Posted in Restoration

Gold Starry Safety Pen

Company Backstory

The origins of Gold Starry can be traced back to 1909 with the marketing of Conway Stewart fountain pens in France, as the Gold Star brand. Following a trademark violation in 1912, the name was changed to Gold Starry, retaining the English origin of the pens. The first pens sold by the Gold Starry brand were black hard rubber or mottled safeties. These pens were eyedropper fill safety fountain pens, identified by two digits (models 36 & 39), indicating the price in francs.

At the beginning of the ’20s, fountain pen production began in a pavilion on the outskirts of Paris. In 1921, Gold Starry became a wholly-owned French pen manufacturer, thus ending the import of English pens. The company adopted the slogan “le stylo qui marche” (the pen that works). Characterized by the trademark consisting of a star, the brand name, and “Manifacture Francaise” engraving on the barrel and some dotted rings on the cap top.

My Pen

I picked up the pen from a seller in Germany. The seller said the pen is a model 59, least ways that is how I am reading him. I cannot find any documentation on Gold Starry models beyond 36, 39 and 256. Based on its size, it is a vest pen without a clip.

I’m estimating the pen dates from between 1921 to 1926 as determined by the logo and the cap rings (no dots). The original brand logo is a Star followed by GOLD STARRY, nothing else. In 1925, the logo changed the star now bisects GOLD STARRY and “Manifacture Francaise” is engraved on the barrel. The logo on my pen has a star followed by GOLD STARRY, there is nothing engraved on the barrel and the cap is missing the customary dotted cap rings. This tells me the pen is either a Conway Stewart marketed by Gold Starry or one of the first Manifacture Francaise pens.

1924 (top) and 1927 Gold Starry advertisments

The Restoration

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The pen is in really good shape with the exception of ink stains. The barrel from the section and 1/2” past the cap threads were heavily coated with ink. The mouth of the barrel and operating shaft were covered with a significant amount of ink residue and dust. I spent days removing the ink.

The nib needed a little tuning, one of the tins was slightly bent and had to be straightened and aligned.

Time to give it a try, with the nib retracted I used a straw to drop ink down the barrel. The barrel opening is so narrow a normal straw cannot be inserted into the opening, but I managed, drop by drop. You may be wondering how the ink is prevented from spilling out of the barrel. This is a safety pen, the nib is only extended when being used. At all other times the nib is retracted and the cap is screwed on. Inside the cap is a circular protrusion that will plug the opening of the barrel when screwed on tightly.

With the nib fully extended, the pen met paper. The nib is very soft and flexible, it took a moment to get used to how it writes. Held the pen up to examine the nib….wait, ahhhh the ink is leaking out of the knob used to extend or retract the nib. Damn the cork used to pack the shaft is missing or dry rotted (remember my comment about dust on the operating shaft!). Great a case of inky fingers.

Vital Statistics

  • Capped length 92mm,
  • Uncapped, nib retracted length 84mm,
  • Cap length 31mm,
  • Barrel diameter is 8.5mm,
  • The cap diameter is 9.5mm,
  • Pen weighs in at 20g.

I mentioned the pen is small, how small you ask? It’s this small.

L-R: Mont Blanc Meisterstuck, Waterman Hemisphere, Bic Cristal, Gold Starry, Conklin All American

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Posted in Pens, Restoration

Really, The Dog Ate My Pen

(Originally posted on 6 April 2021.)

In the spirit of TBT and the ghosts of Christmas past, I thought I’d reblog this post with updates. I’m sure everyone was good last year and Santa brought you lots of nice things. Did you put those nice things away? Are they out of reach of the dog? Yes, there is a lesson or two to be learned.

The Backstory

The Esterbrook Purse or Pastel pen was 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 pen in this tale 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 wasn’t impressed.

CYA announcement

Do not do as I do, but if you choose to ignore my warning please don’t do it with a pen of value.

She managed to miss the nib, the cap clip, the cap ring, and both jewels. And, 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.

