lover of fountain pens (thats you, or you wouldnt
be reading this) runs up against a pen that would be perfect
if it only had a brainer, a sac. A surprising number of
pen collectors seem to shy away from pens that need any kind
of repair, even something as simple as the installation of a
new sac. My own collection, for example, includes a 1934ish
Marine Green humped-clip Sheaffers Senior Balance that
I snapped up at a bargain on eBay because the seller said it
needed a sac. That innocuous disclaimer was apparently enough
to scare off the competition.
pens, installing a new sac is about the easiest fix-up you
can make beyond a little judicious polishing. If youre
game to try it, read on. You might buy a couple of cheap pens
on eBay to teach yourself the ropes before attacking your
minty red ripple Watermans Ideal No. 7 with the Blue
nib. Wearever, Epenco, and Tuckersharpe are some cheap names
to look for, and there are countless no-name junkers that
go for less than $10.00. If you get pens that have sacs, you
can easily rip em out. This, too, is part of learning
to resac a pen.
need a supply of sacs. No problem. My vendor of choice is the
Pen Sac Company, but you can also buy them from Fountain Pen
Hospital, Pendemonium, Wood Bin Ltd, and other places as well.
Addresses for all the suppliers I mention are at the end of
Tools and Supplies
Sac Company sells a bewildering variety of sacs and Vacumatic
diaphragms. (Diaphragm is what Parker called the
rubber doohickey in a Vacumatic so they could advertise the
pen as being sacless.) They offer a couple of assortments
as well as individual sacs. Their catalog includes several
pages of information showing which sacs go into which pens.
(There may be exceptions on a per-pen basis; the catalog says
to use a No. 21 necked sac for a hard-rubber Duofold Junior,
but I couldnt even get a No. 20 to fit into the barrel
of a Junior I resacked last week.)
you need sac cement. Some pen suppliers can sell you small
bottles of sac cement; Fountain Pen Hospital offers a 1-oz
bottle with an applicator brush for $4.95 plus shipping. Being
a professional cheapskate, I ran down to my local paint store
and handed over about five bucks for a half-pint can of orange
shellac, which is what the pen companies themselves used.
I have enough shellac to last until my 273rd birthday. On
the other hand, I dont have that nice applicator brush,
so I have to resort to subterfuge. I use toothpicks.
your spouses talcum powder. Do not use baby powder or
ladies dusting powder! These products are oiled to protect
delicate skin, and oil eats rubber. Pen sacs are rubber...
If theres no plain talcum powder in the house, go buy
pen-geek item youll need is section pliers. Many pensmost,
reallydont call for the big guns, so you may not
need section pliers immediately. When the time comes, you
can buy very good ones from Fountain Pen Hospital (shown here)
or from Father Terry Koch.
have a bench grinder, you can make your own section pliers
out of garden-variety slip-joint pliers from a hardware store
and some rubber tubing from an auto parts store. If you go
this route, youll need two pieces of tubing, each about
an inch long, of a size to slip securely over one jaw of the
pliers. Grind the teeth off the concave serrated part of the
jaws, leaving a smooth curve, and slip one rubber onto each
jaw. Position them so that they cover the part of the jaws
that you ground smooth; thats the area in which youll
grip a section.
you have the tools (with one possible afterthought, of which
more below). Sit yourself down at a well-lighted table or
desk, and were off.
job is to get the old sac out. This means taking the pen apart.
Most pens have a section that is a slip friction fit (just pushed
into the barrel), but some (notably button fillers, Touchdowns,
and Snorkels) have a threaded section that screws out. Virtually
all lever fillers, except a few early Sheaffers, are a slip
fit. For simplicity, Im going to describe only the typical
slip-fit lever filler in this article. (If you decide you like
this kind of work, get a copy of Da Book, Frank
Dubiels indispensable guide to fountain pen repair, and
let Frank show you how to handle the more esoteric pens.)
Disassembly, Cleaning, and Sac Removal
fingers to rock the section gently back and forth sideways,
pulling as you rock, to break it loose. Dont rock too
far or you risk cracking the barrel!
refuses to budge after youve applied as much force as
you dare, you can resort to section pliers. Grasp the barrel
firmly in your closed fist. (You can enhance your grip by
using a rubber kitchen jar-lid gripper.) With the other hand,
apply the section pliers to the section, and repeat the rocking/pulling
action, twisting a little as if to unscrew the section. If
its a slip-fitter, itll come loose unless its
been shellacked in place. In that case, youre better
off leaving it to a professional. Yeah, I know, you just blew
the price of a pen on tools. Use them on the next pen.
the section loosened, you should be able to work it gently
out of the barrel. Use your fingernails to scrape all remaining
fragments of the sac from the end of the section (the nipple).
You need to get the nipple as clean as possible so the new
sac will adhere properly. You can use a sharp kitchen knife
to do further careful scraping, and you can use rubbing alcohol
as a solvent. But dont use alcohol on a visulated section;
the plastic used for visulated sections is likely to be soluble
is your opportunity to do your pen a favor by giving it a
thorough cleaning. Drop the section assembly into a bath of
Formula 409 for five or ten minutes, then scrupulously clean
off any ink residue and the 409. This means flushing water
through the system, which you can do by taking a mouthful
of water and forcing it into the section from the sac end.
