There are at times occasions where you find yourself turning away from something that is quite clearly “better”in every objective sense and instead looking towards the less easily identified joys inherent in the outdated, unusual, or even the simply contrary. Conway Stewart 37

Those of us who enjoy writing with a fountain pen already experience this daily in a world of PDAs, emails, and soulless disposable ballpoints.

However, even among the aficionados of the fountain pen there is a subset of those who look beyond the concessions to practicality displayed by such “modern” innovations as the ink cartridge, or even the piston filled fountain pen. These purists have discovered the joys of the eyedropper filler, and theirs is a world of tradition, elegance, and a time honoured ritual of filling their pen one drop at a time.

Once relegated to the use of restored vintage pens from the early 1900s, this group seeking the ultimate expression of the classic fountain pen has a new choice in the form of a exclusive edition commissioned by Andy’s Pens in the UK, a fine writing retailer operated by Andy Evans.

As Andy Evans puts it: “I never really thought about having a bespoke pen made until just before Christmas. I have been looking for a decent modern eyedropper that I could sell online and in the shop for a year or so. The nearest I came was speaking to a couple of Indian manufacturers - the Indians are some of the only makers left who produce mainly eyedropper pens. However, I had and have grave doubts over the quality of some of the items that are produced by these makers, so I eventually discounted them from my searching.”

In November of last year he finally gave up the search, but after having a customer ask about the original Conway Stewart Doctor's pen, he began thinking about having a bespoke pen made to his specifications, and Conway Stewart seemed the obvious choice for a project of that nature.

The Conway Stewart 37 is based on an original CS design from the 1910s, and is really the absolute basic definition of a fountain pen, one stripped down to the minimum elements: a cap, a hollow barrel, feed, and a nib. That’s it, no more, no less. Only what you absolutely need to store and then deliver ink to paper!

Well, let’s expand upon that, there is a bit of window dressing in the form of an intricate engraving pattern along the length of the cap and barrel. A wonderful pattern of interlocking ovals runs down the pen, broken only by a space for the Conway Stewart logo, the model name, and a line: “Made in England”. If you’re a fan of the minimalist, the 37 will bring a smile to your face. Material is classic basic black, the engraving is understated and elegant, and there is nothing in the way of metal trim to break the clean lines. True to the original vintage design, the Conway Stewart 37 is without even a pocket clip.

Conway Stewart 37As Andy recounts: “After speaking with CS, and sending them some pictures of a real CS 37, they got to work on the design part. The first real decision was the pattern of engraving for the pen. CS prepared several different barrels each with a unique engraved pattern. We eventually chose the simplest - the repeated oval shape - as being the closest in spirit to the 1910s/1920s style, without being a pattern that had actually been used on a pen before (as far as I am aware).”

Once that design details were finalized, the rest of the project began to fall into place quite quickly. Andy wanted a fairly slim pen and one unadorned by clips, bands, etc.

“I think CS have done a really good job here. It is a nice size - just the right thickness, and just the right length without being too big or too small. It is not a heavy pen, again like the vintage eyedroppers” said Andy.

“I have always like the simplicity of the 1920s vintage eyedropper pens. They really are no-nonsense and functional pieces. I wanted to create a pen that harked back to those simple designs, yet have the advantages of modern writing characteristics (consistent ink flow, etc.) and modern materials. I knew I wanted to make an eyedropper, and I decided from the start that it should have the classic cylindrical barrel and flat top design.”

The creative process involved in this project brought together both the desire to produce a reliable and durable writing instrument manufactured with up to date materials and techniques, as well as one infused with the strong sense of passion and timeless elegance of a 1910s era eyedropper. You are presented with all of the advantages of modern resin material for the cap and barrel: stability, strength, and a high gloss finish. Coupled with these advantages come the refinement and utter simplicity of the classic eyedropper filler from the dawn of the fountain pen era.

Conway Stewart 37Andy was concerned with making this a practical pen for daily use, despite the fact that it was created from the outset to be without that most common feature of “modern” writing instruments: The pocket clip. He explains: “Because it doesn't have a pocket clip, I decided on using the new leather presentation box, which converts to a pen rest when the lid is reversed. The eyedropper, authenticity booklet and instruction card can then reside in the box under the pen rest. The pen would therefore make an ideal desk pen.”

As far as Andy was concerned, the most difficult part of the entire creative process was getting the imprint on the barrel just right. “It is surprisingly difficult to get everything in its proper proportion, and to get the overall size and look of the imprint spot on, but I am very pleased indeed with the outcome. Although it is not identical to the original CS 37 imprint, I believe it suits this pen perfectly.”

When it comes to this special exclusive edition, Andy doesn’t expect it to be relegated to just display… “The real advantage of course with an eyedropper, apart from its simplicity, is its prodigious ink capacity. I have been using a prototype 37 for a couple of months now. I can easily get 3ml of ink to a fill, and this lasts me for about a month of use.” Andy also reports a great experience with day to day use of the 37: “The modern feeds and ink delivery systems give this pen a very consistent ink flow with none of the excessive flow and blotting that you commonly get with vintage eyedropper pens when they are low on ink. It just writes and writes and stops dead when the ink runs out.”

Andy’s Pens have sourced some eyedropper pipettes from a laboratory equipment company in the U. S. after a rather frustrating time attempting to locate decent vintage-looking eyedroppers. In addition, a set of instructions, along with the Conway Stewart warrantee and certificate of authenticity are packaged with each 37.

This unique new offering from Andy’s Pens and Conway Stewart is a wonderful choice for those drawn to the back to basics classic elegance of the earliest days of the fountain pen.

Bill Riepl
Washington, USA