The Pen Doctor XII

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Adjusting flow in a Parker “51”

Frank Dubiel, while noting that the shell of a Parker “51” must touch the nib, says that if it contacts the nib too tightly it will restrict ink flow. Is heating the shell and either pressing the nib against the shell or the shell against the nib a reliable means of increasing or decreasing in flow in a “51”?

Rx: First off, I have to disagree that Frank. I’ve seen innumerable “51”s whose shells were very close to, but not in contact with, the nib, and in fact the shell on my “regular carry” pen doesn’t contact the top surface of the nib. That said, it’s certainly desirable that these parts be very close together, as the shell is part of the capillary system by which ink is brought to the nib tip.

Heating the shell is generally, I think, a bad idea. Mark I and Mark II “51” shells are acrylic and will take a lot of heat without even hinting that they want to bend, but Mark III shells are a polystyrene plastic, similar to the stuff used in the 61 but not so brittle, and these won’t take nearly that much heat without going limp or, usually, shrinking. Which is which? My “51” profile will help you to identify your pen, but even so there is a nontrivial risk of damage.

To adjust the flow in a “51” I use three techniques, all of which require that you remove the shell. The first is adjusting the tine spacing. (Please don’t just grab the pen and force an X-acto knife or other metal-destroying object between the tines; you will damage the slit walls.) This almost always results in a need to realign the tines and smooth the tip, but it is often easy and effective. Sometimes the fit of the shell is too close to allow the tines to be adjusted, and in these cases I use a small rat-tail file to remove a very small amount of material from the inside of the shell where it lies adjacent to the nib. The last method, which I use primarily to restore flow on pens that quit from time to time, is to heat the feed and bend it very slightly toward the nib. The bend is in the vicinity of the breather tube’s vent hole near the back of the feed. Be carful here, as later feeds are plastic, not hard rubber, and don’t like this treatment at all!

Leaking Targa Nibs

I have two Sheaffer Targa (slimline) pens. Both have developed mysterious leaks that appear to originate around the outside edge of the inlay portion of the nibs. Is there a way to eliminate this leak? Ink appears to build up around the underside of the nib more quickly when the pen is capped.

Rx: This is an unfortunate failing of Sheaffer’s otherwise wonderful Inlaid Nib. Until Sheaffer closed its repair center, the first line of defense was Sheaffer’s own service department. With that option no longer available, the remedy is to disassemble the pen and flow Capt. Tolley’s Creeping Crack Cure between the nib and section shell. (You can find Capt. Tolley’s at many boat shops; in the U.S.A. and Canada, West Marine has it.) Capillary action will draw the fluid into the space. Following the instructions on the bottle, you let it dry for 30 minutes and the reapply. After no more seeps in, let it dry 24 hours and reassemble the nib unit. You can clean off any excess on the outside by rubbing gently with a pure cotton flannel rag and a little Simichrome. (Updated May 20, 2008)

Finding Replacement Pen Sacs

I purchased several old ink pens that need to be refurbished. Many of the pens have ink sacs that are missing or are so hard that they break. Can you tell me where I could buy replacement ink sacs?

Rx: There are several good places to buy sacs. You will find a list of sources in my article on sac replacement.


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