Restoration

Beginning with the damage to the barrel at the lever, this type of pen uses a snap ring system to hold the fill lever mechanism in place. When the lever is engaged it will actuate a J-bar which compresses the ink sac thus when released ink is drawn into the sac.

Let’s start by removing and inspecting the nib section, confirming there is no damage to the section, nib, or 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 it 45-degree then pushing forward, but in this case, that wasn’t possible. I managed to manipulate the lever until it and the snap ring came out, everything looks good.

Using the crafting hairdryer, I started intermittently applying medium heat to the barrel. After a couple minutes the plastic felt hot, so I inserted a dental instrument into the barrel. At the damaged area, I began rotating the tool so that the curved side of the instrument would press against the indentation. This I did until I succeeded in pushing out the tooth-mark. Next, I sanded the barrel removing the residual mark. The process is progressive, starting with 1000 grit paper, which will remove significant damage 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. Looking good!

Now feeling empowered and overly confident, I moved on to the pen cap. The cap has a hard plastic insert that seals the cap to the section preventing ink leakage. One of the bites made a dent protruding through the 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 to apply pressure to the damaged area of the hard plastic insert while simultaneously applying pressure to the outside – it’s working!

This is when my overconfidence got the better of me, I applied too much heat plus I took my eye off the cap for just a split second. The tapered end of the pen cap opened up like a budding flower allowing the jewel and clip to fall out. Oh 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…

Posted in Collection, Pens, Reviews, Stories

The (Wish) List

I usually acquire pens based on impulse and circumstance (i.e. dumb luck), which has introduced me to a variety of odd pens. Some contemporary, some vintage, but all speak to me. The pens on this list are not pens to finish my collection. Nope, these are pens that have caught my eye, struck my fancy, and now I have a penchant for owning them. Oh and BTW, I love lists. Without further ado, in alphabetical order, let’s start the new year with a wish list ….

Benu – Silver Skull

“Silver Skull Fountain Pen is inspired by our childhood dreams of piracy and adventures. Rebellion and daring design is created for those who share the same ideals. Skillfully crafted by hand from glossy resin with its hand-friendly shape and shining decorative ring the Silver Skull Pen is a stylish accessory and a real pleasure to use.” – Benu Pen.com

I just thought this pen is the coolest. Why? Well I have a fondness for black pens, plus I have a fascination for Día de Muertos and who doesn’t like pirates. There are many “skull” pens on the market but this is the one for me.

Benu Silver Skull

Irish Pens – Black Carbon Fiber

“At 66 grams, Rhodium and Titanium wrapped in Black Carbon Fiber and with a Peter Bock nib at the business end this is a serious fountain pen, a fountain pen that will feel at home in the most exclusive boardroom, business setting or in your personal writing space, its gravitas will not go unnoticed whenever it is used. When the written words really matter! this is the fountain pen to use.” – Irish Pens.ie

Irish Pens, an Irish indie pen company specializing in pens made in County Cavan, Ireland of Irish native woods. I originally was drawn to their pens made from bog oak, but I saw this one! You have to admit, it takes your breath away. No surprise, this pen is the most expensive on the list.

Irish Pens Carbon Black

Kaweco – Student Pen

“Nostalgic fountain pen in soft green with golden details made of precious resin. The Student 60’s Swing impresses with a soft and organic green. The combination of green and golden elements is harmonious and underlines the series’s nostalgic, bulky shape. It matches the motto of the Swinging Sixties: Harmony and peace. The Student fountain pen with its curved pen body made of high-quality resin guarantees a haptic and visual writing pleasure.” – Kaweco Pen.com

Germans are known for their over engineering not for their simplicity, this this pen is the exception. The design, aesthetics, complimentary colors of ivory and green – beauty in simplicity. I do wish the section was not gold, but rather the same color as the cap.

