Fountain Pen Restoration

Janesville, Wisconsin Button Fill

The next pen up for repair is a Parker Junior Duofold, with a streamline cap. The exact date of the manufacture of this pen is imprecise, but it would have been produced in Janesville, WI by Parker sometime after 1929. Duofolds were produced in different sizes – Senior, Junior, and Lady being the most common. The Lady Duofolds of this time had a ring on the top of the cap, to attach to a chain that could be worn around the neck. The larger Senior models and the Lady versions will be covered at another time. This pen is approximately 4.5 inches long (capped). The most common colors of these pens were black, red and jade green. Other colors were produced such as mandarin yellow, blue and pearl/black.

All of the Parker Duofolds of this time were button fillers. Button fillers have a sac that is filled by pushing on a button at the end of the barrel which pushes a pressure bar inside of the barrel against the sac. When the button is released the pressure bar releases the sac, inflating it again, and allowing the ink to flow into the pen. These pens are quite easy to restore. In most cases, all that is needed is a new sac and pressure bar.

This is a picture of the pen after it has been reduced to it’s parts. I used gentle heat from a heat gun to remove the section from the barrel. Often, the section screws into the barrel, so care needs to be taken not to just pull the section out, but to screw it out gently. As you can see, the sac has hardened over the years, but the good news is that the pressure bar (at the bottom of the picture) can be used in the restored pen.

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The first task was to clean the gold pieces. I used a q-tip and simichrome to polish the nib, button and clip. After polishing, I put them in an ultrasonic cleaner for a couple of minutes to give them a clean shine. I next cleaned out the section and “christmas tree feed” with water and dried them with the gold pieces. Finally, I polished and waxed the barrel and cap. I selected a size 18 sac and attached this to the section with sac cement after the nib and feed were placed back in the section. Next the section and attached sac were pushed back into the barrel. Button fillers are a bit tricky at this point. I inserted the original pressure bar in the cap, through the hole in the top of the cap, being careful that it lined up next to the sac cleanly. When this was done, I placed the button over the protruding pressure bar end and pushed the button into the barrel end until the pressure bar resists.

After several hours to allow the sac cement to completely dry, I tested the pen by pushing down on the button while the nib was in a glass of water. The pressure bar and button did their job and the sac filled with water perfectly. Pushing the button again released a steady stream of water back into the glass. The filling system was successfully restored.

Here is a picture of the completed project, both capped and uncapped.

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Parker Duofolds were very popular pens in their day and many fine examples such as this one have survived due in part to the workmanship and materials used in their manufacture. They are once again being produced, though using a cartridge/converter system.

An excellent book on the history of the Parker Duofold is PARKER DUOFOLD, by David Shepherd and Dan Zazove.

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December 29, 2007 Posted by | Duofold, Parker Pen Company | , | 1 Comment

Merry And Bright Be Your Christmas

As this is Christmas Eve, I will depart from the restoration theme and just show the Sheaffer 1996 Special Edition Holly Pen. It has a broad nib and is a cartridge/converter fill.

Merry Christmas to all!

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December 24, 2007 Posted by | Christmas, Christmas Pen, Sheaffer | , | 3 Comments

Universal Fountain Pen

This morning I avoided a snow storm and worked on a pen that I had sitting on my workbench for quite some time. It was very dirty and I think I purchased it about six months ago for a couple of dollars. The trim, which I suspected was gold filled was very tarnished and I really thought that if I was to try and clean it up, I would take off the gold plate.

I decided to try and use my dremel to take a few black spots off one of the cap bands and as I did so, I realized that the bands were actually gold as a vigorous buff with Simichrome and the dremel revealed a nice gold shine. So, I worked on both cap bands, the clip, and the lever. All cleaned up to a bright gold shine.

