Tag Archives: Sheaffer

How Do I Re-Sac a Vintage Pen

You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, the old saying goes, and it is true for learning how to fix vintage pens. Today, we are going to learn how to restore a lever-filling fountain pen…or re-sac it, as they say. But first, you are going to have to get used to the concept that you’re going to destroy a few pens along the way—even if you’re careful.

Find a few good, cheap vintage pens to practice restoring before experimenting with more expensive models. This deformed Sheaffer Balance 350 is a great starter pen.

When you are starting out, don’t begin with an unrestored version of your grail pen. Find some broken-down cheap pens such as Wearevers, Esterbrooks or even this banana’d Sheaffer 350 Balance. The longer you are on the hunt, the more you will find vintage pens that turn into the shape of bananas. The deformation happens when the pen is left in the sun or near a heater for too long, which warps the plastic/celluloid.

In addition to a good practice pen, you will need some ink sacs, a pair of spark-plug/section pliers, a long dental pick, sac shellac or rubber cement, scissors that can cut through rubber ink sacs, a jar or cup, clean water, polish, a cloth rag, paper towels, a hairdryer, a razor blade and, if at all possible, an ultra-sonic cleaner. You can get most of these items pretty cheaply. One trick of the professionals is to buy a pair of rubber coated spark-plug pliers, instead of formal “section pliers” that you can find on many pen restoration sites. Why? Spark-plug pliers can be had for less than $10 at most auto parts stores. Section pliers are almost always the same, exact pliers but marked up to $20 or $30. In the early days of pen restoration as a hobby in the 1970s and ’80s, a lot of guys used regular pliers and cut off two one-inch sections of hose to cover the teeth of their normal pliers. That’s how I was first taught.

Attempting to keep this simple, I’m going to break this down into what I hope are very simple steps to make this as fun and easy an experience as possible.

  1. I like small mustard or baby food jars to use for filling with just enough water to get the pen wet from the tip of the nib to just over the threads of the barrel.

    Fill a cup with just enough room-temperature water that you can stick your pen in and go just a little bit over the section and past the cap threads. (Sections are the writing grip into which the nib and feed are inserted in one end.) Let it soak for at least an hour. (Never use hot water.) This leaches out a lot of the dried old ink in the nib and inkfeed, while also potentially softening any glue or shellac used to hold the section tightly into the barrel. Many of the old factory repair manuals encouraged repairmen to use a dab of sac shellac to hold the sometimes loose pressure-fit sections into the barrel. WARNING: Water is necessary, but it also isn’t your friend. Black hard rubbers turn chocolatey brown in water fairly quickly. (An hour might be too long for some rubbers.) Some celluloids get more brittle or discolored when in water too long. Be sure to dry off the pen as soon as you remove it from the water.

2. Use the hairdryer to warm up the space where the section and barrel meet. DO NOT melt the plastic or set the celluloid on fire. All you need is a little warm to the touch. Until you get comfortable, keep the heat to barely noticeable to the touch. Grip the section, and only the section, with your rubber coated pliers. Very gently and slowly begin to twist counter clockwise as you hold the barrel in your other hand. It is common to hear some very scary cracking sounds. Usually, that sound is the petrified rubber ink sac in the pen breaking apart as you open. Sometimes it is the pen barrel breaking. Experience will teach you the difference. If you feel the section coming loose,

Grip only the section with rubber coated pliers, such as these spark-plug pliers. Don’t grip too tightly, just enough not to let go.

keep twisting slowly and gently. If you do not feel it turning or you feel it actively resisting, stop twisting. Some sections—especially Parker Duofolds and Vacumatics—were threaded into the pen barrels, which is why we usually start with a twist. Most pens of all brands were straight pressure-fit sections. HOWEVER, some brands—especially Wahl-Eversharp, although they were extremely inconsistent—used little pins in the barrel or section to hold the section firmly in place. You CANNOT twist those sections without destroying the barrel or section. If a section resists twisting, hit it with a little more heat and very gently start trying to wiggle it in teeny, tiny side-to-side motions while pulling straight out.

