The much-loved “Da Book” ( Fountain Pens The Complete Guide to Repair and Restoration) has been around for a long time now. It was first published in 1995 and the most recent, revised edition came out in 2002. As in any other activity, things have moved on in pen repair, and in some cases there are better repair methods now than when Frank was writing. To some extent, this book has been superseded by Marshall & Oldfield’s Pen Repair. Also, I think Frank’s devotion to the use of a naked flame rather than a heat gun or hair drier raised eyebrows even when this book was new! That said, there’s a wealth of useful information in here. If you concentrate on repairing British or European pens, you may feel this book is not for you, as most of the pens discussed are American, but there’s much general advice on all sorts of topics, and explanations of techniques that can be applied to the repair of most pens.
It’s a brave thing to be a pioneer, and that’s what Frank was. He opened the door to a whole generation of pen repairers and to great degree set the standards on what was and was not acceptable. As first in the field, you take the chance of setting yourself up to be knocked down, and the surprising thing is how well his judgement has endured. Yes, there are some practices outlined here that many of us might find fault with now, but for the most part, Frank’s methods and ethics hold good.
When Frank began this work, there was very little around to assist the pen repairer. There were some company repair manuals but they often provided little help, as they referred to spares parts and sub-assemblies that were no longer available. Open-minded and inventive, Frank developed repairs using parts and materials that are on sale everywhere. He was undaunted by the most difficult of repairs.
It’s a good many years since Frank went to The Big Repair Shop In The Sky, but he’s still fondly remembered by those of us who benefitted from his generosity. He was active in the usenet pen group; indeed for years he was the usenet pen group. Often a little testy with those who asked questions without having first checked the archives for an answer, he freely shared his experience with all, and it was rare indeed for Frank to be stumped by a technical issue. He had strong likes and dislikes. He was very much a Sheaffer man, and he had an undying hatred (I never understood why) for the inoffensive Onoto cut-off valve.
Frank’s untimely death in 2003 was a great loss to the fountain pen hobby, but at least his book survives. If you repair pens or only want to understand them this book’s essential. It’s still available from Tryphon Enterprises priced at $20.00.