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Advice On Buying A Sheaffer Lever Fill Or Vac Fill? Which One? How Much?



boybacon

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Hello, Everyone!

 

Some 35 years ago, my great grandfather gave me a fountain pen out of his "junk drawer". I took it home, found some ink somewhere and actually wrote/drew with it. Then, at some point (because my dad told me I should) attempted to clean it with nail polish remover. It softened the celluloid and made it "sticky". It ended up lost or in the garbage.

 

Anyway, My GG was born in 1900, and the pen was a black and green striated celluloid with a gold nib (that much I can remember). Doing a bit of digging around the eBay, i've seen that Sheaffer pens come in that same sort of color, and I have recently gotten the bug to buy one.

 

Right now I have almost all modern fountain pens (Edison, Bexley and Conklin) and a few older "mistakes" that need fixiing/ink sacs (Epenco lever filler, Webster button fill and 4 Arnold lever fillers that all work great, so I guess I can't call them mistakes!). Basically, my experience tends toward modern cartridge & cartridge converter pens.

 

I would like to purchase a Sheaffer pen, because that green and black striped pattern reminds me of the one I destroyed/lost/threw out/whatever. I see lots and lots and lots of Shaeffer pens out there, but I have NO idea of what to look for. Is an older Vac Fill that needs repair better than an older Lever fill that needs repair? How much should I budget? Should I buy a working pen that's been restored? Sooooo many questions. Not the least of which is.....How much should I budget for a working pen? $100.00? More? Less?

 

Any and all advice would be appreciated. Even if you could point me towards a reputable dealer or two. I'd much rather buy from a person/store than eBay, to be honest.

 

--Eric

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I prefer the Vac/Plunger fill Sheaffers but the Lever fill models are certainly easier and often cheaper to get repaired. A fully repaired example from one of the better known suppliers is certainly the best way to go. You can often find ones listed at Pendemonium, Inkpen; David Nishimura's, Mauricio Aguilar's, Gary & Myrna Lehrer's, IndyPenDance, Main Street Pens or Peyton Street Pens.

 

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I'm a big fan of the old Sheaffer Co; that is not in a scene that I have a massive collection of their pens (I don't - only have 1 now - Balance OS level fill). However, that 1 single pen was my #1 writer until very recently. It had some tough competitions from 2 Danitrio.

I think the condition of the pen you are getting is more important, especially when we are talking about vintage pen. Either level fill or vac fill, if it works like it should, you won't go wrong.

The irony is that I purchased my Sheaffer from Ebay (seller: thiso*dhouse - or something like that), paid $90+ and expecting an average pen. It ends up as a brilliant writer. That's the thing about vintage pen; luck and selection matter a lot. Good luck hunting.

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Happy Harry

The biggest problem buying unrestored from ebay is avoiding pens that have serious issues and this is regardless of filling system. Look for issues such as plastic shrinkage, celluloid degradation, cracks, threading issues. Avoid any vac fills with obvious issues like "end cap needs fixing to rod" etc. if you choose that route.

 

You can get many excellent pens on ebay but you've hit the nail on the head and it's better to buy fully restored if you only want one ( or two) pen. As to filling system, lever is simple, easy and reliable and a vac fill restored with modern parts is equally reliable and easy to us. To a degree the color choice you like seems to indicate a '40's pattern and that generally means vac fill is easier to find.

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A lever filler you can restore yourself a vac-fil is a poor design and should be avoided like the plague. Sure they fill completely so if you really need as much ink as possible you could go that route. I just don't like a pen that is very difficult to repair.

 

Roger W.

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Roger is just a bit biased against plunger fillers. <shrug> There was a time when I considered them to be unrepairable, but as we discovered about 8 years ago, they are quite repairable, and their value has gone up quite a bit from what it was less than a decade ago.

 

The pens, once restored properly, aren't likely to need to be restored again for a very long time indeed. They hold a lot of ink, especially the oversize Balance versions, and are very reliable. BTW, "properly restored" means using Vito 0-rings for the packing unit, and a high grade buna-N rubber for the head gasket. I have some that were done 6 years ago that are still filling just as well as they were when first restored. Not quite the case with lever fillers when a latex sac is used.

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crescentfiller

Eric, as Roger says, you cannot beat a lever filler. Yes, vacs are nice, but the business end is the nib, in terms of writing, and the nibs are the same on both. So, you can find a nice lever filler and repair it yourself for about two bucks. And, if you need to replace the sac down the road, that's another two bucks. If you cannot repair the vac-filler yourself, it will cost you at least twenty (20) DIY sac repairs to have it done. You can replace a sac in minutes, and almost with your eyes closed.

 

You can find plenty of nice Sheaffer lever fillers on ebay that only need a new sac.

 

Happy hunting, and good luck!

Daniel

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Well, I may end up doing both. I bought a pen/pencil set from eBay in the brown color, thinking that I could practice repairing a lever fill, and another member contacted me about a green striated pen that I maybe can purchase. Oh dear, TWO Sheaffers on the way :-)

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PM sent with photos, boybacon.

 

Fred

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Oh Dear, TWO Sheaffers on the way - and so it starts my friend, and so it starts!!!!!!!!

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I've been trying to wade through the rather substantial amount of information that is out there on the world wide intrawebs, and I *think* that I have a Valiant set on the way. Please take a look at the pictures and see if I got it right. If it's a Valiant fountain pen, then it would be a "touchdown" pen, correct?

