Tale of a Vandal Pen Repairer

Inevitably mistakes are made by those of us who attempt to fix our fountain pens ourselves. My mistakes have been few, memorable and costly.

My biggest mistake involved my modern Conklin Crescent fountain pen. There was nothing wrong with it that an experienced nib worker could have made right. The steel Conklin logo’ed nib was a wet smooth medium with a bit of what looked like corrosion between the tines. When I bought the pen I wanted a fine nib. The seller only had medium and my impatience waiting for a fine to arrive wore thin and well… haven’t I written elsewhere that fountain pens and impatience do not marry well?

After practicing grinding my own nibs, I thought I could turn the medium Conklin nib into something more to my liking. Practicing on some cheap pens was helpful and of course essential, yet I discovered I lack the patience (there’s that darn word again) and perhaps the fine eye sight for learning this particular skill set.

Turning the Conklin nib into a nice fine point rather pleased me. You didn’t expect me to write that, did ya? While perhaps not the most beautiful job the nib received a smooth, finer writing line. However, there was a recurring problem with the pen that nib grinding did nothing to help. The pen would occasionally skip or refuse to start writing at all. I decided the next step was to remove the nib from the feed and try resetting them together.

Here’s the lessons learned:

  • Just because I can take it apart doesn’t necessarily mean I should.

    Cracked Conklin section

    Everyone “said” the Conklin nibs pull straight out. (Honestly, they do.) I pulled and pulled and finally twisted instead of pulled and ended up with a cracked section.  I definitely should not have twisted when pulling was required.

  • Tenax is fugly and hard to find. I learned that Tenax could fix the crack and that Tenax really does need to be used sparingly because it welds the plastic together. It leaves a nice scar. It was suggested to me by an expert pen repairer that even with Tenax-7R the section might not hold over time. Fortunately the Conklin people found me a spare section and so even though I Tenax’ed my section back together, the new one was used in its place.
  • Never remove a nib without either a bit of warmth or soaking first. Note: that may not be true for your pen so find an expert opinion first! I had some trouble re-fitting the modern Conklin nib and could not remove the nib again until I stuck the nib/feed/section in a little warm water.
  • Fixing things goes more smoothly when the proper tools are used. Once the nib was refitted into the section the pen would not write and so nib and feed needed removing yet again. They would not budge. And so I put some padding around the nib (mistake #67) and took some needle nose pliers to the nib (mistake #68). I pulled, the padding slipped and the pliers grabbed the nib. The nib came out but it was sorely bent by the stupid pliers me.

If possible I wanted to save the nib because of the Conklin logo.

Confessing my pen sins to Michael of MikeItWork, he agreed to take a look at what I had done. He cautioned that a steel nib bent near the tip might not survive a repair. (I had two previous Conklins—same model—that Michael turned into wonderful writers. These Conklins were poor starters to begin with and were, post MikeItWork, given as gifts to friends.)

Conklin Nib Restored

While on occasion I do enjoy tinkering with my pens I don’t really want to or have to repair my pens. What I want is to not feel helpless when I receive a pen that should write and does not. In the case of the Conklin I managed to take a working pen and turn it into a near catastrophe.

The good news is Michael returned the pen which now writes and performs perfectly.