Glenn's Pens

Pen Views

August 2009

The importance of the clip...

Pne ClipsWhile the nib is one of the crucial parts of a fountain pen, the clip is not something that should not be overlooked or assessed when buying a pen. After all, if you carry your pen in a pocket, the clip will be the one part of the pen that is right out there.

It is often the first part of the pen that someone sees. I think the clip is an introduction to the pen.

When a designer works on the design of a pen they often have a brief that outlines the goals of the pen in terms of market, theme or niche. Some lines of pens are introduced with significant changes to the clip, others, repeat a theme that becomes a trademark for the company.

In talking with representatives of the pen companies that I have visited, often there are direct references to why the clip was styled in a specific way.

When clips were added as a feature of the fountain pen they were first a piece of metal that slid onto the cap. For example, the Visconti Ragtime Anniversary pen, pictured on the far right above. It was in 1905 that Waterman introduced a clip that was permanently attached to the pen cap by a rivot.

Now, pen clips can be attached to the body of the pen, usually the cap, in a variety of ways.

Some clips are attached to what can be considered a washer, and then the washer in held down onto the pen by a top section of the cap. The Waterman Patrician, second from the left, pictured above has such a clip. It is common, as with the Delta 360 that is shown on the left of the photo that follows or the Krone right next to it. I think Parker was the first company to come out with this type of clip attachment.

Omas ParagonOther clips are attached with part of the clip embedded within the inside of the cap. an example is the Omas Burkina or the Omas Paragon (pictured to the left). A length of section of the clip rests inside the cap and this gives the clip its strenght.

Cheaper pens have a clip that is attached by what is almost a staple. There the prongs, with a fish-hook end so that the prong can be inserted into the pen cap but is more difficult to pull out. With these clips, overtime, the clip can become lose.

Pens wth clips

In looking at old advertisements for pens, the clip is sometimes mentioned as a feature of the pen. It was interesting to read an advertisement for 1940 Waterman "Commando" pen and pencil. The description was for the pen tohave a top military clip, as smart in "civies" as it is essential in uniform. Given what was going on at the time, the military connection was most appropriate.

I always view the pen clip as a pretty important part of the pen from two perspectives. First the overall design appearance of the pen. First, is the clip of a proper proportion to the body and cap of the pen? No use have a large pen with an undersized clip. Second, is the clip smooth to the hand. Nothing is worth than a clip that catches the hand as you write with the pen, or the fabric of your shirt.

And even before the design aspects, I always want to be sure there is a clip? I need a clip on the pen so that it sits in my shirt pocket and it can rest on the desk without rolling off.


The Pelikan Souveran series has the company's classic clip. The design dates back to 1951 and was a new look for the company at the time. The clip represents the face of a Pelican; eyes up top, beak curling down at the other end of the clip.

When I visited with Dan del Vecchio of Visconti, we talked about the Visconti clip which is a distinctive aspect of their pens.

Visconti ClipDante explained how the clip represents a bridge, a symbol of friendship, a union between the people. The bridge is symbolic of unifying, and this, he explained, is also the task and role of the pen.

As I have visited various pen companies, the clip is one of the important design aspects of the pen that comes out in the discussion. They have never been after thoughts.

When I met with Christophe Artaux,
Chief Executive Officer, Omas and Marta Cruciani, Marketing Manager they talked about when the company changed the style of the Arte Italiana line, they wanted the pen to be large and bold. Just before they made the change the Arte Italiana has used a roller clip, a clip with a small roller near the end. It was a style of clip that originated in the United States with Wahl. But Omas do a re-design of the Arte Italiana. That meant moving away from the clip that had been part of the line for many years. The new clip conveys a more modern message about the pen.

Dunhill AD2000

The Dunhill AD2000 fountain pen has an interesting clip. By twisting the very top of the pen you can adjust the clip to be flush with the body of the pen, or rasied so that it can be used to clip into a shirt.

The top photo at the left shows the clip up, and the bottom photo shows the clip down flush with the body. It is only a slight difference, however, once down, you can not clip the pen into your pocket. I have found, however, that if the clip is brought flush to the body, then the pen is subject to rolling... rolling off the desk, whichis never a good thing!

So in summary, the clip, it is an important part of the pen. It is one of the first things I notice about a pen when I see it in a pocket of another person. The clip is an introduction to the entire pen. I have never taken the appearance of the clip lightly, as for me, the design and look of the clip can be one of the deciding factors if I will purchase the pen.

Pen clips, just another part of the intrigue of a writing instrument!


Enjoy your pens! Your pen, an expression of you.