Whatfort?

Whitefort, the place, looks to be mostly a road sign on a country road in Ireland near Thurles with no industry I can see. The length of the nave of the French cathedral of Saint Etienne of Bourges is 333 feet. Now you know the irrelevant information I discovered in a search about the pen I’m holding now: the Whitefort 333.

The Whitefort 333.

Not everyone loves a mystery and I would like to know more about this intriguing pen but that info seems lost in the sands of time. It’s an amazingly crafted piece precisely made from machined clear plastic like most mid-20th century display pens. All the parts have exacting tolerances and fit perfectly.  Was this one of a few demonstrators made or one of a thousand production models? No idea. Nothing looks prototypical about it under close inspection. The only clues of identity is a clip engraved “W 333” and a nib and cap band engraved “Whitefort 333”. There are no markings on the barrel or other plastic parts.

The Whitefort 333 taken apart.

The Whitefort 333 taken apart.

The nib itself deserves some further comment. It’s marked “14ct” and is two-tone with a band of bright silver plating on the leading edges. Seeing “ct” instead of “kt” here indicates it wasn’t made in North America so that’s at least a bit of useful detail. This is a nicely made nib which reminds me of the similar two tone ones some vintage Onotos had on them.

Can we make any useful guess on this fountain pen’s provenance after this examination? Maybe a half-baked guess is the best we can do. The gold content marking and the name leads me to believe this pen was made in English speaking Europe somewhere. It seems to be made of Lucite (also known as plexiglass) which came into use for pens right before WWII. Lastly, the visual style of the pen is similar to British products from the 1950s. This leads to a very unsteady deduction that it is an UK pen made after WWII and before the flower power decade.

Enough now about the origin of this pen and on to the most interesting facet which is the filling system. This is the most complex bulb-filling system I’ve seen in person or in books. It’s usually a simple system not taken to an extreme like this and I’ve put together a little diagram help me explain the major sections of it (click it for a larger version):

The A section of the illustration is the rubber bulb itself. Pressing and releasing the bulb creates the pressure and vacuum that fills the pen. This fits through and then wraps under a collar which screws into the barrel. The threads for the blind cap are also here.

The B section is an area that I will call the vacuum chamber for no other reason then I have to call it something. The tube that enters this chamber from below allows for the air flow but also keeps this chamber dry. You can see the tube goes quite a ways up so no fluid will be able to get past it and into here theoretically. I don’t know if there is a benefit to this other than the bulb stays ink free so leaking from it would not be possible.

The C section is the ink chamber. There is a divider in the barrel between this and the previous chamber where two tubes come together. Air is evacuated through these and then out the tube connected to the section due to pressure from the bulb. Ink will then flow back through the section tube (if dipped into the bottle) due to the vacuum created by the release of the bulb. Repeat this action until the pen is filled. The height of this section tube marks the upper limit of the ink level in the chamber which it just about to the top. The reason the upper tube in this chamber hugs the side of barrel at the far end is a mystery to me. Possibly they felt that capillary action would pull any ink that got into this tube out again?

The D section is the nib, feed, and section of the pen.

How well does this filling system work? Well, I’m not going to fill this pen despite my usual lack of reluctance to using NOS or rare-ish pens. I have no idea how many of these are left and I like looking at it empty and clear. Using water I can tell you that the upper chamber can get liquid in it if you are over enthusiastic with your filling which would not be a good thing since it has no place to exit from up there. The system’s all a bit silly really. The rest of the pen should function normally since it has a standard construction.

So now you’ve seen this bit of history too and I hope you found it interesting. There’s always something out there that can befuddle and confound it seems.


The Whitefort 333 basking in its mystery.

The Whitefort 333 basking in its mystery.

  1. September 10, 2010, 1:10 pm

    Fascinating!
    It would be cool to see it filled with slightly tinted water (no, not yellow) to see the system. Very good pics and illustration!

