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Nibs: The “TRIUMPH” Point, by W. A. Sheaffer

(This page published June 1, 2020)

Reference Info Index | Glossopedia  ]


1944 “TRIUMPH” point advertisement

This 1944 Sheaffer adver­tise­ment from Life Magazine illustrates the manufacturing steps to produce a “TRIUMPH” point unit. Note how the feed becomes an integral part of the assembly.

NibIn the latter part of the 1930s, the W. A. Sheaffer Pen Company began offering Lifetime Balance pens that were fitted with nibs curved slightly upward at the tip as shown below. The upward curve produced a nib that wrote more smoothly than an otherwise identical straight one.

Upturned nibThe Balance was retired in mid-1942, when Sheaffer introduced the “TRIUMPH” pen with its revolutionary “TRIUMPH” point nib (U.S. Patents Nos D130,997 and 2,303,373). The upturned tip, however, was part and parcel of the new design. Although manufacturers work continually to enhance the nib’s basic design, improvements such the addition of hard tipping material are incremental; and most “improvements,” such as the elimination of the breather hole, are actually only cosmetic. There have been few significant changes in nib design since the advent in the early 19th century of steel dip nibs. The “TRIUMPH” point, which looked and performed better than its predecessors, was a major step forward.

Patent drawing

At the outset, things were pretty simple. Except for their point styles, all “TRIUMPH” point nibs were the same. It didn’t stay that way. As the years progressed, design changes in the pens and in the nib units themselves introduced progressively more complexity. This article is a guide to the different “TRIUMPH” point nibs from their 1942 introduction through the end of the 1990s, when the last “TRIUMPH” point model was retired.

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The First Generation

When it was introduced in May 1942, less than six months after the United States entered World War II, the “TRIUMPH” pen came one of two ways: lever-filler or VACUUM-FIL plunger-filler. There were full-length and Tuckaway versions, but both sizes used the same forepart assembly, including the nib unit, so the Tuckaway need not be considered separately here. In October 1942, the War Production Board (WPB) applied new, more stringent restrictions on the use of rubber, and Sheaffer responded by suspending production of lever-filling pens for the duration of the war.

Wartime pens have a distinctive broad cap band and a very short section. The nib’s taper continues in an essentially unbroken line into the tapered surface of the section to create a continuous smooth curve, and the resulting streamlined assembly is very attractive. Behind the thread ring, the taper of the section extends into the barrel a little farther than the length of the section itself, ending in a distinct step against which the cap seats. Shown here are lever- and plunger-filling pens; although the lever-filler’s barrel is Visulated by the insertion of a sleeve of clear acrylic behind the thread ring, there is no difference in how the nib unit fits into the pen.

Fountain pen
Fountain pen

For the first generation, the nib was fabricated by die-cutting it (shape shown below) from a thin gold strip. After imprinting, it was shaped on a mandrel and welded on the underside, where the two ends came together, and the weld was ground and polished to be invisible. After the nib was tipped, slit, and finished, it was united with the feed and coupler by swaging the back end of the nib over the edge of a flange at the front of the coupler, creating an inward flange to lock the assembly together as shown in the patent drawing near the beginning of this article. There is no way to disassemble these nib units without damage.

(Taken from the 1944 Sheaffer ad shown above;
edited to correct artistic distortion in the original)

The nib units for the first and second versions of the broad-banded wartime “TRIUMPH” are almost identical. They differ in the threading, however, and they are not 100% interchangeable. These two wartime nib types can be identified by their threaded couplers, as shown here:

Red Coupler ww2_red_coupler First version. Threads extend forward all the way to the back end of the nib. Mates with a section that has threading relieved internally for about " (1.2 mm) from the opening.
Black Coupler ww2_blk_coupler Second version. Threads are relieved for about " (1.2 mm) from the back end of the nib. Mates with a section that has threading extending all the way to the opening.

The red-coupler design appears to have been used only very briefly; these nibs are quite uncommon. When it was replaced by the black-coupler version, the design was set in concrete until the “TRIUMPH” model was withdrawn at the end of World War II.

Both feeds extend past the back end of the coupler on one side, to push the nose of the plunger sideways when the plunger is closed. This extension serves no function in a lever-filler, but producing only one kind of feed might have saved money by avoiding the complication of stocking two dinfferent styles. In both cases, the relieved threads provides space for a “gasket” of thread sealant, to ensure against leakage. The red coupler’s threads are very slightly smaller in diameter than the threads on the black coupler. A red-coupler nib unit will fit into any wartime “TRIUMPH” pen body, but the lack of thread relief on both parts means that there might not be enough thread sealant to allow for a good seal. Black-coupler nib units will usually not screw into into a body that was made for the red-coupler unit.

