Posted in Pens

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

The Conklin All American has been drained of ink, cleaned and put away. You may recall I did a review of the Conklin and decided I wasn’t a fan – it was too fluffy (fat). Now after I’ve used it for a month, I have gained an appreciation for how well it writes, though it took some time getting used to the size. I exaggerate a bit when I say it felt like writing with a cucumber.

As like many of you, I rotate my pens, it’s a new month so a new pen, I am now using my Esterbrook V-Clip. This pen is considered pretty rare, the model was only made for a period of 1 year (1932-1933), production was ceased because of inferior materials and design flaws, thus it is uncommon to find one in good shape.

When I got the pen it had a very unusually nib, a Relief 314, normally associated with dip pens. This nib is part of an Esterbrook nib/feed assembly which screws into the section, unlike dip pens. Unfortunately, I couldn’t use the pen as the nib needed to be smoothed. Since then I stumbled onto a Relief 2314-F NOS, I felt bad taking it out of the box and screwing it into the section. But damn it writes well. This is the first time the V-Clip has made the rotation and I like the way it writes.

When I got the pen it had a very unusually nib, a Relief 314, normally associated with dip pens. This nib is part of an Esterbrook nib/feed assembly which screws into the section, unlike dip pens. Unfortunately, I couldn’t use the pen as the nib needed to be smoothed. Since then I stumbled onto a Relief 2314-F NOS, I felt bad taking it out of the box and screwing it into the section. But damn it writes well. This is the first time the V-Clip has made the rotation and I like the way it writes.

So tell me, what pen are you using this month?

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.

Posted in Pens, Stories

Fountain pens “the Stars” of the writing world

“Fountain pens,” conjure the thought of antiquated writing instruments, long forgotten and relegated to the back of cluttered desk drawers, buried under “stuff” or the choice of highbrow NYC lawyers. You may be surprised to learn that there are a number of celebrities & A-listers who own and use fountain pens! I make no claim to doing the research, I found an assortment of lists on this topic which I combined, edited and skinnied down, and adding my own finds.

Literary World

  • Mark TwainConklin Crescent Filler.
    Twain was a prominent influence in the fountain pen industry, helping put an end to the days of the eyedropper filling method by fiercely promoting the newly invented Conklin Crescent Filler.
  • Sir Arthur Conan DoyleParker Duofold.
    Doyle penned four canonized Sherlock Holmes novels and 56 short stories.
  • Ernest HemingwayMontegrappa.
    All he needed as a blue-backed notebook, two pencils and his ELMO pen.
  • Jane Austen – Dip Pen.
    Her writings predate fountain pens but I thought it was a fun fact that she had her own special iron gal ink recipe and used a special type of notebooks, “quarto stationer’s notebook bound with quarter tanned sheep over boards sided with marble paper. The edges of the leaves [were] plain cut and sprinkled red.”
  • Dylan ThomasParker 51.
    Thomas is a Welch poet probably best known for his poem Do Not Go Gentle Into the Good Night made known to the Sci-Fi community for its inclusion in the movie Interstellar.
  • Harper Lee – brand unknown but she explicitly placed one in Atticus Finch’s coat pocket during the famous courtroom scene in To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • Anne FrankMontblanc Meisterstück.
    In her diary, there is a chapter where she mourns the loss of her pen after it is accidentally burnt in a fire, a gift from her grandmother.
  • Salman Rushdie – Vintage Fountain Pens.
    His primary go-to vintage pen is a Montblanc Meisterstück
  • Stephen KingWaterman Hemisphere.
    King has written 95+ novels including It and Carrie with this instrument claiming, in 2014 he wore out 4 pens writing Dreamcather.
  • Neil GaimanPilot Custom 823 and LAMY 2000.
    Changes his ink color daily to track progress, the first draft of each of his novels is in longhand.
  • Joe Hill (son of Stephen King) – Pilot Metropolitan.
    Hill is the author of comic book series Locke and Key (now a Netflix series) and a handful of novels, of which NOS4A2 is soon to be a AMC series.
  • Christopher PaoliniLAMY and Pilot Decimo.
    Best known for his fantasy & sci-fi books Eragon and To Sleep in a Sea of Stars. Both books I own.