Opening the pen up revealed the need for a new sac. Being a large pen, it took a size 20. I had never tested the Warranted No. 4 nib, but after I knocked it out and cleaned the section, feed and nib, I encountered a problem. The section had a built in ridge inside which prevents the feed from backing up too far into the barrel of the pen. This is fine, however the Warranted No. 4 nib would not seat against this ridge. I tried several times to make this work, but the nib was not long enough and when writing pressure was placed on it, it would eventually begin to turn against the feed.

Here is where a well stocked tool box of spare parts from pens that could not be repaired or were picked up for spare parts comes in handy. I do not have an extensive parts box, but enough parts to help out on occasion. What I needed here was a nib that is longer that the No. 4 nib to rest against the section ridge, and the same width to fit snugly against the feed and into the circular section. The nib that fit perfectly was a Parker Lady Duofold nib from an old discolored black Lady Duofold that had already donated a clip and button to other pens.

After the nib change, I spent quite a bit of time cleaning and polishing the faux woodgrain finish. This pen is reminiscent of several pen company offerings of the 1930s and 40s. These were large flat-top pens, resembling the Parker Duofold. They were often colorful, though of lower quality. I suspect the Warranted No. 4 nib (now available for another pen restoration) was a substitute nib placed in the pen for resale purposes. It was not a nib that would have allowed for use.

Here are a couple of pictures of the Universal Pen. It is now ready for use and testing reveals that it writes a firm fine line.

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I have very little information on the Universal Pen Company other than that there was a company with that name located in New York City at 146 West 26th Street in the mid 1930s. If anyone has any further information on this pen, I would appreciate a comment.

December 23, 2007 Posted by | Universal Fountain Pens | | 18 Comments

Rube Goldberg Ink Delivery Machine

Rube Goldberg was famous for making machines that were complex, performing a relatively simple task. The Sheaffer Snorkel filling system was produced starting in 1952 and ending when the Pen For Men (PFM) was phased out in 1963. It followed the Touchdown filling system and has many similarities. However, it has many more parts and it is highlighted by a tube that extends out of a slit in the nib section that allows for ink to be sucked into the pen pen/sac . Thus, the pen itself does not have to be immersed in the ink. After the pen is filled, the tube is pulled back into the pen by turning the blind cap and touchdown tube back into the pen.

I jest when I compare it to a Rube Goldberg machine, but it is the most complicated filling system I have run across in a mass-produced pen. At one time I was intimidated by the apparent complexity of these pens and shied away from repair. But, after doing a few very slowly and deliberately, I have learned that they are actually fairly easy to restore – though a little more time consuming than other pens. Parts are easy to come by. As with the touchdown fillers (see previous posts), smaller sacs are needed as well as “O” rings (sized to the type of pen), and seals. Though each pen is different, the most time consuming part is removal of the small rubber section from the sac protector and the removal of the old sac. Special care needs to be given to all the seals to make sure that they are tight and unworn to allow for optimum performance of the restored pen.

Last evening, I had time to attack two Snorkel Desk pens. I had never restored a Snorkel desk pen before and picked up two for a total of $10.00. Sheaffer made a wide variety of desk bases over the years, from very ornate to very plain. I am not a huge fan of desk pens, but I ran across a simple green base at an antique store about a year ago, and had been on the lookout for a compatible pen. Here is a picture of the black Lifetime Snorkel after it has been taken apart. I have already installed the sac at the time the picture was taken.

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You can see the old “O” ring and point seal. These were replaced. the sac protector was cleaned and the section/sac and tube were fitted back into the sac protector. The spring goes over the sac protector and the pen is reassembled, with caution to make sure the seals are tight and all moving parts are lubricated with silicone grease. The finished product is here. Obviously there is no cap as it fits nicely in the green base. The picture shows the touchdown tube and snorkel tube extended. The pen would now be placed in ink and the touchdown tube would be pushed back in to the pen to fill. No muss, no fuss.

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Here is the pen and base.

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As with regular snorkels, desk pens came in a variety of colors with black being by far the most common found by collectors today. Now that I have restored two of these, I will have to be on the lookout for another base.

