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Do You Concentrate On One Brand?

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I'm curious for all you 'Jacks (and Jills) of all trades'... when you started repairing pens, did you stick with one brand (or possibly one model of one brand) or were you learning on a 'case by case' basis?


I ask because when I apprenticed to learn goldsmithy, I pretty much learnt in modules. Polishing finished work, then resizing rings, 6 months setting tiny melee diamonds/stones into semi-mounts until I could (almost literally) do it in my sleep... then moving on to different chain forging, then fabrication etc... so learning that way sort of makes sense to me.


That being said, I've got a huge PILE of 'problem children' I've picked up in lots from ebay and really want to move on from resaccing Esterbrooks to doing something more 'meaty'. A fair number of these various orphans really ARE parts, even I can see that... but some of them are in pretty great shape apart from being frankenpens or having a bent (or missing) lever...


I guess I'm looking for encouragement, because when I was learning to be a bench jeweler, I had a master jeweler leaning over me a fair bit of the time guiding me (and keeping me from doing fearlessly stupid things).


My strategem at the moment is to go slow and not attack anything that's very valuable. I guess I'm just afraid that I haven't yet developed the ability to figure out what I can handle, does that make sense?


I've also resigned myself to breaking some pens. I haven't chatted with anyone who has spent time repairing old pens and never broken anything, so I'm trying to give myself a pass when it eventually happens. It can't be as sickening as the corner shearing off a 6 carat emerald I was resetting (I hate beryls..so beautiful, but so psychotic to work)... so I guess I should be ok :P



PS Edited to add. Because I don't want to start 500 different threads in the various fora... is it impolite of me to ask if I can see your workbenches? I'm still trying to figure out how to store pieces/extra bits/parts (what I affectionately call piecesparts).. since I can't eyeball a clip and tell what model it is (or often, if not marked, even what company it was)... so I need some sort of organisational help.


Right at the moment, I've got a sort of L shaped setup, with heat gun at my right hand (I'm sort of ambi-clumsy, but tend to use my right hand for a lot of things), main work space in front of me with tools in a long tool holder (drilled out wood block) in front of me and US cleaner to my left. Buffing equipment is across the garage (though I haven't found much use for it yet). I haven't moved my flex shaft over (yet), not sure where to put it.


Thanks for any and all help =)

Edited by AnnieB123
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Hi Annie,


I'm still learning too but on a case-by-case basis. I did invest in a good repair book, Marshall and Oldfields Pen Repair. If you want to order one, with you being in Scandinavia, it might be easier to get it from the UK at penpractice.com (no affiliation). I'm not lucky enough to have a dedicated space for repairs, but I keep my stuff in a huge fishing tackle box with cantilevered trays and use my kitchen table as a work bench. If you are still in the jewellery trade, there must be systems for keeping parts sorted, but I use small pill bottles. Your local hardware store would have cabinets with little drawers for sorting screws etc, that would be ideal. I improvised a knock-out block by punching small holes in the bottom of a tuna-fish can till I bought an "official" one and when I'm working on a number of pens, I put the "in progress" ones in a round glass flower frog. I've never invested in dental picks for pulling dead sacs, but I have a number of very, very fine crochet hooks that work fine for hooking stuff out of barrels. Heat gun no, hair-dryer yes! Oh, and if I have to clamp anything, clothes-pins (pegs, for you in the UK) work really well. It's all about improvising!

As a jeweler, you must have wonderful fine-motor control (busted emerald not-withstanding :gaah: ). I think we have an advantage over the fellows out there, smaller fingers are made for pen repair!


Best of luck, Pen Lady.

Edited by pen lady
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Things I would invest in are fishing tackle boxs, a small vice for use as a knock out punch, blue tac and some rubber gripping material.

Hot glue gun, hardy adhesive, an arkansas stone and some micro mesh products will work a treat with nib repairs.

More expensive items would be a nib repair tool, lathe, grinding machines, a dremal.

