Fountain Pen Restoration

1946 Vacumatic Junior

It has been quite some time between Vacumatic repairs. They are one of my favorite pens to work on, and I enjoy writing with them as well. So, when this one showed up on my workbench, I jumped at the chance.  I decided to label the parts this time as I often get questions about the parts I am referring to and this is a good point of reference.  This photo is of the parts after the pen has been taken apart and before I started to clean and repair.   You can see that the later generation plastic filler still has some of the old diaphragm attached and I had not yet taken out the pellet.

I will take each part and describe what needs to be done ~

Clip – Polish with metal polish.  These later third generation vacs have no blue diamond.  For clips with blue diamonds that have worn, you can carefully repaint them (if that is your desire) with Testor’s 1110 or 1111 enamel blue paints.

Clip Screw/Jewel – Clean thoroughly.  Polish the end jewel.

Cap – Clean inside and out.  The inside will very often be coated with old ink and this needs to be removed, especially from the inside threads.  Polish the cap band(s) with metal polish.  The barrel can be cleaned with scratch remover and then polished.  I use Pentiques polishes.  You can see that there was quite a bit of build up under the clip of this pen.  I first removed the crud with my fingernail and then polished with a dremel at low speed.

Barrel – Cleaning the inside of the barrel is very important on vacumatics.  All remnants of the old diaphragm need to be scraped from the end of the barrel.  Even if you think they are gone, it is a good idea to recheck with a small light and magnifier to make certain.  Once that is done, clean the inside by placing in an ultrasonic cleaner and using q tips to remove any old ink.  Clean the outside with scratch remover and polish.

Filler – This one is a plastic speedline filler.  Other earlier fillers are metal speedline and lockdown.  Previous vacumatic posts (see blogroll at right) will have photos of these.  The process is the same for all fillers.  Make sure that you scrape all of the old diaphragm from the filler.  The tricky part is to remove the old diaphragm pellet from the pellet cup on the end of the filler.  This can be done by digging it out with a small pin or drilling it out.  The important thing to remember is too be very careful not to damage the pellet cup.  Doing this will render the filler useless. Attach new debutante size diaphragm and test.  Previous vacumatic posts have described this process.

Blind Cap – Clean and polish.

Breather Tube – clean insides thoroughly and test.

Feed – Clean out the channels and wipe off any residual ink.

Section – Clean inside of section with water and q tip, removing all residual ink.

Nib – 14K can be cleaned with polish and/or ultrasonic cleaner and jewelers cloth.   Be careful of earlier two tone nibs not to remove any silver wash. It is probably better to leave these as found.


Below is a photo of the section/feed/nib/breather tube assembly.  Note the feed sticking out of the section.  This is not preferable and needs to be corrected.  Underneath this is the completed filler unit and attached diaphragm.


The filler unit is first reinserted into the barrel end using a vac tool, and once seated, is tested to make sure it is sitting properly.  I shine a light in the nib end of the barrel and push the plastic end in and out and observe the pellet and how the diaphragm is flexing.  I then place my tongue on the nib end of the barrel and press the filler in and out to test for suction.  Assuming all is well, and after brushing my teeth :), I screw the nib assembly into the barrel from the front end.  The rest of the parts can now be assembled   After the pen is fully assembled, I usually give it one last polish.  Wax is optional at this point.  It protects the pen to some extent, but some people do not like the feel of a pen that has carnuba wax on it.

Here is the completed pen – a 1946 Parker Vacumatic Junior – measuring 5 inches closed and 5 7/8 inches posted.  The black color version has a semi clear barrel that really looks great after it has been cleaned out.  When ink is added, it is easy to keep track of the supply.



Here is  a close up of the imprint.  The darker color on the right side is the diaphragm on the inside of the barrel.   The 6 denotes the 4th quarter of 1946, placing this pen later in the Vacumatic period, and about the time that Parker 51s were overtaking vacs in the Parker pen lines.


This is not an example of a highly collectible Vacumatic, but certainly a clean crisp example that will be usable for years to come.


March 23, 2011 Posted by | Parker Pen Company, Parker Vacumatic | , , | Leave a comment

Indian Fountain Pen

This week, I worked on a pen/pencil combo from the Indian Pen Company.  I have seen these around before, and had always been interested in their origin and drawn by their very colorful (by vintage fountain pen standards) patterns.

You can see the component parts below, along with a badly stained barrel and cap.  Structurally, it is in decent shape, as there are no cracks or chips.  These were colorful, but the the furniture is just gold plated.   This includes the nib and pencil point, which have both discolored.

I first spent a considerable amount of time cleaning the barrel and cap, removing ink stains from the barrel.  As I have mentioned in the past, I first use INK NIX cleaner and a toothbrush to remove most of the ink in the threads.  The inside of the cap needs to be cleaned completely as well as this is where the ink on the barrel originates.

