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OldGriz's brown paper bag trick


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#1 RonB

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Posted 04 April 2006 - 23:50

I've been reading through many of the old posts, and I came across OldGriz's post about using an old paper bag to soften the nib. It was mentioned recently by I think JimStrutton in a Feb. post as well. I thought it sounded too simple to work well, but I tried it on three pens that were not writing as well as I wanted them to. Of the three pens, it worked very well on two of them. The third pen had a very fine nib, and it didn't seem to do much for that one.

Now I'm sure the professionals such as Richard Binder will not be impressed with this method, but until I put my Tryphon order in for pen supplies, it sufficied for me.

Thanks, Tom!

Here is his original post:

When I sell one of my fountain pens, I give the customer four things...
A PR ink cartridge to start them off with good ink
A good converter so they can use good bottled ink
A card describing how to care for the pen, break in the nib and what inks to use
A 6x6" piece of brown craft paper...

Brown craft paper (same as brown paper bags) has been used for years in woodturning to burnish wood before putting on the final finish.... I am not sure exactly what the "grit" of the paper would be... but it is somewhere between 6000 and 12000 MicroMesh... since MicroMesh has been used to clean up scratchy or toothy nibs, why not brown craft paper... it is a whole lot cheaper and easier to get.

I am not sure where I first heard about this trick, but it sure makes a difference on some pens... I would recommend flushing out the nib assembly after doing it though... brown craft paper dust could get caught in the feed ...


Ron

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#2 Bill

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Posted 05 April 2006 - 00:58

How much time was spent on each pen before you were satisfied?

Do you suppose simply writing on the paper for the same length of time would be as effective?

Bill

#3 RonB

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Posted 05 April 2006 - 01:17

Bill, I think I spent about 5 minutes on each one. I wrote figure 8's and little circles, clockwise and counter-clockwise. Writing might have been almost as good, I'm not sure.

Ron
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#4 Larry T

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Posted 05 April 2006 - 23:10

Hi Ron,

I have used Tom's little smoothing trick on several pens now, and it has worked well on all of them. I usually put the brown paper on a clip board, and draw figure eights, circles, and straight lines up, down, left, and right. I do this while watching TV in the evening, so I probably spend a little more time at it than I need to. I had a particularly scratchy fine nibbed Pilot VP that writes beautifully now. Great tip Tom!

Larry

#5 whv

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Posted 13 April 2006 - 23:13

another trick that i picked up from a local repair guru is to write for awhile on the outside of a glass tumbler that has been through the dishwasher often enough to lose the glossy surface. makes for a very fine abrasive.

Edited by whv, 13 April 2006 - 23:14.

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#6 Roger

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Posted 13 April 2006 - 23:41

Another stunt that works is the following from a PT thread quite a few months ago. It definitely works, but I suspect that it puts a micron or so of Cu on the point that wears off after a while. Cu is known as having a lubricity effect on metals. Here tis:
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It's good practice to be sure your pen's tines are reasonably well aligned before proceeding. It's futile trying to smooth nibs with misaligned tines.

1. Procure a US copper Lincoln Head penny before 1983 issue. The original PT poster said something about these pennies being harder. I can't corroborate that but I happened to have a 1979 specimen in my pocket, so that's what I'm using.

2. On the reverse side of the coin the Lincoln Memorial is depicted. Turn the coin so that the pillars of the building form a vertically oriented ladder. Take the pen with the nib in your normal writing position and run it very very lightly up and down the rungs of the ladder. The least pressure you can use to keep the point in the ladderway is the correct pressure to use. You probably want to do this some 10-30 times, up and down.

3. Now turn the coin such that the ladder is horizontal (The building is right side up). If you are righthanded, run the nib from left to right only across the rungs of the ladder. Do not go in both directions. 10-30 times at the lowest pressure possible is about right here, too. Southpaws will go from right to left only.

4. I've found that going back to step 1 for 5-20 passes up and down gives the best job.

Some notes: It was recommended that the job be done with the pen inked as that allows one to check their progress as they proceed. That's fine, but I have found that dry writing on paper will give you a very good idea how smooth the nib is before it ever touches ink. If done dry, the caveats re: light pressure are even more important. Whether done wet or dry, you will see an order of magnitude increase in smoothness.

I can't properly explain why it works, but I'm forming my own hypothesis. I suspect that a molecular coating of copper might be distributed on the nib, and copper is a lubricant of sorts. That copper may be accounting for the smoother performance. Suffice to say, I have examined nibs before and after the treatment and the procedure doesn't seem to alter the appearance of the ball on the point at all, so you aren't doing anything to the nib that will alter its configuration or performance. My examinations are done with a 10X loupe.

