Fountain Pen Restoration

Christmas 2009

Well, another year has passed and as we close out 2009 I think I have found the appropriate Holiday greeting for 2009.  Santa seems to be making a few last minute notes with his dip pen…

Vintage Post Cards are a great complement to fountain pen collecting.   Those that have messages and addresses on the reverse are often written with fountain pens or dip pens and it is fun to read them and imagine what pen and ink may have been used.

Until next year…Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays,  and Happy New Year.



December 25, 2009 Posted by | Christmas | | Leave a comment

Where Have All The Pen Stores Gone?

This article is for those of you that are from the fine cities of Omaha, Nebraska and Houston, Texas, or simply remember the pen stores of the past.   I travel frequently to Omaha and lived for two years in Houston, so these had some meaning to me when I stumbled upon them in the past year.  The first is a post card marked as mailed in May of 1946 from Ted’s Pen Shop in Omaha.  It seems that Ms. Lammers of Hartington, NE had a pen and pencil in need of repair and Ted Damask was writing to advise her what he needed to do the job.  A good salesman, Ted, he mentions that she might also need a new pen at some point.

A little bit of research shows that Ted Damask was 41 years old when he typed this post card.  He died in Omaha at age 54 in 1959.  As with many of the fountain pens shops, they also sold cards and stationary.

A search of the Lammers’ name in Hartington yields numerous results and Gertrude and her family were, and still are, a prominent name in Hartington.



The Google Street map below shows that the corners of 16th and Farnam now contain a Chinese Restaurant, Quiznos Sub Shop, Parking Garage, and Medical Center.  The days of the local pen store are past. That is not to say that the pen store has completely disappeared (see Pendemonium in Fort Madison, IA). Many fine stores, both brick and mortar and on-line exist today, but in limited numbers.

The second Pen Store is mentioned in this advertising blotter below. Wolfe’s sold and repaired fountain pens, just like Ted’s.  They also sold greeting cards and branched out to Stamp Collectors.  I have been unable to uncover any information on Wolfe’s, but as you can see from the Google Street map below the blotter, the area contains no evidence of a Fountain Pen Store.


Of course, none of what I have written here comes as any surprise to the fountain pen collecting community. We all know that the days of the fountain pen as a common commodity are over and we have to scour the countryside for our favorite vintage (or current) pens. We all dream of a time when you could go into town and purchase a fountain pen at the drug store, pick one out of a catalog, or go to Wolfe’s or Ted Damask’s store.

Part of the joy of restoration is bringing the pens available at these stores back to the condition they may have been found in the glass case in Houston or Omaha. At the same time I hope I have shown a new collectible ~ blotters and post cards that depict what Fountain Pens Stores were like in their heyday.

As the Holidays approach, don’t forget to frequent your local or on-line pen dealers for your pen collecting (or restoring) needs ~ and have a Happy Holiday Season.

December 17, 2009 Posted by | Fountain Pen Stores, Hartington NE, Houston TX, Omaha NE | , , , | 6 Comments

Snapfil Fountain Pens

The following paragraph is taken from a post that I wrote here on April 10, 2008, with the title Houston Pen Company.   It is a good summary of W. A. Houston and his pens:

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 week’s restoration is a Snapfil Lever Filler, manufactured in Sioux City.

Below is the exploded view of this BCHR (Black Chased Hard Rubber) pen.  The pressure bar is attached to the inside of the barrel and in good condition and was not removed.  Only two sections remain of the old sac in the bottom left of the photo.

As the pen is hard rubber, care is taken in cleaning the pen as the old hard rubber does not react well to water.  I cleaned the inside of the barrel and cap with a dry brush and dry q-tip.  The gold barrel band, chain, clip, and nib were cleaned with gold cleaner and a jewelers cloth.  However, the lever is thinly gold plated and I know from restoring a number of these,  the gold will wash off easily, so I just gently wiped it clean so that it will retain what little gold color is left.

The feed is unique and featured on the imprint of the Houston Pens produced in Sioux City.  Below is a close up of the feed of this Snapfil and an imprint of a Houston Pen featured in the April 10, 2008 post referred to above.  It reminds me of a lobster claw.

Below is the feed from the bottom, showing he three channels for the ink to go from the sac to the nib.  Always make certain to clean these with a sharp tool such as an x-acto knife.

Here is the finished pen.  It measures 5 5/8 inches closed and 6 inches posted.  The chain and pin were to allow the pen to be pinned to an article of clothing such as a suit vest for easy carrying and access.  The pin is very familiar to Houston Collectors and appears on many of their pens, which rarely had clips.  Thus, the cap is a screw fit to the barrel to allow for safe carrying.

The Snapfil gets its name from the unique lever system.  Here you can see the lever raised after pulling up from the barrel.

The lever then drops a folded section to depress the internal pressure bar to compress the sac and fill the pen with ink from a bottle.

The Number 2 Snapfil 14K nib writes with a medium to broad line.

The cap band is     wide an contains this “MH” set of initials.  Produced prior to 1920, this was a nice pen for the this owner.

I am still on the lookout for a Jiffy Pen from Sioux City and any of Houston’s Californian Pens.  Hopefully, future posts will reflect finding some of these….

December 10, 2009 Posted by | Houston Pen Company, Snapfil | , | 4 Comments

Spors Dice Pen Research

One of my favorite posts was one I wrote on September 17, 2008 titled (and linked here) Spors Fountain Pen Entertainment Center.  Not because the pen is a fantastic and valuable pen, but just that it was fun to share what a surprise it was when I opened the pen up to clean the compass and the dice fell out.  At the time, I ran the pictures by some other collectors and no one seemed to recall any such pens.

Below is a picture that appears in that post, showing the compass removed from the cap-end, with the enclosed dice falling out.


I recently purchased an old SPORS mail order catalog from 1933, in hopes that it would have some information on this pen. Below is a photo of the cover of this mail order catalog, produced by the Spors Company, of Le Center, MN.


When I got to page 23 I was rewarded with a lineup of these Japanese imports, which includes this pen.  You can also see a standard crescent filler, similar to the one restored in my post of February 13, 2008, Made in Japan.


Here is a close up of the advertisement showing the dice stored under the compass.


And here is the specific wording promoting this version.  Interestingly, the compass is the selling point, with emphasis placed on it being removable and worn separately.  I am not sure why you would be attracted to this and it is quite amusing.  Still no mention of the dice other than in passing.  At least I was able to find them in this catalog which narrows the age of this pen to near 1933.


Addendum:  Spors catalogs are quite entertaining to the pen collector.  In a separate location of the catalog you can see where they used pens to promote other products. (Or was it the other way around?).  This $.49 deal was quite a package ~ Perfume, Face Powder, Crystal Necklace, and Pen/Pencil set.  The catalog contains many more of these mix and match deals aimed at retailers, as well as the general public.  Mr. Spors was a master at mail-order and sales.


Part of Fountain Pen Restoration is the placing of the fountain pen in history. The discovery of this catalog finally allowed me to place this curio pen near 1933.

December 1, 2009 Posted by | Spors | | 4 Comments


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