Fountain Pen Restoration

Another Yankee Surprise

A pen friend jokingly suggested that maybe I should change the name of this to Kraker Fountain Pen Restoration. I do apologize for the frequent post on these related pens and ephemera, but I keep finding them and other collectors tend to alert me to their existence.  I keep thinking that I have seen most of the variants that I want to, and then another pops up, like the one in this post.  Back on November 1, 2010 I wrote about a Yankee Pen that I restored for a fellow collector – Moore Tuscan And A Yankee Surprise II – that had the first Yankee nib that I had seen.  This week’s pen provides the second.

Below is a photo of the pen after I took it apart.  You can see that the sac was in one piece, though hardened.  Also, there is significant staining around the threads on the barrel where the cap sits.  This is very typical of vintage pens as the ink finds its way into the cap and then to these threads.

Also, the cap band is missing – a sad thing – as the color on this pen is very very good.

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A reader asked if I would post a few action photos, so I will do so in some coming posts.  This week I will show three related to the feed and section.   After taking the pen apart, I cleaned off the old sac remnants from the section nipple.  You can see this process in the first photo below.  I first use an exacto knife to do this over the entire area.  Be careful not to be too aggressive as you do not want to damage the nipple, which will force you to find another…  After this step, I take some sand paper and further sand off the remnants to make a perfectly smooth surface to cement the new sac to.

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I then cleaned the feed.  I first wipe it down, cleaning the old ink and dirt from the outside.  I then take a knife and gently clean out the channels of the feed.  You will be surprised how much old ink and grime comes out of these channels.  Be careful not to damage the channels.  Typically there are smaller channels within the large channel seen.

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Skipping back to the section, I then clean the inside with a q tip and water, dipping the q tip in the water and swabbing the inside of the section.  This will take several q tips, especially for a pen that has been used often.  It is interesting to find out what ink was used last in the pen.   You can see that this one was black.

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After these steps, I reinserted the polished nib and cleaned feed back into the dry and clean section.  I then attached a size 18 sac to the section and let it dry.  Shifting to the cap and barrel, I polished them with scratch remover and polish.   There were the standard surface scratches, but you can see that the color was excellent.  I am not sure why, as these green celluloid pens usually discolor over time, but not this one.  I also spent considerable time on the barrel threads, removing the old ink stains from the inside of the cap.  The inside of the cap also was cleaned to remove all traces of old ink to prevent this from reoccurring.

Here is the finished pen, a mid 1920s Yankee, produced by the Michael George Co. (George Kraker) of Grand Haven, Michigan.  I am searching for a matching cap band and when I find one, this will be the pen I put it on, due to its excellent color.

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Measurements are 5 3/8 inches closed and 6 3/4 inches posted.

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A clean, crisp imprint with the familiar Non-Breakable claim.

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The highlight of this pen is the nib.  It is the second Yankee nib I have seen, and a much larger No. 8.   The down side is that the tip is chipped and in need of replacement iridium.  I am not sure if I want to spring for this, but given the uniqueness of the nib, I might be tempted.

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Kraker also produced a Green Dixie in Grand Haven, with a large Dixie No. 8 nib in Grand Haven.  Photos of this pen can be seen here in my post of August 1, 2008, titled – A Dixie in Michigan.

I won’ t link to all of the articles that I have written on these Kraker related pens, but if you are interested, just click on Kraker, Yankee, Dixie, Belmont, or Pencraft in the Blogroll on the right of this page.  Quite an interesting time line and assortment of pens and brands (at least to me).

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June 14, 2011 Posted by | George M. Kraker, Kraker, Yankee Pen | , | 2 Comments

Moore Tuscan And A Yankee Surprise (Part II)

If you read my post of last week (Moore Tuscan And A Yankee), you will remember that I recently received two fountain pens from a collector friend in Michigan, with the request to restore two family heirlooms.  The first restoration was a Moore Tuscan, and that was an honor to work on, and a beautiful pen resulted.  The next pen, and the subject of this post, is an old favorite, a Yankee Pen, from Grand Haven Michigan.  I restored and written about several of these over the past four years.  Here are a few, for reference.  Also, any posts (search at right) covering Pencraft, Belmont, or Dixie would be related to this pen.

