Fountain Pen Restoration

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

Drew Pen Company

I decided to take a break from pen restoration to share some old newspaper advertisements that I purchased recently and tie them to some pens I have in my collection.  I enjoy looking for ephemera that relates to pen history and the advertisements below are an interesting look back.

Drew Pens were produced in St. Paul, Minnesota in the 1920s, probably by George Kraker, though I have no written proof of this.  I discussed them and their unique lever (Lotz)  in my post A Yankee in Minnesota (May 15, 2008)

The clip on the pen is also the same one as seen on several Kraker pens seen in many posts throughout the past year.

The pen shown below is a very nicer Black Chased Hard Rubber (BCHR) Drew Lever Filler.   I have had it for several years.  An interesting part of this pen is that the gold bands were put on the pen, over the imprint.  I am not sure why, but they were clearly not on all Drew pens and somewhat of an afterthought. The pen has a very nice Warranted No. 5 nib (fine).

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Below, are three panels.  The first shows page 12 of an unknown newspaper advertisement for Drew Pens.  The second and third are simply close ups of the first, separated to get a closer look.

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The advertisement is an eye catcher.  $1,000 cash (assuming you upgrade to Class A by purchasing a pen for $5) was a lot of money in the 1920s.  Judges were honorable (“honest and impartial”):  A doctor, a teacher, and a bank president!  Clearly we were a few years ahead of the crash of 1929, and the bank president was still well respected.

The pen on the left appears to be the same one that I have, above.  Thus, we can place production of this pen in 1922, or earlier.

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Searching for this type of fountain pen related material is a lot of fun and often sheds light on the history of a pen in your collection.  In this instance, it gave me a date of production that I would not have known without reading the contest deadline.

Finally, if you get bored you can begin to count the C’s.  Let’s see — canary, cutlery, clown……..

October 3, 2008 Posted by | Drew Pen Company, Kraker | , | 3 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

Pencraft

Last week’s post – Belmont/Rexall and Yankee Cousins – was about two pens that were nearly identical, but made with different imprints; one for a Kraker Company and one for Rexall Stores. This week follows a similar theme. The pen restored this week is a Pencraft, made by the Michael George Company of Libertyville, Illinois. The Michael George Company was a Company owned by George M. Kraker, a man discussed in many of the posts in this blog. As you may recall, Kraker left Grand Haven, Michigan in 1929 and moved to Libertyville. I am not sure how long he was in Libertyville, but he did show up in Chicago by 1938. In Libertyville, he produced pens for Rexall and under his own Pencraft, Dixie and possibly other names.

This pen came to me in typically discolored condition.

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As you can see, the pen is a typical lever filler that needed to be cleaned from top to bottom. Interestingly, this one came with no lever on the inside. Someone had previously taken it apart, but had not finished the restoration. I cleaned the nib with simichrome and an ultrasonic cleaner and also scraped the section to remove remnants of the old sac.

I inserted a new j-bar and size 16 sac and the resulting pen is shown below.

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Below is the imprint showing the Pencraft and Libertyville, Ill. location.

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And the Pencraft “30″ 14K nib.

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Finally, this pen above the pen restored in my February 7 post – Rexall Monogram – in which I surmised the Monogram pen below (sold at Rexall Stores) was made by Kraker, prior to the contract with Rexall expiring.

Based on the similarity of the two pens, I may have been on the right track.

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June 1, 2008 Posted by | Kraker, Monogram Fountain Pens, Pencraft Pens, Rexall, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

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

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

Rexall Monogram

Monogram pens have been discussed briefly in a few earlier posts. They were a house brand of pen for Rexall Drug Stores.

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At one point the contract for Monogram pens was held by George Kraker and he produced these pens at his Grand Haven, MI location and possibly in Libertyville, IL and Minneapolis, MN. Here is a picture of a mottled Monogram that I have had for quite some time. It carries the distinctive Kraker clip and opaque morroon cap top. It has a Monogram 14K nib and a Lotz’ patented lever, which is a Kraker product.

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The pen that I have worked on over the past few days is a Monogram with a clip that is very similar to the Kraker Company clips, though in gold. It is a marbled white and black plastic that is an excellent example of what happens when an ink sac and ink deteriorate inside a barrel and cap over the course of seventy years. Here is a picture of the pen after I took it apart. Three things are interesting to me. First, the discoloration is very pronounced on on the barrel and the condition of the sac can explain the thorough discoloration. Unfortunately, this discoloration can not be reversed. Second, the pressure bar is different from many lever fillers that you see. It is not a traditional jbar type bar, but a round base that sits against the end of the barrel with a hook on it which attaches to the bar. It is in surprisingly good shape and I will be able to reuse it. All that will be needed for this restoration will be a new sac. Third, I like the addition of the tiered black ends of the cap and barrel. This is a nice touch.

I went in search of information on the pressure bar mechanism and was told that this was a pressure bar system that is common to Kraker Company Pens and also some National Pen Products Pens (Chicago). The research response also indicated that this Monogram pen was very similar to a Pencraft Pen. Pencraft Pens were made by the Michael – George Company (Kraker). So, I am going to say that this pen was made by Kraker prior to Rexall moving the contract away from him.

