Fountain Pen Restoration

1942 Parker Vacumatic Maxima (?) see note below

Note:  3-30-11 – It has come to my attention that this may, in fact, not be a Maxima.  I will be the first to admit that I am far from a Vacumatic expert, and I appreciate those with much more knowledge than I, pointing this out.  Back in 2008, when this was written, I used measurements from another site to make this determination, but it seems I was in error.   Thank you, once again to those of you who have corrected this.  As mentioned in my original disclaimer of 2007, I do make mistakes :).   Your attention is much appreciated….Phil

I seem to have done several Parker Vacumatic Pen repairs recently. All have been different in their own way. First I did a Speedline Filler and then a Lockdown Filler. This restoration is also a speedline filler from 1942, but has two unique characteristics. First, it is a larger size Maxima (though a single jewel), and it came with a badly damaged nib. As you can see from the first picture below, the pen came in quite dirty condition with a badly damaged nib with no tipping material. The nib has the same 1942 code as the imprint, so I am thinking it is the original nib. However, it sat too far out of the section (as did the feed) and this caused the damage as the cap was screwed onto the barrel. The positive of this is that the pen was in such negative condition that it came at a very cheap price.
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Here is a picture of the nib after I knocked it out of the section. As you can see it still has its two-tone finish but is severely bent inwards.

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I do not have the tools or expertise to re tip nibs, so I sent this out to Greg Minuskin, who I also mention in the post entitled Parker 51 Nib Change.
I requested that he repair the damage done to the nib, and restore to a fine stub.  The repaired nib, as received in one week’s time, is below.

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As you can see from the top photo, this is a Vacumatic Speedline Filler.  As it is the Maxima size, it required a standard sized diaphragm, as opposed to the debutante size, used in most Vacumatic repairs.  The breather tube and all other parts were salvageable, though they needed cleaning.  As with most Vacumatic repairs, take extra time to make sure the barrel and cap are cleaned out completely.  I use many q-tips to clean after making sure the old diaphragm material is completely removed.  Be careful not to scrape the inside of the barrel as this will compromise the barrel transparency.

After removing the old pellet from the filler, I trimmed the diaphragm and proceeded to work the sac back over the filler after the new pellet was inserted in the filler.  The filler was then screwed back into the barrel with the vac tool (see previous posts) and tested to make sure it was seated properly in the barrel and had not  twisted.  Once this was done and tested for suction, I polished up all of the parts, including the clip, jewel, band and barrel/cap.  I then inserted the nib and feed into the section and inserted the breather tube into the feed hole.  Make sure that the breather tube is completely cleaned and clear of obstructions.  This can be done with an ultrasonic cleaner and fine wire.  This unit is then screwed back into the barrel and tested with water to make sure the vacumatic filling system works.

The finished product is below – s 1942 Single Jewel Golden Pearl Vacumatic Maxima with a fine stub nib.  I am currently using it, filled with Waterman Florida Blue Ink, and enjoying the feel and creativity of the fine stub nib.


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October 13, 2008 Posted by | Minuskin Nibs, Parker Pen Company, Parker Vacumatic | , | 2 Comments

Spors Fountain Pen Entertainment Center

Looking back to my post on February 13 one notes that I restored and discussed a Japanese-made, Minnesota-marketed, glass nibbed pen, sold by the Spors Company.

I ran across two pens  a few weeks ago, and they look very familiar when compared to the February 13 pen.

The major difference is a unique feature appearing on the end of the barrels. The end piece contains a compass. It is also a lever filler, as opposed to the typical Spors crescent filler.

Now the first question is, why a compass? To aid in navigation when hiking in the woods, driving on unmarked roads, plowing expansive fields, or fishing on a large lake? Could be, but my guess is that these were produced merely as a marketing attempt at something unique. These are SPORS pens, marketed by the SPORS mail order company located in Le Center, MN. For a background of the Company and its pens that were made in Japan until World War II, I will refer you to my post titled “Made in Japan” and dated 2-13-08.

Here is a picture of the each compass on the end of each cap.

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The real surprise occurred when I began to take apart each pen to clean and resac.  When I unscrewed the compass end cap, five dice fell out of the end of one and one die out of the other….

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Ok, now we have a compass and dice in each pen.  The plot thickens.  Why have dice in the end of your compass/pen?  Perhaps if you are hiking and get lost, you can pass the hours awaiting rescue by playing dice?  These pens certainly define “gimmick”.

