Ballpoint Collection

I’ve posted here before about my new addiction to early ballpoint pens, but I’ve never shown the full extent of the collection before.  Here are pictures of the entire lot.  I have some duplicates not shown here.  Click on any image to open gallery for larger views:


Restoring a Fulgens Stilnova

I acquired a Fulgens Stilnova pen, made in Italy around 1950, quite by accident.  It was included in a lot of pens that I purchased on eBay.  I was immediately attracted by its beautiful design, but I found that the nib was missing its tipping material and the pushbutton filler was firmly stuck.  I first put it aside, but later felt challenged to restore it if possible.

With considerable help from folks on Pentrace and FPN, I finally understood how the filler system worked and how to get it apart.  Disassembly was not difficult, although things did not really want to come apart easily after nearly 70 years.

After a thorough cleanup to remove debris left by a long-gone rubber diaphragm, I crafted a replacement from a #16 latex ink sac and reassembled the filler.  A test with my finger over the open end of the barrel showed that the filler now made some vacuum, so I had hope that it would work.

Because the original nib was damaged, I found a suitable substitute in my parts bin and assembled the nib/feed/section/breather tube and screwed that assembly into the barrel.  A test with water showed that multiple presses of the pushbutton drew up quite a lot of fluid, so I emptied the water and partially filled it with ink.  It wrote!

The exterior of the pen was in very good condition, except that some previous owner had chewed on the blind cap.  I used micromesh to reduce the damage, then used Micro-Gloss liquid abrasive to polish the entire exterior.

I may opt to have the original nib retipped, or perhaps I will find someone in Italy who can source a replacement.  Either way, this very pretty pen – classic Italian design – is now restored to working order.

The barrel imprint, which is difficult to read without a loupe, says Fulgens Stilnova Brev. 26938, where Brev. means Patent.  The original nib also reads Fulgens Stilnova.  The clip is imprinted FULGENS.

The cap, section, and blind cap are black celluloid, while the barrel is alternating translucent and colored bands in the manner of the Parker Vacumatic pens.  The translucent bands are considerably ambered and I was unable to make much progress in restoring more translucency.

The clip is a clever and beautiful design, clearly inspired by the over-the-top clip of the Eversharp Skyline, but done better.  This clip pivots at one point near the top and is spring loaded.  An indentation in the very top of the cap allows the tip of the clip to move freely.

The cap has a single gold-filled cap band which is in excellent condition.

The manufacturer was Pagliero of Turin, who made fountain pens under a variety of names.  The Stilnova name was used in the 1930s, but they only trademarked the Fulgens name in 1946, and conflated it apparently with the previous Stilnova mark.

The pictures below show the restored pen, plus two diagrams from FPN and an exploded view of the pen while I had it apart. Click on any image to open the gallery for larger views.

My Aurora 88k

A few months ago I purchased a lot of fountain and ballpoint pens from an eBay seller because I could see that there were a couple of interesting pens and some useful parts pens included.  I planned to keep what I wanted/needed and resell the remainder of the lot.

When the lot arrived, I found that one of the items I had been unable to identify in the eBay pictures was Italian fountain pens of the early 1950s, an Aurora 88k.  I was completely unfamiliar with the Aurora, but it was a beautiful pen with a black barrel, hooded nib, and gold-filled cap – very reminiscent of a Parker 51 – and I was intrigued.

Some online searching yielded the history of Aurora, which dates from 1919 and is still in business today, and its best-known pen, the 88/88k/88P family.  Briefly, when the company struggled to get back into production immediately after WWII, they recognized the popularity of the Parker 51 and undertook to design a pen equally modern.  They hired well-known industrial designer Marcello Nizzoli, who created a design so successful that it ultimately resulted in sales of over five million pens.

The original Aurora 88 was introduced in 1946 and had sold 750,000 pieces before a slightly upgraded version, the 88k, replaced it in 1953.  The third version, the 88P, came along in 1958.  Almost all of the 88 family pens were serial numbered, and my 88k is number 2123809.

When I examined the pen, I found that its cosmetic condition was very good, but the nib was badly bent upward, perhaps from a drop, and the piston filling mechanism moved freely but did not draw in any water. While straightening the nib was within my skill set, I had no interest in learning to repair the piston system since I would not likely ever use that knowledge again.  So, I offered it for sale in this condition in the Fountain Pen Network classifieds.