I haven't found any downside to this, so give it a go and let us know how you fare. Those outside the US could probably hunt up the necessary penny at banks or merchants that cater to visitors from other countries.

My mylar films aren't seeing as much action as before.

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Contrary to my last comment above, the downside is that the good effect goes away in a fairly short time. There's still no substitute for mylar in the hands of someone who knows what they're doing!

Edited by Roger, 13 April 2006 - 23:43.

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#7 RonB

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Posted 14 April 2006 - 15:20

Thanks for the additional tips!

Ron
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#8 JRodriguez

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Posted 14 April 2006 - 17:42

Wow! I'll be trying that penny trick soon.

#9 Jlgreer

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 19:50

I just tried the penny trick on a LAMY 2000 that has a had a bit of scratchiness for a while...Perfecto! What a great trick.... :D

#10 Goodwhiskers

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 19:56

I scribbled my new Genius school pens with "Iridium Point Germany" fine nibs, inked, on a grocery bag for less than a half-minute each with very satisfying results. One ended up writing a tiny bit wider, but that's not a problem for me.

Therefore, I recommend testing the nib on writing paper every quarter minute or so.

#11 memphislawyer

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 20:02

Well if the copper penny has to be repeated, does the paper bag technique?

Sam

#12 OldGriz

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 21:45

No Sam it does not....
The paper does not leave a deposit on the nib like the penny does..
The craft (brown) paper is like a very very fine abrasive.... like Steve said, keep checking your progress.....
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#13 Watermoon

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Posted 02 May 2006 - 00:32

Looks fine. Do you do it with an inked or dry nib?

#14 Goodwhiskers

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Posted 02 May 2006 - 01:15

I do it with an inked pen; liquid is a necessary part of the abrasive process.

#15 Gerry

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 01:43

Another stunt that works is the following from a PT thread quite a few months ago. It definitely works, but I suspect that it puts a micron or so of Cu on the point that wears off after a while. Cu is known as having a lubricity effect on metals. Here tis:
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
It's good practice to be sure your pen's tines are reasonably well aligned before proceeding. It's futile trying to smooth nibs with misaligned tines.

1.  Procure a US copper Lincoln Head penny before 1983 issue. The original PT poster said something about these pennies being harder. I can't corroborate that but I happened to have a 1979 specimen in my pocket, so that's what I'm using.

[snip]

The info I have regarding copper content in pennies is that the last year it was used extensively was 1981 in the US, and 1996 in Canada when the copper content was about 98%. After those years the coins were made mostly of steel with a little nickel and copper used for colour. Today Canadian pennies ate 92-94% steel.

So, for the effect to be successful, look for coins dated 1981 / 1996 or earlier in the US/CDA.

Regards,

Gerry

#16 Roger

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 02:34

I'll buy your research, certainly, but remember the CAD penny won't have the Lincoln Memorial on it with the convenient pillars. Not to say that if it is the Cu deposition that's doing the job, that there couldn't be a similar effect by rubbing the nib point on a smooth portion of the CAD penney just for the Cu content.

Dunno. I just followed the recipe and passed it along as I received it. As mentioned, I have resumed the mylar work for the lasting smoothing that it provides. With mylar, you are actually changing the shape (hopefully not by much) and texture of the nib point as opposed to the likely deposition of Cu only on the nib point with the penny.
Roger
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#17 Gerry

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 03:00

Roger,

I actually tried it with a 1975 CDN penny (not gonna mention what part of the Queen was used instead of the pillars ;) ) and it worked quite well.

The research (such as it was) came from an April 26th CBC news article on the skyrocketing cost of copper. Those old copper coins are actually worth more as metal than they are as coins. For those inquiring minds, it was reported that at $7,230 US a ton for copper, you would only need $4,081.63 in pennies :)

While you may be tempted <VBG> to try an assemble a tonne of copper pennies for this windfall profit - one should remember it is unlawful to melt down coins or otherwise deface them...

Playfully yours,

Gerry

#18 Roger

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Posted 04 May 2006 - 17:09

Understand, and far be it from me to ask about the part of the Queen used...but BC me will ya? :P Nah, just kidding!

I will, however, try the nib on the same 1979 US penny, but only in a smooth area to see if that also works. If so, it will at least show that the pillars aren't necessary.
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#19 HDoug

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Posted 08 May 2006 - 01:04

I just tried it on a couple of my pens and it works great! The nibs look much shinier under a 10x loupe -- the process must polish the nib and also soften any "edges" and remove the remnants of any sloppiness of grind.

Thanks much Tom, and the rest of FPN crew!

Doug

#20 georgem

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Posted 25 May 2006 - 01:10

I just tried it on a couple of my pens and it works great!  The nibs look much shinier under a 10x loupe -- the process must polish the nib and also soften any "edges" and remove the remnants of any sloppiness of grind.

