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The Pen Doctor XXI

(This page revised March 10, 2018)

Reference Info Index | Glossopedia  ]

Resacking with Silicone

Q:I want to send my orange Parker Duofold out for restoration. Should I ask the repairman to use a silicone sac?

℞x:As a sac material, silicone is actually not as good as latex. It does not stick as tightly when shellacked to the section; and because it’s not as elastic as latex, it does not work as well when filling the pen. Also, because it is gas permeable, you have to keep a filled pen nib upward when it’s not in use to prevent leaks. Silicone’s virtue is that it doesn't outgas sulfur compounds, and that’s why I use it in pens that are known for discoloration problems.

Parker Streamlined Duofold Junior, Pearl & Black Moderne

A Jade Duofold, or a Pearl and Black one, would get silicone. An orange pen like yours (officially named Chinese Red or Lacquer Red, but what’s in a name?) would not get silicone because the material of which it’s made just doesn’t seem to discolor much at all. I would also use silicone in clear demonstrator pens because of its transparency. (I use modern exact-replacement PVC sacs to replace dead Parker Pli-Glass sacs.)

Capless and Vanishing Point: What’s the Difference?

Q:I know this is a probably a dumb question, but I have several Pilot Vanishing Point pens and I want to know if I can use the nib from a Pilot Capless in them. They don’t sell the Capless here in America so what’s the difference between the Capless and the VP?

℞x:If you’re talking about a current (post-2000) Capless, there’s no difference between the pens except the name. Here are a Vanishing Point and a Capless together; can you tell which is which?

Fountain pen
Fountain pen

My theory is that Pilot USA decided back in 1970, when they started selling the Capless in the U.S, that “capless” might imply that the pen was missing something, so they chose “Vanishing Point” because it seems like a techie-cool name. But that’s just a guess.

With the foregoing said, I'll point out that you’re more likely to find a 14K gold nib in a Capless than in a Vanishing Point. It‘s also possible to find a steel nib from time to time; apparently, Pilot in Japan still sells steel nibs for the Capless. But this won’t change the way the pen works; mechanically, the nibs are the same, just as the pens are.

Capless/Vanishing Point Capacity

Q:I just bought a Vanishing Point. I like it but it doesn’t hold very much ink. I keep having to refill it. Can you make it hold more ink?

℞x:Actually, you yourself can make it hold more ink. Because of the long path from the nib to the converter, there”s a lot of air trapped in the pen. To make it take more ink, just cycle the converter (run the piston down and up) about four times instead of the usual once. Each cycle will take in a little more ink, and you’ll be surprised how long the pen will write.

The foregoing said, the CON-40 converter is possibly Pilot’s worst idea in decades. Its capacity is ridiculously little. Try to find an old CON-20 squeeze converter or a CON-50 piston converter (both preferably NOS) on eBay or from a dealer at a pen show. You’ll be glad you did.

Pens Gradually Lose Flow

Q:I have several pens, of different brands, that are wonderful smooth, wet writers. However, if I am writing with them for several pages at a time, they seem to get gradually lighter and lighter until I feel the need to give the converter a twist or two. Then the flow is good and wet again for another few pages. These are nice pens that I would expect not to have to do this with.

I have tried flushing them with water & dish detergent mix, but that doesn’t seem to do much. Should I soak the nib and sections in water overnight? Maybe there is some buildup of ink in the sections.

℞x:I find with many modern pens, whether they have steel or gold nibs, that the manufacturers have patterned their final configuration after what they’ve seen on vintage pens. This means that the tine tips are touching, and in most cases that’s not the way it should be. There needs to be a tiny space, something on the order of 0.0005" to 0.001" (0.013 mm to 0.025 mm). Vintage nibs have their tips touching because even hard rubber will bend with stress and age, and the downward spring of the nib gradually forces the feed down until the tine tips touch.

Simply spreading the tines solves probably 75% of this sort of flow problem. To adjust the spread, you need a couple of “feeler gauges.” Visit a hobby shop that caters to model railroaders and purchase a packet of K&S brass shim stock. (People not in the U.S.A. may find this more difficult; the Web is your ticket to the hobby shop, and Google is your map. One source is Walthers, a well known model railroading supplier.) The packet costs about $5.00 and contains four sheets: 0.001", 0.002", 0.003", and 0.005". Cut 1" (25 mm) squares from the 0.001" and 0.002" sheets, and smooth the cut edges by burnishing them against a flat hard surface such as glass. I use a no-longer serviceable bright-polished “51” cap to do this.

You can spread the tines by very, very carefully prying the side edges of the nib apart while bracing with a finger on the top surface. Check the gap with a 10× loupe. If you went too far, squeeze the edges back together. Ideally, the 0.002" square will require force to get into the gap. The 0.001" square will be held gently by the tips. For a wetter flow, adjust so the 0.001" square just falls free but the 0.002" square still doesn't want to go in easily.

After adjusting the gap, be sure to check the alignment and adjust it if necessary. Here is the proper way to check alignment:

Checking tine alignment

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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