Before long I received a reasonable offer for the pen and I mailed it away to its new owner –  Ralf St. Clair, of Victoria, BC, Canada – but only after making him promise that he would give me a full report on repairing it. Within a month or so I received an email from Ralf with a MS Word document detailing the entire repair process in words and pictures – much more than I had expected.  There definitely were some tricks to disassembling the pen that I would never have discovered on my own!  I commented to him that, had I known all that his report showed, I would have tried it myself.

Shortly afterward, I received an offer from him to sell me the restored pen at a very reasonable price, and I quickly accepted. Now the pen is back in my hands and I am using it every day because it is such an attractive pen and an excellent writer with its smooth fine nib.

Thanks very much to Ralf for his work in returning this classic pen to working order.

Here are some “before” and “after” pictures:

The following is the repair report sent to me by Ralf St. Clair:

Fixing up the 88

As requested, here’s the story! The Aurora are good to work on. The parts are stable and pretty strong, designed to be fixed up easily. There’s one exception, which I’ll come to later. The first step is to remove a tiny plastic cover on the butt of the pen to reveal a screw………………………………………………………..When it’s loosened, like this:

image-1image-2You can remove the piston knob. There is a tiny spring on the screw; it’s used to tension the piston knob. The screw isn’t tight; it’s just got enough torque to hold the assembly together. If you over-tighten, the knob won’t turn.


Under the piston knob there are a couple of different designs. In this case there is a hex-nut that the knob fits over. When the knob turns, it drives the hex-nut which in turn works the piston mechanism. It’s a brilliant design for a couple of reasons. First, the piston knob does not back away from the body of the pen when the piston is being operated, so it’s a very clean operation aesthetically and mechanically speaking. Second, the parts are light but not so specialized that a handy person couldn’t jury-rig something if they had to – quite an asset in post-War Italy.

The white plastic piece is a bushing for the piston mechanism. I usually don’t remove them (I’m always wary of screwing things in and out of celluloid) but in this case I had to, so we’ll see more of it later! The piston mech can be removed as one unit from the back of the pen, or in pieces from the front (section) end.

Now to the front. After application of heat, the incredibly tacky substance the factory use to hold the section on gets a little softer, and the section can be loosened. I find two bits of old inner tube work well for this- section pliers make me nervous. When fully removed you have this:


And now it gets interesting.  The section goes into cold water for a soak.image-5

And it’s time to strip the piston mech. Careful examination of the hex-nut shows that there is actually a tiny pin running through it. It’s not tight, but it is tiny. I usually knock it out with a drift until there is enough showing to pull it out with pliers. Here it is halfway out.


And when removed, the hex-nut slides off the brass shaft:


Now the piston and brass shaft come out the front of the pen, leaving you with:


These are the actual parts that move the piston:


The hole in the brass shaft is, of course, where the pin through the nut goes. The piston looks like this:


It’s hard to see in a photograph, but the piston consists of the big black piece with the hex shape (this fits into a hex shape in the white plastic bushing to prevent the piston just spinning when the piston knob is turned), a strange slotted nut that goes on the end nearest us in the photo, and a range of felt/leather/fibre washers in between. Taken apart it looks like this:


The most delicate piece of these old pens is the black piston itself. In the case of this pen it was definitely crumbly, which led to some challenges. The recommended repair is to replace all those little washers with two O-rings of a specific size (available from David Nishimura). This gives you:


And when re-installed into the piston unit, the whole assembly looks like:


(I left the pin slightly out for the photo, then snugged it home)

The problem with this 88 was that the piston was so soft that I couldn’t tension the o-rings correctly. By turning the slotted “nut” you squeeze the o-rings and change their diameter to get the right “snug but not draggy” fit inside the barrel. Eventually, I was able to get it right with one o-ring, a couple of packing washers, and a spare slotted nut I happened to have from previous Aurora repairs.

Talking of the barrel, after a good wash and scrub with a bottle brush, it looked like this…The ink window was back!!!


So now I had the piston assembly back in a nice clean barrel (This picture captures the hole for the pin through the hex-nut quite nicely).


And so to the front.

