Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Osmia Piston Part 2

So hopefully all saw that Osmia on Monday, with the sewing thread wrapped around it. :)

Today I will show the new retaining pin that I made for the piston knob. I haven't done this to many times before, so it was a fun but quick little challenge.

For those who enjoy the details: The rod I used to make this retaining pin is actually an old Sheaffer Vac-Fill piston rod, ground down to size. I used a high-speed rotary tool turn this down to size. Wish I had a lathe...

The goal here is to use that steel rod to attach the small plastic cap (to the right), to that tiny metal knob on the piston.

First we've got to fit them together and line up the holes.

Then we've got to grind the rod down to the right diameter.

Lastly, it must be trimmed to a good length using a rotary tool. And we're done!

Really not to hard to do actually. It was a fun little project, though with a lathe I probably could have gotten better results. Still, it's good enough to look decent, and hold the knob on just fine. :)

Makes me wonder - How did the original retaining pin fall out? Perhaps it was knocked out and lost by a previous restorer. Or maybe it actually just fell out. It'd be really cool to have the entire history of a vintage pen such as this one, written down and archived.

Well folks, tomorrow's the first day of December - Happy holidays for all! I'll have some website updates to post tomorrow, as a "bonus post". Or something like it. :) 

This next month will be a great time to buy some FP's, perhaps as gifts for a fellow user. I have some really awesome ones for sale, which I'll be putting up tomorrow for my monthly tray. Until then, they shall remain a secret. :)

Tyler Dahl

Monday, November 28, 2011

An odd piston filler "repair"...

Well, I come across some strange things in my job, but some are weirder than others.

I was taking apart an Osmia Piston filler, for a client who had bought the pen (on eBay I think), and wanted to get it restored. I found a most interesting "previous repair job", one of the strangest I've seen.

It looks to me, like someone used thread (yes, sewing thread), to try and make a new piston seal, when the other one degraded down. Take a look for yourself:

Here is the pen - with the piston removed.

So, here we can see the thread after I removed it, as well as some crusty bits of the original rubber seal.

My guess? I personally think that when the original rubber seal shrunk down, and got brittle (when it should have been replaced), someone who owned the pen decided to try and fix it by wrapping waxed thread around it.

Probably worked... For a few days. :)

Anyway, I just thought some of you might find that interesting! I sure did. Let me know if you've ever seen something like this before. Perhaps it's by design, and I just don't know it, but I'm pretty sure it's a home-job.

Wednesday I'll be showing how I made a new retaining pin for the piston knob! Fun. :)

Tyler Dahl

Sunday, November 27, 2011

My new blogging schedule!

Well guys and gals, I finally have a good consistent blogging schedule now. This will remain the same, with the exception of holidays, vacations, and emergencies. Here's what I'd like to do:

I will be updated the blog regularly every other day now, starting tomorrow. Here are the exact days, since we don't have an even number of them in a week. :)

Monday: Blog Update
Tuesday: ____
Wednesday: Blog Update
Thursday: ____
Friday: Blog Update
Saturday: ____
Sunday:Blog Update

So Sunday and Monday will  be back-to-back blogging, but I'd rather do 4 per week instead of 3. :)

That's it. My schedule for blogging. I really enjoy blogging, but I definitely need the days off to work on pens, and prepare for the next days blog post. I think this is a good balance of blogging being a priority, but not getting in the way of my work.

Enjoy the blog, subscribe if you already haven't, and leave me a comment to share your thoughts. I'd appreciate hearing those.

Tyler Dahl

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Workshop renovations!

Well, some pretty exciting news for me! I finally got my little workshop renovated!

This has been long in coming, but it's finally done now, and I'm really happy. Of course, as they say "pictures or it didn't happen". :)

Before pictures are really bad quality - I shot them "on-the-go" with my iPod Touch camera, and well, it's just not that great...

The after pictures look a lot better though (taken with my normal camera)!

Showing the unpainted walls of my workshop.

These stains are actually little bug nests, made of mud. Before I moved into this workshop, it had been left open to the elements. Nasty...

There's one that hasn't been scraped off yet.

We had to rip the door frame off, because it was completely rotted.

Here's my new-ish desk. It's a monster of a piece of furniture! About twice as deep as a normal desk. It's pretty rough though. A bargain find for only $45.00, it needs some TLC.

Now here is an important piece of my history. See that little red toolbox down there?

This was my original repair workshop, from last year! That's it - all my tools and supplies in one tiny red toolbox. I've come a long way since then. 


After Pictures!

This is the old door, but fitted to a new frame. Much more solid, and much better sealed against the weather.

Here's my desk, all moved in, and cluttered up too. :) As you can see, the walls are actually white now!

This is one of three windows that we've finally replaced. The others are just covered in plastic for now. It's really nice to have some natural light in here again.

here is my humble little packaging setup. I will expand this eventually, but for now, It's enough. Sort of. ;)

My trash can, as well as my bag of packing peanuts.

From left to right: My ultra-sonic cleaner (the little silver box, not the big blue tank!), my customers pens, all organized in a plastic rubbermaid with separate bags, and a small space-heater, to keep things warm in winter. The building heats very easily, which is good.

So there you go! Sort of a mini tour of my workshop. I am very happy about this, as it will allow me to get a lot more work done in a much more convenient manner. We also moved out some stuff from the shop, to make more room. Much nicer indeed. :)

I hope you all enjoyed. Have a great weekend everyone!

Tyler Dahl

Friday, November 25, 2011

The ugly vacling

I wanted to share this success of mine. Nothing major here, but a pen that has been brought back to life again is always something to rejoice over. :)

I just want folks to know that there is hope for any pen! Even if it looks really bad. Let's get on with it:

It's not often that I nickname a clients pen. However, this is one case where I just had to. The name simply came to me, and you'll see why in a minute here.

I present to you: The Ugly Vacling.

Here he is. Not to bad, that is, until we take a closer look...

No, that's not silver trim. It's actually supposed to be gold! When I saw the cap-ring, I thought, "No way, there can't be gold trim under there!".

To really crown this ugly vacling, it needed a special nib.

Oh yes, mangled!

Twisted, bent, and kinked.

Probably took a nose-dive in the pond, and hit rock bottom. :)

So, what to do with such an ugly pen!? Well, the obvious choice - restore it. After an hour or so of hard work, some sweat, and a few intense moments, we are now presented with a much different sight.

What I see here is a swan, that once was an ugly vacling. :)

The beauty of sparkling gold trim is once again seen!

Lucky for me and the client, there was little-to-no corrosion of the metal furniture - just tons and tons of dirt.

And how about hat nib?

I would say that it's looking much better now.

There you go! It's always a sweet thing to see a hopeless pen become a great daily writer for someone. This client is currently enjoying his renovated Vacumatic, and I think the Vac is enjoying it too. :)

Have a good one folks, and remember, no pen is beyond saving, so long as there is a pen left to work on!

Tyler Dahl

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Trick for inverting your vac diaphragms

For any of you out there who like to restore Parker Vacumatics - This is my favorite trick for inverting the Diaphragm before putting it on the filler unit.


Also, here's the link to, the place I recommend you buy your vac tools if you want to get started restoring Parker Vacumatics.

I hope you enjoyed the video! Please let me know in the comments below what you thought. Good? Bad?

And also - Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Tyler Dahl

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What's restored?

This post is really about something that's been on my mind for a while.

It seems like everyone's got a different definition of what "restored" means, when referring to a fountain pen. Fact is, there is no exact definition of that word, in this application. Each restorer pics his own meaning, based on what he or she thinks is the best thing to do. Or at least that's how it should be (were we in a perfect world).

Sadly these days I run into a lot of "restorations" that have suffered from lack of attention to detail.

In the last week or two, I have come across more than 5-6 different pens that have suffered from a poor repair job! I am surprised by that number, even with the high volume of pens that I deal with.

