How to Restore the Snorkel/PFM Filling System

(This page revised January 30, 2017)

Reference Info Index | Glossopedia  ]


Fountain pen
Fountain pen

Although not terribly difficult, restoring the filling system in a Sheaffer Snorkel or PFM is a longer and more complicated process than replacing an ordinary sac. There are some definite pitfalls, and there are some wrong-headed ideas about how to do the job. Restoring the system wrong can cause the filler to leak or otherwise malfunction, it can make further repair more difficult (if not impossible) for the next person, and it can also damage the pen. This article explains how to do it right. Where the PFM differs from the standard Snorkel, the differences are explained and illustrated.

Tools Required

Parts Required (see footnotes for more information)

Supplies Required (see footnotes for more information)

For photos and information about sac removal tools and section pliers, see the appropriate section of How to Replace a Pen Sac.

As you follow the instructions in this page, refer to this diagram to identify the various parts:

Cutaway view of pen, with parts labeled

Disassembly, Cleaning, and Sac Removal

To disassemble the pen, first extend the Snorkel tube as Sheaffer’s instructions tell you to extend it when refilling the pen, i.e., by turning the blind cap counterclockwise while pressing it gently toward the barrel until there is a quiet but perceptible click. The click indicates that the Touchdown tube’s threads are free of the threads on the sac protector. Pull out on the blind cap to extend the Touchdown tube all the way. Now unscrew the barrel from the gripping section at the threads. If it doesn’t want to come with just your hands, grasp the barrel with a rubber gripper square. With the other hand, apply section pliers to the section and twist the two parts to unscrew the section. (Note: the pen being repaired in this article has a self-colored section; the pliers in the photo below are not gripping the barrel.)

Removing the section

If the section still refuses to budge, it was probably shellacked in place by a previous repairer who did not follow Sheaffer’s practice of using no shellac on the Snorkel except to secure the sac to the sac section. You will probably have to heat the joint very slightly.

CAUTION
CAUTION
Heat must be used with extreme care in Snorkel repair. The plastic used for the Snorkel is Bakelite C-11, a styrene-acrylonitrile (SAN) copolymer, and it will shrink, warp, or bubble and char under excessive heating. The plastic begins to soften at about 170° F (77° C), so go carefully. Shellac softens at about 140° F (60° C), so that you can free the adhesive bond safely with sufficient care.

Warm the barrel/section joint carefully, spinning the pen around so that all sides of it are heated evenly and testing frequently by placing the plastic (not the metal thread ring or trim ring) against your lower lip. If it’s too hot to hold there briefly, it’s too hot, and you should allow it to cool a little before proceeding. For a heat source, I recommend the “embossing” gun that you can get at craft shops (illustrated below). It‘s inexpensive and reliable, and you can control how much heat it delivers by holding the pen nearer to or farther away from it, as necessary.

Heat gun
WARNING
WARNING
Despite what you might have read in various repair manuals (including Da Book), do not use an alcohol lamp or other open flame.

Grasp the barrel again, firmly, with a rubber gripper square. Apply section pliers to the section and twist the two parts to unscrew the section. Using a slight jerking motion will frequently assist in breaking the shellac’s seal, and twisting back and forth, alternately unscrewing and screwing the parts, might also be useful. If you twist back and forth, do not twist too forcibly in the “screwing in” direction; doing so can shear off the section with its threaded portion still in the barrel.

With the section out of the barrel, use the X-acto knife to make a small but visible mark on the back edge of the section directly in line with the top center of the nib. Make a corresponding mark on the surface of the sac protector. These two marks will assist you in aligning the parts during reassembly. Now slide the guts out of the section and set them aside.

Front End Disassembly

The front end assembly differs between the Snorkel and PFM, and there are two versions for the Snorkel.

Drop the nib unit (“TRIUMPH” point), the nib, feed, and collar (open nib), or the feed and shell (PFM) into the bottle of J.B.’s PERFECT PEN FLUSH or ammonia solution. These parts can soak until you’re ready to reassemble the pen.

Guts Disassembly

Note
Note
In some pens, the Snorkel tube will be loose enough that it comes out of the sac section. If it does, just set it aside. You will reinstall it as you are reassembling the pen.

