I am frequently asked for advice by people intent on repairing their own pens. Apart from the ever popular inquiry about sac sizes – which I can rarely answer with certainty – the most frequent are about the section and the cap. Hardly surprising. The section with its attachment to the barrel, its contents of nib and feed and often threads for the cap is the source of much difficulty. The simple-seeming cap is actually a complicated assembly. Clip screw, clip, decorative bands and means of attachment to the barrel, all can cause problems. Caps also do love to crack, usually at the lip.
Soaking any part of a pen is usually bad practice; this applies especially to the cap. Apart from the usual dangers to the material it is made from, the cap often contains interior parts that hold the clip in place. They can rust and cause serious problems later. There are occasions when you might want to apply liquid to the interior of the cap. Perhaps you wish to remove old ink from aesthetic considerations or to detach the clip from a pen with a clip screw. In the first instance, make that liquid naptha which will leave no harmful residue. In the second, a few drops of water will do no harm as you will be disassembling the cap and will have the opportunity to ensure all the parts are dried thoroughly.
Removing a clip screw exposes the cap to another danger: the temptation by the impatient to use sharp and destructive ordinary pliers. That’s fine if you really intend to ruin your pen. Otherwise, get hold of section pliers, one of the most useful tools you’ll ever buy. Some caps have very long threaded areas on clip screws (Croxleys come to mind). Those require patience and steady hands because though less fragile than the lip, the upper end of the cap can crack too.
Those more complex clips that fit through the material of the barrel will usually require an inner cap puller. There are alternative methods of getting the inner cap out to give access to the interior part of the clip but they’re generally best avoided. This is often a job for the expert, partly because it can be difficult but also because the inner cap puller is expensive, too expensive to buy to fix one pen.
Next come cap rings. Plastics can shrink over time and the rings become loose or lost altogether. Replacing or tightening rings in such a way that they will give no further trouble is not a trivial repair. They have to be swaged back in place and that’s one for the professional.
Lip cracks reduce the value of a pen out of all proportion to their tiny size. If the cap is made from hard rubber the cracks cannot be permanently repaired. For a very expensive pen, a replacement lip can be crafted, not a job for the absolute beginner. Caps made from other materials can usually have lip cracks repaired. For repairs like this it’s a good idea to practice on cheap pens before you begin work on your Swan or Onoto. Look after your safety, too, as many of the materials are decidedly noxious.
I’m getting writer’s cramp now. Sections are for another day.