Fountain Pen Restoration

Moore – Welty Cooperative Fountain Pen

William Welty has appeared in two of my posts, with his appearance here. It is a tribute to his resilience and persistence in the face of economic and business pressures. These were due to attempting to start and sustain a small size fountain pen company in the Midwest during a time of intense competition from bigger companies and the never ending needs of additional capital and legal battles from the likes of the Conklin Pen Company.

My first mention of Welty was in my post of December 12, 2007 where I restored an Evans Hump Filler pen. That was a pen dating to approximately 1915, a few years before this pen. As you can read in that post, after Welty won his lawsuit against Conklin, he was in need of additional funding and brought in Evans as a partner in the Evans Pen Company. After this he also entered into a relationship with the Moore Pen Company of Boston, MA to produce the Servo, or Moore-Servo pen. This is an example of a pen made in the short time that Welty and Moore were together, before Moore took over the line completely.

Eventually, Welty left Waterloo and headed for Chicago, where he again started up the Welty Pen Company. It was the final move for Welty and the Company seems to have remained there into the 1950s. At the end of this post I will show a picture of a Welty Chicago fountain Pen.

Here is a photo of the dismantled Servo Fountain Pen, which was probably produced sometime after 1917 in conjunction with Moore. The unique Welty Filler Patent can be found by clicking here.

As you can see, the lever is reverse to most lever fillers and opens from front to back. It is a hooked shape lever that attaches to a pressure bar which is under the sac (not above as in most lever fillers). A detailed view of this filler can be seen in the patent link in blue above.

Here is a picture of the pen reduced to its parts. The lever and pressure bar can be seen at the top and end of the barrel. You can see the end of the lever pointing to the front of the pen, ready to be pulled up and toward the back , thus lifting the lever from the bottom of the barrel, compressing the sac.

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This was a relatively simple repair. I cleaned up the old sac remnants from the section, using an x-acto knife. I then cleaned the section with a q-tip, removing all of the old ink. I then cleaned the feed and nib. The feed with water and dental pic in the channel. The nib (14K) using a dremel and simichrome. The nib is a 14K Servo No. 2.

The reverse lever is not gold, and I was able to remove the tarnish with simichrome and a lot of rubbing with a soft cloth. I attached a number 16 silicon sac to the section/feed/nib and inserted it in a different manner due to this unique lever/pressure bar. I held the pen with the lever on top so that the bar released to the bottom of the barrel and slid the sac assembly between the top lever and the bottom, where the bar rests. Now, when the lever is lifted, the bar will be pulled up to compress the sac. This is contrary to the standard lever filler where lifting the lever pushes the bar down into the sac.

Water testing was successful – no leaks and a steady flow of water after filling.

Here is the finished product, followed by the unique imprint showing the largest geographic distance I can remember on a fountain pen imprint.

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As I mentioned earlier in the post, William Welty eventually left Waterloo, IA and headed northeast to Chicago. Here is a picture of a later Welty pen, from Chicago.

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April 26, 2008 Posted by | Evans Pen Company, Hard Rubber Pen, Moore Pen, Servo Fountain Pen, Waterloo, Welty Pen Company | , , , | 2 Comments

Lakeside Thumb Flller

The pen I worked on this week is a Lakeside “thumb filler”. I will call it a thumb filler, though there is not a sleeve on the barrel that protects the bar which is inside the thumb hole. You can see the components, prior to repair, below. The top three items are the barrel, internal sleeve, and pressure bar which will sit atop the sac inside the sleeve. The sleeve is made of brass or similar metal and the barrel and cap of black chased hard rubber (BCHR).

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In a previous post (12/11/07) I talked about a Lakeside pen that was one of the fountain pen brands of Montgomery Wards. I am less certain about this pen. In the early 1900s there was another Chicago based retailer of various items, Lapp & Flershem, that had brand pens by the names of Banner, Lakeside, and Remington. Lapp & Flershem went out of business in 1922. I do not know if there was a relationship between the two companies either before or after the end of Lapp and Flershem.

Thus, I am not sure who made this pen (National Pen Products / Chicago) and where they were sold (Montgomery Ward, Lapp & Flershem). If someone has some insight, I would appreciate a comment to this post to educate us all. To me, that is half the fun of vintage pens – unraveling their pasts.

Here is a closeup of the imprint. The shading on the BCHR leads me to believe there was a small cover for the thumb hole at one time.

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The restoration involved cleaning the pressure bar, nib feed and section completely. I also polished the internal sleeve, though it is not visible. It now shines and is a brass color. I put the nib, feed and section back together and attached a size 18 sac to the section with sac cement. After drying overnight I placed the pressure bar on to the top of the sac and slid the sleeve over the bar and sac. The pressure bar sits on the sac below where the sac attached to the section to allow free movement when pressed and to allow the sleeve to fit to the section. The barrel is then screwed into the section, being careful to align the pressure bar with the barrel thumb hole.

Below is the finished product – water tested and ready to write.

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Just for fun, I thought I would post a modern version of this old filling system. In 2001, the Ohio (USA) based fountain pen manufacturer, Bexley, produced a sleeve filler. I was able to acquire one of these last year and replaced the sac.

Here is a picture of this new version of an old filler. It is fun when one of these old systems is brought back.

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The total cost for the Lakeside pen was about 10% of the modern Bexley. Both are nice pens, but it shows that you can obtain quality pens that write well (and with flex) at an attractive price. The restoration and history lessons are an added bonus.