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The actual repair for this involved the usual thorough cleaning. I made sure that all of the sac remnants and ink residue was removed from both the cap and barrel to stop the discoloration process for good. I also installed a silicone sac after cleaning the section/feed/nib. I was able to reinstall the pressure bar and base and the lever opens and closes easily and cleanly. Even though the pen has discolored, I polished it and worked out all of the spots from the gold clip, trim rings and lever. Though not a perfect representation of what the pen looked like when it sat on the drug store shelf in the 20s or 30s, it functions well and the 14K Monogram nib writes with a firm medium line.

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Instead of discoloration, I prefer to say that it has “character“.

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Edit 1-14-13: Mike H. sent me this photo of a matching pencil to this Monogram.  Thank you Mike!
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February 7, 2008 Posted by | Kraker, Monogram Fountain Pens, Rexall | , , | 3 Comments

A Yankee in Michigan

I recently purchased this Yankee Pen and restored it this week. The transformation was dramatic. I became interested in Yankee Pens after finding one that was produced in Minnesota by George Kraker in the early 1920s. I talked about Kraker in my post of December 7, 2007. He produced Kraker Pens in Kansas City, was sued by Walter Sheaffer, moved to Minnesota (in the early 1920s) and began to produce pens there. After a stint in Minnesota, he apparently moved to Grand Haven, Michigan on or around 1923 and operated as the Michael-George Company and produced Pencraft, Yankee and Dixie Pens. He also had a contract during this period to produce pens for other companies, including Monogram Pens for Rexall Stores.

The more of these pens I run across, the more I see the resemblance of the clips, levers, filling systems, and barrel parts. The imprint on this pen states ” NON BREAKABLE”, a phrase seen also on Belmont and Monogram Pens, made for Rexall.

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Here is a picture of the Yankee Pen after I reduced it to its base parts.

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It has a clip that is very similar to many other Kraker Pens, as well as the red plastic cap top that I have also seen on some Monogram pens.

This pen was very dirty and stained, inside and out. I cleaned each part thoroughly. The nib (Warranted 14K) was cleaned and polished with simichrome and then placed in the ultrasonic cleaner. The old nib remnants were scraped off of the section and it was cleaned with water and a q-tip. The feed was cleaned by soaking and cleaning the channels with a dental pick. Be careful to make sure these old feed ink channels are clear. As you can see, the sac was reduced to dust and a new size 16 was used. The inside of the cap was caked with old dried ink and I use q-tips repeatedly to remove this. This is often overlooked in pen restoration, but is important to producing a clean pen that will not stain in the future. The “Kraker” clip was very tarnished, but after many sessions of simichrome, it shines. I was lucky as this clip was not gold plated, so there was no problem in vigorously working out the stains. The lever was also very dirty and it took some time to restore its shine.

The pressure bar was not salvageable, so I used a long jbar, which fit in the barrel after a little crimping to get it in the long narrow barrel. The black finish on the exterior cleaned up nicely after I applied a regimen of stain remover, polish and carnuba wax. Here is the finished product – a Yankee Pen, produced in Grand Haven, Michigan (c 1924-29).

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Be on the lookout for Yankee, Dixie, Pencraft, Kraker, Michael-George, Drew, and Rexall Store Pens of this period. They may just be relatives of this pen – produced by George Kraker during his various business ventures in the midwest during the teens, twenties and thirties. I am currently restoring a Monogram which I will cover in the next post, which I believe he made in Libertyville, IL after he left Grand Haven. Stay tuned…

January 27, 2008 Posted by | Kraker, Rexall, Yankee Pen | , , | 6 Comments

Hard Rubber Midwest Style

Last night I restored a two vintage Minnesota Pens. I suspect both were manufactured in the 1920s. Who manufactured them is an interesting topic for discussion. A link to further discussion and speculation can be found here -

Kraker Discussion

The discussion takes many twists and turns and a few pictures of my pens appear.

First, I restored a Brown and Bigelow Ringtop lever-filler. The material is a mottled hard rubber. As with most of these, all that was required was removal of the old sac remains, a check of the lever – pressure bar mechanism and a replacement sac. I also cleaned up the Redipoint nib and feed. The result is pictured below.

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I used some white crayon to highlight the imprint for photo purposes.

The next pen was a BHR (black hard rubber) Winter-Robbins Minnesota Pen. This is the second one of these in my collection of Minnesota Pens. The restoration process was the same as the above pen and no problems were encountered. The discoloration of the Black Hard Rubber is very slight. This can be a big problem for many of these old BHR and BCHR pens. A larger discussion within the hobby is whether or not to attempt to reverse this process. There are a few products out there and the results can be stunning. I tend to think that these pens should be left in the condition they are found in terms of hard rubber, but I am not as militant in my stance as many. It is an issue that can be quite polarizing, to experts in the fountain pen community.

Here is a picture of the finished product.

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The lever on this pen is interesting. It is a lever attributable to a patent issued to R. W. Lotz, a Chicago Attorney in 1918. This lever appears on Kraker pens, Drew(MN) pens, and several others that lead one to believe that George Kraker may have been involved in the manufacture of these. Much more information can be found in the link at the top of this post. I have a notebook filled with notes on these connections. When I get some time, I would like to learn more about Minnesota Corporate records and where to gather more information. But for now, two restored hard rubber ringtops are back in action., and at close to the condition they were in 80 years ago.

December 7, 2007 Posted by | Brown & Bigelow, Kraker, Minnesota Pens, Winter - Robbins | , , , | 2 Comments

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