|THE EXPLODING BALLPOINT REFILL
We frequently receive ballpoints of various brands and persuasions where the refill has leaked or exploded inside the barrel and mechanism causing considerable and more often than not, irrepairable damage to the cap, mechanism and barrel. Ballpoint refills either leak or explode due to being exposed to heat or, old age. Ballpoint ink causes permanent staining to modern acrylics and penetrates them. It also ruins most ballpoint mechanisms and caps. Regardless of brand, most ballpoint refills are manufactured by Schmidt of Germany who recommend a shelf and usage life of 12 months. Remove refills from ballpoints which are stored for any period of time and don't leave ballpoints in the sun or otherwise exposed to heat. In most cases, a ballpoint affected by a leaking or exploding refill can never be restored to its prior condition. So serious is the effect of ballpoint ink, removal of all ink staining and residue is simply not possible and when we receive affected ballpoints, often recommend their entire replacement
ONOTO ADVERTISING FIGURINE
The "Onoto Man" (for want of a better name), was acquired as part of a pen collection from the descendants of a pen shop proprietor, well known in Hobart, Tasmania. It is extremely rare and a similar figurine has not been seen by the world's Onoto expert, Stephen Hull. Made of solid plaster and standing around 600 mm tall, the figurine is believed to date from 1925. Searches don't reveal a similar figurine although Stephen Hull's excellent book "Onoto the Pen" contains images of other Onoto advertising figurines, this one is not featured.
THE MOST FREQUENTLY DROPPED PENS
After scores of nib repairs from dropped pens over many years, we now have a very clear picture of the "ladder leaders". The most frequently dropped - the Lamy 2000 closely followed by Aurora 88 and then Visconti Homo Sapiens. Says something about the popularity of these pens or, is it their barrel finishes which contribute to the phenomena? Thankfully, in all cases we have been able to save the nibs' owners from the expense of nib replacement by far more economical repair.
We have tried for some time to avoid writing this article as it will doubtless, raise controversy and further issues, some of which we can and cannot answer. However, constant questions demand some answers.
The fundamental (at least in our view), is preservation of the pen, its nib, mechanism and cosmetic parts. If we accept that as a basic proposition, why do we see pens that have been filled with indian ink, white (and other coloured) drawing ink, paint, specialist calligraphic inks, heavily dyed and saturated inks and astonishingly, ink made for an inkjet printer! Stupidity or, ignorance - perhaps the latter.
In our view, inks fall in to four categories:
1. Good, basic fountain pen ink - the well known and trusted brands of basic ink. What is basic ink? Simple - water, colour (containing no sediments) and often, a little glycol (to prevent it freezing in Northern countries), and an anti-fungal additive. Generally, the major ink brands conform to this basic specification but vary enormously in flow qualities depending on colour and brand. What flows well in one pen may not necessarily in another. There are PH issues and so many other variables that scientific articles of hundreds of pages just don't answer the right questions for writers. Be aware of PH issues as strongly acidic or alkaline ink can destroy metal and cosmetic components.The ideal is to find inks which advertise PH neutral qualities. Use what you like and what does no harm to the pen so long as it is a well known, tried and trusted brand of ink. The major brands including Diamine and KWZ standard range inks cause no problems with most pens.
2. Exotic inks - the heavily dyed variety which contains particulates or sediment. There are four prominent brands of these inks which for the sake of convenience, we will describe as "PR", "N", "PI" and "JH". The content of these inks has been known to clog pens, decompose latex ink sacs, generate mould and permanently stain pens. Some other exotic inks are known to destroy pen sacs, mechanisms and metal parts. If you value your pen, avoid these types of inks.
3. Vintage ink - put simply, avoid it like the plague. Most vintage inks contain heavy sediments and often, mould. Vintage inks were a simple mixture of water and ochre (colour) which was not properly dissolved. Two major manufacturers decades ago, developed "ink packs" designed for formulation by sub-contractors. Simply, they were ink in powder form to which water was added and the product mixed. Predictably, they today contain huge levels of sediment and as a consequence, high doses of active salts which quickly destroy most pens.
4. Iron gall inks - the safest examples in our experience are Diamine's Registrar's Ink and KWZ's iron gall range. Other brands are, according to our experiments, known to cause damage to both pens and often, paper. The best advice is that offered by KWZ Inks:
Iron Gall series by KWZ Ink refers to the type of ink used in medieval times for writing manuscripts, but is designed as modern fountain pen friendly ink. It is gaining popularity because the written notes are extremely long lasting on paper, as the colour is darkening over time opposite to some common inks, which tend to fade over years. Writing with it is fun, as the colour is changing immediately just in front of your eyes, for example pink is becoming violet or orange is becoming brown. The written notes are also water resistant to some extent. The dyes can be washed away, but the iron gall component is permanently bonded with paper, so the text is still easy to read even after soaking.
