Thursday, December 05, 2013

Got the Sac

So last week I shared my haul-ette of venerable-ish writing implements and how, like an old war horse, my nostrils flared at the whiff of rust removal and tool redemption.

Now the two Parkers were a simple task; they just needed cleaning. Those aerometric sacs Parker made are, I won't say indestructible, but very resilient, and they proved to be sound. So after a lot of flushing with this 'n' that, thinking I'd got it clean, then finding another gob of ink had worked loose, and so forth, I go them inked and writing. The green Victory benefited from a light nib smoothing and now writes very nicely with a generous ink flow, while the Duofold Junior is a joy and feels like an extension of my hand. I can rather see why people like Parkers now; clearly the old uns' are entirely different animals from the ones of my previous acquaintance.

But the button filler of mysterious manufacture was always going to be more of a challenge. As I said, I'd already managed to straighten the seriously bent nib tine - not at all a professional job (there is now a "wrinkle" in the nib) but entirely functional, which it certainly wasn't before. But the sac had ossified and needed replacing (Good word that, isn't it? Ossified. Not one you get to use often), so suddenly I had a shopping list: sac of the correct size, shellac to stick it, French chalk to dust it and keep it moving freely against the pressure bar and interior of the barrel. Order(s) placed. I ended up having to go to two places - I thought I was okay for the shellac, but when I realised how old my shellac is now, I got cold feet and decided it was better to remove possible adhesive failure from this learning process.

So yesterday I was finally all equipped, and set about my task. The "nipple" was already cleaned of old shellac (and you know what fun crusty old shellac is...), so I lined everything up to work out how long I had to cut the sac. They come over-long, and you trim to size. I erred on the side of caution a bit, I suspect, and then trimmed a bit more because I thought I could get a straighter cut. I couldn't - rubbery ink sacs, it turns out, try to bounce knife blades right off rather than be cut to pieces. Who'd have thunk it? So I probably needed around 60mm, and probably got 58. But that's okay.

I expected the actual sac fitting to be fraught with angst, like any and all glue-up jobs ever attempted in the history of man, but it was laughably simple. Beginner's luck? Now it's probably worth mentioning I got the sacs before I had the shellac, so I trimmed the sac to length and left it in situ overnight, which I think helped to give it the idea of what it was expected to fit round. The shellac comes in a nail polish-a-like bottle, so a quick swipe of the (not-overloaded) brush round the nipple put a nice even film of shellac in place. Then just come at the thing at a slight angle so you get one edge in place, hold that, and flip the rest on. The liquid shellac acts as a bit of a lubricant, so it's actually easier than the dry runs I did. Make sure the sac is in line with the rest of the pen and it's evenly stretched and 'tis done. I'd been worrying about doing this for days, and it took twenty angst-free seconds, tops. Huh.

While I had the shellac, I also masked off the loose cap ring and syringed some shellac in there to get it to stop spinning. Seems to have worked okay.

Then you have to go away and not fiddle for at least half an hour. Anxious not to mess the job up, I was ├╝ber cautious and gave it several hours. But the call to ink was very great, and eventually I had to succumb and get to the reassembly stage. First dust the sac for the aforementioned purpose of stopping it sticking to pressure bar or lever; darn stuff gets everywhere. Also, why do I always seem to end up with hobbies that require having to buy suspicious packages of fine white powder...?

At this stage, reading up before hand is about to pay big dividends. You'd naturally assume that you slide the pressure bar in, slide in the sac attached to the section, and screw the section up tight. And... no. That's apparently A Bad Idea. So first I screwed the section closed with the sac in place. Bye bye, little sac. Please work....

At the other end of the barrel, the blind cap was off and I'd already removed the button with some padded needle-nosed pliers (another nervous moment). Now in goes the pressure bar, through the buttonhole. Clever, huh? Also important to put it facing the right way so the bar will press against the sac correctly. In this instance I'm cautiously sliding the pressure bar in with the sac in front of it, nearest the camera.

Then comes the button, which slips over the top of the pressure bar and is a press fit into its hole. A cautious press, and the definite breathy sound of a squeezed sac. Yip! (Early days to be a full "Yippee")

Now at this point I should have pics of completed assembly, maybe the filling with ink, and such like. But the need to get the thing filled and to try it was too much, and I rushed on, camera forgotten. And, happy day, she works!

A nicely generous flow of ink, and I was greatly chuffed that, unsolicited,  my mum declared it to be "smooth". She rather likes it, actually; I may have to watch that... I'm still tentatively going with a medium stub as the nib type, although I do seem to often view as medium nibs that others happily designate as fine.

So there we go; my first pen repair. As with tools, I seem to favour the lived-in look rather than all shiny and new. But heck, the thing has survived a fair few years; it can show them with pride, can't it?

And yes, I'm absolutely certain doing this is addictive. No cheap, unloved fountain pen in need of rescue will be safe...


  1. I had always thought about getting a fountain pen, but am afraid any restoration would go the same way my investment in razor and strop had. I forgot I was deathly fearful of the barber removing an ear or neck, when they used those things years ago. I had fountain pens when I was a kid. I also, learned to remove, almost remove, ink stains from shirt pockets back then. Lemon juice and salt.

    1. Many of the modern ones don't seem quite so prone to leaking, I think - the Japanese seem particularly reliable, but I may be a bit biased towards them. So might be worth a shot without having to lay in the lemon juice and salt!

  2. Great repair job.
    I'm a fan of old UK Parkers too.

    1. It's a terrible discovery for me, because the one thing I thought I was safe from was lusting over Parker pens. And now... Aaargh.


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