Fountain Pen Restoration

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

The House Of Pencraft

I enjoy restoring large flat top pens like these. The Kraker bodies of the late 1920s and early 30s were very colorful and I really enjoy the various colors that they used for end pieces. This week’s pen is no exception, and has a few twists.

As you can see below, it came from an estate, and in a Pencraft box, complete with instructions.  At first glance, there is nothing very unusual. It is a Kraker Pencraft, made in Libertyville, IL, which dates it in the very late 1920s or very early in the 30s.  At that time Kraker had a contract to produce pens for Rexall, under the name Monogram, among others.  The box says Pencraft and the directions are for Pencraft/Dixie Pens and Pencils.

Below is the pen after I reduced it down to its parts.  The hanging pressure bar still works and is in good shape so there is no need to replace it with a jbar.  From what I can see, it appears that the pen was never used as there is no indication of ink anywhere in the pen (cap, nib, feed, section or hardened sac).  I would guess that it had been in the box for quite some time.  The nib, clip, cap bands, and lever all polished up well and needed little work.  I polished the outside of the barrel and cap which are black smooth plastic.  After assembling the section/feed/nib, I attached a size 18 sac and reinserted the section into the pen.   The hanging pressure bar system works well and the pen is ready to go.

Below is the restored pen, a Monogram/Pencraft with orange and yellow ends.  What I had not noticed when I received the pen was that the cap has a familiar Monogram clip and a Pencraft Body.  When I first looked at the pen I just assumed that the cap “jewel had discolored to a dark/dirty yellow.  Now it is clear that the cap is a mismatch.  The two fit together perfectly ~ just the imprints and jewels are mismatched.

The pen measures 5 7/16″ capped and 6 13/16″ posted.

So why are the cap and barrel different?  Well, I can only hazard a few guesses, and will never really know.

Perhaps, the pen was repaired and when it was sent back to Pencraft for repairs they substituted either the cap or barrel.  Or perhaps this pen was produced near the end of the production in Libertyville and they were just using up remaining parts.  Or perhaps the pen was a mistake and either the barrel or cap was placed in error.  I can play “perhaps”  for quite a while, and we will never know.  My leaning is that they were near the end of production in Libertyville and simply using up parts and this pen was the product.

Below is the direction sheet that was in the box.  Note the ink stains.   This seems to run against my initial observation that the pen had not been used before.  The title of this article ~ The House Of Pencraft ~ comes from the pencil page.  I had never seen this term before.

I looked up the name Theodore Haake on the internet and no persons with ties to fountain pens or Michael George came up.  I am not certain if this was the owner of the pen (though this is written in pencil) or possibly someone from the factory.

Here is the strong imprint, with Michael George Co (Kraker) mentioned.

The nib is a Forever Nib #6.  I have seen Forever, Everlasting, Dixie, and Warranted Nibs used on Kraker pens of this era.  Everlasting and Forever are interesting names, perhaps in response to Parker and Sheaffer’s ” Lifetime ” guarantees.

It seems that sometimes ” the more we know, the less we know”.  These mysteries of the vintage pen are often intriguing and forever and everlastingly a challenge to sort through.

June 24, 2010 Posted by | Belmont Pens, Dixie Fountain Pens, Kraker, Monogram Fountain Pens, Pencraft Pens, Rexall, Yankee Pen | , , | 1 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

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.

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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

A Dixie In Illinois

In my post of August 1, 2008, A Dixie in Michigan, I discussed the repair of a very clean green marble Dixie Pen, made by George Kraker in Grand Haven, Michigan.   Kraker, whose pens I have covered from Minneapolis to Grand Haven, Michigan, and to Libertyville, IL in the following posts,

Hard Rubber Midwest Style December 7, 2007
A Yankee In Michigan January 27, 2008
Rexall Monogram February 7, 2008
A Yankee In Minnesota May 15, 2008
Belmont/Rexall And Yankee Cousins May 22, 2008
Pencraft June 1, 2008
A Dixie In Michigan August 1, 2008
Drew Pen Company October 3, 2008

was certainly a busy and transient pen maker. I even have a pen of his made in Kansas City prior to his stint in Minnesota. But that is for another time.

This pen, made in Libertyville, dates to sometime in or after 1929, the year Kraker moved there. This would seem to coincide with the marketplace. This pen is similar in color and design to the popular Mandarin Parker Duofold, which was first produced in 1927.

