Monday, October 25, 2010

Pens of Dist-INK-tion

One of the more interesting stops at the NYC 2010 Pen Show was the Pens of Dist-INK-tion area, where Carl Seidl specializes in the retrofit pen--turning fountain pens into ballpoint pens. I was really taken with a green Parker Vacumatic that had once been a fountain pen but is now living the life of a ballpoint. The above picture shows off it's beautiful green bands and highly polished surface, along with a few additions that Mr. Seidl mentioned he used in the early versions of his retrofits.

The RetroFit Pens are the caps, barrels, and clips of non-working vintage fountain pens and mechanical pencils, which are then re-fashioned into using ballpoint refills. It happens that I had some Monteverde ceramic rollerball refills that are perfect for this pen, so my swivel RetroFit Parker Vacumatic Pen is now a rollerball.

The tables at Pens of Dist-INK-tion were filled with many well-known vintage pens retrofitted into ballpens. Some of my favorites were Montblanc pens, but there were many styles and price ranges. The above are among some of the more expensive pens available, but they are well worth it if you're looking for a particular pen but don't want it in a fountain pen design. Parker Vacumatics don't come in ballpoint styles, but I have one that's a joy to write with and usable in different situations where a fountain pen won't work (making out a deposit slip at the bank and not having a ballpoing was what made me consider stopping by this table and looking for a retrofitted fountain pen).

Above are eight Parker Vacumatics in various colors and designs (mine is similar in price and design to the third from the left). Carl Seidl mentioned to me that when he started he added parts to the pens, such as a black grip section, giving the pen a more ballpoint-y look to it. So my pen is a RetroFit with some extra work on it, and not just a Vacumatic. There were two styles of these available, a swivel pen and a push pen (the three to the far right are all push pens, the others swivel to bring the cartridge down and up.)

Looking for something different, not a fountain pen but like a fountain pen? This is a dealer to check out, do stop by his website for more information.


  1. I'm always surprised how I find myself so ambivalent about these pens. Certainly it's happy to see the reuse and rehabilitation of cast off products. However, as someone whose hobby is occasionally fixing pens, I can also see this as taking parts away that could be used to fix other broken pens with. Many pens laying around in hobbyist's drawers need only replacement of a few missing or broken parts to work again.

    So my opinion on this still is being considered. I know one could have a pretty long discussion on this topic.

  2. I was somewhat ambivalent until I actually saw the pens up front, then I was really taken by them. I was at the pen show to find a Vacumatic, but seeing these retrofits made me realize I wanted something other than a fountain pen. That the parts can be used for other repairs is a consideration, but I wasn't really going down that road at the time I pulled out my wallet. :)

  3. Diane, does the Monteverde refill make a difference (vs. a no-name refill)? Schmidt, I think, is a big player in high-end refills for BPs and RBs, but I don't much about them. Jack/Youngstown

  4. Some of the refills don't fit, just so happens that this Monteverde does. And they have blue-black ink, my favorite.

  5. Thanks for the review. I think this is really a neat concept. I enjoyed your photos better than the images on the vendor's website.