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(This page published December 1, 2006)
I bought a beauty of a Vac Major at last year’s Chicago show. My problem is in filling, and it may be my inexperience with Vacs, although I don't have a similar problem with my other Vac pens.
The pen has a good diaphragm, it really hoovers the ink up — however, when I go to lock down the plunger, it ejects the ink again. The only solution I have come up with is to invert the pen when locking down.
Is there something amiss with the pen’s filler set-up, or is it me?
It’s you. The Vacumatic system — indeed, any filling system with a breather tube — relies on differential pressure; that is, the small volume of ink in the breather tube puts up less resistance to a change in pressure than the ink in the barrel. When you press the plunger slowly, the pressure has time to equalize, and the pen ejects ink from the barrel and breather tube simultaneously. (This behavior is more noticeable with a bigger pen because the larger barrel can eject more ink on each stroke.) But when you press the plunger quickly, the ink in the breather tube goes first, and when it’s gone there’s only air in the tube. Air is much easier to push than ink, so the pen just continues to eject air through the breather tube.
That said, there’s still some ink that is ejected on that last stroke, but with a quick press you'll put much less of it back into the bottle.
Another option, of course, would be to trade the pen in for one with a Speedline filler so that you would not need to make that last downstroke.
Some time ago, you mentioned that sooner or later anyone interested in do-it-yourself nib modification would have to learn to “mitigate the slit.” Trial and error is the best teacher but my problem is that the times I succeed beyond my expectations, I’m not sure what I did correctly. Conversely, some nibs are dismal failures beyond my understanding. Under the scrutiny of an 18× loupe they look like they should work, but they catch on an “up and to the left curly cue” stroke (I’m right handed), which I assume is the inner edge of the right tine. I often end up whittling these nibs down to useless nubs in the attempt to file the fang out and was hoping you might have a prescription for how I might better practice this mitigation with a better chance of perfection.
You may be looking for love in all the wrong places. The stroke you describe tends to press the nib such that the edge that catches isn’t the slit edge of the right tine; instead, it’s the outer side of the left tine. Look there with your loupe, turning the nib at various angles to catch all the contours, and you may see a tiny mountain leading to a sharp point. This kind of thing may be very hard to see! If the trouble does actually turn out to be the slit edge, you’ll need to learn how to bend first one tine, then the other, downward gently to expose its edge, and shape the edge by buffing the corner diagonally. Be very gentle here! Be sure you work all the way from the underside around to the very tip; don't just go after the little bit that you think is hitting the paper. (This is because, as it drives across the paper, the nib can actually make a small furrow in the paper; so you can’t predict the exact area that’s in contact with the paper.)
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