As you can see, the pen was a stained mess when I received it.  This is very typical of vintage yellow pens as they show all of the old ink and scratches very well.

Two things stood out with this pen.  First, the nib was not a Dixie No. 8 or a Warranted No. 8 as I have seen with these pens, but a Parker Vacuum Fill nib.  The Vacuum Fill was the pen produced by Parker around 1933 between the Parker Golden Arrow and eventually the Vacumatic.  Thus the nib is a bit rare and unusual .  I don’t know when it was put on the pen, but it was not recently.  The entire pen was caked inside and out with greenish ink residue, which also is found all over the nib.  Also, the nib and Parker feed are perfect matches for the section and fit snugly, exposing just the right amount of nib.  Resale on the Vacuum Fill nib would be attractive, but for now I think I will keep it with the pen.

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Another piece of evidence that the nib / feed / section have been on the pen for a while was the fact that when I eventually got the section out of the barrel, the sac and pressure bar were still inside and both came out with quite a bit of work and were completely shot.  The sac was very hard and in may pieces and the bar was corroded and brittle.

Below, is a photograph of the pen after I was able to take the section out.  One should always be careful in removing the section with pens, but yellow pens seem to be very brittle and certainly will show any stress cracks that might develop during this process, if care is not taken.

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I spent several days working on the inside and outside of this pen, attempting to remove all of the old scratches and stains.  It was quite a challenge.  I used my ultrasonic cleaner and then many qtips, towels, dental picks, and polishes to attempt to clean it up.  The threads were particularly difficult, but I was able to get them completely clean using Ink Nix and a toothbrush.

I installed a new j-bar and a size 18 sac and reinstalled the Vacuum Fill Nib.  Tested with water, it performs well.

Here are pictures of the pen after completed.  It measures 5 1/2 inches capped.

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The imprint reads:

DixiE

NON-BREAKABLE

LIBERTYVILLE, ILL. – PAT.

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Finally, here is a picture of two of my Dixie Pens, one from Michigan and one from Illinois.  Both are in less common finishes.  Considered third-tier imitation pens, they perform well and are all part of the pen trail of George Kraker.

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November 26, 2008 Posted by | Dixie Fountain Pens, Kraker, Parker Vacuum Fill | , | 2 Comments

Drew Pen Company

I decided to take a break from pen restoration to share some old newspaper advertisements that I purchased recently and tie them to some pens I have in my collection.  I enjoy looking for ephemera that relates to pen history and the advertisements below are an interesting look back.

Drew Pens were produced in St. Paul, Minnesota in the 1920s, probably by George Kraker, though I have no written proof of this.  I discussed them and their unique lever (Lotz)  in my post A Yankee in Minnesota (May 15, 2008)

The clip on the pen is also the same one as seen on several Kraker pens seen in many posts throughout the past year.

The pen shown below is a very nicer Black Chased Hard Rubber (BCHR) Drew Lever Filler.   I have had it for several years.  An interesting part of this pen is that the gold bands were put on the pen, over the imprint.  I am not sure why, but they were clearly not on all Drew pens and somewhat of an afterthought. The pen has a very nice Warranted No. 5 nib (fine).

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Below, are three panels.  The first shows page 12 of an unknown newspaper advertisement for Drew Pens.  The second and third are simply close ups of the first, separated to get a closer look.

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The advertisement is an eye catcher.  $1,000 cash (assuming you upgrade to Class A by purchasing a pen for $5) was a lot of money in the 1920s.  Judges were honorable (“honest and impartial”):  A doctor, a teacher, and a bank president!  Clearly we were a few years ahead of the crash of 1929, and the bank president was still well respected.

The pen on the left appears to be the same one that I have, above.  Thus, we can place production of this pen in 1922, or earlier.

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Searching for this type of fountain pen related material is a lot of fun and often sheds light on the history of a pen in your collection.  In this instance, it gave me a date of production that I would not have known without reading the contest deadline.

Finally, if you get bored you can begin to count the C’s.  Let’s see — canary, cutlery, clown……..

