Well, yes, it is St. Patrick’s Day, isn’t it, when all of us with a sense of Irish culture want to hide in the basement and slowly absorb the contents of a bottle of Bushmills to keep the pangs of despair at bay. We know, in our hearts, that the cultural misappropriation machine that passes for culture in North America is causing the scene below to occur in a thousand thousand bars, and never a thought given to the Fianna or Cú Chulainn or the serious unwisdom of invoking a descendant of the Tuatha Dé Danann to flog cereal with little coloured marshmallows in it.
On a side note, I’ve seen Memphis Belle at least five times in my life, and as good as it is, I think it’s caused me to exceed my lifetime exposure allowance to that song. My liver hurts, and not from the whiskey.
This is an excursion into the very depths of my childhood; my grandparents had a TV very much like the one seen here, and since my parents’ funds didn’t stretch to colour television until the early 1970s, we trooped over there to watch the successes of the Apollo program which constitute some of my earliest memories.
I wasn’t allowed to work the remote, except as a special treat, when I would get to turn the set on or off. From as much as ten feet away. Magic indeed!
Although… I also had to sit at least that far from it, for fear of the radiation.
I have mentioned time and again that this pile of words was born out of a need to distract myself from the perils of eBay. Since I began it, all those years ago, that need has slipped under the waves– I have found other and more useful distractions in the shape of fiction writing, and have become increasingly alarmed at the ratio of income to demands for payment in my household. Sometimes, however, a peek into the den of temptation is required, and therein lies today’s story.
In December, I was contacted by a fellow that needed some point-work done on a Parker 75 and a Montblanc 149. The former has some resistance to dismantling in its fabric, but I know its ways and can overcome it. The latter, though… to get that apart needs special tools. However, as coincidence would have it, I had just been reading on the forums about a place for those of us not anointed with the white bird splat of approval to get functional tools. Where? An eBay storefront belonging to someone with machining skills.
Here was the impetus as well as the opportunity to order the tool, or rather tools, because they vary with era, and a wrench capable of drawing out the piston mechanism as well. So I said yes to the fellow with the pens and placed the order on eBay.
…and as of yesterday, I was thinking that I would have to send an apology to the pen-owner for my inability to deal with his pen, as the tools were clearly never going to appear. “I will,” the inner voice said, “hold off until Friday to send this note.” Patience and timidity combine, then, to make way for joy– the package with the tools in it arrived today. It is postmarked for December, so it was definitely sent briskly; apparently this global shipping crisis is affecting the mails as well. Or, possibly, Canada Customs are giving a parcel of mysteriously-shaped bits of metal a long hard think before passing it through.
The joy is tinted, though, because the window for providing eBay feedback is closed. So, let me share with you the note I dashed off to the vendor:
I mean it, too, and am making good here on the promise. They’re as professional a set of tools as you could hope to find, and I’m delirious with glee at the prospect of unsanctioned rummaging in the guts of Montblanc pens.
While I’m at this, I think I should also do my small part to boost the Google results of Custom Pen Parts, since I’m very nearly as happy with the small purchase I recently made from them– my Pelikan 140 is back in circulation thanks to a part they provided, and their PFM fore-seals are really hard to tell from the factory originals. I don’t doubt the rest of their catalogue is as satisfactory. I mentioned this a little while ago, but I don’t think I mentioned it vigorously enough.
Are these, a cynic will wonder, paid endorsements? Not at all. Any money connected to this contented burbling has moved away from me; I feel I’m repaid in quality goods, but the fact that I’m saying it out loud is perfectly non-commercial. I’m not uninterested, but I am the dictionary definition of disinterested… except to the extent that it serves my own interests to see their enterprises flourish. Quality tools and parts for elderly pens? YES, PLEASE!
The following film has nothing to do with the elections underway in France. It’s just a little look at history which will likely get up the noses of French people of most political stripes, offered by a guy I find amusing, because I was amused.
