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Unknown Hard Rubber Pen - How To Restore Shine?


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#21 eckiethump

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Posted 03 April 2011 - 06:51

I don't put this forward for anything other than comment by the more learned, but in antique restoration, Vulcanite is refreshed very easily by a light application of olive oil, not by any sort of abrasion. The effect is one of removing (more likely disguising) oxidation and of giving a sheen. For what it's worth, I have used olive oil (sparingly!) on hard rubber with good success and no other effects that I have ever noticed.


Without commenting on the effect the olive oil would have on the hard rubber, I suspect none. This would most likely be the more acceptable solution for chased detail harder rubber, that is not t be handled.
As an aside I do also re-blacken pens without abrasion, after much experimentation, I have been supplied by an esteemed restorer, with a solution that works, it is not a quick fix, taking more than a few weeks to be applied, but the results are extremely good and long lasting.
et
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#22 sherbie

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Posted 03 April 2011 - 07:42

Folks

difficult blighters these old ones. To underline this, I too "foolishly" washed out decades of dark blue ink from the inner cap - and yes, it did fade (see photos). But I also soaked the section AND the lower 3/4 inch of the barrel for 2 full days !!!! - and if anything, this has made an improvement (again see photos - you can just pick out a water line) - as the section and lower 3/4 inch of the barrel positively shine cf the cap and the rest of the barrel which hasnt seen any water.

Great debate BTW - the chemistry of these old pens are fascinating, and what works for one mf may not work for others

cheers, paul

#23 PDW

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Posted 03 April 2011 - 09:28

A slight diversion, but I hope a relevant one.

I have a 'problem pen' whose future I'm agonising over. It's an early HR Relief with the red ring above the clip. I can see the shiny black original finish from the part of the barrel that was protected down the years by the skirt of the cap, but the rest is mid-brown with a slight sheen. The pen came to me after an internal restoration (new sac, which from lifting the lever feels about right), but I haven't even dared to try a water test yet!

I've read a bit on FPN about these pens, and AFAIK I don't touch the cap with water as the red ring is casein. I do, however, actually quite like the faded/oxidised unrestored finish of the pen, so I don't feel the need to to polish it back to the original black. If I just want to use the pen without any external restoration, are there any do's and don'ts? If it's usable as is, I'll happily do so, and if the best is to put it in a drawer and look at it from time to time I'll sigh but do it. I just don't want to destroy it through ignorance.

Edited by PDW, 03 April 2011 - 09:30.


#24 rhosygell

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Posted 03 April 2011 - 10:45

What is wrong with a little oxidation on your HR pen? Absolutely nothing - unless you want a cabinet queen. My Watermans 15 PSF, 52v and ripple Wyvern all show oxidation to a greater or lesser extent. See if I care - I plan on using the things, not just look at them. Incidentally, Savinelli's hard rubber pipe stem polish works when used sparingly on most hard rubber. I can't be bothered to apply it to my own user pens.
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#25 PDW

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Posted 03 April 2011 - 12:11

What is wrong with a little oxidation on your HR pen? Absolutely nothing - unless you want a cabinet queen. My Watermans 15 PSF, 52v and ripple Wyvern all show oxidation to a greater or lesser extent. See if I care - I plan on using the things, not just look at them. Incidentally, Savinelli's hard rubber pipe stem polish works when used sparingly on most hard rubber. I can't be bothered to apply it to my own user pens.


Actually, you could classify my question as coming from a newbie to HR pens, i.e. do I need to take any extra precautions with HR pens beyond what I'd do with a pen made with any more modern material?

#26 rhosygell

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Posted 03 April 2011 - 15:33

HR pens are not particularly resilient and can crack / shatter with relatively small impacts that plastic pens shrug off. It is in the nature of HR to oxidise from contact with the oils on your hands therefore however much you clean them, sooner or later they will dull down again. Water, if used to excess can result in discoluration too. These pens are nowhere near as fragile as people think. Use and enjoy.
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#27 PDW

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Posted 03 April 2011 - 15:46

Sometimes someone new to a situation just needs reassurance from a more knowledgeable person ... thanks.

#28 Roger W.

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Posted 03 April 2011 - 15:53

What is wrong with a little oxidation on your HR pen? Absolutely nothing - unless you want a cabinet queen. My Watermans 15 PSF, 52v and ripple Wyvern all show oxidation to a greater or lesser extent. See if I care - I plan on using the things, not just look at them. Incidentally, Savinelli's hard rubber pipe stem polish works when used sparingly on most hard rubber. I can't be bothered to apply it to my own user pens.


Actually, you could classify my question as coming from a newbie to HR pens, i.e. do I need to take any extra precautions with HR pens beyond what I'd do with a pen made with any more modern material?



