Fountain Pen Restoration


It is cold here and a good day to sit back with family and reflect on what to be thankful for.  No pens today, just an early morning run and family.  Thanks to all of you who have helped me through the first two years of this and I look forward to continuing to speak with you and learn.


November 26, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Message In A Bottle

Extraordinary events happen in every hobby sometimes.  They are often unexplainable and often not to be believed.  One such event happened to me last night at the monthly meeting of a Pen Club near my home.  The topic of the evening was Minnesota Pen Companies.  I marveled at the collections of the members and the wide array of vintage pens from such makers as Pencraft, Drew, Winter-Robbins, and Houston (Tracy).  One large collection of Houston’s, including large gold filled pens, was stunning.  And there were advertisements, boxes and catalogs as well.

As we were doing our show and tell, the subject settled on The Self – Lock Pen Company of Wells, Minnesota cane up.  Patent 1,036,149 covers the Self-Lock Pens.

In my post of February 17, 2009 I discussed The Rentz Pen Company and the pen above.

I learned that the Rentz Pen above is rarer than the later Self Lock Pen and predated it.  The Self – Locks have a stick on the end of the cap that is placed into a hole on a button on the barrel and depressed to fill the pen (see patent above).  My pen has the filler shown above that is pulled out to allow the button to be depressed and then pushed back to secure the button and full sac.  Following the Rentz link above provides photos of this process.

Back to the pen meeting…

We were discussing the Rentz Pen in my collection (above) and the fact that it was without a nib/feed/section, and as it was the only one at the meeting, it was being passed around.  As it returned to me and I opened the cap again, this note dropped out of the barrel.  It was coiled up tightly to store in the barrel and all of the opening and closing of the Rentz lever must have dislodged it.  When I opened it up I found this penciled note ~

As you can see, Emile Nelson assembled this pen in 1903, five years before the patent listed on the barrel.  This dates the pen much earlier than my February 17, 2009 post suggested.  It appears that the pen may never have had a section, feed, and nib as the note survived for 106 years without damage other than normal age.  At this point, the rest is speculation.  Perhaps this was a prototype and the patent stamp (below) was made at a later date… we will probably never know.

What is certain is that Emile left a note for someone to find, and it took  106 years, but it did get discovered.   And to be dislodged and revealed around a cluttered table of Pen Enthusiasts 100 miles and 106 years from his home seems perfect.

Happy Pen Hunting, and check those barrels……

November 21, 2009 Posted by | Rentz Fountain Pens | | 3 Comments

Parker Star Clip Vacumatic

This week I restored another Parker Vacumatic.  I have reviewed several of these over the past few years and here are a few if you want some additional reading and photos:

Shadow Wave Vacumatic ~ August 27, 2009

Green Marble Junior Vacumatic ~ May 27, 2009

1942 Parker Vacumatic Maxima ~ October 13, 2008

1935 Parker Silver Pearl Junior Vacumatic ~ February 24, 2009

I enjoy restoring these pens and am always looking for some interesting variants and less common styles.  This week’s pen fits these categories.  While not extremely rare, the Star Clip Vacumatics are an interesting slice of Parker history.

Below is the exploded view of this pen.  As you can see, it has the pre-war aluminum speedline filler and doule jewels, consistent with a Second Generation Vacumatic.  All of the parts are in good working order, except the filler needs a new diaphragm.  General cleaning is also needed and as usual, the barrel needs to be cleaned to remove all signs of the old caked-on diaphragm.

I polished the nib (a Parker Vacumatic Fine) as well as the cap bands and clip thoroughly, including a bath in the Ultrasonic Cleaner.  I then spent a considerable amount of time removing all of the old diaphragm from the barrel.  This is very important to assure a clean fit for the new diaphragm and filler unit which will allow for correct operation of the restored pen.  Make certain to check several times with magnification to see that there is no rubber left in the barrel before rebuilding the filler and inserting it back into the rear of the pen.  I also cleaned the cap, which usually has years of old ink caked to its inside.   The breather tube was checked for clogs and tip wear and it was fine.  I did clean it and blow through to make sure any residual ink was gone.  The same was done to the feed and its channels.  Once everything was cleaned, I attached a new debutante diaphragm to the filler and, using my vac tool, reinserted it into the rear of the pen, making sure it was sealed and the blind cap fits securely.  Before putting the reassembled nib/feed/section back on the front of the barrel, I used a goose neck mini-light to check that the diaphragm was seated correctly in the barrel and that there was suction when the aluminum speedline filler was pressed.  After this was done and it was determined that it was properly functioning, I screwed the nib/feed/section back into the pen.