The pen filled with IG inks however needs some special care, similar to when any permanent ink is used. It is recommended not to leave it unused for a long time in order not to let the ink dry out in the pen, otherwise it might be difficult to clean the ink off the pen. If IG inks are used on a daily basis, there are no special requirements.
The range of Iron Gall KWZ Inks includes three types. IG Mandarin and Aztec Gold is Light Iron Gall - it means that the iron gall component concentration is very low and the maintenance doesn't differ from using standard ink. On the contrary, IG Blue-Black is Archive Iron Gall, which means that the concentration of iron gall component is very high, thus it is the most water resistant and the most permanent of the whole IG KWZ Ink range. All the other IG KWZ Inks - blues, greens, violets, reds or brown are the medium type where the iron component concentration is high enough to make the notes everlasting, but low enough to be highly convenient in daily use.
These iron gall notes are courtesy of Agnieszka Zurawski of KWZ Inks
We are always interested to hear the experience of others with various brands and types of ink. Please let us know your views.
PENS WITH FLEXIBLE NIBS
If there is one question which we are asked constantly - "Can you tell me which of your pens has a flexible nib and gives good line variation?" We don't rate pens by nib flexibility.
We deal in thousands of pens annually both on a retail and wholesale basis. We can't remember which pen has a flexible nib and which does not. But, if we see a pen with a nib we consider to be flexible, we note it as such in our description of the pen. As is obvious, we advertise and catalogue pens for retail sale by brand, not by nib flexibility. Pardon us for being old-fashioned but the make, model and condition of a pen is far more important than the seemingly ever-increasing obsession for a flexible nib which will produce a line variation between 0.01 mm and 3.0 mm in one stroke. There is no such nib.
Nib re-tippers and specialist re-grinders (see below), will produce special nib tips and grinds which offer some but, not magic flexibility. Then there is the next problem - what is flexible in one hand is not in another's hand. Sensible nib users don't over-stress a nib in seeking line variation. Hence, they buy a pen and nib which suits their usual (rather than over-emphasised), writing style. Others seek magical variation from a stock nib by too much nib pressure, over-stressing a nib to the point where it becomes "sprung", cracks and is either rendered useless or requires expensive annealing and re-soldering by us.
There is also the unfortunate belief that extra fine and fine nibs can be pushed and over-stressed to produce line widths which are three or four times the width of the nib. Good luck with that as they'll either spring, crack or worse still, fracture completely.
The moral of this short story:
As authorised Sheaffer repairers, we are often asked the question by end-users and retailers - "what about the Sheaffer Lifetime Warranty as the pen has a White Dot?" Most Sheaffers have the White Dot but its significance is only as a trade mark. It is not a representation of a lifetime warranty. The "Lifetime Warranty" is misunderstood by many, retailers included. The explanation:
By the way, fair wear and tear and old age are not manufacturing defects in materials or workmanship. Despite the claims of many to the contrary, there is no "lifetime warranty" in respect of Sheaffer pens just because they carry the White Dot. Save for the two modern warranties set out above, seems that for any other Sheaffer pen to qualify for the lifetime warranty, it must be a fountain pen, carry the "LIFETIME" imprint on its nib, still be in the hands of its first owner and be manufactured many decades ago.
Nothing of course affects warranties implied by legislation in particular countries.
INK FLOW PROBLEMS
More than frequently, we deal with "ink flow problems" experienced by our clients which can be easily solved. These are a few tips we are happy to impart:
We do grind nibs which can sensibly be re-ground as well as smoothing nibs. We have recently invested in new nib grinding equipment which is equivalent to anything else in the world. We also solder nib cracks. We do not re-tip nibs (as much as we would like to), as the electronic welding equipment necessary is far too expensive to justify in the Australian pen repair environment. If a nib needs re-tipping, we recommend either of Greg Minuskin (US) or Carlos Garcia (Spain). See:
Nib grinding is a sensitive art which requires a great deal of time to properly cut and grind a nib to a client's order. Some of our clients expect the impossible. No, it is not possible to re-grind and extra fine nib to a broad stub. Often, we see brand new nibs, the tipping of which is pitted. Put another way, it has not been properly finished by the nib manufacturer. Pitted nib tips are difficult to properly smooth.
HARD RUBBER AND PEN STORAGE
A common question - "why are my pens' plated components going brown or black". Often, the correct answer is - "they are stored with hard rubber pens or pens with hard rubber components, often a section."