Yes, keep them out of sunlight. Also be careful of water. I guess the effect of the water is to wash away the damage that has already been done but a dry pen tends to keep the illusion in place as it were. I'm not a chemist but, having followed this for a great number of years the chemical bonds break down or oxidize and using water helps wash that away. I have seen a drop of water cause an extreme amount of fading and then, over time, it will get darker again not showing the fade to be as bad as when water first contacted it.

Exposure to light has a lot to do with it as a poster said a few posts up that they had no problem soaking the section and lower part of the barrel. Of course not, as these parts are covered by the cap and have not had much exposure to UV light. Washing the cap faded that, well the cap has had whatever light exposure the entire time so it has UV damage.

Black hard rubber isn't black to begin with. The hard rubber is infused with carbon black for color. The natural vulcanized rubber once the carbon black seperates will go at least brown though it's complex and can take on olives and other colors as well. A gently faded pen should be accepted for what it is and "reblacking" should be skipped. If the pen has unusual fading or display fading such as one side is dark and the other oxidized then evening out the look of the pen would make sense to me.

All of the old pens are deteriorating. I'm just trying to slow it down. Eventually all of the old pens will turn to dust as the molecular structure breaks down (look at the studies on plastics - they are all breaking down albeit over hundreds of years). We don't have a handle on what a good preservative would be and many thing you slather on a pen might seem to cause no damage at all but we are talking about a few hundred years so telling me that it looks fine today as it did five years ago doesn't do anything for me. If the pen has a 500 year life did you take off 50? Nobody presently knows! That is absolutely the truth on any reblacking - nobody has any science behind them! I estimate that 10% of the pens made beteween 1900 and 1920 exist today. Fortunately a lot of pens were made back in the day.

Roger W.

#29 Flounder

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Posted 03 April 2011 - 17:52

I'm glad I read this thread, I had no idea sprucing up hard rubber pens was such a minefield. Beautiful pen, O.P, but I think I'll be admiring these from afar!

Latest pen related post @ flounders-mindthots.blogspot.com : vintage Pilot Elite Pocket Pen review


#30 Vintagepens

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Posted 03 April 2011 - 22:05

Let me emphasize once again that hard rubber is extremely resistant to chemical action UNTIL its surface has been broken down by exposure to light. That breakdown can continue for up to a week or two after the exposure -- this is documented in the technical literature. And, as noted above, this breakdown may be invisible, only becoming apparent when the now-unstable surface is exposed to water, which instantly washes away the carbon black.

The faded surface that is left is also softer than an intact surface, and more porous. So if one applies oil, such as olive oil, it will soak in and darken the appearance, just as with wood.

There is no evidence that skin oils cause hard rubber to deteriorate, and much evidence to suggest that any fading is the result of light exposure occurring during pen use. Strong acids don't affect pristine hard rubber, nor do most oils.

Contra Roger, I would not put hard rubber in the same category as the cellulosics or any of the other later pen plastics when it comes to deterioration over time. While hard rubber surely will not last forever, it is incredibly stable if stored in the dark (make it dry, too, if the surface is already light-exposed) -- not at all like later plastics, which are indeed constantly and unstoppably deteriorating.

#31 Roger W.

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Posted 03 April 2011 - 22:28

Let me emphasize once again that hard rubber is extremely resistant to chemical action UNTIL its surface has been broken down by exposure to light. That breakdown can continue for up to a week or two after the exposure -- this is documented in the technical literature. And, as noted above, this breakdown may be invisible, only becoming apparent when the now-unstable surface is exposed to water, which instantly washes away the carbon black.

The faded surface that is left is also softer than an intact surface, and more porous. So if one applies oil, such as olive oil, it will soak in and darken the appearance, just as with wood.

There is no evidence that skin oils cause hard rubber to deteriorate, and much evidence to suggest that any fading is the result of light exposure occurring during pen use. Strong acids don't affect pristine hard rubber, nor do most oils.

Contra Roger, I would not put hard rubber in the same category as the cellulosics or any of the other later pen plastics when it comes to deterioration over time. While hard rubber surely will not last forever, it is incredibly stable if stored in the dark (make it dry, too, if the surface is already light-exposed) -- not at all like later plastics, which are indeed constantly and unstoppably deteriorating.


David;

I'm glad to know that hard rubber is much more stabile than plastics. I do worry that reblacking or the people that practice such have little science behind them and are not ultimately causing harm.

So store hard rubber in the dark, keep it dry and limit exposure to UV light. Black especially is good to absorb light. In this case with mottled the material is much more brittle than black.

Roger W.

#32 Vintagepens

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Posted 04 April 2011 - 01:06

Honestly, I think most of the fuss over reblackening is scaremongering. Hard rubber has been around for a long, long time, so if common chemicals were to do it serious harm, it would have been noted long ago.

