I was playing with my iPhone this morning and came up with three rough frame projects, combining vintage pens, ink, and vintage advertisements, many of which have appeared here over the past six years. No restoration – just some fun. I hope to use these more in the future, when I learn to be a bit more exact.
A short one this week ~ yet another Vacumatic repair. This time it is a 1946 Silver Pearl Major.
As you can see below, the eleven (11) parts came apart successfully and only two need replacement.
~ Breather Tube
You can see from the first two photos that the breather tube is bent. In fact, after testing it, it revealed a small crack and it needs to be replaced. Even with the bend in the tube, I would recommend replacing it, as a leak is not far ahead. I purchase a long cord of tubing from Woodbin, and it can be cut to the exact size necessary for Vacumatics, 51s, Skylines, and any other pens requiring breather tubes.
Here is a photo of the nib / section / feed and breather tube after all have been cleaned and reassembled.
This pen takes a debutante size diaphragm and I successfully attached it to the plastic speedline filler and inserted the filler back into the barrel after cleaning the barrel thoroughly. Remember to insert the filler first so that you can scope into the barrel to make sure the diaphragm sits correctly and there are no problems sticking or twisting. After this is completed the nib unit can be screwed back in. The pen measures 5″ capped and 5 5/16″ posted.
Here is the finished product, a clean example of a 1946 Vac Major in Silver Pear, with nice transparency ~ a pen produced near the end of the Vacumatic run.
It has been quite some time between Vacumatic repairs. They are one of my favorite pens to work on, and I enjoy writing with them as well. So, when this one showed up on my workbench, I jumped at the chance. I decided to label the parts this time as I often get questions about the parts I am referring to and this is a good point of reference. This photo is of the parts after the pen has been taken apart and before I started to clean and repair. You can see that the later generation plastic filler still has some of the old diaphragm attached and I had not yet taken out the pellet.
I will take each part and describe what needs to be done ~
Clip – Polish with metal polish. These later third generation vacs have no blue diamond. For clips with blue diamonds that have worn, you can carefully repaint them (if that is your desire) with Testor’s 1110 or 1111 enamel blue paints.
Clip Screw/Jewel – Clean thoroughly. Polish the end jewel.
Cap – Clean inside and out. The inside will very often be coated with old ink and this needs to be removed, especially from the inside threads. Polish the cap band(s) with metal polish. The barrel can be cleaned with scratch remover and then polished. I use Pentiques polishes. You can see that there was quite a bit of build up under the clip of this pen. I first removed the crud with my fingernail and then polished with a dremel at low speed.
Barrel – Cleaning the inside of the barrel is very important on vacumatics. All remnants of the old diaphragm need to be scraped from the end of the barrel. Even if you think they are gone, it is a good idea to recheck with a small light and magnifier to make certain. Once that is done, clean the inside by placing in an ultrasonic cleaner and using q tips to remove any old ink. Clean the outside with scratch remover and polish.
Filler – This one is a plastic speedline filler. Other earlier fillers are metal speedline and lockdown. Previous vacumatic posts (see blogroll at right) will have photos of these. The process is the same for all fillers. Make sure that you scrape all of the old diaphragm from the filler. The tricky part is to remove the old diaphragm pellet from the pellet cup on the end of the filler. This can be done by digging it out with a small pin or drilling it out. The important thing to remember is too be very careful not to damage the pellet cup. Doing this will render the filler useless. Attach new debutante size diaphragm and test. Previous vacumatic posts have described this process.
Blind Cap - Clean and polish.
Breather Tube – clean insides thoroughly and test.
Feed - Clean out the channels and wipe off any residual ink.
Section – Clean inside of section with water and q tip, removing all residual ink.
Nib – 14K can be cleaned with polish and/or ultrasonic cleaner and jewelers cloth. Be careful of earlier two tone nibs not to remove any silver wash. It is probably better to leave these as found.
Below is a photo of the section/feed/nib/breather tube assembly. Note the feed sticking out of the section. This is not preferable and needs to be corrected. Underneath this is the completed filler unit and attached diaphragm.
