Fountain Pen Restoration

Libertyville Dixie In Green And Black

George Michael Kraker made pens all over the Midwest (Kansas City, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Grand Haven, MI. All of these have been well covered in various posts over the years here. Libertyville, IL was his final stop, at least as far as the major production of pens is concerned. As varied as his stops in the Midwest were the brands of pens he made. Click on the blogroll at the right for Yankee, Belmont, Pencraft, Drew, and Monogram pen brands, and his influence is evident. Dixie Pens were a later model of his, perhaps to counterbalance his earlier and lasting Yankee brand. They were usually well made, colorful and often sporting contrasting colored cap and/or barrel ends.

This week’s project is no different, although a pattern I had not seen in person before. My friend, the late Dennis Bowden, had a few that he shared photos of with this pattern and I had always hoped to find one.

As you can see below, the pattern is a green and black plastic swirl.  Nothing exceptional to the pen – it is a standard Kraker lever filler, with the locking lever.

The sac had hardened, and the hanging lever system was still in place and functional.  Having an intact sac allows one to compare sizes, though I know that these usually take size 16, it is nice to have an old one to compare.

The nib is a Warranted No. 3.  Other Dixie’s that I have have all been made in Grand Haven, MI, except for a large yellow one, and had a mixture of Warranted and Dixie Nibs.  It needed quite a bit of careful cleaning, which was done with Pentiques metal cleaner and a slow dremel.

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The section and feed were cleaned thoroughly using qtips for the section, after the old sac was cleaned off, and with an x-acto knife for the feed and its various grooves.

The inside of the cap was completely cleaned as I like to remove all the pesky ink deposits that like to reside here. The outside of the barrel and cap were polished along with the clip and cap band, which are not cheap plate and hold up well to polish.

The final result of this smallish pen is below.

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The pen measures 4 1/4 inches capped and 5 3/4 inches posted.

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I would be interested to see if there is a corresponding large pen, with No. 8 nib, as many of the surviving Dixie’s are this larger size. I am always on the lookout for these and look forward to more patterns and sizes.

July 15, 2011 Posted by | Dennis Bowden, Dixie Fountain Pens, George M. Kraker, Kraker | , , , | 1 Comment

This One Is For You, Dennis

I just received sad news that a friend and fellow collector Dennis Bowden passed away yesterday.  Dennis was a wonderful man, deeply interested in fountain pens, their preservation, and their history.  We traded information regularly and shared a keen interest in Kraker pens and their sometimes mysterious past.  Dennis was always willing to answer a question or trade theories, without ever getting involved in arguments or conflicts that other collectors generated.  He was always the voice of steady reason and just wanted to search out historical information, with the understanding that even if we never find all the facts, the hunt is the fun.  His passing has saddened me, and maybe another collector had it right when he said ~ “these are just pens”.

I looked through my repair queue today and found the perfect pen to restore today – a pen that Dennis would have liked – an early 20s Minnesota Pen Company – Winter Robbins.   George M. Kraker and his Minnesota Pen Company produced these pens, presumably for the Winter – Robbins Stores.  I recently ran into a Minneapolis / St. Paul pen expert who confirmed to me that Winter Robbins was a Twin Cities store.  I have collected several of their pens over the years and I know that Dennis had a few as well.   So Dennis, this one is for you.

Here is a photo of the pen after I took it apart.  It is a lever filler, using the distinctive Lotz lever, common to his early pens.  As you can see, the old sac came out in just a few large pieces.

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As this is a BCHR (Black Chased Hard Rubber) pen, I kept all of the pieces away from its enemy – water.  I scraped the section to remove all remnants of the old sac and adhesive.  I also cleaned the feed gently with water and scraped the channels clear with an x-acto knife.  I used metal polish on the Warranted No. 3 nib and it looks as good as new.  Many of Kraker’s early Minnesota pens have cheap furniture, but the Winter Robbins pens often can be found with gold bands.  This one has a very wide gold band that is clear, presumably engraving could have been included.