April 18, 2008 Posted by | Hard Rubber Pen, Lakeside Pens, Montgomery Ward | , | 2 Comments

Houston Pen Company

One of my favorite vintage pen companies is the Houston Pen Company. Founded in Tracy, Minnesota in around 1908 by William A. Houston, it has an interesting history, much of which still remains uncovered. Mr. Houston was at one time a successful barber in Tracy, who decided to change professions and hit the road as a salesman. Fountain pens were one of the products that he sold and took an interest in. In 1908 he successfully patented his first pen and began production. In or around 1912, he picked up and moved to Sioux City, IA and formed a relationship with the General Manufacturing Company. Pens were produced under the names Houston and Snapfil during this time. Eventually, Mr. Houston produced a Jiffy brand of pens, and this may have been separate from the General Manufacturing relationship. In 1926, he surfaces in Los Angeles and files a patent for a plunger-fill fountain pen with Dillman Charles Houston.

This sketchy history aside, I am an avid collector of these pens and am always on the lookout, especially for the Houston branded pens. I recently came across this Houston (Sioux City) pen. It is unique in two ways. First, most of the pens that I have from Houston / Snapfil / Jiffy have smaller No. 2 or 4 size nibs. This pen is quite a bit larger and has a very large No. 7 nib with the Houston imprint. Secondly, this pen came with complete box and instruction pamphlet. I have included a picture of the pen, instructions, and box lid below.

Many of these pens came with a chatelaine hook (or “safety device”) on the end of a chain which is explained in the brochure. This was a way to fasten the pen to one’s clothing for easy access. It is a very distinctive addition to many of the Houston and Snapfil pens.

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Here is a nice closeup of the large No. 7 nib after cleaning up the section, feed, and nib. As this is an eyedropper fill, there is little maintenance to be done, other than knocking out these and cleaning gently. The BCHR has not discolored very much and, as I mention in earlier posts, I do not like to re-blacken BCHR.

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Finally, a closeup of the Houston imprint and the finished pen. Closed, this pen is a large 6 1/4 inches long. Note the fairly clean gold decorative band. This pen has survived quite well. In future posts, I will discuss a Snapfil and Jiffy restoration.

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Houston pens produced in Tracy, Minnesota do exist, though I do not have one in my collection. I am always on the lookout for one of these early examples of Mr. Houston’s work prior to moving to Iowa.

April 10, 2008 Posted by | Hard Rubber Pen, Houston Pen Company, Jiffy Fountain Pens, Sioux City, Snapfil | | 3 Comments

Fifth Avenue Fountain Pens

The Safford Fifth Avenue pen is almost always found in very poor condition. I find these pens interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it is another line of “Store Pens”. It was once produced for the Woolworth Stores in the US. The name Fifth Avenue, evokes a classy, upscale experience due to its namesake in New York City. A catchy marketing effort by Woolworth, to be sure. Secondly, the imprint on these pens states that the Fifth Avenue pen is made by the Safford Pen Company. Well, this is the Parker Pen Company in disguise. George S (Safford) Parker was the founder of Parker, in Janesville, Wisconsin. The use of his middle name distanced Parker from these lower quality pens.

Parker produced these pens in the 1930s (along with a pencil) during the depression to keep people working and to generate a working profit, albeit small. The materials were of less quality than the Duofolds of the time. The information that I have picked up on these Fifth Avenue Pens is from a memoir of Mr. Philip Hull, entitled Memories of Forty Nine Years (1934-1983) With the Parker Pen Company. In this publication Mr. Hull indicates that one of his first jobs was working on this pen, so we can place it in the early to mid-thirties. He states that the contract was with F. W. Woolworth Stores.

The cost to Woolworth was about 10 cents for the pen in a cardboard box and they retailed at the stores for 20 cents and eventually for near 40 cents. Apparently, Parker took this work on to provide extra jobs during the Depression and employees working on the Fifth Avenue pens agreed to work for lower wages than other Parker workers. Even though they produced a large volume, pay rates were low, and materials used were of low quality, Parker did not generate a profit on these pens, but was able to keep many people working during a very difficult time in our nation’s history.

According to Mr. Hull, the plastic parts of these pens were mostly reclaimed plastic (pyralin) used in other Parker pens. The nibs had no tipping material and were made of ordinary, unprotected brass, as were the bands, clips and levers.

I am very grateful to have run across this memoir, which sheds some light on a pen that I had seen through the years and had little information about.

Here is a picture of a Fifth Avenue pen, after being taken apart. You can see that the brass parts are in quite bad shape.

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The usual lever fill repairs were performed. I knocked the feed and nib out of the section, cleaned them and removed the sac remnants from the end of the section. The three clean parts were put back together and a sac was attached back to the section with sac cement. The brass clip, lever and cap rings were polished (there was extensive grime) over the course of a couple of days. The exterior was cleaned and polished and a new j-bar was inserted in the barrel. The section was inserted in the barrel and the filling system was tested with water. All works well. The only negative is that the Fifth Avenue nibs on these pens are very rigid and without any tipping material which makes them quite scratchy. I gently smoothed the nib with a very fine grit paper and it writes well.

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I think the most interesting thing about these pens is pictured below. The ends are “stepped” and I believe that in this model, Parker clearly used Duofold materials at each end of the pen. The ends of these two pens are clearly jade and black/pearl materials that appeared in the Duofold lines. I wonder if there are any Fifth Avenues with less common Lapis and Mandarin?

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All in all, these are very cheap pens, but with a very interesting production story, shedding light on the Great Depression, and a Company dealing with the times. When restored, they will not be the best writers in your collection, but will allow you to tell a tale.

April 3, 2008 Posted by | Fifth Avenue Pens, Parker Pen Company, Safford Pen Company, Woolworth | , , | 18 Comments

   

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