Fountain Pen Restoration

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.


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


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).


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

Ink Spots

The most important internal part of a fountain pen is the ink. In pen restoration it is the restorers worst enemy. When these implements were finally set aside in a drawer, storage box, or old desk, they often had ink still inside. This caused all kinds of problems which need to be rectified upon repair. Some of these problems can be reversed, and some not. As discussed in previous posts, hardened ink can contribute to parts becoming stuck (section to barrel, hardened sac to barrel or sac protector etc..). It also causes staining to sections, feeds, nibs, caps and barrels. Much of this can be cleaned with water/polish and heat, or soaking can take care of adhesion. The worst damage ink does is the irreversible staining to rubber and plastic caps and barrels.

With this in mind, I thought it would be fun to show a few vintage ink bottles that I have acquired over the years. I have concentrated on more recent production of the mid 1900s. Inkwell and ink bottle collection prior to this time is a very active hobby as well.

As with pens, many of these companies have disappeared over the years, but there are a few familiar names that have survived.

First, the familiar / Sheaffer and Parker



And a few of the lesser known




The bottles and the stories of Ink Companies make for interesting historical research. When hunting for fountain pens in antique shops we often come up empty, but often the disappointment can be softened by the discovery of one of these colorful ink bottles.

January 23, 2008 Posted by | Carters, Fount O Ink, FreFlo, Ink, Onward, Parker Pen Company, Sheaffer, Stafford | | Leave a comment

Fishing for a Desk Base

In my post of December 21, 2007, I restored two Sheaffer Snorkel Desk pens and placed one in a nice green marble base. I mentioned in the last line of the post that I would have to be on the lookout for a base for the second snorkel. Two weeks ago I spotted the base below for $10.00 and I am very pleased with it. The base stone is very heavy and the attached fish is simple enough and unobtrusive. Some bases that I have seen overpower the pen and take up too much desk space for my tastes. This base is probably as large as I would want to have on my desk. This one will be traveling with me to work next week and sit on the credenza behind my desk. This is where I keep my phone and the pen will be easy to grab and write a quick note while on the phone.

Here is a picture of the base after I cleaned it up and replaced the felt pad on the underside.


January 19, 2008 Posted by | Desk Pens, Sheaffer | , | Leave a comment

Tea Anyone?

The Ty.phoo Tea Company was started in England in the early 1900s and was the first tea company to sell pre-packaged tea. Their teas were initially produced to ease indigestion and marketed this way. Though there have been many ownership changes, the brand still exists today. A partial history of the company can be found here.

So what does this have to do with fountain pens? Well, for years Ty.phoo (derived from the Chinese for “doctor”) produced trading cards along with their tea. Sending proofs of purchase to Ty.phoo would result in receiving a fountain pen. This promotion lasted for several years and through different pens. The pen I recently restored is one of these pens. Before I get to the pen, here are a couple of mid-1930s examples of the collector cards. I purchased an assortment of these last year when I stumbled on the Ty.phoo pen.

1937 – Wild Flowers In Their Families – front and back


1938 – Interesting Events In British History -front (back is identical to above)


The pen that I acquired is of an earlier vintage than the late 1930s vacuum filler illustrated above. It is a mottled hard rubber lever filler. I reduced the pen to its parts, and found that it would need a new sac and j-bar, as well as a thorough cleaning. The lever, feed, and nib are in great shape, though the clip has lost a bit of its gold plate. I do not know who produced this pen for Ty.phoo and have read speculation that Conway Stewart, among other English producers, may have had contracts with Ty.phoo. This particular pen does have some similarities to Conway Stewart hard rubber pens of the time.

After adding a new j-bar to the barrel and aligning it with the lever, I attached a sac to the cleaned section/feed/ nib. After drying, I coated the sac with pure talc and inserted the assembly into the barrel. I was very careful not to use any liquids to clean the outside of the cap and barrel, as water does not react well with hard rubber. I simply wiped it gently with a clean cloth.

Here is the finished product. My favorite part of this pen, is the section, which is mottled to match the barrel and cap.


Three additional pictures capture the imprint and advertising slogan for a pen to ease indigestion, the very well preserved nib, and the feed, which also matches the section, barrel, and cap.




I think I will order a box of Ty.phoo tea bags, make a pot of tea, and polish up on my British History. Any guesses at to my note taking pen?

January 19, 2008 Posted by | Conway Stewart, Ty.phoo | , | 1 Comment

Put Your Loose Change Here

Today’s restoration was a Bankers Coin Filler Pen. I found this one about two years ago on eBay and left it in its original condition. I recently decided to finish the restoration and take a few interesting pictures. When I first came upon the pen, the coin fill feature was the main attraction. These pens are filled by taking a coin and pressing it into the slot in the barrel. This depresses a bar which presses against the sac, compressing it. When the coin is released, the sac fills and the ink releases up into the sac from the bottled ink. In a future post, I will show a matchstick fill pen that simply replaces the coin slot with a round hole into which a hard wooden matchstick fits.

