The Pen Doctor XXII

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Cartridge/Converter Pen Leaks Between Section & Converter

I have a Waterman Charleston, which leaks between the section and the metal converter/cartridge holder. To me, it's a very odd leak. (It even took me a while to figure out why my hands were getting dirty!)

Rx: A leak of the sort you describe can come from either of two causes:

First, damage to the plastic cartridge nipple in the section. This, the less likely of the two causes, requires replacement of the section; it means contacting Waterman Service and hoping they still have parts. If they do, they'll sell you a complete new section assembly, including the nib, and it won't be cheap. If they don’t, you’ll probably ned to haunt eBay looking for a pen that you can cannibalize.

Second, wearing out of (or damage to) the converter's mouth where it fits over the nipple. This is a problem common to all cartridge/converter pens; it happens as the converter is removed and installed repeatedly. Look for splits, roughened edges, and so on. It's easy to fix, with a new converter.

Converter

Loose Nib & Feed in a Pelikan 400NN

The last time I went to clean my Pelikan 400NN, the nib and feed were loose. Instead of the nib unit unscrewing, the nib and feed just twisted around, and when I pulled a little on them they came right out. The screw part stayed in the pen. I got the nib and feed back in, but how can I fix this?

Rx:Pelikan 400NN nib unit Unfortunately,Pelikan succumbed to the lure of “high-tech plastics” for a brief period during the 1950s, and the 400NN was the victim of the company’s mistake. The fix is relatively simple, but it may cost you an M150 or M200 nib.

The threaded nib collar in the 400NN is made of transparent polystyrene, and it is very brittle. It’s also under considerable tensile (pulling-apart) stress because the nib and feed were forced into it so that the assembly would be tight. Over time, these plastic collars suffer failure. They develop stress cracks, eventually cracking through and giving way entirely. When this happens, the nib and feed are no longer held securely. Shown to the right (upper) is a 400NN nib unit whose collar shows stress cracks but has not yet failed.

The solution to the problem is to replace the collar with a modern one. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Remove the nib and feed, and then extract the collar by inserting the tip of a knife blade and using the knife as a screwdriver.

  2. Knock a new M150 or M200 nib unit apart using a knockout block and a drift punch. Put the nib and feed in your parts box; there will come a time when you can use them.

  3. Pelikan 400NN nib unitThe vintage hard rubber feed is very slightly larger in diameter than the newer one, and things just barely won’t fit. To solve this problem, use a rat-tail needle file to remove a very small amount of material from the inside of the new collar. Be careful — it’s easy to go too far, and if you do that you’ll be knocking another new nib unit apart…

  4. Assemble the vintage nib and feed into the new collar, using the lower photo to the right as a guide for how far to insert the parts into the collar.

  5. Reinstall the nib unit, and enjoy your pen!

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:This is one of the few places in which Frank was actually mistaken. The shell does not have to touch the nib. It should be very close, of course, but the best way to control flow is by adjusting the nib and feed.

Most “51”s seem to come in out of the wild set for a very dry flow (if they’re flowing at all). This was part of Parker’s way to ensure that the ink dried very rapidly. Spreading the nib tines a very little will usually resolve the dryness issue; removing the nib is the best way to gain access to the tines for adjustment. (To remove the nib, heat the shell adjacent to the clutch ring to soften the shellac that Parker used to seal that joint, then unscrew the shell. If it resists section pliers, it’s probably stuck by ink, and a good soaking in cool water should deal with that.) This will also give you the opportunity to smooth the inside edges of the tip, which are often sharp (especially on the finer nib sizes).

Sometimes a "51" won't flow because the feed is too far away from the nib. This may have been the behavior that prompted Frank to say that the shell needs to touch the nib — thereby substituting the shell for the feed — but it’s better and more controllable to adjust the feed. Again, you’ll need to remove the nib (by removing the shell first). Remove the feed from the collector, heat it carefully just until it becomes soft enough to bend, and then bend the front half very slightly upward. Your bend should be a gentle curve just about midway along the feed’s length, as shown here:

Adjusted feed

(For visual clarity, this illustration shows the feed bent upward farther than you should actually bend it.)

As part of the changeover to the Aero-metric filling system, Parker eliminated the cut-back underside of the feed; the later version is cylindrical almost to the tip. These later feeds are less likely to need this sort of adjustment than are feeds like the one illustrated here.


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