This is the most dangerous part of the entire restoration job. This is where probably 80% of all pens break, if they are going to break. ALSO, celluloid is insanely flammable. DO NOT get it hot. If it catches fire, it burns like a magnesium flare. It is an extremely hot burning flame that burns extremely quickly. Early on, I accidentally set a Vacumatic on fire. It scared the hell out of me, and it was a miracle I didn’t burn down my house. Even after getting it under running water it didn’t go out right away. I had to drop it in the steel sink and flood it to put the fire out. In about 10 seconds, it burned away the majority of the barrel. Be careful with the heat.

Use a razor to scrape the old sac pieces off the section nipple.

3. Once the section is free, scoop out the old sac guts from inside the barrel with the dental pick. Sometimes those guts stick pretty good to the inside of the barrel. A flashlight or gun light can help you see in to make sure you got it all. Do not put water in the barrel to clean out the sac or old ink. This will likely ruin and rust-out the pressure-bar assembly.

4. Use the razor to scrape the remnants of the old ink sac from the nipple of the section. Be careful not to cut yourself or split open the nipple.

5. Fill your ultra-sonic cleaner with clean, room-temperature water. Sometimes a drop or two of ammonia will help badly clogged pens. Put enough water in to completely submerge the cap and section assembly. Before you turn it on, let the cap soak for a minute or so. This allows the water to penetrate the inner cap, where a lot of old ink is usually trapped. After the cap and section have had a minute to soak, turn on the ultra-sonic cleaner for no more than 2 minutes.

If feasible, an ultra-sonic cleaner is the easiest way to remove old ink.

You might not see a lot of “action” with your eyes, but the vibrations are practically violent to the parts that are submerged. It can shake free most of the old ink in two minutes or less. If a cap lip is cracked, I’ve seen some caps crumble in the ultra sonic cleaner. That’s how powerful it is.

NEVER stick your fingers in the ultra-sonic cleaner when it is turned on. It can damage your fingers and their joints. Also, don’t leave your parts in for much longer than two minutes because the cleaner will get hot and potentially damage or discolor your parts.

Turn off the ultra-sonic cleaner, collect your parts and drain the old dirty water. Then rinse the parts under the faucet with room temperature water for a few seconds. Shake the parts dry, and then dry them with a paper towel on the outside. Q-tips are perfect for drying and removing the remaining ink from inside the cap.

6. I like to polish the pen next, especially the nib. It allows me to see any major flaws I might need to work on, such as replacing the nib while the section is exposed. I use a pin-head dollop of MAAS metal polish on a Q-tip to get the nib shining like new. I use the clean side of the Q-tip to wipe off the remaining polish. Then I dip the nib in water and dry it with a clean rag to get off the remaining, invisible polish remnants. I repeat the process with a pea-size drop of MAAS metal polish on the rag and polish up the rest of the pen, rubbing it down several times with the clean parts of the rag…avoiding water.

Every repairman I know seems to have a different process for polishing a pen. The method above is adequate for most pens. Yet, if you’re a detail-oriented person, there are myriad methods of multiple polishes or wet sanding that do a much more factory-fresh looking job. Yet, those methods take up to an hour and are worthy of their own article.

This photo illustrates how to eyeball the spot you need to trim the ink sac.

7. Sizing an ink sac. How detail oriented are you? You can easily research what size sacs went into what pens. You can measure the nipple with a fine ruler using increments of 1/64th of an inch, the way old pen repair manuals did to find the right aperture width of the ink sac. Or, you can eyeball it.

The real trick to eyeballing it isn’t fitting the sac to the nipple but finding the right sac to fit inside the barrel. You do not want the edges of the sac to snug against the inside of the barrel. It is best if the sac can easily slide in and out of the barrel, preferably with a little space all around the sac. If one is to carry a pen in their shirt pocket, the goal is not to transfer body heat through the barrel to the sac and ink, which might effect the interior pressure of the ink in the pen and have it leak a bit on you with a full pen.

Regardless of how you choose the sac size, you will likely need to trim the ink sac before installing it. Most ink sacs are longer than the pen barrels. My rule of thumb is quite literally a rule of thumb. I stick the sac in the barrel as far as it will go. I then pinch the end of the barrel at the threads, with my thumb having just enough reach to go past the threads. Pinching awkwardly down on the sac, right where it exits the barrel, I remove the sac. Gaging where my thumb tip is, I trim the sac at the tip of my thumb. Usually, this allows just enough room for the section and nipple inside the pen so that the sac can be as long as it needs to be. You can double check the length by putting the section and sac next to the empty barrel, as they would fit inside it.