 

I'm guessing that in addition to a new sac (if it's a touchdown) that I would also need to have the nib straightened and/or replaced. It looks bent. To me. But I'm no Shaeffer pro by any means.

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Oooops. I also have a balance set on the way (I'm pretty sure on this identification). You know how sometimes on eBay if you want something, and there are a bunch of them out there, you have to bid on a few of them just to get the one you want? Well, I bid pretty high on the first set because I was tired of being outbid at the last second by everyone else looking to buy a Sheaffer in brown stripes (which I thought would be easy to get, because there are so many of them). I kind of forgot about this set. It belonged to Phyllis G. (or C.) Lahn, as you can see by the engraving. Oh boy. I'm guessing that one will require a professional rebuild. Not sure if Phyllis used that one very much, but I'll try and make up for lost time once it's up and running. As soon as my wife finds out, I'm probably in line for a beating. Or at least a stern yelling at about OCD, eBay, and the weird need to collect fountain pens :unsure:

 

I promise to her that I will not get another Shaeffer on eBay. Fortunately, the green stripe one that I REALLY want is not on eBay. :lticaptd:

 

--Eric

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I've been trying to wade through the rather substantial amount of information that is out there on the world wide intrawebs, and I *think* that I have a Valiant set on the way. Please take a look at the pictures and see if I got it right. If it's a Valiant fountain pen, then it would be a "touchdown" pen, correct?

 

I'm guessing that in addition to a new sac (if it's a touchdown) that I would also need to have the nib straightened and/or replaced. It looks bent. To me. But I'm no Shaeffer pro by any means.

That's what Shaeffer called a Waverly nib and it is supposed to look like that. The curve gives you a larger sweet spot. If properly adjusted they are very smooth writers. The shape was invented and marketed in dip pen nibs by MacNiven and Cameron towards the end of the nineteenth century and carried over into a few of THEIR fountain pens.

 

The pen looks like a vac fill. I don't recall ever seeing a touchdown in that type of celluloid.

Dave Campbell
Science Teacher and Pen Addict
Every day is a chance to reduce my level of ignorance.

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Let's look at filling systems and decide to agree with me that the vac fil is a piece of garbage. First off Sheaffer only made the vac-fil in response to Parker doing so and only for a bit more than a decade. The hallmark of Sheaffer, the lever filler was made for over 30 years. Once Sheaffer did hit upon a replacement for the lever filler of their own that of the touchdown system now there is a thing of beauty! Made from the late forties through the nineties! Simple to repair so it fits in with the do it yourselfer and uniquely Sheaffer. That is all you should want in a filling system. OK, I'm recently smitten with the Imperial IV's, I don't know why I've never owned one until last year.

 

Ron is right that there have been great strides in making vac-fils work properly and I think all the glory should go to Gerry Berg on that. I still see absolutely no point in owning one personally. I do have a couple of desk pens (not functioning) that have that filler due to them belonging to mid 1940's desk lamps. Still, I use about six pens a year and lever, touchdown or cartridge (Targas) suits me fine.

 

Roger W.

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Any time I have a choice between a lever fill and the Sheaffer vacfil/plunger system I'll take the vacfil. They hold a bunch of ink, write near forever, a super easy to clean and just about the simplest system ever. Sure, there are folk that don't like the system but then there are folk that do like Lite Beer and are satisfied with just hamburger too.

 

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I think all the glory should go to Gerry Berg on that

Getting these going really was a co-operative effort from a number of people, each adding a facet to the success of the repairs. I think that Richard and I were doing them before Gerry got started. It started Nathan Tardiff's ideas, and with David Nishimura offering the 0-rings and retaining washers. I did my first one in 2006, and Richard and I spent a year working on them for a year before we took them in for repair, the main hold back being whether to go in from the front, or to try to pull the packing units. We decided that going in from the front was the most reliable. Then in mid-2008 I found the rubber for the head gaskets and made it available to a number of other pen mechanics. I think that most of them are working off of the roll that I bought, including Gerry.

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Ron;

 

Thanks for that. It's great to know the story. I just went with Gerry as he really was rolling them off heavily and it sure seemed like it was his idea from how much of it he was doing. I'm glad you guys put an end to the washer up the barrel that everybody was doing before.

 

Roger W.

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I rejected the rubber plug idea a long time ago. I did it on one pen using Fr. Terry's kit and decided that was not the right way to repair the pens, and didn't touch them again for maybe 10 or 15 years.

 

One of the important facets was Frances Goosens (Fountainbell) nib removal tool for the Triumph nibs. Without them your chances of getting a nib out were 50/50 at best. With the tool, your success rate is a lot closer to 100%. Not quite there, but really, really close.

 

I'm really happy to see a bunch of people doing the repairs - and to see a lot of the non-professionals doing them too. Gerry certainly has gotten the word out with his demonstration at pen shows. With the Viton 0-rings introduced by Nathan and David, and then the high grade buna-N rubber for the head gaskets that I found, I expect the repairs to hold up for a long time. A couple of decades? Maybe. Both materials are chemical and wear resistant. As long as you lubricate the piston rod with silicone grease on occasion I expect them to outlast me.

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Much thanks to Your guy for presenting and contributing to this discussion.

It is because of your efforts to service these iconic piece that there are being more widely accepted.

 

Hopefully more and more folks will try them and add them to their daily writers not just look at them.

They were meant to be used, hard and put away wet..

penfancier1915@hotmail.com

 

Tom Heath

 

Peace be with you . Hug your loved ones today

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