Wednesday, June 18, 2014

New seals for Pelikan 100N, 400, 120, and 140

Although we started selling replacement seals for Pelikans some time ago, we were never entirely satisfied with them. They were larger than the originals and softer, and did not always fit securely enough onto the piston shaft -- to the point that in some cases they had to be glued in place. The first ones were also bright blue, which looked nothing like the originals when viewed through the ink window, and the later ones weren't much better, being off-white.

We decided we could do better, and now the results are in: seals just like the originals, that fit securely, and made in both clear and black -- the latter giving an accurate original appearance to Pelikan 100N pens equipped with the early black synthetic seals.

They are now listed in our catalog, and will shortly be listed on eBay as well. Resellers interested in wholesale quantities should contact us directly for pricing.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Dating a Waterman instruction sheet

George Kovalenko has been trying for some time to pin down exactly when Waterman first offered pens in red hard rubber. He has managed to narrow down the likely point of introduction to somewhere between November 1906 and February 1907, as is explained on his pen history blog. So when the pen below crossed my path, the instruction sheet accompanying it caught my eye as fitting neatly into this chronology.

The pen is a smooth 0512 1/2, in a Christmas box with a gift inscription dated 1910. The instruction sheet gives much space to promoting the new "Clip-Cap", and from the way the clip is represented and from the range of materials offered, the date must be right around 1906.

This is also consistent with the listing of spare parts on the same sheet, shown below. Parts are listed as plain, chased, or mottled -- Cardinal is not mentioned. Both #3 and #7-size pens are still in the lineup, as are the desk pens (eyedroppers with long, tapered barrels, too long to be carried in a pocket).

Intriguingly, the parts list includes two models I have never seen nor heard of, oversize taper-caps in #7 and #8-size.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Printing problems with and an HP Deskjet

This has nothing to do with pens, but since I had no luck Googling for an answer, I thought I'd share the solution that finally worked for me. Printing from the software to my HP D1300-series Deskjet worked fine under Windows XP. Under Windows 7 Pro it was another story. With standard settings, using print spooling, nothing would print (the print queue would read "1" for an instant, and then back to "0", without the printer making a sound). With print spooling off, sending documents directly to the printer, none of my other applications could print, while printing took incredibly long -- maybe a half-hour to print an envelope, for example.

Using a reference driver wasn't an option, as HP doesn't appear to offer one for this series of printers. In the end, however, the tech I talked to suggested that I try printing to the built-in Microsoft XPS Document Writer -- essentially, printing to a file -- and then printing from that file. A bit of a workaround, but it does the trick.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Ups and downs

Some ups and downs this week, the big "down" being the loss of a pen to credit card fraud (if you are offered the BHR Duofold Deluxe with the distinctive engravings shown above, it's stolen).

A nice "up" to end the week, however, was the successful restoration of the early Moore safety shown above. The pen was bought at the Chicago pen show auction; there was a gaping crack at the front of the barrel, and another in the end knob. The latter was the result of screwing the knob onto the shaft too far, splitting it from the inside end. The knob was removed from the shaft, relaxed and reformed with heat, and the crack sealed closed. The threads were then chased and deepened so that the knob could be screwed onto the shaft without excessive outwards pressure. The crack now looks like a superficial scratch.

I'm afraid I didn't take a "before" picture of the crack at the front of the barrel. Once again, the damaged area was heat-relaxed and reformed, but here the material was very thin and not entirely round or concentric, so sleeving it was very tricky work. The thinness of the barrel mouth was probably how it ended up cracked in the first place, as a heavy-handed writer putting a lot of pressure on the nib could easily overstress the thin walls holding the nib assembly in place. Repair entailed careful internal grinding of a recess for the hard rubber sleeve, then careful shaping of the sleeve's interior profile. Once again, the crack now looks like a superficial scratch, and there is enough strength to the repaired area that the pen is once again usable, with due care.

Early Moore safeties with the short cap are rare in any form. Examples with overlays are highly desirable, but to find an overlay over mottled hard rubber is extraordinary. This is certainly the first such I've ever handled, and very well may even be the first one I've ever seen. Definitely a worthwhile restoration effort!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Yet another Edward Todd

Here is another example of the creativity of Edward Todd in its heyday. This sterling silver dip pen features pierced work, which gives the effect of a silver filigree overlay over ivory. In fact, the body of the pen is hollow from end to end, and the "ivory" is a lacquer-coated metal tube closely fitted inside.

The construction is effective, and quite convincing -- as the detail above illustrates. The Edward Todd maker's mark is clearly visible next to the "STERLING" imprint.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Don't snap that box!

One thing that I learned young about the handling of Old and Delicate Things was how to close a box with a spring-loaded latch. Press the release button down -- don't snap the box closed.

