Fountain Pen Restoration

This One Is For You, Dennis

I just received sad news that a friend and fellow collector Dennis Bowden passed away yesterday.  Dennis was a wonderful man, deeply interested in fountain pens, their preservation, and their history.  We traded information regularly and shared a keen interest in Kraker pens and their sometimes mysterious past.  Dennis was always willing to answer a question or trade theories, without ever getting involved in arguments or conflicts that other collectors generated.  He was always the voice of steady reason and just wanted to search out historical information, with the understanding that even if we never find all the facts, the hunt is the fun.  His passing has saddened me, and maybe another collector had it right when he said ~ “these are just pens”.

I looked through my repair queue today and found the perfect pen to restore today – a pen that Dennis would have liked – an early 20s Minnesota Pen Company – Winter Robbins.   George M. Kraker and his Minnesota Pen Company produced these pens, presumably for the Winter – Robbins Stores.  I recently ran into a Minneapolis / St. Paul pen expert who confirmed to me that Winter Robbins was a Twin Cities store.  I have collected several of their pens over the years and I know that Dennis had a few as well.   So Dennis, this one is for you.

Here is a photo of the pen after I took it apart.  It is a lever filler, using the distinctive Lotz lever, common to his early pens.  As you can see, the old sac came out in just a few large pieces.

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As this is a BCHR (Black Chased Hard Rubber) pen, I kept all of the pieces away from its enemy – water.  I scraped the section to remove all remnants of the old sac and adhesive.  I also cleaned the feed gently with water and scraped the channels clear with an x-acto knife.  I used metal polish on the Warranted No. 3 nib and it looks as good as new.  Many of Kraker’s early Minnesota pens have cheap furniture, but the Winter Robbins pens often can be found with gold bands.  This one has a very wide gold band that is clear, presumably engraving could have been included.

The completed pen is below.  It measures a long 5 9/16 inches capped and 6 3/4 inches posted and is quite wide as well.

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Below is the logo on the Hard Rubber, reading

MINNESOTA

WINTER ROBBINS CO.

ST. PAUL,  —-  PAT’D

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An additional photo of a Winter Robbins pen can be seen in my post dated December 7, 2007 – Hard Rubber Midwest Style.  Several other posts relate to George Kraker and his pens and can be referenced by clicking on Kraker links in the Blogroll to the right of this post.

The only blemishes on this pen are the fact that the barrel has started to turn brown as these old hard rubber pens are prone to do, and there is a small chip on the reverse side of the cap, near the cap band.  I filled the pen up with Sheaffer  Peacock Blue and the pen writes well.  I will use it for this week in memory of my friend.

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December 11, 2010 Posted by | Dennis Bowden, George M. Kraker, Hard Rubber Pen, Kraker, Minnesota Pens, Winter - Robbins | , , , | 3 Comments

A Yankee in Minnesota

In my post of January 27, 2007, titled A Yankee in Michigan, I repaired and discussed a Yankee Pen made by a George Kraker pen company in Grand Haven, Michigan. In that post, I mentioned that I had a Yankee Pen from Minnesota. Well, two weeks ago, I came across another Yankee Pen, from the Minneapolis Pen Company. The clip on this one is the same as the clip used by Kraker in Michigan and on the Monogram Pen discussed on February 7. Having read several expert opinions, I am quite confident that the Minneapolis Pen Company and the Yankee Pen that I am restoring here is another Kraker product. I would place the date in the early 1920s after he left Kansas City and prior to Grand Haven, MI.

The picture below is of the pen after being taken apart. The sac had reduced to a fine dust. As you can see, the hard rubber chasing is in excellent shape, as is the color and imprint. the nib and feed were very dirty and needed to be scraped (feed) and cleaned. The nib is a nice Warranted 14K with no size number. The section needed to be scraped to remove all signs of the previous sac.

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I installed a size 16 sac and the pen works fine. Below are pictures of the restored pen closed and posted.

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I want to point out the unique lever. This lever is one that appears on many Kraker pens of the period. The first photo below is the lever of this pen. You can also see the same lever on a Winter Robbins pen, featured in my post of December 7 of last year, titled Hard Rubber Midwest Style.

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Finally, here is another pen, a Drew Pen Company (St. Paul, MN) with the same lever again. It would lead me to believe that Kraker may have been involved in some way with the manufacture of several of these pens.

