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So I was on eBay last week looking for a X-mas gift for a new pen geek in my life (not someone new to me, but rather someone who newly has discovered the joy of fountain pens), and I wound up purchasing this one for myself.

I need to re-sac this one, the one inside is toast, but a good cleaning, a new sac and some polish is all this one needs. I just spent a bit of time doing some research on dating this pen, and have it narrowed down to sometime between 1926 and '27. I had it figured when I bid on it to be a bit newer, but the cap's clip puts it no later than mid-'27, while the nib and feed are no earlier than '26. It's a black and pearl flat-top Junior, and when I'm done restoring it, I suspect it'll be worth roughly 3 times what I paid for it. I tested the nib by dipping it and it'll be a lovely writer, and for me that's the real joy of a fountain pen.

I already have the pen my friend will enjoy - it's one of mine already, one he's admired and not one I'm particularly attached to. Just need to find him a nice bottle of ink to go with it, and that's one item I can cross off my shopping list.
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I have a man in my practice of whom I am rather fond. He's mid-60's, gay, long-time partnered, and one of those salt-of-the-earth types, you cannot help but like. He's now battling metastatic cancer and doing relatively well with. My prayer is he continues to do so, for a very long time to come.

Anyhow, he's know of my pen habit for a long time. Today he presented me with this:

A sterling silver Parker Cisele!

It was given to him 37 years ago by his grandmother and he hasn't used it in a couple of decades. He does have the companion ballpoint Parker produced. He decided it should go to me.

I've gotten it cleaned up and writing. And it is one I will cherish, particularly because of who it came from.
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a pen post.

Two years ago, perhaps 2.5, I brought 4 pens in to be restored. I had gotten a couple of Parker vacumatics on auction that both needed new diaphragms and I lacked the tools and the acumen to do the repair myself. I had my first Sheaffer snorkel and I had picked up a Wearever that had been mislabeled on its auction as being a "Weaver". How could I pass that one up? It was before I learned how to do simple repairs myself.

I had won an auction for a pretty little hard black rubber Waterman, a woman's pen made to hang on a chain, circa 1920, from a seller who turned out to be on the far side of the county. I asked him who did his restorations, he told me that he did his own. Turns out in his day, he had been a pen salesman at a high end stationery in NYC. I decided to pick up that pen, and I brought him the 4 that needed work.

He told me he'd call when they were ready. Well, he never called.

I lost his address.

I figured the pens were gone for good.

Well, imagine my surprise when a small package arrived this morning with 4 restored pens inside. Both the Vacumatics circa 1946 were not only working, but had ink in them. The Wearever, which he said was not worth restoring, turns out to have a lovely 14K fine point nib, and given what has happened to the price of gold, probably is now worth the restoration cost. The Sheaffer is also a fine point, silver palladium triumph nib, and these pens sip ink. I'm disappointed it's not a gold nib, but I know so much more now about these than I did back at the time, and both the touch down and the snorkel fillers with the triumph style nibs are worth having.

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Last month I ordered the 'collectors' assortment from the sole manufacturer of pen sacs left in the USA. It was an assortment of 25 sacs for $33 plus $2 for shipping, or $1.40 each. I thought it would last me a while. Well, I ran through 3 of the 5 sizes in short order. I have a nice looking striated green Sheaffer circa 1944 I could not re-sac, at least not till I re-stocked some larger sacs.

They sell a 'professional' assortment; 100 sacs in 8 different sizes for $99 (same shipping fee), or $1.01 each. I sprang for it & it arrived today.

Unlike the last order which came sorted, these arrived in one large bag. The bag was labelled with how many of each size was within, but it was up to me to sort them. Telling a #14 from a #20 is easy; deciding which is a #14 and which is a #15? Not so much.

So much for my lunch break.

It took me the better part of an hour to sort, store and label the sacs into my repair box, but it's done.

For that matter, so is the striated green Sheaffer. (Pictures to follow tomorrow)
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After watching prices on eBay re:Parker Duofolds from the 20's, I took another look at the jade Duofold Jr. & decided I would restore it. Besides, I wanted practice restoring button fillers.

Well, it didn't need a new pressure bar, just a re-sacking & a clean up. Nice when you start with good quality to begin with.


