(This page revised June 14, 2022)
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Waterman’s Ink-Vue is something of an off-the-wall filling system. Actually a Rube Goldberg take-off on an ordinary bulb filler, it adds significant complexity with a lever mounted in the blind cap and with the clamping system Waterman used to allow assembly of the filler without any adhesives or sealants. Although not terribly difficult, replacing an Ink-Vue sac is not so straightforward as replacing an ordinary sac. There are some definite pitfalls. Installing a sac wrong can cause the filler to leak or otherwise malfunction, it can make further repair more difficult (if not impossible) for the next person, and it can also damage the pen. This article explains how to do it right.
NoteWaterman made two distinct types of Ink-Vue pens. This article deals with Type 1, the earlier of the two. (It also covers Type 0, a very early version that is exactly like Type 1 except that it has a one-piece lever instead of the Type 1’s two-piece lever that folds in the middle. Type 0 pens are uncommon.) You can identify a Type 0 or Type 1 pen by looking for a joint in the barrel about of the distance from the section to the back end. This joint is marked by a black band or, in some specimens of the De Luxe version, a metal trim ring. The portion of the barrel between this band and the section is partially transparent; the remainder, where the lever is located, is opaque. In the Lady Patricia and the Jet (black) Ink-Vue, there is no band; but the joint is marked by the difference in opacity and, in the Lady Patricia, a marked discontinuity in the barrel’s color pattern. If there is no joint, your pen is Type 2, and it is treated in a separate article.Black band marking barrel joint
As shown by the photos at the beginning of this article, Waterman made Ink-Vue pens in two sizes: Standard and Lady Patricia. Be sure you have a sac of the correct size for your pen. (This information is also listed in Fountain Pen Sac Size Guide for Repairers.)
The first and most important tool is an Ink-Vue spanner, which you must have in order to remove and reinstall the ring that secures the sac. I know of no source for these spanners, so you will have to make one. My tool is shown below. It has one end shaped for the Standard, the other for the Lady Patricia.
To make a spanner, find a flat strip or sheet of strong steel. Cut a piece about 3" (76 mm) long and " (9.5 mm) wide. Grind and file a U-shaped slot in one end, shaping the slot as shown in this drawing (with dimension A sized for the pen you will be working on, as indicated in the table below the drawing):
You will probably need to sand the edges a little so that the spanner won’t scratch the pen. Use very fine sandpaper, such as 2000-grit wet/dry paper, for this task, and sand just enough to break the sharpness of the edges. You should not round off the edges or ends of the prongs because that would make the spanner more likely to slip out of the slots and damage the pen.
The final step is to bend the ends of the two prongs down 90° to fit into the slots in the ring, as shown by this close-up photo:
The next special tool is a probe. This is merely a 6" (152 mm) length of " (2.4 mm) brass rod with one end ground and carefully polished to a hemispherical shape. The following illustration shows the “business end” of my probe (with a Vacumatic diaphragm to give you a sense of its size).
The Ink-Vue filler uses a rubber washer to seal the filler into the barrel; this is what you need the plunger head gasket rubber for. The best way to make the center hole in this washer is to use a commercial Size 0 (", 2 mm) leather punch. If you aren’t ready to invest in a set of leather punches, you can make a quick-and-dirty punch by grinding or filing the end of a short length of " (2.4 mm) brass tubing as shown in the photo below and using the tubing as a punch. (Please note that the example punch illustrated below was made from larger tubing than specified here.) The outer diameter of the washer should provide a reasonably snug, but not tight, fit into the well at the back of the barrel. This is not a critical dimension, but try to avoid a sloppy nip here, nip there approach.
(The disadvantage of making your own punch in this way is that brass tubing is relatively soft, and you will probably have to make another punch for the next Ink-Vue you restore.)
In most cases, the pen’s blind cap will simply screw off the back of the barrel. Some pens resist a little, and for these you will need to apply a little gentle heat at the joint between the blind cap and the barrel, then grip the blind cap immediately adjacent to the joint with your section pliers and unscrew the blind cap. Be careful not to squeeze the blind cap too tightly; it is screwed onto a threaded insert protruding from the back end of the barrel, but the blind cap itself has no internal support, and you could crush it if you squeeze too hard.
WARNINGDespite what you might have read in various repair books (including Da Book), do not use an alcohol lamp or other open flame. Celluloid is highly flammable!
Removing the blind cap exposes the sac. It’s dead, or you wouldn’t be replacing it. Frequently, it will be ossified and will fall out either as an almost complete sac or in the form of bits and pieces. In rare instances, it may remain attached to the barrel; if this happens, you can simply pull it off. This photo shows the end of the barrel with the ossified sac gone:
You can see the ring that secures the sac. It has two slots cut into it; this is what you made your spanner for.
CAUTIONBe very careful when removing the ring and nipple/cone parts from the barrel. These parts are made of hard rubber. They are small, and they are very delicate. If you break either of them, you will be looking for another pen to cannibalize. Do not even think about trying to remove the ring without a proper spanner. The only possible result is destruction.
Unscrew the ring from the back of the barrel as shown here. If it resists, you can apply a little heat. If the ring and the area around it are caked with dried ink, heat will not be sufficient, and you will need to soak the back end of the barrel for a while to loosen the dried ink.