Disassembling Snorkel guts isn’t complicated, but it can be troublesome. The sac is crimped inside the sac protector, and Sheaffer used three different methods for doing the crimping, as shown here:

Crimp types

To straighten out the crimps on pens that require it, use the knotting pliers. Carefully insert the tip of one jaw between the crimped metal and the rubber sac section; do not push too enthusiastically, as it’s easy to go too far and rip the thin metal of the sac protector. Once the plier jaw is in place, align the pliers so that squeezing the jaws together will straighten the crimped metal, bringing it in line with the surrounding areas, as shown here:

De-crimping the sac protector

Shown below is the sac protector with two of the four crimps (the ones on the right side) straightened out:

Sac protector half crimped

Use the dental pick to poke a hole in the end of the sac, through the opening in the distal end of the sac protector. If the sac is still pliable at that point, use the pick as a hook to drag enough of the sac out through the opening that you can grasp it and pull on it. Sometimes, the entire sac will come out when you do this, but more frequently about half of it will break off, leaving the rest inside the sac protector.

Insert your sac section pusher into the opening in the end of the sac protector and guide it down along the inside wall of the sac (or sac protector, if the entire sac came out when you pulled on it) until it reaches the back face of the sac section. Holding the pusher and sac protector to ensure that the pusher remains touching the side wall, rest the exposed end of the pusher on a hard surface (a bench block is ideal but not required), and push down on the sac protector to force the sac section out of the proximal (upper) end of the protector.

CAUTION
CAUTION
The pusher must not shift inside the sac protector. The back end of the Snorkel tube’s feed extends into the sac past the surface of the sac section, and the pusher can easily break it off if located wrong when you push down on the sac protector.
Pushing out the sac section

If the sac is ossified, it might also be stuck in the sac protector, and this can make removing the sac section very difficult. If the above-described pushing technique does not work, you will need to drive the sac section out. To do this, grasp the sac protector with your section pliers and rest the pliers on the top edge of something like a bench block. Strike the pusher with a jeweler’s hammer.

Driving out the sac section

Use your sac removal tools to scrape and drag any remaining pieces of the sac out of the sac protector and to remove any of the sac that is still stuck to the sac section. This is important because the new sac will not install properly if there are bits of the old one in the way. If you have a brass test-tube brush of the appropriate size, using it can make the cleanout task a little easier. Shown here are the sac section and sac protector, with a new sac ready to be installed.

Driving out the sac section

Fill the ear syringe with J.B.’s PERFECT PEN FLUSH. Insert the end of the Snorkel tube into the syringe’s open end, squeeze the syringe tightly down on the Snorkel tube with your fingers, and squirt the J.B.’s back into its bottle to clean the Snorkel tube. Flush the tube with cool water, and blow through it to drive most of the water out.

Dealing with a Clogged Snorkel Tube

If the pen was left for a long time with ink in it, the Snorkel tube can be completely clogged with dried ink. Clogs of this type can resist the cleaning process described above; these clogs are best broken with the aid of a Snorkel tube flosser. To make a flosser, use a No 76 drill to drill a hole about 12" (13 mm) into one end of a 2" (50 mm) piece of 12" (13 mm) hardwood dowel. Apply GS Hypo cement to one end of a 3" (75 mm) length of 0.020" (0.5 mm) stainless steel music wire and insert the wire into the hole. When the cement has dried, grind or sand the end of the wire at a diagonal to create a sharp point as shown here:

Flosser end

An undamaged Snorkel tube feed extends beyond the tube at the back end (inside the sac), but these feeds can easily be broken off, and they still work. The feed is a long half cylinder extending the full length of the Snorkel tube, with an ink fissure cut into the flat surface. This leaves just enough room for the flosser to work its way through.

Flossing the Snorkel tube

Insert the flosser from the back end of the Snorkel tube, where the tube passes through the sac section, as shown above. Bracing your hands against each other, as illustrated, will help you to control the tube and the tool. As you start to work your way through the tube, twirl the dowel between your fingers to help the pointed end break up any obstructions. Doing this under running water also helps. Once the obstruction is cleared, run the flosser back and forth through the tube a few times and then remove it. Run the Snorkel tube and sac section through the ultrasonic cleaner with Rapido-Eze to dissolve the dried ink from the ink fissure, and finish by squirting water through the tube with the ear syringe to clear out the Rapido-Eze and any remaining ink.

