Posted in Stories

Caveat Emptor – Buyer Beware

A Latin phrase describing a concept in contract law by which the burden of due diligence is the responsibility of the buyer of goods or services. The principle requires, prior to the purchase, the buyer to exercise due diligence to ensure that the goods be in acceptable order and that it suits his/her needs. If the buyer fails to perform the necessary actions, he or she will not be entitled to any remedies for damages in case the purchased product shows significant defects.

“There’s a sucker born every minute”

I’m sure everyone has heard this phrase and I bet some may associate it with P.T. Barnum, yet he did not actually utter the phrase. In all likelihood it was banker David Hannum referencing to Barnum’s part in the Cardiff Giant hoax. Yes, P.T. Barnum was a scam artist at one point in time.

“Too good to be true”

This principle is particularly relevant when making purchases on eBay. If you have ever made a purchase on eBay you know some sellers are good and some are not. By “not good” I mean some are unscrupulous, providing lousy descriptions, lousy photos, crazy pricing, are lazy and hiding defects. It is always in your best interest to ask questions, to read the description closely, examine the photos carefully and live by the old idiom “too good to be true” really holds true on eBay. The phrase is not a new warning, it makes it’s first appearance in the 1580 Oxford English Dictionary. Sellers have been cheating buyers for centuries if not millenniums.

“Thrill of the chase”

I recently let my excitement in finding “cool” stuff, plus my recent run of good finds made me lazy, and cloud my judgement when evaluating a pen for purchase. Yes I mentioned letting the thrill of the chase get the better of us in my post “Our Personalities, They Determine Our Collections.” What makes this particularly painful, is I bought 2 pens from the same seller and they both turned out to be “lemons” for which the seller clearly covering up the issues – in my opinion – but hey I have good reason to be a Negative Nancy.

“Caveat Emptor” of the snake oil salesman

The reason for this post is not to flame a shady seller (who BTW is a gold star eBay seller with a +99% approval rating) but to warn others. Sharing my experience may save others from making the same mistake. I got caught up in the excitement and thrill of the chase. Complicating the matter…..this was a “great” seller by all accounts. So remember – Caveat Emptor!

——————————- Reference Material ————————-

——————————- eBay Horror Stories ————————-

Posted in Pens, Restoration, Stories

Conklin Crescent Filler

Company Back Story:

Roy Conklin’s patented the design for the first self-filling fountain pen in 1897, followed shortly by the distinctive crescent-filler pen. This model is renowned for being the first mass-produced self-filling pen as well as the first mass-produced pen to use a flexible rubber ink sac. Patents for the pen were granted in 1901 and 1903. Production continued until circa 1930 when the landmark design was retired in favor of a lever-filler design. Author Mark Twain was so impressed with the crescent-filler he became the official spokesperson for the Conklin brand.

Early pens dating to 1907 have unmarked crescents while pens made up to 1920 have the crescents marked “CRESCENT-FILLER/TRADE MARK” on one side only, finally pens dating from the 1920s have crescents marked on both sides.

My Pen:

I have been trying to include vintage pens in my collection that made a significant impact in the world of writing instruments. I’ve been looking for a Conklin Crescent pen and stumbled upon one that looked promising plus the seller is in NOVA (Northern VA). I knew going into this the pen wasn’t in the best of shape but I felt it was better than many I’ve seen, and it dates to the 1920’s.

Let’s start with the general appearance, the lock ring that prevents the crescent from being depressed is miscolored and broken – its supposed to wrap around nearly 90% of the barrel but it doesn’t, a piece is broken off. It is black hard rubber as is the barrel and cap but only the ring it is showing signs of sun/water damage. A clear indicator it is from a different pen thus during the process of removing it from that pen it was broken.

Notice the discoloration of the lock ring

Next obvious issue is found on the pen cap, this pen has some off brand clip, not unheard of but it was hiding the hole where the original clip was originally attached to the cap. Then there is the 2 cm long hairline crack from the lip of the cap. Funny the seller did not mention any of these issues and the “for sale” photos strategically avoided the obvious.

At this point the curiosity on how the crescent worked got the better of me, so I started taking the pen apart. The section unscrews, there is an arrow on it indicating which direction it should be turned. The section also showed signs of being mistreated by pliers or a section puller. The nib and feed came out after applying heat. The feed looks to be in pretty bad shape, the nib a Warranted 14K #4 appears to need a little straightening.

