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August 2020 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:
One of the nibs that came in for smoothing this month, included the following note from the owner.
"When I start out writing my nib is smooth and a joy to use, but as I go across the paper it becomes scratchy. The farther I write, the worse it feels. I also get uneven ink flow when this happens. When I start the next line, it is normal until I get about halfway along the line. Can you fix this?"
When I examined the nib it was in good shape. There was no baby's bottom and the tines were in alignment. The slit was also properly spaced. I filled the pen and tested it, and it was as they described, "smooth and a joy to use". However, as I kept writing, this didn't change. 
So, what did I do to "fix" the nib's scratchy feeling and ink flow issues?
Nothing. The nib didn't really have an issue, other than the way it was being used. Fountain pen nibs need both tines on the paper at the same time, no matter where in the written line you are.
Most likely, based on the owner's description, the issue was the manner in which the owner wrote with the pen.
If you are not moving your arm as you go across the paper, you are most likely writing with your fingers and/or wrist. When writing like this you have to stretch to reach the paper from half way or so on. When you write in this manner, without moving either your arm or the paper, you are unwittingly rotating your pen. When you rotate the nib far enough, you start to write on the tipping in a way that is not meant to work. By using the outer edge of the tip (when writing left to right) you are lifting the tip of one tine off the paper, and you will have ink flow issues. Remember, both tines have to touch the paper at the same time so that the nib can skim across the top of the ink, and pull the ink evenly into the letters you create. If it doesn't and your nib is touching the paper rather than riding on the ink, it is going to feel a bit scratchy.
If this is happening to you, either move the paper over so you are not reaching, or have some fun and teach yourself to use your arm when writing instead of using your fingers and wrist. This is the basis of the Palmer Method!

Mike's Bench:
A postwar Sheaffer Balance came in for a filling system restoration. Upon removing the section from the pen barrel, we found a strip of paper attached to the section tenon. This was done years ago because the visualated section, which was made of celluloid, had shrunk and no longer maintained a tight enough friction fit to stay secure in the barrel. This was common practice back in the day, but we have since learned that over time the paper distorts the barrel opening. Warming the barrel and rolling it on the bench removed much of the distortion. To get the section to fit properly once again, we applied a thin coat of shellac to the section and allowed it to dry thoroughly before test fitting. After a couple of coats we got the proper fit and were able to complete the restoration.

Pro Tip:
If you use buff sticks for smoothing nibs, only use Micro-Mesh brand. The cheap nail buffs you can find at health and beauty stores are not made to keep the abrasive on the buff, but rather to wear off as you use it. This abrasive material is not something you want lodged in your nib and feed.

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