Thursday, January 8, 2009

It takes one to know one

I've complained before about all the undisclosed flaws that one ends up finding after the fact -- not just with pens and pencils from flea markets, general antiques dealers, and eBay, but also from regular exhibitors at established pen shows.

This morning I pick up my customized 51 mentioned in my November post and I realize the cap jewel is missing. A closer look, and it is clear that the clip bushing is a mess, and that the jewel's top had been twisted off its stem and then glued back in place. The glue had failed, and the jewel's top fallen off. On vintage pens, one runs across such makeshift repairs pretty often. Usually there's no way to know when they were done, since one doesn't normally remove the jewel unless the clip needs to be replaced or tightened. In this case, however, the cap was newly-made, fitted out by the maker with vintage clutch, inner cap, clip, clip bushing, and jewel. So the use of worn-out and broken parts was deliberate, and especially outrageous given that the maker also does a considerable side business in selling reproduction 51 jewels!

I mentioned my dissatisfaction with the workmanship to a friend and veteran collector who is very keen on this maker's customized pens. Interestingly enough, he was more or less dismissive -- a response I've seen among other collectors who find it hard to believe something so attractive externally could be hiding so many problems beneath the surface. Those who work on pens don't find it hard to believe, though -- but it may take another workman to know and appreciate bad work, whether it is in pens, building, auto repair, or medicine, for that matter.

This afternoon I will replace the bushing and the jewel. Once that is done, I will have replaced or modified every component of the pen save for the clip, the inner cap and the clutch.

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