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How do I change a sac?
Changing the sac of a lever-filling pen is not as complicated as the rookie pen collector might think. Start practicing on parts that have NO value. Mistakes will be made on the way to success! The tools required are a screwdriver or dental pick to chip off the old sac if it has petrified. Shellac, available in an easy to apply nail polish bottle from www.fountainpenhospital.com, to seal the new sac. And a new sac available from the Pen Sac Company in California. Perhaps a thin metal pick similar to a shish kabob holder, to clear the old sac out of the barrel is also helpful. Some sections are difficult to remove and the threads should be heated before removal to avoid breaking the barrel. Hard rubber pens are far more forgiving than plastic when using heat. A hair dryer might be a better tool than a heat gun for the beginner. Celluloid and other plastics are more vulnerable and can get to a "point of no return" or even catching on fire! Always keep a glass of cool water close at hand! It is a good idea to flush out the old section and nib assembly to get rid of old ink residue. A rubber bulb for this purpose has been sold by David Nishimura of www.vintagepens.com. An ultrasonic cleaner is the best cleaning aid and can be purchased from a jewelers' supply house .After the old sac has been removed measure, then cut the new sac to the right length by inserting the sac in the barrel and allowing for about a quarter of an inch for the section. Make sure all of the old sac has been removed from the nipple of the section then apply a dab of shellac and squeeze the sac on the nipple while rotating it to spread the shellac. Reheat the threaded part of the barrel and reset the section. You can now test the pen with water. There are dozens of different filling systems in vintage pens but most will be lever-fillers.
Where can I find information about pens?
There are literally dozens of books about fountain pens on the shelves these days. When I first started collecting in 1989 there were only a handful of books available. Cliff and Judy Lawrence wrote the first book on collecting pens in the mid 1980's. "The Official P.F.C. Pen Guide" has Xerox-type life-size images of most of the major brands. Prices are a bit out of date but as a reference for identifying pens it is very good. The book is currently out-of-print but can be found on some internet sites. George Fischler and Stuart Schneider wrote the first coffee table book" "Fountain Pens and Pencils the golden age of writing instruments". This book has brief histories of many manufactures and color photographs of hundreds of pens. There is a price guide included which is still relatively accurate today. The only shortcoming of this guide is that the images of the pens are not life-size. This book is readily available as is the second book of the series. It is my opinion that the new collector should not skimp when it comes to buying books. The books will cost far less than the mistakes they will save you from making!
Why do some people only collect new pens?
It is my opinion that a lot of collectors are intimidated by vintage pens. They are concerned that the pens won't work properly and they don't have any feel for what valuations to put on the pens. New pens are always guaranteed to work and the value is virtually uniform amongst the retailers give or take a small percentage. I enjoy the "challenge" of vintage pens. Vintage pens usually need to be restored and the values are very subjective. It can take a long time to begin to feel comfortable with pricing. The value of vintage pens can vary greatly based upon condition and rarity. It takes some considerable effort to learn all the possible pitfalls and how scarce a pen might be. I believe it is worth the effort.
Who is the best person to buy a pen from?
Just as you found your way to my web site, there are lots of internet stores to visit. Get recommendations from friends and fellow collectors. Develop a relationship with a vendor that you enjoy dealing with and who understands your needs and your goals. I hope you find you can fulfill these criteria here and visit often. If there is anything you need, or any questions you need answered, I will do my best to accommodate you. Even if this means sending you to someone else whom I think will be better suited to your needs.
What is the best vintage pen to buy?
Of course, this is a question that has no answer. See what appeals to you cosmetically and has a nib that suits your writing style. My best advice is to buy books and look at pictures. Go to pen shows and handle hundreds of pens. Ask questions and go to web sites. Look at pens on eBay and follow the pricing. In this day and age you have an almost unlimited number of resources. Use them!
When is the best time to buy a vintage pen?
The vintage pen market fluctuates like any other collectibles market. There are times when prices are high and then there are times when they decline. It is obvious to say: "buy when the prices are low and sell when the prices are high". It is a bit more difficult to figure when these swells and dips occur. Be as educated a buyer as you can be. Use your resources and stay within your budget. If you have a large budget you can start with higher priced pens. If your budget is on the smaller side there are still lots of nice pens you can afford. Esterbrook makes very affordable pens in lots of varieties. Even brands such as Parker and Waterman have some less-expensive models that will write just as well as the Duofolds and the Patricians!
Is eBay a good place to buy a vintage pen?
Ebay is a very useful resource for the new and veteran collector. It provides an opportunity to see thousands of different pens. Buying on eBay can be both good and bad. There are usually between 10-14,000 items in the writing instrument category every day. Some of these items are great and others are either useless or poorly described. There are times when you can find a "gem" and other times you might be expecting a mint example and you get a "dog". With that said, pick your spots and caveat emptor!
Why do some vintage pens turn brown?
When discussing the browning or discoloration of materials used in fountain pens you can come at it from two directions: Hard rubber and plastic. Hard rubber turns brown from exposure to light or water. Sulfur rises to the surface and the color changes to brown or olive green. This can often be treated with the use of a "409" bath. However this sometimes leaves the material with a pitted appearance. The ambering of plastics occurred quite often in the earliest examples, when the stock used to make the pens was not cured for a long enough period. It was therefore more unstable than the later versions. The fact that the barrel had a rubber sac inside which contains sulfur and the cap had an inner cap that was made of BHR also containing sulfur adds to the problem.
Should I buy a vintage pen that is damaged?
Simple answer: No, buy the best example that your budget will allow. There are occasions when a a pen with damage could be a good buy. If a model of pen is extremely hard to find one might consider buying one in poor condition. Another reason one might choose a "lesser" example would be because of budget restraints. You can often buy a poor example for 25% of the cost of a mint one. The cracked or damaged pen would probably write just as well and perhaps better depending on the nib. A damaged pen may also have value as a parts pen. You may have parts at home you can swap with the bad parts and make a complete pen. Often, if a pen is quite valuable, you might buy the pen and hope to acquire the needed replacement pieces at a later date. This often can become a money drain if there are enough pens laying in a parts box. I have parts I have been holding for over ten years! Also, I have found that when I finally give up and sell a part that I had been holding, the needed piece to complete the puzzle shows up soon after!