A Bulb Filler

That decidedly ugly thing on my knock-out block is a no-name bulb-filler in hard rubber. It was sold as a Mentmore because it happened to have a tiny Mentmore nib in it. In all respects, it’s identical to National Security bulb-fillers I’ve had before. They were made, I believe, by Henry Stark, Son & Hamilton and that’s the likely source of this pen too. I love bulb-fillers and I haven’t repaired one this year, so I grabbed it despite its sad condition. It cost very little, you’ll be relieved to hear.

Here it is disassembled. Really, that’s the worst part over. I never know what these ink-view barrels are made of. Might be celluloid or some form of perspex, but they’re often very fragile, just awaiting the slightest pressure to be applied in unscrewing the nib/section unit to crack and break into a thousand pieces and bring the restoration to a sad end. This one was quite sound, though, and disassembly was tense but uneventful. Dry heat and infinite patience is the recipe for success.

Here it is cleaned up a little. As you might expect, the clear barrel was the most difficult to clean and it took repeated applications of the ultrasonic cleaner together with overnight immersion in my Secret Cleaning Compound to get it nice and sparkly.

These pens operate on the vacuum principle, so you don’t want air getting in where it shouldn’t. A liberal application of silicone grease ensures that the section screws back in easily without cracking the barrel, and makes an effective seal too. A chopped-down No20 silicone sac completes the job. I left it to dry and settle for an hour and tested it with water. Success!

Here it is restored and ready to write. Still a little ugly, I fear, though not without character and charm, but it’ll hold a lot of ink and it’s fitted with a little flexible Warranted 14Ct nib.

Bulb-fillers tend to be the poor relations of the pen world, because they’re comparatively cheap to manufacture and this filling method was used to make some truly shoddy pens, and that was the association that built up in people’s minds. Intrinsically, however, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with bulb-fillers, and when you get a well-made one like this, it makes an excellent pen. After all, Parker Vacs are bulb-fillers; they just have a plunger to press instead of a bulb to squeeze, but they fill the barrel with ink in exactly the same way. Like all ink-in-the-barrel pens they have a tendency to blob if the ink is allowed to fall too low, but why would you? You can see exactly how much ink is left in the pen!

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