CAUTION
CAUTION
The Snorkel tube feed is rather delicate, especially at the front end, where it is split to allow the ink to pass from the Snorkel tube feed’s fissure through the tiny slit in the Snorkel tube to reach the external feed. Be gentle while flossing the Snorkel tube to avoid damaging its feed.

Back End Disassembly

The next task is disassembly of the pen’s back end. Here are the back-end parts, disassembled:

Parts of the back end
Note
Note
In the list of tools for this article, an optional length of brass tubing is described immediately after the screwdriver. If you are working on a PFM, you can make it easier to locate the screwdriver onto the blind-cap screw by inserting this tubing into the barrel before you insert the screwdriver. The tubing reduces the effective inner diameter of the Touchdown tube so that the screwdriver fits with less sidewise play and cannot slip down beside the screw head instead of into its slot.

Begin disassembly of the back end by inserting the screwdriver into the barrel. (If you are working on a PFM and have made the guide tube described in the Note above, insert the tube first.) Guide the screwdriver into the Touchdown tube, and turn it carefully until the blade drops into the slot in the screw that secures the blind cap. Holding the blind cap with one hand, unscrew the screw completely, until it will drop out of the barrel. Separate the blind cap from the Touchdown tube, push the Touchdown tube back into the barrel so that it falls out the front, and set these parts aside. (The black rubber washer that seals this joint will usually just remain in the blind cap, and there is rarely any reason to remove it.)

Removing the blind cap screw

Frequently, especially with a first-year pen (described later in this article), the spring will remain in the barrel instead of coming out with the guts. If it did, first try upending the barrel to dump the spring out. If it doesn’t fall out, use the fine-pointed dental pick or a sac-removal hook to catch it and pull it out. Set it aside with the guts.

Removing the spring

Next, you need to remove the O-ring from the back end of the barrel. “Weasel” the fine-pointed dental pick between the O-ring and the groove and lift out the O-ring. Once it is free, it will fall out.

Removing the O-ring

If the pen has never been worked on, the O-ring will be the original one, and it is likely to have ossified. (Many, but not all, of the original O-rings are made of white rubber.) If this is the case, you will need to chip the O-ring out of the groove with the tip of the X-acto knife.

Chiseling out the O-ring
CAUTION
CAUTION
Chip the O-ring out with extra care. If the knife slips, it can dig into the plastic of the O-ring groove, and this will compromise the sealing ability of the O-ring and groove. If you were really pushing hard, it can also penetrate the barrel wall, making a hole visible from the outside.

With the O-ring out of the barrel, poke the point of the dental probe through the small hole in the barrel’s side near the back end and then use a cotton swab to remove any material that you pushed out of the hole into the inside of the barrel. This hole, through which air passes when the plunger is pushed down during filling but not yet screwed tight, must be clear for the filler to operate properly.

Clearing the barrel hole

Putting It All Back Together Again

Note
Note
It is important not to reuse the Point Holder Gasket or O-ring that you removed during disassembly. Even if they look fine and feel pliable, they’re not all right. They are worn or partially ossified, or both, and they will allow air to leak. The leak might not be apparent now; but a month, or a year, from now, it will be there.
CAUTION
CAUTION
Apply shellac (sac cement) only where it is called for during reassembly. Do not apply shellac (or any other adhesive) at any other point in the process! Where shellac is not called for in these instructions, Sheaffer did not use it. Using it where it is not called for will not make the pen work any better but will make the next person’s work much more difficult and much more likely to damage the pen. Also, do not substitute nail polish for for shellac. Nail polish does not retain its hold when exposed to ink (which contains water).

Guts Reassembly

Putting the guts back together, assuming that you did a proper job of cleaning away any foreign material while you were doing the disassembly, is easy. For a Snorkel, trim the No 14×214" necked sac to a length of 238" (60.3 mm). This is the length to which Sheaffer’s Snorkel sacs were trimmed (probably by the White Rubber Company). For a PFM, the No 1712×178" necked sac should be cut to 2116" (52.4 mm) long.

