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Archive for September 29th, 2010

Full Disclosure

Posted by Dirck on 29 September, 2010

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.

Hm.  Er.  Yes.  Quite.  I did say that, didn’t I?  Well, my conscience climbed down off my shoulder moments after I posted that and had been kicking me in the kidneys ever since, so it’s time to reveal an ugly truth.  In the very same weekend which saw the setting aside of a recalcitrant Remington, I damaged a rather more grand Sheaffer belonging to another client.

The pen in question is a 790, or at least so says the collective wisdom of the Fountain Pen Network.  It is one of the protean and mystifying Imperial/Triumph line of the 1970s, rather like the 440 but with a gold point and gold-plated cap in place of steel– upon reflection, I think I’ve neglected to take a picture of it for my album in my panic over The Incident.  Like the 440, it is a cartridge filling pen, and it arrived in my hands with an older metal-bodied converter stuck in it.  The sac on the converter had let go, rendering the pen unusable until converter was freed.

“Stuck” is hardly the word for the problem.  “Seized”  might be closer to the point.  Perhaps even “contact-welded”.  Soaking, heat, various solvents of increasing risk, nothing would budge the thing.  My initial goal was to get the converter out and see whether it wasn’t possible to fit it with a new sac, but as options dwinded I realized that getting the pen at all operational was probably going to see the destruction of the converter.  Which, in my books, means the client isn’t going to pay for the “service”, since attacking a pen with a pair of pliers is not what we might call “skilled labour”.  The client assented to the plan, and I brought forth the pliers.

At this point, the whole affair takes on some of the character of battlefield surgery in the early 19th century.  The thin metal of the converter gave under the pressure of the pliers, and it looked like a good tug would set things free.  However, the joining of one metal to the other was so complete that the long metal collar on the back of the section actually cracked under the strain before the remains of the converter came away.  I’ll append a picture of the thing when I’ve got a chance, having two representatives of the tribe in my hands to act a models, so I’ll not decribe the collar in great detail– it acts to hold the cartridge in place while the pen is screwed together, and the forward part is threaded to receive the barrel.  It’s not a trivial part. (EDIT: Here’s a picture that will serve; its the one on the right)

Luckily for me, in as much as luck came visiting on this case, the crack stopped at the threaded portion of the collar.  I could turn to the barber-surgeon’s great friend, the saw, to remove the damaged bit, and still have a functional pen.  Which is what I did. Truncated, but functional.

Part of the lateness of this confession is the combined work of shame and vanity.  However, I also wanted to wait until the client knew what was happening with his pen, or rather pens, as two others had been travelling with it (a snorkel Statesman and an Imperial II).  All are on their way home even now, and the deal I’ve presented him with is that he’s not to pay me until he’s had a chance at inspection– I told him what the total would have been had the damage not occured, and said that he’s free to pay any amount between that and nothing at all.  Since pen people are, with some small foibles from one individual to another, a reasonable bunch, I expect fair treatment.

There’s a lesson in this, too.  Something “simple” can present the greatest difficulties.  The snorkel was, in relative terms, a dawdle.

Today’s penitent pen:  Waterman C/F
Today’s apologetic ink: Diamine China Blue

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