There are only three parts to the front end of an 88: the section/nose, the feed, and the nib. They tend to be a tight fit, and to glue themselves together with ink. After a good soak (there was a LOT of blue ink in this 88) they come apart, with the feed coming out the FRONT of the section (this is quite counter-intuitive looking at the parts).  NOTE: I asked the author how the feed/nib is removed from the section and he gave this explanation:

“The feed is not a very tight friction fit. It usually needs a light tap on the “inner” end to free it, but that’s about all if it’s been properly soaked. It seals nicely against the end of the barrel when the section is screwed into place.

The nib is a lot like a Lamy 2000, with little wings that fold over the feed and keep it in place. Theoretically, you could remove the nib from the front, with the feed in place in the pen, but I’ve always considered that bad practice.

The back of the feed has a screw affair in it in some version, and I’ve seen people claim that they can adjust ink flow by turning it. I’ve played with these a little, but I’m not convinced that they really make any difference at all.”


Look at that poor nib! It slides off the front of the feed.


You can see how tiny the nib is (the paper is 5mm square). I really thought this one was wrecked, but to my surprise I was wrong, and managed to get it lined up and working again. After some smoothing it’s very acceptable. Here is an overview of the whole pen.


And here are a couple of it re-assembled:



Written with the pen!


Three Large Pens – a Review

Recently I purchased a Laban Mento fountain pen in striking “Terrazzo Pumpkin” plastic.  I knew in advance that its nib was damaged beyond reasonable repair.  I sought advice on FPN about replacing the nib and learned three things: first, that offers a complete replacement nib/feed/section for the Mento for just $10, second, that Goulet Pens sells No. 6 nibs that are a perfect fit in the Mento, and third, that the Jinhao 159 nib is the same size and that its feed is the same as that of the Mento.

Armed with that information, and finding that the nib/feed/section from was only available in black (my pen has a color-matched section), I ordered a No. 6

Laban Mento Terrazzo Pumpkin uncapped

Laban Mento “Terrazzo Pumpkin”

two-tone steel 1.1mm stub nib from Goulet Pens ($15).  I also decided that I should try the Jinhao 159 since so many people speak highly of it.  I found one for sale on Amazon for $6.69 including mailing cost from Shanghai.

The nib from Goulet Pens arrived very quickly and only a few minutes’ work was required to install it in the Laban Mento – a perfect fit – and it was a joy to write with.  I normally favor vintage pens that are considerably smaller than the Mento, but it has become a daily carry pen.

A couple of weeks later the postman delivered the Jinhao 159.

Jinhao 159 uncapped

Jinhao 159

Having never seen one in person, I excitedly opened the package.  There is was, bright red (it comes in a number of colors) and obviously styled by someone familiar with a Montblanc 149.  I inked it and the medium steel nib was as smooth as silk, right out of the package.

Since the Jinhao purchase was a by-product of the Mento repair, and since both looked so much like the MB 149, I decided to do a side-by-side comparison.

                                    Jinhao 159                       Laban Mento                Montblanc 149
Length                         5 3/4″                                   5 7/8″                                 5 3/4″
Grip Diameter       1/2″ to 7/16″                     1/2″ to 7/16″                            1/2″
Weight                          1.7 oz                                  1.0 oz                                  1.1 oz
Nib                            Steel Medium         1.1mm Goulet Steel Stub   Gold Fine with some flex
Cost                              $6.69                                   $120                                 $594 (and up)
Filling System      Cartridge/Converter  Cartridge/Converter                    Piston

Appearance The three pens are essentially the same size.  The Montblanc is the most elegant with its black finish and satin gold hardware.  The Laban is available in a number of colors, most of which are not so “bold” as this Terrazzo Pumpkin.  Its hardware is bright chrome.  My red Jinhao is flashy, no getting around it!  It is available in black and several other colors, but the chariot logo on the clip will always be there, and I would prefer less bling.

I personally prefer a lighter weight pen.  The Jinhao is significantly heavier than the other two. Without its cap posted the Jinhao is OK, when posted it is well-balanced but far too heavy for me.
Comfort: I like to hold a pen that has a relatively smooth transition from barrel to gripping section.  The Laban and Montblanc both have fine plastic threads at the base of their barrels, with no step-down from the barrel to the threaded area or from the threads to the gripping section.  The Jinhao has coarser metal threads that step down slightly from the barrel, but no further step-down from the threaded area to the gripping section.  The difference is noticable, but not uncomfortable.  The Montblanc’s gripping section is a straight cylinder, while the Jinhao and Laban both have slightly tapered grips.  Both shapes work fine for me

Writing Impression  Because of the wide variation in nibs, it is difficult to say which pen writes “best.”  All three write quite well, and each has its own feel.  The Montblanc’s gold nib has a modest amount of flex and yields a very confortable writing experience.  The Goulet 1.1mm stub in my Laban is firm and smooth.  The stub gives interesting line variation.  The Jinhao’s steel medium nib is smooth and firm.

