- Handwritten Review -
- Description: A highly collectable (and reliable) vintage pen with the most advanced filling system to date.
- Nibs: 14k gold, open-style – Admiral is an all gold medium nib, Saratoga is a two-toned medium nib
- Material: Plastic with metal accents
- Filling Mechanism: Snorkel fillers
Handwritten Review Scans:
Comparing and reviewing vintage pens can be a bit weird. The problem is the varying conditions an old pen can be in, repairs that have been done to the pen, and a vintage pen may not contain 100% original parts. This is more of a feature than a formal review, and keep in mind that your mileage may vary greatly when buying a vintage pen. That’s not to say that a great vintage pen can be purchased, and I really like both of my Snorkels.
Onto the pens at hand… I currently have two Sheaffer Snorkels in my collection, a grey Admiral and blue Saratoga. The Admiral has a 14k gold nib, that is open-style. Some other models of the Snorkel come with a tubular nib (referred to as ‘closed’). The Saratoga model also has a 14k gold nib, but it’s two-toned; a feature which I really enjoy the aesthetics of. The Admiral is Canadian-made, and when I purchased it, it was pretty much in New-Old-Stock condition – still having the sticker denoting nib size on then grip of the pen. Both pens write exceptionally well and have a solid place in my rotation of pens. The Sheaffer Snorkels are on the thinner side, but still have some decent heft to them. Compared to a Lamy Al-Star, they’re about the same length.
When the pen is capped, it’s quite unassuming. The body is very plain, with a 1/4″ gold cap band. The only markings on the pen are the subtle stamping in the body stating the country of origin and the brand, and “Sheaffer’s” is stamped into the gold clip. Later models have a white dot on the top of the clip, which Sheaffer used to denote their premium pens. The white dot was also used as a mark of quality. I really like the simple style of the Sheaffer Snorkels I have, knowing that under the plastic shell is the most mechanically-complex filling system to be in a fountain pen.
Nib Performance & Filling System:
The Sheaffer Snorkel is one of the most mechanically-complicated fountain pens, and has kept that honor for over 60 years. To fill the pen, you have to unscrew the tail cap, until the snorkel tube is fully extended from underneath the nib. Once fully extended, the tail cap is pulled out. When the pen is “fully-extended” – you have to submerge the tube into the ink you wish to fill the pen with. It is not necessary to put the nib into the ink – making for a mess-free fill. When the tube is submerged, you must depress the tail cap back into the pen body. The internal sac is compressed with the downward motion, and when the tail cap is all the way back in the pen, the vacuum is released, sucking ink up through the snorkel tube and into the internal ink reservoir. After the pen is filled, the tail cap must be screwed back in, and the snorkel is retracted. It sounds very complicated, but it’s an easy and fun way to fill a fountain pen.
The pen is long enough to write with comfortably when un-posted, but posting doesn’t throw off the balance or feel of the pen. The Sheaffer Snorkels are nicely weighted and well balanced. The grip on the models I have is ribbed for extra grip, and the metal flair at the bottom keeps ink off of your fingers. The transition between the grip and the section is smooth, and the threads are hard to notice when writing. Both the Admiral and the Saratoga are identical in the body and cap, the only difference being the nib. Both pens are comfortable and durable, although they are a bit slimmer than most modern fountain pens.
Availability and Price:
Sheaffer made the snorkel fill models for around a decade, and they are by no means limited edition. It’s relatively easy to find a snorkel in great condition that has been professionally restored. There are several people and websites that do Snorkel restorations, most offering warranties on their work. While not the cheapest entry into vintage pens (Esterbrooks can be had for surprisingly low prices), a user-grade pen in working condition can be found for around $60. A fully restored, like-new pen and pencil set can be purchased for around $95, ready to write. AndersonPens.net offers restoration services and usually has a few nice models in stock.
- Affordable entry into vintage pens
- Fun to use filling mechanism
- Widely available
- Nice weight and balance
- More complex to restore on your own
- More moving parts = more to go wrong
I’m by no means an expert on vintage pens, but I really like my two Sheaffer Snorkels. They’re great workhorse pens that come in a variety of body colors and nib types. Most of them have been in service for 60 years already, and I’m sure that if properly taken care of, they can easily go another 60 more. The filling system is really cool and fun to use as well. It’s definitely worth having a specimen of the Sheaffer Snorkel in your collection as a part of fountain pen history.