Kaweco Student

Parker – 51

“When it introduced the “51” in 1941, the George S. Parker Company knew it had a winner. The pen was stylish but not flashy, durable but not clunky, and reliable but not overengineered. Over the next 31 years, the pen proved itself immensely popular. Tales are told of people who, unable to afford a whole pen, would purchase only a cap to clip in a pocket, giving the appearance of a complete pen.“ – Richards Pens.com

Parker 51 is the one vintage pen everyone should own, or so I have been told. After reading tons of accolades, this pen is worthy of the distinction. It is an attractive pen, unique in design. I am looking for an acceptable 1941 pen but they are not common. I fancy the Cedar Blue color but as mentioned I’m sure dumb luck will prevail and I’ll get what I get.

Parker 51

**** Update, a 1941 or maybe it’s a 1944 (more on this at a later time) is in the mail and of course it is not Cedar Blue.

Scrikss – Heritage Black GT

“Launched in 2014 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Scrikss company, the Heritage range is intended to be emblematic, a flagship of the brand Scrikss. The painstaking design is a combination between traditional and modernism, having as inspiration the aqueducts model that surrounded the old city of Istanbul in the past. It is created by the Turkish designer Kunter Sekercioglu.” – Scrikss Pen.com.tr

I stumbled on this pen after I bought a Scrikss 419. A lovely metal pen, with laser etched scrollwork. I feel like there is an elegance inspired by Instanbul. I have not found a US dealer as yet.

Scrikss Heritage GT

Posted in Restoration, Stories

To Wax or Not to Wax, Maybe Just Polish

People frequently confuse polishing with waxing or use the terms interchangeably. So why wax your pen? Well, the wax would appear to offer protective benefits for hard rubber and casein-based plastics (never apply it to celluloid) by creating a relatively impermeable layer to protect against moisture.

Spoiler Alert: from what I’ve read, waxing is not recommended for any pen, now let’s determine why!

The preferred method of restoration or cleaning is to polish a pen’s surface – please don’t ever use a buffer. I use a Sunshine cloth on everything. Some pen materials, such as celluloid, need to breathe and be stored in a place with good air circulation to avoid “celluloid rot”.

What’s the problem with wax?

Waxes have not been shown to benefit hard rubber, while they can damage celluloid by preventing the escape of the acidic gas by products celluloid naturally produce. The wax seals the celluloid, preventing the nitrocellulose gas from escaping, it is retained in the celluloid hastening decomposition. As waxes age, they harden requiring extraordinary measures for removal. This is even more prevalent with hard waxes like Carnauba. Also, the wax will “yellow” or become cloudy with age impacting the pen’s appearance. Even the best microcrystalline waxes are subject to these same issues. Synthetic waxes are even worse, they are almost impossible to remove. Waxes that were once thought to be “museum grade,” such as Renaissance Wax, are now known to be no better than other waxes.

Renaissance wax was developed by The Britisch Museum to protect the items in their collection. A study showed that Renaissance wax is especially difficult to remove without harsh solvents. The wax is no longer used in museums.

The point to waxing is to clean (surprise), wax makers know this and their recipes contain more hydrocarbon solvents than wax. Neither the solvents nor the wax is beneficial or appropriate to use on a pen. There are products out there that have neither solvents nor waxes that do an excellent job in polishing plastics.

At one point I thought Danish Oil would be a good ebonite protectant until I read the small print, the oil I was using is 70% toxic solvents and resin ester. I now use 100% mineral oil and a Sunshine cloth. The mineral oil is a cleaning agent on ebonite only. Guess what, it is distilled petroleum and petroleum does not play well with some rubber (I know – “loser”). Sticking with oils, REM and 3-in-1 oils have also been shown to accelerate the gas deterioration process.

As mentioned, I do not use wax at all, I do not use a buffer and the only polishing I do is use a Sunshine Cloth. I am considering a polish that contains only a micro crystal abrasive in a water suspension – no wax or solvents. Micro-Gloss Liquid Abrasive appears to be a good choice. I bought a rare Esterbrook circa 1932. When the pen approved it was clear the seller had applied a polish, I immediately got out 7,000 grit paper and did the best I could to remove any wax or polish residue on the pen.