Entertainment World

  • Charlie ChaplinParker Duofold.
    Most of Chaplin’s journal writing and poems remain unpublished, a poem of his about self-appreciation has circulated the internet – “As I began to love myself I found that anguish and emotional suffering are only warning signs that I was living against my own truth. Today, I know, this is ‘AUTHENTICITY.’”
  • Johnny DeppMontblanc Meisterstück 149.
  • Debra MessingMontegrappa Fortuna Copper Mule.
  • Rick WakemanConway Stewart.
    Wakeman the keyboard player for 70’s super group Yes and an avid journalist. Listing fountain pens as one of his “Top Ten Outsides Family and Music” interests and concocting his own ink blend.
  • Oprah WinfreyViscounti.
    Her pen was fabricated with the tiniest drops of gold and silver using the intricate filigree technique, a traditional Italian art form that has been passed down from jewelry master to jewelry master for generations.
  • Diane KeatonMontblanc.
  • Dustin HoffmanMontblanc.
  • Edward NortonMontblanc.
  • Howard SternVisconti Arte Mudejat Aragones.
    A gift valued at $1,700. Its design is inspired by the Aragon region of Spain and celebrates the harmonious coexistence of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism that occurred there between 1000 and 1600 AD.
  • Diane SawyerWaterman.
  • Alton Brown – unknown.
    When asked what he cannot leave the house without. “Nutmeg, a pocket knife, cash, a small notebook of some type, a fountain pen, and my iPhone.”
  • Kevin Pollack Waterman Edson.
  • Kristen StewartTibaldi Bentley Crewe.
    Avid journalist and owner of an extensive fountain pen collection. She was gifted the TBC valued at $46,000 as a present on her 23rd birthday.
  • Walt DisneySheafer Balanced.
    A well used Balance fountain pen, 1930’s vintage, was found in Walt Disney’s desk in 1970 when his office was being inventoried by the Walt Disney Archives.
  • Carl Banks Esterbrook.
    Used an Esteerbrook 356 Art & Drafting Pen to ink Donald Duck.
  • Sylvestor StalloneMontegrappap Chaos.
    As seen in his film Expendables II.
  • Emma WatsonParker 51
    A Parker fountain pen accompanied her to class at Brown University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature.

World Leaders/Events:

  • Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth IIParker 51.
  • General Dwight D. EisenhowerParker 51.
    Used to sign the German Instrument of Surrender in Reims, France.
  • General Douglas MacArthurParker Duofold.
    Used a 1928 Duofold to sign the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on the deck of the USS Missouri.
  • Lyndon B JonsonEsterbrook.
    A set of 74 clear Lucite Esterbrooks were used to sign the Civil Rights bill into law in 1964.
  • Theresa MayParker Duofold.
    She used the Parker to sign Article 50 commencing “Brexit.”
  • Vladimir PutinMontblanc Meisterstück 146.
    He used the Montblanc to sign the document “admitting” the Crimea and Sevastopol back into the Russian Federation, after his militia invaded the territories.
  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – Kaweco Sport

Odd man out

  • Albert EinsteinPelkan 100 N and Waterman taper-cap.
    The Waterman was used to write the Theory of Relativity and is on display at the Boerhaave Museum in Leiden.

References:

Posted in Pens, Stories

Esterbrook Relief pen by Conway Stewart Co

Since I cannot spend all my time refurbishing pens and the majority of the refurbishment projects are just a good cleaning and installation of a new ink sac I decided to embrace the title and chronicle a pen in my collection.

Esterbrook Relief pens were made in England starting in the mid 1930’s through the 1950’s by the Conway Stewart Company. The “Relief” means these pens come with a left oblique 14kt gold nib. These nibs have a slight angle going upward from left to right. In general, this type of slant is designed for right handed people who hold their pen in a way that makes writing with it favorable.

The Conway Stewart company was founded in 1905 in London. Their objective was to produce elegant, timelessly beautiful, yet functional writing instrument. During the depression years, the company managed to survive by continuing to offer good reliable pens at reasonable prices, hence their partnership with Esterbrook. Conway Stewart pens have always been the preferred choice of the most discerning and famous people from around the world. Winston Churchill used a Conway Stewart pen, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth was presented two gold pens to Commemorate her Golden Jubilee and Conway Stewart was the official pen of the British Government at the G8 Summit, at which PM Tony Blair presented a Conway Stewart No.58 to each of the world leaders. Conway Stewart is still in operation producing pens today.

