Bringing a Wahl Back to a Proper Life

Update 10/30/09: The black and pearl Wahl Pen is circa 1928-1929. This style pen is also commonly referred to as a “Signature Pen” by collectors (thanks the Wahlnut). Wahl-Eversharp began celluloid pen production in 1927. The black and pearl color was introduced in 1928. The Wahl Pen is the precursor to the Gold Seal pen introduced in 1929. See Wahl-Eversharp history here and some corrective history here at Pendemonium.

Wahl Flat-top Prior to Basic Restoration
Wahl Flat Top Prior to Basic Restoration. The pen has lots of nice wear, showing it was well used, with no cracks or chips.

On the left is a Wahl-Eversharp flat top pen needing some basic restoring. The pen needed a new sac and the nib was not sitting properly on the feed.

The “black and pearl” pen is approximately 70 years old. I think it is called a “Wahl Pen.” The roller clip on the cap bears a “Wahl Pen” imprint. Most of the celluloid’s pearl color has discolored and become rather brown. The discoloration in pens is often caused by the gassing off of the rubber sac inside the pen. In my pen, the barrel has a lot of discoloration, and the cap has much less. There is no way to correct celluloid discoloration. The discoloration serves as a nice reminder of the pen’s age and it does not detract from the pen’s good looks.

To me, the pen appeared very well used and loved. I could find no cracks or chips in the pen.

Posted
Posted. The pen shows wear from usage giving the pen some character. Photo is post restoration. Note the lever now lines up with the nib.

Near the base of the barrel is an indentation indicating the pen was predominately used with the cap posted on the end of barrel. Looking closely at the lever, the pins holding it in place are beginning to wear through the celluloid. Even so, I do not expect the wearing through to “finish” anytime soon.

The pen rattled indicating the old sac inside had hardened and broken into pieces. Without opening the pen, I could not be sure the lever or something else was broken. The section of the pen is made of hard rubber. Hard rubber also suffers from discoloration, in this case the black section is browning. Prolonged exposure to sunlight, and even soaking in water can cause hard rubber to discolor.

Both Frank Dubiel’s Fountain Pens: The Complete Guide to Repair and Restoration and Marshal and Oldfield’s Pen Repair books recommend soaking the section, and then attempting to rock the section out of the barrel. Because of the caking of the nib and section I decided to soak the nib/feed and section in Rapido-Eze pen cleaner rather than water. (Pen restorer Ron Zorn has written on FPN that Rapido-Eze is safe to use on celluloid and hard rubber pens. Ron points out it’s not necessarily safe against hard rubber discoloration.  Rapido-Eze is made by Koh-In-Noor for cleaning pens. It’s great for removing ink that’s been sitting in a pen forever.)

When in doubt ask: I needed to know if the section screwed out or if it was slip-fitted into the barrel. I was concerned given the age of the pen about my ability to remove the section without harm. Having asked on FPN in the Wahl-Eversharp forum I was informed the section was slip-fitted and to take great care not to break the pen in the removal process.

I decided to leave the nib/feed/section soaking for a few hours. After applying a little bit of heat (just about 10 seconds worth) using a hair dryer, I used section pliers to slowly rock the section out of the barrel.

Hardened Pen Sac
The hardened pen sac and the pressure bar from inside the barrel.

With the section removed, the harden sac fell out of the barrel in pieces. The pressure bar also fell out. The lever itself remained in place because it is attached to the barrel.

The barrel needed to be cleaned of dried ink and remaining sac pieces and I put it and the pen cap to soak for a few minutes in Rapido-Eze before rinsing out with water. The anchor that sits at the bottom of the barrel came out at this point in the cleaning process. The section had a hunk of old shellac on the nibble and so the section was soaked again overnight to aid in removing all the old adhesive. I left the cleaned barrel to dry.

Wahl Nib
Wahl nib with dent and hairline crack.

The next day while examining the nib and the feed, I found that the nib no longer needed adjusting. I don’t have an answer to that other than the nib moved back into place during soaking. From what I could tell the nib and feed looked pretty clean. I wasn’t sure if the dent or the hairline crack in the nib would affect ink flow. Rather than knock the feed out of the section, I decided to leave well enough alone, put the new sac on the section and see if the pen wrote.

First I put the lever back together. Again, FPN came to the rescue (thanks especially to Ron Zorn) to show how the anchor and pressure bar were installed in the pen. Check this thread for instructions and a photo of the anchor, pressure bar and lever apart from the barrel. Even though the linked topic is for a Wahl ring top pen, the parts are the same as in my Wahl flat top.

Wahl Section
Wahl section without sac.

Cutting a #17 pen sac to fit into the barrel, I shellacked the sac onto the section nipple. After letting the shellac dry for about an hour, the resacced section was carefully fitted back into the barrel. Because I like it this way: I lined the lever up so that the it was on the same side as the top of the nib.

New Sac
Resacced Wahl Section.

Next, I dipped the nib into a bottle of Montblanc Racing Green and using the lever, filled the pen with in. I expressed the ink back into the bottle to check how much ink was being sucked up. Quite a bit! Filling the pen again, I tested out the nib and found the pen wrote perfectly.

The nib is a 14K #2 Manifold Wahl-Eversharp with a heart shaped hole. The nib is firm, not scratchy. The pen has been in rotation for three days. It’s been through several long writing sessions without problem. The nib lays down a very fine line. I’m finding the pen very comfortable to use and ideal for hours of notetaking. I even wrote a check with the Wahl today and the duplicate record underneath was perfectly legible as one would expect with a manifold nib.

The Wahl pen is not the first pen I’ve resacced but it was the most potentially fragile pen I’ve worked on.  Figuring I could send the pen to a professional if need be,  I was prepared to halt my attempts if at any time it looked as though I would damage the pen. It’s possible to learn how to do basic repairs because of books like Dubiel’s and Marshall/Oldfield’s. More importantly experts and collectors freely share their wealth of knowledge with dweebs like me.

It’s a very satisfying feeling to bring a pen back to working order. People often ask about favorite pens. I favor each of my pens, perhaps because I have so few. Each has its own story to cherish.

Restored
Wahl Pen newly sacced and ready to write.
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