December 21, 2007 Posted by | Desk Pens, Sheaffer | , , | 3 Comments

Pelikan 120

Pelikan is one of my favorite pen manufacturers. Both vintage and new. In fact, of the very few modern pens I own, several are Pelikans. Pelikan, a German Company, has been manufacturing fountain pens and other writing instruments since 1929. It began in the mid 1800s in Germany as a paint and ink manufacturer and eventually began producing fountain pens in 1929, and still produces quality writing instruments today.

I own many, including 100Ns, 400NNs, 400s, 200s, a 140, and a 120. The 120 discussed here is the least glamorous and was produced between 1955 and 1965 as an entry level student pen.

About four years ago I came upon a Pelikan 120 at a sale and picked it up for less than ten dollars. It had the Pelikan trademark green and black colors. What separates it from most of its higher class relatives is that it has a plated nib. It is a piston filler, as are most Pelikans from 1929 to current products. When I tried to write with it, it tore the paper as I pressed down and I put it aside until this week.

Another aspect of fountain pen restoration is preservation of the nib. I have mentioned cleaning up nibs in previous posts and now will mention a little about smoothing nibs. I am not a professional nib technician who reshapes nibs, or retips them. But, I can do a simple smoothing of a nib that has been been improperly stored or nicked up. For larger projects of reshaping and retipping, advice of a professional through the links in my blogroll is recommended.

As for smoothing, I use Micro Mesh 2400 to 12,000 grade sheets, which is a very fine abrasive paper which will gently smooth out nibs to allow for smoother contact with the writing material.

Which brings me back to this successful restoration project. After gently working on the nib with a 2,400 grade sheet, I tested it periodically. After about 10 minutes, it was smooth to paper at all angles and a completely new pen. Not a glamorous 100N or 800, but very useful. A pen that had been sent to the back of the pen case, was restored to how it came out of the factory around 1960.

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If you would like to read more about Pelikan Pens, ruettinger-web is an excellent website. Additionally, a very good book on the history of Pelikan and its long line of pens is Pelikan Schreibergerate, by Jurgen Dittmer and Martin Lehmann.

December 18, 2007 Posted by | Pelikan | , | 9 Comments

Valiant TM Touchdown

This post will trace the restoration done on a Sheaffer Valiant TM (thin model) Touchdown, dating to the 1950-1952 period. This pen is actually part of a pen and pencil set that I found in a Sheaffer box that is in quite good condition. My speculation is that the pen and pencil set was never used as the sac that was extracted from the pen had no signs of ink in it, and the nib section emitted no ink when cleaned. This makes things a bit easier as the sac had not adhered to the insides of the sac protector and did not have to be pried out with a dental pick. As you can see from the picture below, the sac almost came out in one piece.

This picture depicts a touchdown filler broken down into all of its parts.

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All of the parts are in good shape, except for the sac and “O” ring. I have supplies of both and will attach a new sac to the nib section once it is thoroughly cleaned. The O ring was taken out (I use a safety pin to spear it and remove it from its slot) and I will replace it with a new one. Silicone grease will be applied over the O ring area, over the sac protector, and on the threads of the nib section to help all of the parts move more efficiently after 56 years.

The retail price for the pen in 1951 was $12.50. It was available in five colors: Black, Persian Blue, Burgundy, Burnt Umber Brown, and the pictured Evergreen Green. A ballpoint and pencil were also available (pencil shown below).

Now for the after pictures. After performing all the repairs listed above here are a few shots of the finished product

The touchdown pneumatic filler extended:
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The pen was part of a pen – pencil set. Here are the two together. The pencil is fully functional.
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December 18, 2007 Posted by | Sheaffer, Sheaffer Valiant Touchdown | , | Leave a comment

Henry Dreyfuss and the 20th Century Limited

I love trains, especially old ones and there is a nice tie-in to fountain pens. Henry Dreyfuss, a noted industrial designer of the 20th century, actually assisted in the design of the Wahl / Eversharp Skyline. The Skyline was produced by Wahl in Chicago, IL. during the period 1941-1948. In 1945, it was the best selling pen in the US. Mr. Dreyfuss designed the 20th Century Ltd (shown below) in the late 1930s, prior to the 1940 design of the Skyline. More information can be found on him by clicking on his name above.

