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Heat And Celluloid Question


hermesrouge
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Hello everyone,

 

I am completely new to FPN and have been learning so much! My goal is to learn to do some basic repairs to be able to rescue some appealing junkers and otherwise rather hopeless vintage pens.

 

My greatest fear in beginning though is the idea of using a hairdryer or heat gun to unscrew celluloid pens the line seems awfully fine between melting the shellac and bursting into flames! I understand hot water is not an appropriate option with celluloid, but I wondered why it would not work to put the pen in a waterproof wrapping like a ziplock or well wrapped tinfoil and dip it into hot water. Wouldnt it be as dry as dry heat? Because the temperature of water can be accurately monitored, and kep below melting or flash point, it would SEEM like this might be a safer way to do this... (I emphasize SEEM because I am sure there is a reason this wouldnt work what I have learned so far is little about pen repairs is as easy as it seems! : ) )

 

Why wouldnt this work? Thank you so much!

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You know what.... the tinfoil thing doesn't seem like a terrible idea. Don't do it yet, wait for someone more knowledgeable than me (maybe Ron Zorn or Farmboy will weigh in), but it does seem like a very good idea.

 

Plastic is a bad idea because heating plastic causes it to leach certain chemicals that can damage other plastics. Again, I'm not super clear on the specifics.

 

Interesting ideas, thank you!

 

By the way - when using heat on celluloid (or any material) make sure that you don't grip too hard and warp the material. It's a pain to get it back to the right shape. I recommend you buy a pair or Dale Beebe's ultra-high friction gripping pads from pentooling.com. I think they're under the "abrasive" category of tools, but they aren't abrasive. Those things are amazing. They're not sticky, but they make pulling and twisting effortless because they provide so much friction. So much, in fact, that they'll accumulate dust over time. Clean with soap and water to get rid of it.

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I would think it is very difficult to make a water tight vessel from tinfoil.

 

With a dry air stream it is relatively easy to direct the heat to where you want it. If you want to heat the entire pen in a controlled environment you could put the entire pen in an oven that is temperature controlled. Of course when the entire pen is softened and warm you risk deforming the barrel as you grip.

 

Dry heat really isn't that difficult to control. Think it is to hot just move away from the air flow. Not warm enough to move pop it back in the air stream. You can't touch it it is to hot and don't twist. Just start slow and try to move the parts a bit at at time. If it doesn't go just try a bit more heat.

 

FB

San Francisco International Pen Show - The next great pen show is on schedule for August 27-28-29, 2021. If we all do what we need to do...you can Book your travel and tables and make SF 2021 the Return. 
 

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An approach I tried early on, but have not repeated because it became a little cumbersome compared with a suitable heat gun, was to wrap the barrel in paper or cloth then put this in a good quality oven, or in my case I used a warming drawer. I used sensors to monitor temperature of the chamber and of the section. Insulation reduces heat flow to the barrel so you get exactly what you want in the section with little risk of overheating. You must keep a check on section temperature so you know when it is ready because insulation slows heating of the barrel, not prevents it.

 

It is very like your water immersion approach without the water risk, using air immersion instead of local air stream, then controlling undesired heating elsewhere.

X

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Hi !

 

I don't think celluloid will burst into flames using dry heat.

I personnaly use a device similar to a heat gun.

I first wrap the pen with paper to expose to heat only the part of the pen where the shellac is.

Then I heat the pen and, while heating I check with a sharp needle the "Hardness" of the celluloid : when the needle start to "sink" into the celluloid (i.e when the celluloid softens) I stop heating.

Then I let the pen to cold, when cold I try to unscreew it.

 

With this technique it is very rare to have to use pliers to unscrew the pens, so there is no risk of surface damage to the pen body.

 

Never unscreew the pen when it is hot : there is a risk of wdeforming it while hot.

You should also be very patient and sometimes repeat the operation several times.

