Fountain Pen Restoration

Shadow Wave Vacumatic

Parker Shadow Wave Vacumatics were not a special type of Vacumatic, but rather a new pattern of plastic used by Parker beginning in or about 1938. Initially, it appeared in the Junior line of Vacumatics.

I must apologize at first for the lack of my usual “before” photo. I took one, but deleted it before I had the opportunity to download it to my computer. I can assure you that it was not a pretty sight.  The silver was tarnished, the diaphragm in pieces, the grey celluloid stained, and the speedline filler had pieces of the diaphragm remaining on its collar.  The nib was also ink stained and dirty.

With that out of the way,  I performed the standard Vacumatic repairs.  I used a debutante size diaphragm and fit it to the filler unit after removing the old pellet.  The filler on this is the metal, before the transition to plastic.  Most of the earlier shadow waves were double jewel lockdown fillers.  The feed, breather tube, and nib were removed from the section and thoroughly cleaned.  Make sure to unclog the breather tube and make sure the channel in the feed is clear.  I had to redo this step as there was a clog in the tube.  Thin wire works well in solving this problem.

The silver trim cleans up well, but is not perfectly.  As with several other silver trimmed vacs I have restored, there is often some degree of minor pitting or scratching to the silver.  This set is minor, but does exist upon careful review with a loupe.

The pencil (note different clip indicating a mixed set) required no restoration, other than a good cleaning and polishing on the outside.  I placed new piece of 0.9 lead in the front feed and it is ready to go.

The pen measures 5 inches closed and 5 15/16 inches posted.  The pencil is 4 3/4 inches.

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Shadow Wave Vacumatics were produced into the early 1940s, though they were not evidenced in Parker literature.  This pen, as noted in the photo above came with a fourth quarter of  1941 imprint (1).  So, it was produced at the end of the Shadow Wave design run.

Vacumatics and their history can be a bit muddled.  This pen is no exception when trying to pin down its place in the Vacumatic timeline.  The only thing that is certain is that the barrel is from 1941.  Research often becomes difficult for several reasons, two of which stand out.  First, no production is definite.  Parker may have produced variants at times to use up parts.  Second, over the course of 67 years, repairs may utilize replacement parts which can further confuse the collector.

My confusion on this pen is that the cap would seem to be wrong (from what I have read) for this pen.  It fits, and looks correct, but I have read that this should probably have a single band cap.

I will never know, as late 1941 was near the end of the run for shadow waves and they may have used other parts, or it may be correct.  Or, it may have been switched by a repairer or collector at a later date.  This is part of what makes pen collecting fun and aggravating at the same time.

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Shadow Wave designs came in five colors ~ Black, Green, Grey (shown here), Burgundy, and Brown.  The blind caps were always black, and fillers were both lock-down (early) and speedline.  Another interesting variant in the Parker Vacumatic Timeline.

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August 27, 2009 Posted by | Parker Pen Company, Parker Vacumatic, Shadow Wave Vacumatic | , , | Leave a comment

Artcraft Fountain Pens

Fountain Pen History in the United States tends to focus in the Midwest and Northeast during the first half of the 20th Century.  Boston (Moore, Carter etc.. ), New York Area (Waterman, Swan, Esterbrook, Morrison, Ingersoll, Wearever…), and Chicago and the Midwest (Wahl, Parker, and Sheaffer…) were hotbeds for fountain pen production and marketing from the early 1900s through the 40s and beyond.  One normally does not think of Alabama as a fountain pen distribution point, but the Artcraft Pen is an exception.

Below is a photo of the simple lever filler after I have taken it apart.  As you can see, the clip, cap band, lever, and nib are quite dirty, as is the barrel.  The j-bar had broken off and the sac was reduced to powder.

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I replaced the j-bar and the sac (size 16) and trimmed them to fit the Artcraft barrel.  The metal parts were polished in the ultrasonic cleaner and then using Pentiques’ scratch remover, polish and wax.  Classified as a third-tier pen, it still has a few nice features.  I like the stepped clip, and all of the gold fixtures polished up and there was no deterioration of the gold.  Second, I like the brown swirl pattern of the plastic.  It is very similar to the pattern found in the Belmont pen/pencil combination that I wrote about in the post ~ Belmont Pen And Pencil Combination In fact, if you look at the two writing instruments (Belmont and Artcraft) you will see the levers, feeds and shapes are very similar. I have no documentation as to who made these parts, but it is feasible that they came from the same factory. One of the great mysteries, at least to me, is the origin of many of the components of the pens we restore.

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The pen is 5 1/4 inches closed and 5/ 15/16 posted.  Restored, it is quite clean and writes with a flexy medium line.

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Here is a close up of the logo for Artcraft, which I believe is an artists pallet.

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The medium nib, with the Artcraft Pallet logo.

