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The Pen Doctor XII

(This page revised April 21, 2021)

Reference Info Index | Glossopedia  ]

Adjusting flow in a Parker “51”

Q:Frank Dubiel, while noting that the shell of a Parker “51” must touch the nib, says that if it contacts the nib too tightly it will restrict ink flow. Is heating the shell and either pressing the nib against the shell or the shell against the nib a reliable means of increasing or decreasing in flow in a “51”?

℞x: First off, I have to disagree with Frank. I’ve seen innumerable “51”s whose shells were very close to, but not in contact with, the nib, and in fact the shell on my “regular carry” pen doesn’t contact the top surface of the nib. That said, it’s certainly desirable that these parts be very close together, as the shell is part of the capillary system by which ink is brought to the nib tip.

Heating the shell is generally, I think, a bad idea. Mark I and Mark II “51” shells are acrylic and will take a lot of heat without even hinting that they want to bend, but Mark III shells are a polystyrene plastic, similar to the stuff used in the 61 but not so brittle, and these won’t take nearly that much heat without going limp or, usually, shrinking. Which is which? My “51” profile will help you to identify your pen,; but even so, there is a nontrivial risk of damage.

To adjust the flow in a “51” I use three techniques, all of which require that you remove the shell. The first is adjusting the tine spacing. (Please don’t just grab the pen and force an X-acto knife or other metal-destroying object between the tines; you will damage the slit walls.) This almost always results in a need to realign the tines and smooth the tip, but it is often easy and effective. Sometimes the fit of the shell is too close to allow the tines to be adjusted, and in these cases I use a small rat-tail file to remove a very small amount of material from the inside of the shell where it lies adjacent to the nib. The last method, which I use primarily to restore flow on pens that quit from time to time, is as follows: Remove the feed from the collector, heat it carefully just until it becomes soft enough to bend, and then bend the front half very slightly upward. Your bend should be a gentle curve just about midway along the feed’s length, as shown here:

Adjusted feed

(For visual clarity, this illustration shows the feed bent upward farther than you should actually bend it.)

As part of the changeover to the Aero-metric filling system, Parker eliminated the cut-back underside of the feed; the later version is cylindrical almost to the tip. These later feeds are less likely to need this sort of adjustment than are feeds like the one illustrated here. Be carful here, as many later Mark II feeds, and all Mark III feeds, are plastic, not hard rubber, and they don’t like this treatment at all!

Leaking Targa Nibs

Q:I have two Sheaffer Targa (slimline) pens. Both have developed mysterious leaks that appear to originate around the outside edge of the inlay portion of the nibs. Is there a way to eliminate this leak? Ink appears to build up around the underside of the nib more quickly when the pen is capped.

℞x:This is an unfortunate failing of Sheaffer’s otherwise wonderful Inlaid Nib. Until Sheaffer closed its repair center, the first line of defense was Sheaffer’s own service department. With that option no longer available, the remedy is to disassemble the pen and flow Capt. Tolley’s Penetrating Sealant (formerly called Tolley’s Creeping Crack Cure) between the nib and section shell. You can find Capt. Tolley’s at many boat shops; in the U.S.A. and Canada, West Marine has it.


To disassemble a Targa nib section, you need heat. Do not run out and buy a $24.95 heat gun with two settings; these settings, although they’re usually labeled Low and High, should actually be labeled Too Hot and Even Hotter. I use a rubber stamper’s embossing-type heat gun like this one:


A hair dryer might work on its highest setting, but most hair dryers do not concentrate the heat in a small enough area. You also need section pliers; I find that this works best if you have two pairs, but you can get by with one.

Empty the pen and flush it until the water comes out clear. Put the barrel back on and wrap the nib end in several thicknesses of paper towel. Grasp the barrel and shake the pen down vigorously the way you used to shake down a medical thermometer before electronics took over the world. Remove the barrel. If you are using a cartridge or a piston converter, remove it and replace it with a squeeze converter; this will provide extra strength during disassembly.

Targa section

Now heat the section, concentrating most of the heat toward the joint (indicated in the image here) near the threaded connecting bushing that screws into the barrel. Using your section pliers, unscrew the two halves; you can grasp the threaded bushing and the tapered section shell, exercising due care not to crush them. With the two halves separated, you can now push the internal parts gently backward and out the rear end of the section. Do not lose the rubber gasket that seals between the feed and the cartridge nipple.

Following the directions on the sealant container, apply the sealant from the underside of the nib, at the edge where the plastic section ends. Capillary action will draw the fluid into the space. Let it dry for 30 minutes and then reapply. After no more seeps in, let it dry 24 hours and reassemble the nib unit using orange shellac or sac cement to seal the threaded joint. (You may need to clean off some of the original cement before the parts will screw back together.) You can clean off any excess on the outside by rubbing gently with a pure cotton flannel rag and a little Simichrome

This technique does not work for Legacy-series pens, the Intrigue, or the Valor. The adhesive that holds the nib section assembly together in these pens does not yield to heat or soaking, and it is too strong to break loose by force.

Finding Replacement Pen Sacs

Q:I purchased several old ink pens that need to be refurbished. Many of the pens have ink sacs that are missing or are so hard that they break. Can you tell me where I could buy replacement ink sacs?

℞x:There are several good places to buy sacs, including the Pen Sac Company. Try a Google search.

  1. Dubiel, Frank. Fountain Pens, the Complete Guide to Repair and Restoration. 2003.  Return

The information in this article is as accurate as possible, but you should not take it as absolutely authoritative or complete. If you have additions or corrections to this page, please consider sharing them with us to improve the accuracy of our information.

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