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The Pen Doctor XXXI

(This page published July 1, 2018)

Reference Info Index | Glossopedia  ]

Was My Pen Made by a Typewriter Company?

Fountain pen

Q:I want to know if this pen was made by John Underwood company who produced those classic desktop typewriters. I can’t find any info out and I heard from another pen collector that you are an expert.

℞x:I don’t know about the expert part, but I can tell you that your Underwood pen was not made by John Underwood’s typewriter company. There were many producers of crudely made cheap pens who used names suggesting a connection with a company that was known for its high-quality products. Among these were the following, listed with the famous companies whose names they traded on:

It’s known that Waltham and Winchester were used by the Starr Pen Company of Chicago, Illinois, but the identities of many of these pen makers have been lost in the mists of time.

Knocking a nib out

How do I Remove a Parker Vacumatic Nib?

Q:I have a parker vacumatic major size that unfortunately broke off the tipping material on the nib I am searching for a replacement and would like to know if the nib is a friction fit or some other method.

℞x:The nib is a friction fit. It is much, much tighter than modern nibs, however, and usually it can’t just be pulled out. Vintage nibs in general are tighter than modern nibs, but Parker nibs from about the mid-1920s onward can be a real bear to remove because the sections, even the plain black ones, were made of celluloid, not hard rubber. Most have shrunk over time, making the fit even tighter than it was originally. Removing a Vac nib will very likely require a knockout block, a tubular punch (to fit around the breather tube), and a hammer, along with the requisite familiarity with said tools. Once the nib and feed are out, depending on exactly how tight it was, it might be next to impossible to reinstall them without nib pliers and a significant amount of force (which is risky, especially for someone who does not have the requisite training and experience).

Can I use India Ink If I Just Dip?

Q:India ink bottleHere’s a question I’ve never seen asked: without fear of damage, can one use a fine fountain pen with india ink by simply dipping the nib and feed, writing or drawing, then after use carefully washing the nib and feed before storing - i.e. never drawing ink into the barrel reservoir of the (fountain) pen?

℞x:It can be done, but I don’t recommend it. Even with careful washing, it’s all too easy to leave ink in the feed channels (where it will inevitably have been drawn by capillary action). India inks contain substances that are hostile to fountain pens, such as shellac or gelatine. Shellac is not water soluble; you can’t wash it out of a pen with water. If your purpose is simply to have a waterproof ink, there’s a better way. I have many clients who are artists, and these people unanimously sing the praises of Platinum Carbon Black. Several of them use it to do pen-and-watercolor work, drawing with a fountain pen and then, after the ink is thoroughly dry, using watercolor washes over it. This ink is what’s known as a nanoparticle (or nano-particle) ink; that means that although it’s still a pigmented ink, the particles of pigment are much finer than the particles in India ink or in paints, so fine that they don’t seem to clog fountain pens. Platinum Carbon Black is not the only nanoparticle inks; although it’s the only one with which I’ve had personal experience, there are several others available, in black and other colors. Nanoparticle inks do need a little more care than ordinary inks, but they don’t contain the evil substances that are in India ink.

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