Posted in Pens, Reviews, Stories

Kaigelu 316A

Company Back Story

Kaigelu is a brand of Lanxivi, a subsidiary of Shanghai Hero Pen Company. Hero has been manufacturing “high-quality” fountain pens since 1931. Initially known as Wolff Pens, they changed their name to Hero in 1966. Their pens are renown for their quality in Asia and are extremely popular with users in China and India.

I consider Kaigelu to be a “high-end” Chinese manufactured pen. I call them high-end because the typical Chinese pens sells for $7-$10 and this one sold for $26.

The Kaigelu 316 was initially released in 2014, and closely resembled the Parker Duofold Centennial. The pen is available in a variety of color schemes; however, I was interested in two, a golden brown/grey swirls called ‘Tiger Eye’ and white/black swirls called ‘Century Stars.’ I choose the white/black swirl. I am more inclined to say it resembles marble or pearl.

The pen is made of an acrylic celluloid (so they claim), something you don’t often see in contemporary pens. The celluloid has a lot of depth and complexity plus to my surprise it is semi-transparent. The pen clip, cap band and other accents are gold plate. The cap band contains an imprinted design with black inlay. The cap is topped with a jewel containing a kangaroo surrounded by a wreath, both in gold plate.

My pen is model 316A, the “A” designation I believe indicates a newer model, incorporating improvements over the initial pen. The seller called mine an “office gift pen.” I did a Duck-Duck-Go search and all of the 316 pens I found had black blind end caps and a black section, while mine has blind caps and section made of the same material and color as the pen. Maybe it is a “special edition.”

Other reviewers mention their pens are too heavy, tipping the scale at 46g, while mine weighs in at a mere 28g with converter. As I prefer pens with some heft to them, 28g is perfect. The pen feels solid in hand, and the construction seems sound.

The seller claimed it came with an iridium nib but it is stainless steel with gold plated accents. A kangaroo like the one in the jewel on the cap, scroll accent work, and the name “Kaigelu” is etched on the nib. The section is metal or brass, gold plated with “Kaigelu” and the model number etched into the opposite side.

The nib is labeled as Fine and it writes accordingly on 100gsm or better paper. On cheap paper the ink will flow.

The converter is attractive as far as converts go. It screws into the section but doesn’t appear to hold as much ink as other converters and contains a steel ball. I assume this keeps the ink “stirred, not shaken” which makes the pen rattle. The pen also accepts international converters as well as long international cartridges.

Vital Statistics

  • Capped length 137mm,
  • Barrel diameter is 13mm,
  • The cap diameter is 15mm,
  • Pen and converter weigh in at 28g,
  • The cap weighs in at 10g.

Cons

My complaints are: removing the cap did require 3 full turns, unscrewing the barrel from the section took a week (ok I exaggerate a bit), and the rattle the pen makes because of the steel ball in the converter. This is a feature to keep the ink from thickening up – a common occurrence for ink in Asia because of the heat and humidity.

Opinion

Unlike the experiences reported by others, the pen did not leak, it is not too heavy, the nib did not require smoothing or other fine tuning. I like the feel and weight of it in my hand. It wrote smoothly when I initially inked it up. I like it and for a mere $26 you can say I love it. Would I buy another – absolutely, maybe the tiger eye pen next.

In short, I liked the pen

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Posted in Pens, Restoration, Stories

The Lady Sheaffer “writes like a dream…refills like her lipstick”

The Back Story

“Extensive research” was conducted by Sheaffer to determine if there was a market for a pen designed exclusively for women.

Results showed that women generally considered pens made for them were nothing more than scaled down reproductions of men’s writing instruments while their fashion interests were centered in fabrics, costume jewelry and accessories. The results was a new line of cartridge pens named ‘The Lady Sheaffer’ developed to include all these features. The Lady Sheaffer Skripsert fountain pen debuts in April 1958, offering 19 models with patterns inspired by fine fabrics, like tweed, corduroy, paisley and tulle.

The Lady Sheaffer Skripsert VI is a periwinkle colored enamel over metal, with a gold basketweave that gives the pen a textured finish. The pattern was officially called “Paisley,” and fitted with a stainless steel Triumph wrap around nib. Unfortunately, the periwinkle enamel was prone to flaking off.