Primarily fountain pen sacs as well, witgh shellac and pure chalk to boot.

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I started with lever fillers, Esterbrooks mostly, because they are easily available and, AFAIK, don't have any variations in how they go together. I also restored some Eversharp Symphonies, Wearevers, Watermans, Sheaffers and lower tier pens that were lever fillers. Once I got comfortable with doing those, I decided the next step up was Sheaffer Touchdown pens. They're a bit more complicated but very do-able for someone who's good with their hands, as you must be. The restoration instructions on Richard Binders and David Nishimura's sites were invaluable. Now I'm doing Snorkels which, IMO, are much more challenging than Touchdowns because of the need to remove the sac section from the sac protector. Again, the two web sites cited have been extremely helpful, as are many members here. So everything I've done lately has been Sheaffer, but I do keep my eyes open for good deals on some of the lever fillers previously mentioned. Thinking about trying to restore a Parker Vacumatic......


Good luck and enjoy the tinkering.



Edited by redbike
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I do my work in similar pen batches, as it keeps me from getting confused between the different pens, and it takes advantage of doing the same task for a specific pen model.

So if I am working on Esterbrooks, I won't work on a Sheaffer at the same time.

And I will cement/install ALL the sacs of all the Esterbrooks as one step.

But if I have to wait on something (cement to dry, part to come in, 2nd opinion, etc), I will put the batch aside and work on other pens.


Important, each pen is kept in its own small plastic bag (if I had the space, small trays would be easier), to prevent mixing up parts. And put the parts into the bag/tray ASAP, so it does not get lost or mixed up.

Organization is important when working with multiple pens.


Example, working on Esterbrooks, I go thru these steps in batches, doing the procedure for all the pens before going to the next procedure.

- Pull the section from the barrel of all the pens

- Clean the barrel of ink sac fragments

- Remove the sac from the section and clean the sac nipple (some times I split this into 2 steps)

- Install the new sac

- Talc the sac and install the section into the barrel (no heat used to install the section into the barrel)

- Install the section into the barrel (using heat to install the section into the barrel)


The touchdown and snorkel were similar but because of the more complex/design I did more steps together on the individual pen before going to the next pen.

- Take each pen apart individually

- Clean the pens

- Install the sacs

- Reassemble the pens


I did the easy one first, I first worked on the Esterbrooks. These were all resacing.

Then I did a few Eversharp Skylines. Resacing, and replacing lost feeds.

Then I did a Parker Vac.

Then I did a couple Sheaffer touchdowns.

Then I did a couple Sheaffer snorkels. Part of the fill mechanism is similar to the touchdowns, so it made sense to do these after the touchdowns.


The problem that I have with the Parker Vac, is I do not have the Vac tool. So I need to have a friend remove then later install the vac pump. That puts a delay into the process.


I do not have the luxury of a dedicated workbench :( so I have to make do with portable stuff, and pull out what I need for the specific task. I use a cookie sheet with a paper towel on it as my work surface. It contains the ink sac fragments and dust that come out of the barrels. And the tray prevents any ink staining the bathroom counter or kitchen table.


Fishing tackle boxes, plastic organizer/compartment boxes, etc.

I lucked into some tools at estate sales that helped; heat gun and punch out block with punches.


When I clean/flush a pen, I do it over a 2 gallon tub, so I contain the inky water and do not stain the sink. Then later I pour the inky water into the toilet and immediately flush the toilet.


Because I have middle-age-eyes, I found the visor-magnifier invaluable to see what I am working on without having to use a 3rd hand to hold a magnifier. A bench magnifier would be similar for those with a bench to attach it to.

Edited by ac12

San Francisco Pen Show - August 28-30, 2020 - Redwood City, California


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The Un-Modern-Parker.

"Don't hurry, don't worry. It's better to be late at the Golden Gate than to arrive in Hell on time."
--Sign in a bar and grill, Ormond Beach, Florida, 1960.



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