Use Talc to powder and preserve your new ink sac before final re-assembly.

8. Most modern pen restorers use orange shellac to affix the sac to the nipple. Before most of us learned how to make or knew where to find orange shellac for sale, rubber cement was the go-to adhesive. Orange shellac is nearly perfect, as it can harden and still be water soluble. Rubber cement forms a good seal at first but can be more easily effected by heat and aging. Yet, it better fills-in tiny hairline cracks in the nipple, hopefully extending the functional life of the pen. (NEVER use super glues of any kind. The rubber ink sacs will give out long before the super glue ever does and you can ruin the pen by forever getting the section stuck in the barrel…or sticking other wrong parts together.)

On this pen, we painted only the nipple with a thin layer of shellac. Then we slipped the sac over it. After that, we dusted the sac with pure talcum powder, which helps to extend the life of the sac.

9. Fitting the section back into the barrel is the second most dangerous part of the restoration process. Sometimes the barrel opening shrinks while the section is out and cracks open if you put the section back in too quickly or roughly. If the section feels like it is having difficulty going back in, maybe warm up the barrel end a little and gently wiggle the section back into place. Although it doesn’t really matter, I like twist the section into place where the top of the nib is even with the lever on the pen.

Congrats! Your pen is fully restored, looking beautiful and ready to write.

If the section is too loose, you can tighten it up with a tiny cut out of a piece of onion-skin paper. Or, like the old repair manuals, you can use a small drop or two of shellac on the section. Just wipe off the excess shellac and keep it out of the threads.

10. Let the shellac dry. As the shellac is water soluble, I wait about 24 hours before I test the pen with water or ink. Once the shellac is dry and the pen tests well, you’re all done. Congrats!

It took longer to read this article than it likely will take you to restore a pen—at least once you get used to the process. Fixing and writing with vintage pens is my favorite part of the hobby. If you like seeing how things work and getting your hands dirty, you’ll love pen repair. The only thing that improves it for me might be repairing pens while listening to a Cubs game on the radio and nursing a cold beer.

Always feel free to write in with questions. And always remember to go slowly and take your time. It isn’t a race. Enjoy the zen of pen repair, and best of luck to your future projects!

2018 DC Pen Show Proves a Success

To be honest, a lot of us had our doubts about the 2018 DC Pen Show. Last year’s show was a near train wreck at the start. So, we waited with baited breath to see if it was a harbinger for a disaster for this year’s show. It was NOT.

Here’s ThePenMarket.com table in action at the 2018 DC Pen Show. Check out our killer location on the wall by the side doors to the ballroom!

The 2018 DC Pen Show was a fun, well-oiled machine! Well organized and well advertised, this year’s show dazzled. Members of the pen community, old and new, hobnobbed and shared in 4 full days of inky geek love.

But, I’m getting head of myself.

The drive was actually uneventful for a change. No blowouts, thunderstorms or tornados. It was really challenging driving in dry, sunny conditions.

As no show would be complete without a battlefield visit, I returned to Manassas/Bull Run for the first time in more than 30 years. It seemed much bigger when I was a kid. While the first land battle of the Civil War did range over several miles, the park focused on the epicenter of the battle. The gently hilly terrain really played a significant part of the battle…as did inconsistently colored uniforms. I remember marveling up at the big bronze statue of Gen. Stonewall Jackson as a kid. It really commands the view of the battlefield, but as an adult the statue looked comical, as Jackson’s biceps are seemingly 3 times larger than his head. Not even Superman is that out of proportion.

Overlooked is the battle of 2nd Manassas, which took place a little more than a year after the first. Just down the road from the original battle site, the second battle was another victory for Jackson and the South, setting up the battle of Antietam a short while later. A little more isolated that first Manassas, the battlefield seems better preserved and very soothing to visit on a sunny afternoon with all of the cicadas and grasshoppers warming up for the evening, as tall grasses and wildflowers sway in the breeze. Hallowed ground for certain.