The completed pen is below.  It measures a long 5 9/16 inches capped and 6 3/4 inches posted and is quite wide as well.

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Below is the logo on the Hard Rubber, reading

MINNESOTA

WINTER ROBBINS CO.

ST. PAUL,  —-  PAT’D

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An additional photo of a Winter Robbins pen can be seen in my post dated December 7, 2007 – Hard Rubber Midwest Style.  Several other posts relate to George Kraker and his pens and can be referenced by clicking on Kraker links in the Blogroll to the right of this post.

The only blemishes on this pen are the fact that the barrel has started to turn brown as these old hard rubber pens are prone to do, and there is a small chip on the reverse side of the cap, near the cap band.  I filled the pen up with Sheaffer  Peacock Blue and the pen writes well.  I will use it for this week in memory of my friend.

December 11, 2010 Posted by | Dennis Bowden, George M. Kraker, Hard Rubber Pen, Kraker, Minnesota Pens, Winter - Robbins | , , , | 3 Comments

Kraker Civil War

This pen came exactly as shown, without two very important parts, the feed and a nib. As you can see, it is very dirty and I have no idea how long the nib and feed have been missing. It is a yellow Kraker Yankee, produced in Grand Haven, Michigan. I keep finding new colors of these pens, produced in the short time Kraker was in Grand Haven in the mid to late 1920s.  My Title ” Kraker Civil War” is simply a play on George Kraker’s use of Dixie and Yankee Pens as two of his brands and my curiosity as to why.  I have not been able to come up with any reason for this.  Some have speculated that it was a marketing issue, but there is no hard evidence that one brand was targeted at a specific area of the Country (North vs. South).   As you will note if you link to Yankee and Dixie Pen Articles in the Blogroll to the right, both pens were produced in various of Kraker (Michael George Company) locations, though I have not seen a Dixie made in Minnesota or Chicago, or a Yankee in Libertyville, IL.  That does not mean they were not, I just have not seen one.

On to the restoration.  My biggest problem, aside from the dirt and grime on the yellow barrel and cap, was the missing feed and nib.

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I searched through my parts bins and though I had a few nibs that may have solved the nib problem, I had no feed that fit the section well with these nibs.  So, I started to sift through my collection looking for a section that was similar in size to the Yankee section and came across this candidate below.  It is a pen I have had for probably ten years and seldom use due to its very large size of 5 7/8 inches closed.  It has no markings on it but my guess has always been that it is a National Pen Products (Chicago) pen due to the markings on the lever.  I also suspect that someone had replaced the clip at one time.

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I removed the section/feed/nib from the barrel and the sac was in good shape.  I checked my records and I had put a size 20 sac on this one in 2004.  It still seemed good to me and I tested it with water to be certain.  The fit into the Yellow Yankee barrel was perfect and now all I had to do was work on the appearance of the barrel and cap of the pen to produce a nicely restored pen.  Now I have a missing feed and nib on this pen, but Warranted 8 nibs are relatively easy to find and I will keep and eye out for the correct feed.

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I first checked the hanging pressure bar of the pen with the sac inserted and it was fully functional.  That was good enough for me, as these are difficult to get back to their proper position once removed.  If it fails to function in the future, it will be simple to remove it and replace with a long j bar.

I cleaned the outside of both the barrel and cap with Pentiques scratch remover and a dremel.  As you can see, this did the job.  I then used polish and wax to complete the job.  I also gently cleaned the nib, clip, lever, and cap band with a jewelers cloth.  The completed pen is below, measuring 5 1/2 inches capped and 6 3/4 inches posted.

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Here is the Civil War angle.  Below is this pen and below it is a Dixie that was produced a few years later in Libertyville, IL by Kraker (see this link for more information on the Dixie).  As I mentioned above, I do not have any information as to why Kraker used the Yankee and Dixie names, though it appears that the Dixie name appears later in his pen producing life.  Here is an example of two virtually identical pens, produced 104 miles apart that carried different names.  Libertyville was Southwest of Grand Haven, but certainly not in the heart of Dixie.  There is a series of articles appearing in the fine magazine produced by the The Pen Collectors of America – The Pennant – that is written by two very knowledgeable Kraker collectors, which may shed more light on the naming of his pens.  Until then, it is fun to see the variations.

