Various bits'n'pieces help give a pen its appearance, in addition to the general styling, and they add up to a view of the general age of the pen. So here are the main components. here

The Assortment of Clips

These are self-explanatory on the whole. They are very approximately the same scale, except the end view pictures of jewels. There are minor variations in appearance. The only one I found of specific technical interest - some early clips of the numbered pens have smaller neater lettering (right-hand specimen) and these are usually fixed by a rivet rather than the later screwed jewel.

Ball-ended washer clip of early Burnham, probably De La Rue origin
Ball-ended tabbed clips of Burnhams
"Best Possible British Production Burnham Pen" reminiscent of Conways

Ball-ended Z clip of early Burnham Junior
Ball-ended washer clip of early Burnham "Best Possible British Production Burnham Pen",

the "Big Red"

Plain ball-ended washer clip of early "The Burnham" era
Ball-ended washer clips of early
The Burnham" era with encircled-B logo. Earlier ones tend to have complete circles (left); in later ones the circles are often discontinuous from poor stamping (centre) or deliberate design (right). The version was used a little post-war

Two clips from large and presumably expensive 30's pens; the left hand one a lever-filler and the right a vacuum-filler

Teardrop-ended clips of "The Burnham" era, plain (left) and with logo in a diamond cartouche (right). Both forms lasted until after WW2 and the diamond version even appeared on some numbered pens
Rare ball-ended washer clips of early numbered pen era, one labelled Burnham and one with sunburst design, possibly bought in due to post-war shortages
The early postwar 12/10 pen, washer clip
Numbered pen era, washer clips
Numbered pen era, clips fixed by metal jewels, two styles of lettering
Metal clip jewels; only examination of the inside of the cap will tell finally whether it's a screwed or rivetted jewel
Numbered pen era, cowled clips fixed by plastic jewels, one size fits all
Clip of a Burnham A45
Clips of the Acrylic era. Plain Burnham = plated nib, additional numbers 59, 55, 56, 51 indicate model numbers and progressively smaller gold nibs
Clips from pens for Boots in standard Burnham forms: Chatsworth of two different ages (left) and Pelham (right)
Clips from Waverley pens, standard forms.
Clips for Caws, Koppykleen, and Rugby, of the standard numbered-era form
Mystery imprint on a Burnham B48 clip
Clip with RG imprint - Rolled Gold? and was it an original fitting or a substitute? here here


Burnham used a consolingly small number of types of lever, in two basic sizes. What appear to be the earliest levers have no imprint. Then later levers were lollipop type and had the BP logo, followed by levers with the gothic B motif, and finally by plain levers. The gothic B levers in the larger size had a single or double circle surrounding the B. and a double circle is usually pre-war while the single circle is usually post-war. A sunburst motif appears on some post- war levers and probably the lever is generic and bought in. The plain levers start off at 21.5mm. long, then 20.5 mm. and 18.5mm levers appear. The shortest are probably the latest.

The later small levers were a curious example of useless Conway Stewart mimicry. The Conway original has a curve on the lever edge by the lollipop to catch on the barrel and stop the lever moving when not wanted. It also has tabs to engage the pressure bar. The Burnham lever has no tabs, but it does appear to have the curved edge.....but they never made the lever engage the plastic of the barrel of the pens!

Burnham lever without tabs (upper), Conway with tabs.

© Alan Charlton 2011 here

Burnham Nibs (1)

1 - 9 various 14 ct nibs carrying Burnham imprint; 10 - 11 Pelham and Chatsworth nibs with cursive imprints, presumably Burnham;
12 Caws nib, presumably Burnham


5 6 7 8

9 10 11 12

Burnham Nibs (2)

13 Warranted nib from Burnham "Big Red" perhaps a replacement; 14 Warranted nib from very early Burnham; 15 - 16 Warranted nibs from Burnhams, possibly original;

17 - 21 various plated Burnham nibs
22 "Music" nib in interchangeable mount for B48 or acrylic pen, a customisation?; 23 Glass nib from a B48; 24 Stainless tubular nib of A45

13 14 15 16

17 18 19 20

21 22 23 24

Interchangeable Nibs (1)

Section and nib of late acrylic pen (left) and an earlier B48.

Two different ordinary nibs for B48, fine and broad, with an Osmiroid Italic and an Esterbrook 2234 with the same fitting.