A Yankee In Michigan – January 27, 2008

A Yankee in Minnesota – May 15, 2008

A Yankee In Chicago – February 18, 2010

You can see from the photo below that this lever filler had a hanging pressure bar, common to many Kraker models of the day.  The sac had hardened and the bar was loose and not attached to the end piece.  I cleaned the gold trim ~ clip, lever and nib ~ being careful not to get any polish on the black hard rubber.  I scraped the section, removing all remnants of the old sac and reinserted the nib/feed to the cleaned section.  I attached a size 18 sac to the section/feed/nib assembly and fit it back into the barrel, where a new large j-bar had been inserted.  The whole mechanism works fine as I tested it with water and let it sit overnight.

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Here are two photos of the completed pen, capped and uncapped.  It is a large pen, 5 1/2 inches capped and 6 3/4 inches posted.

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Here is the imprint, very crisp and clean.  As discussed many times in the past, the Michael George Company was named for its owner,  George Michael Kraker, the movable pen maker, with stops in Kansas City, Minneapolis, Chicago, Grand Haven (MI) and Libertyville (IL).  I would speculate that this pen was produced in Grand Haven in the mid to late 20s, around the time of the Tuscan pen that belongs to this owner.

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Many of the Kraker Pens I have repaired have colored (red or yellow) ends on the caps and/or barrels.  I have not seen one with screw out ends, however.  Here is a close up of the barrel end.  Unfortunately, the cap end is missing.  If anyone has access to an one, let me know as I would like to get it in the hands of the owner.

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Now for the Surprise …..  the nib is a Yankee 2.  I have seen Warranted, Forever, Pencraft and Dixie nibs on Kraker Pens of this era, but never a Yankee nib.  I checked with another Kraker collector and he confirmed that he had not seen one either.  Clearly they exist, as evidenced by this nib.  I would love to hear from anyone who has photos of other Yankee nibs and their supporting pens.

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So, like the Moore Tuscan restored in the previous post, this pen is now back in Michigan where it was originally assembled.  I was lucky to have had the chance to handle both of them and get a few photographs before they left my workbench.

November 1, 2010 Posted by | Kraker, Yankee Pen | , , | 3 Comments

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

A Yankee In Chicago

I understand if you are growing tired of these Yankee in …. articles. Every time that I write one, I think it is my last. I have already detailed the restoration of Yankee Pens from Minnesota, and Grand Haven, Michigan in these posts from two years ago:

A Yankee In Michigan – January 27, 2008

A Yankee in Minnesota – May 15, 2008

Belmont Rexall And Yankee Cousins – May 22, 2008

I have not seen a Yankee in George Kraker’s next stop after Grand Haven, Michigan which was Libertyville, IL.  That doesn’t mean they do not exist, but I have not seen one.  So, after the Minnesota and Michigan articles on Yankee Pens, I thought I was done.

Then I ran across this nice little pen, a Yankee from Chicago, IL.  Given the material, Black Chased Hard Rubber (BCHR), I would place this pen in the period after Kraker left Kansas City and before he went to Michigan, in the early 1920s.  I have read that his name pops up both in Minneapolis and in Chicago during this time and this pen is a good representation of his work in Chicago.  Research from Lion and Pen historians here, indicates Michael George Co. in Chicago in 1923. (Thank you to Dennis and Jineen for their extensive Kraker work).

As you can see, the pen is a clipless lever filler.  The hanging pressure bar has broken and there is general wear.

I emptied the barrel out, including the old sac remnants and lever anchor.  I also gently polished the lever, which has a light gold wash on it.  The nib, a Warranted Number 3, was vigorously polished to its original shine.  As this is a BCHR pen, I did little other cleaning as I do not like to expose the hard rubber to any liquids or polishes.  I did clean the inside of the section and the channels of the feed prior to reassembling the section/feed/nib and a size 16 silicon sac.

The resulting pen is below.  As mentioned above, it was produced as a clipless model and measures a smallish 4 5/8″ closed and 5 7/8″ posted.

The imprint below is a common Kraker look, with the large YE.  As mentioned in the past, Michael – George Co. is the name of the Company that Kraker used, reversing his first and middle names.

The lever is the familiar Kraker lever (Lotz) that is found on many of his early pens produced in Minnesota.  I have posted photos of this lever in several previous articles for Yankees, Drew, and Winter Robbins Pens.

Here is a closeup of the 14K Warranted 3 nib which is quite flexible, as is common for the time.

Just when I thought I had finished my collection of these Midwest gems, I was fooled again when I found this pen.  Reading through the research on Kraker and his many exploits, there are still a few out there.  Does anyone have a Kleeno?

February 18, 2010 Posted by | Kraker, Yankee Pen | , , | Leave a comment

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

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

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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