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April 2021 Musings

Repair Bench Notes

Aspiring Nib Tech or Restorer?

Each month we will share some of the nib and restoration issues that we frequently see.

Linda's Bench:

For years, we have preached good pen hygiene and the use of fountain pen friendly/safe inks. While searching for a specific pen in our pen cases, we came across two that had been emptied but not cleaned, then put up. Even as professionals, we make mistakes, get busy, and sometimes forget to do the proper cleaning for pens taken out of rotation. These pens sat for over a year, emptied but not cleaned.

These nibs are plated steel JoWo nibs. In both cases, the pens were soaked overnight in flush and followed up with a couple of rounds in the ultrasonic cleaner, first in flush and then in water. This was enough to release the ink locked nibs and feeds, allowing them to be removed from the pens. The nibs were then run through the ultrasonic cleaner again, first in flush, then in water. The nib on the left was in a pen with Waterman’s Mysterious Blue ink; the one on the right was in a pen with a boutique ink.
As you can see, the plating on the nib that was used with Waterman ink is still pristine, but the nib that was used with the boutique ink was not so fortunate. Curious about the extent of damage, we put the nib on the right under the microscope and found that the metal itself has begun to break down, flake, and pit.

For those of you who don’t accept that some inks can damage your pens, the poor nib on the right would beg to differ. It is also why we always recommend Waterman’s Mysterious Blue ink, especially for your vintage pens. Don’t do as we did. When you empty your pen, take the time to clean it properly. In the long run, you and your pens will be much happier.

Mike's Bench:
While O-rings come in all shapes and sizes, sometimes what you need is just not available to create a good seal in a syringe or piston filler. On some pens, the shaft section that originally held clay, cork, or rubber is just too small in diameter to get a seal on both the shaft and the inside of the pen barrel at the same time. In these cases, it is necessary to build up the shaft for an O-ring that fits the inside of the barrel but has an inside diameter that is too large for the shaft. Styrene tubing comes in several sizes, and you can even drill it out if you cannot find an inside diameter to fit properly on the shaft. Once you manage to get the right diameter to fit the shaft, don't forget to seal the tubing to the shaft so that ink and air cannot escape between the two. For this you will need a solvent that will work on the materials of which both parts are made. For example, to fuse celluloid and polystyrene, a good solvent is methyl ethyl ketone (MEK).

Pro Tip:If you utilize an ultrasonic cleaner, be sure to use one that is not too strong or is heated. Anything over 50 watts can damage your pens and the chemicals you use can heat up quickly when used for an extended period of time. Use small containers inside of your cleaner so you can do more than one pen at a time. Place your containers in the ultrasonic cleaner tub then fill to the desired level with water. This also allows you to use more than one chemical at a time, such as flush, water, and Rapido-Eze. If you must put a pen in nib down fold up a small strip of paper towel so the nib is not vibrating against the bottom of your container. Worried about the temperature of the water getting too high? Try using a digital aquarium thermometer with probe to monitor your temperature. These little gems are around five bucks and come in handy.

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