Friday, September 25, 2009

Some Not So Glorious Conway Stewart’s

The late 1940’s through to the late 60’s was a tumultuous time for writing instrument manufacturers as the ballpoint pen quickly began to enjoy widespread commercial success. Patent battles, poor designs, quality control disasters, product recalls, smear campaigns – it was all on for young and old. Many industry giants were mortally stricken by making a wrong a call over the ballpoint pen, and in particular the mighty Eversharp were dulled, blunted and ultimately snapped and broken by their foray into the world of ballpoint pens.

Another brought low by the ballpoint was Conway-Stewart. Just look at this junk from this once respectable name. It’s a triple set, from left to right being ballpoint pen, fountain pen and mechanical pencil. Despite the tear on the inside of the lid I believe this set is NOS (New Old Stock). The trapezium shaped cardboard presentation box has a cloth interior and looks quite coffin-like in the photo, which is totally apt.conway stewart lying in stateThe three of them actually look reasonably smart, with bright shiny chrome upper bodies and plastic lower halves. But things change the instant you pick them up. For a start, they are absolute feather-weights, the mechanical pencil weighs in at a puny 9 grams, and all three of them together weigh only 29 grams. I’ve got mechanical pencils that alone weigh almost as much, e.g. the Pelikan D800 Souveran and the Parker Duofold Centennial both weigh 27g each.conway stewart triple setThe chrome top half of the mechanical pencil no longer fits securely onto the lower plastic half of the body. I will be kind and assume that there has been some shrinkage over the years, but now the metal top half just falls off under its own weight if you turn the pencil upside down. The pencil is a tip twist using 1.18mm leads as you would suspect.conway stewart BP FP MPTrust me, the ballpoint and fountain pen are equally uninspiring. They are just not what one expects from a name like Conway Stewart.

I don’t know the model numbers of these pens or when they were made but I assume it was sometime in the mid 1960’s to the company’s final demise in 1975 during which period the companies products slid many rungs down the ladder of quality. However, if you do happen to know the model details I would be interested in knowing.

The box has Conway Stewart printed on it, but the only marking on the writing instruments is “Conway” and “UK” stamped into the pocket clip.

It’s depressing. Every time I look at this set, “Oh, how the mighty have fallen!”


pigpogm said...

The only Conway Stewart item I've ever owned was one of those pencils. The cap on mine did fit ok, but the whole thing still felt awful and cheap.

My Supply Room said...

Still a great set from the old days.

Henrik said...

I think you're a bit hard on Conway Stewart here - IMHO light weight is good. It demonstrates that the designer have thought of the users and not just the bling. The set is obviously meant as low end, so how much inspiration can you expect?
But ok, I haven't had it in my hand :-)

Anonymous said...

Hey Dave,

I have a very similar set to that, sans-ballpoint, in a plainer, rectangular box, in a rather nice shade of red. Picked it up for $20 on an auction site... The boffins on the Fountain Pen Network reliably inform me that this set was called the "Consort", and was an early 70s product. If the nib of the fountain pen is marked "Speedline USA" then I'd imagine you've got the same.

No, they aren't nice. my pencil's tip is far from secure, and wobbles hoplesly. Good luck trying to get a grip on the damn thing to advance the lead. Although the eraser is completely gone now, I imagine it wasn't much chop back in the day either!

The fountain pen isn't great either- the whole filler assembly disassembled itself on mine- Cheap, sub-par spot-welding doing it no favours-I was able to slide a Pilot converter onto the back of the section and get the thing writing.
The section is too small for my hands and I came away with rather sore hands from using it...
The nib is something worthwhile! A fine-ish italic stub that's actually quite smooth. Ink it up if you care to and give it a go!

Peter from Wollongong

Kiwi-d said...

Hi Peter.Thanks for the info. I think I'll just let mine RIP in their little coffin.