Apply shellac to the tapered part of the sac section, being careful that the cement does not cross the back surface and get on the Snorkel tube, and attach the sac using either tweezers or a sac spreader.

Sac installed on sac section

Allow 30 minutes for the shellac to dry. Coat the sac with talcum powder, then install the sac and sac section into the sac protector.

As you insert the sac, orient the sac section to its original position, so that the top side of the Snorkel tube is aligned with the mark you made on the sac protector when you disassembled the pen. If your Snorkel has an open nib, the top side of the Snorkel tube, the side that will align with the nib, has a short longitudinal slit at the front end (see photo below).

Snorkel tube for open nib

If you have an earlier pen, with a broad guide rail on the sac protector and a corresponding broad rail on the sac section, you can just match up the two broad rails.

(If the Snorkel tube came out of the sac section, you need not worry about orienting the sac section correctly unless the sac section has a broad guide rail. You will reinstall the Snorkel tube later.)

Use the back end of your tweezers to re-make the crimps that hold the sac section in the sac protector. For rolled-down guide rails, you can just roll the ends down again with the flat side of the tweezer back end. For between-rail crimps, use the corner of the tweezer back end as shown here.

Recrimping the sac protector

Test the assembly with the section (or the ferrule, if your pen is a PFM) to see that the sac protector slides freely in the section’s grooves. Do not lubricate this area with grease or any other substance! If you pried too aggressively when you were uncrimping the sac protector, it may jam. If it does, you will need to push the guide rails back into shape. To do this, use the edge of the back end of your tweezers to push downward (toward the center of the sac protector) and inward (sidewise, to narrow the guide rail) on each side of each guide rail at the open end of the sac protector, as shown by the red arrows in the photo below. Do this carefully, not pushing too hard or too far. Test the fit, and repeat the operation until the sac protector slides freely in the section.

Adjusting the sac protector rails

Back End Reassembly

The first step in reassembling the back end of the pen is to install a new O-ring in the barrel. As indicated in the footnotes to this article, it is important to use an exact replacement O-ring; a standard off-the shelf O-ring will yield a sloppy fit and will allow some amount of air leakage, reducing the air pressure in the barrel to collapse the sac during filling. Holding the O-ring in your tweezers, apply a small amount of silicone grease to the O-ring and fit the part into the groove in the back end of the barrel. This is a somewhat finicky process; be patient and persistent. When the O-ring is in place, use a cotton swab to remove excess grease from the recess at the end of the barrel, being careful not to wipe the grease off the O-ring.

Installing the O-ring

Beginning with the original Touchdown, Sheaffer’s workers used special tools to make the task easier; shown below are the tools that I made to duplicate the Sheaffer tools. The smaller tool, with a long setback at the end, is for the Snorkel; the other is for the PFM and the 1949 Touchdown. (The other end of the Snorkel tool fits the Touchdown TM and the Imperial Touchdown.) These tools slide into the barrel and come to rest with the end positioned right at the groove, so that you cannot push the O-ring past the groove and on into the barrel. (If you’re not set up to fabricate a tool like this, you can use a length of wooden dowel with the “business end” slightly beveled so that it will fit as far up into the barrel as it needs to go.)

O-ring tools

Balance the blind-cap screw on the tip of your screwdriver, and insert it into the Touchdown tube as shown here:

Inserting the blind-cap screw

Insert the Touchdown tube into the barrel, passing it through the O-ring. Make sure the blind-cap gasket is in the blind cap, and install the blind cap onto the Touchdown tube. Be sure you screw the assembly together all the way; if the blind cap is not tightly sealed, air will leak from the joint, and the pen might not fill at all.

Installing the blind cap

Run the plunger in and out several times, turning it back and forth to spread silicone grease from the O-ring in a thin film all over the Touchdown tube. Test the seals by plugging the opening at the barrel‘s front end with a finger and cycling the plunger out and in fairly rapidly. You should feel a little suction on the outward stroke, and there should be an audible puff of escaping air at the end of the inward stroke. If not, you will have to disassemble the blind cap from the Touchdown tube and beef up the gasket. The easiest way to do this is to use a second gasket, placing it on the screw before inserting the screw back into the Touchdown tube.

