Tale of a Vandal Pen User: Made of Steel

Some of us like to push at a fountain pen’s seeming limitations. Sometimes for no good reason, and often because a pen falls a wee bit short of satisfying the user’s experience.

As one example, the body of the pen pleases, but the nib doesn’t. Thus, the question—what if we put a Pilot nib on a TWSBI?—gives rise to a PiloTWSBI.

Sometimes a nib pleases but the filling mechanism doesn’t. This is true of many a Japanese fountain pen in particular—apologies to the great three pen makers: Pilot, Platinum, and Sailor. Your pens have among the world’s best nibs, yet some of us find the converter or cartridge very confining.

As time goes by, I experiment with pens less and less. Possibly because the pen hoard does its work and needs nothing but routine attention and cleaning.

Then a pen comes across the desk, as a Platinum Sai did, and pokes at the mind—what if? The beautiful transparent acrylic begs to forgo the cartridge and the converter, and to be a simple, unadorned eyedropper pen.

☮ →eyedropper mode: dumping ink directly into the pen barrel

Unlike most #3776 pens which have a metal ring near the end of the barrel, the body of the Platinum Sai consists of a single piece of acrylic. That’s the design of a nice, leak-free barrel.

Platinum Sai with inked converter

The rub, of course, is that Platinum uses metal pieces inside the grip section of the pen. The ubiquitous yet sage advice for converting a pen to eyedropper mode is that your fountain pen must not have internal metal parts.

typical #3776 black section with the dreaded internal metal piece…

Ink corrodes metal, right? Some metal is more resistant to corrosion than others. Some inks are more corrosive than others, too.

Iron gall is one example of a corrosive ink. Many of us have seen what iron gall inks can do to metal parts. Although today’s iron gall inks are not as corrosive as iron gall inks of the past, they can still wreck havoc on a pen’s metal parts.

One example of a modern iron gall ink is Platinum Blue-Black. Here’s an example of a few years contact between gold trim and Platinum Blue-Black:

there used to be gold trim at the base of this old 3776 section grip.

No more gold trim on that section, ay? The section grip in the photo is “old style”—when the gold ring was at the nib end of the grip. Platinum now places the ring further away from the nib end, near the threads, so that the ring’s not as likely to get contact with ink. (See the 2nd photo from the top of post which shows a typical #3776 section.)

Meanwhile… I’ve often wondered about the basic plain ol’ dye inks of today. What’s the reaction of those inks with modern fountain pen metals? Eventually, corrosion will set in, but when? Even stainless steel will corrode under the right circumstances.

It is ‘stain-less’ not ‘stain-impossible’.—British Stainless Steel Association

No doubt the following reports will offend masses of fountain pen purists and repair people everywhere…

There are people in the world who’ve converted their transparent Japanese fountain pens from c/c to eyedropper pens. Most conversions seemed to have revolved around the Sailor Sapporo. (Do your own diligence and dig deep into FPN history.)

We don’t know how the experiments have gone because rarely do these folks write follow-ups. These pen folks appear to have gone underground, either ashamed to admit their experiments failed, or perhaps merrily writing along with their lovely, large ink stashes with nothing to prove to the rest of pen-dom.

Not to worry, I’ve found two follow-ups.

One, uh, illicit eyedropper conversion was reported after six months—a Sailor Pro Gear. That FPN user reported that all was well with said pen.

The conversion with the longest time behind it was also discovered on FPN. This conversion involved several happy years with a ED’d Nakaya. The technique included an elaborate lacquering of the metal part of the section and threads, as well as some kind of contraption that involved a chopped off ink cartridge. Nakaya sections are brass, btw.

☮ →Warning: Use of nail polish can be hazardous to your pen! Not advised.

Thoughts continued to poke at me.

A Platinum section contains stainless steel parts, right? 

Wouldn’t the Platinum Sai look pretty with PMF Olive Oil sloshing around in the barrel, unimpeded?

How long would a stainless steel Platinum section hold up against Platinum Mix Free ink? A year? Ten years? Twenty five? Can the ink be any worse than the hard water environment used to clean my pens?

