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Archive for December 20th, 2010

Whatever do you suppose that is?

Posted by Dirck on 20 December, 2010

I am going to quote from a previous entry, so you need not click on the link:

[I worked on] a couple of Parker Challengers, a full-size in grey and a slender in red, taken right apart, cleared of old ink and sacs, and mostly put back together.  “Mostly”, because the section of the big one would profit greatly from a good long soak before the feed and point are put back in, and so it was left for another day.

How does two weeks of soaking strike you?  I’ve run into some pretty odd things down the inside of pens, some of which I can identify only as “smelly” or “sticky,” but I don’t think I recall one that was so… inverted as the grey Challenger.  Let me give you some details.

The section was held in very firmly by an unidentifiable (I’m not privy to a mass spectrometer, OK?) grey substance that had become very firm indeed since it was put in place, but which went tan and soft as the long soak went on.  “Soft” being a relative term, as it still took a lot of scraping to get loose.  White glue, perhaps?  White glue as it was known to the 1940s?  A kind of leaded grout long since banned from the market?  The kami alone know.  The mysterious nature of this stuff is not too troubling, though, as I’m by now used to the notion of the home repairman grabbing whatever goop comes to hand.  The same material was used to secure the sac in place, and here is where the mystery lies.

The correct stuff to apply a sac with is shellac, a substance well-known to wood-workers for centuries.  One fishes for “whatever is at hand” if the right thing isn’t there.  So… why was the inside of the section coated with shellac?  Slightly loosened by soaking and cycles in the ultrasonic cleaner, scales of shellac have fallen from the inner wall, and I can’t work out the how nor the why of it.  The closest I can come is that the Home Repair Guy (c.1947) had heard that shellac was somehow involved in this process, and managed to get some up the inside of the section… while at the same time avoiding the point and feed entirely.  He did not, happily, just fill the pen with it as the final step in the repair, so the feed wasn’t clogged up solid.  It’s a little upsetting, thinking of the needless careful effort spent on such a fruitless and counterproductive undertaking– counterproductive, as it quite reduced both clarity and transparency of the ink window.

It’s a good thing I have a high tolerance for insoluable mystery.  The truth behind this pen will almost certainly never be known.  I’ll take comfort from the magnificently flexible point my own efforts have rendered useable once again.

Well, not yet.  The pen wasn’t out in front of me when I was deciding this week’s festive pens.  I’d put it aside to let the new shellac dry.

Today’s somewhat festive pen: Pilot 78G
Today’s more or less merry ink:  Noodler’s Tulipe Noir


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