Thanks, and a Brief Update

Many thanks for the well-wishes, comments, cards and notes both ‘snail mailed’ and emailed, regarding my husband’s hospitalisation.  You brightened our days!

He is home at last.  Recovery will be a matter of months, perhaps even a half-year.  He is determined, though, and that will stand him in good stead.  It’s grand to have him home.  My Assistant, Smartie, made the most enormous catly fuss over him when we came home.  It was a lovely welcome filled with trills, squirks, head-butts and demands for petting.

It may still be some time until I get back into the swing of fountain pen life.  We are adjusting to the new schedule of thrice-weekly haemodialysis and until we figure out how to reorganise our days and weeks, I may still be largely absent here for some time.  But I’m getting pens sent out within a few days of purchase, and will continue to do my best in terms of inquiries and correspondence.  Thanks to all for your patience and understanding.

A Brief Update

I’ve been a bit quiet of late, and while I don’t often share personal matters here, I wanted to let you know I will remain among the missing here a bit longer.

My husband is currently in hospital due to peritonitis.  For four and a half years we have done peritoneal dialysis at home (we’d never heard of it either, before my husband’s kidneys failed and we were told about his options), but his bout of peritonitis has infected the peritoneal catheter which was his dialysis access.  So this week it had to be removed before things got even worse.  It also required a “permacath” insertion – it’s sort of like a chest line, giving direct access for haemodialysis.  The surgeon was busy with my husband this week!

It means a big change in our lives, as we switch from daily home peritoneal dialysis to haemodialysis done three times a week in the renal unit.  It was not a change we wished for, but here we are.

There are a lot of challenges to overcome, but I won’t bore you with the details.  Suffice to say that for the foreseeable future I will be making the 140 mile round trip daily to go and be with my husband as he recovers from peritonitis, surgery, and respiratory problems (ongoing as well as surgery-related).  I apologise for delays in responding to correspondence or comments here in the blog.  I don’t generally get home until 10:30pm or later, and by the time I’ve taken care of various things in the house (myself included) along with comforting my very anxious Assistant, it is well into the wee hours and all I can do is have a brief sleep before starting over again.

Unfortunately this means that the blog and fountain pen work have to be put on hold for now.  I will be a bit slower with sending out sold pens as well, though I will do my best not to have long delays.

We will eventually settle into a routine, but my husband has quite a way to go to get well enough to be able to come home.  Right now he’s in the ICU being well looked after by some excellent nurses, for which I am very glad.

As for me, it’s midnight and I’ve got some dishes to do.  There may be a cat at the window again, looking for some reassurance, too.  As a fountain pen assistant Smartie is rubbish but she can be an affectionate wee creature when she feels like it.  Seeing as how she and her need for daily insulin shots are the only reason I come home each night rather than staying in hospital accommodation, it’s a good thing she does show me a little catly love before shooting out the door to her beloved Outside!

The Parker Slimfold

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Here’s a pen that deserves more attention than it gets: the Parker Slimfold. It’s a slender pen as the name suggests but it isn’t especially short at 12.6 cm. I’ve heard it said of this pen – and indeed of all the English Duofold series of the 50s and 60s – that it is dull. I think that may be because, as they say, familiarity breeds contempt. These pens are similar in shape to (for instance) the Platinum 3776 or the Sailor 1911 and whatever else may be said about those pens nobody is suggesting that their primary characteristic is dullness!
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The Slimfold has a lot of other things going in its favour. It has the usual Parker attention to detail, most obviously in the cap band and clip. The Aerometric filling system is rightly renowned and the nib, though quite small in keeping with the rest of the pen, is superb.
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It’s a delight to write with, gliding across the paper with enough feedback to keep it from being slippery. It’s a favourite of mine.
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Slimfolds have survived well if they have not been abused. This version was in production from 1962 to 1971 so the youngest it could be is a middle-aged 45. The gold plating remains good throughout, the plastic takes a splendid shine and the barrel imprint is still crisp and clear.
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Please excuse the dust in these photographs. I must have been a very bad person in a former life to deserve all the dust that invades my photos. I’ll polish the pen until it’s sparkling, set it down for a second and suddenly it’s matted with dust and cat hair. I am cursed.

