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Heartsick - All Repairers Please Take Note

fail plunger filler

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22 replies to this topic

#1 WanderingAuthor

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Posted 20 March 2018 - 19:54

I am heartsick as I write this post, but wanted to warn others of the danger so they can avoid the disaster I have just suffered. It applies to something at least some repairers do when repairing plunger fillers and replacing the steel rod. If you have no pens like this, you are safe.

 

To explain, I have to set up the story. I am a writer. Pens are my life. And once I heard of Onoto-the-Pen, I had to have one. Finally, I found one that was unrepaired. It was a nice black 5601 with an amber ink window, probably made not long before World War Two shut down production for a while. This last detail only made the pen that much more precious to me. Before I could use it, I had to have it restored. I will not name any names here, but will say I chose an individual with an excellent reputation. When I got it back, in the fall of 2011, one thing bothered me.

 

Onotos are plunger fillers. The rod on this one, which had corroded, had been replaced not with stainless steel, as I had hoped, but with some new, high tech black rod which was flexible, unlike a steel rod. Since it did not, when I filled it, look quite like the original, this troubled me. And as I began to use it, I noticed that since the rod was somewhat flexible, it was somewhat hard to "drive home". This seemed a bit dangerous to me, but I got away with it various times, and the person who fixed it was supposed to be an expert. I didn't feel I quite had reason to complain over not getting stainless steel.

 

Today, I was filling my beloved Onoto. After my cat, and my manuscripts, this pen is the first thing I would grab if there were a fire. Well, some of you will have guessed how this tragedy ends. In fighting with the stupid, high-tech (bleep) which seemed so clever to use - and which needs to be thrust home while the pen is nib down in the ink - a terrible mishap resulted in just what I have always feared, a bent nib. As I am disabled, I will now have to live without this pen until I can save up to get someone to repair the nib AND replace that evil flexible rod with a nice, firm, stainless steel one.

 

I do not know the name of the black substance which was used, but this is clearly not suitable for the needs of a plunger filler. Having such a rod in place is just waiting for a disaster to happen. In my opinion, any repairer who has been foolhardy enough to use such a material ought to offer to replace it with stainless steel free of charge to all their customers who are stuck with beloved pens which are also disasters waiting to happen. As upset as I am right now - near to tears, to be honest - that may or may not be reasonable, but it is how strongly I feel. In the future, if anyone so much as suggests using such a material in a plunger filler, I will no longer trust that person to work on ANY of my pens.

 

If it were not for the fact that I am very sure the manufacturer does not market it for this purpose, I would consider suing the maker of the material. However, if they didn't suggest it was suitable for this type of use, then the blame comes down to the "experts" who failed to think it through and realise that even a tiny bit of bending would increase the force needed to thrust the plunger back in, and thus would in time lead to a very bad end.


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#2 Barkingpig

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Posted 20 March 2018 - 21:09

I am very sorry to hear of your pen's misfortune & hope you can find someone to set it right.



#3 Ron Z

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Posted 20 March 2018 - 21:21

Don't blame the pen mechanic.  I don't know of anybody in the USA that makes these from scratch. I really don't want to try.  Its time consuming.   We've ordered them from a vendor the UK.  There is a lot involved in making one, including cutting left hand threads at the blind cap end, and a flange at the front end.  You have to drill a hole for the blind cap pin through the end of the rod, which would be difficult to do with a hard rubber blind cap and a stainless rod.  The drill would tend to wander, and would get hot,  both of which could damage the blind cap. ...and there are some people who want the rod to be the original color, which means black.  Hard rubber is difficult to turn when it is that thin.  Delrin is not stiff enough.

 

The original rods were hard rubber with a steel core.   The previous rods available as replacements were carbon fiber with the end pieces glued in, which I do not like.   I see that they are now making them out of PEEK, which is a much more durable material.


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#4 TSherbs

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Posted 20 March 2018 - 21:36

Don't blame the pen mechanic.


I don't see why not, despite your explanation. If the mechanic replaced a part with inferior material without acknowledgement of such, then perhaps a type fraud has occurred. The customer should know when she is paying for shy*e.

#5 Ron Z

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Posted 20 March 2018 - 22:01

I don't see why not, despite your explanation. If the mechanic replaced a part with inferior material without acknowledgement of such, then perhaps a type fraud has occurred. The customer should know when she is paying for shy*e.

 

There is, as far as I know, no other source for reproduction rods.  I don't make the rods,  don't want to get into making them (especially out of stainless for the reasons already noted)  and a significant number of the other pen mechanics can not do what I can do.  They have no choice but to use what parts are available.   No part means that the pen is a nice display piece,  as is the Onoto sitting on my bench.   The new Ketron PEEK rods should be solid instead of hollow carbon fiber,  and therefore much stronger, but this is the first that I've seen that they are available.  I have not had a chance to test them,but other parts made from this material are quite strong.