My Pen

Lady Sheaffer Skripsert VI

When I got my pen it was dirty and there was a big “stain” on the cap. I planned on cleaning it up but it got lost in the shuffle and my enthusiasm for it faded. After evaluating the direction my pen collection was headed I decide to sell off some pens and this one wasn’t making the grade, but it needed to be cleaned. I set about cleaning it and what a difference that made. The color became so vivid, I had a change of heart.

With the change of heart came a renewed interest in removing the “stain” on the pen cap. Assuming it was oil based, I washed the cap with Dawn dish soap which made the cap really shine but did not remove the stain. Next, I used the nylon circular brushes and the dental picks. This made some progress. Then I got the bright idea to let the cap soak over night in water. That morning I went over the stain again with the brush and removed the periwinkle enamel. F@&#.

It gets better, I’m not done. Since the Dawn soap did such a great job on the cap I used it on the barrel. A metal object covered in soap can be slippery when wet. It didn’t drop far but it landed nib first. F@&#, F@&#, F@&#. The damage isn’t too bad, but the nib is a Triumph circular nib and well ya need a special tool to remove it. OMG I was ready to scream. Doing the best I could with a 1.3 mm dapping punch tool, I managed to remove the majority of the damage.

As this is a cartridge only pen, I dipped the nib in some ink and gave it a go. Damn it looks good and I am impressed with how well it writes. Definitely keeping this pen. The question is can I save it from me?

Posted in Pens, Stories

Vintage Demonstrator

All major pen companies, American, Japanese, German, and Italian have or are producing demonstrator pens. The success of clear and durable plastics has made the production of great see-through pens plentiful and common place.

The interest in how pens work is not a new phenomenon, pen manufacturers dating back as far as the 1920’s were eager to show off their unique filling systems, clip assemblies, nib and feed improvements and the ability to seal the nib inside the cap (safety pens). Thus all of the major manufacturers provided their sales representatives with hard rubber pens that were cut away to reveal the inner workings. This being the origin of today’s demonstrator pens.

Original functioning demonstrators

Parker demonstrated the button filler by incorporating a window into the side of the barrel, allowing a view of the pressure bar compressing the ink sac when that button is depressed. Sheaffer did the same with their lever filled pens. In the days of vacumatic pens, models were made using clear materials (I guess acrylic), thus maintaining the integrity of the barrel so that the filling mechanism could be observed in action without having to damage the pen. Today, these vintage demonstrator pens are uncommon, considered rare and collectible, hence I decided to make my own cut away demonstrator.

I bought an Arnold lever filler pen and removed the side of the barrel, don’t worry it is a 21 cent pen that I paid $5 for….. wait hmmm, I guess a sucker is born ever minute. Anyway, I got out the Dremel and proceed to remove a bit too much of the barrel but that oops provides us with a better view of the inside.

On a side note, as the barrel was cut it did not melt, it turned to powder and caught fire. Nothing melted and notice that there isn’t any scorch marks on the barrel. This leads me to believe the pen is celluloid opposed to a plastic resin.

Homemade Arnold cut away demonstrator

The ink sac is the largest component inside the barrel – surprise, it connects to the section near the cap teeth and runs the length of the barrel. Running parallel along the top of the sac under the lever is the pressure bar (aka J-bar). The lever is held in place by the snap ring, visible here bisecting the center of the barrel.

The mechanics of a lever filler pen is very basic, actually all fountain pens with an ink sac work by the same essential principle, a mechanism acts on a pressure bar which depresses the ink sac, when pressure bar is released, the sac expands to its original size and takes in ink.

Now you know the rest of the story.

Other Reviews

Posted in Pens, Stories

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

In 1932, Parker decided to dip their toes into the fountain pen lever filler market, they introduced the Parco (defined as frugal, sparing, moderate or temperate). Parker spared no expense, as they picked through the bins of old Duofold parts and built a new pen (did I mention frugal, sparing, moderate or temperate). Even though the pen was made of old Duofold parts it retailed at a significantly lower price point $1.75 vs $5 (that is $35 vs $100 adjusted for inflation) for the Duofold, making it a good deal.

I digress a bit, this month I thought it would be fun to compare how the Duofold and Parco pens compare, since they are first cousins. For transparency, my Parco is made from old Duofold stock, while my Duofold is made from new Duofold stock. It’s not entirely an even comparison. Also, the Duofold is sporting a fine nib while the Parco has a flex medium.

BTW, the “Vs” doodle was done using both both pens.

Anyway, what are you writing with this month?

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!

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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, 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?