October 3, 2008 Posted by | Drew Pen Company, Kraker | , | 3 Comments

A Yankee in Minnesota

In my post of January 27, 2007, titled A Yankee in Michigan, I repaired and discussed a Yankee Pen made by a George Kraker pen company in Grand Haven, Michigan. In that post, I mentioned that I had a Yankee Pen from Minnesota. Well, two weeks ago, I came across another Yankee Pen, from the Minneapolis Pen Company. The clip on this one is the same as the clip used by Kraker in Michigan and on the Monogram Pen discussed on February 7. Having read several expert opinions, I am quite confident that the Minneapolis Pen Company and the Yankee Pen that I am restoring here is another Kraker product. I would place the date in the early 1920s after he left Kansas City and prior to Grand Haven, MI.

The picture below is of the pen after being taken apart. The sac had reduced to a fine dust. As you can see, the hard rubber chasing is in excellent shape, as is the color and imprint. the nib and feed were very dirty and needed to be scraped (feed) and cleaned. The nib is a nice Warranted 14K with no size number. The section needed to be scraped to remove all signs of the previous sac.

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I installed a size 16 sac and the pen works fine. Below are pictures of the restored pen closed and posted.

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I want to point out the unique lever. This lever is one that appears on many Kraker pens of the period. The first photo below is the lever of this pen. You can also see the same lever on a Winter Robbins pen, featured in my post of December 7 of last year, titled Hard Rubber Midwest Style.

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Finally, here is another pen, a Drew Pen Company (St. Paul, MN) with the same lever again. It would lead me to believe that Kraker may have been involved in some way with the manufacture of several of these pens.

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May 15, 2008 Posted by | Drew Pen Company, Hard Rubber Pen, Kraker, Minneapolis Pen, Minnesota Pens, Monogram Fountain Pens, Winter - Robbins, Yankee Pen | , , | Leave a comment

Rexall Monogram

Monogram pens have been discussed briefly in a few earlier posts. They were a house brand of pen for Rexall Drug Stores.

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At one point the contract for Monogram pens was held by George Kraker and he produced these pens at his Grand Haven, MI location and possibly in Libertyville, IL and Minneapolis, MN. Here is a picture of a mottled Monogram that I have had for quite some time. It carries the distinctive Kraker clip and opaque morroon cap top. It has a Monogram 14K nib and a Lotz’ patented lever, which is a Kraker product.

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The pen that I have worked on over the past few days is a Monogram with a clip that is very similar to the Kraker Company clips, though in gold. It is a marbled white and black plastic that is an excellent example of what happens when an ink sac and ink deteriorate inside a barrel and cap over the course of seventy years. Here is a picture of the pen after I took it apart. Three things are interesting to me. First, the discoloration is very pronounced on on the barrel and the condition of the sac can explain the thorough discoloration. Unfortunately, this discoloration can not be reversed. Second, the pressure bar is different from many lever fillers that you see. It is not a traditional jbar type bar, but a round base that sits against the end of the barrel with a hook on it which attaches to the bar. It is in surprisingly good shape and I will be able to reuse it. All that will be needed for this restoration will be a new sac. Third, I like the addition of the tiered black ends of the cap and barrel. This is a nice touch.

I went in search of information on the pressure bar mechanism and was told that this was a pressure bar system that is common to Kraker Company Pens and also some National Pen Products Pens (Chicago). The research response also indicated that this Monogram pen was very similar to a Pencraft Pen. Pencraft Pens were made by the Michael – George Company (Kraker). So, I am going to say that this pen was made by Kraker prior to Rexall moving the contract away from him.

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The actual repair for this involved the usual thorough cleaning. I made sure that all of the sac remnants and ink residue was removed from both the cap and barrel to stop the discoloration process for good. I also installed a silicone sac after cleaning the section/feed/nib. I was able to reinstall the pressure bar and base and the lever opens and closes easily and cleanly. Even though the pen has discolored, I polished it and worked out all of the spots from the gold clip, trim rings and lever. Though not a perfect representation of what the pen looked like when it sat on the drug store shelf in the 20s or 30s, it functions well and the 14K Monogram nib writes with a firm medium line.

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Instead of discoloration, I prefer to say that it has “character“.

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Edit 1-14-13: Mike H. sent me this photo of a matching pencil to this Monogram.  Thank you Mike!
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February 7, 2008 Posted by | Kraker, Monogram Fountain Pens, Rexall | , , | 3 Comments

A Yankee in Michigan

I recently purchased this Yankee Pen and restored it this week. The transformation was dramatic. I became interested in Yankee Pens after finding one that was produced in Minnesota by George Kraker in the early 1920s. I talked about Kraker in my post of December 7, 2007. He produced Kraker Pens in Kansas City, was sued by Walter Sheaffer, moved to Minnesota (in the early 1920s) and began to produce pens there. After a stint in Minnesota, he apparently moved to Grand Haven, Michigan on or around 1923 and operated as the Michael-George Company and produced Pencraft, Yankee and Dixie Pens. He also had a contract during this period to produce pens for other companies, including Monogram Pens for Rexall Stores.

