Tag Archives: vintage pen repair

When Nipples Go Bad…Section Nipples, That Is

Once in a rare while, I find that the section of a pen has lost its nipple to attach an ink sac. Sometimes, an old nipple is just too heavily damaged to patch together or seat a bladder. On the vintage Wahl fountain pen below from the 1920s, the nipple actually was still attached to the remnants of the old ink sac but cleanly detached from the section.

A piece of copper tubing has been fit into a vintage fountain pen section to serve as a nipple, to which you can attach a fresh ink sac.

A piece of copper tubing has been fit into a vintage fountain pen section to serve as a nipple, to which you can attach a fresh ink sac.

As Wahl sections from the 1920s aren’t easy replacement parts to find, I find it is best to jury rig a solution. This means it is time for a trip to McDonald’s or the local hardware store.

I have used a variety of objects such as straws (from McDonald’s) to metal pipes over the years. All it needs to be is strong enough to hold a shellacked ink sac.

In this case, the hardware store had a small copper pipe that fit perfectly. Luckily for the pen, the section hole was deep enough to accommodate the inkfeed at proper depth while allowing enough room for the  pipe to hold tight. If the feed rested above the hole, then I would have been out of luck.

To get started, use a rotary tool or hacksaw to cut the pipe to the proper length. Use said rotary tool or some heavy sand paper to smooth the newly cut piece. This keeps it from not fitting or from leaving sharp pieces to hurt the ink sac. Remember to keep the replacement nipple fairly short to avoid it coming into contact with the inner pressure bar or spring. If it is too long, it might trap the filling mechanism and not allow you to fill the pen.

Coat the outside of the tube with some rubber cement, before setting it down in the section. This will seal the microscopic gap between the section and tube if you have a good fit. Plus, rubber cement won’t harm the plastic or hard rubber. Nor will it stick so tightly that you cannot remove the new nipple for any reason.

Make sure no rubber cement is clogging the inkfeed channel, preventing you from using the pen you have worked so hard to restore.

After everything is clear, use a little more rubber cement to affix the new ink sac. As long as you keep the pen away from heat, which you should always do anyway, the rubber cement makes for a good seal for the bladder. Until orange shellac became more available to pen collectors in recent years, rubber cement had been the go-to sealant for putting on new ink sacs. As I wasn’t sure how much I could trust the shellac between metal and rubber surfaces, I went with the old standby that I knew I could trust.

Upon completing this. let everything set and dry for 24-hours. Test it with water or ink to make sure the seals are good. If the pen goes for another 24-hours on its side without any leaks in the nipple, section or sac, you are good to go.

If the sac will fill but cannot retain any fluid, then there is an air leak you will need to find and seal. It might be a well hidden hairline crack elsewhere in the section. It also could be a hole in the ink sac, which is unlikely. Mostly it will be a gap somewhere between the section and the new nipple.

Once everything is tested and holding, put the rest of the pen together as you would any other repair job.

SPECIAL REMINDER: DO NOT force a piece of metal tubing into the remaining hole. Metal tubes are stronger than old hard rubber or plastic. It will crack your remaining part if forced into place.. If that happens, it is time to find a new pen to work on. Be careful.

Slaying the Snorkel Siren

If you have been following these Drippy Musings for some time now, you know that the Sheaffer Snorkel fountain pen has been the bane of my existence for the past decade. I love these pens in all of their complicated filling mechanism glory, but I could never tame those very filling systems.

Here are the magnificent seven! In other words, they are my first graduating class of Sheaffer Snorkel repair pens. Included are two Sheaffer Crests, a Sheaffer Sovereign, two Sheaffer Saratogas and two Sheaffer Statesmen.

Here are the magnificent seven! In other words, they are my first graduating class of Sheaffer Snorkel repairs. Included are two Sheaffer Crests, a Sheaffer Sovereign, two Sheaffer Saratogas and two Sheaffer Statesmen.

Until now…

After getting tons of great advice from readers and other repairmen, I finally dove into a Sheaffer Statesman in grey before the Chicago Pen Show got underway. After carefully deconstructing it, I completely reassembled it almost too easily. It worked as if I had be overhauling them for years.

Since then I have fixed 6 more. A 7th didn’t survive after I cleverly sliced my thumb open with its greased up razor-sharp snorkel. Ow! At least now I can say I have bled for my art.

