This lovely little pen is the latest addition to my collection – it arrived on Thursday. It’s a Sheaffer Tuckaway, their take on a pocket pen, and dates from the late 1940s. The Filofax it’s sitting on is a pocket Pimlico, which goes to show exactly how small it is.
This particular one is a ‘Tuckaway Vac-Fil Crest 1000’ with a medium Triumph nib – characteristic of Sheaffer pens of a certain age, the Triumph nib is a conical point with a slightly turned-up tip. They’re usually very smooth nibs, and this one is no exception. In their heyday, Sheaffer really knew how to make great nibs, and turned them out by the tens of thousands. The ‘Crest 1000’ bit is the trim level, and denotes the combination of a Triumph nib and the gold coloured metal cap.
As you can see, this is not a very big pen at all. Capped, it’s just 11.5cm long – the idea is that by posting the cap on the back of the barrel, the pen as a whole is nearly the size of a ‘normal’ pen at 13.2cm, making it easier to grip and write with. The pen body without the cap is only 9.7cm from the tip of its nib to the end of its barrel.
The Tucky came in various versions. This one, from its middle years, is a vac-fil, meaning it’s a plunger filler. It fills by unscrewing the cap on the back end of the barrel, pulling it out (which moves a piston on the end of a rod up to the back end inside the barrel) and then putting the nib into the ink and pushing the piston all the way back in. Pushing the piston down causes a vacuum to form behind the piston, which is suddenly released when the piston hits the bottom of its stroke. The vacuum being released then sucks the ink in through the nib, rapidly filling the pen barrel. It’s a lovely system, and has a surprisingly large ink capacity even on such a small pens as this – between 0.6 and 0.9ml in good condition, which might not sound much but is more than your average modern cartridge/converter filler of double the size. Its only weak spot is the piston and barrel seals: if they leak then either it won’t fill, or it will bleed ink out of its rear end!
The blue Crest is fully restored, thankfully, by the seller on eBay I bought it from who seems to make a speciality of these pens. The red Tucky pictured next to it with its plunger retracted ready for filling is in carmine striated plastic. The stripes on the carmine plastic are transparent, which means you can hold the pen up to the light and see the ink level very easily. On the blue pen, although you can’t see it, an area of the gripping section just nibwards of the gold metal cap threads is translucent, allowing a similar but more limited view.
The tiny clip on the cap is spring loaded and surprisingly effective. It’s a pity however that these pens are too thick to fit the pen loop on the pocket Pimlico – otherwise they would be perfect to go with a pocket Filofax. My red Tucky, sadly, also doesn’t see much use because it needs to visit a pen doctor and have its point seal sorted – it weeps ink minutely where the barrel joins the nib, which gives me inky fingers. Aside from that, they’re great fun, and have really smooth nibs, making them great writers.