Red hard rubber is much more brittle than black, especially when not layered (some companies, notably Waterman, vulcanized hard rubber pen parts into near-final shape, allowing them to put more colorant into the surface layer and less into the rest). But mottled (and woodgrain) is really not any more brittle than black. This has to do with rubber chemistry, where pigments which may not work well by themselves work just fine when mixed with black.

#33 Roger W.

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Posted 04 April 2011 - 01:26

Honestly, I think most of the fuss over reblackening is scaremongering. Hard rubber has been around for a long, long time, so if common chemicals were to do it serious harm, it would have been noted long ago.

Red hard rubber is much more brittle than black, especially when not layered (some companies, notably Waterman, vulcanized hard rubber pen parts into near-final shape, allowing them to put more colorant into the surface layer and less into the rest). But mottled (and woodgrain) is really not any more brittle than black. This has to do with rubber chemistry, where pigments which may not work well by themselves work just fine when mixed with black.


David;

I must respectfully disagree about reblacking as even 20-30 years is not long enough to know the effect over 100-200 years. Still, I don't know how we prove it one way or the other and there probably is not any interest in the right sector to get to a real answer. I just choose to be cautious.

I like you touching on Waterman as I have seen more RHR from them than other makers and thought there must be an explanation for this anomoly. Sheaffer RHR is rare in the extreme, I've maybe seen 20-25 pieces ever so they actively avoided such material. Again Waterman seems to have more ripple or other variations in hard rubber than anyone else including the Wahl woodgrains. Boston seems only to have dabbled with 18 examples out of 219 with no pure reds at all.

Roger W.

#34 Gedion

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Posted 04 April 2011 - 01:52

I have two lovely Mabie & Todd red ripple hard rubber pens with the light frosting discoloration that appears on yours.

Simichrome Polish available from Richard Binder or motorcycle shops buffed it up back to their origional colors. I shudder a bit when sandpaper is mentioned even
fine grit. As you polish it smells like a rubber tire which I found is a quick way of telling if a pen is hard rubber. I rub my finger briskly over the barrel.

You have a lovely instrument.

#35 bluepencil

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Posted 04 April 2011 - 04:44

This was very informative about hard rubber pens. I have several hard rubber pens and wasn't sure what to use to clean it. I now know to keep water away from it and out of the light as well.

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Posted 04 April 2011 - 12:34

I have two lovely Mabie & Todd red ripple hard rubber pens with the light frosting discoloration that appears on yours.

Simichrome Polish available from Richard Binder or motorcycle shops buffed it up back to their origional colors. I shudder a bit when sandpaper is mentioned even
fine grit. As you polish it smells like a rubber tire which I found is a quick way of telling if a pen is hard rubber. I rub my finger briskly over the barrel.

You have a lovely instrument.



I've been told that Simichrome is bad practice but I'll continue to use and advocate it, anyway. I shudder at the mention of sandpaper too, but not as much as I do over needlessly removing cap bands.

#37 eckiethump

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Posted 04 April 2011 - 14:10

[/quote]


I've been told that Simichrome is bad practice but I'll continue to use and advocate it, anyway. I shudder at the mention of sandpaper too, but not as much as I do over needlessly removing cap bands.
[/quote]
Perfectly correct, if you are not competent at the process.
Sand paper has never been mentioned on this thread up till now, 600 up to 12,000 micromesh.
et


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#38 Vintagepens

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Posted 04 April 2011 - 15:02

I must respectfully disagree about reblacking as even 20-30 years is not long enough to know the effect over 100-200 years. Still, I don't know how we prove it one way or the other and there probably is not any interest in the right sector to get to a real answer. I just choose to be cautious.


Caution is good, but some balance is in order.
Let us consider that at least some blackening processes may actually have a stabilizing effect. We do know that faded hard rubber has a surface that has become porous, with a high free sulfur content. Expose it to moisture, and you end up with sulfuric acid. This is certainly not good for pen parts of metal and other plastics, and it probably is not a good thing to have in direct contact with the hard rubber layers below the faded surface. So there is a good argument for treating the surface so that active acidification is stopped, or at least drastically slowed. This is one context where applying wax is probably a good idea. I would also recommend applying wax as a protective layer before working on hard rubber pen parts where the exteriors are likely to be splashed with water (there's no sense in actually immersing caps and barrels or putting them under running water: stick to test-tube brushes and cotton swabs for cleaning them out).

Also, we are not talking about a 20-30 year history -- unless you are looking only at the world of pen collecting. If you do the research -- and I have, necessarily, being now in the hard rubber manufacturing business -- hard rubber has been used in industry for over 150 years, with a voluminous technical literature. One of its main uses was as a chemical-resistant coating for metal vats and other containers. It was soon discovered what chemicals could be used with these coatings -- and to put it succinctly, the few that weren't compatible aren't the sort of things to be found in the compounds presently used by most pen reblackers.

