Fountain Pen Restoration

Spors Fountain Pen Advertising In 1927

OK, another departure from repairs for this post. It is related to a few previous posts –

Made In Japan February 13, 2008

Spors Fountain Pen Entertainment Center September 17, 2008

Frank Spors sold goods through a catalog from Le Sueur, Minnesota. The following correspondence with a Charles Butts of Trosky, MN reveals one of the ways that Spors Marketed their pens.  I won’t go into the pens themselves as the above two referred posts will do that, but it is interesting to see how his marketing program worked.


What first strikes me is the demonstration that the salesman can do (after purchasing a piece of “soft” wood for $0.65) to prove how strong the nib is.  Images of a door to door salesman cutting pieces of wood with his glass nibbed pens provide me with quite a chuckle.  And this should, of course, lead to at least $100 per week.

One other quick question from the page below – why does the rubber sponge in the cap make the pen write better than any other pen on the market?


Following is the application to be filled out and the cost involved in getting started on the path to riches.  Based on this, I figure you only had to sell about 120 pens per week to make the $100.00!


Of course, if pens weren’t big sellers in your area, or if the wood cutting trick wasn’t particularly effective, or you couldn’t get your hands on the cool pens with the dice under the compass (see my post of September 17, 2008), then you could resort to many items covered in the letter to Mr. Butts below.  After all, everyone is black bottom hose crazy….and who can resist a Lindbergh visor or shirts that sell like hotcakes.


Back to pens – Apparently some found them an easy sale and they actually do still show up quite frequently in auctions and at antique stores.  Just look at the next to last paragraph below.  If you run across a Spors pen today, it may have been sold by the successful Mr. D. Parks of New York or Lee Sohn in Ohio.

I wonder if Mr. Spors used one of these pens to sign the letter?


Finally, here is an advertisement that I picked up, separately from the letter to Mr. Butts, to be used in a Store environment.  The recipient of the coupon can purchase the pen for 69 cents.  Not bad for a pen that can carve wood…..


Spors Pens, with the glass nibs, were imported from Japan up until WWII, when the supply ran out for obvious reasons.  They are interesting, and thier marketing was as well.


March 25, 2009 Posted by | Spors | | 6 Comments

Wahl Oxford Update

OK, I know what you are probably thinking….not another Wahl Oxford post…..and you are probably right in thinking this.  But, I could not resist sharing this new variation (to me) with you.  In my last Oxford post, dated November 19, 2008, I discussed the restoration of a red marble Wahl Oxford (link below).

Wahl Oxford Fountain Pen

I didn’t think I would stumble upon another pattern so quickly, but I did.

I did not save the before photo on my camera, but here are two photos of the finished product.  I needed to put a new large j-bar and size 18 sac in the barrel.  Aside from vigorous polishing, there were no more repairs done.


The pen measures 5 1/4 inches capped and 6 1/2 inches posted.  All barrel markings are consistent with other Oxfords of this style.


There is one major difference in this pen, compared to the other three Oxfords that I own.   The nib, pictured here, is a Wahl Oxford Number 2.  The others that I have all have Warranted 14K Number 3 nibs.  There is no major difference in size or performance, though this writes with a broader line.

As with the others, the clip and lever are a gold plate and when I got the pen, they had lost more than half of their gold color.  So, I polished these parts to a silver finish to give them a uniform color.  The two cap bands did not polish out and I wonder why the difference in finish?


Here is an updated photo of the four Wahl Oxfords.  As I have written before, these were produced by Wahl in the 1930s, and were a “budget” line under the popular Dorics of the same time period.


Can there be more?  Let me know if you have this model in more than these four colors.  I would love to see photos.

March 18, 2009 Posted by | Wahl Eversharp, Wahl Oxford Pens | , | 8 Comments

Classic Waterman 52

Most vintage fountain pen collections should include a Waterman Fountain pen.  The L.E. Waterman Fountain Pen Company started in New York in the 1880s and was a stalwart in the Fountain Pen business during the production dates of the 52.   Lewis Edson Waterman was the founder of the company in the late 1800s and credited with its successful start.

The Waterman 52 was produced during the 1915 to 1930 time period.  This period marked a high water mark for Waterman as they produced a large number of varieties of hard rubber pens.  The 52 was one of the most common and survives in large numbers today.  Relatively simple to restore (provided all of the parts are in good condition), it often has large flexy nibs which several collectors enjoy using.

You can see below that the pen that I found has survived well and would be quite easy to restore.  I have worked on several 52 varieties before and if (and when) the lever box is bent or broken, the restoration requires much more time and effort.

The nib is a Waterman No. 2 ~ the 52 model refers to a #5 for lever filler, and a #2 for the nib size.  You might recall that I salvaged a Waterman #2 nib off of a parts 52 (the lever box was gone and there was no cap) and used it successfully on an Eclipse Gold Filigree Fountain Pen, from the same time period, in this post:

Eclipse Gold Filigree

I began by cleaning all of the gold gently at first to make sure that there would not be any gold loss.  Perhaps I am a little paranoid on this, but I always wonder if I am going to run into some substandard gold or plating.  Fortunately none was encountered here and the furniture polished well.  The nib was polished and took a bath in the ultrasonic cleaner.  I installed a new silicone sac to protect against future discoloration of the barrel and this pen is ready to go.