The filler unit is first reinserted into the barrel end using a vac tool, and once seated, is tested to make sure it is sitting properly. I shine a light in the nib end of the barrel and push the plastic end in and out and observe the pellet and how the diaphragm is flexing. I then place my tongue on the nib end of the barrel and press the filler in and out to test for suction. Assuming all is well, and after brushing my teeth , I screw the nib assembly into the barrel from the front end. The rest of the parts can now be assembled After the pen is fully assembled, I usually give it one last polish. Wax is optional at this point. It protects the pen to some extent, but some people do not like the feel of a pen that has carnuba wax on it.
Here is the completed pen – a 1946 Parker Vacumatic Junior – measuring 5 inches closed and 5 7/8 inches posted. The black color version has a semi clear barrel that really looks great after it has been cleaned out. When ink is added, it is easy to keep track of the supply.
Here is a close up of the imprint. The darker color on the right side is the diaphragm on the inside of the barrel. The 6 denotes the 4th quarter of 1946, placing this pen later in the Vacumatic period, and about the time that Parker 51s were overtaking vacs in the Parker pen lines.
This is not an example of a highly collectible Vacumatic, but certainly a clean crisp example that will be usable for years to come.
In my post of October 13, 2008 I wrote about a 1942 Vacumatic Maxima that I restored and sent the nib to Greg Minuskin to be stubbed and repaired. This past weekend I restored a similar pen – a 1941 (2nd Qtr) Golden Pearl Vacumatic Maxima.
As you can see from the picture below, this one needed an extra dose of tender loving care. I am not sure why the nib is stained the way it is – perhaps it was stored in an almost-empty ink bottle for a while. When I took it apart, the diaphragm was nothing more than crumbs. These are the best pens to work on as they often (though not always) yield the biggest surprises and the most satisfaction. That is, if there are not further major problems under the surface.
Some problems that can arise with vacs are troublesome – broken diaphragms (which can be solved by searching through the parts bin ), or worse – a cracked barrel, which will prevent the vacumatic seal necessary to operate the filling system. Again, solvable, but not without a substitute part or resealing the crack or hole.
Fortunately, this grungy looking pen had nothing lurking to prevent a clean restoration.
I grabbed a diaphragm and installed it in the old speedline filler after taking out the old pellet. Pellet removal (covered in previous posts) can take several minutes if not drilled out. Fortunately, this took about 10 seconds as the old pellet was extremely brittle. So, the new diaphragm was installed on the filler. The nib / breather tube / section / feed all cleaned up easily with my new (yes I bought a new one) ultrasonic cleaner. The barrel cleaned up to the best transparency I have seen in an old vacumatic. The clip unit is in great shape and the blue diamond is clean.
After reassembly, here is the pen.
To complete the good news, the nib is a nice medium with lots of iridium left. Finally, I prefer this pen to the Vac in my October 13, 2008 post as it has a jeweled blind cap. Double Jewels just look better to me.
Occasionally, I cover pencils in my restorations. Often times they come as part of a set, as I have covered in articles about Parker 51,, Parker Vacumatic, Striped Duofold, and Sheaffer sets. As a fountain pen collector, you constantly run across vintage mechanical pencils in your searches and they are frustratingly more common than the pens we covet. I usually resist the temptation to clutter up my pen case with pencils, but when they are available for a very low price, it is hard to resist. The three pencils that I restored this week were all found at less than a dollar apiece, so I could not resist. They came in varying conditions – two completed sets, and one has an interesting story and interior.
The first photo below is of the simple opening of all three. All were mechanically sound, but a bit dirty and without lead.
The first pencil I cleaned up is a very clean example of a Sheaffer brown striped pencil with a military clip. This would seem to place it in the World War II time period of the early 1940s. It measures 5 1/8 inches and takes 0.9 mm pencil leads. The lead is inserted and then fed using a twist motion of the barrel and cap. What is nice about this pencil is the wide 14K band. There is a clear area of the band that was available for signature or initial of the owner. This pencil’s was left blank. As you can see from the top photo, the eraser is old and dried up. It can be lifted and there is room for spare pencil lead. I cleaned the eraser and inserted an ample supply of 0.9mm lead.
I do no know what the corresponding pen is for this pencil. My guess is that it has a larger signature band than the two brown striped military clip models that I have.