 

I  have done one Onoto repair using the carbon fiber reproduction rods, and it wasn't the pen owned by the OP.  The one repaired hasn't, as far as I know,  failed. (The client is a friend, so I am likely to hear if it does).  I chose not to use them any more for other reasons. There are other variables here that may have come into play.  We can not know.

 

BTW, for what its worth, there are many other pens that used just a solid hard rubber rod that is not reinforced with a center wire, and worked just fine for decades.   A Moore Safety is one that comes to mind.  Even stainless steel brings with it, its own set of problems, even when 316L steel (which is tough to machine, especially when this thin) is used.

 

To the OP -  If you insist on a stainless rod, be prepared to have mechanics decline your request to have them repair the pen.  To ask for one made of PEEK is reasonable.  But if you insisted on stainless, I'd have to say no.


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#6 praxim

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Posted 20 March 2018 - 23:07

Just to make one thing clear regarding the OP, no vintage Onoto has a stainless steel rod. They had (as Ron says) a hard rubber rod with a wire core for strength, and Custompenparts in the UK now supplies PEEK rods which I have not used either. Replacing a SS rod was correct in my view, and should not be wished back, as already explained by the fact the previous SS rod (a replacement itself) had corroded.

 

Regardless, the story in the OP tells me that there was no failure of the rod. My hypothesis is that the plunger rod was not greased (a tiny dab of pure silicone grease) to ensure smooth use after which haste does the rest. Greasing an Onoto rod and barrel internals is as rarely needed but as important as doing the same for a piston fill pen..

 

I have bought and used a brass rod, already threaded, from Pensmith in Australia, and now make my own. I have a safe approach for drilling the shank pin hole after cutting to length. Brass has strength and is corrosion-free. I have every confidence PEEK rods would work as well. With brass, you do need to accommodate yourself to the little 3mm brass-gold disk appearing at the top of the pen. There is no room to cut the rod shorter and plug the hole while retaining the pin. I have not tried any form of paint.

 

I suggest saving not only for nib repair but also for a small quantity of pure silicone grease, or ask a nibmeister / repairer to do these things.


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#7 Ron Z

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Posted 20 March 2018 - 23:49

Silicone grease on the rod would indeed have gone a long way towards avoiding the failure, and was one of the "other factors"  to which I was alluding.  Silicone grease does wash off eventually, even with a good silicone grease that is designed to resist washing off.  I've started to suggest it to clients when I send back their restored piston fillers, and Sheaffer plunger fillers with their stainless rods.  Things move much more easily when it is used.

 

Praxim - You can answer back channel if you'd rather, but are you using the 5ba thread, or are you  using a  UNC or UNF thread on the rods?  That might be possible to find over here, but there are no  sources for ready made  BA type  thread taps and dies in the USA that I know of, and the custom tap/die people I've bought from do not list them as something that they make...  not that I'd want to pay close to $150 for one anyway as infrequently as I see Onotos.  (bother, it sounds like I may have to get into making the things).

 

I don't know about brass though.  I've seen corrosion problems when brass is immersed in ink, and some cases where the ink changed color when it came in contact with brass.


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#8 praxim

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 00:35

Hi Ron, I take on board what you say about possible corrosion of brass or ink colouration. Corrosion is mainly in the form of de-zincification I believe, for common brasses, but primarily in the presence of salts and other contaminants. This is what a major metal supplier here advises:

"It has good corrosion resistance to fresh water but should not be used in contact with ammonia compounds or be immersed in salt water."

 

I note also that fresh water tap parts and valves can be made of brass, although bronze is used for whole taps. One reason I have taken it up is simply that I can make it from readily available rod, whereas PEEK is harder to find in reasonable dimensions around here, and freight from the UK a burden for more or less one-off parts.

 

Yes, I use 5ba LH threading. I will answer by PM or email my source, which is in Britain. Local suppliers were as costly as you found.

 

Anyway, Ron, just sub-contract your Onotos to me ;) :D Freight? A mere nothing. :rolleyes:


Edited by praxim, 21 March 2018 - 00:37.

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#9 TSherbs

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 02:17

 
There is, as far as I know, no other source for reproduction rods.  I don't make the rods,  don't want to get into making them (especially out of stainless for the reasons already noted)  and a significant number of the other pen mechanics can not do what I can do.  They have no choice but to use what parts are available...


I get what you mean. And I hear you saying that this replacement part is appropriate and not prone to failure. That is why I put the "if." If this part/material is sound, then the problem is likely something else.

#10 fountainbel

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 08:20

Hi all,

I've already used the Peek replacement rods from Custom Pen parts UK on several pens with excellent results.