  • Carnauba wax
  • Renaissance Wax
  • Johnson’s wax
  • REM (gun) oil
  • 3-in-1 oil
  • WD40
  • Mineral oil
  • Danish oil
  • Jewelers’ rouge buffing and polishing compounds

In Conclussion

I learned a lot and found out some of the things I have been doing could potentially cause harm long term. One of the purposes of this blog is to help others learn from my mistakes. Celluloid is not a concern for vintage pen collectors only. Montegrappa and Visconti are making beautiful pens from celluloid today.

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Posted in Restoration, Stories

“All have their Worth and each contributes to the Worth of the others.” J.R.R Tolkien, The Silmarillion

I came across a pen, a cheap gold-plated metal one with the name “Worth” etched on the clip. The nib needed lots of attention but the barrel and cap are in reasonably good shape – plus the price was right – ok it could have been a couple dollars cheaper.

Back story

I set about researching the “Worth” name on the pen. Pens typically bear the names of the manufacturer such as Parker, Sheaffer & Esterbrook, while some also included names of large retail chains (“big box” stores). House-brand pens as they are known, are not favored by collectors but they are often attractive and on occasion of high quality. Could this be a department store pen, maybe Woolworth’s or possibly the French fashion shop House of Worth? I doubt it, so what’s next?

Are you familiar with Eclipse Pens? I’m not but wouldn’t you know it, they offer a metallic pen with a very similar design of gold-plating. Eclipse was a Canadian Pen manufacturer known for their celluloid and BHR pens. I assume that they contracted with a third party for the metalwork and the service provider probably had a catalog of designs to pick from. Finding two pens with the same design by different manufacturers is not a surprise.

Eclipse fountain pens were originally manufactured in the United States from about 1903 until the early 1930’s, manufacturing moved to Canada from 1925 to 1960 when the company shuttered. Maybe, maybe not, next!

Then I stumbled upon a dip pen manufacturer in NY marketing “Worth College Pen” nibs. These nibs are readily available on eBay and Pinterest. I tried researching the nib manufacturer but to no avail. I also posed questions to the Fountain Pen Network and Fountain Pen Geeks, and no one is familiar with “Worth” pens.

The Restoration

Ok let’s be honest, the nib is gross. There is ink gunking up the feed. The section is easily removed from the barrel. I put it in a cup of water for 24 hrs. Oddly enough the water did not change color based on the dried ink. I guess the gunk isn’t ink or it is not a water based ink (more likely the case). Anyway, the nib and feed easily separated from the section with a gentle pull and I set about working on the tarnished nib with a Sunshine cloth.

When the old dried up ink sac was removed, it was grey primarily, making me think it dated back to the 1960s. The section was showing signs of abuse, sandpaper removed the marks and some accumulated yuck.

As you can see the barrel and cap are in good shape with the exception of the chip missing from the lever – oh well. A Sunshine cloth removed the accumulated dirt and grime, restoring a very nice luster to the pen.

I installed a new ink sac, a #18 fit very nicely without being cramped inside the barrel.

All cleaned up, nib shows no sign of damage, we’ll see if it needs any smoothing but it has what appears to be hard water stains. The stains could be caused by overzealous cleaning with alcohol or an acetone, or fountain pen unfriendly inks.

There does not appear to be any corrosive damage to the nib. I found several options to address the stains, including micro mesh, silver polish, car polish, tooth paste, an emery cloth, so I opted for 7,000 grit paper. If anyone has other suggestions on how to remove the stains don’t be shy.

How does it write? Well, it is scratchy, can’t say I am a fan. If the angle is too steep the nib digs into the paper causing holes. Also, it needs to have the nib and feed heat set (my fingers are blue now). Considering what it looked like when I got it, I guess it writes well.