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Now for a bit of history on Artcraft Pens ~  I owe thanks to Mr. Marvin Whiting of the Birmingham – Jefferson History Museum for helping me with this research.  When I found out that the Museum had an Artcraft pen in its collection, I requested his assistance with any information they might have on Artcraft.  He provided me with Corporate information from the Birmingham, Alabama City Directories (1925-34).

This research shows that Artcraft first appears in 1930 at 1424-26 3rd Avenue North in Birmingham, AL (this address is now a large Chevrolet dealership).  The President/Treasurer was Ford D. Cromer, James G. Erwin was Vice President, and Lillian Sharpley was Secretary. In 1931, the address changed to simply 1424 3rd Avenue North.  In 1932, Ms. Sharpley was no longer listed and in 1934 Harriett P. Cromer was listed as Secretar/Treasurer and the address reverted to the 1424-26 3rd Avenue.  Artcraft disappears from the Birmingham records after 1934.

I did some further digging on these names and Ford D. (Dalton) Cromer, was born in August 1886 in Christiansburg, VA and died in July 1967 in Birmingham. Interestingly, he was descibed as an industrialist and inventor.  Two inventions were patented – a shoulder rest for a telephone in 1959 and a fountain pen in 1934 (the same year that Artcraft disappears from the Birmingham City directory. The application date of the patent is 1932.  His patent is linked below.  If you read the patent closely, the only aspect of the pen he is patenting is the “ornamental design”.

Patent Link (click for full patent)

Interestingly, the pen in the patent is identical to the pen I restored.  The lever and clip have the same designs as in the patent.  This would place the production of this pen somewhere in the early thirties, presumably prior to 1934.  Mr. Cromer had patented these designs on the clip and lever as his own.

Ms. Sharpley, who was the Secretary from 1930 to 1932 was born in 1901 and died in 1983.  She was a graduate in 1923 of Auburn University (AL), where she helped start the YWCA on campus.  She can be seen here in a 1922 photo.  She was quite active in the YWCA nationally, starting to work there in 1933 in Baltimore, MD after her stint at Artcraft.  She went to graduate school at Columbia University in New York and remained active in leadership roles for the YWCA into the 1950s. How she came to Artcraft for a few years I can not imagine.

Artcraft Pens appear occasionally, but not often.  I know of one collector who actively seeks them.  They still are quite a mystery to me. I don’t know if they made some of the parts, or just assembled the pens in Birmingham.  I also do not know how they were marketed.  I did come across an Artcraft Printing Company in Mobile, AL that advertises that they were founded in 1929, but they responded that there is no relation to Artcraft Pens.

I had fun exploring this little corner of Fountain Pen History, and ended up with a nice pen in the process.  A very good week….

EDIT:  I received a comment (see below) that “The Artcraft Pen Company (with J.G. Erwin) moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1934.”  This would match the information received from the Birmingham directories that Artcraft disappeared from Birmingham in 1934. I have tried to email back to the commenter, but the address bounces.  If there is additional information, please let us know what happened in Argentina…

EDIT2:  (11-6-09) I have received another comment from a reader in Argentina that confirms the move of Artcraft from Alabama to Buenos Aires.  He states that he has a pen that has the inscription “ARTCRAFT PEN CO., ARG. INDUSTRIA  ARGENTINA” on the barrel.  It is black and has no logo, and a similar clip.  This would seem to confirm the comment that J.G. Erwin moved the Company to Buenos Aires in 1934.

EDIT3: (4-9-10) One of the great things about interactive blogs is the sharing of information.  Another reader from Argentina shared this with me today ~ “In continue with the Artcraft history (the argentine chapter), here a little information. Artcraft present itself in the 40 or 50’s as the first high quality pen factory in Argentina and continuing under the brand “Escritor”, with a large list of different articles, including a Parker 51 inspiration pen with filler button and firt class materials.It is relative easy found those pens here.” I am very interested in this as I have recently come across an Argentina-made Artcraft that I purchased from a seller in Argentina that has a Parker made nib (actually a Parker budget Fifth Avenue nib).  I wonder if there was a relationship? Phil

EDIT4: (7-22-10) A pen friend in Alabama did some fantastic research and came up with the following:

“My wife found an online copy at the Birmingham Public Library of a Birmingham Chamber of Commerce publication dated April, 1925.  On page 11 under Industrial Development is an announcement:
The Artcraft Pen Company announced it will manufacture its pens and pencils here at its new plant 1426-28 3rd Avenue.  Machinery is now being installed and the plan will be in operation within 30 days.”

This would seem to indicate that Artcraft made their own pens (or at least some parts) in Birmingham in the late 1920s.

August 18, 2009 Posted by | Artcraft Fountain Pens | | 16 Comments

Burgundy Vacumatic Standard

This week, I restored my first Burgundy Vacumatic.  I would have to say that it is a tie between this color and Azure Blue as my favorite common Vac color schemes.  At least to me, Burgundy seems to be the most difficult to locate and I am glad to have one.