This is something that really disappoints me, knowing that there are repairers out there who lack the proper attention to detail for the job. I'm not talking silly little mistakes - I'm talking mistakes that put the pen back in the repair shop in a matter of weeks or months. Those kind of mistakes are unacceptable to me, and I expect they are to you as well.

Take a look at some of these examples of "restored" pens. You'll be pretty amazed to know that these are not the worst of them! :)

Here's a quick snapshot (with my iPod Touch - bad photo I know) right in the middle of a restoration job. This pen was "restored". What you see below is a large chunk of ossified sac, that was still inside the pen stuck to the wall! That is NOT restored in my book. How about you?

Here's one where someone cut this Esterbrook sac to long. Restorers, know what you're doing before you do it! This caused the sac to crumple as you can see in the photo below. It was also causing problems with the lever.

 Here's an example of the word "restored" really being abused. Or the right side you see someones definition of a restored sac and j-bar. Not only was the sac to long, the j-bar was never de-rusted! Look at how this sac looks, after only a few weeks of being "restored". I can't imagine this pen lasting for much longer than 2-3 years before needing another job. On the left is my section and sac, trimmed to the proper length. Needless to say, this j-bar spent a lot of time with me, and a piece of steel wool shortly after this picture was taken.

It's pens like this that make me want to be all the more sure that not just me, but my customers know what I mean when I say restored. For me, restored is not just getting a pen to work.

To me, "restoring" is bringing a pen to the point where it is functioning at the maximum of it's abilities.

It's getting a pen to work at it's maximum. To function as best it can. Cutting corners is always an option, but not for those who seek to provide a writing instrument that will truly last. Here at my workshop, it's always quality over quantity. I'd rather get one pen-a-month done properly, than do 10 pens a day improperly.

To me, a fountain pen is an instrument of quality, craftsmanship, and a thing that deserves respect. I reason that restorers should put quality, true craftsmanship, and respect into all their work. The pen deserves no less, but most importantly, the customer.

To all of you who attempt home repairs, or repairs for your friends: I encourage you to keep doing those repairs! DIY repairs are fun, educational, and exciting. But make sure you are doing them the right way. Check your pens carefully, take your time, and don't cut any corners!

Finally, if as a restorer you do happen to make a mistake (we all do, including me), this is the #1 thing you need to know: Be 100% honest, and tell them the truth. I have made mistakes before with paying customers,  and you know what: They all responded so positively, kindly, and gently to me. Why? Because I told them the honest truth, and I offered to make it right with them. Yes, make it right. That means you pay for whatever damage, and a little bit more. It can hurt a little, but for me it's always been easy. I feel good knowing that my customer is satisfied, and that even though I made a mistake, now that I've set things right I can say that I've done my job well. :)

That's all for today's post. I really felt I needed to share with you all. Like I said earlier, it's really been on my mind this week due to the number of pens I've seen with this problem.

Leave me a comment and share your experiences. Have you ever had a pen that was improperly repaired? Was the problem corrected, by the restorer? I'd love to hear your take on this.

Don't forget to subscribe for all the latest news and updates! And thanks for taking the time to read this today. It's important to me that the word gets spread, about how to properly go about repairing fountain pens.

Tyler Dahl

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Vac Diaphragm length - It really does matter!

Many of us do repairs by the book, and many of us simply "get it workin' again". Some folks consider a pen restored when it's working right now. I consider a pen restored when it's working now, and I know it will be ten years later. Often times we overlook certain things when repairing a pen. Many people skip the all-important step of de-rusting the j-bar on a pen that they're restoring. Many people also forget to, or choose not to trim their sacs to size before putting the pen back together.

Today's post is going to tie into tomorrow's post "What do you mean by "restored"?". Today I am going to specifically speak about the Parker Vacumatic, and the very important, but more-than-often overlooked step of trimming the diaphragm to the right size. Enjoy:

So, I've always been one to do what I was told when it came to pen repair. This means that when I was told what the correct length for a vac diaphragm was (took quite a bit of searching to find that), I stuck to it, and have been cutting my diaphragms that way ever since. It wasn't until just the other day that I finally discovered why this is so crucial.

