What's up at Ravens March.

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Posts Tagged ‘repair’

Public Acknowledgements

Posted by Dirck on 8 March, 2017

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!

Today’s elderly pen: Sheaffer Imperial Triumph
Today’s quality modern insert: Herbin Lie de Thé

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So Much Busy!

Posted by Dirck on 13 February, 2017

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!

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.

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!

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.

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?

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!

Today’s pen (at long last): Pelikan 140
Today’s ink: Jentle blue-black (which is, to be honest, too free-flowing for the pen)

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I Need Cheering Up

Posted by Dirck on 13 May, 2016

Yet another rejection for a story yesterday, alas.  The fact that I’ve gotten more rejections this year than I have previously made submissions is, in a way Superman’s imperfect duplicate would understand, positive… yet I do find I’m a little blue.  Therefore, today’s imported film is a comedy.

There, that’s buoyed me up a bit, and reminded me that it took one of my favourite authors a while to find a market.  All set for tomorrow’s free tuning clinic.

Today’s pen: Waterman Phileas
Today’s ink: Herbin Poussière de Lune

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Spring Tune-up Upcoming

Posted by Dirck on 25 April, 2016

Caution: Goon at Work

Caution: Goon at Work

A small self-promoting note; there will another free pen-tuning clinic at the usual venue, Paper Umbrella, on 14 May from 11 am to 3pm.

Of course, I’m also promoting Paper Umbrella and fountain pen use in general.  It’s not all about me.

Today’s pen which is mine: Waterman Master
Today’s ink that I chose: Waterman Florida Blue (which when a sample is actually on the page, this parenthetical note will vanish; this is my foolish blunder, mine alone!)

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More Than Usually Complete Progress Report.

Posted by Dirck on 21 April, 2016

Day What How Much Duration Pen Ink
  • 18 April
  • 19 April
  • 20 April
  • 21 April
  • First draft of “A Mistake of Timing.”
  • Second draft of “A Mistake of Timing”.
  • More second draft effort.
  • Yes, still more.
  • Ten manuscript pages, and done.
  • 1,070 words typed.
  • 804 words.
  • 934 words.
  • 55 min.
  • 45 min.
  • 45 min.
  • 40 min.

…and also, let me brag a little.  Last weekend, after a bit of a dry patch, I got an absolute mass of pens repaired, all but one one of them for other people.  These included a PFM, three Snorkels, a Vacumatic with a lock-down filler, and a Balance First Lady, plus some slightly less challenging objects.  The Balance, Vacumatic, and two of the Snorkels were moving between generations in one family, which I find always provides a happy glow the the work.  Since the Balance and one of the Snorkels were more than usually resistant to being taken to bits, a happy glow was a welcome counterbalance to black vexation.

The PFM, which was otherwise in quite good shape, had suffered a refit at some past date under the hands of one who was mislead into thinking rubber cement was an appropriate sealant.  I’ve grumped about this sort of thing before, so I’ll leave that link and its contents to express my refreshed thoughts on such behaviour.

The third Snorkel dealt with was, for a joy, one of my own; yet another donation from a friend mentioned many times before who keeps finding things at garage and estate sales.  It is also not a model I owned until she handed it to me:

That model being a Saratoga

That model being a Saratoga

I have a before picture, but it failed to quite capture the squalor this pen had fallen into.  I suspect it lived in a smoking house, because the yellow-brown patina I mercilessly polished away certainly seemed to be nicotine (I know this because our own house was owned for fifty years by the same smoking person, and the hallway still breaks out in a nicotine sweat every winter).  It cleaned up nice, and I’ll be taking it out for its first run tomorrow, making very very very thin writing in pursuit of the day’s labours.  The Sheaffer catalogue of the day only claimed to go down to extra-fine, but this thing, despite acceptable wetness, is toying with the limits of human perception in the fineness of its line.

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Doin’ the Charleston

Posted by Dirck on 4 April, 2016

Just a quick note, by way of proving that I still occasionally do things to make pens feel better:


It’s also a fine proof that I still do not have complete command of my camera and attendant software.

Today’s pen: Parker 65
Today’s ink: Waterman washable blue


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Fun and Desperation

Posted by Dirck on 31 August, 2015

The great pen clinic when off very much as I could have hoped.  Plenty of people with plenty of pens, most of whom went away happy.  This time, I remembered to take pictures– heck, I was even annoying everyone on Facebook with live coverage of what was happening.  For those who look in here, let me re-create the effect without the long gasping pauses between entries.


Say… where’s my flushing bulbs?

There’s the tools all laid out and ready.  We were suffering somewhat from the smoke of the vast fires in Washington and Oregon, and I managed to forget a few things I have meant to bring.  Chief among these were the bulbs I use for flushing feeds in cartridge pens, but between most of those showing up with their converters in tow and the ultrasonic bath, the absence wasn’t disastrous.


A tiger?! Here?

Not quite the first appearance of the day was this Noodler’s Konrad with an after-marker stub point.  It was a little scratchy, of the sort that needed abrasives applied.  The deformity was so subtle it could only be felt in writing; even through my 45X (!) loupe, there was nothing to see.  Ahead of this patient were a Parker Sonnet (oddly clogged, sent home with a warning to check for moldy ink), a Pelikan M205 (also clogged, and with a strange late-onset tipping deformity) and the first Lamy Safari of the day (compressed slit).  These three came through before it occurred to me that the photo-journalism was even possible.


