Fountain Pen Restoration

The House Of Pencraft

I enjoy restoring large flat top pens like these. The Kraker bodies of the late 1920s and early 30s were very colorful and I really enjoy the various colors that they used for end pieces. This week’s pen is no exception, and has a few twists.

As you can see below, it came from an estate, and in a Pencraft box, complete with instructions.  At first glance, there is nothing very unusual. It is a Kraker Pencraft, made in Libertyville, IL, which dates it in the very late 1920s or very early in the 30s.  At that time Kraker had a contract to produce pens for Rexall, under the name Monogram, among others.  The box says Pencraft and the directions are for Pencraft/Dixie Pens and Pencils.

Below is the pen after I reduced it down to its parts.  The hanging pressure bar still works and is in good shape so there is no need to replace it with a jbar.  From what I can see, it appears that the pen was never used as there is no indication of ink anywhere in the pen (cap, nib, feed, section or hardened sac).  I would guess that it had been in the box for quite some time.  The nib, clip, cap bands, and lever all polished up well and needed little work.  I polished the outside of the barrel and cap which are black smooth plastic.  After assembling the section/feed/nib, I attached a size 18 sac and reinserted the section into the pen.   The hanging pressure bar system works well and the pen is ready to go.

Below is the restored pen, a Monogram/Pencraft with orange and yellow ends.  What I had not noticed when I received the pen was that the cap has a familiar Monogram clip and a Pencraft Body.  When I first looked at the pen I just assumed that the cap “jewel had discolored to a dark/dirty yellow.  Now it is clear that the cap is a mismatch.  The two fit together perfectly ~ just the imprints and jewels are mismatched.

The pen measures 5 7/16″ capped and 6 13/16″ posted.

So why are the cap and barrel different?  Well, I can only hazard a few guesses, and will never really know.

Perhaps, the pen was repaired and when it was sent back to Pencraft for repairs they substituted either the cap or barrel.  Or perhaps this pen was produced near the end of the production in Libertyville and they were just using up remaining parts.  Or perhaps the pen was a mistake and either the barrel or cap was placed in error.  I can play “perhaps”  for quite a while, and we will never know.  My leaning is that they were near the end of production in Libertyville and simply using up parts and this pen was the product.

Below is the direction sheet that was in the box.  Note the ink stains.   This seems to run against my initial observation that the pen had not been used before.  The title of this article ~ The House Of Pencraft ~ comes from the pencil page.  I had never seen this term before.

I looked up the name Theodore Haake on the internet and no persons with ties to fountain pens or Michael George came up.  I am not certain if this was the owner of the pen (though this is written in pencil) or possibly someone from the factory.

Here is the strong imprint, with Michael George Co (Kraker) mentioned.

The nib is a Forever Nib #6.  I have seen Forever, Everlasting, Dixie, and Warranted Nibs used on Kraker pens of this era.  Everlasting and Forever are interesting names, perhaps in response to Parker and Sheaffer’s ” Lifetime ” guarantees.

It seems that sometimes ” the more we know, the less we know”.  These mysteries of the vintage pen are often intriguing and forever and everlastingly a challenge to sort through.

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June 24, 2010 Posted by | Belmont Pens, Dixie Fountain Pens, Kraker, Monogram Fountain Pens, Pencraft Pens, Rexall, Yankee Pen | , , | 1 Comment

Parker 51 ~ First Year Double Jewel

This is the second Double Jewel Parker 51 that I have discussed.  The first was in this post:

Double Jewel Parker 51 ~ dated April 9, 2010.

As discussed many times in the past, Parker 51s are very popular among fountain pen collectors and the double jewel versions are highly sought after.  They don’t hold more ink, come in more attractive colors, or have better nibs.  They do have a bit more gold and look a bit more substantial, and do often have more ornate caps.  The primary reason is their relative scarcity.

