How to Restore the Eversharp Skyline

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Fountain pen

At first glance, the Eversharp Skyline seems quite ordinary. It looks like just another lever filler, so it ought to be a cinch to restore. However, some of the construction details in this pen make it rather more difficult than the basic lever filler described in How to Replace a Pen Sac. This article will lead you through the intricacies of one of the iconic pens of the 1940s.

Tools Required for Procedures Described in This Article

Parts Required

Supplies Required

Please use the information in this article together with what you will find in How to Replace a Pen Sac. It’s not really a good idea for me to include all the same information in two places; if it changes, I’ll probably forget to change it in one of those places, leaving a trail of confusion for you to try to sort out.

As mentioned in the list of tools, you should have two different dental picks (also called probes). One will have a straight end, and the other will be bent to approximately a right angle near the tip. The photo here shows two types of bent picks, either of which will work for this project.

Pick tips

Disassembly and Cleaning

The first job is to get the old sac out. This means taking the pen apart. All Skylines have friction-fit sections, although some pens might be very tight or even shellacked together. The disassembly and reassembly procedures, along with the tools required for them are detailed in How to Replace a Pen Sac. Note, however, that most Skylines have a breather tube that runs the full length of the sac. Very early examples have a shortened tube that serves as a “Lucky Curve” to prevent the pen from disgorging ink if it is uncapped suddenly after being removed from the user’s pocket. Shown here are Skyline feeds fitted with the two types of tube.

Feed
Feed

Note that the curved tube is cut away in the area where it is bent, forming a trough rather than a fully round tube.

CAUTION
CAUTION
The solid gold Command Performance model (also known as the “Gift of a Lifetime”) and its gold-filled sibling, the Gold Award, do not come apart between the section and the barrel threads. Instead, it is necessary to remove the entire plastic assembly from the barrel. This, too, is an ordinary friction fit. There is a base metal collar at the opening of the barrel for strength.

For a complete restoration, you need to remove the lever so that you can clean it. Eversharp used three types of pressure bars in the filling system of its Skyline pen, and removing the lever requires that you take out the pressure bar as well. Unlike the pressure bars in the vast majority of lever-filling pens, none of the three Skyline pressure bars is a J-bar. The following paragraphs describe the three types and offers guidance on their removal and reinstallation.

Skyline barrel

In the photos on this page, the pressure bars are oriented as they would be with the barrel positioned as in the photo above.

The Three Types of Pressure Bars

Section Disassembly

The only unusual concern in the disassembly of a Skyline section is the breather tube. Eversharp used two different materials for breather tubes, hard rubber and some sort of plastic. The hard rubber tubes are, as usual, brittle and easy to break, while the plastic tubes are somewhat flexible. Most plastic tubes have shrunk over the years, and they frequently come loose from the section so that when you take the sac off the section, a plastic breather tube might remain in the sac.

Also, because of the problems with the breather tubes, it is not uncommon to find a Skyline that has no breather tube; when a previous worker resacked it, the tube might have gotten lost or might simply have been ignored. The pen will work this way, but flow control is adversely affected, and filling will not be as effective as it is with a breather tube present. Dealing with a broken, shrunken, or missing breather tube will be discussed later in this article.

Cap and Clip Disassembly

The Skyline cap and derby are screwed together. The derby (the hemispherical crown portion) secures the clip. As you disassemble the cap, the clip will turn with the derby and can easily scratch or gouge the cap body. To prevent this damage, apply cellophane tape around the cap to protect a band around it where the clip ball will pass over the surface. Starting with a length of tape about 3" (76 mm) long, lift the clip ball slightly to insert the middle of the tape beneath it, then wrap the tape the rest of the way around the cap body.

Unscrew the derby from the cap body as shown below, taking care that the clip ball does not gouge your tape as you go. In most cases, the inner cap will come with the derby, but you will occasionally come across a pen with a hard rubber inner cap that stays in the cap body while the derby unscrews from it. Further disassembly of the derby and clip in this latter case will become apparent from the following two paragraphs, which describe the more usual situation.

Cap disassembly, step 1

The clip itself is actually a two-part assembly consisting of the clip that does the real work (a springy steel washer clip) and a trim cover of gold-filled brass. The washer portion of the steel clip is covered by a separate trim ring of gold-filled brass. The portion of the clip trim cover that wraps over the derby is secured to the back edge of the trim ring by two tiny hooks as shown here:

Cap disassembly, step 2

Because they are so small, the hooks are quite delicate. They might have been bent over during assembly; and if the cap was disassembled and reassembled at some time by a careless repairer, one might even be broken off.

To disassemble the clip from the derby, press firmly with your thumb tip against the back end of the trim cover’s wrapover where it abuts the trim ring. Use two fingers on the front side of the assembly to press inward on the trim ring. (Do not press on the front side of the clip trim cover; you can collapse the arched part.) With sufficient pressure and a little wiggling, you can move the clip and the ring in the directions necessary to release the clip’s hooks from the ring. With the hooks free, carefully work the wrapover sideways to free it from the slot in the derby into which it fits. Work the trim ring and the steel clip’s washer downward along the inner-cap threads as you maneuver the wrapover down the side of the derby until it is free. Remove the clip from the derby and inner cap, and remove the trim ring from the clip if it hasn’t already fallen off. Work the steel clip free of the clip ball and remove it.

Cap disassembly, step 3

Shown below are the parts of a resin Skyline cap.

Cap disassembly, step 4

Reassembly

After you have cleaned and polished all the parts, you are ready to reassemble the pen. The first step is to reinstall the lever and the pressure bar; the procedures for the three types of pressure bars are described above.