Here is the finished product.  The pen measures  5 1/4″ capped and 6 1/2″ posted.


Waterman 52s came in many varieties.  I won’t attempt to discuss the Waterman numbering systems, which would be enough to confuse anyone, but in summary the 52 came in several different colors, textures, and with add-ons.

Some of the more common are~

Black Hard Rubber / Black Chased Hard Rubber / Red Hard Rubber (Cardinal) / Woodgrain / Rippled (black and red) / Filigree Overlay / Gold Banded

The black hard rubber versions came with both silver and gold furniture.  As you can see, the 52 line has enough varieties to keep a collector busy for years.  This pen falls into the banded (or repousse) category.  The cap band is very ornate and has an empty spot for engraved initials or name.


Here is a photo with the other two 52s in my collection, restored in past years.  The top pen is a Rippled 52 and the other is a BCHR with silver furniture and a gold nib.


Interestingly, the popularity of the Waterman line ended shortly after the production of these (and all other Waterman Hard Rubber Pens) in the late 20s.  Waterman did not react as quickly to the emergence and popularity of celluloid pens (Parker, Wahl, Sheaffer) in the late 20s and early 30s.  They continued to produce pens, and evolved to the competition, but never retained the market share that they had during the glory days of the 52 and other hard rubber pens.

March 10, 2009 Posted by | L. E. Waterman Pen Company, Waterman 52 | , | 2 Comments

National Geographic and Your Fountain Pens

Over the past holiday season, one of my daughters became interested in reading some old Life magazines that were at her grandparents home.  Given her interest, we headed out this past weekend to an old book store to see if we could find a few for her to have at home.  We found no Life Magazines, but did find several National Geographics.

What a great source of pen history can be found in these magazines, as well as many old magazines.  A quick scan of ebay will show a large amount of sellers of pages cut out of old magazines for vintage fountain pens.  As we scanned the magazines I noted that there were many advertisements in the pre-depression years and post WWII years, which would make sense from an historical perspective.  As an aside, the auto ads of the late 1920s are very cool.  Just like pens, there were many auto manufacturers that did not make it through the depression years.

The most accurate way to date our vintage pen collections is from Pen Company literature such as catalogs and production records.  Of course, not all of us have direct access to these and have relied on the kindness and hard work of past collectors who have shared this information with us all.  Another way is to look at old advertisements such as these to confirm the historical place of our collections.

Below are two photographs that I took of pages from the National Geographics, which have images of pens in my collection ~ both have been in my collection for quite some time and not covered by previous posts as they were restored prior to 2007.

The first is from a March 1944 issue and it promotes the Sheaffer Triumph ($12.50) pen.  I have a brown and a red one of these models.  They are great pens, as they hold a lot of ink.  I do not own a pencil as shown, however.  Pictures of the red plunger fill and both the red and brown pens follow the advertisement.

Of particular interest in the ad is the statement that “much of Sheaffer’s plant and personnel is now 100% devoted to precision manufacture of armaments.”  During the war, materials used in pen manufacturing were in shorter supply as they were used in the war effort, and Pen Companies such as Sheaffer devoted many of their facilities, equipment, and available employees to making parts for the military.





The above Sheaffer ad also promotes pencil lead and Skrip Ink.  Directly above  is a bottle of ink from my collection that fits this time period, as also confirmed in John Bosley’s Book, VINTAGE INKS, which places this bottle and box in the 1944-48 time period.  Click on the title for a link to his website.


The next advertisement is from a March 1928 National Geographic.  It promotes one of the most famous pens in fountain pen collecting, the Parker “Big Red” Duofold.  Ah, if only we could purchase on of these for $7.00 now.  Not to mention the Mandarin pen inserted at the bottom left.

The Duofold is a button filler. In the following past posts I have restored Parker Button Fillers:

Janesville, Wisconsin Button Fill December 29, 2007
Parker Lapis Junior Duofold Button Fill March 15, 2008
Parker Jade..Pre-Duofold July 18, 2008
Luck Curve Feeds
September 4, 2008

The big red is the most famous of the Parker 1920s Duofolds.  The hard rubber version is especially sought after.   This ad depicts the Non-Hard Rubber, Permanite material.  It is advertised as being 28% lighter than hard rubber.  What I find most interesting is the claim that they are non-breakable.   Stated: “We have thrown these new Duofolds from an aeroplane 3,000 feet aloft and not one has broken“.    I suspect they mean that not one broke in the actual act of throwing, and not upon landing.  Anyone who has restored a number of Duofolds knows that they are to be treated with care to avoid any cracking.


Here is a photo of a Hard Rubber Duofold from my collection.  Not the exact pen depicted above, but the predecessor model from a few years earlier (and 28% heavier).


I was able to capture many more pen and ink related advertisements ~ most of pens I wish I had.   So the next time you are coming up empty looking for fountain pens at a flea market, antique store, garage sale, or estate sale, you can spend some time looking for old magazines and searching for a $7.00 Duofold.

March 3, 2009 Posted by | Duofold, National Geographic, Parker Pen Company, Sheaffer | , , , | 3 Comments


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