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Glossopedia of Pen Terms

(This page revised October 21, 2022)

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Reference Info Index | Glossary of Paper Terms  ]


oblique A nib shape that is ground so that the writing tip contacts the paper properly when the pen is rotated in the user’s hand. Obliques are made in left- and right-foot shapes, and there are variations in the angle at which the tip is finished. The left-foot oblique (shown here, and so named because the angled tip resembles the shape of a person’s left foot) is the most common style. A left-foot oblique requires counterclockwise rotation of the pen so that the nib, instead of facing straight upward, is leaning toward a right-handed writer or away from a left-handed writer. Most modern obliques are ordinary round nibs, not designed to produce line variation (illustrated below, left). An oblique italic nib, which is designed to produce line variation, has a wide thin tip cut at an angle across, to create broad strokes in one direction (at a slight angle to the nib itself) and very thin strokes in the orthogonal direction. A crisp oblique italic nib (below, right) is relatively lacking in smoothness but produces greater line variation than a cursive oblique italic, which is ground to be relatively smooth in use. [Historical note] The history of oblique nibs goes back millennia; in Roman times, when hand-cut reeds were used to make nibs, all nibs were italic to a greater or lesser degree. As writing styles changed, scribes discovered that cutting a nib with the edge at an angle, instead of straight across, changed the orientations of thick and thin strokes, allowing the development of further new styles. Blackletter styles, notably, were customarily written with oblique italics. Because of this usage, over a period of centuries the term “oblique” became synonymous with the production of line variation; but, as explained here, that association is neither the only possible one nor even necessarily the correct one. Read a tutorial on nibs here. See also Blackletter, crisp, cursive (definition 2), DailyItalic, italic, nib, offset pen, Relief, reverse oblique, sharpened, stub.
Nib shapeNib shape
Octanium Parker’s trademarked name for the highly corrosion-resistant alloy used to make nibs for the company’s lower-priced pens beginning in 1950 with the introduction of the “51” Special; so called because the alloy contains eight elements (40% cobalt, 20% chromium, 15% nickel, 15% iron, 7% molybdenum, 2% manganese, 0.04% beryllium, 0.15% carbon). See also Elgiloy.
offset holder (among dip-pen calligraphers, oblique holder) A dip pen holder that holds the pen (nib) at an angle so that the pen itself will be pointing upward and to the right when the penholder is oriented toward 12 o'clock relative to the paper; used to create line variation in copperplate and round hand scripts. See the illustration below, showing a modern offset holder with a vintage Waverley nib. See also offset pen, holder, nib (historical note).
Oblique holder with steel pen
offset pen (also offset nib; among dip-pen calligraphers, oblique nib or elbow nib) A flexible dip pen nib, usually steel, made with a pronounced offset in its body (illustrated below) so that the pen itself will be pointing upward and to the right when the penholder is oriented toward 12 o'clock relative to the paper; used to create line variation in copperplate and round hand scripts. See also dip pen, holder, nib (historical note), steel pen.
Offset pen
Old English See Blackletter.
olive ripple See ripple.
Olsen Christian Olsen, a pen manufacturer located in Copenhagen, Denmark. Olsen began some years after World War I by importing Parker pens, but by the early 1930s, Denmark was suffering from depletion of its foreign currency reserves and placed limits on the importation of foreign products. Later, the limitations were expanded and included a prohibition on the importation of complete fountain pens. Olsen’s response was to found the Penol company, which became known as a manufacturer of high-quality pens, and also to begin manufacturing Parker pens under license. See also Penol.
OMAS (acronym for Officina Meccanica Armando Simone) A pen manufacturer located in Bologna, Italy; founded in 1925 by Armando Simone, who also designed the necessary tools and production equipment. The company’s top range was the 12-sided Arte Italiana series, comprising the Paragon (largest), Milord, and Dama (smallest). In the early 1930s, there arose a question as to whether the OMAS Paragon (below, upper) was a copy of the Eversharp Doric, or vice versa, and that question remains unanswered. The company was known for technical innovation with pens such as the flippable 361 in the 1940s and the triangular 360 of the 1990s (below, lower). A 2005 updating of the product line, possibly in response to OMAS’ acquisition by LVMH in 2000, saw the Milord growing to the size of the former Paragon while the Paragon became an outsize pen, singularly heavy and poorly suited to serious use as a writing instrument. In 2007, Hong Kong’s Xinyu Hengdeli Group purchased 90% of OMAS, but despite a continuing stream of elegant limited editions, OMAS found itself becoming progressively less profitable. In 2011, the Chinese company O-Luxe bought OMAS, but the company’s slide continued, and in 2015, O-Luxe decided to close OMAS. In January 2016 the company was voluntarily liquidated. The remnants of the company were purchased by Emmanuel Caltagirone, founder of the Armando Simone Club. See also Doric.
