A review of the 1960’s Silverline Fountain pen
Platignum produced economical pens at the lower end of the fountain pen market in the United Kingdom from their factory in England. The factory closed in 1989 and although the name Platignum started to be used again in 2001 these pens have nothing in common with the original company, only the name is the same. The Silverline was a midpoint model in the Platignum range. It was a very popular choice as a school pen but more so in secondary schools. It is a medium sized pen well suited to adult hands, the smaller slimmer Streamline being more common in junior schools. The Silverline of the sixties was actually introduced in the late 1950’s and it replaced the earlier lever fill pen of the same name which was a completely different pen. Rather like car manufacturers Platignum kept the model name but the pens were often very different from each other.
When you buy a second hand pen you never really know if it is performing as it really should. For the purposes of the review all the pens were cleaned and fitted with new nibs which were old shop stock from a job lot purchased on Ebay last year. I had only wanted one particular nib but had to buy the whole lot. All the pens behaved exactly the same as each other as would be expected. Platignum had a good reputation for producing reliable pens. It made no difference if the pen was kept upright in a jacket pocket without being used for a number of days or left laying down on the writing desk or thanks to our junior tester rattled around for a week in a pencil box being taken to school but not used. Each of the pens delivered an appropriate ink flow to the nib, never writing too wet or running dry. Each of the pens were used daily for a week or more during the course of about three months. All the nibs wrote smoothly but some of the wider broad oblique nibs do take a little care when writing.
The top black pen was bought by me in 1959 and came with a medium italic nib which was required for handwriting lessons at secondary school. I had not expected to have writing lessons at secondary school and when I went to a different school at 14 I was surprised that we even had inter school writing competitions! The pen has been only very occasionally since then and not at all for the last few years. The original nib still writes the same as the new nib which was fitted. The second black pen was bought for spares but was in such good condition I have fitted it with a broad italic nib. The light blue pen was bought to use with a Platignum Pitman’s Shorthand nib. This proved to be quite a surprise, not only does it write perfect Pitman’s thick and thin shorthand outlines but the very flexible steel nib is rather nice for writing longhand as well. This pen with the shorthand nib actually performs rather better than the rather expensive Esterbrook M2 that I used at school. The dark blue pen had been a 99p bargain on Ebay bought to try out different nibs. Originally fitted with a medium nib marked first quality as many were, it was bent and replaced with another one of the same type. This is longer than the other medium nibs and writes with a fine to medium line and is slightly flexible. The red pen came from a an 86 writing set, many were bought as presents and never used but this one had been and the 41ST medium nib was bent. This was replaced with a new 41ST medium nib and most Silverline pens were supplied as standard with this or the longer medium nib. This nib is quite inflexible and writes with Platignum’s usual medium line.
Overall, the the Silverline pens behaved as any good fountain pen should and rather better than a number of very expensive pens of the day as I found out in my youth to my cost. If you had a Silverline and your memories of it are rather different to this review you might find the problems paragraph of some relevance.
Interchangeable Nibs and Nib units
Platignum produced a vast range of interchangeable nibs for the Silverline and Regal pens and they also fitted many other models in the range. It was usual to change the nib and holder as one unit, the just screwed in and a lot of people had just the one pen and a variety of nib units. Platignum also sold just the nib price five pennies each in the sixties which they claimed were suitable for most fountain pens. Just changing the nib in the nib holder is not that easy though and something I would never have bothered with. At one time some were sold with both left and right handed nib units.
I have never had any problems with the pens I have had from new but when I bought a some Silverline pens on Ebay I did come across a couple of problems although mostly they will be the same as any second hand pen and many of these are well over fifty years old. There are however a few annoying problems that are sometimes difficult to fathom out. One wrote really nicely but after a few lines it ran dry and need a gentle squeeze on the press bar to get it going again. Flushing the pen a few times did nothing and then I noticed if you just put gentle pressure on the nib it would lift up a fraction, just enough to stop the ink flow. Unscrewing the nib holder unit it was apparent that the problem was that the slots holding the nib had opened out. I don’t know of a fix for this and I replaced the whole nib unit. The black nib units do not seem to have this problem but I have encountered this on two Platignum pens. The other problem concerned the dark blue pen, the original nib was bent and I fitted a new nib unit. At first this pen behaved okay but when left overnight and I took the cap off it promptly covered my hand in ink. I spent some time trying to figure this one out as it refused to leak until I screwed the cap on and then took it off. It seems that the cap did not have the usual small holes in the cap and screwing the cap on tightly and removing it caused a vacuum. Now I know why pens have the small holes in the cap!
The Silverline is a good reliable fountain pen that has stood the test of time. I have never had any problems with any of the Platignum pens which I have had since new. It is just as good now as an everyday working pen as they were in the 50’s and 60’s. If you fancy writing with a typical pen of the sixties, just remember that many were used as school pens so watch out for chewed barrels and caps. Corrosion of the pressmatic filler can be a problem although most seem to have survived without any problem. The clear plastic (polythene?) ink sac is not as indestructible as some think and over enthusiastic squeezing of the tweezer type filler can, in time, puncture it. Replacements are usually available on places like Ebay as are the nib units for a couple of pounds.