Thanks much Tom, and the rest of FPN crew!

Doug

Just did the same with a somewhat recalcitrant nib. WHAT A DIFFERENCE!!! There's still a way to go before it's "perfect" but we're close!
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#21 rbbrock

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Posted 21 January 2007 - 05:12

What a handy idea. I will have to give this a try; I'll pop in for an edit with my results in the morning. smile.gif

Edit: Wow, I didn't notice that I resurrected a dinosaur with this post... laugh.gif

Edited by rbbrock, 21 January 2007 - 23:07.


#22 Bill Wood

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Posted 30 January 2007 - 05:53

that's amazing. I've got to try that with an old copper CND penny

Bill w
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#23 Bill Wood

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Posted 30 January 2007 - 05:57

Well this is really strange - dumped a few pennies out from a jar on the kitchen counter and out pops - a 1980 American Lincoln penny. Fate - somebody's tryint to tell me to keep this nib smoothing on my desk.

Bill W.

#24 rroossinck

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Posted 27 March 2008 - 19:49

(Back from the dead...)

Does this technique (either of 'em, really) work with steel nibs as well as with gold ones, or is the steel too hard to feel/see the same benefits?
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#25 OldGriz

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Posted 27 March 2008 - 20:25

QUOTE(rroossinck @ Mar 27 2008, 03:49 PM) View Post
(Back from the dead...)

Does this technique (either of 'em, really) work with steel nibs as well as with gold ones, or is the steel too hard to feel/see the same benefits?


Yes, in fact I first started using the brown paper bag system on the custom pens I make that have steel nibs....
TomPosted Image
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That is Honor, and there are way too many people in This country who no longer understand it.

#26 tym

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 00:28

QUOTE(Gerry @ May 3 2006, 09:43 PM) View Post
The info I have regarding copper content in pennies is that the last year it was used extensively was 1981 in the US, and 1996 in Canada when the copper content was about 98%. After those years the coins were made mostly of steel with a little nickel and copper used for colour. Today Canadian pennies ate 92-94% steel.


Actually, 1982 and later US pennies are copper plated zinc, not steel. The only time steel was used in US one cent coins was in 1943, when the steel was zinc-plated.


#27 Gerry

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 04:57

QUOTE(rroossinck @ Mar 27 2008, 03:49 PM) View Post
(Back from the dead...)

Does this technique (either of 'em, really) work with steel nibs as well as with gold ones, or is the steel too hard to feel/see the same benefits?


Actually, it shouldn't matter since in most cases the tipping material used for either Gold or Steel nibs is neither gold nor steel, it's usually a very hard alloy usually called Iridium (but doesn't contain Iridium either). So, the results obtained on one should be similar to the results obtained with the other.

There are quite a few proponents of these smoothing techniques, but in my mind they appear to defy logic. Smoothing is best accomplished with proper abrasives like lapping film, which is constructed with extremely fine but very hard grit. Even so, with the fine grades, the abrasive action can be very slow. Something as soft as copper or brown paper bag material seems unlikely to wear a tip perceptively in a reasonable amount of time.

Regardless, neither technique will damage a nib AFAIK, so if it gives you the results you need, fill your boots... rolleyes.gif

Regards,

Gerry

#28 Romeo Dog

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Posted 28 March 2008 - 13:30

Well, skeptic that I am, I had to try the paper bag idea. It actually works.

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#29 MT4

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Posted 30 March 2008 - 15:11

QUOTE(whv @ Apr 14 2006, 12:13 AM) View Post
another trick that i picked up from a local repair guru is to write for awhile on the outside of a glass tumbler that has been through the dishwasher often enough to lose the glossy surface. makes for a very fine abrasive.


I'm a photographer, and I remember about someone who built his own large format camera, focusing ("frosted") glass included. If this is helpful to someone I'll google around and post the links I find.

Rgds.

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#30 superfly

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Posted 30 March 2008 - 15:46

I must say that the brown paper bag is a great idea, but it doesen't always work, especially if you are working on a cheaper pen, that didn't spent much time in the finishing department.

For that reason, I made a step further, and combined the paper bag with the jeweler's polishing compound, aka Jeweler's ruoge. I use the white compound, French Dialux Blanc. Simply, take a bar of the polishing compound, and smear it onto a brown paper bag (I use IKEA wrapping paper), work it well with another piece of paper, and start drawing circles and figures of eight on it. It works far better than just naked paper, because there is actually an abrasive over the paper. At first, I feared that the nib will load with the gunk from the compound, but it washes well with a water with some diswashig liquid added....

I'll start another thread about this, for easier reference...


cheers,
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