Here is the first Sheaffer Snorkel repair to survive my workbench. It's snorkel is extended beneath its palladium silver nib.

Here is the first Sheaffer Snorkel repair to survive my workbench. Its snorkel is extended beneath its palladium silver nib.




Yet, with a total of 7 successful restorations, I feel confident enough to offer repair services for Sheaffer Snorkels and PFMs. I also am interested in buying old dead ones with hopes of bringing them back to life. The more colorful they are, the better.

Meet Us at The Chicago Pen Show

This is our home pen show, and we are excited to host a table at The Chicago Pen Show

Come to Chicago for the 2015 Chicago Pen Show! We have the latest details about the show, which runs at the Sheraton O'Hare from April 30 through May 3.

Come to Chicago for the 2015 Chicago Pen Show! We have the latest details about the show, which runs at the Sheraton O’Hare from April 30 through May 3.

For your pen enjoyment, we will have more than two dozen fully restored vintage pens and preowned pens not currently for sale on the website. From old Waterman hard rubber to obscure Danish pen makers to gently used Mont Blanc pens, we will have a cornucopia of competitively priced pens.

We also will have ample bottled ink.

And, of course, we’ll have all of the pens you see on our website available to touch, test and love.

If nothing else, swing by the Sheraton O’Hare on Saturday or Sunday and say hello. We love meeting our online customers in the flesh!

Painting A Parker Vacumatic Blue Diamond

Use Testor's paints to fill in the blue diamond of your Parker Vacumatic clips. Some clips have old paint that tells how dark you should repaint it. Testor's 1111 Dark Blue paint is good for darker blue diamonds and 1110 is good for lighter blue diamonds. I used the 1110 Blue on the Vac Major you see in this photo. Also shown is a toothpick I use for the painting process.

Use Testors paints to fill in the blue diamond of your Parker Vacumatic clips. Some clips have old paint that tells how dark you should repaint it. Testors 1111 Dark Blue paint is good for darker blue diamonds and 1110 Blue is good for lighter blue diamonds. I used the 1110 Blue on the Vac Major you see in this photo. Also shown is a toothpick I use for the painting process.

You have successfully put a new diaphragm into your Parker Vacumatic. The celluloid and gold trim gleam from expert polishing. Now, how do you go about making the finishing touch and repainting the old blue diamond in the clip?

Some clips still have their enamel…or at least some of it. Most these days, do not have it.

Some purists say you should never paint in the blue diamond. Other experts say it is no big deal.

Me, I like finishing the look of the pen as close to factory fresh as I can make it. If you have an ultra rare model with partial paint, perhaps you should leave it as is. But for most of the working pens I deal with, fresh paint won’t effect the value.

The big trick is finding the right color paint to get the blue diamond as close to accurate as possible.

Having spent all of my teen years as an avid model airplane builder, I ran straight to the nearest hobby shop to turn to trusty Testors paints. I took a handful of clips with me and began comparing and contrasting the paint options.

That is when I noticed not all blue diamonds in the Parker Vacumatic clips were the same. Some were lighter and some were darker blue. I let the remnant paint/enamel in the old diamond guide me. I finally settled on two Testors blue paints from their myriad shades.

If you look on the bar code sticker on the back of the paint bottle, you will notice the name of the color and a number. That color number should be universal in any Testors paint display.

For the lighter blue diamonds, I found that the 1110 Blue by Testors is a near perfect match. The next shade darker  is the 1111 Dark Blue, which is a near perfect match for the darker blue diamonds. It sounds intuitive, but there are so many blues from which to pick.

Painting the diamond takes a steady hand and only a teeny-tiny amount paint. You can use a single-hair brush, but I find I prefer using a toothpick that I’ve whittled to an extra-fine point.

Dab in the paint until you have filled in the diamond. Use a magnifying glass to make sure you have filled in the corners. There is bound to be some spillage outside the raised lines of the diamond. I try to clean it up with the dry edges of the toothpick by rubbing a clean, dry edge of the toothpick along the edge of the diamond. If the paint gets down into the feathers of the arrow logo, a little paint thinner on a Q-tip can help get it out before it sets. Remember to make sure the Q-tip is not sopping wet with thinner, as spilling the thinner into the wet paint of the diamond can mess things up, too.

Best of luck on painting your diamonds blue!

J-Pressure Bar Repair Update

A friend and reader of “Drippy Musings” named Harv S. from Palatine, IL, reached out to me this past May to thank me for last November’s piece about making your own J-springs (pressure bars) at home.