Apr. 18th, 2011 02:26 pm
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...several of the pens that were advertised as not working, are indeed working.
One of the ones I had not really wanted, not only is working, but is likely worth what I paid for the lot it was in, all by itself. Two of the lot that would have been difficult for me to do myself are working without trouble, 2 others will be easy fixes, another that would have been an easy fix doesn't need it. All in all, well worth the money for that lot.

Oh, and one is likely from the late teens or early 20's. Pictures to follow later.
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I've decided to try something which I think will work out, but we shall see.

I bought a lot of 8 Esterbrooks yesterday for $123. All of them need repair, mostly I suspect new sacs and at least one or two new nibs. All of that is fairly straight forward.

I bought the lot to acquire just one pen. There was an orange "dollar" pen in the lot, circa 1941-2. The remainder were all pretty routine J and SJ from the late 40's, early 50's. What I find is that working/restored Esties tend to go at auction for about $30 a piece. I figure on re-selling the remaining 7 after re-sacking/re-nibbing thase that need it. If I get $200 more or less for the ones I don't want, it will more than cover the one I wanted to keep as well as my supplies. My only question? Do I have enough sacs at the moment or do I need to get more.....

Meanwhile this morning I stopped at Harbor Freight this morning to get a fiber optic flashlight attachment to see inside a pen barrel. At $6, it'll make my restoration attempts easier.

(To see my previous posting on Esterbrooks with pictures, drop back to my post of March 22. There is a picture of a black dollar pen from the late 30's. The orange one I bought this lot for, looks like a cross between that dollar pen and one of the brightly colored ones from the late 40's.)
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Supplies have arrived.

Section pliers? Check.
Abrasives? Check.
Polishing cloth? Check.
Metal Polish? Check.
Sac Shellac? Check.
Ink Sacs? Check!!

All set to start doing pen restorations on my own. Squee!!
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Tools and parts have been/are being acquired. As of Tuesday next, I should have all I need to do the basic repairs on antique pens myself. The section pliers were proving elusive locally. I'd read that they could be found at most auto part supply stores. Well, not so much locally. I found something at Harbor Freight I might be able to use, but by the time I got the can of synthetic "rubber coat" to give it the grip without scratching the pen being disassembled, it became cheaper to buy the damn thing on line. I found a pen repairman on line who sells one for $14 or two for $25. Having two would have it's advantages, especially with my finger grip (or more appropriately, the lack thereof).

So, sacs are on their way, direct from one of the few manufacturers left in this country the world, while the tools and other supplies I want are on their way from New Hampshire. I could have ordered the sacs from the repair people, but it would have been $0.50 more per sac, than getting them directly. Besides, the sacs are actually made here in California. Why have them sent from New Hampshire when they started out here in the first place?
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I'm very fortunate to want for very little, not that I'm financially wealthy, but my desires are simple and LJ and I have been able to meet them.

I've been watching for pens that I can personally repair and make functional again. There's something I find particularly satisfying about resurrecting things from a bygone past, things that were both well designed and not intended to be disposable. Moreover, the act of writing is a sensual experience for me, and using a ball point just doesn't cut it.

My staff took me to lunch today; Japanese at Osake, one of my favorite places in the area. A bowl of miso soup, and one Utah roll later (a shrimp tempura maki, topped with crab and ahi) we headed back for the office and I ran next door for Sarah's sonogram. When I came back over this had arrived:

I believe this was called the Sheaffer Imperial. This one dates from the early to mid 70's, is gold filled and a cartridge filler, with an converter for bottled ink use. It's in absolutely pristine condition. In the background is an orchid that come from Sarah for my birthday, a hearty phalaenopsis 2 flower stalks, 5 open blooms and a ton of buds.

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So I started to wax poetic the other day about the Parker Big Red - the original model which was the Duofold Senior from the 20's and 30's. I have bid on them in the past and never been able to snag one that was worth snagging.

I've been struck just how similar the Sheaffer's are from that era to the Parkers. These two companies were major competitors and their products showed it.

This past week this went up for auction on ebay:

This is a Sheaffer Special 46, circa the mid 1920's, and was intended I think to be a dead ringer for the Parker Duofold.

