How to Repair the Seal in a Waterman Glass-Cartridge Pen

(This page revised June 22, 2012)

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Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Fountain pen

The primary problem facing the would-be user of a Waterman glass-cartridge pen is making the pen work. The pens are solid, as you would expect, and the cartridges are quite robust. One often finds a perfectly good cartridge inside one of these pens. What wasn’t robust was the rubber seal that Waterman used to connect the cartridge to the nipple and seal the ink inside. This article illustrates a quick and easy method of replacing the dead rubber seal. The repair technique described here is one that I learned from David Nishimura. It’s not a difficult repair, but it’s one that seems not to be well known.

Tools Required

Parts Required (see footnotes for more information)

Supplies Required (see footnotes for more information)

Many pens — most, really — don’t call for the big guns, so you may not need section pliers, a heat source, or an ultrasonic cleaner.

Disassembly, Cleaning, and Seal Removal

In most cases, the pen will screw apert at the joint between the barrel and the section. If your pen is struck, you can apply gentle heat and use the section pliers. There is another screw joint about 2/3 of the way along the barrel; if your pen shows evidence of ink leakage into the barrel, you should take that joint apart as well and clean the insides of both the barrel and the blind cap using water and a paper towel with one corner twisted into a long point (often called a twizzle). Do not immerse the blind cap; it contains a spring mechanism that is made of steel and will rust if allowed to remain wet.

To get the guts out of the section, first carefully work the nib out. This might free the feed, dead seal, and locknut so that you can push these parts out the back. If they are stuck, soak for half an hour in clear cool water, or run through an ultrasonic cleaner for five minutes, and try again. You might find it necessary to use a dental pick to break out as much of the dead rubber seal as you can get out, after which you can soak the assembly again. Eventually, you will be able to push the feed and other parts out of the section.

With the feed, dead seal, and locknut out of the section, you can finish removing any detritus from the dead seal and then screw the locknut off the feed. If the locknut has not loosened during your soaking operation, you can apply a little heat. These parts are hard rubber, and they will soften if you apply too much heat, so go carefully.

With all the parts separated, clean them thoroughly in cool water. Here are all the parts except the cap, cleaned and laid out for inspection:

Parts of pen

Note the notches on the locknut. Waterman assembled the locknut onto the feed using a spanner that fit into these notches, but you will not need this specialized tool because you do not have to fit the locknut down inside a molded rubber seal.

The components we care about right now are the section (top left), the feed (bottom center), and the locknut (bottom right) that screws onto the back of the feed. When Waterman built the pen, the assembly of these components also included the rubber seal (black in this drawing), whose remains you have removed during disassembly:

Cross-sectional drawing of pen's gripping section

Making a New Seal

The first step in repairing the pen is to make a new seal. For this we use a Nº 19 latex sac. (Do not use a silicone sac; the pen relies on the elasticity of the latex for a good seal.) Cut 15/32” (12 mm) of the closed end and snip a small hole in the very tip. The hole should be too small to fit over the tail end of the pen’s feed; if it is too large, the pen will leak when reassembled.

New seal made from sac

Installing the New Seal

To install the seal, force its small end (with the hole you snipped) over the back end of the feed. Screw it down until it stops against the main body of the section. Evert it to expose the threaded part of the feed. Install the locknut with its slots on the side away from the rubber seal, and screw it down as tightly as it will go without risking damage. The tightness of this joint is critical for a good seal.

Installing the seal

With the locknut installed, return the sac to its original shape:

Seal installed

Reassembling the Pen

Insert the feed assembly from the back of the section. Align the nib with the feed and start it into the section. Rest the back end of the feed on your workbench with the nib pointing straight up. Press downward on the section to press the feed as firmly in place as possible, and seat the nib to its correct depth as determined by the feed. If necessary, heat-set the feed. Here is the completed section assembly:

Section assembled

Test-fit the empty cartridge:

Cartridge fitted

If all seems in order, you are ready to fill the cartridge using a syringe or a transfer pipette. Install the filled cartridge, screw the barrel onto the section, reinstall the blind cap (if you removed it for cleaning), and enjoy your pen!

Note
Note
Waterman intended that users would unscrew the blind cap to install or change cartridges, leaving the section/barrel joint assembled all the time. Using this method provides better protection for the rubber seal. You can try it with your newly repaired pen; if it works, great! Just remember that you have to keep a filled cartridge with its open end upward, or you might find yourself wearing a few drops of ink.
Notes:
  1. There is information on these items, and on where to get them, in my page on How to Replace a Pen Sac.


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