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Mabie Todd & Bard Sterling Silver Eyedropper

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This is a Mabie Todd & Bard sterling silver eyedropper from the early years of the 20th century. The presence of the word “Bard” indicates that it was made before 1907 and it can be narrowed down a little further as we will see.
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The pen is no longer quite original as some alterations were made at a later date which make it more practical in use. The original “over-and-under” feed was replaced with a ladder feed and the upper part of the early feed was trimmed, as you can see.
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Dr Harnett, Margate, was the owner of the the pen. Perhaps it was a very opulent gift on retirement. I hunted him down and found that in 1901 he was mentioned in the list of gifts given to the happy couple at a wedding in Margate. He gave them a silver butter dish, which I’m sure they treasured. He was the Resident Surgeon at the Royal Sea Bathing Hospital and it is recorded that he died in 1905, so the pen must date to that year or those preceding.

For the rest, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

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No-Name Vacumatic Clone

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When this pen appeared in eBay some time ago it immediately piqued my interest. It was advertised as a Parker Vacumatic and though the resemblance was strong I knew that that was not what it was. I suspected that it was an Indian-made Wilson, as I’ve seen several of these before and it looked just like them. When it arrived and I examined it more closely, it bore no maker’s name.

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However, it had wonderful transparency and the nib was good, though a little bashed around, but nothing I couldn’t fix. I couldn’t repair the filling system, though. It was a Vacumatic clone. I sent it away for repair but, sad to say, it came back with the explanation that it could not be economically repaired. The repairer also said that he thought it was a Japanese clone.

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So there we are: I have a very beautiful pen but I can’t use it. Sad. It didn’t cost a lot, thankfully, and it will go in my “Projects” drawer in the hope that someday a miracle will happen and I can get it repaired.

The Summit Pen Repair Kit And Manual

When my husband was growing up in Scotland there were a couple of newsagents in his town that took in fountain pens for repair. A few days later the pens would be returned to their owners for a small fee, in working condition once again. Within a few years, as ballpoints became more popular, that service dwindled away and died through lack of demand. Thereafter, if your fountain pen failed, it went in the trash or in a drawer.

That, really, was all I knew about the repairers of old. There must have been hundreds of them and they seemed to vanish without a trace, along with all of their equipment. It is a great loss to us that their experience has disappeared and very few of the tools that they used have survived.

So when a Summit Repair Kit and Manual appeared in eBay this week I was determined to have it. It ended up being quite expensive but I think it’s worth every penny. It was sold in 1950 to Miss Kennedy, Baskerville Press, Eastbourne. The manual describes it as a repair kit for the Summit pen including the S170. Of course most of the tools could be used to repair other pens.
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The kit includes:
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A nib and feed fitting press
nib and feed removing block (wooden) and parallel punch
nib-burring tools (male and female)
lever fitting tool
pressure bar fitting tool
ring hook
sac stretcher
barrel or cap brush
section brush
lever slot file
emery paper
stud removing plate
long nib and feed removing block
long parallel punch
nib fitting pliers with rubber covered jaws
nib buffing stick
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It’s all there except the emery paper which has been used up. There is an addition of a tube of Dunlop rubber solution.

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Probably the costliest item in the kit is the nib and feed fitting press. That’s not something I’ve ever had any need for but I can see that it would be a boon for those with weaker hands.

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Perhaps the most limiting items are the long and short nib blocks which probably cover all Summit pens and maybe not all that many others. I think the lever tools would be especially useful. Some other items are recommended:

Bunsen burner or spirit lamp
pliers (flat-nosed 4 inch)
wire cutters 4 inch
jeweller’s hammer (small)
weak alkali solution (or water) for training purposes
solution of shellac and methylated spirits
jeweller’s eyeglass two inch focus (average)
file (fine)

I don’t have the story of Miss Kennedy but the Baskerville Press was active between the 1930s and the 1950s, publishing books of local and more general interest. There is still a Baskerville Press today but it is based in Salisbury and I don’t know whether that is a continuation of the original company or a new one altogether.

Still Around

Thank you for all the kind wishes both in the blog and in email. My husband is much improved and I hope to get back to writing again soon.

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