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Learning how to restore & repair fountain pens.


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60 replies to this topic

#1 Shangas

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 07:44

I tried sending an email to Richard Binder, but since he's shut-up for the holidays...I bring my case before the masses of the Fountain Pen Network.

I'll try and be as plain as possible - I want to learn how to restore and repair fountain pens. After a chat with my dad, we decided it would be a worthwhile hobby/endeavor, since I've decided that I wanted to start collecting fountain pens seriously (about a year ago now, I started).

So I've got a bunch of questions, and I hope that you guys won't mind answering them.

1. What are the essential tools/materials/pieces of equipment - that I'll need?

2. Where do I start to learn how to restore/repair pens? What are the basics that I need to learn about restoration and what are some simple skills or jobs that I can start with (such as polishing, for example...)

3. A lot of people have recommended Simichrome (sp?) for polishing metal parts. What (if any) product/s should I use for polishing plastic parts? And where can I get these supplies (in B&M stores, if possible. It's just more convenient, but failing that, online).

Yours,

Shangas.
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#2 philm

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 08:04

Shangas,

No doubt you will get several responses to this, but I hope most will encourage you to try your hand at repairs.
Here are two websites with supplies to get you started ....

http://www.tryphon.it/catalogo.htm

http://www.simcom.on.ca/woodbin/

I have used both and they both have first rate service. Good luck and ask lots of questions as you go along. Mistakes will happen and they are there to learn from. Start with some inexpensive old lever or button fillers and work your way from there. It is a rewarding experience to use pens you have restored.

Best,

Phil

#3 Ruaidhri

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 08:19

Shangas,

Do take note of Phil's last paragraph !

Start with cheap pens & learn as you go.
Pick up a few disposables and play with the nibs smile.gif
Don't expect to become fabulously wealthy doing this biggrin.gif
There are lots of sites with information -
Richard's site
Ron Zorn's site
Wim's article
L. Oldfield

There are many others - chase through the links on the sites mentioned.
Pick up a copy of Da Book (but don't treat it as the Bible - though it's close).

Have fun smile.gif

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#4 Shangas

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 11:11

Hahaha!! No, I don't expect to become fabulously wealthy, but I thought it would be something fun to do. And rewarding. Thanks for the links. I've already read Richard's & Ron's sites. I've read through both several times. I'll take a look at those other suggestions, though. Thanks!

And what is the proper title of Da Book, and Da Author dhat wrote it? I think I know one or two places near where I live which might have it (Melbourne Vintage Pens in Armadale) so I'll go there for it.
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#5 Ron Z

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 12:50

Da Book is Frank Dubiel's book on pen repair. Pendemonium has it, Fountain Pen Hospital has it. The information is very general, but useful. I have a copy, along with the manufacturers manuals, and refer to both when looking for information.

BUT, there are some area where I disagree with what Frank wrote. I do not use nail polish to secure sacs, do not use rubber cement on pens at all, most definately do NOT use open flame. There are some others, but that's a good start..... Even so, it's a good general resource.

Start with the cheap pens and work your way up. Which is to say don't start on a jade or carmine oversize Balance, or a Waterman Patrician. Pen repair isn't rocket science, but it does take patience, and you have to be willing to give it some thought. Rush into a repair, and you'll get yourself into trouble every time.

To take the time to read the articles on my web site, and Richards as well.

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#6 Shangas

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 13:11

Oh no!! No nonononononono. I'm gonna start with two-dollar pieces of (Potty Mouth) that I pick up at flea-markets and stuff. Once I've perfected my methods of torture on those poor unfortunates, I shall move to larger things.

I decided to go down this path partly because of Richard Binder, to be honest...I read the article on his website about how to replace ink-sacs, and I thought to myself - "I could probably do that..."

I've read a few articles on your site, Ron, in fact, I think it was something on your site that sort of rang true for me...something about wanting to collect fountain pens but finding that there's always something wrong with them and that if I was going to collect pens, I may as well learn how to repair them, too...

I shall poke around for 'Da Book' and read up on it. And I'll try and find some other pen-repair manuals etc. And no, I would NEVER use an open flame on a fountain pen (who the devil thought that up??)