The two photos below show the Yankee / Grand Haven, MI and Dixie / Libertyville, IL pens next to each other.  They are unmistakeably Michael – George (Kraker) pens, with the differently colored cap and barrel ends, single cap bands, and distinctive clip.

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Here is a closeup of the clean imprint, with the typical large first and last letters.

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Finally, the replacement Warranted No. 8 large nib, taken from the blue marbled National Pen shown above.

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Kraker pens in the late 1920s presented a large number of variations, and pens that are colorful and well made.

August 4, 2010 Posted by | Dixie Fountain Pens, Kraker, Yankee Pen | , , | Leave a comment

A Yankee In Chicago

I understand if you are growing tired of these Yankee in …. articles. Every time that I write one, I think it is my last. I have already detailed the restoration of Yankee Pens from Minnesota, and Grand Haven, Michigan in these posts from two years ago:

A Yankee In Michigan – January 27, 2008

A Yankee in Minnesota – May 15, 2008

Belmont Rexall And Yankee Cousins – May 22, 2008

I have not seen a Yankee in George Kraker’s next stop after Grand Haven, Michigan which was Libertyville, IL.  That doesn’t mean they do not exist, but I have not seen one.  So, after the Minnesota and Michigan articles on Yankee Pens, I thought I was done.

Then I ran across this nice little pen, a Yankee from Chicago, IL.  Given the material, Black Chased Hard Rubber (BCHR), I would place this pen in the period after Kraker left Kansas City and before he went to Michigan, in the early 1920s.  I have read that his name pops up both in Minneapolis and in Chicago during this time and this pen is a good representation of his work in Chicago.  Research from Lion and Pen historians here, indicates Michael George Co. in Chicago in 1923. (Thank you to Dennis and Jineen for their extensive Kraker work).

As you can see, the pen is a clipless lever filler.  The hanging pressure bar has broken and there is general wear.

I emptied the barrel out, including the old sac remnants and lever anchor.  I also gently polished the lever, which has a light gold wash on it.  The nib, a Warranted Number 3, was vigorously polished to its original shine.  As this is a BCHR pen, I did little other cleaning as I do not like to expose the hard rubber to any liquids or polishes.  I did clean the inside of the section and the channels of the feed prior to reassembling the section/feed/nib and a size 16 silicon sac.

The resulting pen is below.  As mentioned above, it was produced as a clipless model and measures a smallish 4 5/8″ closed and 5 7/8″ posted.

The imprint below is a common Kraker look, with the large YE.  As mentioned in the past, Michael – George Co. is the name of the Company that Kraker used, reversing his first and middle names.

The lever is the familiar Kraker lever (Lotz) that is found on many of his early pens produced in Minnesota.  I have posted photos of this lever in several previous articles for Yankees, Drew, and Winter Robbins Pens.

Here is a closeup of the 14K Warranted 3 nib which is quite flexible, as is common for the time.

Just when I thought I had finished my collection of these Midwest gems, I was fooled again when I found this pen.  Reading through the research on Kraker and his many exploits, there are still a few out there.  Does anyone have a Kleeno?

February 18, 2010 Posted by | Kraker, Yankee Pen | , , | Leave a comment

Monogram Pearl and Black Fountain Pen

Black and Pearl pens are treasured by collectors for their interesting patterns, and for the lack of surviving clean examples.  Time (insert aging sacs and ink residue) has not been kind to these pens and most have discolored badly. All of the large pen makers of the 20s and 30s made them ~ most notable are the Parker Duofold, Sheaffer Balance, and Wahl Gold Seal Pearl and Black Pens.  A collector can expect to pay $ 500 and above for clean examples of the pens listed above.

