What is the Sentinel Snorkel Fountain Pen from Sheaffer?
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In 1952, Sheaffer presented the Snorkel pen model, which is renowned in the present day for having one of the most complex filling systems ever made. This pen was heavily marketed with its “dunk free” filling and convenience being at the forefront of the campaign. Sheaffer’s early commercials put the emphasis on the filling system, frequently featuring the Sheaffer Sentinel Snorkel Fountain Pen being held out and contrasting it with hummingbirds or straws to demonstrate the point. In the late 1950s, Sheaffer employed celebrities to promote the pen, including Jackie Gleason, Jack Dempsey, and Al Capp.
Sheaffer developed Snorkel fountain pen as a modified and improved version of Touchdown system, which had a thin feeding tube that could both extend and retract from the nib of the pen. This eliminated the need to dip the pen in ink, thus avoiding the mess and hassle. This was done in the 1950s when ballpoint pens were gaining popularity and the fountain pen needed to keep up with the competition.
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Sheaffer was enthusiastic in their advertising, emphasizing the convenience of Snorkel in comparison to other fountain pens. They said, “Since fountain pens were first designed, filling them up has been a troublesome problem. The Sheaffer Snorkel Fountain pen provides the best solution, as only the filling tube needs to come in contact with the ink, and it automatically extends and withdraws when the pen is full, so the point and barrel stay clean and ink free.”
The essential element of the Snorkel fountain pen mechanism is the sac housing assembly. The earliest version is at the top while a later version lies beneath it (enlarged view can be seen upon clicking the picture). The sac is ordinary but is connected to a tough rubber plug that the Snorkel filling tube is inserted into. The plug is fixed, making it quite difficult to replace the sac–particularly when the old sac has to be eliminated from the inside of the metal holding.
There are a number of vendors who offer “functional” Snorkels without having the original sacs or seals replaced. If the point seal has a leak, it might go unnoticed for a period of time, resulting in ink seeping into the pen’s mechanism, causing damage and rust. A defective sac will typically be recognized quickly since it will produce a mess, but it can lead to internal harm. Despite this, the activity of replacing the Snorkel sac makes many keep old sacs that appear “adequate”. We always put in new sacs since a sac that might have appeared fine could have hidden harm.