When the ring comes out, it will often remove the last bit of the sac with it. If it does, use your dental pick to pick out the sac remains. If the sac remains in the end of the pen, use the pick to chip it out, being careful not to damage the nipple that it fits around. This nipple is part of a cone that mates with the ring to clamp the sac in place.
After you have the ring (and the bits of sac, if necessary) out of the way, use your probe, not the dental pick, to push the nipple sidewise. Place the tip of the probe as far down the length of the nipple as you can get it, and be gentle. If the nipple does not shift, apply a little heat. Once you have freed the nipple (and the cone of which it is a part), lift it out. Examine the conical area and the base of the cone to make sure these areas are free of bits of rubber. These surfaces must be clean and smooth because they are sealing surfaces.
Look into the end of the barrel, and you will probably see what looks like a thin washer of black material that is stuck to the floor of the well where the filler was. It is exactly what it looks like, and you can use your dental pick to break up the washer carefully and get rid of all traces of it, leaving a nice clean floor. This is important because the floor is also a sealing surface. If the washer appears to have been broken when you removed the nipple, it is likely that the broken bits will have adhered to the base of the cone, so be doubly sure you have removed any stuck bits of rubber from that surface.
Using your section pliers, remove the section from the front end of the barrel. Most Ink-Vue pens have threaded sections, but there are a few with friction-fitted sections. In both cases, Waterman sealed this joint, and you will need to apply some heat to remove the section. Expect the section to be threaded, and unscrew it to break it free for removal. Once it’s free, you can determine whether it’s threaded or smooth, and then remove it all the way.
Take this opportunity to clean the pen. Soak the section assembly for ten minutes or so in pen flush or a 1:10 solution of clear household ammonia in cool water, and flush it clean with plain water. Swab out the barrel with the same solution, and flush it, too.
Check your parts. You should have all the items shown in the following photo except the small rubber washer immediately to the right of the barrel:
Like Vacumatic diaphragms, Ink-Vue sacs were provided to the pen maker already cut to length. Today, they are not already cut. Shown in this photo are an uncut sac (lower) and one that has been cut to length (upper):
With your scissors, cut the sac just at the point where the necked area meets the outer periphery of the excess part, as shown in the photo. You will make a final trim later.
From the plunger filler gasket material, cut a circle to make the seal washer, shown immediately to the right of the barrel in the photo of the pen’s parts above, so that it is just the right size to nestle into the barrel’s filler recess. Punch the center hole using a Size 0 leather punch or the quickie punch you made earlier.
Using your probe as a pusher, stuff the cut end of the sac through the center of the ring. (Be sure you start from the side with the slots!) If the cut end of the sac protrudes outward beyond the outside diameter of the ring, use your scissors to trim it ever so slightly. Do not cut away too much material, or there will be too little to seal tightly.
Test-fit this assembly into the recess in the barrel, then remove it. If it needs a little more trimming, do that, and then retest. Repeat until the sac fits well.
Insert the seal washer into the recess. Do not use any shellac or other sealant on any of the parts in this process.
Insert the nipple/cone on top of the seal washer.
Now carefully fit the sac and ring in place, making sure that the nipple fits up into the conical opening of the sac. Screw the ring down firmly using your spanner. This joint needs to be tight; it seals the pen so that ink cannot escape.
Coat the sac with talcum powder and reinstall the blind cap. As you are installing the blind cap, orient the pen barrel horizontally and line the blind cap up with it, with the lever assembly downward so that the pressure bar will fall against the blind cap’s inner wall and leave space for the sac to go in. Screw the blind cap down, not too firmly but not so loosely that it will unscrew under use. If you screw it down too firmly, you will distort the celluloid, damaging your pen.
If you have a threaded section, apply thread sealant to its threads, heat the sealant slightly to soften it, and install the section. The nib should line up with the lever if you have done everything correctly. If you have a friction-fitted section, apply a very small amount of shellac around the inside of the barrel’s open end and a slightly greater amount around the part of the section that fits into the barrel. Rotate the section so that the nib lines up with the lever, and push the section home. For either type of section, clean off any sealant that has gotten on the outside of the pen.
Ink your pen and use it!
Ink-Vue sacs are available from the Pen Sac Company.
Plunger-filler gasket rubber is a specially selected synthetic product, with the proper durometer (hardness) for use in pens. It comes in a sheet of the proper thickness for Sheaffer, Wahl, and Conklin plunger gaskets, and it is also just right for use in an Ink-Vue pen. If you cannot find a dealer who offers this material, you can use BUNA-N sheet up to " (0.79 mm) in thickness. Do not use neoprene or urethane sheet! Neoprene does not resist acidic inks well, and urethane will fail after repeated fill/use/dry cycles.
I recommend starting with a sheet of 0.025" (0.64 mm) × 6" (15.2 cm) × 12" (30.5 cm) stainless steel from K&S (Part No 87185). (Stainless is stronger than ordinary mild steel.) It is available from hobby shops that cater to serious model builders.
Leather punches are available in sets from craft suppliers such as Tandy Leather Factory. They are useful for making all sorts of gaskets and washers for pens, and I recommend you consider purchasing sets of small and large punches.
The information in this article is as accurate as possible, but you should not take it as absolutely authoritative or complete. If you have additions or corrections to this page, please consider sharing them with us to improve the accuracy of our information.
This article is also available as a chapter in The RichardsPens Guide to Fountain Pens, Volume 2, in either of two printed versions or as an ebook for your computer or mobile device.