And they do actually write.  I was able to get the sections off of each and pull out the old sac remnants.  The glass nib simply screws into the section, and after placing a new sac on the section, the pens cleaned up rather well.  Here is the finished product.

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It just goes to show that vintage writing instruments often surprise us, and even entertain us at times.

September 17, 2008 Posted by | Spors | , | 4 Comments

Houston Pen Company – Tracy, Minnesota – My Holy Grail

Occasionally you hear collectors of various items, including fountain pens, speak of “holy grails”. These are items that they seek and are at the top of their lists of desired items. For several years I have collected Houston Pens and their offspring (Jiffy and Snapfil). I have covered a Houston Pen, made in Sioux City, IA in my post of April 10 – Houston Pen Company.

I finally had a chance to acquire a Houston Pen made here in my home State – Minnesota. The Houston Pen Company was started in Tracy, Minnesota in 1908 by W. A. Houston and moved to Iowa near 1912. So the Houston Pens made in Iowa are much more plentiful.

I have posted a few photos of the materials that arrived with the pen; an outer box which shows the manufacturing location of Tracy and the direction sheet and drawings of the pen.

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This is obviously an eyedropper, so there were few repairs to be done. I did polish the gold parts, remove the feed and nib, and thoroughly clean the section. You can see that the gold decorative bands have held up very well over time. The double threaded section is quite unique and I have shown a couple of close-ups of it below.

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The pen measures a long 6 15/16 inches long (capped) and has a Warranted No. 4 nib. I feel very good about finally finding one of these. I hope that you all get the opportunity to find that one pen you have been spending time trying to locate. After several years I have finally found my “holy grail”.

August 26, 2008 Posted by | Houston Pen Company, Tracy MN | , , | 6 Comments

Belmont Pens at the Rexall Store

This post’s restoration brings us back to the Rexall Store of yesteryear. If you check back to my post of February 7, 2008 (Rexall Monogram), I discussed Monogram pens, made by Kraker for Rexall Stores. Over the years, Rexall used several manufacturers to produce their pen and pencil lines. Three major pen lines for Rexall were Monogram, Signet, and Belmont. Belmont pens were named for Belmont, Massachusetts, the home of Rexall head Louis Liggett.(1)

Sometime in the mid 1930s the contract for fountain pens was moved from Kraker to the Moore Pen Company of Boston. The pen discussed in this restoration is probably an example of one of these Moore products.

As you can see this was a distressed pen when it arrived. Priced accordingly at only a few dollars, it was going to require some patience and scrubbing. The j-bar was shot, as was the the clip, lever and two cap bands (located at the top and bottom). The nib, feed, and section were all usable and cleaned up quite quickly. In fact, you can barely see the cap bands in the photo below, they are so blackened.

I used a dremel carefully on all of the gold parts to remove as much of the black as possible and then a q-tips, and tooth picks with Simichrome to touch up. After scraping the old sac material from the section I placed a size 18 sac on the section and placed a new j-bar in the barrel.
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Below is a photo of the finished pen. I would say that I probably spent at least 2 hours cleaning this pen. But, as you can see, the end results were worth it. All of the gold parts now shine as they did when they sat on the Rexall shelves.

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Below is a photo of a Moore lever filler from the same time period and the celluloid is the same material. This would seem to back up the statement that this is a Moore product, after the mid 1930s. Moore continued to make pens for Rexall until the early 1950s. I suspect that they also made pencils as well, but that is for another post.

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Finally, here is a photo of the Belmont 14K No. 4 nib. It was very scratchy and I spent time smoothing the tip with very fine smoothing sheets.

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(1) This information provided by Rob Astyk in a thread at Lion and Pen. (website link provided in Blogroll)

August 18, 2008 Posted by | Belmont Pens, Moore Pen, Rexall | , | 2 Comments

There Is A Woman In My Fountain Pen !

Who is this and why is her photo inlaid into this Good Service pen? I threw this question out to several people and the responses were varied. They ranged from the pen was given to loved ones at the time of this woman’s death, marriage, birthday or anniversary. The inlay is very smooth and not just a photo glued on to the pen. It is inlaid and quite well done.