Thanks for the tips & hints & information thus far, guys. I'll have a flip through it and see what happens.
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#7 david i

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 13:15

QUOTE(Ron Z @ Dec 29 2007, 04:50 AM)  
Da Book is Frank Dubiel's book on pen repair. Pendemonium has it, Fountain Pen Hospital has it. The information is very general, but useful. I have a copy, along with the manufacturers manuals, and refer to both when looking for information.

BUT, there are some area where I disagree with what Frank wrote. I do not use nail polish to secure sacs, do not use rubber cement on pens at all, most definately do NOT use open flame. There are some others, but that's a good start..... Even so, it's a good general resource.

Start with the cheap pens and work your way up. Which is to say don't start on a jade or carmine oversize Balance, or a Waterman Patrician. Pen repair isn't rocket science, but it does take patience, and you have to be willing to give it some thought. Rush into a repair, and you'll get yourself into trouble every time.

To take the time to read the articles on my web site, and Richards as well.


Actually, having known the odd rocket scientist, i'm not sure that rocket science is rocket science either wink.gif

d

Edited by david i, 29 December 2007 - 13:20.


#8 david i

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 13:20

QUOTE(Shangas @ Dec 28 2007, 11:44 PM)  
I tried sending an email to Richard Binder, but since he's shut-up for the holidays...I bring my case before the masses of the Fountain Pen Network.

I'll try and be as plain as possible - I want to learn how to restore and repair fountain pens. After a chat with my dad, we decided it would be a worthwhile hobby/endeavor, since I've decided that I wanted to start collecting fountain pens seriously (about a year ago now, I started).

So I've got a bunch of questions, and I hope that you guys won't mind answering them.

1. What are the essential tools/materials/pieces of equipment - that I'll need?

2. Where do I start to learn how to restore/repair pens? What are the basics that I need to learn about restoration and what are some simple skills or jobs that I can start with (such as polishing, for example...)

3. A lot of people have recommended Simichrome (sp?) for polishing metal parts. What (if any) product/s should I use for polishing plastic parts? And where can I get these supplies (in B&M stores, if possible. It's just more convenient, but failing that, online).

Yours,

Shangas.


Some qualms have grown about Simichrome of late. None really provable... yet... but still.

The stuff is not just an abrasive, it has- iirc- various preservatives and other chemicals. There has been some speculation that this stuff might not be so good for celluloid in the long run. Of course, no one seems to have done a case controlled double blind prospective study yet.

If one can isolate the gunk to metal, then fine. But, some of us lean more toward dedicated plastic polishes. One compound with good reviews (again, hardly proof) is Renaissance's "Prelim".

In fact, on occasion i have used no polish on plastic pens and achieved better result than any polish has given me, by using micro-mesh pads of progressing fineness.

regards

davd

Edited by david i, 29 December 2007 - 13:21.


#9 Shangas

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 13:22

Hahahaha!!

Hey Ron, I found that quote of yours...

"I decided that if I wanted to collect, I would have to learn to repair, and so plunged into the world of vintage pen restoration."

I think I'm in the same boat, now. Move over tongue.gif

EDIT - By the way, Ron, I read those articles of yours about cheap tools. Very interesting & helpful. Apart from the one about sac-replacement on Richard's site, are there any other articles on richardspens.com, that I should read? I couldn't find any others.

Edited by Shangas, 29 December 2007 - 13:24.

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#10 Gerry

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 14:02

You might consider browsing the Repair Reference Information thread that is pinned at the top of this forum.

Regards,

Gerry

#11 Ron Z

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 14:07

QUOTE(Shangas @ Dec 29 2007, 08:22 AM)  
I think I'm in the same boat, now. Move over tongue.gif


Moving over not necessary - there's room. Besides I plan to stay waaayyyy out in front! tongue.gif There are several more advanced things I'm working on at the moment that are far beyond basic sac replacement.

Truth is, Im a moderator here on FPN because I want to help people who are interested in the basics of pen repair. Sure, I earn a living doing pen repair, but I do understand how much fun it is and want to encourage it!