Note
Note
If you do need to use an additional gasket, you can make one from the rubber sheet material that is used for making plunger-filler piston head gaskets. Use appropriately sized leather punches or cut carefully with sharp scissors.

Final Snorkel Reassembly

[ If you are working on a PFM, skip to Final PFM Reassembly ]

Note
Note
If the Snorkel tube has come loose from the sac section, you can still assemble the pen as you would normally; but the orientation of the sac protector to the nib, as described in the next paragraph, will not matter. If you have a sac protector with four narrow rails, you can insert it into the section in any of the four possible ways — but note that the sac protector might slide more freely in some orientations than in others.

Fit the spring onto the sac protector. If the stop against which it fits is a trough (second- and third-generation Snorkels), make sure the spring is seated in the trough. In the first-year pen, the stop is a simple flange, and the spring will rest on it but not be held in place by it.

Installing the Snorkel's guts

If the Snorkel tube is loose from the sac section, skip this paragraph. Apply a very small amount of silicone grease around the Snorkel tube about 12" from the sac section. Line up the top side of the Snorkel tube with the mark you made on the back edge of the gripping section and fit the sac protector’s guide rails into the slots in the ferrule. Carefully slide the sac protector assembly all the way in as shown above. Hold the guts /section assembly with the section downward. With the Touchdown tube extended, slide the barrel down over the distal end of the sac protector, and screw it down tightly onto the gripping section. If the pen has an open nib, install the nib collar firmly onto the gripping section. Line the nib and feed up together and place the feed over the Snorkel tube. Align the nib and feed with the top-side slit in the Snorkel tube, and push the nib and feed home in the collar to complete reassembly of the nib unit; then remove the nib unit.

If the Snorkel tube is loose from the sac section, follow these instructions:

  1. Fit the Snorkel tube’s back end into the opening in the sac section, seating it just far enough that it will not pull out easily.

  2. Fit the sac protector’s guide rails into the slots in the gripping section without worrying about how the Snorkel tube might line up with the nib. Carefully slide the sac protector assembly all the way in as shown above.

  3. Hold the guts/section assembly with the section downward. With the Touchdown tube extended, slide the barrel down over the distal end of the sac protector, and screw it down gently onto the gripping section.

  4. If the pen has an open nib, install the nib collar firmly onto the gripping section. Line the nib and feed up together and place the feed over the Snorkel tube, still without worrying about how the Snorkel tube might line up with the nib, and push the nib and feed home in the collar to complete reassembly of the nib unit. If the pen has a “TRIUMPH” point, just install the nib unit.

  5. Now rotate the Snorkel tube with your fingers until it is properly aligned with the nib.

  6. Push the blind cap down, and screw it in to retract the Snorkel tube. Gently press the Snorkel tube in until its end is flush with the contour of the feed (Triumph point) or halfway in and halfway out of the feed (open nib).

  7. Re-extend the Snorkel tube, remove the nib unit, then remove the section. Apply a small amount of shellac right at the joint where the Snorkel tube enters the sac section, taking care that the shellac does not reach the gap between the sac section and the sac protector. Rock the Snorkel tube from side to side very slightly to help capillary action draw the shellac down into the gap between the parts, and clean off any remaining shellac.

  8. Apply a very small amount of silicone grease around the Snorkel tube about 12" from the sac section. Reassemble the pen, screwing the barrel down tightly this time but without installing the nib unit.

Snorkel Point Holder Gaskets

Slide the Point Holder Gasket onto the Snorkel tube. If your Point Holder gasket is like the part to the left in the photo here, it does not matter which side goes on first; but if it is like the part to the right, the side whose center boss protrudes more should go toward the sac protector. Slide the gasket as far as you can, and then screw the nib unit all the way into the open end of the section. Unscrew the nib unit and check to see that the Point Holder Gasket is properly seated in place, then screw the parts together again, tightening the joint firmly. If the Snorkel tube was loose and needed to be reinstalled in the sac section, you can now make any final adjustments it needs; when you have finished adjusting it, allow to dry for 30 minutes. If the Snorkel tube did not need reinstallation, you do not need to let things dry.