When the assembly is clean, dry it thoroughly; blow some air
through to dry the inside.
409s principal ingredients are hazardous. They
can cause skin or bone marrow damage, or cancer. The
product is safe under normal household usage, but
you might want to wear rubber gloves when soaking
pens in it.
the cap the same way, paying particular attention to getting
the ink out from inside the cap. One way to do this is to
use a paper napkin. Twist one corner of the napkin into a
long thin spear, and insert it into the cap with a screwing
motion. Turn in the direction that will keep the twist tight.
Drive the paper as far down as you can get it. Repeat as necessary.
if the sac didnt come out in one piece, extract its
remains from the barrel. A long thin alligator pliers, such
as you can get from Fountain Pen Hospital or Widget Supply,
can be helpful here but isnt a necessity. If the sac
is ossified, you can probably just dump out the chips. Occasionally
youll run into a sac that has managed to glue itself,
whole or in pieces, to the inside of the barrel. This can
get ugly. I use various afterthought tools such
as dental picks and scalers to chisel pieces of sac away from
barrel walls. Take your time; as with the nipple, you want
to get the barrel clean. Be careful not to damage the filler
old sac died and dumped ink all over the inside of the pen,
clean the barrel in 409, too. You may also find that using
409 on a barrel will make it easier to extract glued-in bits
of sac. Get the barrel absolutely dry afterward; any moisture
left inside can corrode the parts of the filling assembly.
clean, youre finally ready to install a new sac. If you
dont know the right size, try different sizes (you bought
the assortment, right?) until you find a sac that just slips
snugly into the barrel with the filler assembly in place. Then
choose a sac two numbers smaller; if a No. 18 fits snugly, use
a No. 16. You need to leave air space between the sac and the
barrel to keep the pen from transferring your body heat into
the sac when the pen is in your pocket. If the sac gets warm,
the air in it expands, and it can force ink out through the
feed. This makes the inside of the cap very messy, which is
why you just cleaned it. No matter what sac size you end up
with, it needs to be a stretch fit over the nipple. If youve
chosen too small a sac, you may have to go up one size. You
can try stretching the end of the sac over the nipple to verify
that itll go.
Sac Selection and Installation
needs to be the right length. Most sacs are straight
sacs; that is, the diameter of the sac is the same along its
entire length. Sacs are made much too long; you will need
to cut your new sac to the right length. To find how long
it should be, slide it into the barrel, closed end first,
until it hits bottom. Slide it back out about 1/8
(3 mm) so that it wont butt against the end of the space
into which it fits. Clamp it with your thumbnail right where
it enters the barrel, and pull it out.
clamping it, hold it up to the section, lining your thumbnail
up with the step on the section that seats against the end
of the barrel. Now mark the point on the sac that corresponds
to the step between the nipple and the part of the section
that fits into the barrel. This distance will be between 1/4
(6 mm) and 1/2 (13 mm).
sac at this point, being careful to cut straight across.
pen requires a necked sac (with the open end smaller than
the diameter of the rest of the sac, like the neck of a bottle),
you must rely on the information in the Pen Sac catalog or
else measure the space into which the sac fits and then choose
a sac of the proper length. You dont cut necked sacs;
they have to fit right. This may mean that you cant
order the exact sac you need until youve taken the pen
the sac ready to install, apply a small amount of sac cement
(shellac) around the outside of the nipple. Be careful not
to let the cement get into the inside; itll clog the
feedpossibly permanently! Spread the open end of the
sac, stretch it over the nipple, and adjust it so that its
pushed all the way down and is seated against the step. If
you find that youre a little clumsy and have trouble
fitting the sac in place, you can buy a sac spreader. Pendemonium
offers these little gems for $5.00. I recommend that you buy
yours yesterday, as todaywith wet cement drying on your
penisnt the best time to go shopping. The sac
should stand straight up, in line with the section, and the
stretched part should be symmetrical on all sides. (The sac
shouldnt be pulled over toward one side of the nipple.)
If you like, you can run a very small bead of cement around
for an improved seal right where the sac butts against the
the sac is installed properly, put the assembly down. Go away
for half an hour to let the cement dry. It doesnt necessarily
take half an hour, but if you adhere to a firm half-hour waiting
period, youll never proceed too soon. Getting itchy
and proceeding too soon means having a still-wet sac come
off in your hands or leak in the pen orworst of allglue
itself inside the barrel.
the new sac with a thin coat of talcum powder. This will make
it slide into the barrel more easily, and the filler will
also work a little more smoothly. Reinstall the section into
the barrel, aligning the lever with the nib as you go. Theres
no need to cement a hard rubber or ordinary plastic section
in place unless its close to falling out, but Sheaffer
has always recommended that visulated sections be shellacked
in. If your section is so loose that it really does fall out,
try shimming it with a bit of paper.
le voilà! Youve just accomplished a task that
used to require the services of a highly paid professional.
Youre on the road to restoring your way to a better
pen collection. Fill your revitalized pen and enjoy the ride!
10 Warren Street
New York, NY 10007-2218
P.O. Box 128
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To receive his catalog of tools and parts, send him a large
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