I bought a black hard rubber (BHR) Esterbrook Relief 2-L from a dealer in London. This pen was made by Conway Stewart in the late 30’s or early 40’s. It was a little grimy when I got it, other than in need of a cleaning and polishing it was fully functional. Polishing – I don’t use a polish or wax, I use a Sunshine Cloth. The cloth removed the 80+ years of grim, returning a sparkle to the nib and to the body of the pen. The name on the side is well worn and the tip of the feed is broken off, possibly contributing to the nib supplying more ink than it should. The pen was manufactured with one of three nib styles, Fine, Medium, and Broad. I am inclined to say this is a broad nib there appears to be a “B” or it could be an ampersand on the nib. It all depends on how you look at the nib.

I don’t know the provenance, I asked the seller and he doesn’t keep records so it’s road to me is up to the imagination. We know a couple things to be true, it was manufactured in London circa 1940, talk about the wrong place at the wrong time. It survived the Blitz and subsequent rocket attacks on London. Was it used by someone in the War Department, used to sign orders sending men into battle, Imagine what letters it may have written? We’re they happy, were they sad? Was it used by some government official enacting the English Welfare State or an instrument used in the collapse of the British Empire? Guess we will never know what stories it told, but we do know I am writing the story of how it left London via the Royal Post and arrived in America to begin a new story.

Posted in Restoration

Really, The Dog Ate My Pen – Part 2

As a quick recap (pun intended), previously I blogged about my dog chewing on my wife’s pen, well things got better before they got way worse when I used a hairdryer to soften the plastic of an Esterbrook Pastel pen. I was able to fix the barrel and lever without issue and got overly confident with the cap.

  • The challenge:

I over heated the pen cap and now it’s deformed, plus the jewel and clip have fallen out. I tried heating the cap and reshaping it but nooooo. The cap wouldn’t stay round and it needed it to be tapered at the end, so how am I going to reshape the cap? That’s when the bright idea hit me! I need a form, to mold the hot plastic back into the shape of the cap.

  • The bright idea:

How to make a mold? A quick trip to Hobby Lobby where I found molding clay. Figured I could shape it into a block then press a similar pen cap into the soft clay then bake it. After it cools all I needed to do is heat the pen cap and push it into the mold and it should reform – right? Yeah right!

I bought a small block of FIMO molding clay (2 oz), it cost less than $3. Using only a 1/4 of it I formed a block and pressed a similar pen cap into clay. It looks good, just like an inverse pen cap. Next, into the oven at 230 F for 30 minutes. After it cooled I inserted the pen cap I used to make the imprint just to confirm the baking process didn’t misshape the mold. It was a bit tight so I took a wax shaping tool and was able to shave the inner sides of the mold allowing the pen cap a better fit.

The moment of truth arrived, I inserted the jewel and clip into the mold, then got out the hairdryer and applied heat to the damaged cap until it was very soft. I pushed the cap into the mold and it mushroomed out. Yup it looked just like a pot belly stove so I return it to the heat, it straightened out and pushed it back in. This time it went in but it took a teardrop shape with the point protruding at the clip. Instead of dragging this out the bright idea turned out to be a failure.

For the silver lining, the pen cap does have that inner cap which completely protects the nib and keeps it from drying out, the offensive tooth mark that started the entire process is gone and finally the pen is fully functional.

Posted in Restoration

Brown is the New Black

Late first generation Esterbrook Dollar pen, so called because they cost a dollar in their time, when the average hourly salary was 70 cents per hour. This style pen was manufactured from 1934-1942, the clip design was changed in 1938 as was the introduction of a new lever shape. I believe this pen was manufactured at the very beginning of 1938 using both old and new component parts, because the lever is a new style paddle shape, yet it retains the original clip design. A notable feature of the Dollar Pen was the use of expensive material. Most notably the company had chosen to use the newly available wonder metal – stainless steel. The pen is made of hard rubber (aka ebonite or vulcanite) and is very durable but subject to damage by sun light. Light damage is not immediately obvious, after some time the pen will turn to a brown color, its gloss will fade to a light tan color. The good news is the damaged areas can be repair but hence forth the pen is also susceptible to water damage (spots).

I got this pen at a great price from a seller in Michigan, it really looks more green than brown to me and the presence of white spots is prominent so I assume the light damage is extensive and complicated by some water damage. Well nothing ventured, nothing gained so I set about removing the light and water damage done to the cap and barrel. On a side note, pens made of celluloid also suffer from light damage, they generally darken and damage done to them is irreversible.

