The manufacture of pens made of steel dates back to 1780, when Mr. Samuel Harrison, in England, made the first pens at all resembling the modern article.
For about fifty years the few that were used in place of the quill, were made by hand and crude machinery by enthusiasts who thought they saw a future in metallic pens. They consistent of a handle and point in one piece, commonly called barrel pens, the point being filed into shape from a piece of steel tubing.
It was not until about 1830 that slip pens were made (that is, pens to slip into the holder), and the popular prejudice against steel pens then began to give way. These first experiments were made in Birmingham, England, where the industry developed; and at the present time by far the largest manufacturers in the world are the successors to the original experimenters in that city. The manufacturers of Birmingham now consume more than twenty tons of steel per week in making this indispensable article of modern times.
Process of Manufacture.
In transforming sheets of steel into perfectly finished pens, there are fourteen processes. Some of these are mechanical, but others require great accuracy, skill, and judgment to produce a perfect result. The operations may be summed up as follows:
1st. Annealing, or softening the sheets of steel by heating and allowing them to cool slowly.
2nd. Cleaning and Rolling to the required thickness. As there are many gradations of thickness necessary for different shapes of pens, this is an exceedingly important operation, and requires the nicest adjustment to secure absolute uniformity.
3rd. Cutting the blank with the use of press and die of the shape to form the pen designs.
4th. Marking the name with press and stamp.
5th. Piercing the holes with press and punch.
6th. Second Annealing.
7th. Raising the blank into the rounded shape of a pen with press and die.
8th. Hardening by heating to a certain temperature and cooling quickly in oil after which cleaning process is necessary.
9th. Tempering to the requisite degree of elasticity, which is another delicate operation requiring care and judgment.
10th. Scouring wet, and afterwards scouring dry, in revolving cylinders, to brighten the steel and smooth the points.
11th. Grinding, by emery wheels, a small part of the top surface of the point, into two equal halves; one of the most delicate and necessary operations. The point of some pens is too fine to be seen without a magnifying glass even before slitting. This point whether fine or blunt, must be divided exactly in the middle to produce a perfect pen.
13th. Barreling, or revolving in cylinders with sand, to smooth the points again and polish the steel.
14th. Coloring and Varnishing, or Silver-plating, to secure the desired finish.
The time required to manufacture in the best manner is about two months.
Superiority of Spencerian Pens. After all precautions have been taken to secure a uniform product, it is inevitable that a certain proportion of imperfect or damaged pens will be mixed with the rest.
Some manufacturers will omit or slight some of the above processes in order to reduce the cost to the lowest point; others go through every process with more or less care, but neglect to cull from the finished product the imperfect pens.
The Spencerian Pens are all looked over three times separately by experienced persons before being boxed for sale, and any poor pens are destroyed. They are therefore celebrated for uniformity and workmanship, and on account of the experience of the makers and the utmost care on manufacture, they are entitled to their standing among expert writers and correspondents as the best."