Vital Statistics

  • Capped length 127mm,
  • Uncapped length 119mm,
  • Barrel diameter is 10mm,
  • The cap diameter is 11mm,
  • The Pen weighs in at 14g.

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Posted in Stories

The Genus of Ink

Whether you find yourself using a ballpoint pen, a gel pen, or a fountain pen, other than the color of the ink who really thinks about the ink?

This seemed like a good topic but once I got to researching the topic, reading the vast amount of information I decided this post would be an exercise in generalization and summarization. The amount of information is overwhelming and yes I am talking about ink for fountain and dip pens.

Fountain pen ink is water with dyes and other chemicals required for the proper function. The chemicals create the properties of the ink, including the surface tension or viscosity (wettability). While the saturation of the dyes provides the color. I know, duh!. Also, present are anti-bacterial chemicals so your ink doesn’t develop a life of its own while in the bottle. Of course molld does bad things to pens!

Types of Inks

There are many, many different inks for pens, so let’s group them as those for dip pens and those for fountain pens. Generally speaking, fountain pen inks do not play well with dip pen nibs. The ink flows too quickly off the nib, causing blotches.

For Dip pens

Art Inks

These are inks used for calligraphy and artwork or drawings. Types of inks that fall into this category include: Carbon inks like India ink and China Black made with fine particles of carbon or soot. And Pigment inks for colors (organic and synthetic).

Document Inks

For over a thousand years documents were written with iron gall inks. These inks rely on the chemistry of oxidizing iron. Usually, gallic acid is used to keep dissolved iron ions in the solution. When the ink is applied to paper, oxygen in the air oxidizes the iron producing a black oxide.

Writing Inks

These inks are not as robust, tending to fade with time. Aniline was one of the first synthetic dyes produced based on a solution of coal-tar dyes in organic solvents. Inks prepared from an aniline dye are dissolved in alcohol and bound with a resin.

For Fountain Pens

Dye-Based Inks

The aniline dyes used in fountain pen inks are organic in nature and subject to molding – just saying. These inks contain chemicals to wet the internal surfaces of the pen. The acidity of the ink has been adjusted to prevent the ink from drying out in the pen while quickly drying on paper.

Pigmented Inks

Traditional pigmented inks are hazardous to fountain pens, gum arabic, or shellac are added as a binding agent. Modern inks do not contain a binding agent and the ink particles are ultrafine. How fine you ask? So fine that molecular vibration called Brownian Motion keeps the particles in suspension.

Iron-Gall Inks

Most modern iron-gall inks should only be used in dip pens, they contain gum arabic. Other modern inks contain Ferro-gallic to increase the permanency of water-based inks. These chemicals are not as corrosive as gallic ink, but they increase the level of corrosiveness of the ink and can damage the nib and pen.

Cellulose-Reactive (Bulletproof) Inks

Bulletproof inks are based on dye technology, and cellulose-reactive chemistry to bind the dyes to the cellulose fibers in the paper or your clothes. Once the bond has been made to the fibers it cannot be removed – the ink stains the paper or your clothes.

Certified Document Inks

Pigmented, Iron-Gall and Cellulose-Reactive inks are all ‘Permanent’ but they are not legally certified to have those properties. De Atramentis Document inks and Mont Blanc Permanent Inks are certified permanent.

Expiration Date

Mont Blanc recommends replacing inks after 4 years because ink properties change with time due to gradual chemical reactions. Unless your ink has turned moldy in the bottle, there is no reason to stop using it.

Ink Staining Pens?

Inks in the red, violet, and pink range are more likely to stain the ink container and the nib section of the pen. The blue-tone inks are generally the least likely to stain. Ink transfers from the nib into the inside of the cap, then the cap is posted on the pen. Providing ample opportunity for ink from the pen cap to stain the body of the pen.