I love these chandeliers hanging in the ballrooms of the hotel at the DC Pen Show. It has a certain jellyfish quality to it.

The pen show was great. My friends and I arrived to be among the first to set up Thursday morning on the free-for-all no table assignments day. As the day sped by, more vendors set up temporary shop and weekend pass holders got first crack at some phenomenal pens. This is the day to be there for vintage pen fans. About 2 hours before tear down, it was like a huge family reunion, as I met with and talked to friends from all over the U.S., Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic and Russia. It is quite possible I left out a few countries, but it is unintentional.

Friday got an early jump. My fellow vendors started arriving around 8:30 in the morning, AND we already had table assignments waiting for us. It was great to set up before the crowds rushed us. But, rush us, they did. I got so busy setting up and helping early customers that I totally forgot to move my car from under the portico to a real parking space! Thank goodness the hotel didn’t have my car towed! My roommates and friends gave me well-deserved hell for it for the rest of the weekend.

Saturday was a blur, but, at one point, I got to host my first repair seminar with pen tool genius Dale Bebe. We had an hour to explain the fundamentals of restoring a lever-filler pen and what tools to achieve our goals.

How busy does the DC show get? This is how full it was before it officially opened for the day!

As I did that my friend Neal S. watched my table with stunning success, really helping me while I was away. That night, I made my annual pilgrimage to the Black Pen Society meeting. Yay, scotch and cigars.

Sunday was a busy morning, and then–just like that–it was all over. It was time to say farewell and pack up all my troubles in my old kit bag.

Monday, I finally got to play tourist in our nation’s capitol. I took my first Metro ride downtown to the National Mall. (The Metro is way cleaner than the El in Chicago…smoother riding, too.) My destination was a 30-year bucket-list museum: The Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.

Howard Hughes broke both speed and distance records with this graceful, slick art deco wonder with wings.

FIRST, it looks nothing like “A Night at the Museum” with Ben Stiller and Amy Adams. I was very disappointed about that…and no Amy Adams-portrayed Amelia Earhart flirting with me. Once I got over that, I enjoyed the surprisingly small museum. Impressive were the original Wright Flyer, Glamorous Glennis (the first plane to break the sound barrier), authentic V-1 and V-2 rockets and missiles from WWII and myriad other aircraft. Yet, what really spun my prop was Howard Hughes’ HB-1 plane circa 1935 that broke all of the then-known speed records. A precursor of the Bee-Gee, this plane was as fast and sleek looking as any plane on display! I loved it and a 1930s plane that was the first to fly across all of Antarctica.

To my greater surprise, my favorite exhibit looked at the history of navigation! I actually learned how to use a sextant and a chronometer to find my global position using stars at night! Now I kinda wanna roam around the country with a sextant and calculating my position on earth. The display moved through the years, also discussing how early pilots had to use the sun and a modernized sextant to navigate before radio beams could be used and then, ultimately, satellites.

Another great trip in the books.

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.

Fun Pen Repair Help

Not too long ago we were approached by a radio restoration expert named Jaime A. for help on his special 1938 Detrola radio desk set. One of the two Parker Vacumatic trumpets had broken and he needed a replacement. We just so happened to be lucky enough to have a replacement trumpet set.

Photo shows a 1938 Parker Vacumatic desk set that features a clock, weather station and Detrola radio.

A fully restored Detrola radio makes up the centerpiece of this nearly perfect Parker 1938 desk set!

The set fits perfectly, but he wants to get one of the rarer chrome-based, ribbed trumpets to better match what originally came with the set. He also wants matching Parker Vacumatic desk pens (or a matching pen and pencil for such a desk set.). If you can help him out, please reach out to us in the comments, and we will hook you guys up.

In the meantime, feast your eyes on this set. Jaime completely refinished the wood and stain, replaced the vacuum tubes in the radio and got the clock and weather station portions working. That’s a lighter in the center of the wooden base!

If any body has a chrome-base and ribbed Parker Vacumatic trumpet they would like to sell, please let us know so we can help Jaime A. finish the final touches on his Detrol Radio and Parker Vacumatic desk set.