You'll have to noodle around web sites for information. Many times you'll find reproductions of repair manuals being sold at pen shows (DC a prime example). If you can get your hands on OLD copies of Pen World, there used to be a lot of useful information there too. (its more of a lifestyle mag. now)

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#12 Shangas

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 14:31

Hi,

Thanks Ron. That's nice to know.

To be truthful, I decided to look into learning how to restore pens for lots of reasons. Richard Binder's sac-replacement article was one reason, your site, Ron, was another. Yet another reason was finding stuff on eBay which looked nice, but which contained that annoying line:

"...the sac has not been replaced and has probably dried up..."

...which significantly narrowed the candidates for acceptable bidding-items. I figured if I could learn how to restore pens, I could buy stuff on eBay cheaply and not worry about broken parts and just fix it myself.

Edit - I've been looking through the Tryphon site, supplied by Phlim...It looks like one gigantic online pen-restoration supermarket!...I'm having a bundle of fun poking around and looking at everything...

Edited by Shangas, 29 December 2007 - 14:36.

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#13 wdyasq

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 15:14

QUOTE(Shangas @ Dec 29 2007, 02:31 PM)  
"...the sac has not been replaced and has probably dried up..."

...which significantly narrowed the candidates for acceptable bidding-items. I figured if I could learn how to restore pens, I could buy stuff on eBay cheaply and not worry about broken parts and just fix it myself.

I read that and thought I would throw in my worst 'tale of woe' on buying a pen. This one happened to be a burgundy "51". The listing showed a gold filled lined cap and the add stated 'needs repairs' and not real clear pictures.. I thought I had bought it cheap enough.

I don't know what the pen had set in to corrode it so effectively. The sac was gone. The sac protector has quite a bit of pitting. The hood seemed bonded on. I finally cut the hood off thinking I could salvage the collector, feed and nib, I had already decided the cap was toast. The collector is/was not the proper collector and was cracked. The nib has bad corrosion, is Octanium and just doesn't look right - besides having a lot of pitting. The nib was bonded to the feed with what I think is shellac and the feed is not a "51" feed. With a bit of cleanup, I might be able to use the section.

Of course there is the other side of the coin too. I purchased a group of pens for one pen and two of them had decent flex nibs.

Ron
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#14 Ron Z

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 16:19

QUOTE(david i @ Dec 29 2007, 08:15 AM)  
Actually, having known the odd rocket scientist......
d


Do tell, how odd was he?

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#15 Fox in the Stars

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 16:56

Shangas, I'm newer to the hobby than you but am in the same boat trying to learn to repair/restore. I got Da Book, which I think is good for general know-how about how different pens work and how to approach some problems, but yeah, keep a box of salt handy. There's lots of good information online, and asking questions here is good, too.

You can get cheap junkers in lots on eBay or at flea markets, and even the ones you can't save, just dismantling a parts pen can be a real confidence-builder (and help you develop a stash of nibs, caps, bars, what-have-you). On the one hand, it's never a bad idea to ask questions or do research, but on the other hand, when working with the junkers I would say don't be afraid to try to solve problems with your own good sense.

On Richard's site, I would recommend the pen anatomy articles. Also the repair info at Nibs.com (home of John Mottishaw).
Laura Fox ~
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#16 Jinnayah

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 17:04

Just thought I'd jump in here.
You'll like being able to replace sacs. If I can do it, anyone can, and there's a great thrill in "it didn't work and now it works!" Even if you never move beyond that, it opens the possibilities for pen acquisition up a lot. (For good or ill, I suppose...)

Da Book has a lot of information, but I'd be hesitant to follow any of it that I wasn't sure was safe. Mr. Dubiel wasn't as concerned with preservation as much as I am, and if I may make so bold, I think he was a little overly enamored with nail polish, open flames, WD-40, and cyanoacrylic glues.
But don't be afraid to come here and do a search or ask if you're not sure.

#17 Kelly G

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 00:39

Oh if only Frank were still around - he'd have some fun with you. While Da Book has some decidedly improved upon methods, to take Frank on as to the general wisdom of his advice was a step not taken lightly. I only met Frank over the net, but he was most helpful as I started out repairing my own pens. At the same time, he could be irascible, especially if you weren't interested in listening to those who've repaired more fp's than most of us will ever see. He didn't suffer fools lightly and many people found him difficult. Frank was practical and he saw pens for what they are, tools with which to write and he was interested in putting them in writing condition. Some of his advice may have faded in the last few years, but Da Book is still the single best source of practical pen repair advice - especially that you can grab from the bench when you're in a bind with a particular pen.

