Tag Archives: pen repair

2018 DC Pen Show or Bust!

After last year’s chaotic but successful pen show, we are hitting the road for the 2018 DC Pen Super Show!

We’ve spent the past month cleaning, polishing and organizing more than 300 vintage and modern pre-owned luxury pens not yet online for this show. This photo shows only a tiny fraction of what we will have available.

This is just a tiny fraction of the more than 300 vintage and pre-owned modern pens not currently on our website that we shall carry on our table at the DC Pen Show this weekend.

Omas, Delta, S.T. Dupont, Namiki, Montegrappa and rare Pelikans will make a splash. Plus, we’ve loaded up on Montblanc from the 1970s and ’80s. In addition to that we’ve been adding a dozen ultra-rare Esterbrook pens, rare vintage Waterman pens and many great vintage Parker and Sheaffer fountain pens.

Naturally, we are returning with our Lamy nib testing station that was a huge hit last year. It will be loaded with this year’s limited edition Safari and Al-Star designs, as well as many great traditional colors. We’ve restocked Lamy ink, too!

We will have something for everyone. With a total of more than 600 pens in every price range on our table, if you can’t find a new treasure to love…you just don’t like pens.

Catching Up Part I: Our First ‘Pen World’ Write Up!

It has been a crazy year for us at ThePenMarket.com. As some of you might know, I was working a full-time job…in addition to working full-time hours on ThePenMarket.com…while also coaching youth fencing competitions…while also writing a novel, seeing it published and ultimately being nominated for (and losing) a Pulitzer Prize. Toss in lots of pen repairs and a handful of pen shows…it was tough keeping up with these Drippy Musings.

I am very excited to say that I am now working full-time for myself at ThePenMarket.com. Good-bye, corporate America.  All the thanks goes to you, our customers, for helping me to live out a dream as a full-time pen entrepreneur!

The joy of the freedom of working for myself means that I can bring this blog up to speed. As such, it is time to thank “Pen World Magazine” for writing a story about my novel “Little Victories” in the December 2016 issue. With their permission to share it, here it is:

The 'Pen World Magazine' cover December 2016.

The ‘Pen World Magazine’ cover December 2016.














Controversy in Chicago Part III: Let’s Help the Rookies

Now that veteran vendors and rookie pen collectors are breaking the ice, let’s lend some veteran assistance to the rookies navigating their first pen shows.

1421 Waterman PhileasYour first pen show is bound to be an overwhelming affair. There will be tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of vintage and modern pens. You will find rarities you never dreamed of seeing in the flesh, and you will probably want to spend 10 times the amount of money you intended to spend. Plus, there are all of the custom services, which might take months to get performed through the U.S. mail but you can have satisfactorily completed in a single morning or afternoon at a pen show. And then there are the spare parts, inkwells, papers and cases!

To help you safely navigate your first pen shows, here is some advice that ought to help you breakdown the experience and keep it positive.

Set a budget and a goal for the show. Need some repairs done? Want a nib ground to perfection? Looking for certain pens? Organize all that you hope to achieve.

1324 Waterman 100 Year PenYour best bet is to put together a list of all the things you’re looking for and hope to do. This way you can take some time to marvel at the splendor of the distractions before you check in on your list to focus on your goals.

Loyal reader Justin P. recommends contacting your favorite eBay and other online vendors to see if they will be at the show. If they are, let them know you can’t wait to see them there and give them a heads up to your list of pens or merchandise that you want. Many will gladly set it aside for you so that you can have first dibs. Plus, it always helps to put names to faces by meeting in person.

Many shows are offering more and more seminars about repairs and the histories of the brands. Check out the show schedule online or in your show pamphlet to see what special events you don’t want to miss. Set an alarm on your phone or watch to help you remember it is time to head over to the seminar. Time passes remarkably quickly, and it is easy to get sidetracked.