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May 15, 2008 Posted by | Drew Pen Company, Hard Rubber Pen, Kraker, Minneapolis Pen, Minnesota Pens, Monogram Fountain Pens, Winter - Robbins, Yankee Pen | , , | Leave a comment

Moore – Welty Cooperative Fountain Pen

William Welty has appeared in two of my posts, with his appearance here. It is a tribute to his resilience and persistence in the face of economic and business pressures. These were due to attempting to start and sustain a small size fountain pen company in the Midwest during a time of intense competition from bigger companies and the never ending needs of additional capital and legal battles from the likes of the Conklin Pen Company.

My first mention of Welty was in my post of December 12, 2007 where I restored an Evans Hump Filler pen. That was a pen dating to approximately 1915, a few years before this pen. As you can read in that post, after Welty won his lawsuit against Conklin, he was in need of additional funding and brought in Evans as a partner in the Evans Pen Company. After this he also entered into a relationship with the Moore Pen Company of Boston, MA to produce the Servo, or Moore-Servo pen. This is an example of a pen made in the short time that Welty and Moore were together, before Moore took over the line completely.

Eventually, Welty left Waterloo and headed for Chicago, where he again started up the Welty Pen Company. It was the final move for Welty and the Company seems to have remained there into the 1950s. At the end of this post I will show a picture of a Welty Chicago fountain Pen.

Here is a photo of the dismantled Servo Fountain Pen, which was probably produced sometime after 1917 in conjunction with Moore. The unique Welty Filler Patent can be found by clicking here.

As you can see, the lever is reverse to most lever fillers and opens from front to back. It is a hooked shape lever that attaches to a pressure bar which is under the sac (not above as in most lever fillers). A detailed view of this filler can be seen in the patent link in blue above.

Here is a picture of the pen reduced to its parts. The lever and pressure bar can be seen at the top and end of the barrel. You can see the end of the lever pointing to the front of the pen, ready to be pulled up and toward the back , thus lifting the lever from the bottom of the barrel, compressing the sac.

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This was a relatively simple repair. I cleaned up the old sac remnants from the section, using an x-acto knife. I then cleaned the section with a q-tip, removing all of the old ink. I then cleaned the feed and nib. The feed with water and dental pic in the channel. The nib (14K) using a dremel and simichrome. The nib is a 14K Servo No. 2.

The reverse lever is not gold, and I was able to remove the tarnish with simichrome and a lot of rubbing with a soft cloth. I attached a number 16 silicon sac to the section/feed/nib and inserted it in a different manner due to this unique lever/pressure bar. I held the pen with the lever on top so that the bar released to the bottom of the barrel and slid the sac assembly between the top lever and the bottom, where the bar rests. Now, when the lever is lifted, the bar will be pulled up to compress the sac. This is contrary to the standard lever filler where lifting the lever pushes the bar down into the sac.

Water testing was successful – no leaks and a steady flow of water after filling.

Here is the finished product, followed by the unique imprint showing the largest geographic distance I can remember on a fountain pen imprint.

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As I mentioned earlier in the post, William Welty eventually left Waterloo, IA and headed northeast to Chicago. Here is a picture of a later Welty pen, from Chicago.

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April 26, 2008 Posted by | Evans Pen Company, Hard Rubber Pen, Moore Pen, Servo Fountain Pen, Waterloo, Welty Pen Company | , , , | 2 Comments

Lakeside Thumb Flller

The pen I worked on this week is a Lakeside “thumb filler”. I will call it a thumb filler, though there is not a sleeve on the barrel that protects the bar which is inside the thumb hole. You can see the components, prior to repair, below. The top three items are the barrel, internal sleeve, and pressure bar which will sit atop the sac inside the sleeve. The sleeve is made of brass or similar metal and the barrel and cap of black chased hard rubber (BCHR).

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In a previous post (12/11/07) I talked about a Lakeside pen that was one of the fountain pen brands of Montgomery Wards. I am less certain about this pen. In the early 1900s there was another Chicago based retailer of various items, Lapp & Flershem, that had brand pens by the names of Banner, Lakeside, and Remington. Lapp & Flershem went out of business in 1922. I do not know if there was a relationship between the two companies either before or after the end of Lapp and Flershem.

Thus, I am not sure who made this pen (National Pen Products / Chicago) and where they were sold (Montgomery Ward, Lapp & Flershem). If someone has some insight, I would appreciate a comment to this post to educate us all. To me, that is half the fun of vintage pens – unraveling their pasts.

Here is a closeup of the imprint. The shading on the BCHR leads me to believe there was a small cover for the thumb hole at one time.

