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Policy Amendment

Posted by Dirck on 10 April, 2013

In the wake of yesterday’s little flight, today will be a very earnest and sober affair, and it starts with an straightforward and non-allusive title.  I am indeed changing a hitherto unwritten policy of mine, regarding the replacement of pen guts.  Hitherto, I had a pretty broad idea of warranty, but I am about to put a pretty firm limitation on warranty in connection with the reservoirs of pens.  Sacs and vacumatic diaphragms have, henceforth, a warranty of ninety days from the day I put the pen in the mail back to the owner.

Harsh, innit?  Let me explain the why of it.  There has been a bit of a discussion on the Repairs forum of the FPN on the topic of catastrophic sac failure (which will be linked to when FPN emerges from a maintenance cycle I find them in).  The failure is not a mere rupture, but an actual dissolution.  Fans of the game Shadowrun may remember a spell– Turn to Goo– which very nicely describes the effect.  The easiest way to get this effect is to expose the sac to volatile oils, as are found in perfumes.  Petroleum jelly is also a source of trouble in this direction.  However, especially in the case of the perfumes, pretty much everyone who gets around to replacing a sac knows to avoid the solvent, and thus steers around the problem.

And yet… one hesitates to toss “epidemic” about, but one does keep hearing about this sort of thing happening.  It was not so long ago that I was here mentioning how it had happened to me.  I also reasoned my way around it, and made what I now realize is something of an over-forceful statement on the topic.  However, this more recent thread on the forum indicates a somewhat elevated rate of infection, and it gives one some slight pause.  I find relatively persuasive the idea offered there that intermittent occurrences of insufficient vulcanization in the manufacturing process (which I suspect can occur in corners of the stirring tub, as opposed to the Great Sac Disaster of some years ago which apparently afflicted a whole batch), which render the rubber somewhat closer to the original latex in its willingness to dissolve in water.  This is combining with an increased general use of highly-saturated inks, which have more surfactants in them to keep the colour from clumping up in one corner of the bottle; surfactants encourage things to dissolve.  When one meets the other, Turn to Goo is cast; a rather less horrible outcome than in the game, but there’s still unhappiness connected to it.

There is, by the way, no blame to assign here.  Even low saturation inks have been found to produce the effects, and no maker of sacs has an unblemished record.  Like a stroke, it can happen to anyone, even if you’re living properly.  You may continue, if you haven’t found other reasons for avoiding them, to use specialty after-market inks like Noodlers or Private Reserve.

The above being the case I am, like some of the bigger names in pen repair, limiting my willingness to accept responsibility for something I have no control over (since I don’t make the sacs myself) and which I can’t predict (you don’t know the sac is going to fail until it’s in use).

Of course, I’m frequently very hard in the abstract and rather soft in the specific.  I suspect if a client shows a pen in a state of goop to me, I’ll likely share the cost of remediation with them rather after the 90 day limit has passed.  And, of course, there’s no similar limit on failure due to workmanship.  A sac turning to goo is one thing.  A sac that someone didn’t actually attach properly is another entirely.

Today’s pen, unaffected by the current problem: Cross Century II
Today’s ink, and in some cases an element of the problem: Noodler’s El Lawrence

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