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Archive for September 27th, 2010

Does Incomplete Victory Count?

Posted by Dirck on 27 September, 2010

I’m sure the majority of people with access to the internet today will have at some point in their life stumbled upon Sesame Street.  A regular feature on the show in my day (although from a few recent viewing I wonder if this is still the case) was the song “One of These Things.”  With that song in mind, lets have a look at some pens:

Shall we play? All are fountain pens, of course.  All are the sort of piston-filler in which one simply hauls on a stick to fill and empty, like a syringe.  No two are the same colour, and only two are Remington brand.  All ridiculously long blind caps to house the piston-stick.  All have a transparent barrel, so the level of ink is obvious at all times… although the fact that one of them is very hard to see through is a difference, and a hint to the difference I have in mind.

The difference you can’t see– the one at the top is mine, and I didn’t work on it this weekend.  The other three belong to clients, and as noted last week one of my goals for this weekend was to use some newly-purchased sheet silicone-rubber to fashion fresh seals.  In the Red Dot at the bottom of the picture, you can actually see the new seal, a somewhat redder item in the picture than it is in real life.  In this, I had some success, as you can see from the water visible within Red Dot and that lizardy green chap near the top.  It’s not an entirely straightforward process, as some shaping is needed after the circle is punched out of the sheet (and in the case of Red Dot, some thickness reduction), but it’s not too challenging.  Especially when the son is asleep.

However, to install a new seal in the pen, you do need to be able to get inside the thing.  This sort of pen was as close to a disposable as the popular concept of pen would allow in the 1930s, so they weren’t necessarily made with repair in mind.  The points are generally made of gold-plated steel, and it seems that the idea was that by the time anything else wore out, the ravenous inks of the day would have found a way trhough the plating and reduced to point to a useless hulk.  The sections were thus frequently fixed permanently to the barrel, indicating that whatever was used to join them (acetone, perhaps?) was even less expensive than shellac.

When I took the red Remington from its owner, I was very confident.  My own version of this pen came apart quite biddably, and I didn’t foresee any trouble.  After a couple of weeks of efforts to free it, culminating in a great combative struggle yesterday, I have sent a note to the client essentially asking permission to retreat.  I can’t think of a non-destructive way to get the section free.  Given that the room was starting to smell like a cough-drop factory, I was clearly flirting with the ignition point of the celluloid, and that’s a degree of excitement I’d like to avoid.  Sometimes you have to admit defeat, and I do so in this case with at least the clarity of conscience not having utterly destroyed the pen allows.

The other two are doing nicely, though.  If we want to really finish the game, there is one more way in which one differs from the others.  Can you see it?  It’s right there in front of you– of the four of them, only the green one isn’t trying very hard indeed to pretend to be a Sheaffer Balance.

Today’s easily opened pen:  Sheaffer No Nonsense (a red one of my wife’s heap of No Nonsenses and Viewpoints…)
Today’s ink:  Diamine Majestic Blue (…which turns out to be a colour she doesn’t like much, so I’ve been invited to help write it empty)

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