Francis



#11 Chrissy

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 10:52

If the pen never came with a steel rod then OP may have been mistaken about that, but if the new rod is flexible and prone to bending when one tries to drive it home, should he have been advised to add silicone grease onto it from time to time to make it easier to operate?  :huh:

 

Is this potentially a completely different rod to the PEEK replacement rod that is now being described, if the PEEK is only available from the UK?  Or was the PEEK rod regularly available in 2011, and the only replacement rod in use?  :huh:



#12 fountainbel

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 11:52

 

 

Praxim - You can answer back channel if you'd rather, but are you using the 5ba thread, or are you  using a  UNC or UNF thread on the rods?  That might be possible to find over here, but there are no  sources for ready made  BA type  thread taps and dies in the USA that I know of, and the custom tap/die people I've bought from do not list them as something that they make...  not that I'd want to pay close to $150 for one anyway as infrequently as I see Onotos.  (bother, it sounds like I may have to get into making the things).

 

Ron, LH  5BA taps and dies can be found - at a very reasonable price - here :

 

https://www.tracytoo...-taps-dies/5-ba

 

I don't know about brass though.  I've seen corrosion problems when brass is immersed in ink, and some cases where the ink changed color when it came in contact with brass.

 

I had similar experiences with brass exposed to ink, and consequently stopped using brass for parts which are continuously exposed to ink. 

Francis

 

 


#13 fountainbel

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 12:06

 

Is this potentially a completely different rod to the PEEK replacement rod that is now being described, if the PEEK is only available from the UK?  Or was the PEEK rod regularly available in 2011, and the only replacement rod in use?  :huh:

Chrissy,

The one piece Peek rods only became available at CPP last year , as Ron stated  "replacing the hollow carbon fiber with the end pieces glued in"

I agree with Ron that the threaded end piece fixation in the carbon fiber version was rather weak.

The new PEEK rods are definitely a real breakthrough !

Francis



#14 Chrissy

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 12:12

That's really good news then. The OP had something that was probably inferior to what is currently available, and has an opportunity to have his or her pen fixed with the latest PEEK rod if it is sent for repair now.



#15 Ron Z

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 13:12

Thank you Francis.  A useful link.  Last time I checked the PEEK rods weren't available.  I need to order some - at least so that I can get that show piece off of the bench and into a pocket!


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#16 soapytwist

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 14:09

If the pen never came with a steel rod then OP may have been mistaken about that, but if the new rod is flexible and prone to bending when one tries to drive it home, should he have been advised to add silicone grease onto it from time to time to make it easier to operate?  :huh:

 

It's worth noting that the original rods are also quite flexible, so it definitely seems to be a lubrication problem rather than one of using the wrong material (although I've never handled a CPP replacement rod so I can't comment if they are more or less flexible). Unfortunately on these pens the seal between the cork and the rod is critical for the pen to fill properly, so I imagine most repairers would err towards stiffness over smoothness as a guarantee against leaks.


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#17 praxim

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 21:04

The supplier linked by Francis gave is the same I gave Ron by PM, so that does seem a good source for those taps and dies.

 

Yes, genuine (original) Onoto rods are somewhat flexible. That is one reason they put in the wire core, to try to protect the ebonite rod which is only 1/8" diameter and not the strongest material. Still, I have encountered a couple of curved ones, of which one was within the barrel, curved under pressure of the plunger being forced against the shut-off where fits were not adjusted correctly.


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#18 Corona688

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 22:11

Onotos are plunger fillers. The rod on this one, which had corroded, had been replaced not with stainless steel, as I had hoped, but with some new, high tech black rod which was flexible, unlike a steel rod.


What was the diameter and length of the pin?

#19 Ron Z

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Posted 21 March 2018 - 22:34

What was the diameter and length of the pin?

 

Length varies by model, and I would hazard to guess, by pen.  Pen to pen consistency wasn't always the greatest in those days.  Remarkably good given the machinery (real skill in the lathe operators) but not what we get with CNC machines.

 

If you want more information,  Custompenparts.com gives rod length so that you can figure out what rod to order for what pen.

 

I have to admit, at what they charge for the PEEK rods, especially if they are as good as Francis says they are,  it doesn't make a lot of sense for me to make it myself.  Francis certainly could make them, but he orders theirs instead of making them himself.


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#20 CS388

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Posted 22 March 2018 - 02:52

OP: The rod may have been hard to drive home , because the retaining nut may have been overtightened, therefore may have overcompressed the packing ring, making the rod operation difficult? (Quite a few 'may have's in that guess!)

As soapytwist points out, most of us would (surely) err on the side of tightness, rather than risk a leak?

 

Without seeing your nib, it's just guesswork - but, from your description of the incident, I'm sure you could get it straightened out at a reasonable cost by a reputable nib technician or pen repair person - and while they were at it, they could attend to the 'sticky' rod issue?

 

Good luck.







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