A good part of the “ink experience” is often summarized by how it flows. Always give your pen a good cleaning. Inks frequently leave residue in converters. If residue is in the converter, it is in the feed and nothing good is happening.

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Posted in Stories

Plastic vs Ebonite Feeds

….Continued

Plastic Feeds

Fun Fact: Contemporary plastic feeds are made from the same plastic used in the manufacture of Lego blocks – so I’ve been told – hmmm. I did not verify this with Lego.

Plastic feeds are now designed with specific surface properties to promote ink flow by capillary action, this was not always the case and for near-perfect air compensation. These plastic feeds are injection molded for economic and precision mass production, benefiting the bottom line, quality control, and user experience. Through injection molding, manufactures are able to attain such a tight tolerance as to eliminate heat fitting. In this fashion, everybody has the same experience and you can be assured that the next pen purchase will be as enjoyable if not better than the previous purchase.

Visconti switched to plastic feeds for two reasons, quality and performance. I’m hearing this 3rd hand but they claim the average quality of a plastic feed is much higher than a well-made ebonite feed. Through plastics they were able to better manage air compensation, permitting higher air pressure gap management. Don’t forget that 70 years ago commercial air flights were rare; therefore, air compensation was limited to weather changes and skyscrapers.

Cons

Plastic feeds, from what I have read, need to be treated with an etchant or something similar to achieve a similar effect. Remember it is not possible to tune a plastic feed. An engineer with Lamy, (again hearing this 3rd hand) said of plastic feeds, “it took a lot of different chemical treatments to make the plastic feeds as rough as the sawn (a past participle of saw) ebonite ones.” While others claim chemicals were never used on plastic feeds to make them wettable.

Plastic feeds need more time to properly function when the nib is applied to paper. The smooth surface of the plastic repels water and requires a rough finish to allow the ink to flow properly via capillary action. Thus if you manually adjust a plastic feed by cutting an ink channel, there is a chance the surface will repel the ink and the feed will no longer work.

Final thoughts

Ebonite pen feeds are handmade on a lathe and mill like vintage pens, the human element adds to the personality of the pen. Hard rubber (ebonite) was one of the first, if not the first plastic. Establishing a tradition! Along came ABS Plastic with the advantage that feeds can be mass produced using injection molding, a process not only much cheaper but more precise, delivering more consistent quality of performance to the pen owner.

BECAUSE, like so often with tradition, things are done the way they have always been done – BECAUSE. Ebonite feeds should still be machined from hard rubber but not BECAUSE, but for the novelty and to honor the tradition.

To close, lets answer the question of which material makes a better fountain pen feed. Applying Sherlock Holmes’s deductive reasoning, ebonite is hard rubber which is considered plastic. Whereas, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene is plastic and considered plastic thus feeds made with either material is made with plastic, argument solved!

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Posted in Stories

Ebonite vs Plastic Feeds

The inspiration for this post hit me when I was reviewing a vintage Arnold pen, it has a super cheap plastic feed. Once I got to researching the topic, reading the vast number of opinions and thoughts it became clear this was going to be a long post. How was I to organize it: fact vs fiction, plastic vs ebonite, pros vs cons… It quickly became obvious that I needed to split the topic into 2 posts so I can stay within the 600-word self mandate.

What is ebonite? It’s a vulcanized natural rubber used as an inexpensive replacement for ebony wood. What is ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) plastic? It’s an inexpensive replacement for ebonite. Now that we have established both are cost saving solutions to a manufacturing challenge we can move on.

The Feed

Let’s start with a quick primer on fountain pen mechanics. The feed is the part that sits under the nib and supplies ink from inside the pen. Contemporary feeds are usually made of plastic, while vintage feeds are made of ebonite. Feeds contains 1 or more ink channels to draw ink from inside the pen using capillary action (thank Leonardo da Vinci) — the nib’s ink slit draws the ink from the feed to the tip. Most feeds have distinctive fins to hold excess ink thus regulating the ink flow.