The crescent lock ring popped right off and the crescent dropped into the barrel. The crescent is interesting, it is attached to a long pressure bar and is held in place by the ink sac opposed to a “J” shaped pressure bar. How does it work you ask, the lock ring prevents the crescent from depressing, when the ring is rotated to the unlocked position the crescent can be depressed, thus compressing the ink sac. Let go of the crescent, the sac expands, drawing in ink and returns the crescent to its normal extended position. Simply rotate the lock ring to secure the crescent and start writing.

Enough with the issues. I proceeded to clean the pen, repaired the damage done to the section, and polished the “brass.” The damage to the section was extensive and required multiple passes with sandpaper. When I was going over the barrel and cap with the Sunshine cloth, a disgusting brown yuck came off but they cleaned up nicely. I removed the cap clip and polished it. Applied a light touch of mineral oil to the barrel and cap. Now it’s time to put it all back together – Tah-Dah!

I’m pretty happy with how well the section cleaned up. It went through 3 sand paper sessions and could really use a fourth session.

I inked it up and thought I’d give it a try and this is what happens when you forget to return the lock ring into position. The smallest amount of pressure on the crescent and the ink flows.

I purchased this Crescent filler from the same seller I purchased the Gold Starry 256. This seller has made it to my “do not buy from” list and wouldn’t you know it, they are the only seller on the list.

Posted in Pens, Stories

Parting is such sweet sorrow

I have a problem, I’ve spent too much money on the chase and the delusion that I needed ever “flavor” of pen – ya know, so the collection is complete. After researching the impact our personalities have on our collections, it occurred to me I was going about this all wrong, spending too much money on the idea of completeness or inclusion instead of substance – mind over matter, or is it matter over mind.

After I wrote the blog Our Personalities, They Determine Our Collection’s it occurred to me I have a problem. What does my collection say about me? It lacks direction, I’m not feeling “it.” After a “Come to Jesus” discussion with myself, I’ve decided to “thin the heard,” to cull the collection, to single out those pens that don’t really “get the job done” for me. In short, time to have a sell off. This way I can focus on stuff I really, really like opposed to focusing on the completeness of the collection. Besides isn’t the collection saying something about me? Of the five personal traits I’m thinking “conscientiousness” is probably the most accurate but I’m not feeling this anymore,

So, how do I decide what stays and what goes, what has meaning and what was an impulse, and most importantly, what is going to be the guiding force and direction behind my collection going forward? Should I focus on pens to restore and sell? Or nicely restored pens? Or commit to a particular manufacture or material? Welcome to my nightmare..

Time to make the selection! I took all my pens and spread them across the floor, by manufacture of course. Those that were of a lessor quality were an easy choice, others were duplicates or nearly so (had to acquire minor variations) and finally pens I acquired which needed to be restored but I lost interest and didn’t bother.

Finally tally for now, 1 Schaefer, 5 Esterbrook, 2 Parker’s. Not all of them need restoration before their sale so they will go first. Now it’s time to focus on the direction of my pen collection so I am going to focus on the following for now; black pens, European pens (currently I have a thing for English and French pens), and mottled hard rubber.

After I wrote this (over a month ago) an issue surfaced, I started the process of prepping the pens for sale and wouldn’t you know it, one cleaned up so well I was amazed and it got to stay. Which one, well that’s for me to know and for a future blog to tell.


Posted in Pens, Reviews

Conklin Duraflex Elements “Fire” Limited Edition

Inspired by the wonders of nature, the Conklin Elements fountain pens feature semi-translucent bodies in dappled patterns aptly named Earth, Water and Fire. The Duraflex Elements are an extension of the popular Duragraph line. I got a deal on the pen at $39, it is discontinued by Conklin and available at most online pen dealers for $56. Of the different elements I though the “Fire” model was the most attractive. Considering the price I paid, this pen qualifies as a budget friendly pen.

My Pen

The pen ships in a clamshell box with an outer cardboard sheath brightly colored based on the “element” and printed with the Conklin Duraflex Elements label. The box itself has a cream faux suede interior, plus 2 ink cartridges and a converter.

First Impressions

I opened the box and was immediately struck by the color, it is as impressive as I hoped. The pen is partially translucent because of the dappled finish on a clear resin. The cap is removed with two quick twist (one complete rotation), revealing a stainless Omniflex nib, a plastic feed… wait the nib has wings? The pen feels good in hand, there is a pleasant balance without posting the cap. Capped, the pen measures 140mm, 13mm across the barrel and tips the scale at 24g (0.85 oz) with an empty converter.

