A Clever Thing
Posted by Dirck on 17 March, 2014
Rather longer ago than I would like, I mentioned that I had used part of my lunch break to go and get some materials for doing A Clever Thing with a pen. A good deal of thinking, pondering, shouting “Where the hell is Tool X?”, repeated lifting of things looked under not two minutes earlier and buying of new Tools X later, that cleverness is complete. Let me brag upon it.
A correspondent of mine had mentioned that a Parker “51” of hers was lacking its filler stem. This is extremely problematic, not unlike the discovery that there’s no hole into which a gas nozzle might be stuck under your car’s filler flap. I’ll recycle a picture from a previous entry about a clever thing I done did (sic) to give those without early “51”s a chance to see what I’m talking about:
I told her to send it along and I’d see what I could do for it, and so she did. Taking apart the pen, I found that it has also, somehow, lost the pellet cup (the above-pictured black bit) and the diaphragm was a horrid mess of rubber turned hard and clinging to the inside of the pen. These extra curlicues weren’t really a big deal, as scraping out bad rubber is more or less a quotidien chore in pen repair and as the existence of the picture suggests I already had a grip on the fabrication of new cups.
The easy route would have been to just replace the whole filler and have done. I even have a spare on hand. However, there were reasons to not come at the problem that way. The most sensible of these is the problem of getting the blind cap and the barrel of the pen to agree with one another. When replacing a diaphragm, a smart person makes subtle marks on filler and pen, so that the filler is turned in to exactly the position it lay originally. This is done because the blind cap and barrel were turned together when they were made, and the process had sufficient human intervention that the two pieces usually share an eccentricity, or if you prefer an ellipticality. If the filler gets moved, the wow of cap and barrel don’t meet, and the whole thing looks goofy and can even feel wrong against the hand. Without the subtle marks, sorting this sort of thing out is an unhappy chore.
With a new filler, it can become impossible, but you don’t know it’s impossible without a lot of trying. Not, then, the easy route in fact. But, to reuse the filler, what might I use to make a new shaft.
What I probably should have gone with was plastic. What I went with was brass. Both materials are available in convenient widths and at reasonable prices at hobby shops that cater to model-makers; The Regular Job is only a block away from one, and that’s where I went. Plastic is a lot easier to work with, both in the cutting and in the sticking together. There wouldn’t have been the delay of getting a new hacksaw blade. But brass looks a lot better.
This nice thing about doing this as a gift is that I didn’t feel I had to rush to accomplish it. Festinat lente is a useful way to come at this sort of project. I learned some valuable lessons about the process, I have plenty of left-over brass should the matter arise again (it comes in four-foot lengths), and I know a few things to not bother trying. Also nice to discover is that the replacement of celluloid with brass doesn’t horribly throw off the pen’s balance; the difference is detectible but has no real effect. Isn’t it wonderful when doing something clever works out?