Before

After accessing the pen it was clearly in good shape apart from the coloration issue. It needed a new ink sac, the logo imprinted on the barrel was in great shape, no cracks or significant abrasions. So begins the process of disassembling the pen. I was able to remove the nib and section with a minimal effort. The old hardened sac mostly came out but not in its entirety so I removed the lever and snap clip and the remainder of the sac fell out. Over the course of 3 nights and several movies I progressively sanded first the cap then the barrel, using tape when possible to protect the logo imprint and the cap band. Starting with 1000 grit paper, which will remove the discoloration then progressing to 2000, 3000, 5000 and finally 7000 grit paper leaving a perfectly smooth surface. The only issue is the process discolors and renders useless the 1000 grit paper very quickly. I cut strips about an inch wide so I could better focus on a small area at a time. I went through the entire process on the cap and barrel 4 times.

Then the time came for the Sunshine cloth, the nib cleaned up instantly as did the lever. The snap clip ring and J-bar needed a light sanding as did the underside of the leaver. Afterwards they too were polished with the Sunshine cloth. The section required a sanding as well followed by a polishing. Next came the new sac installation followed by putting it all back together. Damn I think it looks good!

After
Posted in Restoration

Really, The Dog Ate My Pen

The Esterbrook Purse or Pastel pen, were produced with women in mind, they were smaller, dainty, and designed to fit in a purse. The initial pens were made between 1954 and 1957. These Pastel pens were constructed using a much softer plastic, today they are usually found with cracks in the cap and their color is faded. The object of this project was “cherry” when I got it, so I gave it to my wife as a Christmas present along with a sweet bullet journal (160gsm paper) so she could use a fountain pen, markers, etc without the bleed through associated with the cheap stuff we call paper. This is where the trouble begins, the pen was stored in a cute little bag that somehow ended up on the floor (I blame the cats) and our dog thought she would try it out as a new chew toy. Fortunately, she wasnt impressed.

CYA announcement; do not do this and if you choose to ignore my warning please don’t do it to anything of value.

Fortunately, she managed to miss the nib, the clip, the cap ring and both jewels. Also she didn’t put any holes completely through the plastic. I’ve read in numerous blogs, where people have used hairdryers to loosen the nib section from the barrel, knowing this plastic is a lot softer and more pliable maybe it could be leveraged to soften the plastic and remove the teeth marks.

Beginning with the damage to the barrel at the lever, this type of pen uses a snap ring system to hold the lever mechanism in place. When the lever pulled up it will actuate a J-bar which compresses the ink sac thus allowing ink to be drawn into the sac – think eye dropper.

Lets start by removing and inspecting the nib section, hah no damage to the section, nib or the ink sac. Using forceps I easily removed the J-bar, and now it is time to focus on the lever. Remember, there is a bite mark that appears to have grazed the mechanism and partially displace the snap ring. Normally, a lever is removed by raising to the 45 degree angle and pushing forward, but in this case that wasn’t possible. I managed to raise the lever and pulled it backwards. The snap ring popped out of the slot with a loud snap (pun intended). Turned the lever to the right until it lined up with the slot in the barrel and out it came snap ring and all, everything looks good.

Next I got out an old hairdryer we use for crafting and started intermittently applying medium heat to the barrel. After a couple minutes the plastic started feeling hot, so I inserted a dental instrument into the barrel down to the damaged area, and began rotating the tool so that the curved side would press against the indentation. This I did until I succeeded in pushing out the damaged area. Then I began the process of sanding the barrel to remove the residual mark. The process is progressive, starting with 1000 grit paper, which will remove the bite marks then progressing to 2000, 3000, 5000 and finally 7000 grit paper leaving a perfectly smooth surface. The process removed all evidence of bite marks, and scratches. Now we reinstall the lever and snap clip, the J-bar and the nib section. Looking good!

Now feeling empowered and overly confident I moved on to the pen cap. The cap has a hard plastic insert unlike the barrel and one of the bites also made a dent through this insert. This will require more heat, more effort and more attention. Using the same basic principle I began applying high heat to the pen cap. Using a wax carving tool, I applying pressure to the indentation left in the hard plastic insert. I made progress then I noticed I could also apply pressure to the outside and made more progress. This is when my over confidence got the better of me and I applied too much heat and took my eye off the cap for a split second. The tapered end of the pen cap opened up like a flower allowing the jewel and clip fall out. Ah shit! Shit, shit, shit, shit! Now what am I going to do? I was already patting myself on the back for a job well done.

Wait I have an idea! (Oh no, not again)

To Be Continued…