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

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

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

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 | , , | 4 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

   

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