Trouble is, I don't know if it's HRR (hard red rubber) or plastic (Radite, thank you very much). I will find out later this week though, when it arrives, as I had the winning bid. Now that I can easily replace the sacs on these lever fill pens myself, I'm looking at them with renewed interest. I'm certainly enjoying the Sheaffer 5-30 I repaired last week. I'm not too keen yet to take on a more complicated filling systems for repair, but lever fills really are a piece of cake, which makes them all the more attractive to me.

So, how to tell if a pen is rubber or plastic? The scent. There's a tell tale odor of rubber when you rub it with your fingers; think of the smell when a car either screeches to a halt or tears off with tires squealing on the pavement. You get just a detectable whiff of that, if you subject a hard rubber pen to a bit of digital friction.

I was looking at a listing of an Esterbrook dollar pen last week. The seller had labeled it as hard black rubber (HBR). "No way," I thought. Well, way; I was wrong. I have an Estie dollar pen, so I pulled it out. No noticeable scent. I rubbed it. Yup, it's HBR alright. I rubbed it again to confirm my surprise. Yes, odor, and unfortunately no, no genie.
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I was just waking up when my phone buzzed.

A text, from Oana. "Check out this item# xxxxxxxxxxx and look at seller's other items. What do you think?" So I looked. A bit early for eBay, but what the hell.

A pen. And not just any pen but a late 90s montblanc in burgundy.
A bit early in the morning for stiftlust, but hey at least I'm not alone.

I texted back. "It's gorgeous! And if you buy it you WILL give it to me.
Did you notice it's a broad oblique nib? While it's a bloody gorgeous pen it's too wide a nib for you. Do look at the Parker he has listed."

She hates thick nibs. She wants a fine point. (or a Dick calls them "bloody darts".) The last Montblanc she got on eBay was a steal. Everything she wanted. Everything except it had a heavier nib. After a week, she gave it to me. The burgundy Montblanc has a calligraphy nib. I would enjoy it. She will not.

What she doesn't know yet, is I successfully snagged her a 50s GEHA, a fine pointed piston filler, that should arrive sometime in early April, from a German seller of antique pens who lists on eBay. I got my first Pelikan from her a year ago. The woman specializes in German made pens (now there's a surprise!). Her stock is reliably good and the GEHA went for a song.

Now I need to find her some ink to go with it. Perhaps some Prussian blue....
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I am feeling bloody old.

It was 1969. Judy Garland had just died. The Stonewall riots happened less than a week later. The Mets took the World Series. I started high school. I was 14. In some ways it feels like it was just the other day, not 42 years ago.

One of Pop's cousins had a stationary/office supply store, just outside of New York City's garment district. It was where I went to buy my first typewriter, an IBM electric that weighed a ton and a half, yet was still labeled 'portable'. It was also where I saw my first Parker "Big Red". I was smitten.

My folks had already impressed upon me that there were certain things that constituted a special gift; these included watches and high-end writing equipment such as a better Cross or Parker pen. In the late 60s, Parker introduced a kitsch knockoff of the Duofolds they'd produced in the 20s and 30s. While the originals were all fountain pens, the knockoffs were ballpoints. Chunky things they were, and in retrospect not much in the way of quality, certainly not when compared to the originals. My high school had a major geeky crowd and I was far from the only kid scratching away notes with a Big Red.

So, I will admit it. I still would like a genuine "Big Red".

They've been making Parker pens since the late 1880s. Up through the mid-1920s, pens were made out of hard rubber, most commonly solid black, but occasionally red. Some pen makers like Wahl and Waterman were blending colors, giving pens the appearance of rose or olivewood, complete with wood grain. Around 1925 plastics were introduced, with various companies trying to make them sound 'mineral like', with names like Permanite & Radite.

In the picture above, to the far left is a Parker Duofold Junior, which unfortunately from what Dick tells me, is not worth repairing. If you look closely, you'll see it looks quite similar to the 1928 Sheaffer 530 pictured in one of my posts a few days ago. This is the same style as the "Big Red", just not in a solid orange-red, and not quite as large.