If any body has a chrome-base and ribbed Parker Vacumatic trumpet they would like to sell, please let us know so we can help Jaime A. finish the final touches on his Detrol Radio and Parker Vacumatic desk set.

Clearly, those Sheaffers are not the original pens for the set. They are just temporary place holders until he can find the right set of Vacs.

Still, it is one of the rarest and most handsome desk sets we’ve ever seen!

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.

PRE-GAME STRATEGY
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.

SERVICES:
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.

DEALING WITH VENDORS
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.

CLOSING THE DEAL
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!

Sanford Ink: A Brief History

If you troll the antique stores of America searching for great deals on vintage pens, you cannot help but come upon those seemingly ubiquitous small pressed glass ink bottles by Sanford. They have myriad colored caps. Maybe you run into the Sanford Pen It inkwells and towers.

The Sanford Ink Company is one of the oldest ink companies in the world that is still in operation. They made many colors of fountain pen inks since 1857, and they invented the Sharpie in 1964! This Sanford Ink display is a metal carousel that is most likely from the late 1940s or early 1950s.

The Sanford Ink Company is one of the oldest ink companies in the world that is still in operation. They made many colors of fountain pen inks since 1857, and they invented the Sharpie in 1964! This Sanford Ink display is a metal carousel that is most likely from the late 1940s or early 1950s.

The more I found, the more I asked: Who and what was the Sanford Ink Company? Why aren’t they still around? Did their ink perform so terribly that they went out of business…just not before making billions of bottles of ink to litter our antique malls?

My ignorance got the better of me a few months ago when I was asked to sell a display carousel of those little cubed 1oz ink bottles. It had close to a dozen different colors on an aluminum spinner that appeared to be straight out of the late 1940s or early 1950s. I finally had to breakdown and research the company if I had any prayer of selling this thing. It was perhaps my happiest discovery about the ink world this year.

Sanford inks didn’t suck. They are so good that they are still the bestselling in America today. They just don’t sell fountain pen ink any more. You will better know their universally famous product: the Sharpie Marker. With its nearly indestructible permanent black ink markers and other colors, Sharpie is in nearly every home and office.

The Sanford story is actually a very interesting one. Sanford dates all the way back to 1857, before the Civil War. They made ink and glue in Massachusetts before moving to Chicago in 1866, just 5 years before the great fire burned the city to the ground. Sanford actually survived the tragic fire only to be burned down by another blaze a very short while later. The company rebuilt and became one of America’s largest ink manufacturers and suppliers by the end of the Great Depression. The only ink company we know that has been in the game longer is Pelikan, which got its start in Hanover, Germany, in 1838.

The Sharpie marker can write on most any surface with a permanent ink. This older Sharpie still shows the Sanford coporate logo.

The Sharpie marker can write on most any surface with a permanent ink. This older Sharpie still shows the Sanford coporate logo.

The invention of the ballpoint pen during the 1940s spelled doom for the fountain pen (and ink) industry. By the 1960s, the Sanford Ink Company was looking to emerging markets to find a new product to keep the company afloat. The Sharpie marker was born in 1964—50 years ago this year! It could write on glass, paper, rocks, just about any surface. It was quickly endorsed by late night talk show comedians Johnny Carson and Jack Paar.

These days it is the “pen” of choice by many star athletes and performers for signing autographs on everything from footballs to glossy photos. Roughly 200 million markers are made every year, according to the Sharpie website.

In a bizarre twist of pen fate, Sanford was bought by Newell Rubbermaid in 1992. Newell Rubbermaid also owns the brands: Parker, Waterman and PaperMate. So, in a sense, Sanford has never fully left the fountain pen ink business. It is now owned by the same people who own what would have been some of Sanford’s greatest competitors 60 years ago.

How Do I Write a Love Letter?

The key to every good love letter is making it as personal as you can. Don't be indimidated by writing. Savor the joy it will bring.

The key to every good love letter is making it as personal as you can. Don’t be intimidated by writing. Savor the joy it will bring.

Okay, so now that you have a spiffy pen for writing love letters, how do you go about using it?

Writing a good love letter is an art form, but it is not one you need to be intimidated by. There is no one correct way to write one, as every relationship is different and in different stages.