Interchangeable nib units for B48
3 different Italic nibs and a Manifold

Interchangeable nib units for late period acrylic pens, one with ladder feed in hard rubber, the other with injection-moulded acrylic feed. Both have plated italic nibs.

Interchangeable Nibs (2)

Box of B48 nib units

Interchangeable nib units for No. 47 pens

Interchangeable nib/section/sac units for No. 44 pens here 


There are only a few materials which make up the barrel and cap, the main visible parts of pens. The earliest material was vulcanite, better known in pens as hard rubber, followed by celluloid (nitrocellulose) and then very closely by casein. Only the last pens were made entirely of acrylic material.

The appearance of hard rubber is not very easy to vary, and it was common to use physically chased patterns to liven up the appearance of plain black hard rubber. Alternatively the rubber could be a mix of the few possible colours, commonly red and black. The black was basically coloured by carbon and the red possibly iron oxide.

Celluloid is easily produced in plain colours and organic dyes colour the mix. Simple variegated versions simply used more than one coloured component in the mix and the different components could be cut or broken into chips before they were combined – fused with the aid of a solvent and heat. More complicated patterns, such as cross-hatched patterns and Parker’s striped effect, used more than one step of fusing different coloured materials and then cutting up the fused mix and re- fusing it. Burnham did not go for the more elaborate versions much, only marbled (variegated) forms were common, usually with the different colours outlined in black, presumably with another dyed celluloid component. Very rarely a cross-hatched version has been found which presumably demanded a few cycles of combination, cutting, and re- fusing.

Casein was made from granular stock which was dyed, soaked and if desired mixed in desired combinations. It was then extruded as rod or sheet. The sheet was cut into rod before pen manufacture. The extruder nozzle was heated and this seems to have given a discoloured top and bottom surface to the sheet version, often recognisable as a two-stripe effect on the pen. Extrusion might be by pressure alone or by a screw mechanism and these produced differerent effects. Some items were made in “nearly plain” casein and this probably was made by deliberate incomplete mixing of dyeing material. Casein is sensitive to changes in humidity – why it was not a success in the USA with its range of climates. It helps to use an inner cap of hard rubber to protect a casein cap from the humidity of the ink, but Burnham never bothered with this refinement so their casein pens often have some distortion of the cap. And the surface of cap and barrel often shows crazing resulting from changes in humidity.

The acrylic material of the very last pens was all in solid plain colours and doesn’t merit a picture. Acrylic had been used for sections and the retaining jewels for cowled clips previously, and there was an inconspicuous moulding flash on these. The pen caps and barrels were better and lacked the flash. Many of the acrylic pens had a hard rubber comb feed, but a moulded acrylic feed also appeared.

Two versions of chased hard rubber, and two-colour red/black.

Left to right: straight seam celluloid, and 3 versions of spiral seam, the rightmost a cross-hatch pattern that hides the spiral effect.

Casein formed from a mixture of pellets of different colours, usually two. Mostly there is an additional veined effect in which might have been obtained by adding a third more liquid matrix. The top 4 are postwar, the bottom 4 are earlier, say 1939 to the end of the “The Burnham”era. These early versions tend to have more “metallic” lustre.

Examples of casein made with a spiral screw extruder: there is a repeating pattern of varying degree of subtlety, depending on the degree of mixing of the casein.

Flame patten casein - made with spiral screw extrusion: there is a repeating pattern but it is very evident because the casein components have been left as unmixed as possible

Examples of two-stripe casein. The third down suggests that this could perhaps be combined with the regularity of screw extrusion.

A very peculiar casein! Probably there is a matrix material, clear in one and blue in the other. A second opaque silver-grey layer is added which has been physically slit and stretched to open the slits.

If it was green this would be called “celery”, like some American celluloid pens. But this is casein as well as not being green..... Presumably, like the celluloid equivalent, it is made by repeated folding of thin material before it is cured.

Burnham had a problem with celluloid barrel ends, particularly in later years. Casein rod allowed barrel ends to be turned, but celluloid tube did not. So they put an elegant plastic end piece on the later celluloid torpedo-shaped pens (but the colours were often not very permanent). They avoided the problem to a large extent with earlier pens as so many were button-fillers, but some celluloid pens have a flat end-piece cemented on.

© Copyright Alan Charlton 2011