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.