Cleaning the clip, lever, nib and pencil was fairly easy, as the gold plating had already worn off all but the nib.  I polished them and placed the nib in an ultrasonic cleaner for a short bath of 60 seconds.  Most of the gold plate remains on the nib, but even that short cleaning, removed some.  You can see from the photo below that the portion of the nib that was in the section had already worn off completely.

I scraped the section clean of the old sac remnants.  Be careful of these as the section as the nipple is very thin and gentle removal of the sac should be practiced here so you don’t harm the nipple.

The next problem encountered was the that the old jbar needed to be replaced as it was very brittle.  The two sizes of  jbars that I have are both too big for this combo as the pencil mechanism uses up some of the barrel internal area.   As I was experimenting with a trimmed jbar, I disengaged the internal snap ring, used to secure the lever.   When this happens, you need to pull the snap ring and lever out of the barrel.  Reattach them and slide the ring and lever back into the barrel and get the ring to snap back into its track – aligning the lever back into its slot.  This can be a tedious tasl and is the reason I usually do not remove the ring and lever to clean them with lever filler repairs.  This went well an I was once again able to insert a trimmed jbar back in to the barrel.

After cleaning the feed, section and then reinserting the nib, I attached a size 14 sac to the section nipple and inserted the assembly into the barrel.  Then the pencil mechanism was also placed back into the barrel.  (note – these take a 1.18mm lead).


So, how did these pens get the Name “Indian”?   I am not certain, but from what I have read, they resemble Native American blanket patterns.  A quick Google search for these blankets revealed a myriad of patterns and I have printed out a couple below.  It is easy to see the resemblance.



The complete pen / pencil combination can be seen below.  It measures 5 1/2 inches capped and 5 7/8 inches posted.


Note the worn condition of the clip and nib as the thin gold plate has completely worn off.


I will share what little I know about these pens and it is all speculative from various conversations and reading ~

Many think that the Indian Pen brand was a sub brand of the Arnold Pen Company in Petersburg, VA.  The dates of this pen type appear to be from the 1930s.  Without going into a long discussion of Arnold, they were a huge pen Company in Virginia, founded by Remmie Arnold after he purchased the remains of the Edison Pen Company.  Indian Pens seem to fit here somewhere and I am quite confident that there was a relationship to Arnold Pens or its preceding companies, which are also known for very colorful low priced combos.   I have actually seen one of these patterned pens with an Arnold clip, so there must have been some crossover at times.

My example is not a pristine one, though the barrel and cap are clean.  I have also seen these in green and blue patterns and with clean gold nibs and clips.  When in excellent condition, these relatively cheaply made combos sell for quite high prices.

March 10, 2011 Posted by | Arnold Pen Company, Indian Pen Company, Southern Pen Company | , , | 3 Comments

Burrows Welcome Stylus

I last reviewed a Stylographic Pen Restoration in my post of June 6, 2008, titled Stylographic Pens. That article (click on title for link) featured the restoration of a JUCO Stylo  (Jacob Ullrich Company).    About a month ago, I found this pen and thought about how much I enjoyed writing with the JUCO.  So, I picked it up and began the restoration.

Below is a photo of the pen after it has been taken apart.  The key component in repairing these old stylos is the wire needle which sits in the section and controls the flow of ink from the sac to the writing surface.  They are quite delicate, and if damaged or missing, cause a search for replacement parts.

I cleaned all of the parts below, including a through scraping of the section to remove all remnants of the old sac.  Make certain to clean the section channel completely as this one was clogged with old ink.  As usual. the cap was caked with old ink which needs to be removed.


Here is a close up photo of the section with the wire needle fully extended after cleaning.


This photo is of the section from the rear, showing the bar that extends across the inside, providing a backstop for the wire needle, keeping it within the section.


Finally, a photo of the section after the size 16 sac was cemented on and the wire has been inserted.


The completed pen measures 5 1/8 inches closed and 5 11/16 inches posted.  As you can see, the gold clip, cap bands, and lever all polished up well.  No cheap gold plate on this pen.



The mystery of this pen is the imprint.  It is crisp and clear, but I have been unable to find any information on its meaning.  Burrows Welcome is certainly a very familiar name.  However, the Pharmaceutical Giant known as Burroughs Wellcome is spelled differently.  Burroughs Wellcome was (and is) a pharmaceutical company that began in London in the late 1800s, eventually becoming a Global giant in their business.  So, does this pen relate to them as a poor misspelling or Americanization of the British names?  I have no idea and have been unable to track down any information.  If anyone has further information or ideas, please comment below.


Stylographic pens were more popular and manufactured in the UK, but also here in the US.  The stylo that I wrote about in 2008, referred to above was manufactured in the New York area.   This one remains a mystery to me.  I do think that Stylographs are a neat little niche in the fountain pen world.   When one writes with one, they resemble a roller ball, which is a highly popular pen today.  Keep you eyes peeled for them.  They are simple to restore and are an often overlooked part of fountain pen history.

March 1, 2011 Posted by | Burrows Welcome, Stylograpic Pens | , | 3 Comments


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