This beautiful and uncommon fitted Waterman box shows why. Snapping a box closed not only puts a lot of pressure on the latch plate, but also subjects it to the impact of the falling catch -- which itself can break from the repeated shocks. In this case, it was the latch plate that gave way. Subsequent snap closures did further damage, gouging away the leatherette and wood at the latch point.

Good old boxes are becoming harder to find, and the wooden parts of hundred-year-old boxes are typically dry and fragile. So please, hold that button down, and don't snap that box.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

More unusual Edward Todd pens

The pen above lacks its cap and nib. It's been sitting forgotten in my parts box for years, noticed only when I had to rummage around to see if I could find some Edward Todd parts for yet another project pen. Fully marked, "The Todd Pen", it is -- most unusually -- a middle-joint eyedropper.

Nearly all middle-joint pens are A. A. Waterman or Sterling products. Likely this pen was made under license, as it appears to predate the expiry of the 1899 middle-joint patent.

The other unusual Edward Todd is also missing a few parts -- the feed and the cap -- but what a nib! It's a fully marked "J" nib, with the "J" stamped in relief just as done with steel "J" dip pen nibs. Very hard to find in gold fountain pen form, and for some reason more often seen on German pens such as early Montblancs.

UPDATE: Here's a picture of a typical base-metal J-nib, marked "WHS" (for W. H. Smith, the English stationery firm, still very much in business).

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

State of the Blog

Over 170 published posts now, with several more articles in progress. Over 3000 page views in March. We have some shows coming up soon, along with other springtime activities, so posting may slow down a bit. On the other hand, you never know what interesting items may turn up for a quick profile.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Edward Todd enameled pen


Edward Todd was a venerable company that started out in the dip pen era, and though its fountain pens were not technically innovative, they often took a very distinctive path when it came to design. If you run across an American-made boxed and matching set of a metal pen, pencil, and pocket knife, odds are it's Edward Todd. Ditto for elegant solid gold pens with inlaid enamel decoration -- true vitreous enamel, and not so-called "cold" enamel, as used by Wahl-Eversharp and a few others.

And don't forget pens with fully enameled overlays, such as this recent acquisition. Not at all common, with most examples badly chipped. For some reason enameled overlays were much more popular in Germany and Britain -- though the European preference was for transparent colored enamel over guilloché.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

George W. Heath & Co.

Heath is a name well known to pen collectors -- though less for their own pens and pencils than for the overlays they supplied to some of the most prominent American penmakers at the beginning of the 20th century. Heath overlays are found on the pens of Waterman, Parker, Conklin, Moore, A. A. Waterman, Carey, and others, yet little is currently known about how the companies worked together, or for how long. Some Heath articles can be identified by a maker's mark, the most common of which is an "H" in a square, the square with two short lines extending right and left -- but this mark is only seen on silver, never on gold or gold filled items, even those in all other ways identical to their silver equivalents.

A much less common variant is an "H" in a spiky diamond, as shown below, also found only on silver.

The mark below is not restricted to silver objects, but I have never seen it applied to a fountain pen overlay. It seems most common on gold filled pencils.

This post will concentrate on Heath's earlier history. A good starting point is a rather boosterish volume published in 1912, Newark, the City of Industry. On page 116 we find the picture above, and the following entry:
IN the year 1892, George W. and Alfred C. Heath began business as partners in New York as "chasers and designers to the trade." The original location was at 137 Elm street, New York, but owing to increasing business more commodious quarters were obtained at 27 Thames street, and later at 380, 382 and 384 Canal street.

In May, 1912, desiring to avail themselves of the splendid manufacturing facilities afforded by Newark, and being disposed to do their share in making Newark famous, and proving that "Newark Knows How," the firm of George W. Heath & Co. moved the office and factory to the modern fireproof structure which they had erected at 206, 208, 210 First street.

The company is engaged in the manufacture of fountain pens, and in these days of universal education when everybody can write, there is an ever increasing demand for its product.

The pens made by this concern are known as Heath's Tribune Fountain Pens, the component parts of which are made of the best material obtainable, and are carefully assembled and adjusted by skilled men under the direct supervision of the members of the firm.

Besides fountain pens the company also manufactures gold pens, gold and silver pencils and art metal goods which are sold all over the world, through agencies established by correspondents and frequent visits of traveling salesmen among the dealers in various foreign countries.

All products that are made by this company bear the imprint "Made in Newark," and the goods are worthy of the city in which they were made.
This outline history is consistent with the other records I have consulted. In the Twelfth Annual Report of the Factory Inspector of the State of New York, submitted Jan 24, 1898, p. 260, "Heath Bros." is listed as engaged in "Silver chasing", with 5 employees. The following year's report (p. 272) is the same, but with 4 employees. The report for the year following, 1899 (p. 313) is shown below (the space between the Heaths' listing and the header has been trimmed for ready reference).