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Archive for July 9th, 2012

Supply Stream

Posted by Dirck on 9 July, 2012

Before I quite let go of the Popular Science bone I’ve been shaking for the last little while, I thought I might share what passes for “inspiration” in my sad little synapse collection.  In addition to the magazine, I was last week looking at the blog kept by Ron Zorn of Main Street Pens.  I want to pause even before I’ve got any real momentum going to disclaim any notion that this is a form of “keeping up with the competition”, as that implies some nearness in ability and/or experience; please take it rather to be either an effort at drawing inspiration from a mightier practitioner, or a cargo-cultish attempt to get some of the bene grisgris to transmit itself via DSL.

In any event, in looking through the back numbers of the entries there, I came upon one contemplating the idea of the “parts pen”.  The thrust of it is that there is an ever dwindling supply both factory-original parts and of the pens they might go into.  The frequent cry when a pen part lets go is “Get a junker off eBay!  Loot the corpse!” and that’s still a workable solution, but it’s not one that can work indefinitely.  Parker 21s, for example, have a diabolical and well-deserved reputation for developing cracks in their hoods, which can appear spontaneously through the mere action of time upon the material.  Most of the eBay junkers have that status because the hood is crazed, so buying one doesn’t address the lack of hoods.

One of the things that make me inferior to Ron Zorn is relative ability to fabricate parts.  I don’t (currently) have a lathe, nor (ditto) the knowledge needed to turn out a replacement for a damaged fitting.  The thrust of his article, which to a degree pierces me, is that those who merely seek extant parts are not in the strictest terms quite eligible for the title of “repair man”.  I’d argue that there are greater and lesser grades, of course, but it’s not an invalid point, and in pure honesty I will be found an invalid, hanging off his point.  But let us leave defeatism behind for now.

While I was considering the matter, a little bit of cognitive bleed-through began to occur.  That issue of Popular Science with its “Invent Your Own Anything” enticement, does not approach the subject from an academic standpoint.  There are practical suggestions for the budding Teslas and Stevensons of the world, because merely drawing up a sketch of the fabled better mouse-trap is only one stage of invention.  It needs building to prove its worth, and in this modern age that act of fabrication is more easily grasped than it has previously been.  The 3-D printer can do more than poop out tiny busts of Stephen Colbert, after all.  One could as easily describe the hood of a Parker 21 as the head of a comedic pundit, and cause one or a hundred to emerge from a printer.

I haven’t investigated this fully, so I am speaking from ignorance when I say I suspect that the output of 3-D printers are not quite up to the threads inside the hood, or to similar fiddly bits on other parts of other pens, and that a dab hand with a lathe is likely still needed for the final completion of most parts.  But, if I’m right about this, it’s likely only for the moment.  I’m old enough to remember when “computer portrait” meant about a half-hour waiting for a daisy-wheel printer to finish banging down enough letters to look like a blurry human face to a willing eye, and now I can print high quality photographs in less time than the mere typing of this sentence has absorbed.  Resolution is bound to improve with the passage of time.  I may one day find myself printing out a whole barrel for a Sheaffer Snorkel indistinguishable from the the one that originally stood between section and blind cap.  Won’t that relieve the pressure on the parts supply?

Of course… it will tend to reduce the amount of call for a pen technician, too….  Uh oh.

Today’s pen, all original parts: Parker Senior Duofold
Today’s ink, possibly a clever reproduction: Private Reserve Burgundy Mist

  sudden thought while reading Zorn blog; 3d printer can (maybe?) ease pressure on dwindling supply of “parts” pens.

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