For the feed to work, it needs to be sitting flush against the underside of the nib, free of clogs in the ink channel or fins. These tiny channels allow air to flow into the ink reservoir while ink flows down. Ink flow depends upon the width of both the ink channel and air channel. The ink also needs to be of the correct viscosity for capillary action to pull it through the feed, this means NO India ink in fountain pens!

The Physics

Wetting or wettability – is the ability of ink to maintain contact with a solid surface (the feed). Adhesive forces between the ink and the feed cause the ink to spread across the surface of the feed via capillary action. Capillary action is when a liquid automatically draws itself into thin tubes. The most common example of capillary action is water spreading across a paper towel. For more in-depth discussion on fountain pen physics I recommend this article on Ravens March Fountain Pens.

Ebonite feed

Ebonite is favored because it is easily wetted with ink and it won’t bead up on an ebonite surface because it is textured. The milling process naturally leaves micro scratches on the feed which are required for capillary action. Machining ebonite is a difficult process, the tools need to be kept sharp. Each ebonite feed is made on an individual basis by hand – workmanship.

With ebonite, you can make adjustments to the feed as needed. The feed can be sanded, milled, or bent to increase or decrease ink flow. The Noodlers flex line of pens uses an ebonite feed for this very reason. Those pens often require adjustments to correct their ink flow and this is only possible with an ebonite feed.

Cons

Each Ebonite feed is hand cut and finished, making them subject to quality issues and expensive. The milling process is also a strike against ebonite as ebonite feeds cannot be created by laser. It’s time-consuming work on a lathe and mill, using metal tools some as small as .015mm in diameter. The ebonite is very abrasive thus the tooling has a very short life, adding to the cost. The ability to repeatedly cut the same-sized groove is nearly impossible and groove size impacts ink flow.

Besides, have you ever noticed how long it takes to wash an ebonite feed?

To Be Continued ……

Posted in Collection, Pens, Stories

Building a Collection of Pens & When to Say Enough

Earlier this month, I was in a meeting with my work colleagues where I diligently took notes. Throughout the meeting I got odd looks …. as I was writing with my 1928 Duofold. The discussion eventually turned to my pen. I gladly passed the pen around for each to examine and use. None could believe the pen was 90+ years old. I explained that collecting and refurbishment of vintage fountain pens is a hobby of mine. That I bought this pen, restored it and since it was personalized researched the original owner.

My collection, to the amusement of myself, “is not a collection” as I don’t collect pens (lying to myself). Initially, I would not admit to collecting pens, but as fountain pen people know, they have a way of accumulating – it just happens. My collection generally hovers around 40 pens after periodic culling. So how did it all begin?

Glad you ask and truth be told, I do not know how it happened. At first, I owned a couple inexpensive Waterman and all was perfect. A decade later, I inherited a couple inoperative Esterbrooks, taught myself how to repair and restore them. BAM, I was hooked. Magically, my interest expanded to include French, and English pens now most recently, Turkish, Chinese and Indian pens.

There are three primary types of pens: 1) dip pens which are dipped into an inkwell, 2) fountain pens with a self-contained ink reservoir, and 3) ballpoint pens with a little ball that allows ink to flow out when the pen is put to paper. All three types are available as contemporary or vintage pens. Vintage pens are highly collectible and come in a wide variety of colors and styles, ranging from those with elaborate gold casings to simple plastic cigar-shaped designs. Contemporary pens are readily available with lazer etched designs, amazing color schemes, custom designs or simple plastic designs.

Vintage, Modern or Both

Keep in mind, collecting pens is not a good investment, I do this for fun. The people who collect vintage pens tend to be history nerds or enjoy nostalgia, which is why my wife calls me a “loser.” There is nothing stopping you from including both vintage and contemporary pens in your collection.

How does one make a decision and not break the bank. For starters, I focused on pens a little off the beaten path, something odd just like me. Do not let anyone tell you what you should or should not like. When you’re first starting off or simply focusing on a small collection – every choice counts, and to me I’d think twice before looking at “boring” pens because someone told me I “had to have it” in my collection.