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The restoration involved cleaning the pressure bar, nib feed and section completely. I also polished the internal sleeve, though it is not visible. It now shines and is a brass color. I put the nib, feed and section back together and attached a size 18 sac to the section with sac cement. After drying overnight I placed the pressure bar on to the top of the sac and slid the sleeve over the bar and sac. The pressure bar sits on the sac below where the sac attached to the section to allow free movement when pressed and to allow the sleeve to fit to the section. The barrel is then screwed into the section, being careful to align the pressure bar with the barrel thumb hole.

Below is the finished product – water tested and ready to write.

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Just for fun, I thought I would post a modern version of this old filling system. In 2001, the Ohio (USA) based fountain pen manufacturer, Bexley, produced a sleeve filler. I was able to acquire one of these last year and replaced the sac.

Here is a picture of this new version of an old filler. It is fun when one of these old systems is brought back.

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The total cost for the Lakeside pen was about 10% of the modern Bexley. Both are nice pens, but it shows that you can obtain quality pens that write well (and with flex) at an attractive price. The restoration and history lessons are an added bonus.

April 18, 2008 Posted by | Hard Rubber Pen, Lakeside Pens, Montgomery Ward | , | 2 Comments

Houston Pen Company

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 sketchy history aside, I am an avid collector of these pens and am always on the lookout, especially for the Houston branded pens. I recently came across this Houston (Sioux City) pen. It is unique in two ways. First, most of the pens that I have from Houston / Snapfil / Jiffy have smaller No. 2 or 4 size nibs. This pen is quite a bit larger and has a very large No. 7 nib with the Houston imprint. Secondly, this pen came with complete box and instruction pamphlet. I have included a picture of the pen, instructions, and box lid below.

Many of these pens came with a chatelaine hook (or “safety device”) on the end of a chain which is explained in the brochure. This was a way to fasten the pen to one’s clothing for easy access. It is a very distinctive addition to many of the Houston and Snapfil pens.

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Here is a nice closeup of the large No. 7 nib after cleaning up the section, feed, and nib. As this is an eyedropper fill, there is little maintenance to be done, other than knocking out these and cleaning gently. The BCHR has not discolored very much and, as I mention in earlier posts, I do not like to re-blacken BCHR.

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Finally, a closeup of the Houston imprint and the finished pen. Closed, this pen is a large 6 1/4 inches long. Note the fairly clean gold decorative band. This pen has survived quite well. In future posts, I will discuss a Snapfil and Jiffy restoration.

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Houston pens produced in Tracy, Minnesota do exist, though I do not have one in my collection. I am always on the lookout for one of these early examples of Mr. Houston’s work prior to moving to Iowa.

April 10, 2008 Posted by | Hard Rubber Pen, Houston Pen Company, Jiffy Fountain Pens, Sioux City, Snapfil | | 3 Comments

Webster Fountain Pens

Webster pens were a brand sold through Sears stores and catalogs in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Here is an example of a catalog page with a selection of pens, including Websters from the Spring of 1924. This exact pen is not there, but many BCHR (black chased hard rubber) pens similar to it appear.

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Additional information on Store Sold Pens appears in a post that I wrote on December 11, 2007.

I finally had some time to take this pen apart and it was no easy task. The section was very stubborn and I actually had to walk away from the pen yesterday and come back and try again this evening. Finally, the heat worked and the section came out with no cracks. Here is the result of the extraction of the sac and lever. Both would need to be replaced and I used a new j-bar and size 16 sac. The gold polished up well and the Warranted 4 nib has some flex to it.

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The restored pen looks quite good and this is a bit surprising to me. The insides of the pen were quite dirty and the sac/pressure bar were a mess, but the exterior trim, rubber chasing, and imprints are almost mint.
It must have been stored very carefully for many years. As a collector, I am very thankful for this, and wish it happened more often.

Here is a picture if the finished product and side imprint. The SR on the logo stands for Sears and Roebuck.

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March 1, 2008 Posted by | Hard Rubber Pen, Sears, Webster Pen | , | 5 Comments

Put Your Loose Change Here

Today’s restoration was a Bankers Coin Filler Pen. I found this one about two years ago on eBay and left it in its original condition. I recently decided to finish the restoration and take a few interesting pictures. When I first came upon the pen, the coin fill feature was the main attraction. These pens are filled by taking a coin and pressing it into the slot in the barrel. This depresses a bar which presses against the sac, compressing it. When the coin is released, the sac fills and the ink releases up into the sac from the bottled ink. In a future post, I will show a matchstick fill pen that simply replaces the coin slot with a round hole into which a hard wooden matchstick fits.

