The Pen Doctor XXIII

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Vanishing Point Dries Out

My Vanishing Point dries out if I leave it unused for a few hours, even when I'm careful to retract the nib. What’s causing this, and how can I fix it?

Rx: There are several problems that can cause a Vanishing Point to dry out while it’s retracted:

By far the most common problem is simply that the cartridge or converter is not seated all the way into the nib unit. With a piston (twist) converter installed, the unit should look like this:

Vanishing Point nib unit

For the technically minded, the space between the converter’s metal collar and the back end of the nib unit’s housing is about 0.100" (2.54 mm).

You haven’t said whether you have a metal Pilot Vanishing Point or an older resin Namiki model. If your Vanishing Point is the older faceted resin model (shown below), and if you’re using a piston converter (as shown above), that’s the problem. The converter’s metal collar stops against the brass collar inside the barrel’s back end. This interference prevents the nib unit from retracting completely. The solution is to replace the converter with a CON-20 squeeze converter.

Fountain pen

Another possibility, the one nobody wants to think applies to his or her pen, is that the little trap door in the pen’s nozzle might have been knocked loose when the pen was dropped or otherwise banged too hard. When this happens, the trap door no longer seats snugly against the rubber gasket that seals the pen. In some cases, allowing this condition to persist can deform the gasket so that the trap door won’t seal properly even if it’s repaired so that it operates as it should. When this happens, repair consists of removing the pen’s metal nose cone and bending the door slightly to accommodate the way the gasket has become misshapen. Nothing I’ve described in this paragraph is readily reparable at home; this is all work for an experienced pen repairer. But you can test your pen: remove the barrel’s back half and the nib unit. Close your mouth around the opening at the back end of the main barrel, and blow gently. If there is a good resistance, things are okay there. If your breath just goes right through, there’s a problem.

Using Other Inks in Montblanc Pens

Can you please tell me if it’s acceptable to use other brands of ink with Mont Blanc pens?  Mont Blanc tell you to only use their inks as other brands have solvents that will clog the feed system and/or cause leakage. I know most manufacturers recommend their own inks, but will it do any harm as some other brands have a much wider and better colour range.

Rx: Montblanc, like every other company that sells a product, wants to make money — the more, the better. One way to make money is to scare people into using your product, and that’s what is happening here. Most inks these days are actually more benign and better behaved than Montblanc ink, especially Montblanc Blue-Black, which is an iron-gall ink and lubricates as poorly as any ink I’ve encountered. But if Montblanc can threaten to revoke its warranty if you should happen to send a pen in for repair with a trace of anybody else’s ink in it, then they’ve got you right where they want you. If your pen is clean, though, they’re not likely to do the chemical analysis to detect such an ink. If the pen is all crudded up, maybe…

Restoring Color in Celluloid That Was Exposed to Hot Water

I had my red Vacumatic replated with gold to cover the brassing. They took the cap and the button cover, attached them to metal, and immersed them in a hot bath. While the metal parts were replated with gold the red plastic clouded. How can I bring the red plastic back to its original clear condition? Is this a lost cause and I must chalk it up to a learning experience, or is there a hope?

Rx: I hate to have to break it to you, but the celluloid’s chemistry has been altered, and the damage is likely permanent. In a few cases, with clouding that wasn’t too severe, I’ve been able to mitigate the clouding by putting the affected parts into a container of silica gel for a couple of weeks and then using 2000-grit wet/dry sandpaper to remove the remaining clouded surface. The sanding should be done with the metal parts removed. (You can’t remove the cap band, of course, so you should protect it with scotch tape.) If this works, you can then polish the surface back to a gloss with Simichrome on a 100% cotton flannel rag. It’s worth a try, but I won’t make any promises.

If you ever decide to have other pens replated, send them to a pen plating specialist, who will use techniques that do not damage the celluloid or other body material.


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