Test the filler. If it works, you’re done. If not, you must troubleshoot it. Theoretically, you already tested the back-end seals, so the most likely problem area is the section/barrel joint. Leakage at this joint can keep the filler from working at all. Make sure that the joint is tight and test again. If the filler still fails, unscrew the barrel from the gripping section and apply Sheaffer thread sealant (not shellac!) to the section threads. Warm the thread sealant gently to soften it, and screw the joint together again.

If the filler still does not work, fate might have thrown one more curve ball at you. Skip to Parting Shot, below.

Final PFM Reassembly

[ If you are working on an ordinary Snorkel, skip to Final Snorkel Reassembly ]

For the PFM, you must reassemble the front end before you can finish putting the pen together. First, fit the feed back into the shell, making sure that it aligns with the nib. If it is not aligned, it will not seat properly in the shell.

Installing the PFM's feed

Next, insert a new Point Holder Gasket. This part must lie flat on the back surface of the feed, which is very slightly more recessed than the edge of the shell, and the gasket will fit into this recessed area.

Installing the PFM's Point Holder Gasket

Follow the Point Holder Gasket with the flat washer. Then install the clutch ring.

Installing the PFM's clutch ring

Apply a little shellac to the threads on the smaller end of the ferrule, and screw the ferrule into the shell.Snug it down against the flat washer, and then use the PFM section tool to tighten it so that it compresses the Point Holder Gasket. As you are tightening the ferrule, check the alignment between the nib and the mark you made at the beginning. Because some modern Point Holder Gaskets are thicker than the Sheaffer originals, the mark on the ferrule might not line up with the nib when the ferrule is tightly screwed down. If this happens, you will need to loosen the ferrule just barely enough that the ferrule slots will align with the nib in the same way as they would if the mark had lined up. The drawing below illustrates the ferrule with the mark lined up (left) and in one of the three possible orientations if the mark would not line up (right). The ferrule must still be compressing the Point Holder Gasket; if it is not, the pen will leak air and will not fill.

PFM ferrule alignment
Note
Note
If the Snorkel tube has come loose from the sac section, you can still assemble the pen as you would normally; but the orientation of the sac protector to the nib, as described in the next two paragraphs, will not matter. You can insert the sac protector into the section in any of the four possible ways — but note that the sac protector might slide more freely in some orientations than in others.

If the Snorkel tube is loose from the sac section, skip this paragraph. Apply a very small amount of silicone grease around the Snorkel tube about 12" from the sac section. Work the point of the Snorkel tube through the hole in the Point Holder Gasket. Line up the top side of the Snorkel tube with the nib, fit the sac protector’s guide rails into the slots in the ferrule, and carefully slide the sac protector assembly all the way in. If the Snorkel tube is not perfectly aligned with the nib, use section pliers (on the ferrule) and gripping square (on the shell) to make the necessary slight adjustment. Assemble the pen. Holding the shell assembly nib downward, fit the spring onto the sac protector. With the Touchdown tube extended, slide the barrel down over the distal end of the sac protector, and screw it down tightly onto the ferrule.

Installing the PFM's guts

If the Snorkel tube is loose from the sac section, follow the instructions in this paragraph. Fit the back end of the Snorkel tube into the opening in the sac section, seating it just far enough that it will not pull out easily. Apply a very small amount of silicone grease around the Snorkel tube about 12" from the sac section, fit the tube’s front end through the Point Holder Gasket. Fit the sac protector’s guide rails into the slots in the ferrule without worrying about how the Snorkel tube might line up with the nib. Carefully slide the sac protector assembly all the way in. Hold the guts/section assembly with the section downward. With the Touchdown tube extended, slide the barrel down over the distal end of the sac protector, and screw it down gently onto the gripping section. As you close things up, you might need to pull gently on the Snorkel tube to overcome the friction of the Point Holder Gasket. With the pen closed,, rotate the Snorkel tube with your fingers until it is properly aligned with the nib. Push the blind cap down, and screw it in to retract the Snorkel tube (assisting the Snorkel tube if necessary, so that it does not come loose from the sac section). Now press the Snorkel tube in until its end is flush with the contour of the feed. Re-extend the Snorkel tube and disassemble the pen. Apply a small amount of shellac right at the joint where the Snorkel tube enters the sac section, taking care that the shellac does not reach the gap between the sac section and the sac protector. Rock the Snorkel tube from side to side very slightly to help capillary action draw the shellac down into the gap between the parts, and clean off any remaining shellac. Reassemble the pen and test the Snorkel tube again, adjusting it if necessary. Allow to dry for 30 minutes.