Below is the standard “exploded view”.  The first generation vacumatic dates to the mid 1930s.  The date code is worn off of this one, but if my research is correct, it was produced in the 1934-7 area.  I have mentioned it before, but remember to extend the filler when removing (and inserting) it from the barrel using your vac tool of choice.  Leaving it locked may damage it beyond repair.

You can see that the pen arrived in good shape, with typical nib discoloration and barrel/cap ink stains.  Using a combination of ultrasonic cleaner and water/qtips, I was able to remove all of the internal ink stains.  The old diaphragm was hard-stuck to the barrel.  This is my new word for a diaphragm that has almost become part of the barrel as it has been in the barrel for so long under the pressure of the filler.  Some Vacs have softer diaphragm remnants that are easily removed (scraped) from the barrel and some require several sessions ~ this was the latter.

Upon completion of the diaphragm removal, I removed the old pellet from the filler (this is a first generation lock-down).  I used a debutante diaphragm and inserted it on the filler (see various Vacumatic Posts for process and photos ~ list at right under Parker Vacumatic).

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Here is the completed pen.  It measures 5″ closed and 6 1/8″ posted.

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Several factors make this pen attractive.  The burgundy color and gold furniture provide a good contrast, the nib is my favorite common vac nib with the gold arrow surrounded by the silver border, the burgundy striped double jewels, and finally the nib is a broad.  I have immediately put Quink Blue Black ink in it and it writes a very broad line.  Most of the Vacumatics that one runs across are fine to medium, and though I am not a broad nib fan, it is a nice change.

The only blemishes are a slightly curved cap band (middle) and a blind cap that is quite a bit darker than the rest of the pen.

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I have mentioned this before, but these first generation vacs with their lockdown fillers, which allow for a longer section which matches the barrel and the double jewels, are the most collectible vacumatics,  in my opinion.

Thank you, as always, for the emails with questions and comments, and I will be back in a week or so with another fountain pen item.

August 10, 2009 Posted by | Parker Pen Company, Parker Vacumatic | , | 1 Comment

Kraker Mess

I picked up the two pens in the photograph below from someone that I suspect used them for parts to add to  a group of Kraker produced pens.  The nice thing about several of these pens is that some of the parts are interchangeable.  The two pens I received were a red/orange Dixie Flat Top and a Black Belmont with red cap top jewel.  The black Belmont is the same model as the pen I restored in this post of May 22, 2008, titled Belmont / Rexall and Yankee Cousins.

The photo below shows the pens after I have taken them apart.  The Belmont arrived complete, while the Dixie was without a feed and nib.

I decided that I wanted to restore the orange Dixie more than the Belmont as I already have a similar Belmont, and though I have several Dixie pens, I have none in this color.

As you can see, there was significant staining on the Dixie.  Some sort of black/gray stain was covering both the barrel and cap.  I gently sanded this out and then applied a scratch remover and polish to these areas.  The result was a total eradication of the stains.  The clip, cap rings (2) and lever were not cheap gold plate, as I always fear, and cleaned up well using metal polisher and then my ultrasonic cleaner.  A new J-bar was needed as the old hanging bar  had corroded.  I removed the base of the hanging unit first and then inserted the long  j – bar.

Next was the nib…it was a short Warranted 2 nib that has seen better days.  I attempted to clean it up, but it was substandard and my suspicion is that it was just thrown on to sell the Belmont.  I tossed it and found a larger Warranted No. 2 nib in my nib bin. (nib bin = 2 word palindrome !)   Ok, its not a nice Dixie nib, but I am not sure that George Kraker used Dixie nibs on these.  It fits well and it’s larger size seems to fit this longish pen.

The Belmont barrel, cap, and section were polished and banished to the parts drawers for future project use.  I may have a spare feed and nib somewhere, but the Dixie was my focus.

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Below is the completed pen ~ my first orange Dixie, clearly a pen made in response to the successful Duofold Big Red’s of the day.

The barrel imprint reads ~

DixiE

Non – Breakable

Grand Haven, Mich. Pat

Given the time frame for George Kraker’s stay in Michigan, this pen was probably produced sometime between about 1925 and 1929.  This would confirm its production during the heyday of the Parker Duofold and other large flat top pens.

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The photo below shows the new Warranted No. 2 nib loaded and ready to write.

Other Dixie posts, showing the diverse colors used by the Michael George Company in these pens are ~

A Dixie In Illinois / November 26, 2008 (this pen would have been produced later than the Michigan pens)

A Dixie in Michigan / August 1, 2008

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The pen is a large one, measuring in at 5 3/8″ capped and 6 5/8″ posted.

I have seen at least one other color for these.  Other than the jade, mandarin, and orange, I have seen a marbled white/brown and black, similar to the Parker pearl marlbed Duofolds.  I will have to keep looking….

August 3, 2009 Posted by | Belmont Pens, Dixie Fountain Pens, Kraker | , , | Leave a comment

   

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