Cryptic notes, eh?

The Pelikan’s owner came back later with this Waterman Hemisphere which he described as writing too narrow– a fine point that was living up to its billing.  The problem was a result of having started out liking fine points, then trying something wider.  I gave it a quick dash over the abrasives to widen the contact point, which worked about as well as I thought it would (a very very little improvement), and suggested that a stubbing might be more to his taste.  The quartered acorn is a top-down view of the pen’s tipping, with a suggestion of what the proposed procedure would remove (the pointy part to the right).  I took this pen home from the clinic, and it’s now just about finished as a… 0.4 or 0.5 mm stub.  I’ll have to check that.  Not huge, but it gives extra weight to the writing in general.  The charge for the grind included a big fat discount because he brought it along to an even at which I was doing stuff for free; I expect he’ll be happy with the result, and he was certainly smiling when he left his pen with me.

Time presses, so one more story:


Faber-Castell Ambition. The ambition was to be a functional pen, alas.

This pen was bought a few minutes earlier, part of a first anniversary expedition by a pleasant young couple.  Since I was on hand, the Paper Umbrella’s proprietor  suggested they let me make some magical passes over it, and I’m very glad I did.  That little Pacman drawing is what I saw through the loupe, with the open side of the mouth being the one pointing at the paper.  That would have made for very scratchy writing, and hesitant in the bargain as the ink would have trouble reaching the paper.  It wasn’t a big deal to put right, just a couple of squeezes of the point’s shoulders, but it could have been a dreadful anniversary disappointment.  Happy I was indeed to help avert that outcome!

Time has fled, and I haven’t touched on the desperation aspect of the title.  I was commenting recently about troubles in the household economy, and an impending putting forth of pens.  Well, I’ve done so, in what is the most optimistic manner possible; a single lot with a big dumb starting price and an even bigger “buy-it-now” option.  I will freely admit to hoping for a couple of well-heeled and competitive bidders to take an interest.  If you know a well-heeled competitive person with a newly-kindled interest in fountain pens, suggest they have a look down the link.

Today’s pen: OMAS Arte Italiana (until I get a page finished, staring in amazement at it will have to suffice)
Today’s ink: Jentle blue-black

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What The Weekend Holds

Posted by Dirck on 28 August, 2015

I thought for this week’s film from fomeone elfe, I’d get as close as I could to what I’ll be up to for much of tomorrow’s regular business hours.

It won’t take quite as long on a case-by-case basis because I won’t be pausing to explain what I’m at, and there’s some variation of technique, and I’m not going to be so casually dressed (because such things are no longer in my wardrobe’s power), but this is pretty much it.  If you’re interested, you can carry on watching part 2 and part 3, although I won’t be getting up to a lot of the third part on Saturday.  Be sure to listen to the caveat at the beginning of each, which I also agree with.  Especially the bit about pliers.

I do somewhat wonder whether those who watch will say, “Oh, is THAT all there is to it? Anyone can do that!” or “Good heavens, that’s a lot of painfully fine adjustments!  I’m glad there are other people who will put themselves through that hassle.”

Today’s well-regulated pen: Pelikan Signum
Today’s mostly-domesticated ink: Montblanc Royal Blue

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A Golden Opportunity

Posted by Dirck on 5 August, 2015

I had an opportunity over the long week-end to handle an OMAS 360, a pen currently above my station, thanks to gold.  And to what appears to be the standard of quality control in Italian pen manufacturers.

Let me touch that latter point first, since it laid down the trail of gunpowder in this story.  I’ve mentioned before (see item 2 here) that I have a rather jaundiced view of Italian pen makers, and recent events have not amended that stance.  I haven’t handled huge heaps of Italian pens, but leaving aside the clearly low-end things like I got a pile of last month, almost every one of them has been handled to address some kind of flow problem.  The latest, a limited edition of the model, arrived in the hands of its owner in such a state that those hands became trembling fists.  Beautiful, certainly, but unwilling to emit ink.  Driven into a frenzy of frustration, the owner tapped the end of the pen on the paper, trying to jar the ink in it to the tip, where it might do some good.

At this point, the gold element of the story appears.  The gesture I describe is one which most fountain pen users will recognize, even if they won’t freely admit to doing it (who has ever admitted to being asleep, rich, or a pen-tapper?).  Usually it’s not fatal.  However, in the case of an 18K pen point, the softness of the element alloyed with the wickedness of the person in the OMAS factory who should keep such things from getting into the world, and the result was this:


That doesn’t look so bad….


Oh. Yeah. That’s a problem.


I applied myself to the problem, and once the gross bending was dealt with I found something of a surprise.  Usually, the Italian pens’ complaints are in the area of baby-bottom tipping or a compressed slit.  It seems that in this case, the problem was a slit left too wide, which made capillary action work against rather than for the cause of writing.  That was rather more easily dealt with than the bend, and we end with a pen that…

It does, I'll admit, so some signs of having been through a surgery.

…shows some signs of having been through a surgery.  I’ll admit it.

But it's now a shape that will transmit data in the usual manner.

But it’s now a shape that will transmit data in the usual manner.

Not perfect, but in terms of function a lot more willing to commit words to paper than the unblemished factory original state.  I found, in the course of this experience, that I rather like the 360– I’m more likely to seek one out than I am a Montblanc 149, should funds galore appear.

Even it it does sort of look like a straightened-out Pelikan Twist.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Balance Defender
Today’s ink: Jentle blue-black

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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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