By the way, to address the discussion concerning cream vs film abrasives on mixed-color hard rubber:
Using a cream-type abrasive is often fine, as long as the fading doesn't go too deep. But if there is deep deterioration of the surface, and a significant difference in hardness between the colors, you will then get differential removal of the surface when using a cream -- Ripple surfaces that are now really rippled, like a washboard.

Under these circumstances, the only way to keep the surface flat while removing the deteriorated surface skin, is to use abrasive film, preferably backed up with a sanding block. It's the same in woodworking, where the hardness of the material isn't consistent all the way through.

#39 Roger W.

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Posted 04 April 2011 - 15:03

I've been told that Simichrome is bad practice but I'll continue to use and advocate it, anyway. I shudder at the mention of sandpaper too, but not as much as I do over needlessly removing cap bands.

Perfectly correct, if you are not competent at the process.
Sand paper has never been mentioned on this thread up till now, 600 up to 12,000 micromesh.
et

I'd say if you can remove cap bands just to make polishing easier you've got some skills! I wouldn't remove cap bands for fear of breaking the lip and the whole swagging it back on.

I think it is being sold (the idea) as sandpaper to make using semichrome look like an acceptable practice in comparison. Clearly one would be using extremely fine grit micromesh giving a flat profile to assure the high points are only hit and not digging out valleys as semichrome can do. With a light application only of semichrome you are not likely to notice anything but a flat surface though, it can be taken too far very quickly. Unfortunately semichrome is seen as a cure all polish though it is often too aggresive and leaves residue that needs to be washed off.

Roger W.

#40 Roger W.

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Posted 04 April 2011 - 15:27

I must respectfully disagree about reblacking as even 20-30 years is not long enough to know the effect over 100-200 years. Still, I don't know how we prove it one way or the other and there probably is not any interest in the right sector to get to a real answer. I just choose to be cautious.


Caution is good, but some balance is in order.
Let us consider that at least some blackening processes may actually have a stabilizing effect. We do know that faded hard rubber has a surface that has become porous, with a high free sulfur content. Expose it to moisture, and you end up with sulfuric acid. This is certainly not good for pen parts of metal and other plastics, and it probably is not a good thing to have in direct contact with the hard rubber layers below the faded surface. So there is a good argument for treating the surface so that active acidification is stopped, or at least drastically slowed. This is one context where applying wax is probably a good idea. I would also recommend applying wax as a protective layer before working on hard rubber pen parts where the exteriors are likely to be splashed with water (there's no sense in actually immersing caps and barrels or putting them under running water: stick to test-tube brushes and cotton swabs for cleaning them out).

Also, we are not talking about a 20-30 year history -- unless you are looking only at the world of pen collecting. If you do the research -- and I have, necessarily, being now in the hard rubber manufacturing business -- hard rubber has been used in industry for over 150 years, with a voluminous technical literature. One of its main uses was as a chemical-resistant coating for metal vats and other containers. It was soon discovered what chemicals could be used with these coatings -- and to put it succinctly, the few that weren't compatible aren't the sort of things to be found in the compounds presently used by most pen reblackers.

By the way, to address the discussion concerning cream vs film abrasives on mixed-color hard rubber:
Using a cream-type abrasive is often fine, as long as the fading doesn't go too deep. But if there is deep deterioration of the surface, and a significant difference in hardness between the colors, you will then get differential removal of the surface when using a cream -- Ripple surfaces that are now really rippled, like a washboard.

Under these circumstances, the only way to keep the surface flat while removing the deteriorated surface skin, is to use abrasive film, preferably backed up with a sanding block. It's the same in woodworking, where the hardness of the material isn't consistent all the way through.


Been a long time since reblacking was really well discussed. Yes a protective layer is desirable. The one discussion I had with a rubber industry expert did say that. The exact nature of what that material should be was not accertained. Hopefully what pen reblackers are using is safe though usually it is mostly secret as to what the ingredients are so I guess we have to have a certain amount of faith in the processes being applied. I do think that the whole business of reblacking makes many people very reluctant to collect hard rubber in the first place which is keeping interest and prices down. One collector sold all the hard rubber that he had rather than deal with this problem so I'm not making up any lack of confidence held by the hobby on this point. Pens in general though, I would say, is driven by users and their desire for reblacking pens runs high therefore, reblacking is here to stay no mater how it is done. In a recent thread elsewhere someone admited to good results using bleach so some of the bad old techniques are still put forward. Maybe a best prctices area could be developed so that the worst practices don't keep getting recirculated.

Roger W.






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