Saving an Ugly Duckling, and Why It’s Worth Doing

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(This article is a rewritten and extended version of a posting that I made on a message board in 2006.)

Digging through a box of junker pens or parts is sort of like making an archaeological dig: sometimes you discover some interesting, if not necessarily showroom ready, artifacts. As significant or desirable vintage pens become less easy to find in the wild or more costly when bought from dealers or other collectors, some of these artifacts deserve more than a quick look and a flip into the trash. One such deserving artifact was this nibless pen that turned up in a “junker box” of parts pens and loose parts:

Pen

It’s actually a Frankenpen, as the cap shows very faint marks of chasing while the barrel doesn’t. (It was also somewhat more olive colored initially; I did some rubbing on it before I decided to start taking pictures.) It’s a cone-cap pen, and what it is, I discovered when I removed the cap and saw the feed, is a Parker Lucky Curve pen. After making this discovery, I verified it by locating traces of the badly worn barrel imprint. When I unscrewed the section, I found that it had no sac nipple. This “junker” pen looked like an eyedropper Lucky Curve, and although it was not in collectible condition it was still worth restoring. Then the remnants of a sac fell out of the barrel:

Pen opened

A closer look at the back end of the section revealed that it had once had a sac nipple. The sac hadn’t been just someone’s idea that seemed right at the time; the pen was not an eyedropper filler at all, and when I looked at the back of the barrel, I found a well-fitting blind cap there. The pen had no button or pressure bar, but this was without question a very early Parker button filler, a Safety-Sealed pen made sometime between about 1912, when Parker started making button fillers, and about 1916, when Parker engineers combined the button filler with the screw-cap feature of the Jack-Knife Safety pen. To a history and technology buff like me, this pen was more worth saving than I had initially thought. I took it completely apart, and here’s the section by itself:

Pen section, broken

Obviously, the pen was no good that way. I decided to restore the section by making a new sac nipple. First, I bored out the back of the section using a drill matching the diameter I wanted the nipple to be:

Pen section, bored

Then I made a new nipple by drilling out a length of hard rubber rod to match the inside diameter of the section and turning the outside to match my bore in the back of the section:

Turning a new section nipple

This was a trial-and-error business; I got it down close and then test-fitted the parts. To get them to go together, I ended up taking another 0.005" (0.125 mm) off the outside of the nipple. When the parts fitted together, I cut the nipple to length:

New section nipple

I shellacked the nipple into the section, cleaned out the bore, and assembled the feed into the section with a suitable Parker nib:

Pen section, assembled

Then I dug through my parts and turned up a nice bright nickeled Parker button and a Parker pressure bar of the proper length. I was not able to locate a first-generation Davison-style soldered button/pressure bar assembly, but later parts were better than no parts at all. Since there was no way anybody would ever mistake this pen for one that hadn’t faded and been reblackened, I used Giovanni Abrate’s G-10 on it. Then I reassembled the pen with a new sac. Here’s the final result:

Manufacturer logo
Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Fountain pen Magnifying glass
Notes:
  1. G-10 is no longer available; but even if it were, I would not use it now. Although G-10 did a beautiful job of restoring the color of oxidized black hard rubber, the product’s penetration was so slight — on the order of 125,000" (1 µ) — that the recolored rubber soon wore away if a reblackend pen was used much.


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