New York Central – 20th Century Limited

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Now, let’s take a look at his pen design. I have posted a picture of the clip and bonnet of the pen next to the front of the train and you can see the similarity. Below is a picture of three burgundy Skylines that I have restored over the last couple of years. They are lever fillers and very easy to restore, except for two things. The barrels tend to be quite brittle and are notorious for cracking if care is not taken when separating the section from the barrel. Gentle heat is recommended and I use my heat gun carefully. Also, the later Skylines had breather tubes which can be tricky to restore as they also tend to be brittle and care needs to be taken here as well.

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Eversharp Skylines were produced in numerous colors, designs and caps over the 7 years of their production. Three sizes were available: Executive, Standard, and Demi. Most of these pens found today are of the standard size. The Eversharp nibs I have found in these pens have been in quite good condition, and some can be found with a bit of flexibility.

December 14, 2007 Posted by | Henry Dreyfuss, Skyline, Wahl Eversharp | , , | 2 Comments

Who is Lois A. Kuester?

That is a good question, and if anyone knows, please forward the information on to me. A quick Google Search led me to a Lois Kuester of Williston, ND who celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary in 2005. Why am I interested in her? Well, I am not really interested in her, just in her pen. My latest restoration project was over the past two days, as time permitted, and I finished up late last night. It is a pen that belonged to Ms. Kuester, as her name was stamped right on the side of the barrel, as you can see in this shot.

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Occasionally, you will run across a vintage fountain pen that has a name on it. Often pens that were given as gifts were imprinted at the retail location to give the pen special meaning. Collectors are often split as to their feelings on imprints. A collector of mint (or close to mint) condition pens would shy away from such an imprint. Others, who simply like to collect and restore good pens do not object to these imprints. Personally, I enjoy the history of pens as much as the pens themselves, and an imprint gives a sort of link to that history. Is Lois Kuester of Williston, ND the former owner of this pen. Well, I will never know…but it is possible. I obtained the pen from a seller in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Not nearby, but in the same part of the country. The pen, a Sheaffer Lady Balance in Golden Brown Striated, was produced in Fort Madison, Iowa near the late 1930s to early 1940s. If we guess that Lois of ND was 25 when married, that would place her near 77 years of age now. In 1940 she would have been 10 years of age, give or take a few years. It is not inconceivable that she would have been gifted a pen while in school. Granted, the internet is very weak when it comes to searching for records before 2000, so this is not probable…but fun to guess at.

On to the restoration. This is a lever filler, so very straightforward. I was able to get the section off quite easily. Once opened up, I fished the old hardened and broken sac out with a dental pick. After it was all out, I inspected the internal pressure bar which was still usable. I have a nice supply of these on my workbench but it is nice when I can still use the original. I carefully removed the nib and breather tube from the section and cleaned both with q-tips and an ultrasonic cleaner. The nib was very tarnished, but the picture below shows it now looks as good as the day it was given to Lois. I installed a new sac to the section, put the pen back together, and polished it to the point where the “Golden Brown” striations are visible again. Here is Lois’ fountain pen, back in a condition similar to when she was using it – whomever she was.

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If you look at the clear portion of the pen, between the threads and the section, you can see the breather tube, which is a small tube which extends from the nib into the sac to provide for a better fill of ink, in theory. I think it adds to the look of these pens – kind of a peek at the inner workings. In fountain pens, this is called a visualated section. These striped pens were produced in four other colors and in varying sizes. The striped, or striated, were also produced in Marine Green, Grey Pearl, Carmine Red, and Roseglow (more rare).