Fountain Pen
Omega  1  (Omega A.V.M.) A pen and pencil manufacturer located in Milan, Italy; founded in 1927 by Alfredo Verga after he and his brother Eugenio, who together had founded Columbus some years earlier, ended their partnership. The initials A.V.M. stood for Alfredo Verga Milano. Early production consisted of ebonite retractable safety pens with precious metal overlays, in designs reminiscent of the early production of Columbus. The next introduction was a range of celluloid button fillers under the Supernova brand, with lever fillers appearing still later. It is not known whether Omega A.V.M. continued production during World War II or resumed after the war had ended in 1945. In either case, the company’s postwar pens were primarily copies of the American pens that had recently become common. See also Italian overlay.  2  (Fabryka Piór Omega Wiecznego, Omega Fountain Pen Factory) A pen manufacturer located in Częstochowa, Poland; founded in 1934 by M. Szaja and A. Wrocławski. Initially, the company produced pens of high quality, aiming to be the “Polish Parker.” Operations continued during World War II under German management, and in 1949 the company was nationalized under Soviet rule, adding paper products to its range. In 1954, Omega was reorganized to break the paper products line off as a new company. Pens produced at that time were of low quality. The early 1960s saw an attempt to modernize using machinery purchased from the Shanghai Hero Pen Company in the People’s Republic of China; the machines were already set up to build copies of the Parker “51”, and in 1975 Omega began producing its own high-quality “51” copy, named the Zenith. Adding ballpoint pens to its range, the company found that it was unable to produce a refill of sufficient quality, and Omega used Swiss-made refills until 1971, when the company bought its own machinery fromn Switzerland. Production continued with newer designs, and Zenith pens are still being manufactured as of this writing. See also Zenith (definition 4).  3  One of the Czechoslovakian companies nationalized in 1948 to become Centropen. See also Centropen.
Omniflex A nib style offered by Yafa, Inc., in some of its pens; characterized by sculptured cutouts along the sides of the body of a steel nib, behind the breather hole as shown below. This modification makes the nib somewhat more flexible, but the performance is not like that of a vintage flexible gold nib. The modified area is at increased risk of springing under excessive force because of the material that has been removed. See also Yafa.
Omniflex nib unit
Photo © Anderson Pens. Used with permission.
One-Shot See Vacuum-Fil (definition 1).
Onoto the Pen A long-lived series of pen models produced by printer/stationer Thomas De La Rue & Co., of England. In 1906, De La Rue entered the pen market with a self-filling fountain pen that it named Onoto the Pen for the name’s euphony and, because Onoto is not a real word, the lack of need to translate it into foreign languages. The pen’s innovative pneumatic filler, invented by a mechanical engineer, tinkerer, and sometime vaudeville performer named George Sweetser, flushes the pen and refills it in a single out-and-in cycle of a barrel-length plunger and was the prototype for similar fillers produced by Sheaffer, Wahl, and Conklin during the 1930s. Shown here is a very early straight-cap Onoto. See also De La Rue, Vacuum-Fil (definition 1).
Fountain pen
Onward See Kahn.
Onyx Waterman’s name for a celluloid color consisting of red-brown ribbons of color on a pale creamy pearlescent ground, as shown below. Used on the Patrician, Onyx is very prone to discoloration; the sample illustrated here is distinctly darker than it was when new.
Color chip
open nib Retronym indicating a nib that is exposed to view; the type commonly seen. Until the advent of the hooded nib on the Parker “51”, the term was unnecessary. See also hooded nib, Inlaid Nib, nib, “TRIUMPH” point.
Oriental red See Chinese Red.
O-ring A gasket made of a natural or synthetic elastomer (e.g., Buna-N or Viton®), having a circular cross-section (similar in shape to a “cake” doughnut; designed to be lightly compressed between two surfaces to make a seal. Patented in 1939 by Niels A. Christensen (U.S. Patent No 2,180,795) and coming into wide use during World War II, when the U.S. government declared it a critical war resource, the O-ring is now nearly ubiquitous where a circular seal is needed. In modern fountain pens, it is frequently used to seal between the barrel and section to allow use as an eyedropper filler; vintage eyedropper-filling pens did not require such seals and can be damaged by attempts to use them. Sheaffer used O-rings for the sliding seal in its Touchdown and Snorkel pens. See also packing.