Within the Double Jewel models, the first year models are the most collectible as they are even more rare.  Double Jewels were produced during the entire run of Vacumatic Fill 51s, from 1941 through 1948.  The first year models were different in many ways, and I will cover them later.

Below is the exploded view of the pen.  You can tell that it suffered from years of neglect due to the dirty nib, collector, and very bad cap.  Fortunately, all of the parts are present and in decent shape.  This is good, especially for Dove Grey Vac 51s, which are more prone to cracking of the barrel and/or hood.  They are also more prone to discoloration, which has occurred here as can be seen in the shade difference in photo number two.

After the pen was taken apart, I began to clean all of the parts.  This involves thorough cleaning of all, except for the filling unit which I do not like to subject to moisture.  I scrape any remnants of the old diaphragm from the metal collar and carefully remove the old pellet from the pellet cup.  For a close up of the filling unit see this article posted on January 4, 2010.

Special care needs to be taken to clean the barrel completely of all dried ink and any traces of the old diaphragm, especially near the end where the filler screws in to the barrel.  Also, make certain that the breather tube is crack free and clog free.

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Putting a Vacumatic back together is a tricky proposition at times.  The most important items are making certain that the nib assembly sits correctly in the collector and into the hood as the pen is assembled.  A few trials are usually necessary.  Also, reinserting the filler into the rear of the barrel can be difficult at times due to the tendency of the diaphragm to twist on entry.  Always put the filler unit in first so that you can look into the barrel from the front end with a small flashlight to make sure the diaphragm is straight and functional.  Once that is assured, and you can feel the suction when the post is depressed and released, it is then ok to insert the collector/feed/nib and breather tube assembly.

Below is the completed product.  All the parts are the originals and there are two flaws.  First, note the color difference between the blind cap and the barrel.  Fortunately, the barrel and hood do match in color.  Secondly, there is a significant ding on the cap, which I have placed under the clip for cosmetic purposes.  You can see it quite easily when you look at the clip below the R in PARKER.  Other than these two issues, the pen is in great shape and the medium nib writes well.

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Here is a photo of the pen posted, hiding the blind cap and looking like a regular old single jewel.

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Several components separate the first year pens from the 1942-1948 vacumatic 51s.  Most are visible in these four photos.

First, the date imprint for the first year models is on the blind cap.  Remember that all 1941s were double jewels, as the single jewel began to appear in 1942.  The date appears just above the gold on the blind cap.  The photo below shows where the imprint appears.  In one line across the bottom is written MADE IN U.S.A.  .1.  This means that the pen was manufactured in Janesville, WI during the second quarter of 1941.

Secondly, the caps of first year 51s can be different and also are highly collectible.  This cap is a lined Sterling Silver with a Chevron patterned band.  These are very attractive.   Unfortunately, they are difficult to find in excellent condition and are prone to staining and dings/dents.  As mentioned above, this nib is no exception, with a ding under the clip.  It did clean up well with a jewelers cloth and the gold clip responded well to polish.

A third difference in the first year 51s is that many of them have metal filler units, similar to the early generations of Vacumatics in the 1930s.  This pen does not have a metal filling unit (as visible in the first photo).  From what I have read, this is consistent with some first years.

A final major difference in the first year 51s is that they have metal jewels.  Sometimes on both the cap and blind cap and sometimes only on the blind cap.  This pen has a metal jewel in the blind cap, highlighted in the photo below.  The jewel in my the cap of this pen is not metal, however, and I have read that this is seen (or this could be a replacement cap).

Another difference that I have read about is that these first year 51s can have a larger blue diamond on the clip.  If there is a difference in my pen and a second year, it is slight.

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While I was writing this and restoring the pen, I ran across a very interesting chart on the excellent website ~ vintagepens.com ~ which shows the reason for the desirability of these first year models.  About 2/3 of the way down this page, the sales chart shows both the growing popularity of the Parker 51, and the very low number of pens sold in 1941.  While these are not production numbers, they do shed some light on the relative scarcity of these.

