Fountain Pen Restoration

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.


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.


Here is the pen and base.


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 | , ,


  1. Sir, I have been reading your article while doing research on a Sheaffer’s Valiant Desk Set. I have just listed it on Ebay and it should be available for viewing soon. Thanks for the info you provided. Best regards, David Atkins, North Carolina.
    My username is 3dahlia.

    Comment by David Atkins | April 27, 2008 | Reply

  2. first, nicely done. i also have a question on my snorkel tip as it seems to extend only to the body of the tip not out of the pen. then it retracts up into the body of the pen so far that it cannot be seen. it worked normally at one point but not sure if the tip has been shoved up into the sac protector or what. any advice is welcome.

    Comment by Jake | October 28, 2009 | Reply

  3. I’m pretty sure that any snorkel desk pen would only fit inside the all gold metal holder…and not the plastic holder pictured here.

    Comment by Marie | August 23, 2011 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: