Upping My Game

I know I said that this Thought would be my most important tools list, but that Thought got pre-empted by this Thought.  Next time…

In recent weeks my shop experienced a major change: I acted on years of frustration with my inability to restore pens that needed replacement parts, and bought a vintage machinist’s lathe. With the predestined introduction to Arnaldo, a master restorer of full-size production shop machinery who has become my mentor, I decided the time had come and started actively researching the national marketplace for a vintage American machine that would give me greater range and ability than a modern Chinese-made one. Within weeks, the stars aligned and a 1943 Logan 820 appeared locally on Craigslist, the pride and joy of a former instructor at NYC’s aeronautics high school that was being sold by his daughter. With Arnaldo’s knowledgeable inspection and approval, I quickly became its new owner. Yes, this is no desktop mini-lathe: it’s 54”x32”, 530 pounds of steel and cast iron, and stands more than 5’ high on its iron legs. Getting it disassembled, transported in our car, and reassembled in my freshly reorganized apartment shop was a major adventure and huge effort by Arnaldo and with the help of three muscular friends.  

The relationship between this large machine and fountain pens?  With incredible precision, it can cut (the correct verb is “turn”) any circular shape, inside or outside, from any shape of any material from hardened steel to ebonite, and can make threads, grooves, tapers, edges, and lips. With this capability, I hope to be able to fix pens I couldn’t handle before, manufacturing replacement sac nipples and gripping sections, sleeves to fit barrels, corks for piston pens, gap-filling washers, and tools for customers and other restorers. Although I am now the rawest of novices, still assembling cutting tools and associated paraphernalia, I expect to be turning my first trial product within the coming weeks.  Stay tuned!