Replacing or Repairing a Breather Tube

Note
Note
You can use a full-length breather tube in any Skyline. Unless you are striving for 100% period accuracy, there is no reason to worry about using the shorter J-shaped breather tube as found in the earliest Skylines. This tube was made of hard rubber, and the proper tubing material is no longer available.

If you must replace the tube correctly, you will need to find a full-length hard rubber breather tube to modify, perhaps one that has been broken approximately in half. Referring to the illustration near the beginning of this article, heat the tube to curve it and then cut away the portion that is shown cut away in the illustration.
WARNING
WARNING
Despite what you may have read in various repair books (including Da Book), do not use an alcohol lamp or other open flame.

To replace a missing or broken breather tube, you can use 16 AWG thin-wall Teflon tubing. One source for this tubing is vintagepens.com. The outside diameter of this tubing is about 0.074" (1.8 mm), a little larger than the opening in the back of the feed, so you will have to taper the end of the tube that fits into the back of the feed. Do not enlarge the hole in the feed; this constitutes damage, and the next person who works on this pen will curse you for having ruined the feed. You can taper the tube’s end by cutting off thin shavings with your X-acto knife. Cut the tube 212" (63 mm) long and install it into the section.

If you have a plastic breather tube that has shrunk and come loose (or one that feels loose even though it might not yet have fallen out), you can expand the end of the tube that goes into the feed. To do this, insert the end of your straight dental pick into the tube. I recommend that you choose the end of the tube that was not tapered before. Heat the area very gingerly using a hot-air gun like the one illustrated in How to Replace a Pen Sac. When the tubing has just barely become soft, push the dental pick into it a little bit. The tapered profile of the dental pick should force the tubing to expand. If your pick is too skinny to do this, you can make a tool that will to the job by grinding or filing the end of a length of coat hanger wire to make a very long tapered point as shown below. (This point was ground using a Dremel with a diamond cutoff wheel and then sanded with a buff stick to smooth it a little.) A tool like this will pay for itself in time saved later, so don’t discard it after you finish working on this Skyline. Allow the tubing to harden again, remove the probe, and try the tube in the feed. If it’s not big enough, repeat the expansion process until it is a firm fit.

Long taper on coat hanger wire

Sac Installation

With everything clean, you’re finally ready to install a new sac. In general, the instructions in How to Replace a Pen Sac will guide you. However, because the Skyline has a breather tube, the actual sac installation is a little more difficult. There are two ways to install a sac in a pen with a breather tube:

Complete the sac installation as instructed in How to Replace a Pen Sac.

Cap Reassembly and Repair

To reassemble the cap, just reverse the disassembly procedure. Do not neglect to replace the cellophane tape around the cap body before installing the derby and clip onto the body.

Because Eversharp made some Skylines at least partially of a polystyrene plastic that is not very stable over time, the inner cap on your pen might have shrunken so that its threads do not engage properly with the threads in the cap. The obvious solution, but one that is not always available, is to replace the derby. To solve the problem with materials ready to hand, you can apply a simple, reliable, and non-damaging fix by “bulking up” the derby’s threads with cellophane tape. To do this, start with a length of tape about 2-1/2" (64 mm) long. Wrap it around the derby’s threads, being careful to wrap in the direction shown here:

Tape on derby threads

(Wrapping in the direction shown above ensures that as you screw the derby into the cap, the tape’s exposed end will not be caught and folded over backward to pull the tape loose and jam it inside the cap.) Use your X-acto knife to trim excess tape from the threads so that the tape does not extend quite all the way to the open end of the inner cap. Screw the derby into the cap normally. If it is still too loose, remove it and apply another layer of the tape. Start the second layer at a point where the overlap of its ends will not fall over the overlap of the first piece’s ends; by doing this, you will keep the derby centered more accurately on the cap.

When you’re working with a metal cap, you will frequently find that the metal wrapper has become loose from the cap liner. To resecure these parts, you must locate the breather holes in the liner and align them with the corresponding holes in the wrapper. Eversharp made this task more difficult for you by not taking care to drill the holes exactly opposite each other after assembling the cap.

Use a bore light to locate one of the breather holes in the liner. Using a dental probe that has a short right-angle bend near its tip, insert the probe’s tip into the hole in the liner and rotate the liner within the wrapper until the probe tip slips into a hole in the wrapper as shown here:.

Finding the breather hole

You will probably have to move the liner up and down a little as you rotate it to mate up the breather holes. When the two holes are aligned, look at the other breather hole in the wrapper. If there is no hole in the liner there, you must rotate the liner through half a turn to align the first hole you found in the liner with the second hole in the cap. This will produce the proper alignment of both breather holes on both parts. Insert the short piece of steel spring wire through the holes on both sides of the cap to keep them aligned. You will notice that there is a shallow “shelf’ on the end of the cap liner. This shelf is intended to keep the derby trim ring centered as you install the derby.

Wire through the cap

Install the derby and clip. To do this, you will need to slide the spring wire back and forth as the breather holes pass under the clip. Now take an X-acto knife with a No 11 blade and carefully wedge the tip of the blade between the liner and the cap at the open end. Flow shellac into this space and let capillary action take it as far as it will go. (A transfer pipette is a handy applicator that will avoid much of the potential mess that can occur if shellac runs down the inside of the liner.) The knife will be held in place by friction, giving you a hand free to handle the pipette or other applicator for the shellac.

Shrellacking the liner

Withdraw the knife and repeat this operation at two more points roughly equidistant around the cap. When you have removed the knife for the last time, use a cotton swab to take off any excess shellac. If the shellac has begun to dry already, wet the swab with denatured alcohol. Set the cap aside to dry for at least 48 hours. You can then remove the spring wire and put your pen back into service.


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