Posted in Restoration

Gold Starry, More Than A Ladies Pen

Company Backstory

The origins of Gold Starry date to 1909 with the marketing of Conway Stewart fountain pens in France, under the Gold Star brand name. In 1912, the name was changed to Gold Starry.

In 1921, Gold Starry became a wholly-owned French pen manufacturer of fountain pens, thus ending the import of English pens. Production initially occurred in a pavilion on the outskirts of Paris The company adopted the slogan “le stylo qui marche” (the pen that works). Characterized by the trademark consisting of a star, the Manifacture Francaise engraving on the barrel.

A lever fill model was introduced in 1927. My pen is a streamlined style, made popular by the Shaeffer Balance. This dates the pen to the 1930’s.

My Pen

My pen came from a seller in Rouen France. It is a small mottled ebonite lever filler with a gold loop to attach the pen to a chain and worn around the neck. As with my other 2 Gold Starry’s, there were surprises, some good, some not so good, but all awaiting for me to find.

The most obvious issue is the opening for the lever. It appears a tool was inserted into the opening and used to widen the opening to reinsert the lever and the snap ring. Feeling empowered I decided to try and restore the lever opening/barrel to its original shape.

I removed the lever and j-bar. Armed with an aluminum straw that fit the barrel perfecting, I set the tea kettle to boil. Taking hold of the straw, the damage section of the barrel is lightly applied to the steam for 15 seconds. Then inserting the handle of a spoon into the leveler slot (to prevent the accidentally over correction of the misshaped opening), applied pressure to each side, evaluated the results then the process repeated until the barrel is acceptable. The steam did leave a misty finish to the barrel which quickly came off when a Sunshine cloth was applied.

Before and After

Speaking of the lever, it turned out to be an interesting find. I’ve only seen levers that are plain, this one has a small raised accent shaped like an hourglass. Unfortunately, the hourglass is well worn and hard to see.

Also an interesting find is the J pressure bar, it reminds me of a Shaeffer SH pressure bar but in reverse and this pressure bar is in 2 pieces. The workmanship is really quit impressive.

The ink sac is also a surprise. Firstly, it is too large for the pen. A #18 sac has installed in the pen, which completely filled the inside of the barrel less the j-bar. Secondly, the ink sac is secured to the section by a string – no shellac. WTH. After reinstalling the J-bar, a #16 ink sac was inserted and determined that to be too large with the J-bar. I’ve settled on a #14 which I don’t have so I ordered a couple.

I decided to remove the nib and feed because there was some kind of white chalky “stuff” on the underside of the nib, plus the feed is out of position relative to the nib. Another interesting find, the nib is oblique.

Normally, I would ink up the pen and give it a go, but I am still waiting for the #14 ink sac. The nib is very flexible so I dipped the nib into Waterman Serenity Blue ink. The nib needs a visit to a nibsmith but definitely is flexible.

Vital Statistics

  • Capped length. 99mm
  • Uncapped length. 84mm
  • Barrel diameter 10mm
  • Cap diameter 11mm
  • Weighs in at 9g
Posted in Heat Seating, Nibs, Restoration

Heat Setting an Ebonite Feed Without Burning Down the House

Heat setting an ebonite feed is a topic of much conjecture, often viewed as some deep dark secret shrouded in mystery, like the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Addressing ink flow issues is not a rare or uncommon problem for fountain pen users. The cause of flow issues can be attributed to a variety of reasons. Before jumping to costly conclusions and if you have an ebonite feed there is a quick and easy “try this first” option – heat set your nib. Heat setting is a great option when addressing the following issues:

  • Consistent railroading
  • Dry writing
  • Hard starting
  • Dripping
  • Excessive leaking into cap
  • Blobbing
  • Excessively wet writing
  • Swapping nibs

Consulting the Parker Repair Manual 5115 (8th edition), the following guidance is provided. To achieve a consistent, and trouble-free ink flow, the nib must fit snuggly against the feed.

