Fountain Pen Restoration

Fountain Pen Radio

Post Number 124 ~

Note:  No restoration this past week, as I have been traveling for my real job….so, I found this old advertisement and thought it would be worth sharing….

Over the years, I have accumulated some ephemera related to Fountain Pens which make for interesting conversation and reading. From time to time I like to share these and this weeks post is a very humorous look at how to make a radio out of a fountain pen.

This tutorial is from an article in a 1954 issue of Science and Mechanics Magazine.  Science And Mechanics was published from 1929 to 1984 and the title is self explanatory.

I am not an electrical engineer and have no idea if this would have worked in 1954, but the most interesting thing to me, from the fountain pen perspective, is on page 2 in the Materials List ~  The first material needed is:  1 cheapest grade ballpoint pen, or discarded fountain pen.  I laughed when I read this as I took it as a comment which reflected what was happening to the fountain pen in 1954.  To make the radio, you would either need a cheap ballpoint (don’t use a nice one) or one of those old fountain pens you no longer need and have discarded.

If I was really adventurous, I would attempt this, but I am not.  I suspect that many of the materials would be difficult, if not impossible, to find.



Looking at the photo of the young lady listening to the pen reminds me of the iPod of today.  Who knew the pen radio was the precursor to the iPod?

Photobucket Photobucket

They should have named it the iPen.

Edit (May 11, 2010): A reader, John, was kind enough to send this photo from a 1938 issue of Popular Science.  It shows a Fountain Pen sized receiver that covered up to 75 miles.  Thank you, John, for the link.  As it states , it was handy for the hiker or cyclist….



May 4, 2010 - Posted by | Fountain Pen Radio |


  1. I remember actually having made one of these (or something just like it. The reception was undistinguished, but those were the days before high-precision tuning, so just having a pen-shaped radio that received anything more than static constituted a pretty cool thing.

    Comment by AKMA | May 4, 2010 | Reply

  2. One probably could manage to squeeze an MP3 player into a fountain pen body, and with current earbud technology, get a perfectly good sound – plus it would come with its own pocket clip!

    Comment by John Hubbard | May 4, 2010 | Reply

  3. Sorry about two replies, but a quick Google search revealed a pen with MP3 player, voice recording, and FM radio, all in one – and it writes as well. It’s kinda fat, since it has a USB connector in the middle.
    Another hit was for a “stealth” voice recorder pen that is a nicer design. Instead of having a standard USB connector inside and being fat enough to cover that, it has a mini USB connector, like the typical digital camera or cell phone, and uses the same sort of adapter cable to connecto to a computer.
    A combination of the first pen’s features with the second one’s connector would be a very good design. Both are ballpoints, of course, but one could perhaps squeeze in a fountain pen nib with a single short international cartridge.
    Oh, one more hit, a proposed design this time, a cell phone pen with bluetooth, so you just leave the pen in your pocket and talk via the bluetooth earpiece. This one, unfortunately, does not seem to have room for an actual pen, but the Pilot Birdie Switch ballpoint refill might just squeeze in…

    Comment by John Hubbard | May 4, 2010 | Reply

  4. One more…that’s all. Had to post this one, because it’s a FOUNTAIN PEN! You write with it and it sends a text message.
    Here’s the URL

    Comment by John Hubbard | May 4, 2010 | Reply

  5. In case someone does decide to make one of these, 90% of the components are still easy to get. The two difficult ones:

    1. Tuning coil – you could probably find a similar coil, or wind one using their instructions. Bakelite tubes aren’t around anymore but plastic (i.e. another discarded pen) would work fine.

    2. Earphone – the old monophonic “earphones” are harder to find today, and modern headphones won’t work well with a crystal set. I think Radio Shack still sells them though.

    Really, I think you could get everything you need to build this at Radio Shack.

    It would still be an AM radio, though… Not good for much besides traffic reports and nostalgia.

    Comment by Michael Moncur | May 4, 2010 | Reply

  6. Yes this would work. You would have to scrounge some of the parts. It’s a crystal set radio and works on the energy received from the AM broadcast itself. I built one of these as a kid and was able to get it to work, but I didn’t have a pen housing and I remember having to clip the antenna lead to a stair railing to get enough “signal” to make it work.

    Comment by 79spitfire | May 31, 2010 | Reply

  7. I had one of these pen radio’s when I was young!!! Late 1950’s early ’60’s. I believe my Dad made it from a kit. (He’s been a ham radio operator since 1950, me since 1998). I remember using it in our car when we traveled and clipping the antenna to metal on the car door.

    Comment by SusanS | October 26, 2010 | Reply

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