Ask the Desk: Repairs, Refills, and Expert Fountain Pens

Ask The Desk

Tim asks:

My father-in-law who passed in 1988 used a variety of fountain pens which we just uncovered in the attic. The pens have not been used in probably 35 to 40 years. Can you recommend a site that would recondition the pens? These pens have a rubber bladder Which would need to be replaced. Thanks.

If you know what brands, some repair people specialize in certain brands and will have parts on hand for that particular brand. For example, Martin of MartinsPens51 specializes in lever fill, button fill, Parker Vacumatics, Sheaffer snorkels, Touchdowns, and PFM’s, Osman Sümer in MontBlanc, Sheri in Sheaffer and Ron Zorn at Main Street Pens started on Vacumatic-filling (Parker Vacumatic, Sheaffer and Parker “51”) pens, Aerometric Parkers and Sheaffer Snorkel and Touchdown pens but does handle other pens.

There are many other repair people — too many to list here but any web site for a pen show will often list vendors which often includes many repair people.

Rob asks:

Hi: I see references to beginner fountain pens and next step fountain pens, but what is an expert fountain pen? Is it based on price? Performance? I have not come across a suitable explanation. Thanks in advance for your help.

I don’t know that anyone would call them “expert” but there are some advanced level pens.

Some pens will not resonate with a fountain pen user until they’ve had some experience with pens. Sometimes this can be pens with flexible nibs (or just a little more bouncy like a Montblanc), pens that utilize a more complicated filling system or pens made of particularly unique materials (urushi, casein, etc). Advanced or Expert-level fountain pens can be 21K instead of 14K gold nibs as well. Then there’s pens that just fall into the top tier price points because they are limited edition and designed for a specific fan base (the Writer’s Series from Montblanc).

Any one of these attributes can make a pen significantly more expensive and difficult to find. Many of these characteristics would be lost on a new user who hasn’t had extensive time with a lower-priced pen to be able to appreciate or care for these more finicky or collector-level pens.

Liz asks:

My perfect notebook, which has eluded me my whole life: A4 (or 8.5×11), quad ruled but with bigger squares (4 to the inch), spiral-bound at the top (not the side), and of course, high-quality paper. The options at Clairefontaine and Rhodia are so so close, but the grid squares are too small and they literally cramp my style. As a result, I’ve been settling for the crappy paper of Top Flight’s Silverpoint Quad Planning Pad, which makes me sad. Is the perfect notebook for me out there somewhere? Willing to shell out big bucks for it if it does …

My first thought was to get a custom pad made from Blank Slate. They are not spiral bound but that’s easy enough to fix with a trip to a local copy shop that can put a spiral on a pad for a few dollar. Your requirement, 4 square to the inch, is approximately 7mm, if that helps in your hunt.

Amy asks:

I found a number of old pens in my desk and would love to use some of them again, but am having trouble matching pen refills. The first is an Anson twist up pen (chrome with gold accents?). The ink in it is labeled Mitsubishi Pencil Co., LTD Japan UBR-7P. A quick search did not come up with anything that matched or even really looked like it. Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

I would recommend trying the RefillFinder app to try to find a comparable match. If that doesn’t work, there may be a newer refill from Uni Mistubishi available through JetPens who stocks the largest variety of Japanese refills.

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5 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Thank you for this great answer feature! I have a question that I’d love to have answered in a future edition: how do you order your ink swatches? I use your fantastic Col-o-ring, but I have so many swatches now (250+) that it’s super hard to figure out what order to put them in. (Okay, it became hard way before now.). I want them in approximate “color order”–whatever that is–but it gets really confusing to judge which color should go next to which. What is your method?

  2. Re: Perfect Notebook – 1/4″ grid is not uncommon in American notebooks, but of course they’d all be in American sizes, not A4.

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