Disassembling A Mabie Todd Swan Eyedropper Filler

One of the many good things about having a WordPress blog is that I can see the search terms that people have used that have brought them to my blog. One that has been repeated in various forms of words is, “how to disassemble an old Mabie Todd Swan eyedropper”. In the hope that those in need of assistance will call again, here’s a how-to.

Many of you, I know, will regard disassembly of an eyedropper as one of the easier tasks, but it can be a puzzle for someone who hasn’t done it before. I’m using a Swan 1500 for illustration but the method remains the same for many earlier Swan eyedroppers, and also most ones made by other manufacturers.

One of the commonest problems on well-made pens like Swans is that it can be very hard to see where the pen opens. The join between barrel and section can be so fine that it’s virtually invisible. Use strong light and magnification if necessary. I’ve shown here with my crudely drawn black arrow where the faintly-visible join is on the 1500. It will be in a similar position on most eyedroppers.

Someone will correct me if they’ve found different examples, but all Swans and indeed all the other eyedroppers I’ve worked on are conventionally threaded. In other words, the section will unscrew from the barrel with an anti-clockwise turn. Expect the threaded part to be quite long Sometimes these are reluctant to move because they are stuck with old ink. Gentle dry heat will loosen them up; remember that these are black hard rubber pens – soaking is not advised.*

Assuming the need to disassemble further, this is one of the few occasion where using a knock-out block to remove the feed and nib would be wrong and could cause damage. Grip the feed from the rear of the section and pull it out. The nib will be left in place. Then simply pull out the nib from the front. Sometimes the feed will be stuck with dried ink. Carefully trickle water through the assembly, taking care not to soak the outside as this may cause fading.

For reassembly after you’ve reinserted the feed, you will note that the tail of the nib is narrowed. Look inside the nib end of the section;

there are slots to slide the nib into. Adjust the feed until it sits right on the nib and reinsert the silver wire into the back of the section. That’s it!

Some people apply silicone grease to the threads of eyedroppers to prevent leaking. It’s rare that this is actually required. These long, very finely cut threads are almost always ink-tight in my experience, and the application of unnecessary grease is likely to be a messy nuisance. By all means, if the pen actually leaks at the joint, use silicone grease but don’t do it by default.

*Opinions vary about soaking but in my experience water, whether hot or cold, is best kept away from the visible exterior of black hard rubber pens. Some rubber, and particularly rubber as old as the material in these eyedroppers, has often already deteriorated through oxidization, though it isn’t visible. Any contact with water will make it fade at once. Then you’ll have to rub the part down to return it to black and it probably won’t match the rest of the pen. You may even resort to one of the several potions and processes you’ll find on the internet, none of which I can recommend. Better to avoid the necessity in the first place.

3 thoughts on “Disassembling A Mabie Todd Swan Eyedropper Filler

  1. The other benefit of using silicon grease Beverley is that you are lubricating the threads, as well as keeping ink out, so they should never seize again.
    Regards, Peter

    1. Hi Peter,
      Who is this Beverley person of whom you speak?

      I find that the only time well-made eyedropper fillers are hard to open is when they’ve been lying in a drawer for a generation or two. Once opened, they tend not to seize up again. Look at the threads on, say, a Waterman 12 and compare them with those on, for instance a modern Wality eyedropper filler. The difference is like night and day. Deep-cut, tapered threads like those on old eyedroppers were never intended to be lubricated. No need, whereas keeping ink in a Wality without silicone grease verges on the unlikely.

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