The pen trim is chrome with a simple tear drop cap clip. The cap ring is engraved with “Conklin” on one side and “Duraflex” with moon shapes on the other. The barrel is etched with the collection name “Duraflex,” “Limited Edition” and “1505 of 1898.” Indicating I have pen 1505 out of the 1898 they produced.

Performance

Time to ink up the pen with Waterman Serenity Blue ink and see how well it writes. It started writing immediately, better first impression than with the All American. The nib is stiff, but writes smooth otherwise. I was unable to get the line variation expected with a flex nib.

Then I began noticing the ink bleeding on the paper. I know it is not quality paper but none of the other nibs, Fine, Medium or otherwise have bled on this paper. The ink flow is out of control.

Well . . . I would beg to differ, as mentioned this nib is stiff. Getting any flex out of it requires a good amount of pressure contradicting the Omniflex literature. That said, all I’ve gotten so far is too much ink.

Opinion

As Captain Lee would say, “Once is an accident and twice is a pattern.” Conklin disappoints me yet again. I really like the pen but hate how it writes. I’ve read other reviews involving Conklin Omniflex nibs and I’m not the only person with the same issues. Some reviewers replaced their Omniflex nibs with standard Conklin nibs as the solution to the problem.

If you like this pen or it’s cousin the Duragraph, make sure you DO NOT choose an Omniflex nib.

Other Reviews


Posted in Pens, Stories

The Elegance of Black Pens

When my daughter was purchasing a new car, the dealership mocked her trade-in because it’s color wasn’t a traditional popular color (red, blue, white, green or black). The dealership’s point “people like basic colors.” Recently after I read a blog post by Deb Gibson (of Goodwriterspens) relating to “Black Pens,” and I got to thinking about how I’ve approached the color of pens and how that has changed. Keep in mind, black isn’t a primary, secondary, or tertiary color. In fact, black isn’t on the color wheel at all because it isn’t considered a color – shows you how much the dealership knew.

I would venture it is safe to say the average pen buyer prefers a colorful, artistically stimulating pen, whereas a solid black pen is not going to catch their eye. This has not always been the case. Even after the introduction of colorful, flashy celluloid pens and up to the rise of the ballpoint, black pens have out sold the colorful pens – but why?

Why, because, “black” is a real sensation, evoking both a positive and negative response. Focusing on positive associations, personally, the sensation of black stirs up the feeling of attractiveness, elegance, classy and sophistication. That’s why people choose to don black clothing when attending a fancy event or think of the formal status associated with a “black tie” event – in short – luxurious.

Dress for success

Traditionally, business men of the 20th century avoided color in their attire until the rise of the “power tie,” and the “power socks.” Most sticking with a black or grey suit, black hat, black shoes, white shirt and a conservative tie. Contemporary formal business attire still hasn’t changed much, in addition to the black and grey options it now includes dark blue suit, and light blue shirt. It’s only natural that business men would chose a black pen. Bright, colorful celluloid patterns might present an unprofessional demeanor, inappropriate for professional business men.

Today, many a Montblanc, Lamy, Pilot and Sailor pen are available in black, then there is the Esterbrook Jr. available in “Tuxedo” as their black color option. Black ink is not offered, instead they offer ebony.

Recently, I was conducting a scientific study (yeah right) on eBay related to black pens vs nonblack pens. The study ended with me “accidentally” buying a couple black pens, but more on those in a future post. The results generally speaking; black pens were shown less interest and sold for less than the colorful celluloid models, irrespective of their shape. Bucking the trend were vintage English pens, especially those with eyedropper filling systems.

There are collectors who will focus only on black pens, as they believe them to be the best example of the model without the distraction of colorful patterns. I can appreciate the focus but for myself, I am interested in the pen’s uniqueness and how it writes. I am as happy with black vintage pens as with pens made of cool colors. I admit when I first developed an interest in pens, I was drawn to the colorful patterns. Only later did I appreciate the beauty of a chased black hard rubber pen (I’m also a super big fan of mottled pens). In part, I believe this is rooted in my sentimental self and the habit of imagining the history a pen has been through. I feel that is especially true with “boring” vinatge black pens.

What’s your thoughts on black pens? I personally find them gorgeous. Don’t be shy.

Continue reading “The Elegance of Black Pens”
Posted in Restoration, Stories

Restoration Tools of the Trade

For the most part, tools needed for vintage pen restoration are found in your home already or at the local Walmart or Dollar Store. There are specialized tools, many pens require them but I try to avoid those pens. I have a couple specialized tools/supplies which I will mention later.

