(This page revised March 27, 2015)
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The Morrison Patriot in Army Green
The most common type of syringe-filling pen uses the basics of the Post design, with a piston riding in a relatively short barrel that serves as the “cylinder” (the ink reservoir). The piston shaft (with its operating knob, if there is one) is concealed by a blind cap that is almost as long as the barrel so that it can conceal the shaft at full extension.
The Morrison Patriot's filler differs in that the cylinder is a celluloid tube shellacked to the nipple of a standard sac-type section. The entire barrel unscrews from the section to expose the filler in exactly the same manner as if the filler were a modern converter.
Patriot section and filler before restoration
Although the Patriot is not generally considered a high-quality pen, it is actually well made (if not always well finished). The filler presents the greatest difficulty to a restorer because it was not designed to be reparable. This article explains and illustrates one way to restore the filler. The restoration described here is a professional procedure that produces a reliable and long-lasting result.
CAUTIONIn most Patriots, the section is celluloid, not hard rubber. (Some very early pens have hard rubber sections.) Also, the tubing of which the filler is made is very thin. It can overheat and begin to shrink and warp almost before you can react. Proceed with great care!
Unscrew the barrel and set it aside. Prepare the section/filler assembly for filler removal by wrapping the filler with two layers of blue painters’ tape, placing the tape so that its edge is aligned with the end of the section nipple, as shown below. The tape will protect the fragile filler from some of the heat that you will use to remove it from the section. Push the plunger in as far as it will go. This will provide support to keep the filler tube from collapsing when you apply the section pliers and begin heating.
Place the pliers as shown here:
Apply very gentle heat and lots of careful wiggling to remove the filler from the section. This joint was shellacked at the factory, and you need to break the shellac loose without heating so much that the celluloid filler deforms. As the shellac lets go, you will see the area of the joint change from dark black to a lighter color, with the color change progressing as you wiggle more. You can use your X-acto knife to begin the separation process by placing the blade very carefully on the joint between the section and the filler, pressing a little, and then twisting the knife to raise the filler away from the section’s nipple. Do not twist very far, or you will damage the filler! Patience will be your best friend here; it takes a significant amount of time to get the filler off with no damage.
Once the filler is off the section, remove the painters’ tape.
Sometimes the filler will deform slightly despite your best efforts. If it does, you can try to reshape it by using a Letter N wire-size drill. Insert the back end of the drill into the open end of the filler. Heat the filler gently over the heat gun, pressing gently on the drill until you can push it far enough into the filler that its end is past the deformed area. Heat a little more to encourage the filler to resume its original shape, being careful not to set the celluloid filler on fire. (It sometimes helps to roll the warm filler on a hard flat surface such as a table top.) Let the filler cool completely with the drill in place, then remove the drill. There is some variance in size on these fillers, and you might need to repeat this procedure with a 5/16" drill.
Clean off any shellac remaining on the section nipple, and set the section aside. With the X-acto knife, carefully shave away any built-up shellac remaining inside the cylinder’s open end. Now screw the knob off the piston shaft and push the piston out. Set the knob aside.
The “piston head” comprises two packings, a thin red claylike one and a thicker cork one, held in place by three celluloid washers, one at each end of the stack and one in the middle. The shaft is stepped so that the only washer that is actually cemented in place is the one nearest the end of the shaft. The cork will probably be ready to crumble, but the clay packing might have ossified and become nearly rock-hard; remove them both by destroying them, and carefully shave away any remaining crumbs.
The next step is to remove two of the three washers from the shaft. The best method, if it will work, is to stand the shaft up on your knockout block with its front end inserted into a close-fitting hole in the block so that the washer rests on the surface of the block, and then knock the cemented washer loose by striking the back end of the shaft with your hammer as shown below. This will usually require several blows; check after each blow to see whether you have succeeded in breaking the washer loose all the way around the shaft. When it is completely free, you can work it and the other loose washer off the shaft.
