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Revenge of the Vacumatic

Posted by Dirck on 27 March, 2012

This past weekend, I fixed a Vacumatic.  Again.

The pen in question had been in my hands about a year ago, for a general restoration to function.  I won’t say “Easy peasy,” since it was actually somewhat resistant to my efforts to break into it, but it wasn’t much more challenging than the average Vacumatic.  New diaphragm, a bit of a cleaning, and home it went.

A couple of months ago, the owner contacted me and said, “Um… it’s not filling right.”  A long-distance diagnostic is tricky, but I thought that either the breather tube had come loose or the diaphragm’s pellet had gotten loose from the mechanism.  I could conceivably disclaim responsibility for the former, but I would absolutely be on the hook for the latter.  With a little direction, the owner got the section off, and confirmed that there was something askew with the diaphragm.  My problem!

I spent the time between this email exchange and the pen’s arrival in a bit of a desolation of self-doubt.  Did I mess up the mounting of the diaphragm?  How?  With the older version of the mechanism, the pellet cup is a sturdy bit of metal rather than the later brittle plastic objects, the possibility of messing up (once the filler is properly removed) is extremely low.  So, where did I go wrong?

I can now report that, happily, I did not go wrong.  The diaphragm came out looking very like a lump of gum, and since I know what I did during installation I know I didn’t cause it.  If I’d used smelly baby powder, then I could find fingers pointed at me, but I use only the purest talc.  I also don’t think the owner has a role in it; I know he uses Aurora inks, which are appropriate, and there was not evidence of anything inappropriate going into it.  No, I think we have another instance of spontaneous rubber failure; sometimes, for no evident reason (but probably down to a small error in formulation), the latex goes gummy, if not goopey. I had this happen once before, and rather more dramatically, and while upsetting it’s not what we might call a regular occurrence.

I still take the responsibility for putting it right, so I am out the return postage on this pen.  However, since this gave me a chance to take a decent picture of it for my Vacumatic page, I look on it as a balanced event.

Today’s pen: Waterman Thorobred
Today’s ink: Herbin Bleu Myosotis


2 Responses to “Revenge of the Vacumatic”

  1. bleubug said

    I’m glad I’m not the only one that happens too. A number of times new sacs turned into goop on pens I’ve restored. Now I mostly do repair for myself and friends who live in the Philippines so the failures in that country I chalked up to the climate. But it didn’t make too much sense since pens using rubber bladders and diaphragms were in use there as long as here. So, what is causing this? Darned if I know.

    • As far as I know, it’s just a matter of getting the proportions of ingredients slightly wrong, possibly abetted by weather at the time of mixing. I guesss it’s sort of the same thing as two batches of cookies made to the same recipe but a week apart having entirely different natures.

      …and like those who fly frequently, we who replace sacs more often increase our chances of winning an unwelcome lottery.

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