Organization, I got a couple pencil storage boxes from Jerry’s Artarama, one drawer is dedicated to restoration tools and supplies. I removed the existing tray dividers and arranged them to suit my needs. The trays came with the foam backing.

I bought a set of 3 dental picks from American Science & Surplus. They are very handy for scraping sacs out of barrels, cleaning grime out of etched cap bands, opening air holes in the cap, etc. I already had a modeling tool, it reminds me of a wax carving tool, which does a great job getting the really stubborn ink sacs out of barrels.

I also bought a 6 pack of nylon bristle circular brushes also from American Science & Surplus. They come in handy cleaning out barrels, feeds, ink filler levers, cap barrel threads. The forceps I acquired 40 years ago when I built plastic model ships. This is super handy for removing/installing J-bars as is a flashlight. Needle nose pliers are too fat. You know how the dentist offers gifts after a cleaning – yup a free soft bristle toothbrush. Does a great job getting grime around the cap band, cap threads.

When it is time to disassembling the pen I put all the parts into a clear plastic box that latches (got it at Michael’s for 99 cents). Parts get lost easily and accidents happen (remember the flat tire scene from A Christmas Story?). All the parts, including the cap and barrel go into this box for safe keeping.

Not in the drawer is an “xacto” knife, but really any sharp pocket knife will do and an infant aspiration. These I use when the section has been separated from the barrel. I use a hair drier to apply gentle heat which softens the shellac and expands the barrel, some people also use section pullers (spark plug boot pullers). I do not! I’ve seen sections that are scratched and damaged by this tool. The knife has one job, scraping the remains of old ink sacs off the sac peg on the section. This can be complicated when the bits of old sac retain some elasticity and stretch rather than come off. Afterwards, I typically use sand paper to smooth the sac peg and remove any residual debris and correct for any damage done by the knife.

The aspirator is used when the nib and feed are refusing to pull out of the section. I don’t force it, simply use gentle heat and a kitchen bottle opening “gripper” to pull the nib and feed out of the section. Others may use a knock-out block to force the nib and feed. If I can’t remove them by hand then they stay. The aspirator forces water through the feed, removing dried ink and any minute sac pieces.

I use the Sunshine cloth to remove dried ink, grime and stains from the nibs, barrel and cap. The toothbrush and dental picks are great for the stubborn, hard to reach grime. Others make use of an Ultrasonic cleaner to remove the grime. I don’t have one. The Sunshine cloth is also used to remove grime and tarnish from the cap band and fill lever. I will use sandpaper – working from a medium grade (1,000 grit) through ever finer grades (to 7,000 grit) – to remove teeth marks and some scratches. When completed, the entire process “polishes” the pen.

Lastly, it is time to install the new ink sac. My ink sac applicator is the pair of tweezers, with rounded tips. Installation is simple enough, the tweezers are inserted into the new sac and spread so the sac stretches. The sac peg on the section is inserting between the arms of the tweezers and pushed forward, the sac slips over the peg and we are done.

I gave up on a ruler and found a manual Vernier Caliper (batteries not needed) so I could get decent measurements, especially if I needed the inside diameter of barrels. And last but not least, well I use it the least, is the nib block. Also used with this is a set of dapping punch tools.

Parker Specific items

Items of interest I did not mention include a small vise, for those moments when you need to get a grip (no it is not Parker specific). And a specialized vise for removing filling units from Parker Vacumatics. Then of course there is the Parker Repair Manual from “back in the day.”

The repair manual provides useful info and info that should never be followed. For instance using an alcohol lamp to apply heat to a stubborn section.

Posted in Pens, Stories

…It’s a new month, what’s in your pen cup?

I know there are a lot of new pens available after the DC Pen show just itching to facilitate the meeting of ink with paper. Here we are, at the beginning of a new month – so it’s time to rotate the pens you are using. I’ve been binging Madman (again) and it is making me feel nostalgic for the late 50’s early 60’s. So my pen of choice this month is the Esterbrook M2 Aerometric – Esterbrook’s response to the Parker 51.

The pen comes with a 9450 nib (Firm Extra Fine) but I am not loving it. Definately writes best at a 45 degree angle plus I have to apply a little more pressure than I’d like.

My M2 Aerometric dates to circa 1957. When I was inking the pen it occurred to me that I’d forgotten all the novelties that make this pen unique. Obviously, it needs to be the subject of a featured blog.

On a different note, as I watch Madman I am being inspired to improve my home office with the addition of Draper’s beverage cart. Not so sure my employer will feel the same inspiration. Feel free to leave your favorite “old fashion” recipe in the comments.

Anyway, what are you writing with this month?