    Reply
    1. TAO
      September 11, 2010, 12:02 pm

      I thought of using tinted water but I really am feeling lazy about having to take it apart to clean it if necessary. LOL!

      Reply
  2. September 10, 2010, 3:12 pm

    Great analysis of an unknown pen ! I love a mystery but I don’t know if I would be able to restrain myself from seeing it filled with a lovely ink.

    I see you are using your newly acquired “antique” saying as a pen display.

    Reply
    1. TAO
      September 11, 2010, 12:01 pm

      Yes, I took a picture of it on my “mystery solved” junk store calligraphy piece. Thought it was a nice juxtaposition.

      Reply
  3. September 10, 2010, 9:41 pm

    Excellent, excellent in all aspects.

    Ink it! A pen only acquires life when used. Ink it, and show the results.

    Well, just my suggestion.

    Cheers,

    BT

    Reply
    1. TAO
      September 11, 2010, 12:00 pm

      The nib on this pen is very firm and I don’t think would be all that exciting to write with. What really stops me from filling it is thinking about taking it all apart to clean the ink out of it when done!

      Reply
  4. September 11, 2010, 5:32 am

    I love demons! This one is fantastic. Blog post and pics too. *applause*

    Reply
    1. TAO
      September 11, 2010, 11:59 am

      Thanks Jenny!

      Reply
  5. wolfy
    September 12, 2010, 12:14 pm

    Where the hell do you find thios?

    Reply
    1. TAO
      September 14, 2010, 9:15 pm

      Most of the time I find stuff on Ebay.

      Reply
  6. September 13, 2010, 1:08 am

    Excellent Review which makes me curious about the Whitefort 333. Where would I be able to buy one?

    Reply
    1. TAO
      September 15, 2010, 10:26 am

      I’ve never seen another for sale myself. Since I have so little information on the pen I can’t even tell you where to start.

      Reply
      1. September 16, 2010, 1:25 am

        I keep searching, there was one for sale on Ebay but the offer has expired. I have emailed the seller this morning and hopefully I will get some feedback and learn a bit more.

        Reply
  7. sonia
    September 15, 2010, 5:01 am

    It’s so pretty! You should use it! Ink it, ink it, ink it! LOL 🙂

    Reply
    1. TAO
      September 15, 2010, 10:27 am

      I’m still going to resist inking it. It is just my general laziness and I am a bit worried about permanent staining. So I say 😛

      Reply
  8. Charles Leo Beatty, III DPM
    September 15, 2010, 3:25 pm

    Wearever had a clear pen-decades ago.
    They make fish tank’s & aquarium’s (ie. Ripley’s, in M.B.,S.C.), out of Plexiglass.
    I would splurge on a colo(u)r of ink I was waiting to buy, and liked, and “try my hand @ it”.
    Another thing, don’t let that cap out of your hand, as, I’m sure every afficianado will want to borrow it.
    “Make it a good day”.

    Reply
    1. TAO
      September 15, 2010, 4:34 pm

      Everyone seems to love demonstrators. I can’t blame them since if the pen is complex (like a piston fill) it’s great to watch it work. I’ve got a few including a Sheaffer Snorkel demo which is my favorite. I’ve got a Wearever with a clear feed which is neat.

      Reply
  9. April 30, 2011, 7:51 pm

    Thanks for the exploded view of the pen, and the diagram… I never appreciated demonstrators as much as when I got my own TWSBI and took it apart 😀

    Reply
    1. May 3, 2011, 2:07 am

      I bought the TWSBI in clear colour also and I am using it for about 3 weeks now. I really like the fact that the interior is being visisble. The only not so nice thing I noticed is that it spills ink much faster than my other fountain pens.
      I have not taken the chance to take it apart though. I will try this probably in a few weeks time.
      What is your experience with it?

      Reply
    2. TAO
      May 5, 2011, 5:49 pm

      It’s nice to see the insides of the pens. I love seeing things work. 🙂

      Reply

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