In 1932 Parker introduced a new filling system, initially labeled a 'vacuum filler'. Within a year they changed the name to the Vacumatic. Instead of a collapsible sac that held the ink, the barrel of the pen served as the ink reservoir, a flexible synthetic rubber diaphragm at the top of the reservoir that when depressed by a plunger, created the vacuum for the pen to draw up ink. All five pens in the center of the photo above are Vacumatics in the most common pattern made, the horizontal Pearl stripe. They came in silver, blue, emerald green, golden brown, and on rare occasions, burgundy red. Quite flashy, no? Whenever I use one of these, and all of them are working, they always seem to draw attention.

Each of these pens has a blind cap on the end of the barrel, which covers the plunger. The model below is a silver Pearl made in 1940. The plungers in this era were made from aluminum, and both the top and the bottom of the pen had plastic jewels. With the start of World War II, aluminum became a much-needed commodity for the war effort. Parker switched to plastic for the plungers and eliminated the jewel on the blind endcap. The horizontal Pearl stripe, along with the Vacumatic filling syste were phased out in 1948.

In 1941 Parker introduced a new line of pens with considerably less flash, but quite a bit of elegance, the Parker 51, a pen which has been described by some aficionados as the 'perfect' fountain pen. It was initially introduced as a Vacumatic filler, a filling system that was extraordinarily difficult for anyone other than a professional pen repair person to fix. In '49 they switched over to the Aerometric system, in my personal opinion a major step toward. This is the filling system in the gold capped pen on the far right. The Aerometrics return to the ink sac, but this time enclosed partially by aluminum that allowed you to simply squeeze the sac with your fingers to draw up ink. Much simpler to repair or replace than any of the Vacumatics, for sure.

Incidentally, the Parker 51 above was a gift from a patient of mine, and one of my frequent daily writers.
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Esterbrooks were the Volkswagens ('volkstift'?) of the fountain pen world.

Richard Esterbrook came from Cornwall to New Jersey in the late 1850s and set up a company to make steel nibs for pens. By the 1920s the Esterbrook pen company was producing good quality pens using lower end materials (i.e. steel nibs instead of gold) making them more affordable for the common man. Moreover, the nibs would easily interchangeable, the whole feed and nib assembly simply unscrewing from the pen and a substitute nib screwed back in. It was common for an individual to get an assortment of nibs, for an assortment of tasks. One might get a fine firm nib for bookkeeping entries, a flexible broad nib for calligraphy, and a medium, semi-flexible for taking shorthand. In short, for a few pennies more than the cost of a single pen, one could functionally have over a dozen different pens designed for different tasks.

Below, are an assortment of Esterbrooks which span 15 years. The black pen with the pocket clip with two holes in it is one of the well-known "dollar pens", this one dating from 1938. The other black pen brings up the rear in 1953, this one sporting an Indianhead logo embossed on its side.

Below, once again is the flat bottomed "dollar pen", alongside three transitional J models from 1944. These can be differentiated from standard J models (1948 and beyond) by the presence of a "jewel" or "tazzie" on the bottom of the barrel& not just on the top of the cap. Also, the jewels on the transitional models had a different embossed pattern than the standard J models that followed. In the early 1950s the company also introduced a slimline J model, which were also available in different lengths.

Prices on these pens back in the 40's were just a few bucks with extra nibs costing pocket change. Today, you can come by one of these at auction for $25-30, half that if you're lucky.
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So, [livejournal.com profile] bob_garwood wanted to know what a futuristic pen looks like.

So I did my homework, and I was somewhat off on the dates. This is an Eversharp Skyline, a pen that was introduced in 1943. This particular one sports a gold filled cap, with a clip that extended over the top of the pen. My understanding is this was a mimicking of military pens of the era. Those pens had to have a way of fitting into a breast pocket without interfering with the buttoning of that pocket over the top of the pen. In any event, the body of the pen is a deep navy blue, & the nib is 14 kt. gold and a fine point.

There is something about the design of this pen that makes me think of the the Gwyneth Paltrow/Jude Law film, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. For what it's worth, that film is set in 1939.


March is question month. Ask away.....
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Just because something is utilitarian doesn't mean it can't be beautiful.

So this is a newly restored Sheaffer 530, circa 1928. I put the new sack into this pen myself, after Dick's skillful instruction late Saturday afternoon. I found this one particularly satisfying.

