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!
Sometimes in life you’re just in the right place at the right time, when you step up, ya’ pays ya’ money and ya’ takes ya’ chances. Sometimes you’re lucky, but many times you’re not. I have a saying in life that you gotta just keep turning over rocks until you find a crawdad.
As I began to get deeper into fountain pens, especially on the restoration side, 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.
I took a chance on this lot of stuff for $49.00 shipped to my front door. What I found amongst the rubble (not shown in the picture above) were these: 1) a near mint Parker 51 that I will detail for you and restore in an upcoming blog post, 2) a near mint, but more importantly a true DuoVac/VacuFold in a blue striated color with the proper vacumatic clip, but with the pen body made from Duofold material, a pen which I will also restore for you in a future blog post, and 3) a near-mint green striated Conklin Nozac from the 1930’s or so that we are going to talk about today.
As you can tell from the pictures it is truly a beautiful pen, but it was unlike anything I had come across before. The pen has a collapsing piston mechanism similar to what Pelikan had been using, but the blind cap was held onto the pen in such a fashion that made the disassembly and restoration a degree or two of difficulty higher than that of an Aerometric Parker 51, for example. The blind cap was held in place by a tiny pin rod that entered one side of the blind cap and ran through the center of the piston drive pin.
If the piston will move at all, the traditional restoration technique on the Conklin Nozac is to remove the section from the pen (it screws out with the help of a little dry heat) and then turn the blind cap to run the piston all the way toward the front of the barrel.
Tradition holds that at this point you’re supposed to give the internal piston a brisk counter-clockwise twist which will remove it from the inner shaft allowing you easy access to the dried cork seal without having to remove the inner shaft or blind cap. Unfortunately, this method did not work for me. I could not get the piston and old seal out.
Instead I used a 1.17mm drill in a pin vice to drill a hole in the blind cap on the exact opposite side of the pin I could see. I then used the blunt end of a .97mm drill as a pin punch to remove the blind cap from the end of the barrel and piston mechanism, leaving three washers and the pin. Once I had access to the piston mechanism I used a 3/32″ brass rod to push it from the rear of the pen through the section after it had been removed.
The third photo below is what I found, except that the old cork piston washers were completely hardened. They chipped away from the shaft with a sharp pick quite easily. I used two sized “C” replacement washers from the Conklin Nozac Repair Kit over at David Nishimura’s site Vintage Pens. They have a lot of great supplies and information over there and in the interest of full disclosure I have no affiliation with them whatsoever.