December 14, 2007 Posted by | Sheaffer | | Leave a comment

Waterloo, Iowa Fountain Pens

This is an interesting pen and filler. It is an Evans Pen, dating to around 1916, manufactured in Waterloo, IA by the Evans Pen Company. William Welty started the Welty Pen Company in Waterloo near 1904 and patented his first “hump filler” in 1906. As you can see, it is very similar to the familiar Conklin Crescent Filler. In fact, Conklin sued Welty over this, with Welty eventually winning. In 1915 Welty, constantly in search of additional funding, accepted funding from Patrick Evans and the Company name was changed to Evans. They produced “dollar pens” such as this one for a period of time in Waterloo, and also produced parts and pens to other pen companies, though this information is sketchy.

From a restoration standpoint this was fun, as I enjoy working on different types of filling mechanisms. I had restored a couple of crescent fillers and the method was the same. Once the section and nib (an original Evans) were removed and cleaned, I removed the “hump” bar which protrudes through the slot in the body of the pens, and is secured by the turning ring. The bar was badly pitted and discolored but cleaned up quite nicely. I also removed the old sac remnants. Here is a picture of the hump filler, and the original patent and drawing can be seen here.

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The BCHR body and cap were in fairly good condition, considering the condition of the rest of the pen. They required no work at all. I fit a size 16 sac to the feed and reinserted the feed/nib into the pen after placing the clean bar into the body. When the outside locking ring is turned to allow for the bar to be pressed, this allows the sac to compress and then expand to accept ink as the bar is released.

Here is a picture of the finished product.

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I have not used this pen yet, having restored it about a year ago. It is another example of an interesting small Midwestern pen manufacturer that carved out a niche for itself, albeit for a short time period.

December 12, 2007 Posted by | Evans Pen Company, Hard Rubber Pen, Welty Pen Company | , , , | 3 Comments

Store Pens

Not storing pens – that will be the subject of another post at another time – but Store Pens. Many “department” stores, or “drug” stores, had their own brand of pens that were only available at their stores (or through mail order from them). In the introductory post of this blog, I showed an Eaton Pen, available through the Canadian Eaton Stores. Many US stores also had their own brands of Fountain Pens. I will highlight a few that I have restored with a bit of their history.

Lakeside

Lakeside pens were made for Montgomery Ward Stores to sell both in-store and through catalogs. Here is a discolored green flat-top lever filler that I have had for quite some time. I picked up the box and instructions at a later date, thus they are not original to the pen. The discoloration is due to the sac and ink inside deteriorating over time and reacting to the celluloid exterior.

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The nib is a nice Warranted Number 8, and this pen is ready to write.

Webster

Webster is one of the Sears pens. They sold more than Webster’s, and I will get to some of those brands in later posts, but I will show a couple of examples of Webster Pens here. The first is a BCHR (black chased hard rubber) pen that probably dates to the 1920s. Sears contracted with Chicago area manufacturers to make their pens and their are several theories as to who manufactured these pens.

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As you can see, the chasing of the black hard rubber is excellent on this pen. I have not yet restored this pen. It is in my repair queue and I hope to get to it shortly. It will need a new sac and pressure bar, but the rest of the pen is spotless, as you can see. The nib is a Warranted No. 4.

Here is another Webster, dating to the 1930s which looks very similar to a few Parker pens of the time period. There is speculation that Parker Pens made some of these for Sears at their Janesville, Wisconsin location. This is a button filler and I installed a new pressure bar and sac, as well as cleaning up the nib, feed and button. It writes well and has a Webster 14k No. 4 nib. I really like this pen due to the similarities it shares with the Parker Parkette and Challenger, which are of the same era.

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These pens are just the tip of the iceberg, when discussing store-brand pens. Future posts will discuss Rexall, Thompson, and other Sears brands.

December 11, 2007 Posted by | Lakeside Pens, Montgomery Ward, Parker Pen Company, Sears, Webster Pen | , , , , | Leave a comment

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