Prints & Cards
Tip-Dip Touchdown Pens 1953-c1963
by Jim Mamoulides 1/4/02 - Updated 9/14/06
Thanks to Daniel Kirchheimer and Patrick Van Hoof
When Sheaffer introduced the Snorkel filling system in 1952, Sheaffer redesigned many of the existing Thin Model or TM Touchdown pens to the new Snorkel system. The reliable Touchdown system was not abandoned, but was relegated to two new entry level models, the Craftsman and the Cadet. These were advertised as "Tip-Dip" pens, emphasizing that like the higher priced Snorkel models, these pens, too, were "clean filling."
Sheaffer advertisements promised that "with Tip-Dip action, points and barrels no longer need to be submerged for efficient, complete filling." Tip-Dip nibs have an opening in the center of the section end that provides a path for ink directly into the ink sac when the pen is dipped and filled.
Sixteen different easily interchangeable open stainless steel nib units were initially offered, in firm, semi-flexible and flexible styles, including shorthand and stub versions. The nibs have nib codes on the face that indicates the nib type. The codes are straightforward, Firm or standard nibs: X1 - Extra Fine, G1 - Shorthand, F1 - Fine, M1 - Medium, B1 - Broad and S1 - Stub. Semi-flexible nibs have an "S" prefix to the code and Flexible nibs have an "F" prefix. Shorthand nibs came only in firm. Over the life of the models the number of nib units offered was reduced.
These two pen models are essentially the same in all respects except that the Craftsman has a chrome plated cap with widely spaced rings engraved and the Cadet has a plastic cap with a wide chrome plated cap band. A later version of the Cadet, the Cadet "23," had gold filled trim and a 14 karat gold nib. The clips on each model are deeply stamped with the "Sheaffer's" name.
Both pens appear to be derived from the previous Touchdown Admiral model, which was a more upscale, non-White Dot pen with the same basic design, clip and cap band as the Cadet, except that these were gold filled. The Admiral also had a two-tone Feathertouch style 14 karat gold nib, where the Cadet and new Craftsman use interchangeable stainless steel nibs. The previous Touchdown Craftsman model was dropped.
These new Touchdown pens have a small ink sac inside a metal sac protector that fills using pneumatic air pressure in the downstroke of the plunger to compress the sac and fill the pen. The Touchdown system was first used on 1949 and has been used on several Sheaffer models to the present.
As with the prior Touchdown lines, Sheaffer manufactured these pens using injection molded solid color plastics. Color choices changed to more pastel choices, which were in style at the time, rather than the darker colors of the late 1940s and early 1950s. The first Cadet and Craftsman models were produced in black, burgundy, pastel green, aqua (blue) and gray. I have seen pictures of a white "doctor's" Cadet set. Gray appears to have been dropped near the end of production.
Pens were sold singly or with the recently redesigned (for the Thin Model Snorkel pens, in 1952) very slender matching twist action pencils. Packaging was either a two place ensemble cardboard flip open box or a single slim cardboard box. Beginning at about 1960, Sheaffer started to sell their student lines on cardboard hang-card blister packs that could be hung on aisle hangers in retail stores.
The Cadet was advertised as a "brand new entry in the budget-price class" offering "quality and advancements found in no other." Advertisements pushed the pen as a student model. The only difference between the Cadet and the Craftsman models is the chrome cap. In all other respects they are the same pen. In 1954 the Cadet model sold for US $3.75. By 1963 the Cadet was offered in four colors, black, burgundy, blue and sage green, and pens sold for US $3.95 and pen and pencil sets sold for US $6.95. Nib choices were by then reduced to six standard firmness nibs.
Identification guide and features:
Tip-Dip desk sets were also sold, with the 1955 catalog listing six sets ranging in price from a plain set at US $5.00 to a fancier set with a nameplate for US $10.00.
The Craftsman model was promoted as a high quality but low price pen, aimed at users who wanted style, hence the chrome plated cap, yet could not afford one of the more expensive Snorkel models. The only real difference between this pen and the Cadet is the cap, and the caps do interchange. The Craftsman was not in the 1963 catalog, and was probably discontinued earlier.
Identification guide and features:
Sheaffer Cadet "23"
An interesting upscale version of the Cadet was offered c1961-1962, the Cadet "23." This was essentially a standard Cadet fitted with a gold nib and enhanced with gold filled trim. The pen looks strikingly similar to the Touchdown Admiral of 1950-1952, with a plain rather than two-tone nib. The pen appears as early as the 1961 catalog and is not in the 1963 catalog, so it probably had a short history. Having seen none of these in the field, they may be quite scarce, or may be mixed up with earlier Admiral pens.
There are two spotting features to distinguish this pen. The first telltale would be the nib, a plain open 14 karat gold nib stamped "23, which is incorrect for a 1950-1952 Admiral, which has a two-tone palladium masked nib, or a 1950-1952 Craftsman, which was fitted with a 14 karat gold nib stamped "33." The second would be the presence of the Tip-Dip feed, with its distinctive channel opening in the front, and absent from the 1950-1952 pens.
I have not found pricing information on the pen, but it most likely sold for a premium over the $3.95 Cadet. Gold nib pens were priced closer to $10.00, but since this is an economy pen, an $8.00 price would not surprise me.
Like the Cadet, it was probably offered in four colors, black, burgundy, blue and sage green, though no matching pencil is mentioned in the catalog. Multiple nib choices were offered, probably the six same standard types.
Identification guide and features:
For this review, I chose both Craftsman and Cadet models, fitted with both fine and medium nibs. These are shorter pens than their TM Snorkel siblings, about 5 1/4 inches long capped and 6 inches posted. They are slightly lighter, as a result of the size difference and lack of Snorkel filler.
These are well balanced pens, whether the cap is posted or not. As they are smaller pens, I preferred the cap posted, which posts very securely.
The caps come in two finishes, plastic or chrome plated metal. The chrome plating seems very well done. Unlike the other TM pens, the caps screw onto plastic threaded sections, but they stay on well. The clip is not spring loaded, as with the more expensive pens, and it is fairly tight to the cap, so this will clip on shirts, but not a coat pocket.
The pens fill easily with a single downward stroke of the Touchdown plunger. My experience with these pens is that they are very reliable. I've seen many work right out of the box, but one should consider having any vintage Touchdown pen serviced.
The nibs on these pens are somewhat on the stiff side, as their markings would indicate, and are smooth writers, making them good everyday users. I took a Cadet with me on a trip and found it to be very reliable and a great note taker. The plastic is tough, and resists scratching. The pen starts well even after being set down open for a while.
These models are usually fairly inexpensive and fairly common. Expect to see them at or lower than Esterbrook prices, and lower than Snorkel models. They were marketed as economy and school pens, though not as cheapies. This is a solid well made everyday user pen that should give continuous good service. A pen to use as well as to collect.
Thanks to Daniel Kirchheimer for providing the 1963 catalog scans and for loaning the Cadet in the blister pack for photographs. Thanks to Patrick Van Hoof for providing scans of the 1961 catalog.
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