Tale of a Vandal Pen Repairer

Danitiro Cumlaude just for show

The pen:  Danitrio Cumlaude (small version)

The problem: Pen would be “hard starting” first use of the day.

The solution: Silicone rubber sealant. Yes. There. I said it.

When a fountain pen is freshly inked and ready to go, there’s nothing to think about except the task at hand:  the business of writing. At some, uh, point, I realized the Cumlaude needed a little extra help to get started once the pen had sat over night. Noooo…. I do not want to have to think about you, little pen! This is how a much loved pen begins to sit idly by, falling into disuse.

The nib did not dry out during writing sessions. The nib dried out overnight.

The nib and feed were clean.  Converter had a nice fit. No gap between nib and feed. Nib tines appeared to be aligned properly. J. Herbin, Noodler’s, Sailor… no matter the ink, the problem recurred each morning. A little moisture to the nib got pen writing again. Family members, however, began to complain about the ink on my tongue.

Perhaps baby bottom was the problem. Baby bottom so-called because under a loupe, the nib looks rounded just like baby’s butt. It may write very smooth yet the ink flow is impeded.  A simple fix some folks say, yet I’ve only ruined a nib or two in the past trying to address that issue.

As luck would have it a renown nib grinder, Pendleton Brown, attended my local pen meet. I asked him if a stub might correct my hard-starting nib. He said it might. He warned a re-grind was not a guaranteed fix if there were other problems with the pen.

Not so incidentally, I was surprised to find that Pendleton was willing to take a fine nib and turn it into a fine stub. I’ve read repeatedly that to get a fine stub you want to start with a medium point nib. There is logic in that, of course, as the nib grinder has more material to, uh, work through. Pendleton examined the nib first and said it was a good candidate for such a re-grind.

While I have had great stubs ordering over the internet from the likes of Mottishaw and Kinney, it was extremely pleasing to work with Pendleton in person. He was able to evaluate how I wrote with my pen and to tailor the nib to my exact liking. Also and perhaps obviously, in-person nib grinds illuminate the nature of the nibmeister’s work. Pendleton said he has spent a lot of time side by side learning from Richard Binder.

Returning home with my lovely new “Butter Line Elegant Stub” the pen wrote beautifully for the remainder of the day. Until… left capped overnight once again. I was temporarily resigned to the Cumlaude’s eccentricities and an inky tongue.

And then I read this post on FPN about the Cumlaude’s inner cap. Indeed, looking inside my cap there was no inner cap. Blowing air into the cap, there was no resistance. Looking closer—finally looking closer, shall we say? why did it take me so long to look?—on the outside where the clip extended out of the cap, I could see a significant gap. Hmmmmmm. I took some earthquake putty to the outside of the cap, around the clip and plugged the hole. Sure enough, the hard starting behavior…evaporated.

While effective, earthquake putty was ugly on my beautiful pen. I dared not plug the hole from the inside with said putty. In my hot, humid climate zone the putty can get messy over time. Who among us thinks risking a putty nib is worth it? Not moi, for sure. Reading up, I found people tried various methods for fixing a cap getting too much air. The recommended repair, of course, is a new inner cap where once there was or should have been one.

Momentarily I considered a bit of duct tape which we all know can fix almost everything. (Could it be that duct tape fixed Spiderman the Musical?)

I remembered reading that some folks used aquarium sealant to convert Lamy Vistas into eyedropper pens. The Lamy Vista has holes, or air vents, at the bottom of the pen barrel. The sealant is used to cover those holes.

First I contacted my delightful Danitrio pen pusher, ‘splained the problem and asked him what he thought about the aquarium sealant approach. Offering to find me a spare inner cap, he then said he did not see any issue with such a solution. (If you have a differing opinion please kindly detail it in the comments! There was no spare available, by the way.)

And so using a clean skewer and a dab (as miniscule as possible!) of 100% clear silicone rubber, I closed the hole from the inside of the cap. Before inking the Cumlaude back up, I let the cap sit a couple of days allowing the seal to set.

To moi way of thinking, using aquarium sealant to plug a hole  is a kind of fix. It is not a repair. Should you use this to fix loose threads, broken seals or cracked sections? Of course not. Read about the proper repairs for those things here. Save yourself some money in the long run and buy a copy of Marshall and Oldfield’s’ Pen Repair. Unless your pen is under warranty then don’t be silly, let the warranty repair begin!

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The Danitrio Cumlaude falls in the category of “they don’t make this beautiful pen anymore.” It will be near impossible find a spare inner cap for the smaller version of the Cumlaude. If you have the more frequently seen larger version Cumlaude you might very well be able to come by a spare inner cap. Another solution would be to have a inner cap made by someone who knows how.

Verdict? No more hard-starting pen.

I’m very glad for the stub, too.


3 thoughts on “Tale of a Vandal Pen Repairer

  1. Aren’t stub nibs fun! Well done on tracking down the cause of the problem and solving it at least for now.

    Your experience is beautifully detailed and a pleasure to read. More, please!


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