(This page published January 1, 2022)
Although disassembling and reassembling Pelikan nib units is not widely recommended as a good thing to do every day, there are times, e.g., when you discover two months later that you took your M101N Tortoise out of your rotation without rermbering to empty and flush it, when disassembly becomes a necessary evil. Working with modern nib units that have plastic feeds, this article shows you how to do these tasks safely, The general principles are the same for vintage units, but there are a couple of differences that will be pointed out.
In the above image of an M700 Toledo nib unit, the feed fins that are exposed behind the nib collar are important. They provide a reliable guide for reassembling the unit after you have taken it apart. For the M100, M150, M2nn, M4nn, M101N, and M700 Toledo, there are five fine exposed behind the collar, plus just the space between fins. I shall call this 5 fins. The M100 and M150 are smaller pens than the others, and their nibs and feeds are correspondingly shorter at the front so that the back of the feed protrudes the same distance into the section. For the M6nn, there are 4 fins exposed. The M6nn’s nib is longer than the nibs of the M2nn and M4nn, but its feed is the same length as in the smaller pens. This is why one fin fewer shows behind the collar. For the M8nn, M900 Toledo, and M10nn, only fin (just the space between the first fin and the back part of the feed) is exposed. For the M3nn, 3 fins are exposed.
Absent special tools, there are three ways to disassemble one of these nib units: the seriously wrong way, the less wrong way, and the right way.
The Seriously Wrong Way. It’s possible to extract the nib by wiggling the front end of it sideways while simultaneously exerting force in the right direction to slide the nib off the feed. There is a significant risk that when employing this clever technique, you will push the nib too far to one side, or even both sides, causing a nasty lateral crease on the side edge of the nib right where it enters the collar. If you do get the nib out without damaging it, the feed will then slide out of the collar. I’ve done this, and the nib damage was no fun to repair.
The Less Wrong Way. You can extract the nib and the feed together by placing the nib unit vertically on a table or desktop, rear end against the table, and then grasping the collar and pushing it firmly down. If you are lucky, the collar will slide down to the back end of the feed. It might or might not take the nib along on its slide — if it does, it will do major damage to the fins on the top side of the feed’s back end. Your thumb or finger can also damage the front-end fins by slipping down against those fins. I've done this, too, and it cost me a feed.
The Right Way. Without the special tools I mentioned earlier, the safest way to disassemble a Pelikan nib unit is to knock it apart using a knockout block, a punch, and a hammer.
About Those Special Tools…For the terminally curious, the special tools I use to take Pelikan nibs apart are of my own design. As the image in this note shows, there are two parts, a plunger and a sleeve to hold the nib unit in a knockout block. The sleeve is bored out to allow the plunger to pass through it and, at one end, to allow the nib unit to nestle inside, with the back end of the feed and the entire nib collar protected. The four different sleeves handle the four sizes of nib units.
Before you disassemble the nib unit, examine it to take note of the exposed fins and also, more importantly, to observe how much of the feed is exposed at the front of the nib collar. When you are reassembling the unit, this is how much you will want to leave exposed. For example, with an M2nn nib, the image here shows that essentially all of the middle part of the feed, where there are no fins, is hidden within the collar (shown in phantom). If you have never had one of these nib units apart, you might not even have known that there was a finless area there. With an M6nn unit, almost all of this area is exposed at the front of the collar.
CAUTIONAlthough it is not necessary to soak the nib unit before disassembly, doing so is a good idea, especially if the pen was left with ink to dry inside. The feed and nib might be ink locked, and you would have to strike much harder to knock them loose, potentially damaging the feed or the collar. Water won’t do much good if this is the case; the wisest course, when the unit appears to be ink locked, is to soak it in Rapido-Eze, possibly even in an ultrasonic cleaner.
The risk of damage throughout the disassembly process is much greater if you are working on a 400NN nib unit with a clear plastic collar; these collars split easily.
The procedure for disassembling a Pelikan nib unit is similar to that for disassembling the feed and nib from an ordinary vintage section:
Using the front end of the nib, find the smallest hole in the nib block that the nib will pass through. Seat the nib unit in this hole, with the nib pointing downward (inside the block) and the back end of the feed exposed.
