Monday, September 15, 2014

Conway Stewart bankruptcy and liquidation

Last week it was announced that Conway Stewart was under administration, with the possibility of an imminent sale mentioned. Now it seems that if there is to be any sale, it will be of the name alone, for the physical assets of the company are up for auction, starting the day after tomorrow. In addition to the expected machinery, furniture, and the like, the catalog lists a good number of pens -- including quite a few vintage pieces, undoubtedly acquired as reference specimens.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Pelikan 100N seals

The latest addition to our fountain pen seal selection is shown above: replacement piston seals for the Pelikan 100N. Late-production 100N pens with acrylic barrels use the same seals as the Pelikan 400, but many earlier 100N barrels are slightly oversize -- 9.1-9.2mm, instead of 9.0mm. These translucent green seals are similar in shape to our translucent white and black 400 seals, but are a bit larger and a bit softer as well. They are also a good choice for Pelikan barrels which are now oversize due to reaming to remove interior roughness (or to accommodate other oversize seals on the market). For pricing, see our catalog, or contact us for details on quantity discounts.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Bender pneumatic-filler

Most pen collectors can readily recite the lineage of pneumatic-fillers (pens with sacs compressed by air pressure), from Crocker's 1901 blow-filler patent to Chilton's incorporation of a hollow plunger in the mid-1920s, and thence to Sheaffer introduction of the Touchdown system in 1949.  Few indeed, however, recognize the name of Frederick William Bender, who patented and briefly produced a plunger-operated pneumatic-filler some fifteen years before Chilton.

I confess that I would be no exception, were it not for a New Jersey pen friend's discovery of a Bender pen earlier this year. That got me digging into its story, and after managing to acquire the pen I was able to dig into the pen itself -- a story in itself.

As the pen came to me, it had been converted a long time ago to a twist-filler. The inner end of the plunger had been plugged with a piece of wood sloppily glued in place, covered with the end of a rubber sac, and then used as the mounting nipple for the inner end of the tube-sac. That sac was further secured by being tied with silk thread, with the other end attached to the section nipple in conventional style.

Once all the added bits had been carefully removed, the original metal fitting became visible. Note that there is an axial hole running all the way through this assembly, including the external filling knob in hard rubber, which screws on the other end. The inner end of the plunger tube is mushroomed over, clearly to hold the piston washer. Below is the assembly with a new rubber washer installed, and with the hard rubber tube that covers the hollow brass plunger shaft.

As found, this tube had been pushed into the pen's body until it was flush with the end of the barrel. This must have been done when the pen was converted into a twist-filler, with the tube -- luckily, left uncut -- used as a bushing. Restored, it looks like this when extended:

Filling is done just as it is with a Chilton. The plunger is extended, a finger is placed on its end to block the central vent hole, the plunger is depressed, and the finger is then released, allowing the compressed air in the barrel to escape and the flattened sac to reinflate. The pen works exactly as described in Bender's US patent 825442, issued on July 10, 1906, noting that the patent does not specify the details of the piston seal.

This was not Bender's first pen-related invention, as he had applied for patents in 1903 and 1904 which were granted in 1904 and 1905 as US patents 772204 and 784538. Both dealt with internal valve arrangements of unnecessary complexity, likely never produced. His pneumatic-filler was a much better idea, however, and on October 19, 1908, The F. William Bender Company was incorporated to manufacture the new pen. As noted in Geyer's Stationer, vol. 46, October 29, 1908, p. 22:
ARTICLES of incorporation of the F. William Bender Company have been filed with the County Clerk of Hudson County, New Jersey. The company will manufacture fountain pens, with offices at No. 47 Newark street, Hoboken. The capital is placed at $50,000, divided into 500 shares of the par value of $100. The incorporators are Frederick William and Henry Bender, of Hoboken, and Conrad Goldbecker, of No. 183 Hackensack plank road, Weehawken. F. W. Bender, for many years in the insurance business at Hoboken, is the patentee of the pen, which is to be known as the “Bender Pneumatic Filler Fountain Pen." The pen is said to possess many advantages as a self filler. The holder is partly glass, though rubber covered, and contains a rubber sack. There is a plunger at the top, with an air vent which, when pulled out and released to settle back, sends out the air and draws up the ink. The company has a factory in Hoboken, but is looking for a New York location.
A shorter mention in the American Stationer, vol. 64, November 7, 1908, p. 12, adds no details, but gives the name of the third partner as C. Goldbeck, rather than Goldbecker. As far as I can tell, no glass components can be found in our Bender pen.