As it happened, I had a spare Platinum section to donate to my vandalizing curiosity. I didn’t want to use the original Sai section. Just in case, if corrosion is going to show up, I wanted to sacrifice the spare and not the Sai itself.

Top: Platinum Sai section Bottom: regular black #3776 section

My experiment involves one lone pen, and one line of ink.

Simply, all I’ve done is apply silicon grease along the outside of the threads in the Platinum section. Standard eyedropper conversion procedure.

I’ve dated the start of the experiment. Will report back on it from time to time; future dates unknown.

☮ →Ut Oh: The goal is to simply answer for myself this question of “what will happen?” There are way too many variables among users, their habits, and the inks themselves to provide definitive answers. Ya takes yer own risks, ay?

Platinum Sai ED-style, inked with PMF Olive Oil

What I call experimenting, you may call vandalizing. It’s my pen. I’m okay with that. Meanwhile, the Sai continues writing for me, from one coffee shop to another.

How have you pushed the limits of your own fountain pens?

Platinum Sai w/black #3776 section, eyedroppered with PMF Olive Oil
Platinum Sai w/regular #3776 section, Platinum Mix Free Olive Oil ink

Thanks for reading, friends.

Stay kind and curious, and, uh, keep your pens safe, ay?

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8 thoughts on “Tale of a Vandal Pen User: Made of Steel

    1. The problem with the #3776 line is that darn ring near the bottom of the barrel. Even if do a water test to see if the ring area leaks or not, I would suspect over time that ink will make it’s way through. The Sai’s the only transparent #3776 I’ve seen without the barrel ring. Sadly, they are fairly well sold out!

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    1. Not appreciably so, Phil. I’d say that’s true, too, for the Fine #3776 in my Shinobi. That is, if the nibs write a wetter line, it’s not by much. The medium #3776 stub in my Danitrio definitely writes wetter than a normal medium. It’s the only nib that leaped out as being noticeably wetter. But not annoyingly so. All those nibs use their original #3776 feed which is critical to performance as well.

      There is a thing that happens, and I’ve noticed it with both the all ED’d #3776 nibs and my JoWo nibs in ED pens: when the ink volume decreases below half in the barrel, the nibs write noticeably dryer. Not scratchy dry, but dryer.

      For fun, we’d have to take the nib in it’s normal CC state, and get a writing sample. Then compare that to a writing sample of the same nib in its ED state. But I don’t have any samples at present to compare.

      I do know what you’re talking about, as I’ve seen that happen with Western nibs in particular, where the pen writes wetter in ED mode.

      Also there are some nibs I would not force into ED mode. Like the Sailor Sapporo with its Music nib. It slobbers a bit in CC mode using Pilot Blue-Black. So I imagine it would slobber similarly or more so in an ED situation with Pilot BB. Some people like a pen that slobbers wet ink, but I don’t.

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  1. I like to ED every demonstrator where I can, but I didn’t even consider doing it to the Sai due to the metal. I wish I had a spare Platinum section to experiment with 😀 ! One other consideration is that some inks do stain the barrels, as I found with my ED’d Lamy Vistas , Sailor Lecoule and Waterman Kulturs Demos. You can see some of them at my IG feed at ww.penfiend.com

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    1. Yes, some inks stain, and some materials are more prone to staining. There’s been a great deal written about this subject in pen-dom over the years! Thanks for stopping by and reading, Aileen. 🙂

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  2. But is it really vandalism when you’re playing with your own pens? 😉

    I’m an amateur when it comes to pens, but most recently, I ED’d an old Sheaffer vac-fill because I didn’t have the proper replacement parts to restore it. (Yet.) A voluminous pen made even more voluminous.

    I’m enjoying tinkering with old, cheap pens. Most of them start off in bad shape so I don’t feel too bad if I screw something up. 🙂

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    1. Of course it isn’t. Esp. if they are yours to keep. Some people are purists & opinionated about other people’s pens. BTW, if you sell any of those pens, be sure to honor the Dao of Pens and be upfront about how you repaired them. Thanks for reading and commenting, ay?

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