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.

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Posted in Pens, Restoration, Stories

Arnold: the Original Disposable Fountain Pen

Company Backstory

Remmie Arnold started his company in 1935, operating out of Petersburg, Virginia after his tenure with the Edison Pen Company. Arnold became one of the largest producers of fountain pens in the world, concentrating on very inexpensive pens sold primarily in low end stores.

Good can be cheap, but Cheap is never good.

How cheap were Arnold pens you may ask? Retailers could buy a gross for $22.50 or 15 cents per pen, reselling them at a 40% profit. Wow, I paid $4 for a pen that originally sold for 21 cents, hmmm…. been had again. Obviously, with such a low price point, these pens were not built to last. The Arnold Pen Company survived through 2005 having switched from fountain pen production to become a ballpoint pen manufacturer.

My Pens

I bought 3 Arnold pens to experiment with, 2 came from a seller in Richmond. Both of those were supposed to be NOS, right out of the box. Yup the pens were never used, which doesn’t mean they aged well – actually they are both butt ugly.

Even ugly pens need love – right, so I set about pulling the green pen apart. The section pulled free of the barrel and lookie there, the original ink sac is still intact and pliable. That is cool, I need to ink it up and see how well it writes. Well maybe later.

Looking at the feed, it has 2 ink channels or fissures as Waterman liked to call them. It is super cheap, the manufacturing process used a 2 sided mold to create the feed. The sides didn’t fit well and the residue plastic was not trimmed off.

Good stuff cheap

I decided to ink up the pen, it took ink without any problems. The lever is super small so it is difficult to maneuver. I have to admit for a 21 cent pen it writes really well and I’m impressed the ink sac holds ink. The sac is probably upwards of 60 years old.

I got out my old Sunshine cloth and went to work on the cap band and clip. I failed to make any progress, so I switched to a new Sunshine cloth and that made a difference on the cap band, the clip improved but not by much. The filling lever is beyond hope. The nickel finish is gone and there are signs on the barrel of discoloration by the threads. The pen has clearly been exposed to the sun in the hot, humid Virginia summers. I am toying with the option of using my DIY nickel electroplating process to restore the missing nickel plating. But that folks is the topic of a future blog post.