Hard rubber (vulcanite) has a number of components including iron filings and sulphur. The iron filings aren't too bad but as many of us know, the sulphur component in hard rubber pen components causes rapid fading when exposed to both light and water. Some forms of hard rubber simply fade with age regardless of light or water exposure. Pens with hard rubber components stored with others will cause rapid oxidisation of plated components, not only on the hard rubber pens but, to others stored adjacent to them.
Whilst there are various forms of hard rubber restoration, some which cosmetically work and others which fail dismally, none of the restoration methods stop the sulphur vapour constantly given off by hard rubber components. Vapour volumes increase with age. It follows that pens with hard rubber components should be stored separately from others to prevent plating oxidisation of pens which are hard rubber free. It is the reaction of sulphur with air we are trying to prevent but, wih hard rubber pens, it is virtually impossible because we do not, under any circumstances, store pens in an airtight situation.
The next problem. When hard rubber gives off vapour, that vapour will oxidise plating in the same "atmosphere" as the hard rubber. There are two types of oxidisation we need to be concerned with. Firstly, surface oxidisation if the pen's plated components have been "properly plated". It is easily removed by light polishing. Secondly, we need to be concerned with plated pen components which have not been "properly plated" - for instance, a simple, single layer of gold plating over a brass clip - it wont work! Oxidisation of the brass base of the clip will simply leach through the plated layer causing irreversible brassing. The basic brass clip needs to be nickel or silver plated prior to the application of the gold plating layer. We pre-plate with silver before applying the gold plated layer.
Two good rules follow:
1. Store hard rubber pens and pens with hard rubber components away from other pens; and
2. Poor plating will inevitably fail and is exacerbated severely by hard rubber oxidisation.
PENS, PLASTIC BAGS AND PLASTIC CONTAINERS
Put simply, please don't do it. It is always convenient to put that brand new vintage acquisition in a plastic sleeve, bag or container. Trouble is that such storage has two fundamental problems. Firstly, plastic bags and containers emit unfortunate vapours which over time, do permanent damage to both hard rubber and celluloid pens. Secondly, plastic (or any other form of airtight storage), attracts condensation which quickly degrades plated surfaces to the point of premature oxidisation, rust and copper leaching.
Two examples we have recently seen:
1. A Melbourne collector recently presented us with 17 reasonably good pens which sadly, had been stored in plastic bags for 10 or more years. The clips and other plated parts of each of those pens were beyond redemption, re-plating or, any form of restoration; and
2. We restore for a well known Australian museum which, until our intervention, prided itself on its (non-display) storage of its fine collection of vintage pens in plastic tubes. A number of these fine pieces were made of celluloid caps and barrels and with hard rubber sections. Not only did hundreds of pens suffer from oxidisation (and rusting) of plated parts, there were in a number of instances, total failure of the celluloid barrel/section joint, resulting in a virtual "melting" of the celluloid. Much of its "fine collection" was rendered (permanently) useless as a consequence of poor storage techniques.
The lessons learned:
A. No plastic storage of any form for pens;
B. Store pens in a well ventilated situation and;
C. Well away from natural or artificial light.
SO CALLED "BULLET PROOF" INKS
We hear a lot about these inks. Just exactly, what is "bullet proof"? Water proof, fade proof or, fraud proof? Let's face it - how many of us drown our written work, leave it in the sun or, subject our written work to peril from fraudsters?
Be careful of these "magic" inks at least three brands of which are known to constantly clog fountain pens and one brand which "eats through" paper!
There is only one form of permanent ink which has been around for thousands of years - ferro-gallic ink. The Dead Sea Scrolls were written with it and many of them still survive today. Ferro gallic ink (known today as "iron gall"), was once composed of iron sulfate and tannic acid which set up a chemical reaction that causes ink to bite its way into paper as the ink oxidises. The old forms of ferro gallic ink produced sulfuric acid which over centuries, has eaten in to paper. The modern form of ferro gallic ink such as Diamine Registrars' Ink eliminates paper corrosion in a more modern formulation which comprises a balanced ratio of ingredients as opposed to the time-honoured, gung-ho recipe of adding excessive amounts of tannic acid, causing an obvious problem. Modern ferro gallic ink increases in indelibility the longer it oxidises. In its purest form, ferro gallic ink is very pale on paper. For that reason, a non-indelible dye is added to it so it is visible when writing. By way of example, Diamine Registrars' Ink writes as blue but, soon oxidises to black. The non-indelible blue dye may disappear but, the oxidised black ink is so permanent, not even bleach can remove it.
Diamine Registrars' Ink is a very suitable water proof, fade proof and fraud proof ink. It does not clog fountain pens and can be used with absolute confidence. Diamine Registrar's Ink is available from us. See our Diamine page.
We also distribute and highly recommend the KWZ range of iron gall inks which dry true to colour. See the article above entitled "Inks" for further information.