This pen is also interesting in that it took me a little time and some outside help to determine a little history behind the pen. When I began researching and asking questions, I received a few pieces of interesting information. First, the address on the pen is One Madison Avenue, New York. A quick search reveals that tis location was built by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in 1909 and remained the tallest building in the world until 1913, when it was surpassed by the Woolworth Building. Further information can be found in a New York Times Article here.

Back to the pen. I went to Lion and Pen, on the web, which is a website that specializes in fountain pens and their history and asked if anyone had additional information on this pen. Several responses came back and were extremely helpful to me in determining who might have made this pen and at what point in time.

The feed gives a very large clue. Julius Schnell was a pen barrel maker that made barrels for many pen companies, including Sheaffer and Conklin. During testimony in a trial as a witness, he divulged much information about his business, and one such morsel was that he made parts for Bankers near 1911 and forward. The patent for the feed that is pictured below can be found here.


So, I feel comfortable in stating that this pen was made with parts provided by Julius Schnell sometime after 1910 in New York. I do not know who made the nib, but as you can see, it is a Bankers No. 2 14K Gold, with a distinctive “heart” hole.


The pressure bars for these pens were most probably made by Duryea of Hackensack, New Jersey. Bankers assembled all of these pieces together and sold them under the Bankers name that appears on the pen. This was not unusual at the time, especially for many of the smaller pen companies.

Restoration was easy. I heated the section and removed it from the barrel. I then knocked out the feed (Schnell) and nib and cleaned them off – the feed with water and a good scrub as well as cleaning the channels with a dental pick to clean out any residual ink. The section was cleaned of ink using water and a q-tip. The pressure bar on the inside of the barrel was in good shape and did not need to be replaced. If it had, I would have used a standard size j-bar. A size 16 sac was secured to the section with sac cement and the section/feed/nib assembly was inserted back into the barrel.

As you can see from the pictures, the cap and barrel have turned brown from age. This happens to Black Hard Rubber (BHR). The chasing is still quite distinct, but the discoloration is very evident when the cap is removed and the hard rubber that was protected by the cap shows its original black color. There is disagreement in the fountain pen collecting community over whether this discoloration should be reversed when a pen is restored. I chose not to do so with my old hard rubber pens. It should be noted that there are products available and restoration professionals that do provide this service. I feel it is a personal decision and the examples I have seen of reblackened pens are stunning. My only concern would be that any reblackened pens should be disclosed as having had this treatment.

Here are a few before and after pictures.




The nib has quite a bit of flex to it and I find that the coin that works the best in the slot is a dime. Just always remember to have a few handy. Just a few years short of a century old, this pen is back in “circulation” (I couldn’t resist the coin pun).

January 8, 2008 Posted by | Bankers, Bankers Pen Company, Hard Rubber Pen, Schnell Pens | , | Leave a comment

Fountain Pen Creation

Happy New Year!

I will move from pen restoration from time to time to highlight a pen that I have not restored, but is worthy of highlight. One such pen I acquired as a Christmas Gift from my family this Season. It is a one of a kind creation of Joe Cali. I have coveted one of his pens for a long time. I have not met Mr. Cali, but have admired his work and had the opportunity to handle one of his pens while at an Omaha, Nebraska pen club meeting in 2007. I enjoy large pens and the one in Omaha was that. In November of 2007, one became available on the web and I mentioned that this would be a nice present for me. It arrived from a collector in Georgia in time for the Holidays, and I resisted temptation and waited until Christmas morning to view it.

The Cali pen did not disappoint. It is large and colorful and all of his pens are unique. The nib used is a vintage Sager Transparo Sackless 14K. I do not know very much about Sager Pens other than they were owned by Solomon Sager in the 1930s in Chicago. I believe there was a relationship with the Greishaber Pen Company, which survived into the early 1930s in Chicago.

My Cali Pen is a button filler, reminiscent of the Parker Button fillers of the 20s and 30s. Here are two pictures ~



Further information on Mr. Cali and his pens can be found here .

Edit 9-29-09: An interesting post was made to the Fountain Pen Network this date from the great granddaughter of Solomon Sager with some insight from his daughter (age 86 this date). Her remarks are here and provide an interesting insight into the development of the Sackless Pen of Sager.

January 2, 2008 Posted by | Cali, Greishaber Pens, Sager Pens | , , | Leave a comment


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