The Curse of the Plated Section Trim Ring

This is a Parker Sonnet on my workbench for some nib work. Notice the corrosion to the trim ring that has caused the gold plating to be lost.

Folks, I don’t want to insult anyone, but it is a disgraceful engineering decision to succumb to a superficial desire for a bit of flash and as a result trade off durability. There’s a reason that for a hundred years, no quality fountain pen had a plated trim ring located at the front of the gripping section where the base metal would unstoppably fall victim to chemical attack from ink. Not until a later version of the Parker 75 did such a “feature” appear on a quality fountain pen, to my knowledge (think about it). The change to the 75 I consider a simple misjudgment, but on modern pens, where the lesson has long been known, it is inexcusable.

Pens made this way are embodiments of pen manufacturers saying to their customers, “you don’t know or care about true quality, so we will ply you with snazzy aesthetics even though these expensive pens are doomed.” And they are doomed — all of them. Doomed. Really.

Don’t buy pens with plated trim rings just behind the nib. I don’t care if they cost $1,000. They’re not really writing instruments at all. They’re pocket decoration. If I were shopping for a modern pen, I’d be insulted that manufacturers think I’m so superficial as to be taken in by shiny stuff at the expense of truly engineered durability.

P. S. A few years after selling you that expensive, doomed pen, the manufacturer will likely no longer have replacement parts. This ain’t the 1970s, when Sheaffer was still servicing pens from the 1930s.

Repair of a Bent Flexible Sheaffer Nib

I read a post on a popular pen forum about a purchase of a Sheaffer Snorkel with a rare flexible fine nib. Sadly, the pen was poorly packed, and it arrived with that wonderful nib badly bent and unusable.

I offered to repair it; though there are several restorers who can do this type of work well, only a few of them can also restore the two-tone appearance of the nib after the repair is complete (working on such a nib invariably mars the plating on the forepart). The disappointed owner sent it in.

Here’s what the nib looked like when I received it:

Here’s the restored nib after I reversed the damage and then after I re-did the plating and reassembled things:

I also smoothed the nib to ensure the best writing experience I could provide.

These nib repairs are quite time-consuming, but they are also very rewarding. The owner was very pleased with the outcome, and he wrote, “the nib looks brand new and it writes perfectly. I haven’t ever had the privilege of using a flexible nib as smooth as this one before.”

Reversing Damage to Waterman Flex Nib

I don’t do much nib work. There are several reasons for this, but I’d say the slow pace at which I work limits the number of nib jobs I can do at a reasonable cost. I just can’t speed through restoration tasks; I’m not comfortable working against the clock on projects for which patience and contemplation are important ingredients, and I also like to take my time when creating something – and I consider re-creating the original state of a nib (or cap, or whole pen) to be forms of creation.

This nib is my own, purchased in a decrepit Waterman black hard rubber 52. I saw potential in the nib, and I also was interested in the challenge of trying to resuscitate what looked like a sensitive nib that had been mortally wounded.

Though I have repaired far fewer nibs than metal caps, my skills with reversing deformed metal do give me a good base for many aspects of nib work. I have a feeling for the way metal responds to various manipulations, and just as with reversing cap dents, there are actually many distinct metalworking techniques that can be used to fix mangled nibs.

Ready to get Zanerian!
Ready to get Zanerian!

Making a Burnisher

Though a variety of burnishers can be purchased, I decided to make one that had exactly the attributes I wanted for a particular type of work. I used a ball-turning attachment in my lathe to form the business end:


Vacumatic Imperial Barrel Repair

Got in a Vacumatic Imperial with a barrel fracture. There was some machine shop work involved in the repair:

The final result:




300 Nanoliters of Blue

It’s not a jazz tune by a lab tech. It’s the quantity of enamel that nicely fills the space for the Blue Diamond insignia on a Parker fountain pen clip.

Speaking of clips, the image above is a still frame from a video clip of that 300 nL being dispensed via a positive displacement micropipette that I fabricated; though I like blues, I don’t like improvising when it comes to pen restoration tools.

Some finished products: