Tim's Thoughts

Making Parts

Some months back, this space was devoted to my purchase of a vintage machine lathe for fabricating replacement parts for vintage fountain pens. Eight months later, after getting-to-know-you learning, restoration, repair, and experiencing the first steps, sidetracks, and culs-de-sac of machining’s very long learning curve, I have now produced my first pen part, the sac nipple for a 1930s Wearever. (For those readers who may not know, the sac nipple is where the latex sac in a vintage pen attaches to the gripping section. If it’s broken, the pen cannot fill or hold ink.) Since sac nipples are far from pens’ only point of failure, I’m preparing to move on to other parts, which are a bit more challenging to produce but, now that the first has happened, the others seem to have become achievable with care and planning.

Why does one need a lathe to make these parts? The simple answer is that lathes have created pens since they were no longer feathers! Lathes create roundness: inside, outside, or both; perfect concentric roundness around a perfectly located center. This is at the very core of any pen’s success; threaded parts and friction fit parts cannot enable the effective flow of ink unless they are perfectly round. Centered roundness cannot be achieved with handheld tools.

Thus, producing my own parts will be a major expansion of my capability as a restorer, because they are not currently available in any marketplace without cannibalizing another pen, and vintage pens, useful or not, are disappearing with time. My hope is that a year or so from now I’ll be able to revise my About timsvintagepens statement to include the fabrication of replacement parts. So, if you have a broken sac nipple keeping a pen from getting playing time, do let me know! For other parts, stay tuned!