Frankenpen is a term used derisively to describe a pen that has been assembled from mismatched components. Sometimes pens claimed to be “rare” are in fact Frankenpens, created, accidentally or deliberately, from parts that fit just fine but were never combined in that fashion by the factory. But sometimes a Frankenpen is a well-intended salvage operation using good components from two or more pens, with no attempt at deception.
A while back I paid $4 for a jade green Wearever pen that had definitely seen better days. Its clip and lever were badly brassed, the pen was filthy, and over half of the nib was simply gone, while the rest was a lump of black ink and corroded steel. I only bought it to be polite to a shop owner who had gone out of his way to try to help me find a pen, but with no luck. Rather than tossing it in the trash,I threw it in my junk box, and it stayed there until I noticed it a week or so ago and thought “this could be a pretty pen.”
That set me on a path to a Frankenpen, made from parts I had on hand. I disassembled the Wearever completely and found to my
astonishment that the clip, a Z-clip, was not held in place by an inner cap as it should have been, but rather by a buildup of dried ink. The inner cap was completely gone and the clip by all rights should have fallen off long ago. That it was still there told me that I was doing the right think to try to salvage the old pen. Other than the nib and feed, which were beyond help, and the ink sac, which was predictably dried up, the rest of the pen was in pretty good shape.
I gave it a thorough cleaning, using Phil Munson’s toothbrush and toothpaste method to remove dried ink from the barrel threads, shined the clip and lever with my Sunshine Cloth, and polished the plastic with Pen Polish from Main Street Pens. Everything was suddenly looking much better!
Now for a nib and feed…I pulled a Sheaffer Feather Touch 5 nib and feed from a beater pen, gave them a good run through the ultrasonic cleaner, and polished the nib with the Sunshine Cloth. They were actually a pretty good fit in the Wearever section and just a tiny bit of adjustment helped to slip them right into place. I added a new ink sac, waited for the shellac to set, gave the sac a light coat of talc, and slid the nib/feed/section/sac into place. The water test worked, so I turned my attention to the cap and clip.
UPDATE: After using Frankenpen for a while, I noticed that the lever “flopped” out, so decided to check out the problem. The J-bar, which had seemed OK initially, turned out to have very little springiness left. Also, I had installed a number 16 ink sac, knowing at the time that it was too small. So, the combination of weak J-bar and small ink sac resulted in the lever “flopping.” I installed a new J-bar and a gigantic number 22 ink sac. The lever seats firmly when released and this pen holds more ink than any other that I own!
A Z-clip is shaped just like it sounds and is held in place by catching the end of the Z
between the outer and inner caps, but there was no inner cap. From my model railroad stash came a length of 1/2″ OD styrene tubing, and it would slip a little way into the cap, so it seemed that thinning it might just work. I chucked the tubing in my drill and used some 100 sandpaper to reduce the OD just enough to allow it to slide right into the cap. I measure the length for the inner cap and cut the thinned tubing accordingly.
Holding the clip in place, I pushed the new inner cap down into the barrel until it seated at
the very top. The clip felt solid and the barrel assembly screwed right into place!
I quickly filled the pen with ink and it came to life again, writing like a good Sheaffer should and looking as pretty as any Wearever I have ever seen. My Frankenpen will never be mistaken for a “rare” model, not with a Sheaffer nib and a Wearever clip, but it certainly does preserve the best of both donor pens. UPDATE: Now that I’ve made a couple more Frankenpens, this one is now called Frankenpen I.