If the show offers a weekend pass, you might want to get it. To make the most of the show, it helps to attend all of the days it is open. Day one is your best opportunity to pick up a really rare pen before somebody else snatches it. If it is a 4-day show, days 2 and 4 are quieter days, which are better for meeting new people and asking more questions about the pens and the hobby. Day 3/Saturday will be the busiest day. During trading hours, few vendors will likely want to talk for long because this is their best opportunity to sell the most and pay for their expenses.

Glass Topped CaseYet, some of the best times are after the formal trading closes for the day. You’ll often find clusters of vendors and collectors hanging out, talking or getting a drink. Strike up a conversation with them and get to know who they are, what their pen passions are and let them get to know you. Pen People, regardless of their experience with the hobby, are usually very friendly and chatty. People can usually be found talking pens in the lobby of the venue well into the wee hours of the morning.

As I don’t do any nib grinding or Mont Blanc piston repair work, I love coming to the shows to take advantage of these services. The trick to navigating these services is to be there the minute the doors to the show open in the morning. If you are one of the first on the repair-person’s list, you can guarantee your pens get done that day.

Be sure to clearly explain to the repair folks what you want done and ask for an estimate first, so you know their prices and aren’t hit with sticker shock. Most repairs are fairly affordable, but it is always best to know what to expect. Vendors won’t mind fixing 2 or 3 pens for you at the show, but don’t expect for them to fix an entire shoebox full of pens at the show. They might ask to take that many pens home with them to work on later.

L15S Lamy Calligraphy NibsAt most shows you can expect to find full-time repair specialists such as Mike and Linda Kennedy of Indy-Pen-Dance, Ron Zorn, Richard Binder and “Mike It Work.” All four of these vendors are nationally known for their excellence. You can’t go wrong with any of them. If you do have 15 to 20 pens you want restored at the show, it might be best to spread 3 or 4 amongst each of them to see who’s work you like best. Expect also a minimum repair bill to be $20 to $25 per pen. It could be up around $40 to $50 if you want your nib ground to a new size and shape.

If you are having nib work done, be patient and remember it is very precise and time-consuming work. Don’t rush your grinder. However, as you are asking for a very specific and personalized repair, don’t be afraid to say the nib still doesn’t feel right when they ask you to test it. They want you to be happy with their services, and they will work hard to get the precise feel you want in your nib. If they spend an inordinately long amount of time getting your pen just right, they might charge you an extra $5 or $10, which is okay. Time is money, and you will get to enjoy that pen and nib for the rest of your life.

It came as a great shock to me that not all vendors are there to sell. Some table holders are just there to meet with old friends, show off an impressive collection or to do any number of other things. For most of us, it is a business.

To avoid getting overwhelmed or making rash purchases of the first things you see, spend some time walking around and keeping an eye out for the merchandise on the tables. I like to make a complete sweep of the show before making any purchases…unless I spot something rare that I must buy quickly or not see again.

Don’t be shy. Say hi to the vendors and don’t be afraid to tell them what you’re looking for. It is really easy to overlook the pens you’re looking for on tables that seem lightly populated with pens.

Keep a running tally of prices in your head or on a notepad. It is safe to assume you will find dozens of similar pens at the show. Prices and quality could range all over. Plus, it will help you keep from going over your budget…or show you there is room from an extra new treasure.

1262CWhen you are ready to get serious about buying a pen, there is a whole checklist of things to do:

  • ASK the vendor if you can pick up and examine his or her pen (You’d be surprised at how many people break pens or inadvertently mess up an organizational system.)
  • Look over the pen carefully for cracks, dents, imprint quality and brassing
  • ALWAYS try first to UNSCREW the cap. NEVER YANK on a cap.
  • Search for cracks on the lip of the cap with your thumbnail. If you spin the lip of a cap over your thumbnail, it will gently pick up any crack that might not be visible to the eye.
  • Use a loupe to examine the nib. Are there cracks? Is the tipping good? Are the tines aligned? Are one of the tine tips cracked just below the tipping and about to pop free?
  • If the nib looks okay, then test it for flex with your thumbnail. Put the underside of the nib’s tip on the top of your thumbnail and gently add pressure.
  • ASK if you can test the filling system. If you feel any pressure or resistance in the filling system, don’t force it. Ask the vendor if it needs restoration? (Lots of vendors complain about people breaking levers and other pen parts while checking out the filling system.)
  • Finally, ask if the vendor has ink and if you can dip the pen to try it out.