How long did the Bender pen company last? It was still a going concern when the March 1910 edition of Polk's (Trow's) New York Copartnership and Corporation Directory was compiled (vol. 58,  p. 77), but it is no longer listed in the 1914 edition. Bender himself died on February 7, 1912, at the age of 59. His obituary in the New York Sun of February 8, 1912, p. 7, col. 6, appears below:

From this account and others, it is apparent that for Bender the fountain pen business was a sideline. Only in the stationery trade press was his pen venture highlighted, as in this brief death notice in Geyer's Stationer, vol. 53, April 4, 1912, p. 5: "F. W. Bender, inventor of a safety fountain pen that has has considerable export business, died recently in his home in Hoboken, N. J." Where this export business might have been, remains to be discovered. As is, I have yet to find so much as a single advertisement for Bender's pen, or any mentions beyond what has been cited above.

Bender's last pen patent, 1098469, for an adjustable feed, was issued posthumously on June 2, 1914. The application had originally been filed on August 6, 1910, but was renewed on April 14, 1914 under the name of his widow, Pauline Bender, as executrix.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

New seals for Pelikan 100N, 400, 120, and 140

Although we started selling replacement seals for Pelikans some time ago, we were never entirely satisfied with them. They were larger than the originals and softer, and did not always fit securely enough onto the piston shaft -- to the point that in some cases they had to be glued in place. The first ones were also bright blue, which looked nothing like the originals when viewed through the ink window, and the later ones weren't much better, being off-white.

We decided we could do better, and now the results are in: seals just like the originals, that fit securely, and made in both clear and black -- the latter giving an accurate original appearance to Pelikan 100N pens equipped with the early black synthetic seals.

They are now listed in our catalog, and will shortly be listed on eBay as well. Resellers interested in wholesale quantities should contact us directly for pricing.

UPDATE: Most earlier Pelikan 100N pens have a barrel that is slightly larger (0.1-0.2mm) inside than the 9.0mm standard for the later, acrylic-barreled 100Ns and the 400, 120, 140, etc. For these pens, we now have oversize seals in translucent green.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Dating a Waterman instruction sheet

George Kovalenko has been trying for some time to pin down exactly when Waterman first offered pens in red hard rubber. He has managed to narrow down the likely point of introduction to somewhere between November 1906 and February 1907, as is explained on his pen history blog. So when the pen below crossed my path, the instruction sheet accompanying it caught my eye as fitting neatly into this chronology.

The pen is a smooth 0512 1/2, in a Christmas box with a gift inscription dated 1910. The instruction sheet gives much space to promoting the new "Clip-Cap", and from the way the clip is represented and from the range of materials offered, the date must be right around 1906.

This is also consistent with the listing of spare parts on the same sheet, shown below. Parts are listed as plain, chased, or mottled -- Cardinal is not mentioned. Both #3 and #7-size pens are still in the lineup, as are the desk pens (eyedroppers with long, tapered barrels, too long to be carried in a pocket).

Intriguingly, the parts list includes two models I have never seen nor heard of, oversize taper-caps in #7 and #8-size.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Printing problems with and an HP Deskjet

This has nothing to do with pens, but since I had no luck Googling for an answer, I thought I'd share the solution that finally worked for me. Printing from the software to my HP D1300-series Deskjet worked fine under Windows XP. Under Windows 7 Pro it was another story. With standard settings, using print spooling, nothing would print (the print queue would read "1" for an instant, and then back to "0", without the printer making a sound). With print spooling off, sending documents directly to the printer, none of my other applications could print, while printing took incredibly long -- maybe a half-hour to print an envelope, for example.