Test the filler. If it works, you’re done. If not, you must troubleshoot it. Leakage at the ferrule will keep the filler from working. Make sure that this joint is tight and test again. If the filler still fails, unscrew the barrel from the ferrule and apply Sheaffer thread sealant to the ferrule threads. Warm the thread sealant gently to soften it, and screw the joint together again.

If the filler still does not work, fate might have thrown one more curve ball at you. Continue with Parting Shot.

Parting Shot

If you arrive here with a non-working filler, you should test all the various seals again, and remedy any failures you find. If all the seals were good, you might have a pen with a hairline crack in the barrel or in the gripping section (Snorkel) or shell (PFM). Finding such a crack can be difficult: because these parts of the pen are not exposed to ink, there is no telltale ink leakage. If you do find a crack, you are faced with a potentially difficult choice:

Reassemble the pen, readjusting any alignment problems that might have arisen. Assuming that all went well, you should now have a working pen.

Notes:
  1. We use section pliers daily, often two pairs together, and we’ve settled on what we think are the best. The pliers shown here, K-D Products Model KD 135s, are actually intended by their manufacturer for use in the automobile industry. Don’t be lured into buying cheap lookalike pliers, though; I’ve used several brands of lookalikes, and they don’t work alike.

  2. Martin Ferguson offers a well-made PFM section tool.

  3. Sacs are available from several online sources.

  4. Brian and Lisa Anderson offer an exact replacement Point Holder Gasket for standard Snorkel models and a modified version of the Sheaffer part for the PFM. David Nishimura also offers Point Holder Gaskets; his parts are both modified versions. Parts from either source will work equally well.

  5. The correct O-rings are available from several online sources, including Indy-Pen-Dance.com. Be careful that you do not buy a standard off-the-shelf M1×7 (Snorkel) or M1×8 (PFM) metric O-ring; these parts are not the correct size and will yield an unreliable filling action.

  6. Some pen suppliers can sell you sac cement (shellac); most offer small bottles with an applicator brush for about $5.00.

  7. Do not use baby powder or ladies’ dusting powder, or any powder that contains fragrances, cornstarch, zinc oxide, or other additives! Some of these products are oiled to protect delicate skin, and oil eats rubber. Others are abrasive instead of slippery, and that can be just as bad. If there’s no plain talcum powder in the house, buy some. (I should point out that pure talcum powder is not easy to find these days. Your best bet might be a billiards supplier, but one enterprising collector wrote to tell me that he had obtained a lifetime supply by slitting open an old bicycle inner tube!) If you absolutely cannot find talcum powder, you can substitute powdered graphite. This stuff is sold by hardware stores and locksmiths for lubricating locks and other mechanisms that are exposed to cold and wet. It's messy, but it does work.

  8. J.B.’s PERFECT PEN FLUSH is a special formulation of surfactants and cleaning agents. We don’t make it, but we’ve been using it for several years, and we think it works very well. If you don’t have it and don’t have time to purchase a bottle, a solution of 1 tablespoon clear household ammonia (not sudsy ammonia, and most definitely not lemon scented) in 23 cup of water will work almost as well.

  9. Sheaffer thread sealant is a non-hardening rosin-based substance made to the same formula that Sheaffer used in its factory and repair center. You can obtain it from Main Street Pens.

  10. You can obtain the correct rubber sheet material from Main Street Pens.


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. My thanks to Mike Kennedy for his collaboration in the development of this article.

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