The most prominent identifying characteristic of the wartime nibs is the coupler threads themselves. Wartime nibs have a four-lead thread. All postwar nibs have a single-lead thread, which was easier and less costly to machine. Compare the two threadings in the images below:

four_lead_thread single_lead_thread
Four-lead thread
Single-lead thread

The Second Generation

Sheaffer restyled its pens at the end of World War II, replacing the one-size-fits-all torpedo shape with varying sizes in a new cigar shape. The very short section was gone, replaced by a section of more ordinary proportions, with the step in the barrel much closer to the thread ring. The nib units needed for the new design were significantly different from their wartime predecessors; and this time, there were new, shorter nibs for the Tuckaway and the full-length Sovereign II, as shown here. The full-length nib is approximately " (22 mm) long, and the shorter nib is approximately " (19 mm) long.

full_loose short_loose
Full-length nib Shorter nib

With the new postwar generation, lever-fillers returned to the product line, and this time there were different couplers and feeds for lever- and plunger-filling models. Shown here are lever-filling Autograph and Sovereign II pens and a Crest plunger-filler.

Fountain pen
Fountain pen

The formed-up nib of the wartime pens was cumbersome and costly to manufacture, and the weld on the underside was also a weak point where nibs could, and did, split. Sheaffer improved the process for the second generation by spinning the nib to its conical shape from tubing instead of starting from a flat strip. Assembly was also streamlined; instead of a swaged flange on the nib to keep the unit together, there was now an internally threaded sleeve soldered to the inside of the nib at the back (U.S. Patent No 2,474,996, colored red, callout 23 in the patent drawing below), and the coupler was correspondingly threaded on its periphery. As shown by Figure 2 in the drawing, these units can be disassembled by careful heating; the solder is a low-temperature alloy, however, and heating too aggressively can melt it and cause the nib to shed its threaded sleeve. The sleeves tended to corrode easily, and they are often very fragile; if one comes loose, repairing the damage can be difficult or even impossible.

Patent drawing

Gone was the red coupler, but some nibs now appeared with a transparent coupler made of Lucite. Nib length aside, there are two variants, one for plunger-fillers and one for lever-fillers:

Plunger Version ww2_red_coupler Threads are relieved for about " (0.8 mm) from the back end of the nib. Feed extends out back of coupler on one side only, to push the plunger sideways when the plunger is closed.
Lever Version ww2_blk_coupler Threads are not relieved, but they do not start until about " (4 mm) from the back end of the nib. Feed does not extend past back end of coupler. Section threads are relieved to allow the unthreaded portion of the coupler to seat.

The Third Generation

In 1949, Sheaffer introduced the Touchdown filling system. Although the user operated the Touchdown in the same manner as its predecessor, the plunger-filler, the Touchdown was different mechanically, and it called for a different nib unit. The most noticeable difference is that the coupler now has an exposed flange extending to the outside of the section, where it streamlines the nib nicely into the line of the section. A major advantage of this new design was that there would no longer be the risk of extruding thread sealant at the back end of the nib during assembly due to the presence of a secondary flange that would retain sealant in the area where the threads are relieved. The 1949 Touchdown lasted for only one year. In 1950, it was replaced by the Touchdown TM (Thin Model), whose essential difference was that it was significantly thinner. This change, of course, required a new nib unit. Shown here are a 1949 Touchdown Sentinel and a Touchdown TM Crest.

Fountain pen
Fountain pen

For the third generation, or possibly during the lifetime of the second, a further improvement appeared in the process for fabricating the nib. By varying the thickness of the metal as the tubing was spun into the desired shape, the back end of the finished conical part could be made thicker than the rest of the nib, and the added thickness at that point provided the necessary material for cutting internal threads. No longer was it necessary to solder a threaded sleeve into the nib. Threading the native metal remained the standard manufacturing process until the “TRIUMPH” point was retired.

The 1949 feed retained the extension at the back of the coupler that had been needed for the plunger filler, but the extension would serve no function in the Touchdown. There was apparently no compelling reason to retool the feed for the Touchdown, however, and the need for replacement parts could have been a reason not to do so. Whatever the reason, Sheaffer left the feed the same. See the Note below for a useful way to take advantage of this decision. The Touchdown TM’s nib unit, since it was a completely new product, was re-engineered, and the feed lost the useless extension.