The photo below is of two pens from my collection, both Sheaffer lever filling Balance models from the early 1940s. Not a perfect match, but close.
The second pencil is a mid 1930s Vacumatic Junior Pencil, made in Canada, based on the imprint. You can see from the topmost photo that the largest issue with this pencil is the pitted tip. I worked long and hard to try to clean this up and the best I could do is the result below. It measures 4 5/8 inches and also advances lead and is filled by twisting the cap and barrel in opposite directions. It takes a much larger lead – using a 1.15mm lead.
Below is a photo of this pencil with a 1935 Vacumatic Junior that I restored in a June 20, 2008 article. I had restored a similar US made pencil to pair with this pen in a previous pencil article, so this will be a user pencil and the other, which is in great shape, will stay with the pen.
The final pencil is a bit of an oddity and just for fun. There is no corresponding fountain pen, but a bit of history that actually fits in with some fountain pen history.
The vintage mechanical pencil below is a Ritepoint Pencil. On the pencil it indicates that Ritepoint is in St. Louis, Missouri. Google searches of Ritepoint generate many interesting mechanical pencils with all sorts of advertising twists.
First, the particulars of this pencil. It measures 5 5/8 inches long and the lead (it takes 0.9mm lead) advances and is filled by holding the point and twisting the full barrel. You can see from the first photo above that the barrel pulls apart to reveal a large eraser and small lead storage area. The clip reads Ritepoint, and underneath there appears a list of Patents.
I researched the patents and they are below. Clicking on each will take you to the Patent Summary and Drawings.
Here is a copy of the Lipic Ornamental Device drawing from 1941. In the abstract they refer to inserting an image, symbol, or advertising device in the top of the pen to be viewed through the window at the top of the pencil.
My pencil was fortunately not used in their diagrams, appearing after the patent process. I am not certain what Mr. Dow was promoting, but suspect it was just a pencil (New Peek Pencil) that was a novelty and could be used to promote a business or product. Research indicates that the Louis F. Dow Company was a large National Promotional firm that produced all types of articles such as pens and calendars to promote businesses. They were known to use models such as the one in this pencil for these promotions. Before anyone sends emails about content, I can assure you that Miss Negligee is fully clothed. The photos below are a bit hazy as it was difficult to get my camera to take a photo through the small hole.
An interesting tidbit that I learned about Ritepoint / St. Louis (the maker of the pencil) when researching the patents is that they were associated with the Lipic family in some way. I am sure that the St. Louis collectors out there know the connection, but the patents for both Ritepoint Pencils and Lighters carry the Lipic name as you can see above. I have already discussed Lipic Pens in an article on The Radium Point Pen, dated January 22, 2009. Further information on the Lipic Company can be found there.
Ritepoint pencils, as mentioned above, came in many different styles, with floating scenes, personalities, and perpetual calendars. The ones I have seen, including this one, are very well made, and continue to be very functional today. Here is a link to another Ritepoint review from a very good Mechanical Pencil blog that I check out regularly ~ Dave’s Mechanical Pencils … Ritepoint.
Sorry for the diversion again into pencils. Once and a while it is fun to pick up a few and get them working again. Not all of us can do a Crossword Puzzle with a fountain pen, can we?
This week’s pen restoration is an oddity, from what little information I can gather. The date imprint on the barrel is worn off. It is a Vacumatic / Made in the U.S., but the one digit date is worn.
I am going to guess that it is a 1942 production as the nib has a 1942 date code, and the information that I have found on these is that they were produced after 1941 and are fairly rare.
In the first photo, you can see the eleven (11) parts of a dissembled Vacumatic (not counting the diaphragm that is mostly stuck to the inside of the barrel). The barrel of this one is quite scratched and I have already mentioned the worn imprint.
I first attacked the barrel and attempted, somewhat successfully, to remove some of the scratches. The indentation where the cap sits on the barrel is quite pronounced, as you can see in the first and second photo. Little can be done with this.
