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The French Connection

Two Rally Fountain Pens

by Det Baumann
originally issued Oktober 1998 in
 Stylophile's Online Magazin
adapted and revised for Enter-Net
February 2000

Collection? No ... not really. Four pens do not make a collection, do they? Furthermore with a total of 60 pens and less than three years of collecting I am far from being a pen expert, not to speak of French pens. What did I know about pens, when I started this crazy obsession - or better when this crazy obsession started me? As a German I obviously knew Pelikan and Montblanc, I thought Lamy was a French brand and Waterman was American. Had to learn a lot. I had never heard of Wahl, neither Eversharp. I thought, the Jotter was pretty expensive and I shared the opinion of my wife: "You can only write with ONE pen at a time, why buy a second one?"
Nowadays I discover a new pen manufacturer every other day and I find it quite thrilling. From my four French vintage pens I chose two Rally 10 pens. For comparison I chose the big Pelikan M800 for obvious reason. The Pelikan is widely known, similar sized to the Rallys and has a very good reputation.

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My first vintage French pen came from Werner Kleinhorst's pen auction. It was expensive - for me at that time. I just had the picture and the description of the pen, I had never heard of this brand before.

My first impression after its arrival was, that I was stunned by its quality. It is made by the highest standards of craftsmanship compared to its competitors of the time with better known names.

The plastic used on this pen must have been thoroughly cured, there is not the slightest sign of shrinkage anywhere on this pen. Screwing the cap on or off lets you feel the precision of the threads. It resembles the same feel you get from opening a contemporary acrylic Duofold Centennial or the resin Pelikan M800. You feel the quality of the pen just by opening it. This is very important to me, its a part of the ceremony of writing with a fountain pen. If this functions right, it gives enough time and a positive mind to order your thoughts and think about the first sentence to be written down.

The material of this pen is something special. The barrel is half transparent (you cannot see this in the scan, sorry), showing not only the ink chamber, but also the part, where the piston works. The turning knob for operating the piston is made of two parts. The small black endpiece of the knob is held by a small plastic axle, which is polished flush with the surface of the endpiece. Remove this axle and the endpiece comes off, giving way to the internal system.
All parts of the pen fit perfectly and do not disturb the streamlined shape of the pen. The piston knob and the cap are made of black and gold veined plastic, reducing the transparency of the pen to the barrel only. The cap has a screw on endpiece similar to the knob. It holds a small ring clip and also fits the cap in a perfect manner. french3.jpg (21731 bytes)

This kind of hidden ring clip is a feature seen on many French pens of the time. The decorated arrow clip is made of massive brass and gold plated. It seems a bit too short for this large pen. But that is the only drawback I found on this beauty. The section is comfortable to hold, although the threads of the barrel may cause problems with different positions of holding the pen. Again the M800 comes to mind, same problem here.
french5.jpg (7909 bytes) It seems, Rally bought their nibs from different sources and did not produce their own nibs. On this pen is a large 14K medium oblique nib engraved with an ibex in a circle. The feed has a ladder form and gives a nice and even ink flow.
Together with the large ink capacity and the considerably lighter weight compared to the heavy M800 you can write almost forever without getting cramp problems. french5.jpg (7909 bytes)

This Rally 10 came from Craig Bozorth through eBay. Craig advertised it as "another Duofold-knockoff". This is only partly true. It is a large button filler with the section screwed to the barrel. Like the honeycomb Rally, this pen is made of perfectly fitting parts.  french6.jpg (8234 bytes)

The difference compared to the Duofold is in the design of the whole pen. It is slightly but elegantly streamlined with the streamline starting at the last third of cap and barrel. The filler cap fits to the barrel with such precision, that it is hardly noticeable from distance, that there IS a filler cap anyway. Barrel end and pen cap unscrew with a quality feeling - no rattling or bending. The most striking detail of the design is the long cap. It is nearly half the size of the whole pen and this is quite unique for a pen of its time. The proportions remind more of the much-cited M800 than a Duofold. Together with the sparingly used trim, just a small cap band and the before mentioned too small clip - for my taste, that is, I find this Rally 10 most elegant. Its a design without compromise, as if the spiritual father of Mr. Lamy had been its designer.
The nib is am American made 14K warranted medium with a Sheaffer Flattop like feed. The nib has very long tines and according to that is truly flexible. The ink flows plenty, making this my only pen to serve Penman Sapphire ink. It works - even after two weeks not using the pen.  french5.jpg (7909 bytes)
french7.jpg (8047 bytes) The fully loaded pen has a similar weight to the honeycomb Rally, making it much lighter than the M800. This aspect gets me into a fix. Modern pen makers think, heaviness is a synonym for quality and my feeling tell me the same, whenever I pick up a pen.
 But if it comes to writing a few sentences, I would be glad for every gram less to carry. Maybe this is only a matter of handwriting practice ...  french8.jpg (16684 bytes)

If I had to write a few pages by hand, which of the before mentioned pens would I choose?
No question - the Swan Leverless with the large #6 nib, or the oversized Waterman 100 Year with even larger nib, or ...
No, just kidding.

Let's take a practical example. I wrote this article by hand first and later on hacked it into the computer. The honeycomb Rally was out of order, because it was thoroughly washed out for the scanning job. I wrote the article with the black Rally 10 and made the corrections - which were many - with the Pelikan M800.

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