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.

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

Belmont Pen and Pencil Combination

Another local antique store find ~ and a bit of a departure from straight fountain pens.  This is the first Fountain Pen / Pencil Combination that I have restored since I started writing these articles in November of 2007.  I have a few in my collection, but am not a big fan of them.

I went in to the antique store on the way to a bakery in small town Minnesota and asked if they had any old pens.  The owner pulled out this pen/pencil and a vintage Sheaffer Balance set.  Thinking I would be drawn to the Sheaffer he began to talk about it, but the barrel was cracked and when I saw “BelmonT” on the Combo, I jumped.  As you know by now, I am interested in Belmont Fountain Pens  of all sorts ~ particularly those produced by George Kraker for Rexall.  $5.00 later, I was on my way to the bakery with my find.  Here are a few previous posts that include Belmont pens.

Belmont/Rexall And Yankee Cousins May 22, 2008

Belmont Pens At The Rexall Store August 18, 2008

Did He Say Pencil? April 2, 2009

Here is the Combination Pen after I took it apart.  I did not take the pencil portion apart and tested it with 1.1mm lead and worked.  As you can see, the major problem was deterioration of the metal parts and a sac that had hardened and crumbled.

I cleaned all of the gold parts and they cleaned up without any loss of color, so I believe they are not gold plate.  I inserted a size 16 sac onto the section/feed/nib and inserted into the barrel.  The sac has to be trimmed a bit shorter than normal as the pencil “side” takes up a bit of the barrel.  The pencil takes size 1.1mm lead and as with most vintage pencils, the lead is inserted in through the tip ~ put the lead in the tip and reverse the tip until the lead engages into the pencil.

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Here are the after photos.  As you can see, the instrument cleaned up well and I would best describe the color as rust.  The only flaw is the pencil tip, which was very tarnished when I found the pen and after cleaning, it is a bit washed out.

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As mentioned, Belmont was a Rexall Store brand of Fountain Pen and Pencil.  The contract for making Belmont’s was held by George Kraker and also The Moore Pen Company of Boston.  I am not certain which produced this pen for Rexall, but I am leaning towards Kraker (in either Grand Haven, MI or Libertyville, IL).  I am open to correction on this and would welcome any additional information.  I have seen photos of Kraker combos before, though I do not own one.  Thus, he had access to the parts to make this pen.  The lever also resembles a Kraker locking clip and this is why I am leaning to his Company as the producer.

Here is a closeup of the imprint, with the familiar “Non-Breakable” and “Sold Only At The Rexall Store”.

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This closeup gives a nice idea of the interesting barrel colors.

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And finally, the nib ~ a Warranted No. 2.  It is a smooth medium and I have filled it with Waterman Havana Brown and am using it this week.

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Keep scouring the antique malls….there are still pens to be found….

July 13, 2009 Posted by | Belmont Pens | | 3 Comments

Did He Say Pencil?

Once in a while a fountain pen collector runs across other writing instruments out in antique stores, on-line auctions, and garage sales.  Occasionally we use them, though we will never admit it.

I rarely purchase any vintage writing instruments other than fountain pens and am usually not interested in completing a pen/pencil set, or in purchasing one already complete.  But, once in a great while I will run across a pencil that strikes my fancy, and usually it is one that matches a restored pen.  Here are two examples.

The first photo is of a 1936 Parker Vacumatic Pencil, that matches the Burgundy Marble Vacumatic Junior that I restored in my post titled Parker Vacumatic Lockdown Filler, dated June 20, 2008.

Not much to the restoration of this.  I did not go any further than the four parts here.  I suspect that a vintage pencil restorer would break the pen down further and actually work on the internal mechanisms.  That might spell disaster for me, and as the pencil seems to twist and turn well, I concentrated on cleaning it up and replacing the old eraser with one that is usable.

You can see that the old eraser is shot and that the burgundy marble finish is just a bit dirty.  The cap jewel is just a two part jewel and clip.  As I write this I now notice that the cap is missing  from this “before” photo.  The part on the top left is a storage case for extra leads and is inserted into the barrel with the eraser on top for use.

I carved out the old eraser with an X-Acto knife and carved a new one from an existing pencil eraser so that it would fit.  I polished the clip, jewel and point and it was ready to be reassembled.

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This (photo directly below)  is the second pencil ~ a Belmont.  I have written several posts on Belmont Pens.  The post that has a fountain pen that closely matches this pencil is Belmont/Rexall and Yankee Cousins, dated May 22, 2008.

Again, I did not venture into the internals of the pencil.  The cap pulls off to reveal the eraser and a chamber for extra lead, of which there are several.  I did shave down the eraser to make for usable surface and polished up all of the silver and the cap.  The cap reads: BELMOMT Made in USA.  The cap twists to push the lead out of the point and loads by putting the lead in through the point end and twisting the cap counterclockwise until the lead catches.  This is the same lead procedure as the Vac Pencil above.

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Here is a photo of the finished 1936 Vacumatic  pencil.  I don’t think that it got much use in its day,  as it is very clean after some gentle polishing.  It is a smallish pencil, at 4 5/8″.

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The imprint below shows that it was made in the third quarter of 1936, consistent with the timing of the red/burgundy marbled Vacumatic Junior.