To me dip pens are interesting, ballpoint pens are boring – I primarily focus on fountain pens. A couple pointers that may help you skinny down that list of potential pens:

  • Aesthetically pleasing or unique
  • Something with everyday comfort
  • Something fancy and shiny
  • Cool filler system
  • And always consider the nib

Acquiring Pens

Let me begin with once you find and acquire pen #1 it’s not long before you find another one to lust after. Even worse, you develop FOMO (fear of missing out). With that warning in mind, contemporary pens are readily available at Amazon, Jetpens, Pen Boutique, Vanness, Etsy, even Kickstarter plus the better stationary stores – the internet provides many options. Vintage pens are more for the individuals who enjoy the chase. A good place to search for fountain pens is at flea markets and some antique shops. Be aware some dealers may expect a premium that is not justified by quality. eBay is also a popular destination, the pen will most likely not be functional and don’t forget the ever present “buyer beware.” As with contemporary pens, the internet is a good place to acquire refurbished quality vintage pens, like David Nishimura’s VintagePen.com, and Tim’s Vintage Pens. A fun option is a pen show, where both contemporary and vintage pens are available.

Not so much about acquisition, but look for a local pen enthusiast group. Most often they can be found on Facebook. These groups are an invaluable source of information and support.

How Much Should This Cost?

Chinese pens can cost as little as $5 while premium pens can sell for over a $1,000. I do not buy expensive pens, I enjoy the challenge of finding inexpensive pens that write well, so 90% of my pens cost under $50. I recommend before making any purchase, take the time to research selling prices. And lastly, always stay within your budget.

Final Thoughts

Our expectations disappoint us, not our collections. There is obviously nothing wrong with having goals and dreams but don’t expect to achieve them quickly or reach those goals within a small or specific amount of time. – New-Lune.com

I’d rather buy a variety of inexpensive pens than a single expensive pen. This allows me the flexibility to explore options without feeling guilty and to enjoy myself. Also, it is easy to sell inexpensive pens. So be yourself and have fun.

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Posted in Restoration

Esterbrook Green Pastel

Company Back Story

In 1858, entrepreneur Richard Esterbrook established the “Esterbrook Pen Company” in Camden, NJ, which would become one of the biggest and most beloved pen makers in the world. The company started out producing dip pens before concentrating on fountain pens in 1932. At its height, Esterbrook was the largest pen manufacturer in the United States, employing 600 workers, producing 216,000,000 pens a year.

Esterbrook’s most popular and best selling pens were the J series. Of which, the double jeweled models came out around 1948, expanding in the 1950’s with the Pastels. First generation pastels have double black jewels while subsequent models came with matching colored jewels. The Pastels are very “of that era” 1950’s. They are shorter than the Esterbrook J, and came in solid pastel colors. The pens were marketed primarily to women as purse pens.

My Pen

I bought this pen in part as an impulse buy because the dog had just eaten my first Pastel. Though I acted on impulse, I did exercise good judgement focusing on the quality of the pen. That being said, this pen is in exceptional condition, yes I’d go so far as call it cherry much like the one the dog ate. The pen has no tooth marks, scratches nor is the barrel discolored by sunlight.

To my surprise, while cleaning the nib and preparing to remove the section I learned that the last ink used in the pen was green, image that. Another interesting surprise came about when I was removing the old ink sac. A large portion with “Esterbroo”k printed on the side came out. I guess this is the original sac.

Since the pen was in great shape, remember no tooth marks or major scratches, a light cleaning was all that was needed. I installed a new #16 ink sac and we are back in business. Looking good don’t you think?

And YES, I am keeping it away from the dog.

Vital statistics

  • Capped 108mm in length
  • Barrel diameter 8mm
  • Uncapped 100mm in length
  • Weighs in at 11g capped
Sorry my hand writing is so horrible.