Fountain Pen Restoration

Libertyville Dixie In Green And Black

George Michael Kraker made pens all over the Midwest (Kansas City, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Grand Haven, MI. All of these have been well covered in various posts over the years here. Libertyville, IL was his final stop, at least as far as the major production of pens is concerned. As varied as his stops in the Midwest were the brands of pens he made. Click on the blogroll at the right for Yankee, Belmont, Pencraft, Drew, and Monogram pen brands, and his influence is evident. Dixie Pens were a later model of his, perhaps to counterbalance his earlier and lasting Yankee brand. They were usually well made, colorful and often sporting contrasting colored cap and/or barrel ends.

This week’s project is no different, although a pattern I had not seen in person before. My friend, the late Dennis Bowden, had a few that he shared photos of with this pattern and I had always hoped to find one.

As you can see below, the pattern is a green and black plastic swirl.  Nothing exceptional to the pen – it is a standard Kraker lever filler, with the locking lever.

The sac had hardened, and the hanging lever system was still in place and functional.  Having an intact sac allows one to compare sizes, though I know that these usually take size 16, it is nice to have an old one to compare.

The nib is a Warranted No. 3.  Other Dixie’s that I have have all been made in Grand Haven, MI, except for a large yellow one, and had a mixture of Warranted and Dixie Nibs.  It needed quite a bit of careful cleaning, which was done with Pentiques metal cleaner and a slow dremel.

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The section and feed were cleaned thoroughly using qtips for the section, after the old sac was cleaned off, and with an x-acto knife for the feed and its various grooves.

The inside of the cap was completely cleaned as I like to remove all the pesky ink deposits that like to reside here. The outside of the barrel and cap were polished along with the clip and cap band, which are not cheap plate and hold up well to polish.

The final result of this smallish pen is below.

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The pen measures 4 1/4 inches capped and 5 3/4 inches posted.

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I would be interested to see if there is a corresponding large pen, with No. 8 nib, as many of the surviving Dixie’s are this larger size. I am always on the lookout for these and look forward to more patterns and sizes.
Edit (11-24-15) – I was fortunate to find a pencil that matches this pen.  Two exceptions,  however.  The corresponding pencil in the photo below is a Pencraft, not a Dixie, and is a larger size when the Dixie is closed.  This adds a bit of fuel to the question I raised above about there being a larger size pen available in this plastic stock.  However, there is no mistaking the same plastic stock and design.  Both have Libertyville imprints as well.  Nice Kraker set!

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July 15, 2011 Posted by | Dennis Bowden, Dixie Fountain Pens, George M. Kraker, Kraker | , , , | 1 Comment

Kraker Civil War

This pen came exactly as shown, without two very important parts, the feed and a nib. As you can see, it is very dirty and I have no idea how long the nib and feed have been missing. It is a yellow Kraker Yankee, produced in Grand Haven, Michigan. I keep finding new colors of these pens, produced in the short time Kraker was in Grand Haven in the mid to late 1920s.  My Title ” Kraker Civil War” is simply a play on George Kraker’s use of Dixie and Yankee Pens as two of his brands and my curiosity as to why.  I have not been able to come up with any reason for this.  Some have speculated that it was a marketing issue, but there is no hard evidence that one brand was targeted at a specific area of the Country (North vs. South).   As you will note if you link to Yankee and Dixie Pen Articles in the Blogroll to the right, both pens were produced in various of Kraker (Michael George Company) locations, though I have not seen a Dixie made in Minnesota or Chicago, or a Yankee in Libertyville, IL.  That does not mean they were not, I just have not seen one.

On to the restoration.  My biggest problem, aside from the dirt and grime on the yellow barrel and cap, was the missing feed and nib.

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I searched through my parts bins and though I had a few nibs that may have solved the nib problem, I had no feed that fit the section well with these nibs.  So, I started to sift through my collection looking for a section that was similar in size to the Yankee section and came across this candidate below.  It is a pen I have had for probably ten years and seldom use due to its very large size of 5 7/8 inches closed.  It has no markings on it but my guess has always been that it is a National Pen Products (Chicago) pen due to the markings on the lever.  I also suspect that someone had replaced the clip at one time.

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I removed the section/feed/nib from the barrel and the sac was in good shape.  I checked my records and I had put a size 20 sac on this one in 2004.  It still seemed good to me and I tested it with water to be certain.  The fit into the Yellow Yankee barrel was perfect and now all I had to do was work on the appearance of the barrel and cap of the pen to produce a nicely restored pen.  Now I have a missing feed and nib on this pen, but Warranted 8 nibs are relatively easy to find and I will keep and eye out for the correct feed.

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I first checked the hanging pressure bar of the pen with the sac inserted and it was fully functional.  That was good enough for me, as these are difficult to get back to their proper position once removed.  If it fails to function in the future, it will be simple to remove it and replace with a long j bar.

I cleaned the outside of both the barrel and cap with Pentiques scratch remover and a dremel.  As you can see, this did the job.  I then used polish and wax to complete the job.  I also gently cleaned the nib, clip, lever, and cap band with a jewelers cloth.  The completed pen is below, measuring 5 1/2 inches capped and 6 3/4 inches posted.

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Here is the Civil War angle.  Below is this pen and below it is a Dixie that was produced a few years later in Libertyville, IL by Kraker (see this link for more information on the Dixie).  As I mentioned above, I do not have any information as to why Kraker used the Yankee and Dixie names, though it appears that the Dixie name appears later in his pen producing life.  Here is an example of two virtually identical pens, produced 104 miles apart that carried different names.  Libertyville was Southwest of Grand Haven, but certainly not in the heart of Dixie.  There is a series of articles appearing in the fine magazine produced by the The Pen Collectors of America – The Pennant – that is written by two very knowledgeable Kraker collectors, which may shed more light on the naming of his pens.  Until then, it is fun to see the variations.

