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My Moby Dick: Or, How To Glue Celluloid?

celluloid repair celluloid glueing celluloid

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13 replies to this topic

#1 jdllizard

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Posted 25 November 2015 - 06:16

OK, so I was buying a few Parker Vacumatics because they are awesome, but I hadn't yet found a Burgundy Vac that I could afford, and that's the one color I couldn't live without. I finally found one and she was beautiful! A Standard size, 3 cap bands, two tone nib, lockdown filler, all in beautiful condition (minus the missing blind cap tassie and jewel). All I had to do was disassemble,  clean, replace diaphragm, and reassemble. Feeling cocky after several successful repairs of other Vacs, I decided to take on the task myself even though this was the most valuable pen I had. Everything went great.... right up until it went terribly wrong.

 

When reassembling this beauty, the barrel snapped in two right in my hand while reinstalling the new diaphragm and lockdown filler. I wasn't even using much pressure, I was just snugging it up a bit, not yet to the tightening portion of the install, but it broke anyway.

 

As you can probably tell from the glue remnants in the pics, I've tried to repair it several times with no success but I refuse to give up! It has become personal for me, I've got to much invested in time and money to throw in the towel now and give it up as a parts pen. I know it'll never be a collectors pen now, but I believe it can certainly live on as a writer.

 

Notice how clean the break is, this is what gives me hope that I can repair it, I just need to find out what will work best. Super glue failed quickly and easily, that new stuff that cures instantly under a UV light didn't hold worth a darn, so what would YOU recommend as a repair adhesive on this celluloid barrel? Acetone? Epoxy? Some other concoction I haven't heard of yet? I've never glued celluloid before, so I'm outta my wheeelhouse here and need advice on the best way to repair this thorn in my side.

 

I WILL NOT GIVE UP!!

 

Parker1.jpg

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(Holy pixels Batman, my new phone camera takes pretty decent pics!)


John L

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#2 rwilsonedn

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Posted 25 November 2015 - 16:32

According to the site americanartplastics.com:

 

"Celluloid is easily glued using epoxy, cyanoacrylates, and traditional animal glues.  It may also be solvent welded with acetone, MEK (methyl ethyl ketone), or THF (Tetrahydrofuran).
Celluloid can readily be patched in case of damage or porosity using a paste made from scrap shavings dissolved in one of these solvents.  The patch should be allowed to cure thoroughly before being worked down flush.  This may take weeks, depending on the solvent, the temperature, and the size of the patch."

 

Since you've already had bad luck with epoxy and cyanoacrylates, maybe you could try welding.

I haven't tried this myself.

ron



#3 tmenyc

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Posted 25 November 2015 - 16:51

MEK will work, if you're in a state where you can get it; branded MEK Substitute is as satisfying as low fat salad dressing.  Take your time to let it cure, wear a mask or work outdoors (I use a fume hood and am happily done leaving my genetic imprint...)  Figure out your clamping and handling beforehand.  THF is available only to those with licensure to use it, I'm pretty sure.  I'm not, I don't have it, I wish I did.  Acetone (real acetone, not the fingernail polish remover stuff they sell these days) is pretty rough on celluloid and also nasty in the nasal passages, but it will work.  

 

I have used MEK and acetone more for crack repair than reattaching major parts, and have to wonder if, even after the weld cures, the repaired barrel would be able to take the strain of regular use and filling.  I think I would consider fitting a metal sleeve in there as a stent before welding the parts together.  The solvent wouldn't weld to the stent, but the stent could provide needed support.  Then, after the weld has cured and the stent is in place, I would feather in a little very thin cyanoacrylate to bond the stent to the welded pieces.  

 

Good luck and keep us posted!

 

Tim


Edited by tmenyc, 25 November 2015 - 16:54.


#4 graystranger

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Posted 25 November 2015 - 17:19

The UV curable material so popular on-line today (Bondic for one) is not an adhesive. It is a plastic welding material and needs a rough surface or a hole to grip onto for a good bond. Many do not understand the difference between welding with polymer and an adhesive.

 

However there are some UV curable adhesives, Locktite has some in their industrial line. I do not have any recommendations for available adhesives.

 

I notice you have not tried epoxy yet. Remember to remove the old adhesives from the surface before you use a new on (or a solvent).

 

Even when using an adhesive you should have a totally clean and preferably roughed up surface for the best bond. I think epoxy would work, but Tim above has excellent recommendations for you.

 

If you use a solvent, remember the solvent is dissolving the celluloid from both surfaces to create the bond. That is why a solvent like acetone can damage celluloid so you have to be careful.  As the solvent evaporates, the dissolved celluloid will shrink. Tim seems to have a good understanding of this in his suggestions. The idea of the metal stint is a good one.

 

Your best guide will be from people who repair vintage celluloid pens.


Edited by graystranger, 25 November 2015 - 17:24.

Eschew Sesquipedalian Obfuscation


#5 jdllizard

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Posted 25 November 2015 - 18:10

Thanks for all the suggestions! The sleeving idea is a great one and one I think I can make work with a 2 part epoxy or CA, IF I can find a sleeve. I don't have any machine tools to make one, but I bet I can find some metal tube stock at the hobby store.
John L

#6 Tweel

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Posted 25 November 2015 - 18:40

I wonder whether it might not be better to use a piece of plastic tubing, rather than metal.  The reason I wonder is that one of my stepsons dropped an Aurora Ipsilon ballpoint that I gave him and it broke in two places.  Each break was at a spot that had a metal sleeve inside (factory construction, not repairs).  My speculation is that due to the rigid metal, the acrylic at those two points couldn't give a little under the impact stress, and snapped instead.  Plastic tubing might lend that resiliency.