 

Some people use heat gun with a thermostat but celluloids are never the same and some may melt at different temperatures so testing the softenning of the celluloid with a needle sounds to me a good idea to get the optimal heating (not melting the pen and not beeing too cold with no shellac softenning).

 

Hope it helps.

 

Jeremy.

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I tried various methods to to warm a barrel when I was starting in on repairing pens a couple of decades ago, including wrapping the pen and putting it in warming things to "soak" with mostly low degrees of success. In other words, what I tried usually didn't work or damaged pens. Even a salt bath frame warmer has its risks.

 

There is a reason why professional pen mechanics universally use dry heat from a heat gun. Yes, you have to be careful. Yes, you have to know your heat gun, know where to work and for how long etc. There is a bit of a learning curve which is why you start with cheap pens, but dry heat is the most reliable method for getting a pen apart.

 

Note that temperature controlled heat guns aren't that much of a help. The temperature set is the temperature at the outlet of the heat gun. The temperature drops rapidly as you move away from the opening. You may set it at 140 degrees, but you need things hotter than that for the heat to reach the thread sealant or shellac through the barrel to soften it. But often all that you need is to warm the celluloid or hard rubber so that it expands a bit, or relaxes a bit so that it doesn't crack when you stress it removing the section.

 

I've posted this a couple of this week already, but I'll post the link again... You might find the article to be helpful.

 

Seeing With Your Fingers.

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You may set it at 140 degrees, but you need things hotter than that for the heat to reach the thread sealant or shellac through the barrel to soften it. But often all that you need is to warm the celluloid or hard rubber so that it expands a bit, or relaxes a bit so that it doesn't crack when you stress it removing the section.

 

Is that 140 degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit?

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Fahrenheit. Here in the USA, we haven't moved over to celsius for anything but scientific work. A setting of 140C would would create more excitement in the shop than I want to see. :yikes:

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I use blue tac to cover the areas I do not want exposed to heat from the blow dryer (I use the cone with a slit attachment on the hairdryer to focus the heat more)

fpn_1513781650__screen_shot_2017-12-20_a

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Fahrenheit. Here in the USA, we haven't moved over to celsius for anything but scientific work. A setting of 140C would would create more excitement in the shop than I want to see. :yikes:

 

Sorry! It wasn't obvious to me that you are in the USA. So, in case anyone was wondering, 140°F is 60°C.

But what if the pen is glued with a kind of glue which melts only on higher temperatures than that?

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In general pens, especially vintage pens, shouldn't be glued. Only shellac or a rosin based thread sealant should have been used on a section (thread sealant only on threaded sections, and most often on pens that hold the ink directly in the barrel). Parker used a "white glue" that releases at reasonable temperatures. If someone did use a glue, all bets are off. But I don't encounter it all that often.

 

re. blue tack. IMO it only gets in the way and slows you down when you go to grip the section, meaning that the pen cools off before you can try to remove the section. A heat gun with a relatively narrow outlet is sufficient.

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In general pens, especially vintage pens, shouldn't be glued. Only shellac or a rosin based thread sealant should have been used on a section (thread sealant only on threaded sections, and most often on pens that hold the ink directly in the barrel). Parker used a "white glue" that releases at reasonable temperatures. If someone did use a glue, all bets are off. But I don't encounter it all that often.

 

re. blue tack. IMO it only gets in the way and slows you down when you go to grip the section, meaning that the pen cools off before you can try to remove the section. A heat gun with a relatively narrow outlet is sufficient.

 

Good idea on the barrel, maybe?

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re. blue tack. IMO it only gets in the way and slows you down when you go to grip the section, meaning that the pen cools off before you can try to remove the section. A heat gun with a relatively narrow outlet is sufficient.

This you are correct about. Though it did serve my purpose. If you need to get to twisting right away then this is cumbersome, no doubt.

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Good idea on the barrel, maybe?

