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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
The history of the Onoto brand is well known to most pen enthusiasts, and there are plenty of webpages retelling the story, so I do not feel there is a need to relate it here. It's just sufficient to say that, the original Onoto was likely to be the first self-filling pen - as opposed to something such as an eye-dropper type - with an on-board mechanism for pulling ink into its internal reservoir. The pioneering models were known as the models N and O, the N is more common as the O is a compact pen; after new models were launched, they were retrospectively named 3000 and 2000 to conform to the new naming convention; the N/3000 was manufactured until 1939, making its production run quite remarkably long. And it looks like a pen that Darth Vader would use.

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The one above is indeed the very first model from 1905, and the condition is so good that original paper sticker applied at the factory is still intact, even though it was quite extensively used. The sticker also carries its price of 17/6, rendered in decimal it's £0.875, which is about £90 in today's money. The one below it is the same model but a later version with a revised nib and feed design. Both are in black chased hard rubber, "BCHR" for short. The slip caps are replicants but a tiny bit longer than the originals, I might have to talk to the repairer about that.

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With the caps removed you can see the grip section and the different nib/feed designs. The original has an "up-and-down" twin feed system, where feed has a slot cut into it, and the nib is then fitted into the slot before pushing into the section. In theory, this ensures that ink is supplied to both sides of the nib, but I do not think it really matters that much. Later on, a regular feed and nib was fitted as shown in the lower example. My example of the early version has seen extensive use, the very tip of the nib sees some wear to the point that it can do with new iridium tipping; the grandmaster of this art that I know of does not do it anymore due to his advanced age :-(

I was fortunate to find the later version in original box and papers, including the original instruction manual, and a card from the purchaser to the man who received it as a gift, who practically lived down the road from my place.

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Here is a comparison close-up of both nib/feed designs. You can see the nibs are not the same, the earlier nib for the twin-feed is wider, and somewhat thinner and flatter - obviously - when taken out for comparison.

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The picture below shows the plunger pulled out all the way. The pen fills on the down stroke of the plunger: when the plunger is pushed down, a low pressure - I would not say a "vacuum" - is generated between the valve at the end of the plunger and the top of the pen where the plunger shaft exits. Continued push reduces this pressure further until the valve at the end of the plunger shaft reaches a wider chamber, so the low pressure created inside the pen pulls the ink into the barrel, if the section is put into an ink bottle. An additional feature is that the end of the plunger shaft inside the pen is cone-shaped, and this fits into a small hole at the back of the feed. When the plunger handle is screwed home, the hole is blocked, sealing the ink reservoir, thus preventing leakage. Before writing, the plunger handle is first turned to loosen a little, allowing ink to flow into the feed.

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The revived Onoto company still manufactures these plunger filler pens in small quantities, with modern materials internally to ensure longer service and greater reliability. For instance, synthetic rubber valves are used instead of natural rubber, thus preventing the valves from deteriorating. However, parts for these pens are still manufactured by an independent firm, so they can carry on being used.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Onoto carried on using their "The Pen" appellation way after they started building lever-filled celluloid pens with barrels made by rolling celluloid sheets. I am not absolutely positive about it but the practice stopped around the time they moved production to Fife, and the barrels were moulded rather than rolled, but that's already a very out-dated design when compared to the other brands. I still have an early Model 7000 but without cap, and the design features found in the later celluloid ones can be traced to it.
 
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