The more of these pens I run across, the more I see the resemblance of the clips, levers, filling systems, and barrel parts. The imprint on this pen states ” NON BREAKABLE”, a phrase seen also on Belmont and Monogram Pens, made for Rexall.

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Here is a picture of the Yankee Pen after I reduced it to its base parts.

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It has a clip that is very similar to many other Kraker Pens, as well as the red plastic cap top that I have also seen on some Monogram pens.

This pen was very dirty and stained, inside and out. I cleaned each part thoroughly. The nib (Warranted 14K) was cleaned and polished with simichrome and then placed in the ultrasonic cleaner. The old nib remnants were scraped off of the section and it was cleaned with water and a q-tip. The feed was cleaned by soaking and cleaning the channels with a dental pick. Be careful to make sure these old feed ink channels are clear. As you can see, the sac was reduced to dust and a new size 16 was used. The inside of the cap was caked with old dried ink and I use q-tips repeatedly to remove this. This is often overlooked in pen restoration, but is important to producing a clean pen that will not stain in the future. The “Kraker” clip was very tarnished, but after many sessions of simichrome, it shines. I was lucky as this clip was not gold plated, so there was no problem in vigorously working out the stains. The lever was also very dirty and it took some time to restore its shine.

The pressure bar was not salvageable, so I used a long jbar, which fit in the barrel after a little crimping to get it in the long narrow barrel. The black finish on the exterior cleaned up nicely after I applied a regimen of stain remover, polish and carnuba wax. Here is the finished product – a Yankee Pen, produced in Grand Haven, Michigan (c 1924-29).

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Be on the lookout for Yankee, Dixie, Pencraft, Kraker, Michael-George, Drew, and Rexall Store Pens of this period. They may just be relatives of this pen – produced by George Kraker during his various business ventures in the midwest during the teens, twenties and thirties. I am currently restoring a Monogram which I will cover in the next post, which I believe he made in Libertyville, IL after he left Grand Haven. Stay tuned…

January 27, 2008 Posted by | Kraker, Rexall, Yankee Pen | , , | 6 Comments

Hard Rubber Midwest Style

Last night I restored a two vintage Minnesota Pens. I suspect both were manufactured in the 1920s. Who manufactured them is an interesting topic for discussion. A link to further discussion and speculation can be found here -

Kraker Discussion

The discussion takes many twists and turns and a few pictures of my pens appear.

First, I restored a Brown and Bigelow Ringtop lever-filler. The material is a mottled hard rubber. As with most of these, all that was required was removal of the old sac remains, a check of the lever – pressure bar mechanism and a replacement sac. I also cleaned up the Redipoint nib and feed. The result is pictured below.

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I used some white crayon to highlight the imprint for photo purposes.

The next pen was a BHR (black hard rubber) Winter-Robbins Minnesota Pen. This is the second one of these in my collection of Minnesota Pens. The restoration process was the same as the above pen and no problems were encountered. The discoloration of the Black Hard Rubber is very slight. This can be a big problem for many of these old BHR and BCHR pens. A larger discussion within the hobby is whether or not to attempt to reverse this process. There are a few products out there and the results can be stunning. I tend to think that these pens should be left in the condition they are found in terms of hard rubber, but I am not as militant in my stance as many. It is an issue that can be quite polarizing, to experts in the fountain pen community.

Here is a picture of the finished product.

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The lever on this pen is interesting. It is a lever attributable to a patent issued to R. W. Lotz, a Chicago Attorney in 1918. This lever appears on Kraker pens, Drew(MN) pens, and several others that lead one to believe that George Kraker may have been involved in the manufacture of these. Much more information can be found in the link at the top of this post. I have a notebook filled with notes on these connections. When I get some time, I would like to learn more about Minnesota Corporate records and where to gather more information. But for now, two restored hard rubber ringtops are back in action., and at close to the condition they were in 80 years ago.

December 7, 2007 Posted by | Brown & Bigelow, Kraker, Minnesota Pens, Winter - Robbins | , , , | 2 Comments

   

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