I was working on this cute little demi Vacumatic (yes, the demi-sized pens are cute - no two ways about it :). The client had said that the pen was "restored" by a friend, but for some reason, ink wasn't flowing. It was a pretty simple fix, involving some tine adjustment, and some hood-to-feed adjustment.

As I was cleaning the pen out to ship it, something odd happened: The plunger depressed down, but would only spring up halfway. I stopped for a second, and then took an immediate guess as to what the problem was. I had never had it happen before, but my hunch was still correct - the diaphragm was to long. Because of it's extra length, it was getting jammed o the breather tube, just they say it will.

Here's the important part. When I took the diaphragm out and measured it, it was only a few millimeters off. That's it, the difference of 1-2mm, was all it took to jam this diaphragm up. This is very important to keep in mind when you are trimming your Vac diaphragms! It doesn't take much for the to be to long, and get stuck.

So there you have it - I am now a firm believer in trimming your vac diaphragms to exactly 26.5mm. It is recommended you trim them between 26.2mm, and 27mm, so I go in the middle, and do 26.5mm.

Here's the little fellow that brought me to the light:

As always, if you've got any questions or suggestions, let me know in the comment area below. I'd really love to hear from you.

If you've never left me a comment before, I encourage you to do so! It's very easy, and I promise I won't bite. ;) Commenting is really encouraging for me, and it really adds depth to the article. We can all benefit from some friendly conversation. 

Don't forget to subscribe for all the latest news and updates!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Video Tutorial - Clean those grimy nibs and feeds

Well, I'll just apologize up front - My camera is horrible. It's the video-camera on my still-picture camera, which is severely outdated. I'd like to upgrade it soon, but right now it's not a priority, so... Sorry. :P

So, you're restoring this old pen, and you finally decide to knock the nib and feed out. Now you're presented with a wreckage of ink, 40-50 year old ink that is dried hard and crusty, all over the nib and feed. Fear not, there is hope for any nib! Especially if it's 14k, like the one in the video. Steel nibs can usually be made well again, but with a gold nib, you get them shining like brand new using this technique! Enjoy the video, and don't forget to check out my YouTube channel and subscribe. That way you'll be sure to never miss a video. :)

As always, feedback on the videos is much appreciated. Aside from the really bad camera footage, is there anything you'd like to see in the videos? And while we're at it - Can anyone recommend me a good camera, for under $200.00, that takes good macro shots and good video? Email me if you've got any suggestions. I'd love to hear them!

Don't forget to subscribe to my feed for all the latest updates and news!

Tyler Dahl

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Clean your pens!

Here's a real obvious trick that seems to be taken for granted. This one act of cleaning your pen well will keep you and your writing instruments clean and happy! It's not necessarily repair-related, but all the same it is.

This post is kind of a "prelude" to what's coming tomorrow - how to deep-clean a really messy nib and feed!

Here we go:

So, my theory is this: Ink (any ink mind you) can bring great harm to your pen, if misused. The misuse that is the most deadly, is leaving ink sitting in your pen for lengthy periods, without being used. This type of misuse can melt feeds, sacs, and do lots of other nasty things. Here are some examples, shown below. These are all from different inks, not limited to one brand.

Take a look at the underside of this nib, as well as the tip of the feed. You will notice the nice thick caked-on chunk of ink sitting there! This pen was having "flow problems", and you can see why! Pens like these can be quite the beasts to get clean.

Here's a Pelikan M1000 nib, sent to me for a tune-up. Very nice nib, but it sure was dirty.

Take a look at the fins of the feed - notice how the back ones are clogged, and kind of fuzzy. Not good...

Here's a real good example. Take a close look at that feed, and you'll notice that the gold plating has transferred from the nib, and glued itself to the feed. This was one of the hardest nibs I've ever cleaned.

So the moral of this post is - keep those pens clean! It's very important that you don't let your pens be subject to having ink sitting in them.

If you are not going to use your pen for a while, clean it thoroughly, and dry it well before putting it away. That way, when you go to ink it up next time, it will still be working. :)

Tyler Dahl

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tutorial: How to package/box a pen for shipping

Finally, another video tutorial!