This pen is also interesting in that it took me a little time and some outside help to determine a little history behind the pen. When I began researching and asking questions, I received a few pieces of interesting information. First, the address on the pen is One Madison Avenue, New York. A quick search reveals that tis location was built by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in 1909 and remained the tallest building in the world until 1913, when it was surpassed by the Woolworth Building. Further information can be found in a New York Times Article here.

Back to the pen. I went to Lion and Pen, on the web, which is a website that specializes in fountain pens and their history and asked if anyone had additional information on this pen. Several responses came back and were extremely helpful to me in determining who might have made this pen and at what point in time.

The feed gives a very large clue. Julius Schnell was a pen barrel maker that made barrels for many pen companies, including Sheaffer and Conklin. During testimony in a trial as a witness, he divulged much information about his business, and one such morsel was that he made parts for Bankers near 1911 and forward. The patent for the feed that is pictured below can be found here.

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So, I feel comfortable in stating that this pen was made with parts provided by Julius Schnell sometime after 1910 in New York. I do not know who made the nib, but as you can see, it is a Bankers No. 2 14K Gold, with a distinctive “heart” hole.

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The pressure bars for these pens were most probably made by Duryea of Hackensack, New Jersey. Bankers assembled all of these pieces together and sold them under the Bankers name that appears on the pen. This was not unusual at the time, especially for many of the smaller pen companies.

Restoration was easy. I heated the section and removed it from the barrel. I then knocked out the feed (Schnell) and nib and cleaned them off – the feed with water and a good scrub as well as cleaning the channels with a dental pick to clean out any residual ink. The section was cleaned of ink using water and a q-tip. The pressure bar on the inside of the barrel was in good shape and did not need to be replaced. If it had, I would have used a standard size j-bar. A size 16 sac was secured to the section with sac cement and the section/feed/nib assembly was inserted back into the barrel.

As you can see from the pictures, the cap and barrel have turned brown from age. This happens to Black Hard Rubber (BHR). The chasing is still quite distinct, but the discoloration is very evident when the cap is removed and the hard rubber that was protected by the cap shows its original black color. There is disagreement in the fountain pen collecting community over whether this discoloration should be reversed when a pen is restored. I chose not to do so with my old hard rubber pens. It should be noted that there are products available and restoration professionals that do provide this service. I feel it is a personal decision and the examples I have seen of reblackened pens are stunning. My only concern would be that any reblackened pens should be disclosed as having had this treatment.

Here are a few before and after pictures.

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The nib has quite a bit of flex to it and I find that the coin that works the best in the slot is a dime. Just always remember to have a few handy. Just a few years short of a century old, this pen is back in “circulation” (I couldn’t resist the coin pun).

January 8, 2008 Posted by | Bankers, Bankers Pen Company, Hard Rubber Pen, Schnell Pens | , | Leave a comment

Waterloo, Iowa Fountain Pens

This is an interesting pen and filler. It is an Evans Pen, dating to around 1916, manufactured in Waterloo, IA by the Evans Pen Company. William Welty started the Welty Pen Company in Waterloo near 1904 and patented his first “hump filler” in 1906. As you can see, it is very similar to the familiar Conklin Crescent Filler. In fact, Conklin sued Welty over this, with Welty eventually winning. In 1915 Welty, constantly in search of additional funding, accepted funding from Patrick Evans and the Company name was changed to Evans. They produced “dollar pens” such as this one for a period of time in Waterloo, and also produced parts and pens to other pen companies, though this information is sketchy.

From a restoration standpoint this was fun, as I enjoy working on different types of filling mechanisms. I had restored a couple of crescent fillers and the method was the same. Once the section and nib (an original Evans) were removed and cleaned, I removed the “hump” bar which protrudes through the slot in the body of the pens, and is secured by the turning ring. The bar was badly pitted and discolored but cleaned up quite nicely. I also removed the old sac remnants. Here is a picture of the hump filler, and the original patent and drawing can be seen here.

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The BCHR body and cap were in fairly good condition, considering the condition of the rest of the pen. They required no work at all. I fit a size 16 sac to the feed and reinserted the feed/nib into the pen after placing the clean bar into the body. When the outside locking ring is turned to allow for the bar to be pressed, this allows the sac to compress and then expand to accept ink as the bar is released.

Here is a picture of the finished product.

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I have not used this pen yet, having restored it about a year ago. It is another example of an interesting small Midwestern pen manufacturer that carved out a niche for itself, albeit for a short time period.

December 12, 2007 Posted by | Evans Pen Company, Hard Rubber Pen, Welty Pen Company | , , , | 3 Comments

   

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