What's up at Ravens March.

Vintage pens-Handmade books-Silly statements


Posted by Dirck on 27 July, 2015


Today I’m going to be sort of bragging and sort of admitting too foolishness.  While I try to be semy clever (it’s a heraldry gag– surely everyone knows how to blazon), all too ofter getting up to “semi-” involved a stretch.

This is actually something that was done before the vacation, but I couldn’t bring myself to get it down in words until now.  A client sent me a Sheaffer Imperial III that needed some attention; not filling, not writing.  I took it apart to the usual degree that one dismantles a Touchdown-filled pen to get the mechanism back in shape.  There was absolutely nothing moving through the feed, leading to a long round of soaking and buzzing in the ultrasonic cleaner.  As I wrestled with it, it came out that it may have been fed the wrong sort of ink as some point, which went some length to explaining why it was so clumped up.  I would, I decided, have to take the section right apart and start scraping at it.

Let me show you a picture of this sort of pen reduced to its components.  This is actually a Sheaffer II, but the different lies in plating and cap shape– nothing of note.

Notice the feed, because I’ll have to refer back to it.  I don’t particularly like pulling any Imperial section apart, so this wasn’t something I was anxious to pursue, but sometimes you just have to put on the gloves and dig in.  Warm the section to loosen sealant, after one more run in the ultrasonic tub, and start trying to unscrew the coupling.  This isn’t, it seems, a procedure Sheaffer was envisioning for these pens, as the sealant is pretty stiff.  It’s always a fun game to play; how much force can I exert on this thing without that force finding a flaw in the shell’s plastic?

Thus, I was expecting a bit of a struggle in the initial turn or two.  I got it.  After the initial resistance, though, off it came, without any hurt to the shell.  At this point, though, I found that the source of the resistance wasn’t quite what I expected.  The clogging ink had clogged primarily in the coupling, investing itself in the hold in the coupling which that long tail on the feed occupies.  The tail was not able to turn in the coupling.  The feed turned with the shell.  When I got the shell off, the tail had been twisted right off the feed.

That’s not good.

That tail is essentially the same thing as the inner feed in a Snorkel, a carefully engineered half-cylinder that allows the movement of air and ink through the narrow pipe between the feed and the sac.  I don’t have any spares of either coupling or feed for this model, so I had to put on my thinking cap (a paper cone, floppy and stained, with the word DUNCE  upon it scribbled over in green crayon).  Some amount of work with drill-press and tiny little knives later, solution appeared.

Here’s what a cross-section of the coupling should look like:

The black-shaded area indicates where ink usually lives.

The black-shaded area indicates where ink usually lives.

The feed-tail was still essentially welded to the coupling, resistant even to being knocked out with a drift and hammer.  It was not resistant to a very thin drill capable of cutting steel, though.  Part of my consideration of the whole process was the role of surface tension in the function of fountain pens, and it seemed to me that if I didn’t open up the hole, surface tension would lock the ink inside.  I also thought it would be well to put some ink channels in the walls of the new hole, to get tension to work for me in keeping ink-contact between feed and reservoir, so I threaded a jeweler’s saw into the part and cut a couple.  The final result was something like this:

Yes, I reused the original bit of paper.  Why not?

Yes, I reused the original bit of paper. Why not?

I had to clean up the bit of the tail sticking out of the feed to make for relatively feed flow, and I gambled on the fact that the tail’s transmission goes a little way further into the hole would prevent too much ink from getting into the feed proper.  Testing showed that this was not an issue– the air-lock issue does actually rear its head, requiring an occasional gentle shake of the pen to restore flow.  Semi-cleverness has semi-fixed the pen.  I sent it back on approval, and the client was happy enough with mostly-working that I received full payment for the work (I charged for the filler servicing only; the flailing was free), so this story seems to have a happy ending.

Today’s pen:  Parker “51”
Today’s ink: Diamine Sherwood Green

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