Cash is king. All pen dealers accept cash. However, many are now accepting credit cards due to the simplicity of smart phones and apps by Square and PayPal.

Before you start negotiating the final price, ask if they accept credit cards…if that is all you have with which to pay. This might save everybody some time and trouble. Don’t be upset if they say yes but also tack on an extra 2% or 3% to cover the fee charged by the credit card company. Some deals run the profit margin pretty thin, and it is fair to pay the processing fee.

1265 Pelikan 400NNTo negotiate a deal well, it helps to be well informed about the pen you are buying and its current prices. Be sure to highlight any flaws in the pen and make an offer that is fair and realistic. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a deal that is still too high for you. Yet, don’t be afraid to accept a counter offer that is reasonable, especially if you received good customer service.

Many vendors don’t put prices on their pens. Some of them like to game you a bit to see how much you are willing to pay. Let’s say you’re looking at an aerometric Parker 51 in black with a lustraloy cap. You ask how much, and the vendor replies $100. It’s okay to smile, say thanks and put it back down. Unless it has something rare like a stub nib or some other uncommon feature, he or she will likely counter, “Well how much were you hoping it would be?” You can honestly say–because you know there are 3 bajillion black 51s in the world–that you were hoping for around $50. The vendor will likely acquiesce with something like, “Well, I can do $55.”

Feel free to ask vendors lots of questions, BUT understand that they might expect you to buy something if you take up too much of their time. If you have tons of questions, but aren’t ready to buy, save them until you are with a vendor whose pens you will be buying or until the show slows down and the vendor has more free time to talk.

And, of course, if you do get a cranky vendor who doesn’t treat you as you feel you should be treated, just move on to the next. There are often well over 100 vendors at most shows, and somebody nice will likely have just what you’re looking for.

Have fun!

Atlanta Pen Show 2016: Final Analysis

Wow! What a show this year in Atlanta! Tons of pen lovers, just as many young as old, all sharing in the inky goodness!

We had a heck-of-a-time. It was so much fun seeing our old friends like the great Texas pen trader Joe Lowe and making many new friends. And there was so much to learn.

I loved finding these great pens at the Atlanta Pen Show in 2016: a Pelikan 800, a Dunn Pen and a Twsbi Eco. Each is an absolute treat with which to write.

I loved finding these great pens at the Atlanta Pen Show in 2016: a Pelikan 800, a Dunn Pen and a Twsbi Eco. Each is an absolute treat with which to write.

My table neighbors were The Southern Scribe, Rick Horne, and An Tran, who has more pens than any 7 people I know. Both were as personable and fun to talk to as ever. Rick shared tons of great stories and advice that will help immensely as we move forward as a business and repair hub.

The pens this year at the show were unbelievable. For our own pleasure we picked up an incredible bargain on this “burnt orange” Pelikan 800, which I’ve been coveting since its release. From Rick, I bought this incredible–fully restored–Dunn Pen with a pump filler. As many of you know, I got into pens partly because of my love of obscure filling systems. This Dunn needs to be pumped 20 or 30 times like a bicycle pump to get a full fill. Awesome 1920s tech at work.

And my last little find is a Twsbi Eco. To be perfectly honest, I’ve been a bit of a snob with regard to these new-fangled cheap pens out of Asia. Well, now that I’ve used one, I’m hooked. It has a 1.1mm nib that writes exceedingly well for a steel nib and is just plain fun to play with. That crystal clear barrel with Adventurine green ink…too cool. I’m sold.

All three days of the show were packed with trading and stories. I wasn’t sure I was going to survive that first day, as I was running on no sleep for 36 hours. Work, packing, early flight, pen show…. I almost fell asleep during the Friday night cookout. I barely made it back to my room before collapsing and sleeping the sleep of the dead until sunrise. Although I missed some good cigars and drinks, every ounce of sleep was wonderful.

