Fountain Pen Restoration

Dolphins

I recently came across this nice little Sheaffer 800 in Grey. In an earlier post, I pictured a black version of the same pen. These were made during the 1962-64 period and available in either a touchdown or cartridge version. This one is a touchdown filler and the usual problems were discovered when I took it apart. I will cover those in a moment. First, why this pen along with the 500 and 1000 versions are also called “dolphins”. As you can see, the nib and section resemble a the head of a bottle nose dolphin.

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When, I opened this one up, I discovered that, as usual with touchdowns, the sac had hardened and the “O” ring had hardened and needed to be replaced. Both were replaced, silicone grease was applied to the ring area and lightly to the touchdown tube. I also cleaned the outside of the pen with pen polish to remove some sticky grime and it looks great. It always nice to hear the fresh air-sucking sound of a newly restored pneumatic touchdown filler.

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The nib on this one is a medium. These were produced with extra fine, fine, medium, broad and stub nibs. The pens came in black, blue, grey (pictured), burgundy and green.

February 21, 2008 Posted by | Sheaffer, Sheaffer Dolphin | , | 1 Comment

Tres Moderne

This pen came to me this past week and I was curious as to its origins. I have many Parker Duofolds (Senior/Junior/Lady) from the 1920s and 30s, but had not acquired any “Depression Era” or “Thrift time” Pens. This is a pen from the 1934 to 1939 time period – a Parker Moderne.

The Parker Moderne was produced in Canada (Toronto) and was similar to the Parker US made Duette Jr. They were made for a short time, after 1932, probably during the time period reflected in my picture of the component “before” picture below. During the Depression, pen companies struggled to survive and Parker did a better job than most. Many did not survive at all. Pens such as the Moderne (Canada) and its larger size Premiere were part of the plans to develop less expensive pens for a market that could no longer afford the more expensive Duofolds.

They were marketed as a student pen, though little advertising was done. The main characteristics were the flat top, button filler, and single gold band. Other pens that Parker produced during this time were the Parco, Parkette, and Challengers. I will show some examples of these in future posts.

As you can see by the picture below, this pen has survived quite well. The sac has hardened and was twisted. The section is friction fit, and my guess is that when the pen was serviced in the past, the section was turned as it was inserted with the pressure bar in the pen, causing the sac to twist and making it unusable. It may have been done at time of production also, but I would hope that Parkers standards were higher than that. Whichever occurred, the sac has petrified and no ink is visible on the inside, so it was rendered useless by the twisted sac. This is why it is a good idea to coat the sac with talc when inserting it into the barrel and to put the pressure bar in through the top of the barrel after the section/sac assembly has been secured to the barrel. This is especially important with sections that screw into the barrel such as Vintage Duofolds.

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The repair was standard for a button filler. I was able to reuse the two part pressure bar. Thus the only non-original part used is a new size 16 sac, trimmed to fit just below the button opening at the top of the barrel. All parts were cleaned and the pen was reassembled. As you can see the nib has all of its tipping material and this is a nice example of a Depression Era Parker Pen.

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These are not easy to find, especially in good condition. The patterned celluloid pens are quite often badly discolored. So, keep an eye out for these interesting examples of pens made in a significant time in North American history.

February 17, 2008 Posted by | Parker Moderne, Parker Pen Company | , | Leave a comment

Made in Japan

Note: (3-4-2011) An ebay sales page has linked to this article without my knowledge.  I am in no way associated with this ebay sale or item – Phil

Frank Spors, of Spors and Company of Le Center, MN (formerly called Le Sueur Center) was the owner of Spors and Company, a marketing company that sold many items through mail order, to drug stores, to salesmen, and to the public. One such successful item was a crescent-fill, glass nibbed fountain pen. This pen was made in Japan and shipped to Spors for distribution from the Post Office in Le Center. An advertisement from a 1926 catalog can be seen below.

Several of these pens can be found today. They came in many colors and finishes through the years until the Japanese supply connection stopped as World War II approached.

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One of the main problems encountered in restoring a Spors Pen is referred to in the diagram below. It shows that the section is glued into the barrel so that the user will not “be so apt to take it apart, twist the ink container (sac) all out of shape and then finally blame the pen.” I have seen these in solid colors and also colorful celluloid. The sections can be very difficult to remove from the barrel, due to the referred glue.

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Above photo from George Kovalenko and Lion and Pen Discussion here: http://kamakurapens.invisionzone.com/index.php?showtopic=87

The pen I am restoring is a brown marble Spors. I have seen this particular model in many colors – green, blue, and red come to mind. I started out very carefully to remove the section from the barrel. Patience was the key. I applied gentle heat from a heat gun in small doses. After each time of rotating the barrel about 10 inches above the gun, I gently rocked the section using my rubber ended section pliers. The first several times produced nothing, but after a few rest breaks, I finally heard a small click and noticed that the section had moved a bit. A few more doses of heat and more gentle rocking and the glued section was out. Here is a picture of the pen broken down.

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As you can see, the nib is glass as opposed to gold or steel. It is a pressure fit into the section. The sac was hardened in one piece which made removal very easy. You can see the crescent fill bar in the center of the picture. Here is a close up of the imprint.