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Here are two photos of the lead / eraser holder.  It appears that these were resold as entire units as the instructions advise to throw away when the leads are used up and replace with a full one.  You can also see the new eraser that I carved to fit.  It now works like new.  Fortunately, there are still six remaining leads in the cartridge.

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Below is this pencil next to the Vacumatic Junior that I reference in the Parker Vacumatic Lockdown Filler post above.  The pen was produced in 1935, so I have not reunited a set, but they work well together.  Interestingly, the book Parker Vacumatic (2008, written by Geoffrey Parker, David Shepherd, and Dan Zazove) mentions on page 258 that most pens were sold individually and that only one in six customers bought sets.  This is apparently true, as they state that few pencils seem to have survived to today.

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Following  is a photo of the not-as-ornate Belmont pencil.  Probably more suited for school or the workshop, it is a solid pencil.  It measures an inch longer than the Parker at 5 5/8″.

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Finally, here is a photo next to a Belmont Fountain Pen.  I am not certain if this pencil was sold individually or as a set, but this pen is a fairly close match to what the pen may have looked like.  My gut tells me the pen is a bit older in the time scale, and several Companies made pens for Rexall/Belmont, so it is a reach at best.

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I hope my side trip into the unknown of pencils was not too far off course from Fountain Pens, but I think it was an interesting diversion.

April 2, 2009 Posted by | Belmont Pens, Fountain Pens and Pencils, Parker Pen Company | , , | 2 Comments

Belmont Pens at the Rexall Store

This post’s restoration brings us back to the Rexall Store of yesteryear. If you check back to my post of February 7, 2008 (Rexall Monogram), I discussed Monogram pens, made by Kraker for Rexall Stores. Over the years, Rexall used several manufacturers to produce their pen and pencil lines. Three major pen lines for Rexall were Monogram, Signet, and Belmont. Belmont pens were named for Belmont, Massachusetts, the home of Rexall head Louis Liggett.(1)

Sometime in the mid 1930s the contract for fountain pens was moved from Kraker to the Moore Pen Company of Boston. The pen discussed in this restoration is probably an example of one of these Moore products.

As you can see this was a distressed pen when it arrived. Priced accordingly at only a few dollars, it was going to require some patience and scrubbing. The j-bar was shot, as was the the clip, lever and two cap bands (located at the top and bottom). The nib, feed, and section were all usable and cleaned up quite quickly. In fact, you can barely see the cap bands in the photo below, they are so blackened.

I used a dremel carefully on all of the gold parts to remove as much of the black as possible and then a q-tips, and tooth picks with Simichrome to touch up. After scraping the old sac material from the section I placed a size 18 sac on the section and placed a new j-bar in the barrel.
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Below is a photo of the finished pen. I would say that I probably spent at least 2 hours cleaning this pen. But, as you can see, the end results were worth it. All of the gold parts now shine as they did when they sat on the Rexall shelves.

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Below is a photo of a Moore lever filler from the same time period and the celluloid is the same material. This would seem to back up the statement that this is a Moore product, after the mid 1930s. Moore continued to make pens for Rexall until the early 1950s. I suspect that they also made pencils as well, but that is for another post.

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Finally, here is a photo of the Belmont 14K No. 4 nib. It was very scratchy and I spent time smoothing the tip with very fine smoothing sheets.

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(1) This information provided by Rob Astyk in a thread at Lion and Pen. (website link provided in Blogroll)

August 18, 2008 Posted by | Belmont Pens, Moore Pen, Rexall | , | 2 Comments

Belmont/Rexall and Yankee Cousins

Back on January 27th of this year I wrote about restoring a Yankee Pen, made by a George Kraker Company in Grand Haven, Michigan. The post can be found under the title: A Yankee in Michigan. I just picked the pen up below and it bears a very close resemblance. The clear red top is just a bit wider and brighter, but the chasing, lever, and clip are identical. Both also have the same feed, section and Warranted No. 2 nib. Also, the barrel print type is the same. The only difference is that this pen reads:

BELMONT

PAT

NON BREAKABLE

SOLD ONLY AT

THE REXALL STORE

The Yankee Pen, covered in the referred post reads:

YANKEE

NON BREAKABLE

GRAND HAVEN, MICH. – PAT

As you can see from the picture below, this pen came with a severely tarnished clip and lever, as well as a very grimy nib. There was no pressure bar present, so I replaced the j-bar and added a new sac. I spent quite a bit of time and energy on cleaning the lever and clip. I used Simichrome and a Dremel to grind away the initial caked-on grime and then used tooth picks and q-tips to remove the tarnish from the hard to reach areas. The sac remnants were completely removed from the section and a new size 16 sac was cemented to the section. The nib polished up completely and looks new. The nib and feed were inserted into the section and the pen was water tested.

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Here is the completed pen with shiny Warranted No. 2 nib. I used a white crayon to highlight the crisp imprint.
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I have placed the two pens referred to above next to each other to show the similarity.

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I have read that George Kraker still had the contract to produce pens for Rexall when in Michigan and later possibly in Libertyville, IL (refer to my post of February 7, 2008 titled Rexall Monogram). These pens are just another proof of this. I have read that the contract was then taken over by the Moore Pen Company of Boston, MA. Later Belmont pens contain several Moore-like characteristics which back this up.

I will post some of these in later posts.

May 22, 2008 Posted by | Belmont Pens, Kraker, Monogram Fountain Pens, Rexall, Uncategorized, Yankee Pen | | 3 Comments

   

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