CAUTIONOn feeds for the M8nn, M900 Toledo, and M10nn, there is a square peg that protrudes from the bottom of the finless area, fitting into a notch in the front face of the collar. In choosing a hole in the nib block, be careful to choose one large enough that you can seat the nib unit off center, with the top surface of the nib touching the side of the hole. There must be enough clear space on the underside of the feed that the peg can pass through the hole.
Choose a punch that is just a little smaller than the diameter of the beck end of the feed. Center it on the feed, being careful that the punch does not sit so that part of it hangs over the end of the feed.
CAUTIONIt is critical to keep the punch centered on the feed as you drive the feed out. If it is not centered, it can collide with the back face of the collar as you drive it with the hammer. The back surface of the collar is a sealing surface, and if the punch strikes it, damage will result, possibly causing the pen to leak when the nib unit is reassembled.
Strike the punch with the hammer, gently but with enough force to move the feed.
Check the centering of the punch on the feed again, and repeat the hammer strikes (and recentering the punch as needed) to drive the feed completely out of the collar.
Finish by cleaning the parts with cool water.
Done right, reassembly is much easier and safer than disassembly. Here’s how it goes:
Lay the nib on the feed, aligning the notch in the middle of the nib’s base with the channels in the feed. For the M100, M150, M2nn, M4nn, M101N, and M700 Toledo, the base of the nib should cover exactly four fins behind the finless area of the feed as shown below. For the M3nn and M6nn,, the base of the nib should cover exactly five fins. For the M8nn, M900 Toledo, and M10nn, the base of the nib should cover all of the fins behind the finless area, leaving only one space exposed.
Slip the collar onto the back of the feed, sliding it just far enough forward to catch the base of the nib and keep it from sliding around. On feeds for the M8nn, M900 Toledo, and M10nn, remember the square peg that protrudes from the bottom of the finless area. Orient the collar with the notch aligned to the peg so that the peg will seat into the notch as you push the nib and feed into the collar.
Now, viewing from the underside, adjust the front of the nib so that the tip of the feed is centered on the slit.
Using the back end of the feed, find the smallest hole in the nib block that the nib will pass through. This might be one hole smaller than you used for disassembly. Seat the nib unit in this hole, with the feed pointing downward (inside the block) and the nib exposed.
Grasp the nib and feed from the front, with your index finger on the top surface of the nib and your thumb pressed against the finless area at the tip of the feed. Pushing straight along the axis of the feed to avoid bending anything, press the nib and feed carefully into the collar, stopping when you reach the point where the proper amount of the feed extends out from the front of the collar. If necessary, remove the nib unit from the knockout block to see how many fins are exposed behind the collar, and if you have not yet pressed far enough, reinsert the nib unit and continue pressing as needed. It is a good idea to grasp the knockout block with your other hand, just so it won't slip.
Remove the nib unit from the block and check the alignment between the feed and the nib again. Once it’s right, align the tine tips as required.
Most vintage Pelikan nib units have a hard rubber feed and a hard rubber collar. These come apart in essentially the same way as a modern unit, but you have to be careful with the feeds in the 100 and 101 because, as illustrated here, they have a sloped surface at the back:
You need to be careful to keep the punch face on the very end of the feed so that your punch won’t up that sloped surface. Before disassembling one of these nib units, stop and look at it first. You will see that the front end of the collar just meets the edge of the larger notch on the side of the feed. The back end of the collar extends part of the way along the slopped surface, leaving a small cavern there. What you won’t see until you get the unit apart is that the base of the nib should sit right at the proximal end of the sloped surface. These points will guide you in reassembly.
The vintage Pelikan you really have to watch out for is the 400NN. Some of these were made using a clear polystyrene collar for the nib unit, and these are almost always a problem. The collar is under a nontrivial amount of tensile stress, and it often cracks or even splits. The collar on the nib shown here exhibited stress cracks in the threads and a through crack along the side nearest the nib’s left shoulder.
I recommend that you replace a cracked or split collar with a modern collar from an M100, M150, or M2nn nib unit, The modern collar screws perfectly into the section. Examine the 400NN nib unit before disassembly so that you will know where along the feed to locate the nib and how far along to slide the replacement collar. You will find that the diameter of the original feed is just the tiniest bit too big to fit into the modern collar safely, and to solve this problem you can use a rat-tail needle file to take off an equally tiny amount of material from the inside, all around, of the collar. Here is the same 400NN nib unit after having been fitted with a modern collar.
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.