It would be easy to fit the Jinhao with a Goulet nib if one preferred a stub.  Goulet’s steel nibs only cost $15, so this is not an outrageous idea.

Other The Laban has a spring loaded clip which is a nice feature that the other two don’t have.  The Montblanc’s piston filler has an enormous ink capacity, while the other two have the typical cartridge/converter capacity that we see in so many modern pens.

Conclusions I like all three of these pens.  The size is good in my hand; they all write well and are comfortable to use; yet each has its own character.  The Jinhao is a real bargain at $6.69.  It is a little flashier than the other two, but I did choose the red, after all.  Without the cap posted its extra weight is not really an issue.  You will have to decide for yourself if the Laban is almost 20 times, or that the Montblanc is nearly 100 times, the value of the Jinhao.

Restoring a 3rd Generation Charles H Ingersoll Dollar Pen

I’ve written previously about finding and restoring some earlier generation Charles H Ingersoll “Dollar” Pens in posts here,  here, and here, plus a post telling more about Ingersoll and showing my entire Ingersoll mini collection.  The latter included pictures of my last Ingersoll find, but at the time of that post I had not yet restored the filling system.

I bought this pen at a bargain price because it looked perfectly awful.  Someone had “repaired” a loose clip by wrapping some insulated electrical wire around it. Wired on clip I took a chance that I could repair it properly.  Once the wire was off, I found that one of the small rivets was loose, so I pulled the inner cap and fitted the butt end of a drill bit inside to act as an anvil, then tightened the rivet by gently tapping on the outside.


Today I finally got around to restoring the filling system.  It turned out to be quite easy, having done several others in the past.  I was a little nervous about the bakelite because it is notorious for cracking into a million pieces very unexpectedly.  I applied some heat and gently extracted the section from the barrel.  It came out without too much resistance, much to my relief.

The original ink sac (a rubber tube, actually) was intact, but the ends were rock hard and the center had that mushy feel that is the first stage in sac failure.  I only had to pull gently to tear the sac loose from the section.  The twist filler knob (an upholstery tack) did not want to pull out of the hard rubber plug inside the barrel, so I gently pryed it out with a small screwdriver.  Here’s a picture of the pen partially disassembled.  I’ve placed the two parts of the original ink sac close together to give you a feel for how it was inside the pen.  The twist filler knob/tack and its small conical bearing washer are at the left end of the sac.  The hard rubber plug into which the tack sticks is still inside the end of the sac:

Charles H Ingersoll Dollar Pen red bakelite partially disassembled

The next picture shows the hard rubber plug more clearly:

Charles H Ingersoll Dollar Pen red bakelite disassembled

The next step was to knock the nib and feed out of the section using my knock-out block.  Then I cleaned the remains of the old sac off of the rubber plug and the nipple on the section.  I found that a number 20 sac fit perfectly onto the plug and nipple, so I attached the open end of the sac to the plug using shellac.  Once that was done, I inserted the plug and sac into the barrel to measure the needed length for the sac to fit between the plug in its final position against the inside end of the barrel and onto the nipple with the section in its proper position.

I cut the closed end of the sac to the proper length, then secured it to the nipple with shellac.

Charles H Ingersoll Dollar Pen red bakelite new sac

When the shellac had set, I inserted a small dowel through the section and against the rubber plug.  Using the dowel, I guided the plug end of the sac to the far end of the barrel and pressed the section into place in the barrel.  Holding the plug in place against the inside end of the barrel, I pressed the tack back into the hole in the plug until it rested fairly tightly against the outside of the barrel.  A test twist of the knob showed that the sac twisted, then untwisted itself when the knob was released.

Charles H Ingersoll Dollar Pen red bakelite showing dowel use to refit twist filler

The final step was to reinsert the nib and feed into the section to the proper depth and the job was done.

Charles H Ingersoll Dollar Pen red bakelite uncapped