I then polished the barrel, cap, and blind cap.  Then the clip was secured back on the cap using the clip screw and the pen is complete.

Below are two photos of the completed pen ~ a 1940 Vacumatic Junior.  The pen measures 5 1/8 inches closed and 6 inches posted.

The date code is a 0 surrounded by three dots, which indicates it was produced in Janesville, WI during the first quarter of 1940.  As mentioned before, three dots denotes first quarter production, 2 dots is for the second quarter, 1 dot for the third quarter, and no dots around the date indicates the fourth quarter of the year.

Here is a close up of the Star Clip.  Pen historians point out that Parker decided in the late 1930s that they needed to offer a lifetime guarantee to compete with Sheaffer’s guarantee.  The Star on the Clip was the idea for the indicator on the Vacumatic of a Lifetime Guarantee.  In 1939, this was quickly changed to the more familiar and long lasting Blue Diamond that is seen on Vacumatics after this time.  Star Clips that were already produced were used on pens after 1938/9, but did not necessarily denote a lifetime guarantee.  It is believed they were just used until the supply was used up.  Thus, they are not as plentiful and an interesting variant on Vacumatics during the 1938-40 period. I have also read that they are often seen on Shadow Wave Vacumatics of this period.

This pen, with it 1st Quarter of 1940 would seem the perfect representative for the Star Clip ~ a pen produced in late 1939, early 1940 that was not a Lifetime Guarantee pen.

Another item that makes this pen a bit unique is the barrel.  It appears to have longitudinal stripes, which did appear in some vacumatics of this period, though not too frequently.  Below is a photo which attempts to capture their spacing.

It seems that there are endless variations on this very popular line of Parker Pens.  I guess that is what draws many collectors to them.  Around every corner of an antique store, or estate sale, may lie a Vacumatic one hasn’t seen before.

*For further information on Parker Star Clips, see the book Parker Vacumatic, by Geoffrey Parker, David Shepherd, and Dan Zazove ..  pages 149 and 154.

November 10, 2009 Posted by | Parker Pen Company, Parker Star Clip, Parker Vacumatic | , | 4 Comments

The Bankers Pen Company

On January 8, 2008, I added a post titled ~ Put Your Loose Change Here.  In that post I cleaned and restored a Bankers Pen Company Coin Filler.  I also discussed the history of the pen (c~1911), including patents for the feed and even some history of the 1 Madison Ave address.  I have reposted some of the photos of the pen and its components below for comparison, but will leave the link above to the old article to cover the restoration and history behind the pen.

I picked up the Post Card below recently as I remembered my coin filling Bankers Pen and its address.  So, I purchased the card and here are photos of the front and back.  The seller told me that the card came from an attorney’s office remains.  The attorney, H. E. Grosshans, practiced in the early 1900s and this fits with the order card and the dates of Bankers Pens such as the one below.  It appears that Mr. Grosshans considered sending in the order form, but may have simply put it back in his desk to be discovered ninety years later.


As you can see, Bankers offered two price ranges ($3.00 and $2.00) as well as three choices of nib (Medium, Fine, and Stub).  The opt out, or “I don’t know” style of nib was medium.


The reason that this pen, or another self filling style of pen was potentially what Mr. Grosshans would have received is that by 1917, the Bankers Pen Company  had moved to 76th Fifth Avenue.  Please see the Manhattan Pen Makers Project (link), for a reference to this.  This is an excellent reference site for NY Pen Company addresses.

I do not have access to the advertisement or solicitation that would have prompted the return of this card, but it is fun to match up a pen and some ephemera.  My next quest will be to find a Bankers advertisement from the same time period, prior to the move to Fifth Avenue.

Below are photos from the January 2008 article as well as a link to Schnell’s  feed patent, filed and issued in 1904.



Schnell Feed Patent





So, the search continues for a Madison Avenue era Bankers Advertisement.  If any of you know where to find one, I would love to hear from you!

November 2, 2009 Posted by | Bankers, Bankers Pen Company | | 2 Comments


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