As with any writing project, you must keep only two simple things in mind: 1.) Who is your audience & 2.) What is your objective.

The letter better not sound that cold, but it helps to take the edge off when you sit down to compose.

You are never too old or too young to write a good love letter. My first one was to a teacher’s aid in first grade. I was madly in love with Miss Mix. Perhaps, that’s where my flame for older women first got lit. I was 6. She was 21. She was pretty and kind and totally understood my inner soul way better than those immature girls my own age. It was ill fated, but I totally got a love letter back from her. She declined my proposal to marry, but she did encourage me to look her up after I grew up. Sadly, she moved away when her student teaching ended that semester and we lost track of one another. C’est la vie. That’s just the way love goes sometimes.

I digress.

First ask yourself what stage of the relationship you are in. What do you hope to achieve by writing this letter. Writing to someone you barely know will be much different than writing to someone you’ve been married to for 50 years.

Let’s say you are just getting to know someone or want to get to know someone. Be your quirky self, humorous and sincere. Don’t overdo it. A light touch is best. Include something about the connection you share.

“Every day it seems I spy you through the sneeze guard of our office cafeteria salad bar. Who is this amazingly hot woman with three and a half noses and 7 dancing arctic blue eyes peering back at me through the plexiglass refraction? I don’t know, but it seems we agree that croutons are the best part of any salad. Is this kismet or just a mutual fondness for crunchy salted carbs? I don’t know, but I’d like to find out. How about stepping out from behind the sneeze guard and joining me for a real lunch some time? Potentially yours, _____”

Nothing elaborate. It’s light hearted, flirty and fun without sounding stalkerish or dripping in innuendo. Yet, it leaves open many possibilities.

If you are already in a relationship, understand the difference between intimacy and lust. Both make for fantastic love letters, but it also is the point at which you really need to focus on shared experiences and end goals. Intimacy can lead to lust, but it is that special souls-laid-bare closeness that comes from shareing your lives. Use those close personal experiences to tell your lover why they are so important to you. Put your feelings and your self out there and make sure they know how incredible it is to have them in your life.

If a night of unbridled passion is what you are after, then tap into lust, and use your love letter as foreplay. Get it delivered midday at their home or office with flowers or a gift. Use your words to stir their desire.

THE BIGGEST MISTAKES GUYS MAKE: Unless you met your partner at a renaissance fair, lay off the knightly talk and overtly ardent courting of the 14th century. Methinks it goeth too far, and most fair maidens have second thoughts about a man who pretends he’s living in the realm of “Dungeons & Dragons.”

ALSO: Lay off the lust angle, unless your relationship has already crossed that line or is on the verge of crossing that line. Otherwise, most women will resent being objectified. Mostly, they’ll think you are creepy and/or scary. If it is meant to be, it’ll happen. Be patient.

THE BIGGEST MISTAKES GALS MAKE: Don’t put the proverbial cart before the horse. Guys love love letters, too, but you want to be careful about going too far ahead of where the relationship is really at. If your relationship is still pretty new, you might spook him if you start talking about marriage or seeing your yet unconcieved children in his eyes. It might be obvious that the two of you will be headed down the aisle one day, but don’t spring it on him out of the blue.

ALSO: If you want a more physical relationship, don’t be afraid to ask for it. We live in messed up times. If you’ve got a nice, caring guy who is a little reluctant to go too far at first, it doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t want you. He was likely raised to respect women and not treat them like sexual play toys who can be easily discarded. Mix that with a lifetime of news reports about rape and sex abuse against women, and he likely doesn’t want to be seen as a predator. A gentleman doesn’t take a lady; she gives herself to him. He likely desperately wants your permission to do all of the things you desperately want him to do. Don’t be afraid to write it out in black and white for him.

Join the Wearever Pen Bandwagon

Here is the Wearever Deluxe 100 in a grey and red pattern that looks surprisingly close to that of the Parker Parkerette below.

Here is the Wearever Deluxe 100 in a grey and red pattern that looks surprisingly close to that of the Parker Parkerette below.

To the astonishment of many long-time pen collectors, the Wearever brand has been gaining a lot of second looks in recent years.