This brings me to this week’s restoration.  It is a large Monogram pen in Pearl and Black that probably dates to the late 1920s, the same time that the Big Three were producing Pearl and Black beauties.  As you may recall, Monogram Fountain Pens were a house brand of Rexall Stores, made during this period by George Kraker.

Previous posts referring to Monograms are as follows:

Rexall Monogram – February 7, 2008
Pencraft – June 1, 2008

Below is a photo of the pen after taking it apart.  You can see that the parts are in good shape, aside from a stained feed and nib, as well as the gold bands and lever.  The sac and j-bar were absent from the pen after I removed the friction fit section/feed/nib assembly.  I thoroughly cleaned each piece, making certain to scrub the inside of the cap and removing all of the ink residue.  All of the gold parts cleaned up to their original luster and the pen was ready for reassembly.  As this is a large pen, a large j-bar and long size 20 sac were used and attached to the section/feed /nib.  This will guarantee a very large ink supply in the future.  I used a silicon sac to help prevent future discoloration of the barrel, which has survived quite well.

Here is a photo of the completed pen which measures a very large 5 1/2 inches closed and 6 7/8 inches posted.  The double cap band and top cap band are a nice touch to this premium Rexall brand pen.

The clip is a typical Kraker clip seen on many of his Pens (Yankee, Dixie, Belmont, and Monogram).

The nib is a very large “Everlasting” L, which I assume to be for Large.  In my April 24, 2009 post, Pencraft Chicago the Pencraft / Kraker nib was a Pencraft “L”. These nibs with sizes occur in some of his pens.  I am not certain that this nib is original to this pen, but tend to think it is, given the “L”.

Here is a photo of the imprint on the barrel.  It reads:

The Monogram Pen

NON BREAKABLE

SOLD ONLY AT The Rexall Store

Given the popularity of the Pearl and Black pattern of this pen and the fact that Kraker was still making pens for Rexall in the late 1920s,  I would guess that this pen was produced in Libertyville, IL in the late 20s by Kraker’s Pen Company.   It is a very attractive pen and the color has survived very well over the past 80 years.

January 12, 2010 Posted by | Kraker, Monogram Fountain Pens | , | 1 Comment

Kraker Mess

I picked up the two pens in the photograph below from someone that I suspect used them for parts to add to  a group of Kraker produced pens.  The nice thing about several of these pens is that some of the parts are interchangeable.  The two pens I received were a red/orange Dixie Flat Top and a Black Belmont with red cap top jewel.  The black Belmont is the same model as the pen I restored in this post of May 22, 2008, titled Belmont / Rexall and Yankee Cousins.

The photo below shows the pens after I have taken them apart.  The Belmont arrived complete, while the Dixie was without a feed and nib.

I decided that I wanted to restore the orange Dixie more than the Belmont as I already have a similar Belmont, and though I have several Dixie pens, I have none in this color.

As you can see, there was significant staining on the Dixie.  Some sort of black/gray stain was covering both the barrel and cap.  I gently sanded this out and then applied a scratch remover and polish to these areas.  The result was a total eradication of the stains.  The clip, cap rings (2) and lever were not cheap gold plate, as I always fear, and cleaned up well using metal polisher and then my ultrasonic cleaner.  A new J-bar was needed as the old hanging bar  had corroded.  I removed the base of the hanging unit first and then inserted the long  j – bar.

Next was the nib…it was a short Warranted 2 nib that has seen better days.  I attempted to clean it up, but it was substandard and my suspicion is that it was just thrown on to sell the Belmont.  I tossed it and found a larger Warranted No. 2 nib in my nib bin. (nib bin = 2 word palindrome !)   Ok, its not a nice Dixie nib, but I am not sure that George Kraker used Dixie nibs on these.  It fits well and it’s larger size seems to fit this longish pen.

The Belmont barrel, cap, and section were polished and banished to the parts drawers for future project use.  I may have a spare feed and nib somewhere, but the Dixie was my focus.

