Everyone who’s ever had a hobby has tried to learn as much as they can about the things that sustain their interest. I love writing with fountain pens, so I’ve managed to learn enough about them to maintain them, thanks to sites like the Fountain Pen Network, Pentrace, FPGeeks, among others.
I enjoy cleaning my pens, too. It’s a kind of meditation in itself, whether manually, with a nasal aspirator or syringe, or with an ultrasonic cleaner – that’s all good. I recommend this article, written by a friend.
And then there are times when some pens don’t behave the way they should. At such times I am filled with a combination of annoyance and curiosity, and a hunger to make things work. I want to tinker, but of course one must be an informed tinkerer. I don’t want to void a warranty, so I need to do research. It’s not an inconvenience because I’m an enthusiast after all, and it’s an opportunity to learn something new. When I finally get my misbehaving pens to write right, there’s this incredible geeky rush!
We don’t have fountain pen repair persons in the Philippines, so I must be able to do some basic repairs confidently enough to maintain my own pens. Twice this week I’ve been plagued by dry writers, and was able to resolve one issue on my own (and got customer service for the other).
So far I’ve learned how to pull out and reset friction-fit nibs and feeds (only when necessary). I’ve flossed tines with a piece of acetate to make the ink flow a bit wetter. I’ve smoothed scratchy nibs with micromesh. I can resac vintage lever-fillers (Esterbrooks, Watermans). I’ve learned how to disassemble and reassemble a piston-filler (TWSBI 530/540), also to lubricate those that I can’t disassemble totally (Pelikans, Lamy 2000). I’ve managed to fix a Sheaffer Imperial (touchdown), so my other ambition is to repair a Sheaffer snorkel. Of course these links I’ve provided aren’t enough, one must read as many sources as possible. I’ve been lucky to have more experienced friends demonstrate how certain repairs were done.
Do you enjoy tinkering (with fountain pens, cameras, cars, anything)?
Some Saturdays come with a happy surprise. A package arrived for me last weekend! A good friend from the US sent over a combined Christmas and birthday gift in the form of a vintage Waterman’s Ideal No. 3 set of fountain pen and matching propelling pencil! It came complete with an original Waterman’s box, complete with paper insert of instructions on how to fill the pen and pencil correctly.
I could not stop staring. The celluloid was beautiful! The pen is pristine – the clip and lever are absolutely clean and shiny, the Waterman’s imprint on the barrel strong and easy to read. There are no major use marks. It’s been resacced, ready to fill and write with. The pencil still had its original eraser, and contained the right size lead!
When I removed the pen and pencil from the box I was delighted to discover a pencilled inscription: “Frank Jr. Christmas 1941 Annie Carrisa Edna John.” I like to think this was a gift to Frank Jr. from his siblings.
The paper insert mentioned a patent date of 1932, so the date of manufacture could’ve been close. (Later, my friend, a member of the Pen Collectors of America, discovered the very pen listed in a 1933 Waterman’s catalogue. The beautiful silvery-grey swirls in a black matrix with random red flecks is a celluloid pattern simply called “Black Pearl”.)
The nib is a sweet 14k no. 2 flexible fine. My friend tuned the flow to be able to write well under a light hand, and to be wet enough to handle flexing. I haven’t really tried any sustained Copperplate-ish writing with it yet, but I feel it can certainly used that way. (I’d say my Wahl and Swan pens have slightly softer flex nibs.) I did try a fancy capital W in my writing sample, however.
This pen and pencil set was acquired from an antique store sale. Back in the 1933 people paid USD 3 to buy this fountain pen. It might have been a bit more when it was given to Frank Jr. Vintage Waterman’s Ideal pens come from the time when the brand was still American and American-made – about 1884-1954. (Now owned by Newell Rubbermaid, today’s Waterman fountain pen brand is based in France.)
I have inked it with Cross Blue and intend to use it often – which is the best way to honor such a wonderful gift. And the best way to start the New Year!