Sometimes I get lucky and the pen I have bought only needs a sac, hand polished and maybe a little nib adjustment. Usually though, old pens demand a little more love and attention and some are downright challenging. That’s okay though. Over the years I have amassed the tools to deal with almost any situation. A few, like my collection of tools for nib straightening, are specialist but most are the kind of thing you can buy in any hardware store. I have just about every kind of pliers imaginable, for instance, and many of my tools were created for use in dentistry or the operating theatre. Others have been so adjusted and tailored to suit the specific need that it isn’t obvious what they started as. A set of tiny jeweller’s files finds regular use, as do various scraps of rubber inner tube that provide grip.
There are days that I sigh for a lathe. I had a rickety old one years ago when I messed about with motorbikes. I was far from expert with it but it made my life easier on a number of occasions. The cheapest one that would be any good at all comes in around £600 and a decent lathe would be about £1500 second-hand. I can’t justify that and I would have nowhere to use it, not even a tabletop version.
I make do with my Skil power drill, a poor man’s Dremel, together with a vice and several gripping devices. It’s amazing what you can do with a bit of planning and ingenuity. The Skil has a variable speed motor and a host of accessories. I love it.
My most commonly used tools reside in a box that once held German wine. Then there are a couple of drawers of slightly less often used bits and pieces and a shelf in the shed holds some more. Also in the shed is a polisher/grinder. I don’t routinely machine-polish my pens – that glaring shine is inappropriate for hundred-year-old hard rubber pens. It’s good for pens that have been abused and for crusty old accommodation clips.
As I found early on, you can never have too many tools. Needle-nose pliers with different profiles all have their uses, and some have met the grinder for adjustment to make them fit a specific requirement. Screwdrivers that rarely turn screws are perfect for other jobs.
As you can tell I love my tools. The whole collection, taken together, make my life simpler and more satisfying. My husband tries to head me off at the door of the hardware store but I usually find a way in. You never know what gem you might find for that problem that’s been bugging you for weeks.