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After scraping the section clean and removing the remnants of the old sac, I polished up the crescent bar and clip and cleaned the outside of the barrel and cap, being careful not to touch the original price sticker. The sticker reads: Guaranteed – F. Spors and Co. – Lesueur Center, Minn. – Price $1.25. I placed a size 14 sac on the section and inserted the crescent into the barrel using a pair of needle nose pliers. After slipping it through the slot, I locked it, allowing the sac and section to be inserted into the barrel. Testing with water shows that the pen works and is ready to use. Here is a picture of the completed Japanese Made – Minnesota Marketed – Glass Nibbed – Crescent Filler.

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Thank you Frank Spors, for this fountain pen curiosity.

February 13, 2008 Posted by | Spors | | 23 Comments

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 | , , | 4 Comments

Tools

Even the most accomplished pen restorers will admit that they are only as good as their tools. For those that might be curious, I will show a few tools that are used in pen restoration.

I will just focus on the basic tools and post a few pictures of a few. Some pens and filling mechanisms require specialized tools that I will discuss in later posts.

The Basics

Knock Out Block – Necessary to remove the feel and nib from the section, after the section has been removed from the barrel.

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Dental Picks – A good set of dental picks are extremely helpful in scraping out old sacs from barrels and sac protectors. Also in scraping old sacs from sections and clearing feed channels.

Forceps (long) Pliers – Useful for reaching into narrow barrels to pull out old sacs and pressure bars.

Section Pliers – Note the padded ends. These aid in pulling sections from barrels. Often used in conjunction with gentle heat. Care always needs to be taken in knowing whether sections are friction fit or if they are threaded. Patience is a virtue when using pliers. Resist the urge to work to fast and use gently to avoid the dreaded cracking sound of a breaking barrel, section or cap. My section pliers are actually spark plug pliers and I use pieces of cut up bicycle tube as a padded grip.

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Heat Gun – Essential in warming pen parts that need to be separated. Old cementing agents and ink can often cause parts to weld together and gentle heat can aid in separation.

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Dremel – A good tool to use to polish nibs, if not plated. I always use mine on the lowest setting and just to remove stubborn stains. Also can be used on other metal parts such as clips, levers and trim. Again, on low setting and very carefully.

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Silicone Grease – Used to aid lubrication in several different pens. Touchdowns and Snorkels use this to lubricate moving parts, with care taken to keep it away from any areas where liquids (ink) or air is to flow. Also, a good item to use on threads help sections screw together more easily. A small amount can be used to aid in piston filler movement. I use a toothpick to apply the silicone grease.

Pure Talc – Coating sacs, especially in touchdowns and snorkels, with pure talc helps assure that the sac will not stick to the barrel or sac protector walls. Make sure that you use pure talc as some off the shelf talcs contain chemicals that can react with pen parts and cause problems.

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Magnification – I use this headset. It makes cleaning projects much easier. Also, some old barrel and nib engravings are only visible with this tool or a strong loupe.

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Goose Neck Light – Helps with those hard to see places like inside barrels and caps.

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Ultrasonic Cleaner – Good for cleaning metal pieces and I use it occasionally sections and feeds. Do not use water when working with hard rubber. (Please note that since the writing of this article, the ultrasonic cleaner pictured below has been replaced by a much sturdier Chicago Power Tools Model 93035 – PKM)

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Scratch Remover/Polishes/Wax – These are good for hard plastic pens and should be applied with a clean soft cloth. I also use a q-tip for the hard to reach places. Again, do not use liquids with hard rubber.

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Smoothing Paper – Special grade paper to smooth nibs. Older nibs are often in need of smoothing a realigning.

Sac Cement – Used to attach sacs to sections.

Inner Cap Puller – This is a bit more expensive, but I ended up getting a used one after I found that a good way to obtain a pen I wanted (in a cost efficient manner) was to buy a pen in excellent condition and lacking a clip. I then set out to find a spare cap of the same model (color not important) that was separate from its barrel, or was part of a pen in very poor condition. Using the inner cap puller, I have been able to put together a couple of very nice pens by removing a clip from a trashed pen and putting it on a clipless pen in excellent condition. This could not be done without the inner cap puller. I am reminded to cover this in a future post.

Safety Pin – I use a safety pin to pry out old “O” rings from snorkels and touchdowns.

X – Acto Knife – Used to scrape sac remnants from sections

Pen Parts (new) – A supply of Sacs of various sizes for different types of pens – jbars – pressure bars – “O” rings – seals. These are the basics needed to repair many vintage pens.

Pen Parts (old) – A good tool box of used parts from pens that were used for parts, failed projects, or pens that could not be saved is very valuable. These are a good place to pick up extra levers, buttons, clips, sections, and nibs.

These are the basic tools that are nice to have in basic fountain pen work. There are many more tools that prove useful to specific tasks for specific pens. For instance, if you are repairing a Parker Vacumatic, Moore Safety, or Sheaffer Vacuum Fill, specialized tools and seals will be necessary. Several professional restorers use lathes, presses and very specialized tools to craft their own replacement parts. I would once again refer you to the blog roll on the side of this post to visit fountain pen sites which refer to their excellent services.

All of the tools listed above are available either from your local hardware or craft store, and some of the more specialized tools and supplies can be picked up on-line. I have included a few on-line retailers in my blogroll to the right of this post.

February 1, 2008 Posted by | Fountain Pen Tools | | 1 Comment

   

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