The monotone nib, cap bands and clip all polished up well with gold polish, a jewelers cloth, and a bath in the ultrasonic cleaner. The diaphragm was completely stuck to the inside of the barrel and took quite some time to remove. I wanted to be extra careful with this as the vertical stripes are more rare and I did not want to compromise the transparency of the barrel.
All of the parts were in good shape, so the only addition is the debutante diaphragm. I won’t go in to Vacumatic Diaphragm replacement here. For more detailed directions. refer to one of many Vacumatic post to the right from the past two years.
Here is the completed pen, both posted and capped. You can see that this Third Generation Vac comes without the Blue Diamond Clip and in a single jewel. The pen measures 5″ capped and 5 3/4″ posted.
Any information I have been able to uncover on this pen has come from Vacumatic Expert, David Isaacson. He discusses this variant in both his Website, Vacumania.com and a thread at Fountain Pen Network.
In essence, what Mr. Isaacson states is that these are somewhat uncommon variants from the early 1940s and should not be confused with the more documented First Generation Longitudinal Striped Vacumatics.
I must admit that when I purchased this pen, I was just looking for a Third Generation Black and did not realize what I had uncovered until I took it home and inspected it further.
I am not well schooled in Vacumatic classification at all. What I do know is that there appear to be unending variants and combinations. Add to this, various nib, clip, and cap changes over the years and it is quite confusing. One thing remains constant ~ they are fun to restore, hold lots of ink, are fun to write with, and handsome to gaze at.
This week I restored another Parker Vacumatic. I have reviewed several of these over the past few years and here are a few if you want some additional reading and photos:
Shadow Wave Vacumatic ~ August 27, 2009
Green Marble Junior Vacumatic ~ May 27, 2009
1942 Parker Vacumatic Maxima ~ October 13, 2008
1935 Parker Silver Pearl Junior Vacumatic ~ February 24, 2009
I enjoy restoring these pens and am always looking for some interesting variants and less common styles. This week’s pen fits these categories. While not extremely rare, the Star Clip Vacumatics are an interesting slice of Parker history.
Below is the exploded view of this pen. As you can see, it has the pre-war aluminum speedline filler and doule jewels, consistent with a Second Generation Vacumatic. All of the parts are in good working order, except the filler needs a new diaphragm. General cleaning is also needed and as usual, the barrel needs to be cleaned to remove all signs of the old caked-on diaphragm.
I polished the nib (a Parker Vacumatic Fine) as well as the cap bands and clip thoroughly, including a bath in the Ultrasonic Cleaner. I then spent a considerable amount of time removing all of the old diaphragm from the barrel. This is very important to assure a clean fit for the new diaphragm and filler unit which will allow for correct operation of the restored pen. Make certain to check several times with magnification to see that there is no rubber left in the barrel before rebuilding the filler and inserting it back into the rear of the pen. I also cleaned the cap, which usually has years of old ink caked to its inside. The breather tube was checked for clogs and tip wear and it was fine. I did clean it and blow through to make sure any residual ink was gone. The same was done to the feed and its channels. Once everything was cleaned, I attached a new debutante diaphragm to the filler and, using my vac tool, reinserted it into the rear of the pen, making sure it was sealed and the blind cap fits securely. Before putting the reassembled nib/feed/section back on the front of the barrel, I used a goose neck mini-light to check that the diaphragm was seated correctly in the barrel and that there was suction when the aluminum speedline filler was pressed. After this was done and it was determined that it was properly functioning, I screwed the nib/feed/section back into the pen.
I then polished the barrel, cap, and blind cap. Then the clip was secured back on the cap using the clip screw and the pen is complete.
Below are two photos of the completed pen ~ a 1940 Vacumatic Junior. The pen measures 5 1/8 inches closed and 6 inches posted.
The date code is a 0 surrounded by three dots, which indicates it was produced in Janesville, WI during the first quarter of 1940. As mentioned before, three dots denotes first quarter production, 2 dots is for the second quarter, 1 dot for the third quarter, and no dots around the date indicates the fourth quarter of the year.
