Refurbishing a Sheaffer PFM III


I like to repair vintage pens whenever my skill level allows. I started by replacing ink sacs in lever fillers, then learned to remove, clean, and replace nibs and feeds using a knockout block. Later, I took on a Sheaffer Snorkel, which is tedious (especially the o-ring) but not really difficult. Getting the snorkel tube aligned properly with the nib was a pain, but just required lots of trial and error, mostly error.

Recently I purchased a Sheaffer PFM III that was in good cosmetic condition but would not take in any ink – too many vacuum leaks. I purchased a PFM repair kit from David Nishimura and downloaded his directions on PFM repair, plus I consulted a couple of other sites for tips and hints. All proved useful.

Sheaffer used a type of thread sealant on Snorkels and PFMs that loosens rather easily with the application of some heat. I used my heat gun to warm the barrel joint, then gripped the nib/hood with section pliers and the barrel with a scrap of rubber and it reluctantly unscrewed. The same approach did not work on the threads that join the nib/hood to the connector, so I tried hot water with no luck. I then applied a little of my old standby, Pensbury Manor’s Pen Potion No. 7, and let it soak into the threads overnight. This morning, I inserted a block of wood into the square opening in the connector where the sac protector usually fits, gripped the nib/hood with the section pliers, and again, reluctantly the assembly unscrewed.

NOTE: Since I did this repair job and wrote the article, I have attended a seminar on Snorkel and PFM Repair by Martin Ferguson at the Ohio Pen Show 2012.  I learned there that some of my techniques were not the best even though they worked out OK.  In particular, removing the plug from the sac protector can best be accomplished by using heat rather than un- and re-crimping the metal, and the snorkel orientation and length can be adjusted with the pen fully assembled, IF you have the right tool to grip the snorkel tube without damaging it.

This allowed me to remove the old point seal gasket and generally clean out the nib and feed. Removing the snorkel/sac plug from the sac protector revealed a gooey sac that pulled apart as I slid the plug out. I cleaned the remains of the sac from the plug and the inside of the protector, then fitted a new sac, using some orange shellac to glue it in place and giving the sac a light dusting of talc to prevent sticking inside the protector. I pressed the sac and plug back into the protector and re-dented the four tiny crimps that keep the plug in place.

I removed the touchdown tube from the blind cap using a long slender standard screwdrive, then removed the o-ring from the inside of the barrel. I applied a very light coat of silicone grease to the new o-ring, then carefully pressed it into place in the groove in the barrel. Much easier than the regular snorkel pen, primarily because the PFM is larger diameter. A little coat of silicone grease on the touchdown tube, and a bit up in the blind cap to grease the little seal there, the reassemble the touchdown tube to the blind cap. I put my fingertip over the open end of the barrel and pulled the blind cap out partway, then released my finger to a satisfying “poof” sound – vacuum was pulled, the seals are working!

I inserted the snorkel/protector assembly into the connector/nib assembly and found, of course, that the snorkel was not properly aligned with the nib. That little slit in the snorkel must line up with the nib. I must remember to mark the snorkel position on the sac protector before removing the plug – this applies to regular Snorkel pens as well. Some tweaking of the snorkel and alignment was achieved. I screwed the barrel on and realized that the snorkel did not quite retract all the way, so I disassembled again and, holding the snorkel tube carefully with a bit of rubber, pushed it into the plug a couple of millimeters, then reassembled and found that the retraction was just right.

Time for the water test. Insert the snorkel into some water and push the blind cap home. Bubbles pop out of the tip of the snorkel…did it take in water? Pulling the blind cap out and pushing back in generated a fine stream of water. It worked!

Using a bit of Richard Binder’s authentic tread sealant, I screwed the barrel on for one last time, then tried the water again – success…and it writes, too!

Finally, I used some Scratch Remover, followed by Pen Polish, both from Tryphon, to give the pen a fine shine.  Very satisfying to restore a pen to full working order.

I feel like I have accomplished one of the more difficult repairs that a non-professional can do. Bring on the vac-fils?   Maybe not…

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