British Made, british pens, onoto, Onoto Hurricane, Onoto Provenance Collection, TBM Art Metal, The Aviator Collection
In 2020 Onoto once more teamed up with TMB Art Metal to work on a pen part made from metal recovered from a Battle of Britain fighter plane. Previously we had the Spitfire, made of Duralumin from a wing spare removed from P7350, a surviving MK2 that required the part to be replaced to remain airworthy. For this pen less metal has been used, coming from P2725 TM-B, the Hawker Hurricane Mk1 flown by Sergeant Ray Holmes and famous for being crashed through the tail of a Dornier Do17 bomber which looked like it was flying at Buckingham Palace. The incident was made famous as the German plane was filmed falling out of the sky and crashing on to Victoria Station. Alas P2725 faired no better and Holmes had to bail out. He not only survived the Battle of Britain, but also the war, dying in 2005 at the age of 90.
The metal recovered from the crash site in 2004 proved hard to work with and while TMB Art Metal did produce a number of model planes, there were some failed casting and these were melted down and recast in to the nose/spinner cones used by Onoto on this pen.
As with the Spitfire model, Onoto have gone for a cigar shape for this pen, rather than their traditional flat top. The brass clip is in the shape of a propeller blade and engraved with Hurricane P2725 TM-B. The nose, as previously mentioned, is made out of the Duralumin recovered from the actual plane, and has two more holes, with brass pegs visible at 120 degrees each side of the clip, representing the three propeller blade configuration the early Hawker Hurricanes used.
Rather than using a metal for the rest of the body and section of the pen, Onoto have used a lightweight acrylic resin, which has been coloured to reflect the camouflage pattern the Hurricane would have worn on the upper parts of the wings and fuselage. While the cap is left smooth, the barrel has lines impressed upon it. This is highly appropriate as it suitably represents the construction of the fighter. The forward part, including where the wings were mounted, was metal skinned and smooth, however from that point rearwards, the plane was made of canvas stretched over a wooden frame. If you look at pictures (or see one in real life) you will see the same lines as the horizontal wooden spars impress upon the fabric. Note this was standard for fighter design and construction methods up to roughly 1938, and it was only the newest of planes, such as the Submarine Spitfire and Messerschmitt Bf 109, that used all metal.
The only additional markings are on the cap. There is a white silhouette of a hurricane between the clip and opening. On the other side of the cap is engraved the date of the action being celebrated, the 15th of September 1940 and the limited edition number, here 039/250. Incidentally the 15th was considered to the the climax of the period and is now used as the celebration date for Battle of Britain Day.
Remove the cap, which takes just over a single turn, and you will note the capping threads are metal. I am not sure why, but it does work, and possibly keeping that part in the camouflage resin may have risked making the pen look cheap. These threads are also not part of the section, but rather the barrel, and to my surprise are not an insert, for look inside and you see the inner barrel threads are of a black acrylic, so this metal part is actually an overlay. I see no problem with this and also little risk of the component coming off unless you start to try to pull the cap off with a lot of brute strength rather than unscrewing it. Having said that, the metal threads piece does add necessary weight to the pen and in the right location for balance, else this would be far too light a writing implement. Perhaps this was an elegant design to fix an issue.
In the hand, the section is so long that you will struggle to feel the threads. While the nib end may look normal for an Onoto, it does not square off at the back, instead remaining angled all the way up to the metal, though this does start before the actual threads. I would suggest the shape, including the band, are closer to that of the Scholar, though wider than a Magna Classic.
Key thing about the shape is this is a very comfortable pen to hold and use. It is on the lighter side of things, however there is enough weight and for me it is perfectly balanced, almost certainly thanks to the metal piece used for the capping threads.
One thing to note is that while the cap will sit on the barrel it will not post securely and I was loath to push it down in case the inner threads were to scratch the barrel or suffer pressure wear. To be honest, when placed on the back, the weight of the clip and nose spinner do really throw out the balance, making the pen very back heavy.
The nib is the standard size Onoto #7 unit with plastic feed. When I first wrote this piece it was only available as an 18k gold nib, however now comes with a steel nib with the upgrade being the usual £169 optional extra. I still think this is a decent price for the pen, though now no longer close to the price of a Magna Classic with an upgraded nib.
The writing experience is standard for Onoto pens with gold nibs. Smooth with a hint of tooth. There is a hint of bounce which helps with the experience and the ink flows well. This particular pen has a fine nib and puts down the sort of line I would expect from a fine European unit.
As with many of the Onoto pens, the Hurricane comes with a standard international converter installed, an Onoto branded Schmidt K5. It is available with a plunger option for an additional cost. How well this would work I am not sure as Onoto normally lengthen the barrel as part of an install. Perhaps if they have made one as a test I might be able to talk them in to letting me borrow it to compare. I assume the knob for the mechanism would be all of the non-lined part of the barrel end.
The pen comes in the usual lacquered Onoto box, on this occasion the high gloss variant. This comes inside the expected hinged cardboard outer box. The one difference is the booklet. This pen comes with a rather informative book on the plane, the action resulting in the Do17 and P2725 coming down, the archaeological dig, the results, the making of the model hurricanes by TMB Art Metal, the failures and resultant Onoto pen, and more. It is certainly worth reading if you were to get one of these pens or know someone who has one.
I was leant this pen by Bernardo ‘Mr. Teal’ Gomes. Unbeknown to him, at the time he passed the Hurricane to me while we were at the Liverpool Pen Club, I was reading The Fallen Few of the Battle of Britain by Nigel McCrery and Norman Franks. This book is rather unusual in that much of it just covers which RAF pilots were lost on each day of the Battle of Britain, including pictures and very brief backgrounds. When I looked in to the background of the pen my first action was to look up the 15th of September to see if Sergeant Holmes was listed. It was only after I found that he not only survived the period, but also the war (many who made it through to the 31st of October 1940 never saw the end of the war). Incidentally he was invited to the dig site when they pulled out the few remaining parts, the engine block and the control column. He was given the latter to take away with him.
So would I buy an Onoto Hurricane. Actually I am extremely tempted, though having recently paid for a Writing Equipment Society/Onoto Platinum Jubilee pen it would be harder to justify. I think if I had a family connection with the RAF then that would be a force multiplier and if you are an Onoto fan and have/had (are there any living Battle of Britain pilots left ?) a father, grand father, or Uncle who were one of the 2917 ‘The Few’ then this would be a good pen to honour then by, even if it was not a Hurricane they flew (as well as Spitfires there were also Defiants, Blenheims, some early Beaufighters, and even in the early days some Gladiators).
- Looks the part.
- Cap/Nose spinner made from Duralumin from an actual Hurricane.
- History of the plane supplied in a good booklet.
- Usual high quality Onoto presentation.
- Just over a single turn to remove the cap.
- Some may feel that a pen of this price should come with a gold nib by default.
- None that I can think of.
A good read and most informative, thankyou.