Greetings! This 1942 Parker Blue Striated DuoVac / VacuFold is the second of three really nice pens I lucked in to when I purchased what appeared to be a junker lot on Ebay. The first one we talked about was this green striated Conklin Nozac that I restored to near-mint condition. The third in this series will be a near-mint Parker 51 from the same lot.
Here’s a picture of the Conklin Nozac and the Parker 51 Aerometric.
As I mentioned, I acquired this pen when I came across an EBay auction not long ago that contained one fuzzy, out-of-focus picture much like the one shown below of 15 or twenty pens up for sale. There was much discussion in a thread over on Fountain Pen Network about this particular lot.
Today, let’s restore this beautiful DuoVac.
First, six things to note that authenticate the provenance of this pen: 1) It is made out of DuoFold stock, 2) It is marked “Vacumatic” on the barrel, 3) It sports a split-arrow Parker Vacumatic clip and not a DuoFold clip, 5) It came with a regular Vacumatic nib, 5) It uses the traditional Vacumatic plastic plunger filler, and 6) It has what is known as a “Jewellers” or “coin-stacked” cap band.
Here’s a picture of a traditional DuoFold clip (yeah, I know it needs some work, it’s in the queue). This particular style of Parker DuoVac / VacuFold is mentioned with some specificity on pages 188-189 in David Shepherd’s book Parker Vacumatic. I got my copy from Frank Fiorella at Pendemonium.
Mr. Shepherd describes the VacuFold as “an unusual variation” that “was produced in late 1942 to early 1943.” Tony Fischier at Parker Collector refers to the VacuFold as “very rare” (scroll to the last photo on the Parker Collector link to see a red version). Tony got his photo from David Isaacson at Vacumania. These guys are way more knowledgable than I am. Spend some time on their websites.
Anyway, on to the restoration. This pen restores just like any standard Parker Vacumatic. The most important thing to remember is to use well-controlled and incremental dry-heat to disassemble the pen. With a Parker 51 you can use hot water, but that’s for another post and I only use dry-heat on Vacumatics and DuoFolds. I have this particular heat gun from Milwaukee. It’s a model 8988-20 and I got it from this seller on EBay.
It’s spendy, but it’s much better than the $20.00 model 500F/1500F ones you can find at most hobby stores. The great thing about it is that you can control it in 10F increments from 90F to 1,150F. I use a digital thermometer to measure the actual temperature at the barrel for a given setting on the gun.
The first thing I do is remove the section with the nib and feed still installed using section pliers and dry-heat. If possible, it’s important to leave the nib and feed in when removing the section to provide support to the section. The section should have been installed in the barrel originally with thread sealant, not shellac. The two are similar, but thread sealant releases at a lower temperature than shellac and the section should remove relatively easily. However, if the pen’s been around the block a few times, there’s no telling what was used to seal the section to the barrel. Thread sealant, shellac, super glue, epoxy, nothing? Ouch! I’ve had a prominent Ebay seller tell me that they don’t use anything, which means nothing! Really? Okay? We’ll use the proper thread sealant.
Here’s the section, nib, feed, and breather tube after it has been removed from the pen using a pin and knockout block, cleaned in an ultrasonic cleaner, and reassembled. Note that the feed is set flush with the rear of the section. You can do this by hand, but many times it is a very tight fit. I use a set of parallel nib pliers and some water based diaphragm lubricant to assist after hand inserting the nib and feed as far as it will go. I used a little Simichrome on the nib, followed by a rouge cloth. Perfect!
Next on the list is to remove the filler unit using an appropriate Vacumatic wrench. Don’t use regular pliers of any sort. You’ll certainly ruin the filler and maybe the pen barrel as well. That would get expensive quick on most any pen, but certainly on one like this.
Here’s the filler after having been cleaned, the threads chased by hand, and the pellet cup removed with a Dremel tool and a tiny micro-bur (I’ll show you how to do this in a future post). The diaphragm is new and has been cut to the appropriate length of 27mm to 28mm (including from the pellet to the open end) with a #11 Exacto blade.
Use a pellet insertion tool coated with 100% pure pharmaceutical grade talc (not the stuff in your bathroom) and slightly wet the outside portion of the pellet end with saliva. Pull the diaphragm semi-tight (don’t rip it in two) over the pellet insertion tool and insert the diaphragm into the pellet cup as shown.
Coat the diaphragm with the talc and use a brass rod approximately 6.35mm in diameter (or the opposite end of your pellet insertion tool if it was made for this) and roll the diaphragm back on itself until it is just flush with the lip on the silver colored portion between the pellet cup and the threads. Don’t roll it up and over the lip, you’ll over-stress the pen barrel on reinstallation and might not get a proper fit.
Next, remove all of the old diaphragm from the barrel. This task can range from simple (the whole diaphragm comes out scrunched up but still attached to the filler mechanism) to extraordinarily painful (where the diaphragm is hardened and stuck to the inside of the barrel). In the painful case you’re going to need a dental pick and several different sizes of dental scrapers and you will need to remove the old diaphragm piece-by-piece. For aesthetic and functional reasons, make sure it is completely removed, especially around the threads or the new diaphragm might not seat properly and again, could stress the barrel.
Then clean the inside of the cap and barrel with a cotton swab (like a Q-Tip) and a little pen flush made from a solution of 90% distilled water and 10% ammonia. Follow with a wet bottle-brush of the appropriate size and vigorously but carefully scrub the inside of the cap and barrel. Make sure to use the unscented ammonia. You can get it at nearly any grocery store or big box. Top it off with a drop or three of blue Dawn dishwashing liquid. I make it a gallon or two at a time. It gets used quickly. If you have a serious problem of dried ink you can use Koh-I-Noor Rapido-Eze Pen Cleaner after or instead of the pen flush. The Conklin Nozac I did was like this. Some will dilute the Rapido-Eze 50% with water. I use it “neat”, straight-up undiluted. But I don’t let it linger and it’s rinsed with water quickly after.
Don’t soak this cap and barrel in either of those solutions and be sure to rinse everything completely with luke-warm tap water. You can use the distilled water if you want, but it’s easier just to rinse them under the faucet. Make sure you have a sink strainer installed in the sink. It took me 45 minutes once to fish (no pun intended) a Noodler’s Ahab breather tube out of the garbage disposal. Not a good use of time.
Here’s what you get!
Then use some Micro-Gloss and some 100% Carnauba wax with a microfiber cloth to polish up the exterior of the cap, barrel, and blind cap.
Some will not recommend using the Micro-Gloss and the Carnauba, but I like it and have never had a problem. I think it brings back the luster of the pen and I like how it looks – clean. Do it by hand. Don’t use a motorized polisher, too much risk of over doing it.
Here’s the final results. Pretty cool huh!? Let me know what you think in the comments section or shoot me a tweet. I would love to hear your feedback.
I don’t have any idea what this pen is worth, but I bet it’s more than I paid for the entire lot. Sometimes you just get lucky. A shout out to Bruce over at the Fountain Pen Network for pointing me to this treasure and not laughing after he found out I took a shot on the lot of pens that produced this beauty. Thank you sir!
~ Glenn Atkins