Thursday, October 29, 2015

Sheaffer demonstrator packing unit

Lately I've been working on new techniques for disassembling Sheaffer plunger-fillers with Triumph nibs. Getting those nib units out without damaging anything can be very tricky. While testing different approaches on various pens, I came across the inner barrel shown above. It's not uncommon to see the reuse of scrap material in hidden components, but the scrap is usually not transparent, as here. As is, it gives a good view of how a Sheaffer packing unit was constructed, with stacked layers of rubber sheet and grease-soaked felt.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

"Polypoint" three-color magic pencil

Three-color mechanical pencils are not uncommon. Nearly all use some form of slider to extend and retract the three nozzles. Much less common are those which make use of other mechanisms: twist-action and drop-action come to mind, with a tripling of the standard single-nozzle version's complexity. Taking it to the next level is this three-color magic pencil, where pulling the barrel back extends one of three nozzles, depending on how the forepart is rotated.

As with other high-quality three-color pencils, this example is sterling silver with hard enameled color indicators in red, blue, and black. While most are English-made, this one appears to be of American manufacture. Construction is solid, with considerable heft and fine attention to detail, but the nozzles are one-piece and not marked with the lead size -- marking that was the norm in Britain.

The only marks are found on the inner shaft: "PAT. APPL'D FOR" and "STERLING", followed by an unreadably small maker's mark that at first glance might be taken for Hicks's acorn.

After a quick look through our writing instrument patent reference library (and with special thanks to the compilations of Jonathan Veley), however, it became clear that the minuscule maker's mark must be that of Edward Todd, for the pencil's distinctive mechanism is none other than the one described in John C. Haring's US patent 940,247 for a "Polypoint Pencil", assigned to Edward Todd. The application was filed August 17, 1908, patent was issued November 16, 1909, allowing us to date this example within that span.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Nib blocks for all

Our latest project is just in -- affordable nib blocks, made in clear acrylic. A nib block is an essential tool for pen repair, allowing one to straighten bent nibs against either a matching concave or convex surface, using an appropriately-shaped burnishing tool to apply the necessary pressure to straighten and counter-bend. Nib blocks have traditionally been made of tool steel, but vintage blocks seldom hit the market and newly-made blocks have only been made in very limited numbers, the expense of manufacture and finishing keeping their prices in the hundreds of dollars.

Some years ago, we bought a group of old nib blocks from a long-established pen repair service in England. Most were tool steel in various shapes, but a couple were made of acrylic. Though they had some superficial scuffing and scratches from decades of hard use, they were still as good as ever, which inspired us to use the same material for a new run of nib blocks, enabling them to be priced at a level affordable for every pen hobbyist.

In fact, while there are some applications where steel has no substitute -- hammering, for example, and heavy-duty burnishing for displacement and hardening of metal -- acrylic has the advantage of having just a slight degree of "give", just enough to allow one to use pressure to apply bending force, as when one wants to straighten by counter-bending. Metal doesn't allow this, which is why a strip of thin paper is sometimes laid over a metal block to provide that "give" that the bare block lacks.

The blocks are now listed in our website catalog here, at $25 each. They are also available on eBay. We'll be bringing some along to the next few pen shows we attend, which will be Madrid and Los Angeles.