Charles H. Ingersoll Dollar Pen restoration

In 1924, Charles H. Ingersoll started his pen company, the Charles H. Ingersoll Dollar Pen Company, located in Newark, NJ, making fountain pens that sold for a dollar.  Ingersoll wanted to deliver good value for the dollar, so the pens featured a nice 14K nib, imprinted CHI and 14K.

The restored pen uncapped.  The bayonet latch components can be seen: the bump on the barrel and the L-shaped groove at the lip of the cap.

The 14K nib forced cost-saving measures in other aspects of the pen, including the filling system.  Ingersoll used a twist filler, where turning a knob on the end of the barrel twists the ink sac, expelling the contents, then reversing the twist opens up the sac, sucking in ink.  Most twist fillers have a blind cap over the knob to prevent accidental twisting, with accompanying unwanted expelling of ink, but Ingersoll saved money first by not covering the knob, and second by using a simple upholstery tack, readily available at very low cost, as the knob.

The upholstery tack passes through a hole in the end of the barrel and is inserted into a cylindrical rubber plug.  The plug is inserted into the open end of the ink sac and the sac is secured to it with shellac.  The other end of the sac, also open, is secured to the section nipple with shellac in the usual way.  Turning the upholstery tack about one turn is sufficient to wind the sac tight, and releasing it allows the sac to spring back to cylindrical form, creating a vacuum to suck in ink.  Simple, inexpensive, and effective…so long as you don’t accidentally turn the tack.

Another cost saver was the bayonet latch to secure the cap closed.  A simple bump on the side of the barrel engages an L-shaped groove in the cap lip.  Push the cap onto the bump, then turn it a few degrees, and the cap is secure.  To remove the cap, twist, then pull.  Again, simple, effective, and very inexpensive…no threads or springs required.

In addition to the quality 14K nib, Ingersoll’s pens featured an innovative version of the common Z-clip pocket clip.  Most Z-clips are simply that: a piece of metal bent into a Z shape, with one end of the Z inserted into a slot in the cap, secured by fitting tightly between the outer and inner caps, and the other end usually ending in a ball to enable smooth sliding over the edge of a pocket.  Ingersoll, however, formed that end so that it doubled under and extended almost up to the point where the clip entered the cap, at which point it was formed to a second pressure point, ensuring a secure fit in the pocket.

The earlier Ingersoll pens are made of nickle plated brass tubing, decorated with imprinting  in similar patterns to the chasing common on hard rubber pens of the day.  The tubing was quite thin, another cost saver, and cracks, particularly in the barrel where the section is friction fitted in, are common in these pens.

I found my Ingersoll Dollar Pen in a junk pen box.  A film of grey corrosion covered the exterior such that I first thought it must be aluminum, but some research and comments from others on Fountain Pen Network helped me to understand the construction and filling system.

I was able to restore the pen to working order fairly easily.

I used Nevr Dull polish to clean and polish the exterior and found that for the most part the nickle plating was in good condition. The section, however was completely brassed, so I just shined up the brass and will pretend it is supposed to be that way since it doesn’t look too bad.

I knocked out the nib and feed from the section, then used a #20 ink sac to create the twistable sac.  I first glued it to the rubber plug with shellac, then slid the plug/sac combination into the barrel to see where to cut the end to fit over the section nipple.  I cut it, then shellacked it to the section and very patiently gave the shellac plenty of time to set before the next step.

Coating the sac with talc, I slid the plug end into the barrel and with a pair of section pliers, pushed the section into the barrel to the right depth.  I inserted a wooden dowel through the section and pressed the rubber plug against the end of the barrel, then inserted the upholstery tack (it really is an upholstery tack – what a clever, low cost use of off-the shelf- hardware) through its hole in the end of the barrel and into the rubber plug.  I held the barrel with the tack down on my workbench and tapped the dowel with a small hammer until the tack was fully seated.

Finally, I used my section pliers to insert the nib and feed into the section to the right depth.

A quick water test proved that twisting the upholstery tack about one turn expelled most of the air in the sac and releasing it allowed the sac to spring back, sucking in water very nicely.  I have not inked the pen, but did dip it in some ink and write with the nicely flexible nib.  The nib can use a little smoothing, but that is not a problem.

One unfortunate aspect of the design is that the pocket clip becomes a very handy grip to turn the cap to lock the bayonet latch.  Repeated operation of the bayonet latch, with side pressure on the clip, has stressed the outer cap along the edges of the clip where it is wedged in place between the outer and inner caps, resulting in two parallel cracks along the hidden part of the clip.  I’m not sure how to fix this.  Finger pressure is sufficient to close the cracks to the point that they are almost invisible, but ACC or some other adhesive is the only thing I can think of to hold them closed.  You can see the cracks in the pictures of the restored pen.


4 thoughts on “Charles H. Ingersoll Dollar Pen restoration

  1. Pingback: Charles H. Ingersoll 2nd generation Dollar Pen Restoration | Cigar Box Pen Storage

  2. Pingback: Another Charles H. Ingersoll Dollar Pen Restoration | Cigar Box Pen Storage

  3. Pingback: The Charles H. Ingersoll Dollar Fountain Pen – A Mini Collection | Cigar Box Pen Storage

  4. Pingback: Restoring a 3rd Generation Charles H Ingersoll Dollar Pen | Cigar Box Pen Storage

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