Last October I wrote about having found a small traveling inkwell and restoring it to usable condition. Here’s the link: A Small Traveling Inkwell Apparently having that one inkwell was not enough for me. Recently I purchased a second one, slightly larger than the first.
The first inkwell was 1 3/4″ in diameter and 1 1/2″ tall, while this one is 2″ in diameter and 1 3/4″ tall. These were made in the dip pen era, so were not planned for filling fountain pens – only a nib had to fit into the neck of the bottle. The first one, being smaller, has a neck that is a tight fit for a fountain pen – a Sheaffer Snorkel would work well, though – while the second would be much more useful for modern pens.
Because the glass bottle in the heart of these inkwells is the key element, and replacements are not available, I made certain that the second, like the first, had a bottle in good condition. It was in good cosmetic condition except that its original leather covering was almost gone; the bottom portion was still there to show me that it was very thin brown leather.
It first needed a good cleaning, and to facilitate that, I wanted to remove the glass bottle. These normally will just lift out, but this one was stuck fast. Examination showed that there was a thin rim of corrosion right at the shoulder of the bottle, locking it in place. Over a several day period I applied WD-40 (What else? The old rule is: if it won’t move and it is supposed to, apply WD-40…) to the corrosion, and after each soaking I scraped at the corrosion with the tip of my X-acto knife. The bottle would not move.
The next trick was to freeze the entire inkwell in the hope that the different contraction and expansion of the glass bottle vs the metal container might help to break things apart – without breaking the glass. After a day in the freezer – and yes, my wife did ask what that was in the freezer – and another application of WD-40, the bottle suddenly loosened from the grip of the corrosion and slid out intact.
The remaining corrosion quickly surrendered to my scrubber and the chrome plating shined up nicely.
I noticed that the material covering the spring-loaded lid that serves as a stopper for the bottle was in poor condition, so I fashioned a modern replacement from a thin piece of rubber of about the same color. I am confident that this will form a tight seal, as I had already used the same solution on the first inkwell.
As before, I used some leather patterned microsuede cloth – brown, this time – to form the “leather” covering for the bottom half of the inkwell. The technique was the same. Someday I may find some suitably thin leather and try my hand at fitting it to the inkwell, but in the meantime this is a very credible substitute.
The first inkwell, possibly of German origin, featured an unusual small decoration of a girl and some flowers soldered to the lid. This one, clearly French from the imprint on the inner lid, originally had a doughnut-shaped inlay of matching leather. I used a bottle with a mouth of just the right diameter for the outside of the doughnut as a template, then used a leather punch to cut the hole in the center.
With the metal parts and the ink bottle cleaned, the new seal material installed, and the faux leather covering in place, the second inkwell is ready for use.
The imprint on the inner lid reads: BREVETES S.G.D.G. PARIS. This indicates that the design is patented in France, but without any guarantee by the government that it will work. There is also a star and crescent imprint in the center of the lid.
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