Not only did he find the article helpful, he shared with me his own modification to duplicate the action of other pressure bars with an extra “leg” that helps to squeeze out a few extra drops of ink. Below are his photo and advice.

 

Reader Harv S. from Palatine showed us not only the J-spring pressure bar he made after reading our column, he gives his own advice for adding a second leg to the spring to make it perform like some other vintage J-springs.

Reader Harv S. from Palatine, IL,  showed us not only the J-spring pressure bar he made after reading our column, he gives his own advice for adding a second leg to the spring to make it perform like some other vintage J-springs.

“Here’s a picture of the original, weakened, corroded spring and the one I made to replace it.  I couldn’t find brass flashing material so I went with galvanized steel, which should be fairly resistant to rusting though not so much as non-ferrous metal, agreed.  Although the picture doesn’t show it well, I folded over the material so that there’s a secondary leg of the spring just like the original riveted one.  I have some diamond grit files that I de-burred the new spring with and it seems to work well.” — Harv S.

What I love about the fountain pen community is how much we help each other out with this hobby and occassional obsession.

Thank you, Harv. I look forward to seeing more of your’s and other reader’s projects. Please let me know how I can help.

Make Your Own ‘J’ Pressure Bars

See how the needle nose pliers have started making a box in the end of the brass flashing as I restored this Sheaffer 5-30.

See how the needle nose pliers have started making a box in the end of the brass flashing as I restored this Sheaffer 5-30.

When I first learned the art of fountain pen restoration, there weren’t as many readily available modern replacement “J” pressure bars to fix most standard lever-filling vintage pens. You could try to scavenge J-bars, but they were so old and brittle, they were prone to breaking.

Fortunately, the man who taught me the art of pen repair was a master of improvising repair work. He taught me a lot about do-it-yourself repairs and engineering. As our goal was fully restored pens that worked as good as new, instead of featuring only all original parts, we had a lot of leeway.

Probably the best and cheapest trick he taught me was to fashion a J-bar out of brass flashing that sells for about a dollar a foot at your local hardware store.

Insert the new pressure bar J first, and make certain the length of the new spring is resting on the lever. Pulling out the new J-bar can risk damaging the lever-filler assembly, so try never to pull the new J-bar if possible.

Insert the new pressure bar J first, and make certain the length of the new spring is resting on the lever. Pulling out the new J-bar can risk damaging the lever-filler assembly, so try never to pull the new J-bar if possible.

I suppose you could use steel flashing, but brass has the advantage of not rusting. Either way, be sure to select a very thin piece that has a lot of flexibility. You will also need scissors that can cut it and a pair of needle nose pliers. Once you get everything together at your work bench, follow these steps.

1. Cut the flashing to be the same length as the barrel of the pen you are restoring.

2. Trim the edge of the flashing along its length to get it to fit in the pen barrel. Remember, keep it wide enough to be engaged by the pen’s lever. Some levers don’t push straight down. Some slip to either side. Make sure you cut the flashing so it is wide enough to accomodate this deviation.

3. Test the flashing by inserting it–still straight/unbent–into the barrel to see if it fits well and gives the lever enough space to manuver.

4. Slip the flashing back out of the barrel.

5. Using your needle nose pliers bend one end of the flashing into an arc. You will only want to bend the last 1/4 inch to 1/2. I like to bend the flashing into 2 90-degree angles. This makes a boxy J. It is perfectly fine to make an arched J.

6.  Test to make sure the J is just wide enough to slide into the barrel, while also providing enough resistance against the barrel walls to anchor it.

7. MOST IMPORTANT: Before final installation, remember to line up the J-bar J first into the barrel with the outside portion of the pressure bar against the lever.

8. Insert the new pressure bar assembly into the pen with your needle nose pliers. Push it all the way into the tail. Be careful not to push the pliers deeper than they are meant to go into the pen. They can easily split or shatter the barrel.

9. Insert the resac’d section, and make sure it all fits okay. If it doesn’t you can either trim down the sac or pull out the new J-bar with care and trim it to make room. *** It is important to note that many lever fillers have a pin or pin-ring that holds the lever in place. Pulling out the new J-bar can snap or ruin that thin piece of metal holding in the lever, and that is a lot harder to fix.

It is always best to make sure you got all of your cuts measured correctly the first time.