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Below is the completed pen ~ my first orange Dixie, clearly a pen made in response to the successful Duofold Big Red’s of the day.

The barrel imprint reads ~

DixiE

Non – Breakable

Grand Haven, Mich. Pat

Given the time frame for George Kraker’s stay in Michigan, this pen was probably produced sometime between about 1925 and 1929.  This would confirm its production during the heyday of the Parker Duofold and other large flat top pens.

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The photo below shows the new Warranted No. 2 nib loaded and ready to write.

Other Dixie posts, showing the diverse colors used by the Michael George Company in these pens are ~

A Dixie In Illinois / November 26, 2008 (this pen would have been produced later than the Michigan pens)

A Dixie in Michigan / August 1, 2008

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The pen is a large one, measuring in at 5 3/8″ capped and 6 5/8″ posted.

I have seen at least one other color for these.  Other than the jade, mandarin, and orange, I have seen a marbled white/brown and black, similar to the Parker pearl marlbed Duofolds.  I will have to keep looking….

August 3, 2009 Posted by | Belmont Pens, Dixie Fountain Pens, Kraker | , , | Leave a comment

Pencraft – Chicago

I really wish someone would pen a biography of  “George Kraker, Midwestern Pen Builder”, so that I could refer to it in my many posts regarding his various pens.  I can’t resist picking them up and restoring them.  This is the nicest to date ~ a classic large mottled lever filler.  I have numerous Kraker – produced pens from Minneapolis,  Kansas City, Grand Haven, Michigan, and Libertyville, Illinois.  This is my first from Chicago.  The history shows that Kraker was producing pens in Chicago in the early 1920s, after he left Kansas City.  At the same time he had his hands in Pen Companies in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota.   Ultimately, he moved on to Grand Haven, Michigan and produced pens there until 1928/29.  Many of his pens have been covered in posts here during the last two years. To read and see more, click on the Kraker link in the Categories on the right side of this page.

As I stated, this is my first Chicago Kraker.  However, it is not my first Pencraft.  These were made in the future in various locations.  On June 1, 2008 in this Pencraft post, I discussed the restoration of a Pencraft pen from Libertyville, IL.

You can see that the restoration is a simple lever-filler.  The hanging pressure bar is inside the barrel and in good shape, so I did not remove it.  I was able to take off the red jewel cap top to reveal the hanging  j-bar and inspect it for damage.  None being found, I let it remain in the barrel.  The gold furniture polished up well and there is no loss of any color.

pencraft chicagp

Two items on this pen stand out from other Krakers of the time.  First, the section.  It is mottled just like the barrel and cap.  This is a nice touch that I have not seen on any of the other Dixie, Yankee, Belmont, and other Kraker brands that I have worked on.  Second is the nib, which I will highlight below.

Here is the section and the size 18 sac that I fit to the section and trimmed to fit into the barrel.

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The finished product is highlighted by the section matching the barrel and cap.  This is a nice touch in any pen and a bit unexpected, at least by me, with these pens.

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This Pencraft is a large pen, measuring 5 3/8 inches closed and 6 7/8 inches posted.

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Here is the Pencraft “L” Nib.  It is quite large, comparable to the Large Warranted 8 nibs of the period.

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Below is the imprint.  Pencraft, in the traditional Kraker Script of large first and last letters, followed by Michael George Co.  Michael George Co. is a Company name that Kraker used in various locations, transposing his first and middle names (George Michael Kraker).

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Finally, another signature ~ the transparent colored jewel cap and barrel ends seen on many past posts here.

For a few other of these end caps, check out these past posts:

Belmont, Rexall, and Yankee Cousins
dated May 22, 2008

A Yankee in Michigan dated January 27, 2008

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There are many Kraker collectors out there ~ most with much more impressive collections.  It is easy to see how we get hooked.  The pens are diverse, affordable when compared to the Parkers, Wahls, and Watermans of the period, and always seem to have interesting variations.

April 24, 2009 Posted by | Kraker, Pencraft Pens | , , | 2 Comments

   

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