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Adventures in Pen Restoration: Rejuvenating a Tired Clip

(This page published December 1, 2021)

Stories, etc. Index  ]


Note
Note
This is an adventure story, not an official repair article. I’ve included enough detail, however, that it might help someone in a similar situation with a pen that’s too good to pitch.

Latremore’s Fountain Pen Exchange was a pen repair and sales business located in Boston, Massachusetts, and founded sometime around 1905 by Lewis W. Latremore. Some years ago, in 2013 to be less inexact, I bought this Latremore pen:

Fountain pen Magnifying glass

Some of Latremore’s pens were made from parts provided by the De Witt–La France Company, which was across the Charles River in Cambridge. The stubby oversize pen shown here is is one of them. It featured a nice No 6 Latremore-imprinted nib made by the Bay State Gold Pen Company, and it was in really excellent condition but for one little fault: a tired clip. The clip was a spring-loaded design, but its spring just wasn’t springy. Instead of holding the pen firmly in the owner’s pocket, it flopped loosely in the breeze. More than once I looked at that clip and said to myself, “Someday I’ve got to fix that clip.”

Then, in October 2021, I sold the pen without thinking of that loose clip. Unsurprisingly, the pen came back for repair.

How Does This Thing Work?

The first thing I had to do was to figure out how this particular spring-loaded clip was made. Knowing that it was a De Witt–La France product and that the clip design was patented, I turned to my patent database, built courtesy of Google, and found U.S. Patent No 1,350,412. The key figure in the patent is Figure 4:

Patent drawing

Let’s Take It Apart

Coupled with the patent’s text description, this figure told me that the clip pivots on the projections (callout 11 in the drawing) and that the spring was a small leaf spring (callouts 6 and 12) that was held in place by squeezing the sides of the clip inward a little. It was not immediately apparent how to remove the clip, but what was clear was that the inner cap did not contribute to the assembly, so I pulled the inner cap. Here is an inner cap puller. The three washer-like pieces are actually two washers sandwiching a needle bearing so that the cap can rotate freely around the threaded center shaft of the puller. This design protects against breakage due to excessive friction between the cap and the shaft. The brass tube is a part that I added to give myself a longer standoff, enabling me to pull the inner cap farther without having to re-set the mandrel:

Inner cap puller

And this is how it’s used:

Pulling inner cap

That freed up things nicely because the spring was already dead, and I could simply lift the clip loose. Here’s what things looked like. Note that there wasn’t much at all left of the spring, although some of it was fused to the inner cap:

Cap and clip parts

Upon examining the clip more carefully, I found that the idea of squeezing the sides inward to hold the spring apparently didn’t pan out in practice; instead, two tabs were folded over to hold the spring very securely.

After a little quick pinwheel cleanup to remove the verdigris from the inside of the clip, the first order of business was to remove the remains of the spring. To do that, I used a pointed dental probe to scrape out as much rusted steel as I could get out and then pried up the end of the spring that was lodged at the very top of the clip. It snapped off, leaving a small chunk hidden under the tabs, and to get that bit free I used a small punch and a mallet, alternating that with prying using a sickle-shaped dental scaler. Once I had freed the bit of spring, I could pull it out with a pair of chain-nose pliers. Here is just the clip, with the tabs called out:

Clip

And Make a New Spring

Because I didn’t have either a spare De Witt–La France clip from which I could harvest the spring or the facilities to make leaf springs, I had to go a different route. I bent a short length of 0.025" (0.6 mm) spring steel music wire back on itself to make a U, trimmed it to length, and then bent it to resemble the shape of the original spring:

Putting It All Back Together

Clip with spring

Slipping the spring under the clip’s tabs gave me the clip assembly I needed:

Clip with spring

To reassemble the cap, I first reinstalled the inner cap, aligning it so that the flat on one side of the inner cap was in line with the slot in the cap and using a rawhide mallet and a spare Parker “51” cap without its clip to drive the inner cap in until it bottomed against the cap crown. (The open end of the “51” cap was the right diameter to slip neatly into the opening in the Latremore’s cap.) The flat on the inner cap left plenty of space for my new spring. I could then slip the clip and spring into position from the crown end of the cap, using an X-acto knife blade to guide the loose end of the spring into the space between the cap and the inner cap as I slid the clip downward. When the clip crown was far enough down to clear the upper end of the slot in the cap, the clip snapped neatly into the slot, and I was done!

Cap

Now, when you press on the crown of the clip, the clip body rises slightly from the cap, and it’s easier to slip the pen over the hem at the top of a pocket.

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