 

I don't use anything. You want to avoid getting the barrel or any part of the pen that hot. If you can't hold the part you've warmed by your fingers for a couple seconds its too hot. Read the article in the link.

 

The problem that we run into is that we often want the pen to come apart NOW! I have on occasion taken 15 minutes or more to get a pen open. I've been known to walk away from a pen for a while, and then come back to it. If I find myself getting impatient I set the pen aside for a bit.

 

Gentle, persistent work will often get you farther than force. When I get skunked and break something its usually the result of trying to go too fast and/or using too much force.

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Hi !

 

I don't think celluloid will burst into flames using dry heat.

<cut>

Jeremy.

There are those who would disagree with your assumption. This is from an article published by American Art Plastics

( http://www.americanartplastics.com/celluloid_safety.shtml )

 

"Celluloid will burn if overheated. An old pen held too long over a heat gun will typically start to smoke and fizz, burning with little flame at a pace like that of a firecracker fuse. Thinner pieces of celluloid will tend to flare up more. A fire involving a larger quantity of celluloid may require more sophisticated measures, but a single burning celluloid pen barrel can be quickly extinguished by dunking in a can of water."

 

My personal experience with a vintage Sheaffer Balance barrel and a heat gun is there is a very fine line between softening and smoldering. Once the pen material starts smoking, it is pretty much over; and it happens quickly. I still use a heat gun, but a temperature controlled one. I check the temperature of the discharged air with a dial thermometer at the point I will start exposing the pen and work from there. If I'm working with celluloid, I never use temperatures above 165 degrees F. and I don't let the pen material approach that temperature. And, I keep a can of water handy!

May we live, not by our fears but by our hopes; not by our words but by our deeds; not by our disappointments but by our dreams.

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I use old celluloid parts as an easy way to start a fire in the burn pit...great fun and it provides a ceremonial end to the parts.

San Francisco International Pen Show - The next great pen show is on schedule for August 27-28-29, 2021. If we all do what we need to do...you can Book your travel and tables and make SF 2021 the Return. 
 

 My PM box is usually full. Just email me: my last name at the google mail address.

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I've read so many discussions of the best methods and tools to open a pen, I thought I would try to make it easy for those who aspire to this skill. Here are the tools you need and where to get them:

 

spark plug wire grippers

embossing heat gun

pocket infrared thermometer

 

fpn_1513966595__dsc_0362.jpg

 

Get them on eBay or Amazon.

 

Heat your pen to 140 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Hold the barrel with your left hand (if you're right-handed) and grip the section with the grippers in your right hand. Rock carefully while urging the section out. If you hold the grippers in your right hand, it helps to push against them with your left thumb while rocking (CAREFULLY). Even with the right tools and directions, there's a knack to it.

 

EDIT:

If your pen has a screw-in section, naturally you will use an different technique. If you don't know, remember the Snorkels, Touchdowns, and their contemporaries--Cadets, Tip-Dips, etc., screw in.

Edited by Robert111
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The only thing I would do differently is to use section pliers made out of slip joint pliers with the teeth ground off and fuel line hose to cover the jaws. I prefer to be at a 90 degree angle to the pen VS what you have with the spark plug boot pullers. The plastic coating on the jaws tears, and using Plastic Dip to recoat them doesn't work very well. The plastic dip is slippery and doesn't grip as well compared to the original coating.

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...snip...

 

The problem that we run into is that we often want the pen to come apart NOW! I have on occasion taken 15 minutes or more to get a pen open. I've been known to walk away from a pen for a while, and then come back to it. If I find myself getting impatient I set the pen aside for a bit.

 

Gentle, persistent work will often get you farther than force. When I get skunked and break something its usually the result of trying to go too fast and/or using too much force.

 

This should be pinned.

 

Most of my early mistakes came from a lack patience, wanting instant results.

I still make mistakes, now, of course - but fewer.

Walking away from a pen sometimes, is the best advice I was ever given.

 

Thanks, Ron.

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