OS (also O/S) See oversize.
osmalloy An alloy containing osmium, used by Sheaffer beginning in 1944 for tipping “TRIUMPH” point nibs. See also osmium. “TRIUMPH” point.
Osmia (Osmia GmbH) A pen manufacturing company located in Dossenheim, Germany, founded as Böhler und Kompanie in 1919 by former Kaweco employee Hermann Böhler along with his brother Georg. Hermann Böhler used the knowledge he had gained during an extended period while Kaweco was acquiring A. Morton & Company, a manufacturer of gold nibs, to set up the production of high-quality nibs for his company. He also created a brand name, Osmia, from the name Osmiumalloy, a name for a tipping alloy called osmiridium, which he used for his nibs despite its high cost because it is much harder and more durable than plain iridium. The company’s first products were mechanical pencils and ebonite safety pens whose nibs carried a lifetime warranty. Osmia’s initial success led the company to build a new plant to supply the demand for its pens, but by the latter 1920s demand had slowed and margins were weak; Osmia was in trouble. In 1928, Parker acquired the company in order to expand its business into Europe, and Osmia began producing Duofolds bearing the imprint Parker - Osmia A. G. Heidelberg while continuing to produce its own safety and lever-filling pens and mechanical pencils. The German market did not like the Duofold’s high price and rigid nib, and in 1930 Parker divested Osmia. The company, now Osmia GmbH, launched its own Osmia Supra, a pen similar to the Duofold but better attuned to the German market. In 1932, to recover funds to reimburse the cost Parker had incurred in buying and then releasing Osmia, the company sold its nib factory to Degussa. In 1933, Osmia launched a new range of successful pens, more streamlined, including a piston filler (shown below, the 884) and a model with a Vacumatic-like pump filler. In 1935, A. W. Faber-Castell began a lengthy process of acquiring Osmia, completing that process in 1951. Production continued as before except that the pens and pencils now bore both the Faber-Castell and Osmia names. in 1938, Hermann Böhler resigned from Osmia and founded a new company. Osmia fared better than many other companies during World War II; although production declined as more and more employees were called into military service, the company’s facilities were not seriously damaged, and production resumed in 1946, with the company offering the same models as before (but revised so that all were piston fillers, and without the explicit endorsement of Faber-Castell). The Osmia trademark was retired in the early 1960s, and with demand continuing to spiral downward, Faber-Castell discontinued fountain pen production in 1975. See also Degussa.
Fountain pen
osmiridium (referred to in the metals trade as native iridium) A naturally occurring alloy of iridium and osmium with traces of other platinum-group metals, one of the first metals used extensively for tipping nibs; now disused because of osmium’s extreme toxicity. Osmiridium contains more iridium than osmium. See also iridosmine, iridium, osmium, tipping material.
Osmiroid (Osmiroid International) A pen manufacturing company located in Gosport, England. Founded in London in 1824 by James Perry, the company (registgered as Perry & Co.) pioneered the manufacture of high-quality steel pens (dip nibs). Using Perry’s patented design, it became a world force in the market, with its production rivaling that of Esterbrook. By 1918 the company had diversified and was producing steel pens, pencils, rubber bands, bicycle accessories and even small automobiles. In that year James Perry’s great-nephew, Edmund S. Perry, left the firm to found E. S. Perry Ltd in North London. Under Edmund’s direction, his new company perfected the manufacture of stainless steel nibs. After World War II, the demand for steel pens exploded, and Perry exported its Iridinoid and Osmiroid nibs all over the world. In 1953, Perry relocated to Gosport and subsequently developed its first fountain pen, a student pen called the Osmiroid 65. The 65 (shown below) is a lever filler; its design includes what became Osmiroid’s trademark feature, a wide variety of user-interchangeable nibs that are compatible with the Esterbrook Renew-Point. In the mid-1960s, the company introduced the Osmiroid 75, a piston filler with an ink-view window in the barrel. Other models followed. Worldwide sales of Osmiroid pens, nibs, and inks boomed, and in 1987 the company officially changed its name to Osmiroid. It was acquired by Berol in 1989, and manufacture ceased in 1991. The Osmiroid name has more recently been used by a manufacturer whose cheap Chinese-made products are not compatible with, or equal in quality to, those of British manufacture. See also Esterbrook, Renew-Point, steel pen.