And now it is time to unpack, repair at least 50 more pens and pack up for our home show next week in Chicago! Can’t wait to see you at the 2016 Chicago Pen Show.

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.

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!

The Road to Hong Kong

Here is the view of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak, after the lights have come on at night. This is on Hong Kong Island looking over Victoria Harbour and Kowloon, the mainland part of Hong Kong.

Here is the view of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak, after the lights have come on at night. This is on Hong Kong Island looking over Victoria Harbour and Kowloon, the mainland part of Hong Kong.

This is the night view of the colorful lights on Hong Kong Island as seen from the deck of the Star Ferry in Victoria Harbour.

This is the night view of the colorful lights on Hong Kong Island as seen from the deck of the Star Ferry in Victoria Harbour.

While riding in one Star Ferry boat, we passed another in Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour.

While riding in one Star Ferry boat, we passed another in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour.

Wong Tai Sin Temple prepares for Chinese New Year's celebrations.

Wong Tai Sin Temple prepares for Chinese New Year’s celebrations.

A sliver of moon prepares to call it a night, as dawn begins lighting the sky.

A sliver of moon prepares to call it a night, as dawn begins lighting the sky.

My long-suffering friend Maria and I hit the skyway for Hong Kong, and I feel compelled to show off some of the sites. It is the ego-maniacle photographer in me that periodically must showcase some favorite shots.

In my attempts to process the whole trip, I have failed to come up with a unifying story arc to describe the trip. Instead, I’ll just tell you some of my favorite parts.

LIGHTS! Hong Kong is huge. The lights there out glitz Las Vegas and dwarf New York. Buildings don’t just festoon lights for advertising or showcase who is home or at work via lit windows. Whole skyscrapers are specially lit with colorful external displays. I couldn’t get a good photo of it from across Victoria Harbour, but twin mini skyscrapers (only 30 or 40 stories tall) had billions of LEDs that lit up to recreate a live koi pond. The fish looked lifelike, and the water rippled when they moved. Other buildings had very active and colorful displays.

A cheesy but popular thrill in Hong Kong is the nightly light show. Most of the major buildings on Hong Kong Island’s and Kowloon’s waterfronts synced with music to put on a light show from 8 to 8:15. Each building seemingly dances to the music, and the buildings even get introductions and veritable bows.

Victoria Harbour is beautiful, when you can see across it through the smog. I especially loved crossing it on the famed Star Ferry boats that only cost 65 cents a ride. Hong Kong Island’s Victoria Peak is great, too. Both offer stunning views of the city. The photos from each were among my favorites.

Yet, there are quieter places to go inside the city if you want to get away from the modern and materialistic. We enjoyed a nice trip to Wong Tai Sin Temple, where the Taoists explore their traditions. Chinese New Year was approaching, and the temple was especially festive while we were there.

Travel in Hong Kong is extremely easy. As a former British colony, almost everyone we met spoke English. The public transportation is extremely safe and easy to navigate, which is good as cars drive on the wrong side of the road from an American perspective. Drivers are also very aggressive, not stopping for pedestrians. Cross against the lights at your own risk. We were in the tourist neighborhoods, and it felt extremely safe, even though we didn’t see a single cop until we got into the more local residential neighborhoods. And even here, the cops seemed far more concerned with seeking out prodemocracy protestors than actual crime. (That was a little scary.)(You gotta give a lot of credit to the protestors willing to spend time in a quasi communist Chinese prison to fight for greater political rights and freedoms.)

The only other drawback was the smog. If you are of a belief that man-made pollution isn’t a threat to our health and environment, you really need to spend a week in a major Chinese city. My eyes stung and breath got short quickly. These pictures were taken on good air days. We had one day in which it was 100% sunny and clear, but the smog was so thick that the sky was as grey as any rainy day in Chicago. You could not see the sun on that sunny day. You couldn’t see roughly a mile across the harbor and the buildings hidden in the smog. Many local residents take to wearing surgical masks everywhere they go to filter out the particulates to help prevent from getting sinus and lung infections.

