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The Miracle Worker

Posted by Dirck on 9 January, 2018

That’s the title of that thing where the guy pretends to be Dread Pirate Roberts and then he gets mostly killed by Prince Humperdink, isn’t it?

Well, failing memory aside, I got to play the role of Miracle Max over the weekend, restoring a hopeless looking case to full vibrant life.  Let me introduce you to the sufferer who appeared on my doorstep, more dead than alive.

The front of a fountain pen, with the end of the point bent downward at about 45 degrees

Poor ol’ droopy

A slightly different angle of the previous image; the pen is rotated so show the deformity from the edge.

You wont get much writing done with that.

Graphic images, to be sure, but I’m sure you can all handle it, and it is in the cause of science.  This pen was dropped, and since the Carène is such an aerodynamic shape, it made sure to drop on the point.  I’m sure this saved the lacquer from chipping, but I do wish pens would understand that their points are not crumple zones.

The main problem with putting this point back in shape lies in the area of leverage.  There is not a lot of point sticking out past the end of the plastic, which limits angles from which one can apply the tools of reshaping.  This is frequently the case with more conventionally-shaped pens in need of similar reconstruction, and the answer is to knock out the point.

…which brings in the other problem.  The Carène’s point is an inset type.  Not, happily, an inlaid point, a trick almost exclusive to Sheaffer, in which the point is fused to the plastic, but still a bit of a problem.  In the usual fountain pen, the point is basically just wedged in between the wall of the section and the feed.  With an inlaid pen, it had a special little mounting that it fits into.  With a Carène, it is also glued in place.

Shocking, but true.  The glue is less to keep it in its mounting than to act as a sealant; still, it adds a layer of complexity.  One has to free that glue as the first step of pulling out the point.  I was lucky, from a morale standpoint, in that the pen’s owner was prepared to buy a whole new section anyway; if I botched the operation completely, I wouldn’t really be making things worse.  So, off we go!

How, then, to release that glue?  You need to run something up under the horns at the back of the point, providing a slight outward tug, to pull them free.  Something thin enough to fit, firm enough to provide the pressure, and also forgiving enough to not scrape up either plastic or gold.  An experienced Carène dismantler on a forum suggested a scalpel; perhaps not quite forgiving, but offering enough of the other two virtues that a skilled user could get away with it.

I don’t trust myself that far.  However, thanks to a touch of lycanthropy (a great-grandparent who would not stay on the path through the moors), the nail on my right index finger serves the bill admirably; thin, firm, and non-marking.  A little caressing, and the job was done.  Then came the tugging with my soft nylon-jawed pliers and the majority of the worry was behind me.

Fountain pen with its point separated from it. The point is shaped like an Isosceles triangle, with rounded edges on the long sides, and a rectangular cutout intruding into the base. It is made to slot into the body of the pen.

The act of tugging took about care of about 72% of the work of straightening, too.

Once the point was out, it was a fairly straightforward application of tiny anvils, burnishers, soft pliers and a little bit of finger-tip.  A few minutes of work, then, and I was able to give a cry of voilà (as I was working on a French pen).

An apparently good-as-new pen, in front of a hand-written message reading FEELING BETTER

I am entirely proud of the final result.

But… what of the matter of glue?  The little bits of thin, clear material that I found suggested something like a PVA white glue.  If I’m right, I’ve got plenty– who with a child in elementary school does not?– but I’m not sure I’m right, and I also had other qualms.  The scalpel-wielding person above spoke of the perils of glue migrating into the feed before it set, which would not be good.  That aside, while I know that white glue is impervious to water once set, I have no idea how long it would take to set in that setting, enclosed between non-permeable materials.

My response to these worries was to fall back on traditional techniques.  Rather than some modern adhesive, I made some tiny little snakes of the softened beeswax I use for a soft seal in pens of much earlier design.  It provides a fluid barrier and it doesn’t go wandering around from where it’s put.  The tiny little snakes went into the space under the point-horns on the shell, where the flimsy little glue residue had lain.  Because I don’t trust ink, I also formed a barrier on the top of the point, the line following the curve behind the big W.  And yes, it would have saved me a lot of descriptive effort if I had taken a picture.  The end result, though, is a seal which is more durable than the original (which a small blow might loosen, as some owners report) yet which won’t interfere with any future repairs.

I mention future repairs with a bow toward Fate.  The owner joked when he collected it, “I’ll likely be back in a week when I drop it again.”

Today’s pen: Italix Parson’s Essential
Today’s ink: Waterman blue-black


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