(This page revised February 22, 2013)
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Shortly after introducing the original CA, which came in models styled to match the Fifth Avenue and the Skyline, Eversharp rolled out the cap-actuated retractable CA shown above in retracted (upper) and extended (lower) positions. The company eventually got the ballpoint thing right, but at the outset its pens — including the retractable version — really didn’t work very well. This article explains how to convert a retractable CA to use a modern PaperMate ballpoint refill. The conversion described here is a professional modification designed to produce an attractive and reliable — and refillable — ballpoint pen.
The process for a Fifth Avenue or Skyline CA is described in another article.
First, disassemble the pen. This is a simple process because Eversharp designed the pen to be taken apart for refill replacement. Here it is all laid out on the table:
Pull the cap off, then just unscrew the retracting mechanism from the barrel and dump the refill out. The refill is actually the only part of the pen that we need to deal with. We need to save the spring and the big turned piece of aluminum on the back end.
First, remove the spring. The trick to removing the spring is to note that the spring has a death grip on the refill. In order to remove it, you need to expand its coils slightly. Instead of unscrewing it, then, turn it the “wrong” way, as if you were screwing it on. This loosens its grip, and you can simply pull it off.
Modifying the CA Refill
You need to save the cylindrical aluminum piece at the back end of the refill and make it suitable for reuse with a refill that is unlikely to be the same diameter as the original. (The original is 5∕32" in diameter, while most modern replacement refills are smaller, about 1∕8" in diameter.)
Modifying the refill is a three-step process.
Chuck the aluminum piece into the lathe. Position the tailstock, with a Jacobs chuck mounted, close enough that the end of the refill will just extend into the opening of the Jacobs chuck. Do not tighten down here; the Jacobs chuck is merely stabilizing the refill so that it won't bend off at an angle when you have cut almost through the tube’s wall. Use the cutoff tool to cut the tubing off just at the exposed end of the aluminum piece, advancing the cross-slide slowly to avoid having it grab the tubing.
Use the No 31 drill to drill a hole 1∕4" deep into the bit of tubing that remains in the aluminum piece. Run the feed slowly by hand to keep the drill from binding and possibly ripping the tube out of the aluminum piece. Stop when you feel the drill run up against the bottom of the hole in the aluminum piece.
Clean up any roughness on the front face of the tiny piece of tube that remains pressed into the aluminum piece.
We now have a reusable back end for our replacement refill.
Modifying the PaperMate Refill
Start with an ordinary blister-packed Paper Mate refill from an office superstore. I used a No 56407 refill, with black ink and a medium point; your color and tip size preference are up to you. Because it will be necessary to cut the refill shorter, we must drive the back-end plug farther down the length of the tube, as shown here. The upper refill has its plug in the original location, while the lower refill’s plug has been moved to its new home.
Shown here is the pin punch I use; the long thin tip is the essential design feature so that you can use it to push the refill’s plug.
To make the modification with only two hands, lay the punch on the workbench with its end fitted into the refill, and strike it repeatedly with a jeweler’s hammer that you slide across the work surface.
The plug is far enough down when you can measure just 3" from its back surface to the tip of the refill. Now cut off the back end of the refill, leaving a finished length of 31∕16".
Attach the aluminum piece, and you’re ready for the spring. Screw the smaller end of the spring onto the front of the refill for a couple of turns, to lock it securely onto the ears that would normally rest against a spring in a Paper Mate pen. You can see from the photo here how far you should go.
Reassemble your pen and write with it. When you extend the refill for writing, you will notice that the refill does not fill the opening in the pen barrel’s nose; there is a way to make it fit more attractively, but that’s a lot more work and not really necessary — so I didn’t bother to include it in this article.
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