Here is a close up of the Star Clip. Pen historians point out that Parker decided in the late 1930s that they needed to offer a lifetime guarantee to compete with Sheaffer’s guarantee. The Star on the Clip was the idea for the indicator on the Vacumatic of a Lifetime Guarantee. In 1939, this was quickly changed to the more familiar and long lasting Blue Diamond that is seen on Vacumatics after this time. Star Clips that were already produced were used on pens after 1938/9, but did not necessarily denote a lifetime guarantee. It is believed they were just used until the supply was used up. Thus, they are not as plentiful and an interesting variant on Vacumatics during the 1938-40 period. I have also read that they are often seen on Shadow Wave Vacumatics of this period.
This pen, with it 1st Quarter of 1940 would seem the perfect representative for the Star Clip ~ a pen produced in late 1939, early 1940 that was not a Lifetime Guarantee pen.
Another item that makes this pen a bit unique is the barrel. It appears to have longitudinal stripes, which did appear in some vacumatics of this period, though not too frequently. Below is a photo which attempts to capture their spacing.
It seems that there are endless variations on this very popular line of Parker Pens. I guess that is what draws many collectors to them. Around every corner of an antique store, or estate sale, may lie a Vacumatic one hasn’t seen before.
*For further information on Parker Star Clips, see the book Parker Vacumatic, by Geoffrey Parker, David Shepherd, and Dan Zazove .. pages 149 and 154.
In case you hadn’t noticed, I love restoring Vacumatics. They present a challenge, more steps, more chances for mistakes, but the reward is high. The colorful shiny finish and transparency is a nice finish to the project. They can’t all be burgundy double jewels, but some are better than others. Large double-jewels are very nice looking pens and I enjoy the larger size for writing.
This weeks restoration is just such a pen. Measuring in at 5 3/8″ capped and 6 1/8 posted it is a substantial pen in the hand. I picked it up for just over $20 and these types of finds are why I don’t buy new pens.
As you can see, it came apart to its 13 basic components, not counting the destroyed diaphragm. All parts are in good shape, just a bit dirty. The cleaning was done first, using an ultrasonic cleaner on the metal parts (except for the filler unit). I really like this model as the speedline filler is still metal and the section and cap / barrel ends are all striped to match the golden pearl body. As with previous repairs on vacs that I have covered (see the Categories List on the right of this page under Parker Vacumatic), it is important to clean the inside of the barrel, removing all of the old diaphragm. It likes to hide by attaching itself to the side of the barrel. Be sure to be gentle in removing it so you don’t scar the barrel, reducing its transparency.
This size Vacumatic took a Standard Size diaphragm which was attached to the speedline filler and inserted back into the barrel using a vac tool. Always check the barrel by using a gooseneck light (before screwing in the section/feed/nib/breather tube) to make sure the unit and diaphragm are in securely and cleanly. The light should show the diaphragm in a nice clean circle at the end of the barrel and the unit should move cleanly when the filler is depressed. I usually put my tongue over the barrel to feel the vacuum suction a few times. As I have mentioned in previous posts, a good Vacumatic diaphragm lubricant is available at richardspens.com. It aids in getting the diaphragm and filler back into the pen with no bunching.
The finished product is below. The pen measures 5 3/8″ closed and 6 1/8 inches posted, though I feel this pen is too large to post comfortably.
From the photos below you can see that this is the normal two-tone nib for these pens. The pen dates from 1939. Golden pearl Vacumatics first appeared in 1936 and the streamline fillers began replacing lockdown fillers in 1937. During WWII, these filling units became plastic to conserve metals.
The nib on this pen, aside from being two-tone, has a nice generous medium nib, almost bordering on broad. This is always a bonus when searching for vintage Parker Fountain Pens in the wild.
Parker Shadow Wave Vacumatics were not a special type of Vacumatic, but rather a new pattern of plastic used by Parker beginning in or about 1938. Initially, it appeared in the Junior line of Vacumatics.
I must apologize at first for the lack of my usual “before” photo. I took one, but deleted it before I had the opportunity to download it to my computer. I can assure you that it was not a pretty sight. The silver was tarnished, the diaphragm in pieces, the grey celluloid stained, and the speedline filler had pieces of the diaphragm remaining on its collar. The nib was also ink stained and dirty.