Your new J-bar will likely never be as effective as the old one, but it will fill your pen reasonably well. Plus it will also have saved you plenty in parts and labor. Believe it or not, you’ll feel a lot closer to your pen once you’ve restored its guts on your own.

When Hard Rubber Misbehaves

A Waterman's #15 eyedropper soaks in water to help loosen the old ink sealing its threads.

A Waterman’s #15 eyedropper soaks in water to help loosen the old ink sealing its threads.

Old hard rubber pens, especially eyedroppers, can be a difficult repair because the pens are so old and frail. It is very easy to overtorque them and crack or crush them.

The problem, especially in eyedroppers, is that old ink effectively turns into glue on these old pens. Eyedroppers are so problematic because the ink always seeped into the threads that held the section to the hollow barrel that served as the pen’s ink reservoir. Other pens with ink sacs get ink-glued when the old sac gave out flooding the inner barrel with ink.

Lucky for you, the solution is really simple. Once again H2O comes to the rescue. Fill a cup with room-temperature water and soak the pen over the line separating the section from the barrel. Let it soak for 12 to 48 hours. This is usually enough time to loosen the old ink and allow the pen to open the way it should.

Sometimes it takes a little heat. Heat is the enemy of your old hard rubber pens. Open flames will melt or burn the pen very quickly. Hot water will discolor the pen, too. If you need the heat, just hold the pen briefly under warm to hot water flowing from your kitchen tap. Don’t expose the pen to the heat for more than a couple seconds, and keep an eye out for discoloration. It doesn’t take a lot of time or heat to start the discoloration process.

Pen Tip #2: I Flushed My Pen. So Why Am I Still Getting Ink on My Hands?

A Q-tip can be one of your best tools for helping to clean out a pen cap and keeping your fingers from getting inky. Even after rinsing this Sheaffer Lifetime cap, you can still see plenty of ink on the cotton.

A Q-tip can be one of your best tools for helping to clean out a pen cap and keeping your fingers from getting inky. Even after rinsing this Sheaffer Lifetime cap, you can still see plenty of ink on the cotton.

Periodically flushing your pen with water often helps eliminate leaks as well as helping to get your nib to start writing well, again, as we discussed in Pen Tip #1.

Nevertheless, after you’ve gotten your pen cleaned and filled, you notice that you still have a little or a lot of ink on your fingers the next morning after you’ve decided to write with it.

The trouble often comes from old ink still inside your cap. Even if you rinsed your cap when you flushed your pen, that is not usually nearly enough to get all the old ink out.

Inside the caps of nearly all vintage and modern pens is an inner cap. It usually seals the nib compartment of your cap when the section (writing grip) of your pen screws up and against it. This keeps your pen from drying out. However, as fountain pens are wont to occasionally leak, drip or see some evaporation with heat, ink gets into these inner caps. Worse, it gets between your inner cap and outer cap shell. Once enough accumulates, your fingers are bound to get inked.

Your best bet is to soak your cap overnight in room temperature water.

Are you sensing a theme? Room temperature water and soakings are our friend.

Make sure the whole cap is immersed, and make sure that there is no air trapped inside the cap.

After a good, long soak, shake the cap empty over a sink. This gets messy in a hurry, so be careful.

Your next move is to hold the cap under running room-temperature water from the tap while scrubbing its insides with a small plastic-brissle brush that is like a toothbrush but smaller. Some hardware stores, tobacco shops and gun shops sell ones that work pretty well. I often use a plastic-brissle brush I found in an air rifle cleaning kit. I don’t have an air rifle to clean, but I spent the money just to get that little brush used on the air rifle barrels. Whatever you do, do not use a metal-wire brush used on regular hand guns and rifles. It will tear apart your cap.

Once the ink stops coming out of the cap in the sink, shake out the cap again. Use a Q-tip to dry out the cap. Odds are good that there is still plenty of ink in the cap, and you will go through many Q-tips trying to clean it out. You will have to keep getting Q-tips wet to keep getting the old gunk out. Pay special attention to the cap threads and the lip of the inner cap. Keep cleaning until you are satisfied.

This process takes a while, but if you only have one or two pens you have to do this for, it is worth just doing this to them once every several years. If you are a hardcore collector, we can discuss inner cap pullers and ultrasonic cleaners on another day.

Click here to see the finished restoration of the Sheaffer Lifetime cap in the photo above.

Please write in with your pen repair questions.