Then and Now

When I first got an old pen working I was pretty pleased with myself and considered that pen restoration was a straightforward business that wouldn’t require much in the way of tools. Brightening one up could probably be done with whatever I already had in the house. I’m not often wrong but when I’m wrong I get it really wrong! I now have an entire room devoted to the repair and restoration of writing instruments.

All those years ago I didn’t (or thought I didn’t) even need section pliers. My hands were stronger then and I thought such mechanical aids were for wimps. It was a Swan SF130 that made me reconsider. No amount of heating and persuading would divorce that section from its beloved barrel. I gave in and ordered section pliers which did the job with consummate ease.

Over the years I tried every polish recommended on the pen discussion boards. Several sit yet sad and neglected on a shelf. When serious restoration work requires it I use the three-part Novus polish. Otherwise a Sunshine cloth does a fine job without unnecessarily abrading the material.

Pliers love to proliferate. I have several sizes of needle-nose pliers, the clever parallel pliers and various other less easy to label types. Medicine and dentistry provide tools useful for fountain pen repair: small, slender forceps assist work in the interior of the cap or barrel. Dental scrapers are good for removing sacs that seem welded to the interior of the barrel. The sorts of headlights that surgeons use help to illuminate the work. Scalpels have a thousand uses.

When I began I thought that a pocket knife was just about all that I would need. I was very wrong, of course, but my trusty old pocket knife is still used to scrape the remains of the sac off every sac-filler’s section. I have a shelf in a cupboard filled with polishing cloths, cotton buds, pipe-cleaners and all the other necessaries for ensuring pens are clean inside and out. The business of abrasion is covered by Micromesh, steel wool and when something more aggressive is needed, needle files.

I never imagined for a moment that I would require electro-mechanical help to fix pens but my heat gun is constantly required and I have a handy little electric drill that drives a host of useful attachments. Lighting comes into that category. I have a powerful overhead light and a flexible angle lamp. Magnification helps my failing eyesight: an OptiVisor headset and loupes of various magnifying strengths.

Is that all? Of course it isn’t! The collection of tools. adhesives and consumables is beyond listing. Whenever I think I must be finished something else comes to mind. So I’m going to stop.

4 thoughts on “Then and Now

  1. Interesting thoughts. Ironically i also have a trusty old penknife for cleaning up section nipples of old shellac and rubber. Plenty of other tools would do this job but the size, weight, curve of blade of this old one make it perfect for me. It has been with me for 55 years now, and when first bought was often used on the farm for tidying Herdwick sheep hooves! However, making a tool specifically for a repair/restoration job i often find as satisfying as the repaired pen resulting.

    1. My husband came from a farm too, Kevin, and this old three-blade knife has a similar history, mostly cutting the strings of the old rectangular bales. It’s a Lockwood and the scales are, I think, bone.

  2. Love it. I am now where you were and “goes really wrong” is my standard operating procedure. I restore the pens for entertainment and a sense of adventure. I’m very sentimental and enjoy imagining the history or life the pen has “seen.” But I do limit the pens I restore based on the need for the fewest tools and gadgets.

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