Jump to content

Casein (I've Done A Bad Thing)


Recommended Posts

So it seems that the many warnings I've read about British pens using casein long after it had fallen out of favor in the U.S. was not enough to make me stop and think for a minute before I set a late '40s Waverly (made by Burnham, I think) to soak overnight to free a tight section.


Well, the section came loose all right, but now the last 11/2" of the threaded end of the barrel is also doing a Gumby impression:




I see myself having two repair options, neither of which seems very appetizing. One would be to soak the pen again and, when soft, roll it between two flat surfaces or try to compress it around a mandrel somehow to restore it's shape. The other would be to try and heat it, followed by the same rolling or mandrelling dance.


Does anyone here have any experience straightening deformed casein? Is it hopeless?


The consolations are that the cap was already deformed when I got the pen (as can be seen in the photos) so I didn't destroy a pristine pen and there are parts there that I can use for other things if it really is a write-off. Still, the object of fixing a pen is to make it better, not worse so I do feel a certain impulse to try and rectify my mistake. I would also consider sending it to a pro if - and only if - the repair cost didn't far exceed the value of the pen.


Any thoughts? Suggestions? Scoldings (which I probably deserve)?


Paging Ron Zorn - you see a lot of damaged plastic in the course of an average day. Am I spitting in the wind here or is there hope?


Thanks in advance to the fountain pen hive mind!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 9
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

  • Pentode


  • Ron Z


  • Beechwood


  • PaulS


Top Posters In This Topic

Posted Images

These pens are not so expensive and if you look on ebay.co.uk on a sunday evening, i.e. now, you will see a number for sale, some parts pens and some complete. I would look at buy a doner pen and swap the good bits over, and then try and salvage what might be possible.


Dont beat yourself up about this, many have been there.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the tip. I'll start keeping an eye out for donor parts. ....and I'll start thinking before I soak next time!


All the same, with nothing to lose, I'd still like to know if this sort of damage can be repaired.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

sympathies for your problem, and remember ............ people who don't make mistakes rarely make anything.

history shows, often, that the solution to a problem has been experimentation - you've really nothing to lose, so assuming no one comes in with the f.p. alchemists dream answer, then go ahead and experiment................. you might be the one person who provides this fraternity with a solution. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

you might be the one person who provides this fraternity with a solution. :)


Or the first to provide photos of a fountain pen/licorice whip! ;)


I think I'm going to revert to some easy clean-and-resec projects that are piling up in my "to do" drawer while I lick my wounds and rebuild my confidence. After a few days I won't be as annoyed with myself and I can start thinking about salvaging the Waverly - if it can, indeed, be salvaged at all. If not, I already have the parts slated for other projects that have been waiting for donors.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

DRY heat to loosen a section.


Hot water is a bad idea also, as that will turn the nice black hard rubber section brown :(


Soaking a pen barrel in water is a bad idea in any case, no mater the material of the body.

For a lever pen, the J-bar, C-ring and lever are made of ferrous metal and will rust when wet. Because it is very unlikely that you will be able to get ALL the water out of the pen.


Pens like this go into my "AW $HIT !!!" box, where I scavenge it for parts for other pens.


When in doubt research and ask. But don't just take the first answer and go, it maybe WRONG.

There are answers that are incorrect or only correct only in specific situations, floating around on FPN.

And before anyone says otherwise, I was burned by following such recommendation. So I have first hand experience of having followed answers that should have been ignored.

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


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've had good results with cold-water soaks (I never use warm) on pens that were caked with dried ink and that I knew were celluloid. This has worked for me on pens where dry heat alone was not cutting it. I always set the pen upright so the lever and j-bar assembly is above the waterline. I also knew that casein was used in English pens. This mistake was simply a case of not stopping and thinking about what I was doing. Good, old-fashioned carelessness. We all do something dumb once in a while. It was my turn, I guess.

Edited by Pentode
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for sharing! It's not only the case of casein. I think that soaking celluloid long enough can lead to similar damage.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would be inclined to write it off as pen repair tuition and move on. Deformed plastics can sometimes be returned to something approximating their original shape, but even with skill and experience you end up doing things to take care of the last little bit. Even then someone with an experienced eye is likely to catch it.


The head end of the process is where to intercept problems like this. I never soak a barrel to remove a section. The reason is twofold. First, I don't have the time and second, it never really works. A stuck section is usually because the section fit in the barrel is really tight, or shellac or some adhesive has been used, or maybe because the sac is rock hard and is stuck to both the lever and the sac nipple.


The risk of soaking is evident here - it could be casein, and water could get inside and rust the internal parts. The later is a greater risk.


But there is no "zero risk" approach to pen repair, just varying degrees. I consider opening a pen to be the riskiest moment in the process. You never know what you're up against until you start to work through it. An appropriate use of dry heat and gentle persistence is the key.

Visit Main Street Pens
A full service pen shop providing professional, thoughtful vintage pen repair...

Please use email, not a PM for repair and pen purchase inquiries.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Duly noted.


With two voices of experience warning against soaking, I'll just go ahead and remove that from my standard operating procedures moving forward.


As for restoring the barrel, I might just go ahead and experiment and see what I get. It's not like I have to worry about ruining it anymore and I'm likely to learn something from whatever results I get.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...