With that out of the way, I performed the standard Vacumatic repairs. I used a debutante size diaphragm and fit it to the filler unit after removing the old pellet. The filler on this is the metal, before the transition to plastic. Most of the earlier shadow waves were double jewel lockdown fillers. The feed, breather tube, and nib were removed from the section and thoroughly cleaned. Make sure to unclog the breather tube and make sure the channel in the feed is clear. I had to redo this step as there was a clog in the tube. Thin wire works well in solving this problem.
The silver trim cleans up well, but is not perfectly. As with several other silver trimmed vacs I have restored, there is often some degree of minor pitting or scratching to the silver. This set is minor, but does exist upon careful review with a loupe.
The pencil (note different clip indicating a mixed set) required no restoration, other than a good cleaning and polishing on the outside. I placed new piece of 0.9 lead in the front feed and it is ready to go.
The pen measures 5 inches closed and 5 15/16 inches posted. The pencil is 4 3/4 inches.
Shadow Wave Vacumatics were produced into the early 1940s, though they were not evidenced in Parker literature. This pen, as noted in the photo above came with a fourth quarter of 1941 imprint (1). So, it was produced at the end of the Shadow Wave design run.
Vacumatics and their history can be a bit muddled. This pen is no exception when trying to pin down its place in the Vacumatic timeline. The only thing that is certain is that the barrel is from 1941. Research often becomes difficult for several reasons, two of which stand out. First, no production is definite. Parker may have produced variants at times to use up parts. Second, over the course of 67 years, repairs may utilize replacement parts which can further confuse the collector.
My confusion on this pen is that the cap would seem to be wrong (from what I have read) for this pen. It fits, and looks correct, but I have read that this should probably have a single band cap.
I will never know, as late 1941 was near the end of the run for shadow waves and they may have used other parts, or it may be correct. Or, it may have been switched by a repairer or collector at a later date. This is part of what makes pen collecting fun and aggravating at the same time.
Shadow Wave designs came in five colors ~ Black, Green, Grey (shown here), Burgundy, and Brown. The blind caps were always black, and fillers were both lock-down (early) and speedline. Another interesting variant in the Parker Vacumatic Timeline.
This week, I restored my first Burgundy Vacumatic. I would have to say that it is a tie between this color and Azure Blue as my favorite common Vac color schemes. At least to me, Burgundy seems to be the most difficult to locate and I am glad to have one.
Below is the standard “exploded view”. The first generation vacumatic dates to the mid 1930s. The date code is worn off of this one, but if my research is correct, it was produced in the 1934-7 area. I have mentioned it before, but remember to extend the filler when removing (and inserting) it from the barrel using your vac tool of choice. Leaving it locked may damage it beyond repair.
You can see that the pen arrived in good shape, with typical nib discoloration and barrel/cap ink stains. Using a combination of ultrasonic cleaner and water/qtips, I was able to remove all of the internal ink stains. The old diaphragm was hard-stuck to the barrel. This is my new word for a diaphragm that has almost become part of the barrel as it has been in the barrel for so long under the pressure of the filler. Some Vacs have softer diaphragm remnants that are easily removed (scraped) from the barrel and some require several sessions ~ this was the latter.
Upon completion of the diaphragm removal, I removed the old pellet from the filler (this is a first generation lock-down). I used a debutante diaphragm and inserted it on the filler (see various Vacumatic Posts for process and photos ~ list at right under Parker Vacumatic).
Here is the completed pen. It measures 5″ closed and 6 1/8″ posted.
Several factors make this pen attractive. The burgundy color and gold furniture provide a good contrast, the nib is my favorite common vac nib with the gold arrow surrounded by the silver border, the burgundy striped double jewels, and finally the nib is a broad. I have immediately put Quink Blue Black ink in it and it writes a very broad line. Most of the Vacumatics that one runs across are fine to medium, and though I am not a broad nib fan, it is a nice change.
The only blemishes are a slightly curved cap band (middle) and a blind cap that is quite a bit darker than the rest of the pen.
I have mentioned this before, but these first generation vacs with their lockdown fillers, which allow for a longer section which matches the barrel and the double jewels, are the most collectible vacumatics, in my opinion.
Thank you, as always, for the emails with questions and comments, and I will be back in a week or so with another fountain pen item.
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