Posted in Restoration

Waterman Ideal 52 Vest Pen

The Backstory:

Waterman began production of the Ideal fountain pen in the 1880’s, with production lasted to the 1950’s. The most popular model being the Ideal #52. Waterman began producing lever-filed pens in 1915, when they devised a lever box mechanism to circumvent Walter Sheaffer’s lever-filling patent. Waterman apparently believed “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” thus making few to no improvements to the Ideal #52, much to their detriment, including the continued use of hard rubber when the competition was manufacturing beautiful pens in celluloid. They finally made the switch in 1934, nearly a decade behind the competition.

The Pen:

This refurbishment is the first Waterman I’ve purchased in 10 plus years and the first one that is vintage. I purchased the pen from a seller in Frederick, MD. I’m placing the age of the pen at about 96 years. It is made of black chased hard rubber (BCHR) and showing significant signs of sun damage plus the nib appears to have some damage. Capped, the pen measures a mere 4.25” long and doesn’t contain a pocket clip or a lanyard ring.

Waterman “Patented” Lever Box

Based in part on the manufacture code, the pen dates to around 1925ish making it the oldest pen in my collection. Waterman began phasing out the model codes in 1927. This pen contains the code 0852V;

  • 0 – gold filled,
  • 8 – broad 14k gold cap lip band,
  • 5 – Lever Filler,
  • 2 – nib size,
  • V – vest.
Model Code

The nib is an oddity, the pen came with a #2 Mabie Todd opposed to a Waterman #2 nib. The nib is over a Waterman feed. Now the feed is very different when compared to Parker, Esterbrook and others. The ink channel contained groves running the length of the said channel and is known as the “Three Fissure Feed” system, patented initially in 1884. The design regulates the flow of ink, preventing blotting. On the underside is a divot, creating a secondary ink reservoir with an access hole to the feed fissures. The feed contains what appears to be the letters “ST” above the numbers “17 16.” After a Duck-Duck-Go search that called google.patent…. I determined that this design is detailed in patent 1,201,951A and the mysterious markings are the patented date Oct 17, 1916.

The feed

Refurbishment:

The nib and feed were easily removed, but the section wasn’t budging. Since the pen is BCHR there was no way I was soaking it in hot water. Instead, heat was applied lightly until the section just popped out – surprise. The old dried up ink sac came out with little effort, but removing the residual ink sac attached to the section was a different story. To clean up the section, sandpaper was used beginning with 1,000 grit paper working to 7,000 grit. The sandpaper also removed ink stains or some odd discoloring on the section.

Focusing on the cap, it soon became evident that there was green ink stains on the band and in the chasing. Initially, a Sunshine cloth was used on the cap which seemed to be of benefit. But, there was residual green grime along the cap band so a soft bristle toothbrush was used. Afterwards, I applied a very light coat of mineral oil which removed more green based grime. The teeth and leaver box on the barrel were also brushed then minimal mineral oil applied and immediately removed. Guess what, more green grime. On the cap, there is a small crack and a piece is missing. I considered adding some glue to the inside of the cap in the hope of adding stability but haven’t as yet.

The nib is the oddity, the pen came with a #2 Mabie Todd nib, I assume it is not the original nib. The nib cleaned up well and yes it is damaged. The right side of the tip is missing and there is definitely an outward bend in the nib. Regardless, I measured and attached a #16 ink sac, the correct size is a #15 but I don’t have one. After the shellac dried, the pen was reassembled and I debated if I should ink it up, but as the nib is not in the best of shape why bother.

Nib Before and After
Refurbished pen
Posted in Stories, Uncategorized

Six Degrees of Stephen King

The primary pillar of this blog is the telling of a good story, while highlighting fountain pens. There is only the briefest mention of any pens in this post, sorry; however, this tells the genesis of a great story and who doesn’t enjoy a good ghost story. I was recently in Estes Park and toured the Stanley Hotel, thus I couldn’t help but blog about it knowing the connection between Stephen King, the hotel and fountain pens.

Northwest of Boulder, Colorado in the front range of the Rocky Mountains lies Estes Park, home to The Stanley Hotel. The hotel gained notoriety after the famed horror writer spent the night with his wife at the Stanley Hotel back in 1974. That night has forever changed the image and fortune of the Hotel.

The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, CO

Suffering from writer’s block, and alcoholism, King moved his family from Maine to Colorado where he took a teaching position in Boulder. One day, the couple were heading to the Rocky Mountain National Park when they found the road blocked by a landslide so they turned around. On the way back to Boulder they passed through Estes Park, where Stephen noticed the Stanley Hotel on the hill “overlooking” the town. He knew instantly that he was spending the night. At the time, the hotel was suffering from neglect, and heading for bankruptcy. The hotel staff initially turned him away as the season was over and the next day the hotel would be closed for the winter season, but as a winter storm was imminent the staff agreed to let the couple stay (does any of this sound familiar). They were offered the Presidential Suite (room 217) as it being the only room left with clean bedsheets and they would be the only guests in the hotel.

