Update: This article refers to the 1st Edition of Marshall/Oldman’s Pen Repair. The 2nd Edition has been released.
There is no pleasure in a fountain pen that will not write or write properly. The first time an acquired vintage pen did not write I felt quite helpless to do anything about it. And so the pen was sent to an expert in pen repair. The tines were, as I was told by my expert, too close together and the pen was returned to me in writing order.
Not enjoying feeling helpless over a pen, I bought a copy of Pen Repair by Jim Marshall and Laurence Oldfield. A beautiful book filled with color photos and illustrations. In the U.S. the book costs about $50. Written by UK pen repair experts the book includes British pens, among them Mentmore, Burnham, Conway Stewart, and Onoto. Parker, Sheaffer and Waterman are also well-covered. There are even repair profiles on Pelikan, Conklin Nozac and Wahl-Eversharp piston pens.
Pen Repair is divided into three sections. Part one covers basic pen repairs, tools and parts. Part Two offers repair details about specific pens (e.g., Duofold button fillers, Swan leverless, Sheaffer Touchdown—naming only a few!). Part Three covers more complicated repairs such as barrel thread cracks, dent removal, and nib repair—again naming only a few of the topics covered). The complete table of contents can be perused on Jim Marshall’s website.
There is also Frank Dubiel’s Fountain Pens: The Complete Guide to Repair and Restoration. (AKA Da Book.) It costs about $20. Last revised in 2002 some of the techniques suggested in the book are considered outdated. Personally I would never, as an inexperienced pen geek, put a flame anywhere near any of my pens! Da Book, however, is still well worth reading as Dubiel provides lots of insight into hobbyist pen repair.
Dubiel’s book is also divided into three sections. Part One covers general repair information, Part Two concerns “Pens Requiring Special Techniques,” and Part Three covers “Appearance Restoration.” Da Book has an American vintage pen bent and you’ll find Parker and Sheaffer pens predominately explored. The illustrations are plentiful and hand drawn. Dubiel suggests in his book’s introduction:
Start with cheap pens and gain experience to form your own techniques.
If I had to pick one book, it would be Pen Repair simply because of the range of pens covered and the more up-to-date information provided. If you’re serious about learning pen repair you need at least one of them. In either book you will find detailed instructions on taking vintage pens apart and putting them back together, information about nibs and what do do about them, and the types of tools you might need. Even if you never repair a pen yourself you’ll be more informed about what can and can’t be done to yours.
Pen Manufacturer Repair Manuals
Original or reproductions of manufacturer pen repair manuals can also be found. A quick trip to Pendemonium reveals manuals by Parker and Eversharp. I’ve used the Eversharp manual for learning how those Skylines fit together! BillsPens.com also has reproductions of service manuals for Parker, Sheaffer and others.
Certainly there is information about pen repair to be had online. Be warned: sometimes the information is contradictory. Nothing beats having a book to turn to as a guideline.
Remember: be cautious, go slow and exercise tons of patience!
Below are links to some my favorite sites for online information.
From Highlo Pen Museum:
- Reproductions of articles by Arthur Twydle
From Vintage Pens & Writing Instruments: