The years following the Second World War, saw the end of the age of the fountain pen. Ballpoint pens were becoming more popular – they were modern and didn’t need the whole hassle of filling. This spurred the major pen makers of the day to come up with innovative filling methods to compete. The Snorkel filling mechanism was one of the last of these new methods.
The snorkel in these pens is the small retractable tube below the nib that is dipped into the ink for filling. This means that the nib itself stays out of the ink and you don’t need to clean up after filling. Apart from the tube, the basic filling mechanism is the touchdown. This is a simple pneumatic mechanism. Inside the barrel, the ink is stored in a rubber tube (called a sac). Around this was another tube. When retracted and pushed back in, this caused the pressure in the barrel to increase and collapse the sac. At the bottom of the stroke, the pressure equalises, and the sac expands, pulling ink into the pen.
Filling the pen is simple, twist the screw cap at the end of the barrel to extend the snorkel tube, and then pull out the plunger. Put the point of the tube into the ink and then depress the plunger. This expels air and ink from the sac, which then fills up with ink. After a few seconds take the pen out of the ink and screw the cap back down, which will retract the snorkel. Because only the tube has been in the ink, and is now retracted, there is nothing to clean up.
My particular model is a Clipper. the cap isn’t chrome, but polished stainless steel, and the body is burgundy. The Triumph nib is Palladium-Silver. The medium nib is very stiff but very smooth, and like the Parker 51, the large and enclosed collector makes for a very even ink flow. The stiff nib is also useful when people want to borrow my pen – it is unlikely to be damaged by hands more used to writing with ballpoints.
The snorkel is pleasant to use. The long and narrow shape fits easily in the hand and the smooth nib and ink flow make it easy to use. But, when it comes to a choice between the Parker 51 and the snorkel, I’m afraid I have to go with the 51.