My collection will never be overly populated with Double Jewel 51s, but it is nice to have a first year model and its history, even with a few flaws.

June 16, 2010 Posted by | Parker 51, Parker Pen Company | , | 1 Comment

Presidential Fountain Pens

Everyone who has spent time around the hobby of fountain pens and read about them has run across the question as to which (if any) fountain pens the Presidents (or other World Leaders) have used. I will not attempt to discuss Eisenhower’s Parker 51, or other favorites here. I will, however, discuss the restoration of two pens named after Presidents – Jefferson and Lincoln. Are there others? I do know that there are Monroe Pens (though I don’t know if they were named after President Monroe), but can think of no others. If you can, please feel free to comment below. I do not even know if Lincoln or Jefferson Pens were named after the Presidents. Remember my article on Franklin Pens of Philadelphia? I mistakenly thought they were named after Benjamin Franklin until research led me elsewhere.  For now, I will assume that the two Presidents shown below are the inspiration for these pens.

Abraham Lincoln, pictured on the left, was the 16th President of the United States from 1861 to 1865, and Thomas Jefferson (right) was the third President of the United States from 1801 to 1809.

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The first photo below is of a vintage Lincoln Fountain Pen after it has been taken apart.  The lower pen is the Jefferson.  As you can see, they are both in decent shape and I would guess that the Jefferson was never inked.  Both are lever fillers and the Lincoln has the hanging pressure bar, which is still in good condition.  As mentioned above, the Jefferson shows no evidence of any ink ever touching its parts.

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I thoroughly cleaned the gold furniture on both pens, including nibs, which were both large Warranted 8’s, with plenty of tipping material on them.  I did clean the outside of the Jefferson with scratch remover and polish as it is plastic.  The Lincoln, I left alone as it was quite clean, and I did not want to damage the hard rubber or mottled patterm.  The Lincoln took a size 18 sac as did the Jefferson.  Make sure to use a sac that leaves a bit of room.  You do not want to use a sac that fits too tightly in the barrel.

Below are photos of the finished pens.  The Lincoln was made by National Pen Products in Chicago.  My estimate for its production would be in the late 1920s.  I would suspect that the Jefferson was a later pen, produced in the 1930s.  I am uncertain as to who produced the Jefferson, though have read speculation that it is in the same family as Morrison/Morton pens.  Some evidence of this possibility will be discussed later.

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Note the darker ring in the plastic of the Jefferson below.  I am not certain what caused this as there was nothing in the box that might have caused this.  Perhaps there was a price ring on the pen that disappeared prior to my finding it.

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This photo shows the two “Presidential” pens together.  Measurements are as follows:

Lincoln ~  5 15/32″ capped and 6 1/2″ posted

Jefferson ~  5 15/32″ capped and 6 27/32″ posted

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The imprint on the Lincoln, which is one of the most detailed National Pen Products imprints I have seen.

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Like the rings of a tree, this is a nice addition, a ringed look to the top of the cap on the Lincoln.

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Interesting clips ~  The top is the Lincoln with the familiar National Pen Products leafy branch and flower.  You will see this clip on many of their brands.

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The Jefferson clip has a familiar wreath,  seen on many Morrison – Morton – Marathon pens.  Check out the vintage clip shot in my article No Tiers Shed Here, written on December 9, 2007 which shows similar wreath surrounding the first letter of the Pen Names.  This makes me think that the theories that I have heard about Jefferson Pens being related might be true.

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Here is a photo of the Jefferson box with the phrase ” The Gift Beautiful” on the lid.  The interior has a velvet (damaged) seat for two writing instruments. If the second was a pencil, it was missing when I found it. The logo for the Jefferson follows in the second photo. It is found on the inside of the box lid.

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These pens are not as valuable as those used by Presidents to sign treaties and legislation, but another way to collect “Presidential” pens.

June 8, 2010 Posted by | Jefferson Fountain Pens, Lincoln Fountain Pens, Morrison Fountain Pens, National Pen Products | , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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