When I started doing these Friday films, the conceit was a return to grade school c. 1977, when a frazzled teacher would throw something on the projector in part to add to the students’ hoard of knowledge, but also to give her voice a rest and keep the little monsters distracted for a few blessed minutes. Today, although the need for these entries has waned, I’m pleased to be able to close the loop on the conceit; you can almost feel the purr of sprockets through the 16mm celluloid on this one:
Closed loop is not to say closed conceit. Friday Found Films will persist. Also– VOTE
Well, I promised an old-style entry. Not only lots of gabble about fixing pens, but as you shall see presently there’s also a powerful demonstration of my camera’s unreliability at close-up work. We start all of the above with a Parker 51 that wanted to destroy itself rather than be repaired. The client got it for cheaps, happily, the first 51 to come his way, and thus the rather amazing bend of the point wasn’t instantly obvious as a problem; there was no other damage to the pen, and it worked, so why question one more element of odd configuration in a pen that is, from the tradition fountain pen design standpoint, made of oddities? After playing with it for a while, though, he realized that all was not as it was meant to be, so he handed it along to me.
Bent point, and also very blurry. I’m not sure I can fix that.
The first thing I said when I looked at it was, “That shouldn’t be so haaaaa…. oh, hell, it’s going to be a big hassle to get that hood off!” And so it was. Why? Well, after the first rotation of unscrewing the hood, you’d have the very thin plastic of the widow’s peak riding over the upthrust metal of the point. Like this:
It’s not just an unnecessary upward bend presenting gold to the writing surface, it’s an effective stop-peg!
I foresaw the pointiest bit of the hood snapping off, and then there’d be extra hassle in cosmetic remediation which would still leave the end of the hood looking more like a manicured finger-nail than a vampire’s hairline. The solution was to rotate the shell only half-way, leaving enough clearance for my tiny little pliers to get in and do a rough re-shaping ahead of full disassembly. That did the trick, allowing me to then pull the point right out and get at it with all the necessary tools, and return it to something very like the original form.
Although it’s still blurry. I don’t have the tools to get that dealt with.
I haven’t actually contacted the owner yet, as there was also an unusually splendid Eclipse turned in for a new sac at the same time, and I haven’t had time after the shellac’s setting to put it back together. Oh, on that point– if the lever of a pen isn’t working properly, it might not be just an ossified sac. It might be that some underpaid person in a long-ago factory put the pressure bar in sideways and the lever binds on it during travel. This would go a long way toward explaining why the pen seems to have never been used.
Seriously, I don’t think anyone got past “this thing isn’t going to fill”. As a bonus, it’s not blurry, either!
This weekend I also got a pen of my own back in shape. Today’s pen, in fact, which has been laid up for… cripes, years with a bad case of shattered collar on the point/feed unit. A big hoorah to Custom Pen Parts for running up brand new components for old pens, and a big smack on the back of the head for me for not asking them for the part sooner.
The final triumph of the weekend was getting this poor thing back in shape:
“Never been used” is not something I suspect of this item.
This was sent to me by a… I hesitate to say “client”, because the Pelikan 140 she sent me a while back needed little more than a sharp look and an imperious gesture to return to function, and only slightly more effort was called for with her Parker 51. This was not only more challenging a Challenger than she wanted around the place, it was surplus to requirement, so she passed it on to me– not for my own enjoyment (I too, have a sufficiency of Challenger in my life) but so I could act as a link in a chain seeing it into worthy hands. We’re about to enter the audience participation portion of the programme…
I think this will have slightly better performance now.
My first thought was to find someone who hasn’t had a vintage pen and hand it to them, a kindness in a world in need of such things. But… apart from figuring out how to find a recipient, that damage I sorted out is likely a result of someone who had not previously used a vintage pen overdoing things. I don’t want to deprive someone of a chance at a pen of this sort, but I also don’t want their experience of vintage pens to be “Oh, boy! A vintage pen! *gloink* Awwww….”
Plus, who would wish more injury upon this poor waif?
So, I turn to my long-suffering readers for advice. Do I persist with the original plan, with its potential for disappointment? The other alternative that struck me is to auction it, careful to point out its not-quite-mint condition, with the stated goal of gathering money for a charity. If I get shoved in this direction, I may come back asking which charity to direct the proceeds to; I’ve got some in mind, but I don’t think this thing will draw in enough to make splitting the donation a sensible prospect.
So, everyone who isn’t me reading this: OPINE! I’ve got a poll, but comments are also open for reasoned arguments for or against the options, and to provide alternatives. I’ll give this a couple of weeks, and then with a decision in hand I’ll start the process of acting upon it!
This week, somewhat out of the blue, a friend sent me a couple of videos. They’re… odd. Almost Gahan Wilson cartoons granted movement. I feel well inclined enough to them to share… but in much the same way I spend a couple of weeks wandering the nigh-deserted streets of the windswept city asking passers-by if they had read Sutter Kane.