Here is my $0.02 worth on your journey of pen repair.

1. Pay attention to the good advice above. Particularly on using junk pens for practice.
2. You will break a few pens - just be prepared for that.
3. Clearly understand your limits and only proceed when you are sure what you're doing.
4. Understand the pen you're working on - is the section threaded or slip? Right or left handed threads? Are there pins securing parts? etc, etc.
5. The Golden Rule - Patience, Patience, Patience. Never work on a pen when you're frustrated or overly tired; bad things will happen.
6. Heat is your friend - but not too much. Get a decent heat gun and thermometer. Know the temperature you're applying to the pen - guessing isn't necessary or wise.
7. Avoid excessive force. Ron's article on "seeing with your fingers" is spot on.
8. Did I mention patience?
9. Ask for advice (I don't think you'll have a problem with this from what I've seen) and listen to the experts.
10. Get the right stuff for the job. 100% Silicon grease instead of the almost 100% stuff. The good plastic polish, etc.
11. Spend some time in the bookmarks section of PenHero.com - some great information to be had there.
12. Have fun. Frank D. used to say "they're only pens" and he was right about that. The world won't stop turning if you break one and your work won't always be perfection. It is however, sort of like golf, one great repair - getting that rather beat up looking Duofold Sr. back to excellent condition - and you'll be hooked for long term.
13. And remember, it's cheaper than seeing a shrink.

Good luck and have fun!
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#18 Shangas

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 00:48

Hi guys, thanks for the replies,

Yes, I read that Frank passed away 'recently'...how recently is that?

And yes, using junk-pens is important, I'm well aware of that (Makes me wish that I didn't skip on that Conway-Stewart Lever-filler I found at the market with the busted sac, now...)

Regarding heat, Kelly, in one of Ron Zorn's articles, he mentions using a hairdryer to supply heat...is this sufficient-enough? 'Cause I do have a rather good one that should work.

I've had a chat with my dad and the moment that Peter Ford's shop is open for business again (I think that would be next weekend, according to his website), we'll drop by and buy a copy of DA BOOK.

Hey Fox-in-the-stars, nice to see that I'm not alone here...for a moment I thought I was!! Yeah, buying some 'parts pens' would definitely be a start for me. I noticed on the Tryphon website that they produce recreation filler-buttons. Yay!! And pressure-bars and all the other bits-and-bobs that repairers need...wow, they really do it properly...I'm getting all tingly and excited now...next thing - Drop by the Camberwell Trash and Treasure Market and snatch up every junk-pen I can find...
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#19 Fox in the Stars

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 00:55

I keep watching Richard's site hoping his "Threefers" (bottom of the "restored vintage pens" page) come back into stock... ^_~
Laura Fox ~
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#20 Ron Z

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 01:17

QUOTE(Shangas @ Dec 29 2007, 07:48 PM)  
Regarding heat, Kelly, in one of Ron Zorn's articles, he mentions using a hairdryer to supply heat...is this sufficient-enough? 'Cause I do have a rather good one that should work.


I used a hair dryer from Brookstone for quite a few years, and still carry one to pen shows as a backup heat source. The little heat gun that I use today is more effecient, but a hair dryer will work quite well. As I say in the article, they may actually be safer for the newbie because they don't get as hot, but still get very warm. Try your hair dryer. If it doesn't do the job for you, you can always spend the money on a heat gun later on.

I don't like the big two temperature heat guns for pen repair- they're designed to remove paint and thaw pipes, and produce a LOT of heat, with a very wide outlet. They also take up a lot of bench space. The little ones that Giovanni sells, or are available at craft stores work very well. Single temperature, but they have a small outlet for more concentrated air, and there is quite a difference in temperature between 1/2" from the outlet and 3" from the outlet (I've measured it with a digital thermometer) so you can vary the temp with distance.

Edited by Ron Z, 30 December 2007 - 01:18.

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