Fountain Pen Restoration

Pencraft School Spirit Pens

For those of you who have followed this blog since it started eight years ago, you will know that one of my favorite topics is George Kraker and his colorful career in the fountain pen business in the 1920s.  Just click on his name in the Blogroll to the right and there are many posts regarding his pens in Minneapolis, Chicago, Kansas City, Grand Haven (MI) and Libertyville (IL).

One pen of his that has always eluded me is his bi-color, Libertyville produced, Flat Top lever filler.  The are not extremely rare, but seem to get snapped up quickly if they hit the market.

Speculation is that these were produced and marketed for the School market.  They come in several color variations and the thought is that they targeted various educational institutions  and their school colors.  This would have targeted black and gold schools.  Coincidentally, my oldest daughter is a current college student at a Black and Gold University and this will be an easy one to pass along.  I have another in college – did Kraker make an orange and blue?

Below is the pen after I took it apart.  Like all of his brands of the period (late 1920s), these were solid lever fillers.

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I spent quite a bit of this restoration, as one does with light colored pens (white, yellow etc..) cleaning the body and threads.   For the threads, I have been using a toothbrush and ink remover.  It seems to work very well, as you can see from the photo below.  I also cleaned the section and feed with gentle water and qtips, and made sure to clean the grooves in the feed with an x-acto knife.

The nib (photo below) is a nice Forever No. 3, common in many later model Kraker products.  It polished up nicely and the fit was perfect when inserted back in the barrel.  This one took a shortened size 16 sac.

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

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Here is a close up of the crisp imprint.  As a refresher, George Kraker used his first and middle names reversed as the name of his pen company when he was in Illinois and Michigan.  His full name was George Michael Kraker – thus the Michael-George Company name.  Also, Libertyville was his last stop as a major pen maker.

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Here is a close up of the Forever No. 3 nib. His various models of the period – Dixie, Yankee, Pencraft, Monogram, Minnesota, and a few others – had many different nibs – Warranted, Yankee, Dixie, Everlasting, and Forever (similar to this one).

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Finally, this pen seems to be built on the same platform that he used for many of his other pens which can all be accessed from the menu on the right.  Go Black and Gold!!

November 23, 2015 Posted by | George M. Kraker, Kraker, Pencraft Pens | , , | 5 Comments

Autumn Nib Harvest

Autumn, at least here in Minnesota (US) is a time of harvest.  The fields are abuzz with machinery gathering various crops for sale or to be stored.  So, too, it is time for me to harvest a few nibs for future use.   The three pens photographed below are, from top to bottom:

Pencraft (Kraker)/Chicago – Red Mottled Hard Rubber with Lotz Lever – circa early 1920s

Waterman 100 Year Pen – celluloid, circa 1941+

No Name Large Black/White Pearl Flat Top – circa 193os

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All of the pens were picked up over this Summer for less than $10.00 each and came with numerous structural problems.  The Pencraft is completely discolored (the red pattern is barely visible), has a cracked cap, is missing the clip, and half of the lever is missing.  The Waterman has the familiar crazing of both ends – which is all to common in these later generation 100 Year Pens, is missing the clip, and has a crack in the cap.  The no name flat top has a missing clip, and is severely discolored (common with this plastic pattern).   All three, of course, need new sacs and pressure bar overhauls.

Sometimes it is important to know when a pen is not saveable.  These are three such pens.  However, each has parts which are salvageable, and can be used in the future.  I the case of all of these, the nib/section/feed are valuable.  The rest of each pen will be saved in a parts bin in case a lever box is needed (in the case of the 100 Year).

Below are the three after I removed the section from each.  The caps and barrels were placed in what I call my reject pond, which is a large bin that contains parts that have a low probability of ever being used again.  I have dipped in it for a clip or lever on rare occasions, but it is mostly parts that are of no use to future projects.

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That leaves me with three nice section/feed/nibs units.  I knocked out each nib and feed and cleaned all three remaining nibs, feeds, and sections.  After cleaning, I reassembled the units, leaving me with three nice nibs – for now attached back to their original feeds and sections.  It remains to be seen whether they will be used together, or if I will just need a nib for an existing feed and section.  Below are the cleaned and polished units, waiting for a mate.

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Details of each ~

Pencraft No. 3 – Chicago – damaged tip with no iridium, but a fairly rare imprint

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Waterman No. 18 100 Year Pen

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Warranted No. 6

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Additionally, for those interested in estimated values of nibs, a site that I frequent is at nibs.com.

So, next time you see a glass, box or tray of beat up old pens, don’t forget to see if there is any value to the parts!

September 20, 2012 Posted by | Pencraft Pens, Waterman 100 Year Pen | , | 2 Comments

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

Pencraft – Chicago

I really wish someone would pen a biography of  “George Kraker, Midwestern Pen Builder”, so that I could refer to it in my many posts regarding his various pens.  I can’t resist picking them up and restoring them.  This is the nicest to date ~ a classic large mottled lever filler.  I have numerous Kraker – produced pens from Minneapolis,  Kansas City, Grand Haven, Michigan, and Libertyville, Illinois.  This is my first from Chicago.  The history shows that Kraker was producing pens in Chicago in the early 1920s, after he left Kansas City.  At the same time he had his hands in Pen Companies in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota.   Ultimately, he moved on to Grand Haven, Michigan and produced pens there until 1928/29.  Many of his pens have been covered in posts here during the last two years. To read and see more, click on the Kraker link in the Categories on the right side of this page.

As I stated, this is my first Chicago Kraker.  However, it is not my first Pencraft.  These were made in the future in various locations.  On June 1, 2008 in this Pencraft post, I discussed the restoration of a Pencraft pen from Libertyville, IL.

You can see that the restoration is a simple lever-filler.  The hanging pressure bar is inside the barrel and in good shape, so I did not remove it.  I was able to take off the red jewel cap top to reveal the hanging  j-bar and inspect it for damage.  None being found, I let it remain in the barrel.  The gold furniture polished up well and there is no loss of any color.

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Two items on this pen stand out from other Krakers of the time.  First, the section.  It is mottled just like the barrel and cap.  This is a nice touch that I have not seen on any of the other Dixie, Yankee, Belmont, and other Kraker brands that I have worked on.  Second is the nib, which I will highlight below.

Here is the section and the size 18 sac that I fit to the section and trimmed to fit into the barrel.

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The finished product is highlighted by the section matching the barrel and cap.  This is a nice touch in any pen and a bit unexpected, at least by me, with these pens.

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This Pencraft is a large pen, measuring 5 3/8 inches closed and 6 7/8 inches posted.

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Here is the Pencraft “L” Nib.  It is quite large, comparable to the Large Warranted 8 nibs of the period.

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Below is the imprint.  Pencraft, in the traditional Kraker Script of large first and last letters, followed by Michael George Co.  Michael George Co. is a Company name that Kraker used in various locations, transposing his first and middle names (George Michael Kraker).

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Finally, another signature ~ the transparent colored jewel cap and barrel ends seen on many past posts here.

For a few other of these end caps, check out these past posts:

Belmont, Rexall, and Yankee Cousins
dated May 22, 2008

A Yankee in Michigan dated January 27, 2008

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There are many Kraker collectors out there ~ most with much more impressive collections.  It is easy to see how we get hooked.  The pens are diverse, affordable when compared to the Parkers, Wahls, and Watermans of the period, and always seem to have interesting variations.

April 24, 2009 Posted by | Kraker, Pencraft Pens | , , | 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

   

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