What I do know is that this is a pen manufactured by either National Pen Products , probably using parts produced by C. E. Barrett, also of Chicago, or by Parker, who also made some Good Service Pens. Good Service was a Sears Brand, sold in their stores and through mail order. I would only be guessing, but I might lean toward this being a Parker product due to the green marble, and feed/section which look similar to several of the Parker Challengers and Parkettes that I have.

Anyway, back to the lovely woman in my pen. If anyone has seen other examples of these types of pens from this time period (30s – 40s), I would love to see them and hear what they were used for or why they were produced.

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As for the restoration, it was a straight forward lever filler repair. However, as you can see the section and feed were brittle and came apart when I attempted to knock out the feed. This was easily fixed as I had a spare Challenger feed and section that fit the barrel and nib ( a Warranted 14k ).

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I thoroughly cleaned the inside of the barrel and cap which were caked with blue ink, replaced the feed and section and refitted the nib. A size 16 latex sac was used to complete the filling system. The gold parts polished up nicely and the pen (and picture ) were polished and buffed.

Here is the end result. I like to think that the woman on my pen is much happier with her new surroundings.

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For good measure, here is a photo of the imprint. I believe the faded logo in the middle is the Sears and Roebuck logo.

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11-30-2012 Edit: David Nishamura has written an excellent web article on Doric Inlays in which he publishes Wahl Eversharp brochure that details that they will do similar inlay work to their Doric pens. Interesting reading and a glimpse into what was done to this pen, perhaps. Both Companies were in Chicago…..

A link to David’s excellent post is here.

August 7, 2008 Posted by | C. E. Barrett, Good Service Pen Company, National Pen Products, Parker Pen Company, Sears | , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Dixie in Michigan

In previous posts – A Yankee in Minnesota and A Yankee in Michigan, I have discussed the restoration of two George Kraker pens. Here is another one, a DixiE, made in Grand Haven, Michigan. This is the location that Kraker moved to after Minnesota and prior to his move to Libertyville, IL.

I wonder if he had a thing for the Civil War…Yankee Pens and then Dixie Pens.

Here is a picture of the Dixie after I have taken it apart. There was no j – bar inside the pen which leads me to believe that it had been taken apart at some point, though the sac remains were inside the barrel, as you can see. This remains a mystery. You can also see that the jade green color has held up quite well over the years.

I knocked the nib and feed out of the section thoroughly cleaned them. The nib and feed went in the ultrasonic cleaner and the section was cleaned with a qtip and water. The cap had some ink residue in it and I also cleaned this with water and qtips. A new j-bar was installed (large size) and a size 18 sac fit nicely on to the section/feed/nib and into the barrel. Remember to put a bit of pure talc on the sac for good measure.

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Here is a picture of the completed pen, which measures 5 3/8 inches closed. It is roughly the same size as several similar pens of the period. I have a Diamond Medal and Blue Ribbon which are very similar in size and color.

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The nib is a large Dixie Number 8. I like the fact that this pen has a proprietary nib and not just a Warranted 14K Number 8.

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The imprint is also very well preserved. This is a nice example of a relatively rare Dixie made in Grand Haven, Michigan.

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Keeping an eye open for some of these Kraker Pens (Pencraft, Dixie, Yankee..) can yield some very nice pens at reasonable prices.

August 1, 2008 Posted by | Dixie Fountain Pens, Kraker, Yankee Pen | , | 3 Comments

Parker Jade .. Pre-Duofold

The Parker Pen Company began producing the highly popular Duofold line of Pens and Pencils in the early 1920s. Initially, they came in red and black hard rubber. When Parker switched over to celluloid in 1926, the first color that they added was a Jade (green). However, this color line did not have the Duofold logo until some time in 1927. As discussed in previous posts, Parker Lapis Junior Fountain Pen and Janesville, Wisconsin Button Fill further colors were added as well as the Duofold line evolved. I would encourage you to read these posts for additional information.

Here is a picture of this Pen (a Junior Size) after it has been taken apart. It is vey difficult to find these pens in perfect color. They do exist, but are priced at a premium. This pen is in better color condition than many, but certainly not pristine. The gold is quite shiny and my thought is that someone polished this pen before putting it up for sale, without restoring the internals.

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As you can see, the nib is a Lucky Curve imprint, consistent with this time period (1926).

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In order to restore this pen I needed to polish the nib gently. There was a little bit of staining where the nib sat in the section that came off with gentle polishing using a small amount of polish and a q-tip. I also polished the clip and cap ban gently. The same was done to the button and pressure bar. I am able to reuse the original pressure bar, so the only new part of this pen will be the sac.

