I had some time to kill today and four pens to re-sac, so I decided to break out the camera and make a step-by-step tutorial of it. Maybe this can be incorporated as a sticky? DISCLAIMER: I am an amateur. I am not a professional. Repair your own pens at your own risk! It is easy to break something if you're not careful, so heed this warning!!!!
- Blow dryer or hot water
- Hands + fingers (preferably at least six distributed evenly across both hands)
- Scraper/pick/thin, long tool
- Pen shellac ("orange" shellac, available at pen repair suppliers). A little goes a LONG way, so opt for a small bottle.
- #16 latex pen sacs. You will trim them to length.
- Talc powder (pure talc), not talcum powder, etc.
- Scissors or a cutting tool
Step 1: Obtain a pen
This is a nice Esterbrook J with a Bell System Property imprint.
Step 2: Heat the pen
GENTLY heat the threaded area and section of the pen to cause a little expansion of the plastic. This will make pulling the section easier and will help avoid cracking the barrel where the threads are.
Step 3: Open the pen up by pulling the section
This is hard to photograph, so this is NOT the handhold I use for this maneuver. KEEP A NIB INSTALLED IN THE SECTION. If you do this without a nib, you greatly increase the risk of crushing the section. I use three fingers to get a good hold all around the section, and I use 3 fingers to surround the threads of the barrel, the I pull and twist maybe 15°. Go slow and be careful. Don't be tempted to "rock" the section out as the lateral stress can crack the threads. You may need to re-heat several times during this operation. Try to isolate your pulling to straight distraction and twisting, no rocking.
Step 4: Stay organized and protect your pen parts
Everyone has their own system. I like plastic baggies because I have them, they take up no space, and they're cheap. If you're only working on one pen, it's not such a big deal, but if you are doing more than one pen at a time, use one baggie for each pen's parts. Also, the baggies help keep barrels and caps from rolling off the table and breaking.
Step 5: Get your bearings
Here is a pen with the section removed (man, it was in there TIGHT!) and you can see the old, desiccated, fossilized pen sac crusted onto the section's nipple. We're going to remove that. The rest of the sac will be down in the barrel...
Step 6: Clean up your parts
If you're lucky, a few shakes will cause the sac to fall out in one piece. This is a good thing. If it doesn't, GENTLY go excavating with that metal tool and dig the sac remnants out.
Also use the metal tool to GENTLY scrape the old crusty sac away from the nipple. It is held on with shellac, so it will be kind of sticky, or maybe rock hard. Just work slowly and get the nipple nice and clean.
Step 7: Install a new sac
You need a #16 pen sac, made of latex.
The rule of thumb for lever-filler pens is that the sac not extend past the end of the lever when everything is reinstalled. So, line the parts up like so and you'll have an idea of where to trim the sac with your scissors.
You'll need orange shellac for the reinstall.
Put a light coating around the outside of the section's nipple. Be careful not to paint the part of the section where it friction fits into the barrel or it could cause problems upon reinstallation.
Reinstall the new trimmed sac. You can buy sac spreaders to help with this if your dexterity if off or if you don't have the hands for this. I put the sac at about 45° to the nipple and push it on with a twist, which gets shellac on the inside of the sac, lubing it up and letting it slip on easily. Sounds sketchy, but trust me.
Make sure the new sac is orthogonal to the section (in line with it). You don't want a sac that veers off in one direction or another.
Step 8: Celebrate!
Let the shellac dry. Suppliers say wait 24 hours, but no one is that patient. Wait a while before the rest of this...
Step 9: Dust the sac with talc
No, that isn't 100% pure Colombian blow. It's talc, and it's enough to run a full-time pen shop with 20 workers for the next 1000 years! You need pure talc, not talcum powder or that sort of thing. Talc. Powder. Pure. Why? It lubricates the sac and protects it from damage from the j-bar that squeezes it for filling. Keep the talc out of the inside of the section.
Step 10: Put the pen back together again
Most Esterheads are really anal about how the nib lines up with the lever. I tend to like the top of the nib to line up with the lever side of the barrel, so I take this into account when I put the pen back together. I do not heat the section or barrel again for reinstall, which is much easier than pulling the section. But, again, be mindful that your force is directed in line with the long axis of the barrel or you could crack the barrel if you get going too crazy. Again, keep a nib in the section, just in case.
Step 11: Enjoy!
How did that black Bell System Property J turn into a putty-colored purse pen?! What the hell?!
Now, on some pens from the wild you may find an old sac that seems to work perfectly well. Different people say different things. I've kept a few in use and I've replaced a few to be on the safe side. Here is an original OEM Esterbrook sac that feels great and fills with no problem!
But, further inspection makes me feel a little more cautious, as half of it around the nipple seems really thin and like a potential breaking point:
Anyway, there you go. There are some different things to consider for different pens (i.e. some Dollar Pens take #18 sacs, etc), but this tutorial gives you the gist of things. I hope you get a lot out of it!
I have to commend you on this tutorial on Esties. It was very well done. I do have a question regarding the sac size in the tutorial as it seems alot of it was cut off for this demo. It seems that a smaller sac could have been used, although all the data I have seen so far, says that all Esties use the #16 straight sac. Could a smaller one have been used? thanks Manoli