They recommend a process called “heating down” the feed. This is accomplished by lightly rotating the nib and feed through a flame. Then wet your finger in cold water, place the nib dorsal side down against a hard surface, like a table, and rub the feed in a back and forth motion. Pressing it against the nib produces a custom tight fit.

I strongly recommend that you do not use an open flame to heat down a feed. Vintage celluloid pens are highly flammable and there is a much safer alternative.

Let me introduce you to the hot-water-heat-setting method. No special skills required beyond the ability to boil water, and it works great. Using the hot water you can heat set a feed as many times as needed until the desired fit is had and the correct ink flow is achieved.

Begin by boiling water, it needs to be hot. Pour the hot water into a glass or jar, but only enough to immerse the nib up to the section. It is best if the section is not submerged. Leave the nib and feed in the hot water for 30-35 seconds then remove from the hot water. Now, place the feed on your thumb and gently squeeze or pinch the feed and nib together. Holding it for 20 seconds, allowing the ebonite to cool. Ink the pen and evaluate the results. Repeat as needed.

If you are heat-setting a vintage pen with a black ebonite barrel, I would remove the section from the barrel, eliminating any chance the barrel may come into contact with water. I had a very bad experience where my 100-year-old black ebonite pen turned green the instant the barrel got wet….

Thanks for reading, let me know if this has been helpful. It has for me. Until next time.

Posted in Nibs, Stories

Pen Nibs, More than Just A Type, its Geometry

If you have ever used a fountain pen, you know they write in a variety of fashions. Some have firm nibs, they write clean crisp lines while others have flexible nibs, their lines vary in width as the letter is laid down. This is normally attributed to the nib material (gold, steel, titanium, or some alloy), and the width of the tip (fine, medium, broad, etc). However, there are additional factors, time to grab a pen and your high school geometry books.

The nib’s essential functions:

  • Transport of ink
  • Regulate ink flow
  • Start and stop ink flow
  • Vary the line width/style based on the writing

The four essential functions are to control by these actions:

  • Placing the tip of the nib on paper and lifting it
  • Moving the nib across the paper at a varying speed
  • Spreading the tines with varying writing pressure

The line-of-bending is at the back of the nib where the nib extends past the section, which means the tines would never separate when equal pressure is applied (the nib would bend at the section). To address these two things happen, 1) a slit is added to the nib (the breather hole merely allows air displacement and prevents the slit from well … continuing), 2) the nib is arched/bent along the line of the slit. As pressure from writing is applied, the slit widens.

Many contemporary nibs (Namiki or Lam for example) has an arched body around the feed which transitions to flat tines, so how do these nibs work?

As the nib angles inward to form the tines, the line-of-bending moves forward from the junction with the section to the breather hole where the slit ends (X-Y to b1). The bending line b2 will follow the shortest cross-section from the termination of the slit (at the air hole) to the outer edge of the tine.

The red lines illustrate where the bend line is achieved when pressure is applied to the nib. The bend lines b2 enclose an angle with the line of bending b1. As the angle between b1 and b2 increases, together with the flatness of the tines, the nib becomes more responsive to writing pressure and variations. Sounds like a flex-nib to me.

The degree of tine separation depends on several parameters:

  • The angle of the longitudinal bend (along the axis) of the nib
  • The angle between the lines of bending
  • The length of the slit within the area where the tines are able to bend
  • The profile of the tines (thickness and curvature)

A standard nib deflects under normal writing pressure for only a few tenths of a millimeter. In material physics, deflects is a “deformation within the range of elasticity.” After the pressure is taken off the nib, it will return to its original shape, unless too much pressure is applied resulting in the extension of the tines beyond the normal range of elasticity, resulting in a permanent distortion. The nib will not return to its original shape and in layman’s terms is “jacked up,” and rendered useless.

For an amazing dissertation on fountain pen engineering, I recommend the following links, without which this post would not be possible.

Posted in Pens, Stories

The Fountain Pen Mystery Theatre Presents, Mystery Behind the Blue Diamond

Welcome to the Fountain Pen Mystery Theatre, where “it may be said with a degree of assurance that not everything that meets the eye is as it appears.” Enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and touch but of deduction. In this episode, our hero unravels the mystery behind a Parker “51,” as there are more so-called “first-year” pens than Parker ever made.