Stephen and his wife Tabitha, took their dinner in the Grand Hall by themselves. Afterwards, Tabitha retired to their room and Stephen wandered the building and property culminating at the hotel bar. The bartender, Lloyd Delbert Grady, is busy packing up from the season when King slides $20 across the bar. Grady told him “your money is no good here” – the season was over and the till closed out for the year. Instead, King is offered a glass of whiskey for a story, hence began an exchange of book ideas and hotel ghost stories.

The Stanley Bar

Stephen spent a great deal of time drinking whiskey that night. Some people postulate that afterwards is when he explored the hotel not after dinner. While others claim that while he roamed the hotel hallways in a drunken state, he ran into two children on the fourth floor. A very odd sight since there are no other guests staying at the hotel. When he made inquires, he is told that there are no children on the premises.

The Stanley Hotel rests on a bed of quartz and limestone, believed to be a conduit for “negative energy.” Under the hotel is a series of tunnels, built to facilitate the movement of the staff without inconveniencing the guests. Room 217 lies a couple floors above and directly atop a massive quartz outcropping.

Room 217

After retiring to his room and falling asleep, Stephen has the most horrifying nightmare of his life. In the dream, he heard the cries of his 3 year old son in the hallway. He threw open the door to see the fire hose across from his room chasing his son down the hallway, eventually strangling him. Stephen reminisced that he “woke up with a tremendous jerk, sweating all over, within an inch of falling out of bed. I got up, lit a cigarette, sat in the chair looking out the window at the Rockies, and by the time the cigarette was done, I had the bones of the book firmly set in my mind.” It took Stephen 4 months to write The Shining.

The Pen

“One final note,” King wrote in the back of his novel Dreamcatcher, “This book was written with the world’s finest word processor, a Waterman cartridge fountain pen.” He claimed that it put him “in touch with language” in a way no other way of writing could. King started writing longhand after he found sitting at a computer too painful. He said the act of using a fountain pen forced him to slow down and think about each word. His choice of pens NOW is a Waterman Hemisphere, which was introduced in 1994 a full 20 years after his experiences in the Stanley Hotel. The photo of Stephen King at work was taken in the latter 1970’s. The Wang Word Processor behind him appears to be a 1200 WPS which was released in June 1976, but as we can see he clearly is using a pen. As for the pen, it appears he is not using Bic Cristal disposable pen (LOL), it is impossible to determine what kind of pen he is using. I was unable to find an interview or written material indicating his choice of writing instruments prior to the automobile accident in 1999.

One of my Waterman Hemispheres

In his book On Writing, King does not mention his experience writing The Shining; however, he does say that the two preceding novels were written on his wife’s portable Olivetti typewriter in the laundry room of their rented double wide trailer. Later, he details how the first chapter of the initial draft of Misery was written longhand out of necessity. Fun fact, Misery also came to King in a dream.

P.S. If by chance you have the good fortune of running into Jim Carrey, don’t ask him about his experiences at the Stanley Hotel in room 217, he only managed a 3 hour stay.

P.S.S. There is adequate source material to blog about King’s return to writing after the accident and why he made the leap to longhand first drafts. If interested feel free to include your interest in the comments.

Suggested Reading and Referenced Material:

Posted in Restoration

My Parker Duofold Jr

The Duofold is the pen that made the Parker Company one of the greatest pen-manufacturers of the world. Parker debuted the Duofold in 1921. Before the Duofold, nearly all pens were made of hardened black rubber but Parker developed a method to make rubber in a red-orange color which proved very popular.

The Duofold didn’t come easy to Parker, their Lucky Curve pens were selling well, but there was no pizazz. Along comes Lewis M Tebbel, Parker district sales Manager, he persuaded a machinist at the Wisconsin plant to make him a a Lucky Curve model #26 in some old stock red hard rubber. Tebbel’s pen was a hit so he ordered a couple dozen red pens, selling them all immediately. He proposed to Parker’s management that they should incorporate the “Duofold”, his name for the new pen, in the regular line, selling it for $7. This was a major investment in 1929. That $7 is equivalent to $110 now, and BTW I paid less than Ellwood in today’s dollars. His request to expand the product line was refused, not to be deterred, he contacted Kenneth Parker directly.

In 1933, Parker ended production of Duofolds at the Janesville factory, but production continued in Canada and Europe into the 1940’s. The Duofold was the pen that boosted Parker from a small pen manufacturer to one of the leading players in the pen world. When production ended, Parker sold more than ten million pens.

I purchased a 1928 Duofold Jr, from a seller outside Allentown, Pa – just north of Philadelphia. The pen is personalized with the name of the original owner, “Ellwood A Leupold.” Though a common practice, most collectors frown on personalization, I prefer it. Before I took possession of my this “treasure,” I was on Ancestry.com researching the owner. Ellwood Arthur Leupold was born in 1906 to Gustavus Leupold and Paulina Pandorf in Philadelphia. Ellwood was 22 when he purchased this Duofold, quit the investment for a young man employed by the Telephone Company as a draftsman. By the 1940’s Ellwood had changed employers, taking a position with the Corn Exchange National Bank. Both positions I think would warrant a quality pen. In 1945, Ellwood Leupold marries Mary Cuta, the couple remained residents of Philadelphia. Ellwood died in 1985, and Mary in 2016 at the tender age of 102.