It's been a while since I've made on of these. But I finally got around to making this one.

In this video I will explain my preferred method for packaging a pen, so it arrives safely at it's destination. Enjoy!

Some final thoughts for you:

PVC: I do not recommend using PVC to ship pens in. A pen that is packaged as shown above is plenty protected from drops, and crushing blows to the box. PVC simply adds bulk to the package. Also, in international shipments, PVC can actually be mistaken for an explosive device while going through an x-ray machine. Not good. :)

Shipping pens in manufacturers boxes: Another method I highly advise against. Shipping a pen in it's original case is usually very uneconomical, as the boxes that manufacturers use are for looks, and not for efficiency. Often times the require up to twice as much postage to return, because of the huge sized boxes they require. Aside from that, I also feel that manufacturers boxes are not very secure for the pens. They normally allow the pen to jostle around, and I feel that is not a good thing...

Once again, I hope you enjoyed the video. Please leave me a comment and let me know what you think. I would love to hear your suggestions and opinions!

Tyler Dahl

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mobile users rejoice! And I need some help... :)

I've got a fairly exciting announcement for all of you mobile users of my main website. I am creating a mobile format, for anyone with a Smartphone, iPhone, iPod Touch, Blackberry, etc.

It's going to be a LOT more easily accessible than the current website layout, which is not suited to a mobile user in any way.

It will have most of the features of the main website, but will be more streamlined, and less "texty/bulky". Descriptions will be a bit shorter, and not quite as many photos will be used. It's going to be good.

But, I need some volunteers! I need a few select people, who will be willing to test a beta-version of the mobile site, before it goes live.

I'll need at least one iPhone user, one Blackberry user, and a few assorted phone users with internet capabilities.

If you'd like to be in on this, email me, and I will get you the link to the mobile site.

My only conditions are that you must be willing to really try the website out, and check for errors. Nothing complex - just browse around, and enjoy. Make sure it fits in your screen well, the text is well sized, the pictures are proportioned correctly, etc. If you run into any errors, email me, and take a screenshot if you can.

I am looking forward to how this will turn out. I think it will make mobile browsing of the site much easier.

Some of you may be wondering why I decided to make a mobile version of the site. It's a good question, and I think a good answer is in order:

In this day and age of technology, mobile browsing is no longer something we have to do when we can't access a full computer. In many cases, it's becoming the preferred method of internet access, most particularly in the social networking circle.

Though the exact number isn't known, it's estimated that about 1/3 of America's population uses a mobile device to access the internet, on a regular basis. That's a LOT of people! And with that much usage of mobile browsers, the demand for compatible sites has risen.

Now, the other reason for a mobile site, aside from just being "the thing to do", is the convenience of it. If you're on the train, waiting, with nothing to do, and you've been thinking about those pens sitting in your drawer, broken for a year - you might be in the mood to go check out that one repairer's site again. The ability to easily navigate the website, without going through hoops of fire, means a more pleasant user experience. And I do love making things easy, and enjoyable for people. :)

So, that's the basic concept of it. I'm creating a mobile site to grant easy and convenient access to anyone who wishes to browse my website "on the go".

Again, I do need some kind volunteers, who are willing to commit a very small amount of time to browsing the mobile site, and reporting any bugs. If you're interested, send me an email! :)

Aside from that, look forward to the site going live in about 1-2 months, or sooner.

Tyler Dahl

Friday, November 11, 2011

A guide to nibs - the basics and beyond

Well, this is rather long in the making. Indeed, I have been planning this "nib super-guide" for about 3-4 months now - writing it, and fine tuning it. I often get asked some really good questions, and I usually don't have the time to grab pictures and show people what I'm talking about. This guide-to-nibs will answer most of those questions, and with lots of pictures, and extremely detailed descriptions. I hope you will enjoy it!

I'm going to cover the following topics:
  • How a fountain pen nib works
  • Different nib shapes
  • Common nib problems
Hopefully by the end of this you will have a much better understanding of nibs! Let's begin!