“It is of the highest importance in the art of detection to be able to recognize, out of a number of facts, which are incidental and which vital.” Sherlock Holmes – The Reigate Puzzle

Parker “51” Cordovan Brown

Holmes, it appears this is NOT a Parker 51 “First-Year” pen, manufactured from late 1940 through 1941. Easily distinguished by their unique characteristics.

Practically all pens of this period are double jewels, the Parker “51” Made in USA is imprinted on the end of the barrel near the jewel in a single line.

“First-year” clips are also rather unique. They resemble the Parker Vacumatic clips with a larger blue diamond. Also, the enamel used is of a lighter blue color, and the clip gold plate over a brass base. They are die-struck, resulting in a negative image on the back.

The clutch inside the cap is longer and has 4 “portholes” instead of the more common 5 “portholes.”

Filler units are the aluminum Speedline filler used in the Vacumatic line. Interestingly, some of the 1942 production pens are found with aluminum Speedline fillers. Finally, the nib is completely devoid of any markings. Parker did not start marking and dating the nibs until 1943.

My dear Watson, in order to correctly identify a “first-year” pen you must employ a holistic approach to the pen and not just focus on each individual characteristic.

“In solving a problem of this sort, the grand thing is to be able to reason backwards.” Sherlock Holmes – A Study in Scarlet

The availability of component materials was not consistent during this period, Parker would use older components in newer pens and new components as they become available. Sometime in the second quarter of 1942, the imprint on the “51” was changed to a two-line format that remained until the end of the Vacumatic period in 1948.

The new imprint is relocated to the barrel under the clutch ring. While the nib is the most frequently replaced component on a pen. We cannot accept it at face value.

Conceding that later production used available inventory which included early components; however, during the war years, the brass used in the cap clip and clutch ring base was replaced by metal. War year clips and clutch rings show a silver base instead of brass. Post-war production returned to a brass base.

The blue diamond on the cap clip was discontinued in mid-1947 due to a ruling by the FTC.

“You know my method. It is founded upon the observation of trifles.” Sherlock Holmes – The Bascombe Valley Mystery

The clutch ring is well worn, even so, this does not aid in determining if the underlying material is used. The ring appears to show brass while in a different light it appears to be silver (metal).

Look here Watson, the clutch inside the cap is 5 holed and short, typical of the war-time pens. The “first-year” clips were plated over brass and die struck. This left a negative print on the backside of the clip. Then there is the oversized blue diamond on the clips of “first-year” pens. The blue diamond on this clip is the standard size found on Vacumatics and later “51.”

As mentioned, the pen’s nib contains absolutely no markings. Parker did not begin using markings on the nibs until 1943, thus this nib must be earlier.

“Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth.” Sherlock Holmes – The Sign of Four

Elementary my dear Watson, this is most assuredly a “first-year” Parker “51,” purchased by Ray Sims of Twin Falls, Idaho.

Upon closer examination, there is a barely detectable crack in the clutch ring. One can deduce from this, that the pen was damaged.

The repair is done during the war years. At this time the original speed line filler is replaced with a plastic filler and the original cap is replaced.

It is common knowledge that the “51” imprint was relocated in 1942 to the barrel by the clutch ring. Upon closer examination, this pen is missing the Parker “51” imprint completely. This can only occur when a “first-year” pen has the original jeweled blind cap with the imprint replaced by a NOS blind cap which will be void of the imprint. The NOS cap is confirmed by the ever-so-slight variance in color between the jeweled blind cap and the barrel.

As you can see Watson, being observant to detail and with deductive reasoning the mystery is solved. Until next time….

Posted in Pens, Stories

Safety Caps and Pens

The phrase “safety” means the pen has the ability to fit the nib of the pen securely in an airtight manner, ensuring safety with respect to ink leakage. Something taken for granted with contemporary pens but a major issue back in the day.

