Vintage Technology

I enjoy some older technology. Not that I'm an expert or even more than a dilettante when it comes to most of it. I love mechanical pocket watches and own quite a few, most of which no longer work. I suspect they all need a good cleaning. It's beyond my skill and visual acuity to fix them though. My wife got me a really nice one a while back, and it runs like a champ.

I also like fountain pens. I really prefer them over ball point pens and gel pens. I have dozens of them. Most of them are relatively cheap, unless you compare the price to the typical disposable ball point, but a few are quite expensive. Probably my favorite one is worth about $380. It's one of the more pricey ones though. I have some very good pens that only cost around $25.

Last August my wife and I went to Sand Point, Idaho. While we were rhere we visited some antique shops, and I found a beautiful pen and pencil set made in 1959, the year I was born. The pen was a Sheaffer "snorkel" fill. It works really well after all this time. I should have also bought the bottle of ink the store had too, but I gave it a pass. I found a couple of bottles of vintage ink (A red Parker "Quink" and a bottle of Waterman's Blue-Black) in an antique store closer to home, the same store I bought my roll-top writing desk from.

Last September my wife and I went on a week-long vacation on the east coast. While we were there I visited the Commonwealth Pen Show in Boston. I bought a bunch of pens from Nathan Tardiff of Noodler's Ink fame, and I also bought two vintage pens from other sellers. The only problem was they didn't work.

I knew it when I bought them. One of them was a really old lever filler with a 14 Carat gold "flex" nib. The seller charged me $125 for a non-working pen! Of course he also told me that I was paying for the nib and not the pen. My plan was to eventually repair them, but I never got around to it.

A few weeks ago we went to Washington to pick up our grand-kids and go to the Renaissance Festival. On the way home we stopped at a couple of fruit stands that happened to also have antique shops in them. I found three more vintage pens. And this time, one of them seemed like it might actually work. Of course the other two didn't.

When I got home, I did some research on the one I thought would work. I paid $26 for it, but it was selling in good condition for $120 online. It works perfectly and it's in good condition. But it's not for sale.

Sunday night, thinking about the fact that I had four vintage pens that didn't work I finally decided to do something about it. I ordered an assortment of vintage pen sacs, some shellac, and talc. It arrived today, and I disassembled an old Parker button filler, cleaned up the parts, replaced the ink sac, and reassembled it. About a half hour later I inked it up and had three working vintage pens, and three that didn't work.

Later, I went to Hobby Lobby and bought a heat gun. I used it to soften the shellac on the other three pens, disassembled them and cleaned the parts. Then I repaired both of the pens I bought in Boston. They're both working beautifully now. The final one needs more work. It looks like someone tried and failed to fix it once already, but I'm not at all sure. I'll give it more attention this weekend.

The repairs I did are by no means a restoration of these pens. All I really did was clean out the old dried and rotted rubber sacs, wash out the nibs and feeds and pit in new ink sacs. A full restoration would require more work, and finer motor skills and visual acuity than I have. Even so I'm very happy with the results,

Old things can be useful. It only takes a little effort.

Sadly, these days, people would rather spend 99 cents for a piece of junk they'll never really enjoy using and toss it into a landfill when it stops working than invest time, money, or effort into something people used before they were born that works better. Or worse, they'll never see the need for either, because ... "smartphone good!"

One thought on “Vintage Technology

  1. I also like "old(er) tech." Most of my collection of such things has come as a result of

    Salvaging discards other relatives left behind from my relatives of my grandparents' generation and my dad's collection of mechanical drawing tools and pens, etc., from his early college days.
    Friends who know my interest giving me old hand tools, drawing implements, canvas stretchers and other art supplies/tools, etc.
    Flea markets.

    This morning, I eschewed using my battery-powered pole saw in favor of using a manual pole saw I have reconditioned (noting that it needs some more care after use). It was satisfying, though a bit more tiring than using the battery-powered pole saw.

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