Although Sheaffer and Parker routinely vied for the title of the biggest and best fountain pen manufacturer from the 1920s through the 1960s, another brand beat them out on sales volume: Wearever.

0639 ParkeretteHonestly. Although a second–and even third–tier pen company, Wearever sold huge quantities of pens, particularly in the 1940s and ’50s. How did they do it? Looks and price. Some of their highest quality pens, such as the Wearever Deluxe 100, only cost one greenback dollar. Their plastics proved very durable, and the company focused a lot of attention on making the pens very attractive…often stealing, I mean, being inspired by the designs of leading pen makers. Just look at the similarity between this Wearever Deluxe 100 and Parker Parkerette.

The cost cutting came on the quality control side of things. While some of their “special alloy” nibs wrote very smoothly, many were scratchy and troublesome.

Many collectors, tired of being priced out of the ultra popular brands, are turning to these handsome vintage pens to beautify their collection while these pens are still affordable.

Overlooked for so long, there appears to be very little information about this company from North Bergen, New Jersey. Reasonable rumors state its history extends back into the late 1800s. We are very curious about this company and would love it if other fans of the brand were able to contact us with more details.

Treat Yourself as You Write Your Christmas Cards

With its striking greens and golden browns, this beautiful Parker Duofold fountain pen from 1941 would make an ideal pen for writing your Christmas cards. Not only does it look good, it is fully restored and has a very smooth fine-medium nib.

With its striking greens and golden browns, this beautiful Parker Duofold fountain pen from 1941 would make an ideal pen for writing your Christmas cards. Not only does it look good, it is fully restored and has a very smooth fine-medium nib.

I love writing Christmas cards. I don’t do group letters or holiday e-cards. I don’t care if you think it is hoaky. I love sitting down with some hot chocolate, my favorite holiday CDs and writing actual Christmas cards.

It is part of the holiday ritual that helps get me in the mood for the season’s festivities. It is a cathartic time to reflect on the past year and reconnect with my family and friends who are flung to the 4 corners of the map. For many of these people, this is the only time I hear from them…and they me.

The smell of vintage Sheaffer green ink for the cards and modern Parker red for the envelopes is heartwarming.

Plus, part of the ritual is selecting a new, or new-to-me, fountain pen to add to the collection and joyously write up each card and letter.

While it is way too early for me to buy the cards, let alone start writing them, this is the time I pick up my new or vintage pen. I’m already winnowing down my options…a restored Snorkel, a brand new Pelikan, or maybe that Cross Century II midnight pen with little pin-point stars that came out a couple years ago. The process of making that selection is half the fun.

Whether you are planning on sending out your first Christmas cards or 70th season’s worth of them, treat yourself to a new pen to make the most of your holiday writing experience with our more than 200 fully restored vintage pens and lightly used modern pens.

Buy Museum-Quality Pens

Sleek black elegance is breath-taking in this seemingly new old stock Parker 17.

Sleek black elegance is breath-taking in this seemingly new old stock Parker 17.

In the past month or so, ThePenMarket.com has added many museum quality and/or new old stock pens to its vintage pens pages. These pens are not necessarily the go-to pens all collector’s feel as if they must have, but they are great pens at good prices that will round out any collection perfectly.

For example, there is an English-made Parker 17 that appears never to have been used. Its original aerometric filler is pristine.

Possibly used, you would be hard pressed to tell it with this near mint condition Esterbrook LJ series pen.

Possibly used, you would be hard pressed to tell it with this near mint condition Esterbrook LJ series pen.




We resaced a beautiful copper-colored Esterbrook LJ-1551, that was likely used, but it is in such good shape with so little wear, it will be a beautiful a display piece.

And then we come to our impecable Sheaffer Imperials. These cartridge-only fillers are beautiful pens, many in near mint condition. They will look great in a case, and they still work with modern Sheaffer ink cartridges. How do you not love those classic 14k gold inlaid nibs.

Often overlooked, what's wrong with the Sheaffer Imperial? It is a handsome modern design that is light weight and easy to use with that remarkable 14k inlaid gold nib.

Often overlooked, what’s wrong with the Sheaffer Imperial? It is a handsome modern design that is light weight and easy to use with that remarkable 14k inlaid gold nib.