The Pen Doctor VI

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Repairing Metal Caps

I have bought several pens, Parker 51s, Sheaffer Crests, and so on, with metal caps that had some damage, anything from pinpoint dings to significant dents. Since several are terrific writers, I use them and consider the dings and dents as honorable battle scars, as the visible evidence of the pen's history. But is there a rule of thumb when buying a metal-capped fountain pen in the wild or on eBay as to what repairs, if any can be made to these caps? Does it differ by model and manufacturer and metal (gold, gold filled, steel, etc.)? Or, if I care about appearance, should I seek the absolute minimum wear, knowing that what I get, I will have to live — and write —with?

Lustraloy Because most metal caps are irreversibly assembled, repairing them ranges from difficult to impossible. For many metal-capped pens, such as the “51” and Crest that you mention, the easiest and least costly solution by far is simply to marry a good cap onto a pen that you like. Caps are commonly available at a show; dealers such as Dick Johnson and Pier Gustafson have great parts stocks. (If you don't have the opportunity to get to shows, you can always write to a dealer and ask about caps.) You can also snap up eBay and antique-shop bargains that are missing parts or otherwise not usable, but have nice caps.

Surface restoration is an option with Lustraloy and other stainless steel caps from the Parker “51” and its successors. It’s a nontrivial task, however, and you may be better off asking your favorite restorer if he or she can do the work or, if not, recommend someone who can. The illustration here shows how this work can improve a pen’s appearance.

Another option (especially with rare or hard-to-find caps) is to have the dents or dings professionally removed. I recommend contacting Daniel Kirchheimer, who does superb work of this type. His Web site is located at http://home.comcast.net/~kirchh/Pen_Restoration/.

Cleaning a Retractable Montblanc Bohème

I want to know if there is a safe way to deeply clean a retractable Montblanc Bohème.

Rx:To clean the Bohème without taking it apart, you need a “funnel” that will allow you to force water through the mechanism without having it spray all over the place. Cut the back end off an empty Montblanc cartridge, keeping the part you’ll use as long as possible, and clean out any ink that remains inside. Screw the pen completely back as you would to replace a cartridge. Remove the cartridge that’s in the pen and install your modified cartridge. Insert the nozzle of a rubber ear syringe firmly into the open back end of your cartridge, and flush vigorously several times with water. If ink has been allowed to dry in the pen, you can use a 1:10 solution of clear (not cloudy) household ammonia in water. Don’t use the ammonia undiluted, and do flush it out thoroughly with clear water when you’ve finished.

If the pen was clogged and still has flow problems after you've flushed it, you can try flossing the nib slit with a piece of 0.002" (0.05 mm) sheet brass, available at hobby shops that cater to model railroaders or online from a supplier such as Walthers Model Railroad Mall. If that doesn’t do it, the nib may need to be pulled so that the feed can be cleaned mechanically; if you aren’t experienced with this sort of thing, it’s time to consult your preferred repair person.


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