountain pen is oxidised. This shows in the ‘faded to brown’ patina on the barrel and pen cap. It has bands of shiny black to show its original colour status. Hard rubber pens can tend to do that. To get it back to original colour? There is much debate whether to perform various applications to get it back to shiny, shiny. Chemical process or a specific binding ‘paint’? Or simply let it show it’s age. I prefer the latter. It’s the capability of how it writes. Not how it looks. This link is a fabulous information write up.

It may be that this pen may well have been the owner’s only pen. It reminds me of my own old school pen. I only had the one fountain pen for many years. The Osmiroid 65 with a medium italic nib. Nibs on Osmiroid 65 pens can indeed be changed to other nib end shapes if need be. I didn’t see ‘need be’. Food to eat and buying vinyl records was ‘need be’ better. The pen performed well enough and was in ‘It ain’t broke, so don’t fix it’ land. My Osmiroid has scratches and metal surface patina blemish. I wouldn’t give it a polish at all. Those blemishes are our (myself and the pen’s) history.

Please tap on individual photographs to enlarge. The nib’s performance.


This Blackbird though, as said previously, did need a new nib apparently. Or! The Blackbird nib may well have worked ok. But the replacement was too hard to refuse. The Onoto de la rue 14 carat gold nib now in situ is simply divine. It has the original Blackbird section and feed. Only the actual nibs have been swapped. So, I am now thinking! Maybe the pen was, as said, used on a very intense basis and the original Blackbird nib suffered from hard use and had to be changed. The thing is. I cannot find anywhere within internet searches whether this choice of nib consideration is a recognised possibility of inter-exchange between Mabie Todd and Onoto pens. Onoto pens are highly collectible. And expensive too. I have the same nib as this one here in an Onoto Junior de la Rue pen. I knew what to expect. The performance from a decades old nib is sublime.

In summary. A real privilege to carry on keeping this fountain pen alive and working for myself to use regularly. An absolutely beautiful writer. And by adopting it’s well worn nature it is a statement of acknowledgement that this pen has lived a life. It does not need cosmetic surgical intervention at all.

8 thoughts on “Blackbird Mabie Todd with unusual nib.”

    1. Thanks for letting me know. You’ve mentioned the milk based ones. This rubber gremlins info is well timed. I wouldn’t have put it into an ultrasound bath. But may have been tempted to get some of the old inherent dust gunk out from the screw threads and shoved it under a tap. I had a bunch of dip nibs, five nib holder pen shafts today. A couple of dozen dip nibs are proving themselves to be absolute belters. And the fude shape is my new best friend. Judging these two a Onoto nibs now? You’ve got to get one. The quality for something so old is phenomenal. It may just be the style of ‘de la rue’ that I dropped lucky with. All the best.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s a shame re: your experience. You must know through experience what’s what. On getting this Blackbird I saw the browner black and realised the HR connection after searching for dating the pen. There’s a ton of stuff to learn vintage wise. So thanks for sharing.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. If you use very fine grit sand paper the brown will come off. I lightly use 1000 then 2000, 3000, 5000 and finish with 7000. It will look amazing. Place tape over any logo on the natal so it is protected

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I bought the different grades a short while ago. I need to start seriously looking at cleaning and polishing creams to use on different surfaces too. In reality a pen needs to have interventions that keep it alive. Like ratted VeeDub buses. They still put protective oils on them to stop the rust spreading. Cheers for the advice.

        Liked by 1 person

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