The feed and section were cleaned with water and a cloth and a new size 16 sac was attached to the assemble section/feed/ nib with sac cement. You must trim the sac with an xacto knife so that it fits in the barrel and when attached to the section it extends to just under the top of the barrel hole. After the sac was dry, I coated it with a light coat of pure talc and screwed it back into the barrel. I then carefully inserted the pressure bar into the pen through the top hole of the barrel so that the bar seated (remember to smooth the end of the bar a bit) on the section. The button is then attached to the bar and when depressed, should push inwards, collapsing the sac.

I always test this with water and if the assembly is well done, a steady stream of water should shoot out after the sac fills. If this does not occur, you can unscrew the section again (after taking the bar out through the top) to make sure that the pressure bar has not compromised the sac at the section. Sometimes a sharp bar might cut the sac. Also make sure that the bar has not twisted the sac when inserted. A light shone in through the top of the barrel should show the top of the sac near the top of the barrel.

Here is a picture of the Jade pen (c 1926) with a nice medium Luck Curve nib, ready to write. I like to put either black or vintage green inks in these pens.

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I have also shown the imprint of this pen below. Note that there is no mention of Duofold yet.

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July 18, 2008 Posted by | Duofold, Lucky Curve, Parker Pen Company | , | 2 Comments

Chicago’s Paris Pen Company

When we think of Paris, we think of France, not Chicago. But the restored pen this week brings us to the “Windy City”.

This pen was a fun one to restore as it is so colorful and very well preserved red hard rubber. As you can see from the photo below this is a lever filler that has not been used in quite some time as evidenced by the fractured and hardened sac. Standard cleaning was done. The section, feed and nib were scrubbed with q-tips and finished up with an ultrasonic cleaner. The cap was swabbed out and had the usual caked on ink residue. The threads on the barrel were especially dirty and a toothbrush did the trick on these. A size 16 sac was attached to the section with sac cement and the pen was reassembled.

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As you can see, the pen was a promotional pen, commissioned by the Merkle Broom Company. A search for Merkle Broom Company brings a large surprise. It was in Paris, Illinois. See the following:

The “Broom Factory”: Merkle Broom Company

ImageMerkle Broom Company was established by John Merkle, Sr. and his son, Oscar T. Merkle, in 1879. The brick factory was built at the corner of West End Avenue and Broom Street in 1890. Also known as Merkle-Wiley Broom Co. The business was known as the largest broom manufacturer in the world during the early 20th century. At one time, it produced 6,000 brooms per day. Its “Blu-J” line of brooms was manufactured into the 1960s. The company merged with France Broom Co. in 1964, but the factory closed several years later. In 1985, a furniture manufacturer acquired the location. The original building survived a fire in 1996, but Northern Harvest demolished it in 1999 to make way for a newer facility. Source: Paris Beacon-News, March 3, 1999

So now I am really confused. Merkle broom was in Paris, Illinois and The Paris Pen Company was in Chicago. As I attempted to research the Paris Pen Company, I corresponded with a renowned expert in (Chicago) Pen History, who had actually worked in the Railway Exchange Building in the 1970s. He feels that the pen dates from around 1928 and that the Paris Pen Company may have been a pen store located in the Exchange Building, and that C.E. Barrett had probably made the pens for them.

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This seems to make the most sense, but the Paris, IL location makes me wonder how Merkle was involved with Paris Pen. I will continue to research this and will update the post in the future if more information comes in.

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As you can see below, the pen cleaned up well and is ready to write. The nib is a Warranted 14K No. 5. It is approximately the size of a Duofold Junior. A nice example of a red hard rubber pen, with an interesting and mysterious history. If anyone else has an example of one of these I would love to receive a comment from you.

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July 8, 2008 Posted by | C. E. Barrett, Merkle Broom Company, Paris Pen Company | , | 6 Comments

Parker 51 Nib Change

The Parker 51 is a highly collected pen, revered by pen enthusiasts around the world. First introduced formally in 1941, it continued in production into the 1970s. Over the years it had different filling systems (Vacumatic and Aerometric), was produced in many different countries (USA, Canada, Great Britain, Argentina..), and in varying sizes, colors and styles. The history is rich and for further research there is a very comprehensive book titled Parker 51, by David and Mark Shepherd.