Using a reference driver wasn't an option, as HP doesn't appear to offer one for this series of printers. In the end, however, the tech I talked to suggested that I try printing to the built-in Microsoft XPS Document Writer -- essentially, printing to a file -- and then printing from that file. A bit of a workaround, but it does the trick.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Ups and downs

Some ups and downs this week, the big "down" being the loss of a pen to credit card fraud (if you are offered the BHR Duofold Deluxe with the distinctive engravings shown above, it's stolen).

A nice "up" to end the week, however, was the successful restoration of the early Moore safety shown above. The pen was bought at the Chicago pen show auction; there was a gaping crack at the front of the barrel, and another in the end knob. The latter was the result of screwing the knob onto the shaft too far, splitting it from the inside end. The knob was removed from the shaft, relaxed and reformed with heat, and the crack sealed closed. The threads were then chased and deepened so that the knob could be screwed onto the shaft without excessive outwards pressure. The crack now looks like a superficial scratch.

I'm afraid I didn't take a "before" picture of the crack at the front of the barrel. Once again, the damaged area was heat-relaxed and reformed, but here the material was very thin and not entirely round or concentric, so sleeving it was very tricky work. The thinness of the barrel mouth was probably how it ended up cracked in the first place, as a heavy-handed writer putting a lot of pressure on the nib could easily overstress the thin walls holding the nib assembly in place. Repair entailed careful internal grinding of a recess for the hard rubber sleeve, then careful shaping of the sleeve's interior profile. Once again, the crack now looks like a superficial scratch, and there is enough strength to the repaired area that the pen is once again usable, with due care.

Early Moore safeties with the short cap are rare in any form. Examples with overlays are highly desirable, but to find an overlay over mottled hard rubber is extraordinary. This is certainly the first such I've ever handled, and very well may even be the first one I've ever seen. Definitely a worthwhile restoration effort!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Yet another Edward Todd

Here is another example of the creativity of Edward Todd in its heyday. This sterling silver dip pen features pierced work, which gives the effect of a silver filigree overlay over ivory. In fact, the body of the pen is hollow from end to end, and the "ivory" is a lacquer-coated metal tube closely fitted inside.

The construction is effective, and quite convincing -- as the detail above illustrates. The Edward Todd maker's mark is clearly visible next to the "STERLING" imprint.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Don't snap that box!

One thing that I learned young about the handling of Old and Delicate Things was how to close a box with a spring-loaded latch. Press the release button down -- don't snap the box closed.

This beautiful and uncommon fitted Waterman box shows why. Snapping a box closed not only puts a lot of pressure on the latch plate, but also subjects it to the impact of the falling catch -- which itself can break from the repeated shocks. In this case, it was the latch plate that gave way. Subsequent snap closures did further damage, gouging away the leatherette and wood at the latch point.

Good old boxes are becoming harder to find, and the wooden parts of hundred-year-old boxes are typically dry and fragile. So please, hold that button down, and don't snap that box.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

More unusual Edward Todd pens

The pen above lacks its cap and nib. It's been sitting forgotten in my parts box for years, noticed only when I had to rummage around to see if I could find some Edward Todd parts for yet another project pen. Fully marked, "The Todd Pen", it is -- most unusually -- a middle-joint eyedropper.

Nearly all middle-joint pens are A. A. Waterman or Sterling products. Likely this pen was made under license, as it appears to predate the expiry of the 1899 middle-joint patent.

The other unusual Edward Todd is also missing a few parts -- the feed and the cap -- but what a nib! It's a fully marked "J" nib, with the "J" stamped in relief just as done with steel "J" dip pen nibs. Very hard to find in gold fountain pen form, and for some reason more often seen on German pens such as early Montblancs.

UPDATE: Here's a picture of a typical base-metal J-nib, marked "WHS" (for W. H. Smith, the English stationery firm, still very much in business).