Yet, there is so much to see and do in Hong Kong, I highly recommend going and seeing it if you can. The people are so friendly, and there are thousands of more things to see and do than simply what I’ve listed. This was a truncated list of all we did, as I don’t want to bore you.

Fix Scratchy Nibs

WARNING: The following repair advice can easily mess up your favorite nib if you aren’t careful and experienced.

You think you’ve found the perfect pen at a show, estate sale or antique store. The color is good. The filling system still works. And then you try to write with it. Although the nib looks good, it is a very scratchy writer.

Learn how to fix a scratchy nib with only a little water and some ultra-fine grit sandpaper.

Learn how to fix a scratchy nib with only a little water and some ultra-fine grit sandpaper.

You can fix that scratchy nib with some patience and nerves of steel.

It doesn’t take much effort to ruin or at least alter the width of your nib with the accidental flick of the wrist. DO NOT try this on your favorite pen that has just picked up a hint of a scratch. Get some junkers with which you can build up some experience.

Get to know your nib before you attempt anything. Is it gold? Is it tipped with irridium? Is it a steel nib? Look very closely at the nib. Use a loupe or magnifying glass. Are the tines even? Is the tip bent?

If the tines are slightly misaligned, you can push them back into place with just your thumb nail. Be careful, as misaligned tines often snap very easily. Often, I prefer to raise the lower tine to be even with the upper tine. To do this, push directly up on the single lower tine with your thumb nail to a position just above the other tine. Hold it for a second and then relax it. Check it, and repeat the process as needed. Sometimes, I push the upper tine down. Learning which to redirect really just comes with experience.

If the tip is bent, forget about it. We’ll save that for a different article.

If the tines are even but just scratchy…

Check to see if the tip is gold, gold with a metal (usually irridium) tip or steel. If it is plain gold, which is rare, the sanding process will weardown the nib super quickly. If it is tipped, check to see if the tipping material is still complete. If it isn’t, you’ll need to get it retipped. If the tipping metal is still there, then you will be safer to try to sand the nib into submission. The steel nibs are also pretty safe to try to smooth, although by their nature, they generally won’t smooth as well as the gold nibs. It is rare to find a truely smooth steel nib on a vintage pen, unless it is from the Esterbrook 9000s line.

If you are into freakishly extra-fine nibs, send your pen to a nib expert (and I am not that type of nib expert). If you aren’t so picky as long as you can have a smooth writer…continue reading.

To try to sand the nib into a sweet spot, you will need a small glass of water, a clean sheet of your normal writing paper and some very fine-grit sandpaper. I recommend 2500 grit or finer. You also will want a tissue or paper towel.

Set up on a hard-topped desk or table. A cushioned writing surface will have you putting holes in the sandpaper with the nib and putting odd edges on the nib.

To get started, I like to make sure the pen is full. Then spread a little water on the sandpaper. Next write a figure 8 with the scratchy pen on the watered sandpaper. The water helps to lubricate the sandpaper so that you don’t take off too much from the nib. Your figure 8 should be about the size of your normal letters when writing…maybe a little bigger. Don’t worry about the ink on the sandpaper. And don’t think that the ink will naturally lube the paper enough without water. It won’t.

I like to have the pen full of ink, so I can immediately test the nib on a clean sheet of paper. After your first figure 8, shake the pen in the glass of water and dry off the tip. This just clears the tip of any sand, as you don’t want to keep sanding the nib when you don’t want to sand it. Test the nib on the clean sheet of paper and see how it feels. Patiently repeat one or two 8’s at a time on the sandpaper and repeat the process.

If you find that you need more than a couple figure 8’s, start writing 8’s from different angles, as you don’t want to flatten out the nib in your normal writing position.

If everything is almost perfect but you are still having scratches at the top or bottom of your loops, try to work out those parts of the letter on the sandpaper.

REMEMBER, every time that nib touches the sandpaper, it is going to get wider. Often, it only takes an 8 or two. It is not uncommon for your fine nib to become a medium or a medium a bold nib while trying this repair. If you want to be assured perfection with little change to your nib’s writing characteristics, it is best to find an expert.

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.

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.