is a small family-run business based in the small Northern
Italian town of Settimo Torinese, near Turin, in the industrial
North-West of the Country.
is known as the Janesville of Italy: since the early 1920's,
it has been the center for the production of writing instruments
in Southern Europe; even today, it is the operating base of
pen giant "Universal", a company that produces 20
million ball points per DAY (!) and is second only to BIC
in the number of pens sold throughout the world.
pen manufacturers were active in Settimo before the second
world war: great companies like "Williamson of Turin"
and "Original Goldmichel" or smaller manufacturers
like "Welcome", "Alba", "CISEA",
"Stilo Everest", "Perfection", "Toujours"
and many more. The pens they made varied from exquisite, as
in the case of the celluloid Williamson pens of the thirties
and forties, to practical, non-nonsense and inexpensive school
pens. And, of course, everyone produced copies of the Aurora
88 in the early fifties, after the great success of that pen
in the Italian market.
there are still manufacturers of pen parts and small workshops
where metal and plastic components are made, as well as specialized
plating and finishing shops.
started manufacturing fountain pens in the late 1960s. The
company is still run by its founder, Francesco Grisolia, who
loves and collects pens and can still be seen, at times, working
the lathes, fashioning a new prototype pen out of a rod of
The current product lineup is vast: over 40 different pen
models, in metal, celluloid or acrylic resin. In addition
to fountain pens, there are mechanical pencils, roller ball
pens and ballpoint pens.
flagship fountain pen product is called the "1918 Leader".
This pen was clearly inspired by the Parker Duofold and has
the classic flat-top shape of the 1920's, pre-streamline classic.
It is roughly the same size as the Centennial model, and it
comes in a variety of materials and finishes.
There is a version in stainless steel, that looks very sharp
and should last a lifetime. It is rather on the heavy side
and is best used with the cap unposted. It is available in
two levels of trim: stainless-steel and chrome, selling for
a very reasonable price of $55 (!!) and a model in stainless
steel with gold trim that sells for $60. I have to say that
these prices are due, in part, to the fact that the US Dollar
exchange rate is at an all-time high and the company is passing
the savings on to its US customers, rather than pocketing
the increased profit margins
There are also two enameled versions: one Mandarin yellow
and one Big Red, selling for $75. Beautiful pens that can
be used on a daily basis without undue sorrow in case of loss
or damage. My favorites, however, are the celluloids! These
come in various colors and have some unusual and unique celluloid
FILCAO have access to the manufacturers of premium Italian
celluloid and, in fact, often get the early batches of new
patterns and colors. All celluloid rods are cured for a year
in controlled-temperature and humidity storage rooms, before
being machined and transformed into beautiful pens. All machining
and lathe work is done at low speed, to avoid losing the transparency
of the material. All stress points in the pen are reinforced
with brass inserts for durability.
Colors and patterns vary with availability: the current lineup
includes a transparent orange celluloid with blue speckles,
a classic cracked-ice black and pearl, which produces a very
stylish and conservative fountain pen, a green-red-blue speckled
material designed by the fashion-house of Missoni and a striking
multi colored Harlequin pattern on black. These are beautiful
pens and very smooth writers and sell for only $100.
The nib units on all these pens are made by Bock in Germany
and are individually selected for smoothness, with attentive
quality control. They come in a single standard width, which
lays a wet Med-Fine line. Gold nibs and special nib sizes
can be special-ordered at additional cost and require about
two weeks for delivery to the U.S. from the warehouse in Italy.
Another great looking pen is the Model 88 - "Nuova Verbana".
This classic slim design was inspired by the slim celluloid
pens made by Verbana in the 40s and 50s. It is the only pen
in production in the world that really resembles the everyday
pens of my youth.
These pens are made of translucent celluloid in Blue with
modernistic speckles (I call it the Mirò pattern) or
translucent green (a material that looks like the OMAS Lucens
celluloid from the 40s). There are also non translucent celluloid
variants in Tiger Tail and Marbled black and pearl (the same
exact celluloid used for an LE pen by a "famous German
manufacturer"...). These pens are also available in Dinkie-size
(I call them Corgi size) and carry a retail price of only
$80. The nibs are smaller than those used in the 1918 Leader
model and are made by Schmidt in Germany. They are constructed
of gold plated steel and have a very old-fashioned look, with
a plain black section, perfectly in character with the overall
look of the pen. The caps are threaded and the pens will take
an international-size cartridge, but not a converter (unless
you have a short, squeeze-type converter).
also manufactures a very successful line of mini fountain
pens, which are sold throughout Europe and have been very
popular among pen collectors in Europe and the Middle East.
They come in two basic models: the Ladybug and the Classica.
Ladybug is available in three different versions, depending
on the material used for its construction: the basic pen is
offered in enameled metal. The variants being imported into
the U.S. are the more valuable versions made in celluloid
and silver . The pens have incredibly tiny gold plated nibs,
iridium-tipped and they are filled via a rubber bulb accessible
from the bottom of the pen body. They are sold in presentation
boxes, with a bottle of blue ink.
Classica is even smaller and resembles a tiny Duofold, with
its colored enameled metal body and black end caps. It also
fills via a rubber bulb and comes with a bottle of color-coordinated
ink. It is difficult to visualize the tiny size of these pens
unless you can actually hold them in your hand.
we cannot review all 40-plus models of FILCAO pens, we'll
conclude this brief article with a mention of the Micro Pen,
also known as the Hummingbird. This is a lapel pin, less than
an inch in length, in gold plated brass with hand enameled
cap and it really writes, since it houses an equally microscopic,
but fully functional ballpoint refill!
FILCAO models are in stock and enquiries from individuals
or dealers are welcome. This is the first new line of pens
introduced into the U.S. from Italy in some years and we hope
that the combination of great styling, sound manufacturing
and outstanding value for money will meet with the approval
of American pen users.