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#7 GAtkins

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Posted 25 November 2015 - 18:59

MEK, but this pen needs to go to Ron Zorn.  He's got some other fancy stuff he uses beside MEK and is an expert in celluloid repair.  He can also make whatever kind of sleeve it might need.

 

Those red pens are so nice that I wouldn't leave it to chance.

 

Glenn



#8 jdllizard

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Posted 25 November 2015 - 20:44

MEK, but this pen needs to go to Ron Zorn.  He's got some other fancy stuff he uses beside MEK and is an expert in celluloid repair.  He can also make whatever kind of sleeve it might need.
 
Those red pens are so nice that I wouldn't leave it to chance.
 
Glenn


Like I said, this is now personal. I'm not going to pass my attempt at a repair off onto someone else. Besides, since I have yet to further damage the pen, and since I also own its twin (an identical duplicate, just one year date code away), I want to fix it myself. I don't see any reason, now that I know a better process, that I shouldn't be able to make a proper repair now.


Or, if I try and fail again maybe I'll let Ron work his magic. ;-)
John L

#9 FarmBoy

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Posted 26 November 2015 - 04:32

This is a relatively easy solvent weld to do, you are essentially relaminate the layers together just like it was done when new.  You need the right solvent and you are well advised to add a plasticizer such as camphor to the mix.  BUT you are going to need to remove all the remnants of glue and adhesives.

 

On a Vac you shouldn't need a sleeve, if you do, make one from celluloid and solvent weld it in place.


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#10 jdllizard

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Posted 26 November 2015 - 05:00

This is a relatively easy solvent weld to do, you are essentially relaminate the layers together just like it was done when new.  You need the right solvent and you are well advised to add a plasticizer such as camphor to the mix.  BUT you are going to need to remove all the remnants of glue and adhesives.
 
On a Vac you shouldn't need a sleeve, if you do, make one from celluloid and solvent weld it in place.



That's the question though, which is the right solvent? I don't really want to mix up some concoction myself. Is there a good simulacrum available over the counter? Just any good CA?


I did order some thin clear celluloid strips for making an inner sleeve out of from Amazon. Seems to be something intended for dental work according to the description.
John L

#11 FarmBoy

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Posted 26 November 2015 - 09:48

Use MEK.
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#12 Giacomo

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Posted 23 April 2016 - 22:41

This is a five month old thread, but since jdllizard never mentioned the eventual outcome I thought my related experience might be of some use. The short version is that for an effective repair, though not a museum-quality restoration, UHU Allplast works well. The longer version follows.

 

For the past couple of years I've been carrying in my pocket a WWII-era Sheaffer Crest. I enjoy its writing qualities and its looks, but I know it's imperfect enough for no-regrets daily use. Eventually it slipped from my pocket and fell to the ground. The celluloid barrel snapped cleanly in half where the metal cap ends. I immediately came to the forum to seek guidance, and I found this thread and some older ones discussing celluloid repair. I quickly decided it would be unwise to handle liquid solvents myself. I also knew that the pen wasn't worth the services of a skilled professional like Ron Zorn. That left an appropriate adhesive.

 

UHU Allplast is cheap and easy to find in Europe, mostly as a model glue, and it was supposed to work. Beyond the consumer page it has a professional page that is only partially translated into English, but offers more information and links to the technical data sheet (PDF) and safety data sheet (PDF). The latter reports that the adhesive is a mixture of acetone, ehyl acetate and butanone (i.e., MEK). That convinced me to give it a try.

 

The adhesive is easy to use: it's transparent, viscous and slow-setting (5-10 minutes). I have pretty much no DIY experience or ability, but after a little practice on ballpoint barrels that I had broken for training, on my first (and only) attempt on the fountain pen I achieved a joint that's clean and well-aligned enough for my tastes.

 

After the adhesive dried, I left the pen alone for a week to finish hardening. When I brought it back to the inkwell, I was very pleased to find that the Vacuum-Fil still worked and sucked in half a barrel's worth of ink, which is all it ever did in my hands. It's now been almost a month since the pen returned to my pocket, and it works as well as it did before the accident.

 

Needless to say, my simple DIY repair is inferior to a professional solvent weld. The joint remains a visible line across the barrel, and I can also feel it by running a fingernail along the barrel. But it's so close to the notch where the barrel meets the cap lip that it doesn't bother me anyway. I'm extremely happy with the outcome in my situation, and I suppose it may not be the only one in which perfection is unwarranted and good enough is good enough.

 

Giacomo



#13 jdllizard

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Posted 24 April 2016 - 02:44

I haven't reported any more news on the broken pen because its parts are still sitting in a ziplock, still in disrepair.

I think I'm done trying to fix it myself. Time to send it to a pro.
John L

#14 Ernst Bitterman

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Posted 25 April 2016 - 20:31

The use of superglue will have queered the pitch; it doesn't hold well enough itself, but it does a great job of sealing the surface against the correct solvents.


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