1949 Touchdown ww2_red_coupler Threads are relieved, with a secondary flange to retain thread sealant in the relieved area so that there is no risk of sealant being extruded during assembly. Feed retains the extension that was required for plunger-fillers.
Touchdown TM ww2_red_coupler Design is essentially the same as in the 1949 Touchdown, although it is much thinner. The feed has now lost the extension at the back.

Because the feed design did not change between the plunger-filler, last used in 1948, and the Touchdown, introduced in 1949, it is possible to replace a plunger-filler nib unit with a 1949 Touchdown nib unit by machining away the stepped flanges on the coupler and then shortening the extension on the back end of the feed so that it is the same distance from the back end of the nib as in the plunger-filler version.

The Fourth Generation

Everything changed with the introduction of the Snorkel in 1952, but not everything changed. The Snorkel was the same diameter as the Touchdown TM; in fact, at its introduction it was called the Snorkel TM. Its nib unit was radically different from the Touchdown’s nib unit, but it retained the same exact nib. Shown here is a Snorkel demonstrator used by dealers to show prospective purchasers how the Snorkel worked.

Fountain pen

With the Snorkel tube running through the center of the pen, the feed lost everything behind the back end of the coupler threads and gained a hole through its middle. The design of the nib unit changed very slightly after the first year of production.

First-year Snorkel ww2_red_coupler The nib itself is exactly the same as in the Touchdown TM, but there is no further parts commonality. The flange on the coupler is the same length as in the Touchdown TM, and the matching section is not inter­change­able with the shorter section used on open-nib models.
Later Snorkels ww2_red_coupler The flange on the coupler was lengthened, allowing use of the same section used on open-nib Snorkels; this change leveraged economies of scale to create a cost saving.

Some Snorkel nibs, both open and “TRIUMPH” point types, are marked with an etched code consisting of one or two letters and a number; for example, M4 or FX5. Open nibs are marked on the upper surface near the base, and “TRIUMPH” point nibs are marked on the underside. There is an explanation of this code in Profile: Sheaffer’s Snorkel.

The positive side of the Snorkel nib unit, in consideration of the Touchdown TM, is that the nibs themselves are completely interchangeable between Snorkel and Touchdown TM. All that’s needed is a little heat to loosen the sealant holding the nib onto the coupler (and sometimes not even that). Unscrew the nib and install it where you want it, using shellac to reseal it.

During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Sheaffer was exploring new nib materials with an eye to producing nibs of white metals other than stainless steel. Drawing probably on earlier developments such as U.S. Patent No 2,095,890, issued in 1937 to Alan R. Powell and Robert Box of London, England, the company found success with an alloy of palladium and silver, with small amounts of other metals, that was less expensive than 14K gold. Palladium silver nibs appeared in open, “TRIUMPH” point, and, later, Inlaid Nib styles. Illustrated above on the first-year nib unit, palladium silver nibs were introduced with the Snorkel and did not appear on the Touchdown TM. At some point, the Palladium Silver imprint was removed. (See Profile: Sheaffer’s Snorkel for more information.) In a further effort to reduce costs, Sheaffer began gold-plating some of its palladium silver nibs. Gold-colored Snorkel nibs that do not bear a karat mark are made of plated palladium silver, not solid gold.

The Fifth Generation

In 1957, Sheaffer introduced the cartridge-filling Skripsert, with a “miniature” “TRIUMPH” point nib. The Skripsert appeared in a variety of models, including 19 individually numbered Lady Sheaffer models (Lady Sheaffer I–Lady Sheaffer XIX). All Skripsert “TRIUMPH” point nibs were made of palladium silver, with the gold-colored ones plated as was also done with some Snorkel nibs. Shown here are a Skripsert Deluxe and a Lady Sheaffer XIII Skripsert:

Fountain pen
Fountain pen

Because there was no Snorkel tube, and consequently no need for a replaceable seal behind the nib, the Skripsert nib is a simple loose nib that screws onto the front of the section after the feed is inserted. Shown here are a loose Snorkel nib and a Skripsert nib:

full_loose short_loose
Snorkel nib Skripsert nib

In 1962, the Skripsert lost its “TRIUMPH” point in favor of a small semi-hooded nib; but the “TRIUMPH” point was not yet gone. In the previous year, Sheaffer had released a new Touchdown-filling pen called the Target, which was styled to resemble a thinner PFM III but with a gold-colored Skripsert “TRIUMPH” point instead of the PFM’s Inlaid Nib. Later that year, the Target became the Imperial III, and it was joined by the Imperial II, which looked like a thinner PFM II, again with the “TRIUMPH” point. Shown here is an Imperial III.