Safety Caps

The cap is an essential, integral part of any fountain pen. Its function is to protect the nib and feed from damage and provide a simple and effective means for confining the ink which may collect around the pen at the base of the section. Thus preventing the ink from staining everything the nib touches. Not all caps include the additional component, an inner cap.

The cap, therefore, comprises the cylindrical cover which fits over the barrel and nib and an inner cap that encloses the nib and forms an hermetical seal with the leading edge of the section. The inner cap is also credited with slowing down ink evaporation thus improving the pen’s readiness to write.

In 1908, Waterman began marketing a safety pen for pens without retractable nibs. The pen included a revolutionary screw-on cap with an inner cap that sealed the nib by bearing against the leading edge of the section. Effectively preventing leakage, such pens were marketed as “safety pens.” Parker followed soon after with the Jack-Knife Safety and Mabie Todd with the Swan Safety Screw-Cap.

Safety Pens

Safety Pens are equipped with a safety filling system in which the nib is retracted or extended with the rotation of a knob attached to an endless screw. But, not all safety pens include an endless screw mechanism.

Moore marketed a safety pen known as the Non-Leakable Filler, by which a longitudinal slide controls the movement of the nib. This movement of the nib and feed is achieved through the use of a sleeve on the aft end of the pen which slides back and forth on a shaft similar to the endless screw mechanism. In both designs, once the nib is in the retracted position, the pen can be inked or safely sealed.

Fun Fact: Moore was so confident in their non-leak filler, they shipped pens from the factory already filled with ink.

The safety filling system is an evolution of the eyedropper filler system. It simplifies the filling operations, eliminating the need to remove the section and nib unit and avoiding ink leakage as a result of differences in pressure and temperature. The opening left by the vacated nib unit provides the opportunity to ink the pen using an eyedropper. This also means there is less volume within the barrel available for the ink, as the inside of the barrel is also occupied by the mechanism and the nib unit.

Once the nib has returned to the inside of the barrel, the pen is hermetically sealed using a flat-bottomed cap equipped with a suitable gasket to prevent leakage. In fact, there is no possibility that the ink, due to pressure imbalances, and deposit in the cap, since pressure imbalances are immediately eliminated when the cap is loosened and the seal broken. The hermetical seal also reduces to near zero the possibility of ink evaporation.

The charm of the safety filling system lies in the mechanical complexity, which illustrates the pinnacle of the technology at that time. Whereas the mechanical simplicity of the non-leakable system makes it more robust and easy to manufacture. All that was required was good precision to machining tolerances and quality gaskets.

Origins of the safety filler are found in the United States during the last decade of 1800 and mass-marketed by Waterman. The design enjoyed greater success in Europe, where at the beginning of the last century practically all producers (particularly the German ones, including Kaweco), made use of this system. The non-leakable system was also used by Montblanc in their first Rouge et Noir models, most likely brought to Germany by Arthur Eberstein, founder of Montblanc who had previously worked for the Moore.

Posted in Pens, Stories

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

Wow, it’s April already. The other day I was in the local hobby store and I hit up their scrapbook section looking to see if they have new paper. Happy days, they revamped their entire offerings. I have 5 new pages to use while photographing pens. I hope you enjoy them.

Last month I rotated in a Pilot Prera with a medium calligraphy nib. I found this pen to be a joy to write with. The nib is a little scratchy but that is because of the flat calligraphy nib. The Prera is now one of my favorite pens.

For this month I pulled out my Waterman Hemisphere with a medium nib. This is my original favorite pen. It’s been a couple years since last I used it and I was mortified. I forgot to clean it when I put the pen away, but it turned out to be no big deal.

As I recently received an order of ink samples from Vanness, now I am flush with new color choices. I opted for the Diamine Aurora Borealis, which happens to be very similar in color to the last ink I used in the pen.

The Hemisphere is working great, my Snoopy not so much. I thought the ink color complimented the pen color well.

After sitting dirty for 2 years, and a quick cleaning and the ink flowed immediately when the nib contacted the paper.

So, what’s in your pen cup?