The pen was in good shape, but it needed a cleaning and a new ink sac. When I took the pen apart I found significant dried ink deposits inside the barrel, on the pressure bar and the fill button. After a night of soaking, most of the ink dissolved and the residual was easily removed. The blind cap over the button and the flat top cap that held the clip on were black hard rubber and showed signs of sun/water damage. I ran some sand paper over them to remove the heavy damage and an occasional tooth mark. The flat top blind cap contained groves but the groves were caked with 93 years of grime – eww. I took a dental pick and began the process of cleaned out the groves, going around the cap 3 times. Afterwards, I applied a super light coat of Danish Oil to protect the BHR and restore a nice shine. I’m torn about using this oil because it contains a minute a mount of varnish but it does make the BHR water proof. I guess time will tell but I am using only the tiniest amount.

The section unscrewed from the barrel after I applied light heat with a hair drier. I had to use the dental tool to remove some very odd colored stuff caked inside the barrel and the remains of the ink sac. Since ink isn’t white I’m not sure what was in the barrel. Anyway, the nib and feed separated from the section with little effort. I had hoped the feed was a Lucky Curve but no. It took a lot of elbow grease to remove the stains from the underside of the nib. There does not appear to be any damage but we shall see. The channel in the feed was free of dried ink deposits but I cleaned it all the same.

Installed a new 16 ink sac, returned the nib an feed into to section and put it all back together. Inserted the pressure bar and the button. Time for the moment of truth, ink up the pen.

the “Duo” prefix was very popular at the time, being used as a marketing superlative for a wide range of products (paralleled by the ubiquity of “super” in the postwar era). “Duofold” would have suggested that the new oversize Parker was twice the pen competitors could offer – consistent with its pricing, which pushed existing market norms — while the “-fold” suffix both carried through the comparative reference (as in “twofold”) and alluded to the mass and rigidity of the Duofold’s large, manifold-style nib (“manifold” being the term for stiff nibs made for use with carbon paper, with which one could make manifold copies of a document).

David Nishimora
Posted in Pens, Stories

The Esterbrook V Clip

In 1858, entrepreneur Richard Esterbrook established the “Esterbrook Pen Company” in Camden, NJ, which would soon become one of the biggest and most beloved pen makers in the world. The company produced dip pens, until the early 1930’s when their focus changed to fountain pens. At its height, Esterbrook was the largest pen manufacturer in the United States, employing 600 workers producing 216,000,000 pens a year.

Much of America’s history has been written and created using Esterbrook pens. U.S. presidents Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation with their Esterbrook pens. While John F. Kennedy called upon our nation to literally reach for the stars, signing documents that promised to land a man on the moon and bring him safely back to earth.

The pen is not assign an official name; however, it’s popular name comes from the “V” styling of the large open clip. Esterbrook is considered a tier 2 manufacture but they used stainless steel in the manufacture of their clips while their tier 1 competition still used electroplating. This pen was Esterbrook’s first attempt at a self filling fountain pen in the U.S., manufacturing of fountain pens started in 1932, the pens were available in hard rubber and in a celluloid (plastic). The clip proved to be a major design disaster, as the flimsy metal often caused sprung clips, or worse, broke clips. Esterbrook designers quickly changed to the more common two hole clip found on “Dollar” pens. The V-Clip pen was only manufactured for a little longer than a year. It is hard to find V-Clip pens and quite uncommon, even rare to find them in colors other than black.

The pen in my collection is a green marble celluloid plastic, I found it in Trappe on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The pen is in immaculate shape and sports a Relief 314 Medium nib, which is very unusual. The Relief 314 nib is a oblique dip pen nib with a 15° slant that gives nice line variations without having to use a flexible nib. Esterbrook began manufacturing the nib in England in the 1870’s, eventually manufacturing the nib in the U.S. when the quality of U.S. steel was deemed acceptable. When Esterbrook began making 314 renew point nibs (interchangeable) the nibs adopted the established numbering sequence and 314 became 1314, 2314, and 9314 where the first number indicates the quality/material of the nib and the next three correspond to the dip pen nib. Esterbrook made 250 different dip pen nibs, thus this nib predates the numbering adoption.

British “Relief “ nib vs US “Relief” nib

In addition to the defect in the clip design, there were issues with the celluloid plastic, apparently it does not fare well when exposed to water and has a tendency to warp. This inferior plastic was only used for a short period of time until better plastics were developed. My pen has a slight wobble when the barrel is rolled on a desk. When I inked up the pen I can’t say it writes well, I believe the nib needs some attention. It is supposed to be a medium writing nib but it is writing fine. If I hold the pen just right, turning it toward the oblique angle it works much better but still writes very scratchy. I need to apply some TLC to it and it that fails the nib will need some professional attention.