Sometimes the washer will be too firmly fused to the shaft and will not break loose. Use the point of the X-acto knife to pierce the fused celluloid joining the end washer to the shaft as shown below. Work all the way around the shaft; you are cutting the washer loose from the shaft. It is not necessary to free the washer so that it moves loosely. Now knock the washer loose as described in the preceding paragraph.
Slide the first and second washers off the shaft. Using the needle file, clean and slightly smooth the shaft where the washers and packings were. Remove as little material as possible; you need only smooth the shaft down to the point at which the polystyrene tubing will just slide over it. If you take off so much material that the tubing is a loose fit, it will be more difficult later to get a good joint between the tubing and the shaft.
Moisten one end of the cotton swab with water and scrub out the interior of the cylinder. Set the cylinder aside. Shown here are the cylinder and piston parts as they should appear at this point. One of the washers is included in this photo, but you will probably not be able to use it; see the last paragraph before Reassembly, below, for more information.
Cut about a 1/4" length of the polystyrene tubing. Fit it over the shaft end and push it down firmly to make a sleeve on the shaft. The sleeve should end up seated solidly against the remaining washer as shown here:
Fuse the tubing to the shaft by applying a little solvent to the joint where the tubing sits against the washer on the shaft and allowing capillary action to draw the solvent into the joint. Do not fuse the other end of the tubing where it exposes the shaft!
Apply silicone grease to the styrene sleeve, and fit the three O-rings onto the greased sleeve. The sleeve should protrude slightly beyond the third ring as shown here; if it doesn’t, you will need to remove it and cut a slightly longer piece.
With the X-acto knife, carefully cut around the circumference of the sleeve. Use the thickness of the O-rings as your guide so that the end of the tube, after it is cut, will be just even with the thickest part of the O-rings.
Cut one end off a cotton swab and use the cut end of the stick to apply a small amount of silicone grease inside the filler’s cylinder, staying at least 1/4" away from the open end. Insert the piston shaft’s long end into the cylinder and start it through the hole in the back. Push the O-rings into the opening using the brass tubing. Seat the piston all the way at the back end, and check to see that it seals. One way to check is to apply your mouth to the open end of the cylinder, suck a little air out, and plug the cylinder with your tongue before releasing suction. If the cylinder remains stuck to your tongue, you have a good seal.
Remove the piston. This will unavoidably draw some of the silicone grease down onto the surface that will be shellacked later, and you will need to clean off as much as possible of this grease using a cotton swab.
Ideally, you would be able to secure the O-rings to the shaft by fusing back into place one of the celluloid washers you removed earlier, but the holes in the washers’ centers are frequently too big to form a good joint. If neither of the washers is a reasonably tight fit onto the shaft, fashion a washer from the small piece of polystyrene sheet. The washer’s outside diameter should be about 9/32", and the inside diameter should be just large enough to fit tightly over the end of the piston shaft. (This diameter will be approximately 7/64"; start by drilling smaller, and enlarge the hole as necessary until it just fits.) Press the washer evenly into position. Using the artist’s brush, apply a little solvent to weld the washer back onto the shaft. Allow the fused joint to cure overnight.
When the piston assembly has cured, reinstall the piston as described earlier and screw the piston shaft knob firmly onto the shaft.
Apply shellac to the first 1/8" of the cylinder’s inside wall and also to the section nipple. Assemble the filler onto the nipple, being careful that the shellac makes a complete seal all the way around; if there is any air passage from the interior of the cylinder to the section threads, the filler will leak.
Restored Patriot section and filler
Clean off the excess shellac and set aside to dry. When the shellac is dry, reassemble the pen.
The information in this article is as accurate as possible, but you should not take it as absolutely authoritative. If you have additions or corrections to this page, please consider sharing them with us to improve the accuracy of our information.
Thanks to Ron Zorn for development of the sleeving technique described here, without which it would not be possible to use O-rings in standard commercial sizes.