The Sixth Generation

1966 saw the introduction of the Sheaffer Stylist, which featured a two-sided “flippable” steel nib. It did poorly, and it was replaced in 1967 by the Stylist II, which brought back the Skripsert “TRIUMPH” point, and this time the gold-colored nibs were 14K. The Stylist II had a separate nib unit. Shown here is a brushed chrome Stylist II.

Fountain pen

This nib unit includes a very long rearward extension that ends in a cartridge piercing tube, and it cannot be mistaken for any other “TRIUMPH” point unit. The Stylist II was discontinued in 1970.

Stylist II stylist_nib Nib is exactly the same as in the Skripsert, but there is no further parts commonality. The flange on the coupler is tapered slightly more sharply than the section with which it engages, creating a visible discontinuity.

The division toward the back end of the extension marks the end of the coupler; the smaller black part behind the coupler is part of the feed, and if the feed is not aligned with the nib, that part can be used as a knob to rotate the feed into position. The yellowish ring seals the joint between the back end of the section’s recess and the metal piercing tube.

The Last Hurrah

There was one final gasp for the “TRIUMPH” point. In 1989, Sheaffer introduced a new series of pens bearing the Crest name, which had last flourished in the 1950s as a Snorkel model fitted with a gold-filled cap. This series, of which some models had acrylic barrels with gold-plated metal caps while others had lacquered or plated metal barrels with matching caps, was fitted with an 18K “TRIUMPH” point. The gripping section, which in all earlier models except the Stylist II is smoothly tapered to provide an essentially continuous curve with the nib, exhibits a longer taper like that of the nib, and its end is necked down in a sharper taper, even more pronounced than that of the Stylist II, to fit the nib in much the same way as a rifle cartridge casing is necked to fit the bullet.


This distinctive necked shape renders the overall design less aesthetically pure than the earlier versions, as if the nib had been tacked onto a section designed for a larger nib. The nib screws directly onto the front end of the section; there is no separate coupler. Shown here is a Crest with a gold-plated metal cap and a compression-molded acrylic barrel.

Fountain pen

The 18K Crest nib is longer and more nearly cylindrical (less tapered) than any other “TRIUMPH” point nib, and its tip is not curved upward.

1949 Touchdown ww2_red_coupler (Shown here for comparison)
1990s Crest Nib
on 1949 coupler
stylist_nib 18K Crest nib is the longest “TRIUMPH” point nib. Its tip is not curved upward, and it has no parts commonality with any other “TRIUMPH” point nib. (But see below.)

The Crest nib fits the 1949 Touchdown’s coupler, and its feed can be adapted to fit as as well. The 1949 Tuckaway Sentinel shown here has been modified by the installation of an 18K Crest nib. Care was taken to ensure that there was sufficient clearance inside the cap for the longer nib.

Fountain pen

The Crest was produced for ten years; its demise in 1999 signaled the end of the “TRIUMPH” point’s 57-year product life.


For more than half a century, with a 19-year-hiatus from 1970 to 1989, Sheaffer’s “TRIUMPH” point nib was a highlight on the fountain pen scene. A certain cynicism might suggest that people probably liked it because it gave them more precious metal for their dollar than other nibs, but there is no denying that it wrote well, users thought it looked terrific, and it was sturdier than any other nib design before or since. Back in the day when fountain pens were a utilitarian item, not a luxury, Sheaffer did something extraordinary, and that something is still gaining followers 80 years later.

  1. The upward curve was invented by Duncan Cameron of Macniven & Cameron, Ltd, in the U.K., patented in 1864, and applied to the company’s new Waverley steel pens. Sheaffer never used the Waverley name; but in the late 1920s, Wahl edited out the last e and sold Personal-Point “Waverly” turned-up nibs. For more information, see To the Point: Better in the Days of Old.  Return

  2. The “TRIUMPH” point was also referred to, in various Sheaffer advertisements and documents, as the Triumph point, the Sheath Point, and the cylindrical nib.  Return

The information in this article is as accurate as possible, but you should not take it as absolutely authoritative or complete. If you have additions or corrections to this page, please consider sharing them with us to improve the accuracy of our information.

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