Fountain pen
osmium A brittle blue-gray metal (atomic number 76) of the platinum group, formerly used in nib tipping material alloys for its hardness (3290 MPa on the Brinell scale, second only to diamond). No longer widely used because of its extreme toxicity. See also iridium, iridosmine, osmiridium, tipping material.
ossify (also petrify; said of the rubber sac in any pen using a sac as an ink reservoir) To harden due to the chemical action of ink. Ossification is a slow process; a pliable sac becomes progressively more leathery and then stiff, to the point that when squeezed it will shatter into shards with shiny edges that give the appearance of broken glass (illustrated below). An ossified sac is typically strong enough to resist the squeezing action of the lever in a lever-filling pen; attempts to operate the lever in a pen with an ossified sac usually result in serious damage to the lever or the lever box (if present). See also lever box.
Ossified sac
Osthenium (also Osithenium) An alloy of osmium and ruthenium, with trace amounts of one or more other platinum-group metals; used by Eversharp for tipping Ventura nibs. See also osmium, ruthenium, tipping material, Ventura.
Ottawa  1  A Conklin sub-brand (1930s), named for the Ottawa Indian tribe, who were the original inhabitants of the area where Toledo, Ohio, is located. After the company’s 1938 move to Chicago and subsequent sale to the Starr Pen Company, the name Ottawa was used for a Conklin-branded pen model. See also Starr.  2  A pen manufacturer located in Paris, France. Known to me from a single 1950 newspaper advertisement for a broad line of button-filling fountain pens, ballpoint pens, and repeater pencils; as of this writing, Ottawa is still in business producing promotional ballpoint pens and repeater pencils.
overfeed A feed that lies along the upper surface of the nib instead of within the curve of the under surface; used mostly during the 19th century. Shown here is an H. M. Smith “Rival” pen, c. 1895, with an overfeed. See also feed, over-under feed. Do not confuse the reinforcing projection on the upper surface of the Parker 180’s nib with a true overfeed.
overlay  1  A decorative covering of (usually) precious metal, made of sheet or tube, typically with decorative cutouts or engraving, or both. The pen shown here has a gold-filled (rolled gold) overlay with an embossed pattern resembling chasing.  2  Colloquialism for a pen so decorated. See also half overlay, Italian overlay, LEC.
Fountain pen
oversize (also Oversize; abbreviated OS or O/S) A pen that is larger than the “standard” size. Various companies used specific model names such as Maxima (Parker) or Premier (Sheaffer, shown below, 1933 oversize Balance and “standard” Balance) to designate their oversize pens. See also giant, Magnum, Maxima.
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
over-under feed (also double feed, dual feed) A double feed, with parts that lie both along the upper surface of the nib and within the curve of the under surface; used mostly during the 1890s and the first decade of the 20th century, and advertised as providing superior reliability. At first glance, an over-under feed can easily be mistaken for a plain overfeed. See also feed, overfeed.
overwriter A left-handed person who positions his or her hand and the paper so that the hand passes across the paper above (over) the line being written, as shown below. See also underwriter.
Left-handed overwriter
Oxford (also Wahl-Oxford) A Wahl sub-brand (introduced 1931). Early Oxford pens (illustrated below, upper) featured 14K nibs and have the same shape as the contemporaneous (and more expensive) Equi-Poised model; later models are more cheaply made and are much less elegant (below, lower). Eventually, pens with steel nibs were added to the line.
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
oxidation  1  A chemical process in which the material in question reacts with a substance that will donate electrons (an oxidant or oxidizer), resulting in the creation of a different compound, such as rust (FeO, iron+2 oxide).  2  In reference to pens, the term is commonly applied to the gradual appearance of brown or olive-green discoloration on hard rubber. Oxidation occurs when the rubber absorbs energy from an actinic light source such as sunlight. Once the process has begun, it can be accelerated suddenly by immersion in warm or hot water. Severe oxidation can also appear as crazing of the surface. Oxidation of hard rubber is irreversible, but the oxidized surface material, usually a microscopically thin layer, can be removed, and a virtually new appearance restored, by the application of certain prepared solutions that are available to the pen community as of this writing. Illustrated below is a Waterman’s Ideal No 52 showing severe oxidation. Oxidation also causes damage to celluloid; see ambering, discoloration.
Oxidized Waterman 52,

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