I've previously waxed poetic about the Parker Duofolds from the late 20s. This was Schaeffer's answer to that line of pens. When new, the 530 cost $5 and came with a 30 year guarantee, which for this pen ran out in 1958! Now that it's been resurrected, I've been using this little beauty for most of the day, probably the first time it's been written with since I was a baby, if not longer. The old ink sac had long ago turned to dust. It took easily 45 min. in hot water before I was able to disassemble this pen. Now $5 back in 1928 was not pocket change. Adjusted for inflation, it's approximately $62, at least it was as of two years ago. With the price of oil & gasoline doing what they're doing, God only knows what that translates to today.

Incidentally, next to the Schaeffer is one of the dozen Esterbrooks that got repaired. It's a J model circa 1950, now sporting both a new sack, as well as a new nib. More on the Esties later.
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A patient of mine, & a fellow pen geek had invited me to set up a time when he would teach me how to do basic pen restorations. We did that this afternoon. This is the same gent who bestowed the pen display case upon me a few week back.

Dick & his wife live in a lovely rambling house just north of Santa Rosa. While a handful of pens needing to be opened to repair soaked in hot water, we browsed thru his extensive collection. I worked diligently not to drool. From modern day pens, to others that dated to the turn of the last century, we passed through trays, drawers and folios of Sheafers, Parkers, Lamys, Omas, Eversharps, Esterbrooks, Watermans, Pelikans, Montblancs, Auroras, Crosses, Conklins, Visconties and more than are coming to my mind right now. To be honest, I felt like a kid in a candyshop.

While we were looking through them all, he lifted one rather lovely pen from it's tray and spoke rather fondly of how wonderful it felt in the hand while writing. Raising one brow, I asked if he found writing to be a sensuous act. He smiled & nodded. "I thought so," I responded, "so do I."

Then we got to work. At the end of the afternoon, about 18 of my pens that needed work, were now once again usable. Every one of my Esterbrooks are now working again. I now know how to re-sack a fountain pen, so a lever or crescent fill is no longer a problem for me to take on. I can do that now easily.

With his help I was able to date several pens we fixed - a Wahl from 1924, a Sheafer from '28, a couple of Watermans one from the mid-30's, the other the late 40's. We also ID'ed several we couldn't repair. Those worth investing some money in, to make usable were identified, while those not worth bothering with were separated out. There were a couple of minor disappointments, 3 to be exact. There's a small woman's gold filled Wahl whose nib & feed are toast. Replacing them will run $40 which practically is what the pen is worth more or less. There's a Parker Duofold Jr also not worth further investment. Last, there's as unmarked men's gold fill pen likely from the 20's we couldn't disassemble. That one most assuredly is worth fixing.

And more, I now know where to send them, & what'll cost to do.

Dick also gave me another pen for my collection, an Eversharp from the early 50's. It's a rather futuristic looking thing. I need to figure out something nice to say thank you.

Perhaps some ink......
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The first time I met this particular gentleman, he surprised the daylights out of me. From across the room, as I was beginning to take his medical history, his eyes alit on the breast pocket of my scrub shirt.

"Ah, you collect Esterbrooks!"

Stopped me dead in my tracks.

"Um, yes. I collect antique pens," I stammered. I was blown away. All he saw was the very tip of each pen's cap, plus their clips on the outside of my pocket. I indeed had two antique Esterbrooks in my pocket. "I take it you're a fellow pen geek," I continued as I handed him my two pens.

He nodded. "A transitional J model, " he mused. "I always did like the shades of green in these. Esterbrook had a great sense of design, while producing such a utilitarian object."

I was smitten. A fellow pen geek. We schmoozed for a bit and then I got back to work. One in general does not come to the doctor to gab about pens. He's a delightful man and not just because of his love of pens and ink.

Today there was a bag left at the front desk for me. He had had an appointment, but time was tight for him and I was once again behind in my schedule, so he's rescheduled for next Monday. I was once again blown away.

A pen display case! I've been wanting one of these forever! This was just what I wanted; a place to display them, where I still have easy access so I can actually use them.

So very thoughtful. I cannot wait to thank him in person!

(By the way, the three pens in the front all the way to the right, as well as the green one 3rd from the left are all Esties.)


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