Pen restorers have a tools problem in the way others might have a drinking problem or a heroin problem, and sometimes family interventions become necessary as the furtively-purchased tools continue to multiply. You can never have enough pliers, for instance, or angled dental probes. Faced with the array of tools on display in a hardware store, most restorers could find a use for them all. Every one.
There are some standbys that are unique to the pen mechanic, though, and the knock-out block is one of them. Over the years I’ve had three. The first one was a simple wood block with a metal top and various sizes of holes drilled through. It worked but it wasn’t very stable. I then got one of the cylindrical metal type. Better, but still not what I wanted – it was too small and fussy. Then an older restorer retired from the craft and sold off a mountain of tools and spares which I managed to snag. Among them was this knock-out block:
It’s stable, roomy and holds a range of punches at the sides. It has good open clearance underneath to let the nib and feed drop clear. Perfect!
At least two-thirds of my pens never touch the knock-out block, though. Some restorers will proudly tell you that they totally disassemble all the pens that they repair but that’s not my way. Fitting a nib and feed accurately is no trivial matter. Unless it’s essential it’s better not to have to do it. After all, despite their age, most old pens have retained their original factory settings. If the nib and feed are in good order and well aligned, it’s best to leave them alone. Flushing them with a lot of water clears dried-ink blockages and ensures good future ink flow. On those rare occasions when that’s not enough, or when the nib is damaged and needs to be worked on or replaced, or when a nib is stuck in a rotated position, that’s when the knock-out block comes into its own.