I have several Parker 51s and have always enjoyed them. My only complaint, if I ever had one, was that most of the nibs were very similar – fine or medium. These pens did come with other nibs, but they are uncommon on pens that one finds in the wild.

I finally took the plunge and purchased a broad stub nib for a Parker 51, produced by Greg Minuskin. His website can be found here and he specializes in re tipping fountain pen nibs. I had read about his work and seen an example on one occasion.

I thought it would be a good opportunity to take some pictures of a 51 / Aerometric opened up as I changed out the old fine nib for my newly purchased broad stub.

Below, you can see the components. The sac assembly was working well, so I did not take it apart. As you can see, there is a lustraloy cap, blue barrel, matching blue hood, badly stained collector, nib, feed and attached breather tube.

I took the opportunity to clean the collector, feed, breather tube, and old nib (which I can use on another pen). The hood unscrews from the aero assembly. If it is difficult to unseat, gentle heat is a good solution. Be certain to unscrew as it is not a friction fit. The breather tube can be cleaned with a fine wire, if it is clogged. The collector and feed are easily cleaned in and ultrasonic cleaner.

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Here is a picture of the new nib – a juicy broad stub. It simply fits over the old feed and the breather tube attaches back to the feed in the hole at the end of the feed. The feed is reattached into the collector which is reinserted into the sac assembly.

Here it can get a bit tricky. When the hood is screwed back on to the pen, it may not align perfectly with the nib. You may have to pull the feed and nib out of the collector to move the alignment to the hood.

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Here is a picture of the nib after it has been fully set in the pen. The broad stub lines are a treat to use.

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July 1, 2008 Posted by | Minuskin Nibs, Parker 51, Parker Pen Company | , , | 10 Comments

Stylographic Pens

Just when you think you know enough about fountain pens to make you dangerous in casual conversation, another alley opens up and a new type of pen emerges.

I had heard of stylographic pens and had seen a few pictures here and there, but considered them inferior to standard nibbed fountain pens.

Last night I restored a JUCO “Independent” Stylo. My opinions changed after I completed the pen and tried it out. First, a picture of the pen after I took it apart. Note that there are a few parts that are not found on most fountain pens. The nib almost looks like a rollerball nib and the bottom right elongated needle fits inside this nib to control the flow of ink.

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The black hard rubber barrel and cap are identical to lever fillers of the day. The only departure is the section, nib and and control needle. There is no feed as the nib screws directly into the section. As you can see, the sac had hardened and needed to be replaced by a size 18 sac. I cleaned out the section, nib and ink control using an ultrasonic cleaner. I also spent quite some time cleaning out the cap, which had an abnormally high concentration of purple ink caked into it.

Below is a close up of the imprint, which appears on the cap, not the barrel. Inside the heart on the left is “JU & Co, which is short for Jacob Ullrich and Company. JUCO, was a fountain and stylographic pen maker in New York City in the late 1800s and until the 1920s. Jacob Ullrich was a resident of Hoboken, NJ.

Here are a few of his Stylographic Patents:

Stylo 1882

Stylo 1908

Stylo 1910

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Below is a picture of the completed pen. The clip and lever have lost their gold plating, but the chasing on the black hard rubber is well preserved. I would estimate this as an early to mid 1920s pen as it is a lever filler and many of the JUCO stylographic pens I have seen are eyedroppers and date to the 1905 to 1915 time period. This pen writes much like a modern day roller ball with a fine line. There is none of the shading and expressiveness of a standard fountain pen nib, but if one is looking for a rollerball type experience with a vintage feel, this is the pen. I have filled mine up with Waterman Ink (Florida Blue) and it will be a good pen for math and accounting in the office.

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Stylographic pens were invented in 1875 in Canada by MacKinnon and appeared in the US shortly thereafter. Their popularity was then quickly dashed by the emergence of nibbed pens, but they did remain in production on a limited basis for many years. One of the most noted producers in the United States was Inkograph and they were even more popular in England.

If you are looking for a pen with some historical significance, with practical use, ease of repair (assuming the needle is in usable condition), and a unique niche in the world of pens, a Stylo would be a good choice.

(Note: Many thanks to the website: Vintage Fountain Pens, for information critical to the writing of this post, as well as friends at the Lion & Pen website for leading me to Jacob Ullrich.)

June 6, 2008 Posted by | Jacob Ullrich, JUCO Pens, Stylograpic Pens | , | Leave a comment

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