The two photos below show the Yankee / Grand Haven, MI and Dixie / Libertyville, IL pens next to each other.  They are unmistakeably Michael – George (Kraker) pens, with the differently colored cap and barrel ends, single cap bands, and distinctive clip.

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Here is a closeup of the clean imprint, with the typical large first and last letters.

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Finally, the replacement Warranted No. 8 large nib, taken from the blue marbled National Pen shown above.

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Kraker pens in the late 1920s presented a large number of variations, and pens that are colorful and well made.

August 4, 2010 Posted by | Dixie Fountain Pens, Kraker, Yankee Pen | , , | Leave a comment

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

A Dixie In Illinois

In my post of August 1, 2008, A Dixie in Michigan, I discussed the repair of a very clean green marble Dixie Pen, made by George Kraker in Grand Haven, Michigan.   Kraker, whose pens I have covered from Minneapolis to Grand Haven, Michigan, and to Libertyville, IL in the following posts,

Hard Rubber Midwest Style December 7, 2007
A Yankee In Michigan January 27, 2008
Rexall Monogram February 7, 2008
A Yankee In Minnesota May 15, 2008
Belmont/Rexall And Yankee Cousins May 22, 2008
Pencraft June 1, 2008
A Dixie In Michigan August 1, 2008
Drew Pen Company October 3, 2008

was certainly a busy and transient pen maker. I even have a pen of his made in Kansas City prior to his stint in Minnesota. But that is for another time.

This pen, made in Libertyville, dates to sometime in or after 1929, the year Kraker moved there. This would seem to coincide with the marketplace. This pen is similar in color and design to the popular Mandarin Parker Duofold, which was first produced in 1927.

As you can see, the pen was a stained mess when I received it.  This is very typical of vintage yellow pens as they show all of the old ink and scratches very well.

Two things stood out with this pen.  First, the nib was not a Dixie No. 8 or a Warranted No. 8 as I have seen with these pens, but a Parker Vacuum Fill nib.  The Vacuum Fill was the pen produced by Parker around 1933 between the Parker Golden Arrow and eventually the Vacumatic.  Thus the nib is a bit rare and unusual .  I don’t know when it was put on the pen, but it was not recently.  The entire pen was caked inside and out with greenish ink residue, which also is found all over the nib.  Also, the nib and Parker feed are perfect matches for the section and fit snugly, exposing just the right amount of nib.  Resale on the Vacuum Fill nib would be attractive, but for now I think I will keep it with the pen.

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Another piece of evidence that the nib / feed / section have been on the pen for a while was the fact that when I eventually got the section out of the barrel, the sac and pressure bar were still inside and both came out with quite a bit of work and were completely shot.  The sac was very hard and in may pieces and the bar was corroded and brittle.

Below, is a photograph of the pen after I was able to take the section out.  One should always be careful in removing the section with pens, but yellow pens seem to be very brittle and certainly will show any stress cracks that might develop during this process, if care is not taken.

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I spent several days working on the inside and outside of this pen, attempting to remove all of the old scratches and stains.  It was quite a challenge.  I used my ultrasonic cleaner and then many qtips, towels, dental picks, and polishes to attempt to clean it up.  The threads were particularly difficult, but I was able to get them completely clean using Ink Nix and a toothbrush.

I installed a new j-bar and a size 18 sac and reinstalled the Vacuum Fill Nib.  Tested with water, it performs well.

Here are pictures of the pen after completed.  It measures 5 1/2 inches capped.

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The imprint reads:

DixiE

NON-BREAKABLE

LIBERTYVILLE, ILL. – PAT.

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Finally, here is a picture of two of my Dixie Pens, one from Michigan and one from Illinois.  Both are in less common finishes.  Considered third-tier imitation pens, they perform well and are all part of the pen trail of George Kraker.

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November 26, 2008 Posted by | Dixie Fountain Pens, Kraker, Parker Vacuum Fill | , | 2 Comments

A Dixie in Michigan

In previous posts – A Yankee in Minnesota and A Yankee in Michigan, I have discussed the restoration of two George Kraker pens. Here is another one, a DixiE, made in Grand Haven, Michigan. This is the location that Kraker moved to after Minnesota and prior to his move to Libertyville, IL.

I wonder if he had a thing for the Civil War…Yankee Pens and then Dixie Pens.

Here is a picture of the Dixie after I have taken it apart. There was no j – bar inside the pen which leads me to believe that it had been taken apart at some point, though the sac remains were inside the barrel, as you can see. This remains a mystery. You can also see that the jade green color has held up quite well over the years.

I knocked the nib and feed out of the section thoroughly cleaned them. The nib and feed went in the ultrasonic cleaner and the section was cleaned with a qtip and water. The cap had some ink residue in it and I also cleaned this with water and qtips. A new j-bar was installed (large size) and a size 18 sac fit nicely on to the section/feed/nib and into the barrel. Remember to put a bit of pure talc on the sac for good measure.

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Here is a picture of the completed pen, which measures 5 3/8 inches closed. It is roughly the same size as several similar pens of the period. I have a Diamond Medal and Blue Ribbon which are very similar in size and color.

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The nib is a large Dixie Number 8. I like the fact that this pen has a proprietary nib and not just a Warranted 14K Number 8.

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The imprint is also very well preserved. This is a nice example of a relatively rare Dixie made in Grand Haven, Michigan.

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Keeping an eye open for some of these Kraker Pens (Pencraft, Dixie, Yankee..) can yield some very nice pens at reasonable prices.

August 1, 2008 Posted by | Dixie Fountain Pens, Kraker, Yankee Pen | , | 3 Comments

   

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