The Pen Doctor XI

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Vintage Aurora Flow Trouble

One of my vintage Aurora 88s has developed a strange problem with flow through its section (or maybe it’s always been there and I’ve only recently noticed as I went to use it more often). Sometimes it flows, sometimes it doesn’t. After filling, I can usually get a page or two before the problem arises.

I’ve unscrewed the section from the barrel and run water and mild soap solutions through it many many times, but the problem persists. If I put the section to my mouth and alternately blow air then suck air, sometimes the air will go through, and then sometimes it will not, it is like a little valve in the section just decides to cut off. Adjusting the small spiral that goes into the feed has no effect on the problem.

First, what is wrong with my pen, and second, is it reasonably easy for me to dissassemble the section of a vintage 88 by myself or should I send it off to a qualified repair person?

Rx: Without seeing the pen I can’t give a conclusive diagnosis, but the problem presents as if there may be a tiny chunk of something stuck inside the feed. (Dried ink? Broken-off hard rubber? Hair? Dust mote? Paper fibers?) It may be right in the slit that feeds ink up to the under surface of the nib. To get at it, drive the feed and nib out forward through the nose of the pen, remembering to protect the outside surface of the section against scarring by the knockout block. Then remove the spiral piece (taking note of its orientation) and drive water backward through the feed. Floss as needed using a 0.002” piece of sheet brass. Reinstall the spiral piece and then reinstall the feed and nib from the nose, pushing the feed into position with a small flat-blade screwdriver on the underside shelf that faces the nib end.

If you’re not comfortable hammering on your pen as I suggest here, by all means send it to your favorite repairer. A good 88 is far too nice a pen to risk if you’re not confident of your ability.

Fixing a Pelikan Piston?

I just bought on Ebay an older Pelikan and when it arrived the filler cap was partially unscrewed and wouldn't screw back in completely (there was a gap of about 3/8” between the bottom of the cap and the end of the barrel). Do you have any tips on the re-assembly of the piston filling mechanism?

Rx: Can you return the pen to the seller? It’s clearly defective. If not, you’re stuck for the repair. Unless you’re an experienced Pelikan repairer, the best thing you can do is to contact someone who is, and have that person do the work for you. It’s entirely too easy to break barrels, especially with the Pelikan models that have press-fitted piston mechanisms.

Nib Tines That Won’t Stay Aligned

How can one fix nibs that are scratchy because the tines are touching firmly at the iridium? The tines then move out of vertical alignment and stay there as the friction between the touching balls of the nib prevents the tines moving back into the proper position after the pressure of writing.

Da Book says to widen the tine gap to increase ink flow, but this is not the problem I am having. It is the “iridium” balls rubbing and “jamming” as they move up and down relative to each other.

I have a recently arrived Parker 75 and a Pelikan 140 both with this problem. Both nibs have adequate ink flow, but feel stiff and scratchy due to the tines jamming out of alignment. With both nibs, one can feel and hear the iridium halves rubbing and catching on each other as one pushes on paper with the nib.

The 75 nib has a wide tine-gap just behind the touching iridium balls.

Your basic article about nibs says “As a general rule, the nib tines should not touch each other when the nib is at rest. The firmer or more rigid the nib, the more important it is that the tines not touch; if they do, and and especially if the edges of the slit are improperly finished, the nib is likely to suffer an extreme case of the ’too dry’ syndrome.”

Da Book suggests forcing a razor-blade or similar between the tines to spread them, but cautions about the risks. I do not want to increase the ink-flow in either pen.

Any suggestions?

Rx: As my article says, it’s imperative to adjust the tines so that the iridium tips aren’t touching. There’s no other way to solve the problem you’re having.

But how to do this without increasing the flow? Your description of your 75 gives a critical clue: “The 75 nib has a wide tine-gap just behind the touching iridium balls.” The nib may be damaged. To spread the iridium balls without increasing the flow, you need to straighten the nib by curving the tines outward — very carefully — so that you separate the iridium tips without widening that gap. This process will require you to remove the nib from the feed. If you still get more flow than you want, you may be able to bring the tines more completely into contact with the feed once they’re no longer pushing at each other.

Do not try to adjust a nib with this problem using a razor blade. It won’t do the job, and you do, as Frank says, risk damage. You must bend the tines, one at a time, using round-nose pliers or by pressing against an edge of a Mottishaw nib block or a similar chunk of precisely-finished and hardened metal. Use 2000-grit sandpaper to smooth out the slit walls when you have the nib working; be careful, as you do this, that you don’t round the top and bottom edges of the slit.


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