Friday, June 08, 2018

More Ravages of Time

I have two acrylic body pencils made by a pen turner. The first (top, 2-piece) one he made for general sale and the second (bottom, Duofold style) was commissioned by myself.
I really liked both these mechanical pencils when I bought them. Now... not so much.
I must admit I was very surprised to see what has happened to these mechanical pencils over time. Firstly the gold fittings are in excellent condition, as good as the day I first saw them. I really never expected much from the gold trims and would not really have been surprised to see some corrosion showing through. But, as I said, nothing. They are as good as the day they were made. So what has gone wrong and surprised me? Well the acrylic bodies have deteriorated. Unfortunately you can’t see it in the images, but you can see and feel it in real life. The acrylic has developed small ridges / waves / indents / dimples… whatever you like to call them. The Duofold style pencil is definitely worse than the other, but both have the same deterioration. The Duofold style pencil acrylic body also has an actual delamination in one part down where it joins the tip.
Ouch! Nasty sharp little protruding delamination.
The two piece body pencil also has another problem. The two halves have started to separate so that there is now a 1mm gap between the bodies and the centre joining ring.
Gap between body and centre ring joiner
These two pencils are about 9 years old and I thought I would contact the maker to get his comments. I wasn’t really complaining, just giving him feedback, and he replied quite promptly. He is no longer in the pen game, the quake of 2011 put an end to his business, and he is now retired. Nevertheless he was interested to hear from me and had a few comments in reply, slightly paraphrased below.
The issue with the ridging etc sometimes occurs right from the outset. It seems to be caused by the ribbons that are inserted in the acrylic pour to make the swirls. The technique involves two separate consistencies of mix, one always harder than the other. The gaps in the two-piece pencil centre are the brass inner tubing slipping on the joining knuckle (possibly from heat fluctuations). The pencils have a solid brass tube skeleton and are pressed together. Consequently they are held in place by friction only. I can't say what may have caused the delamination of the acrylic near the tip. Atmospheric humidity maybe?
It’s disappointing to hear the acrylic wave problem basically being a known-problem. I doubt the modern high end luxury manufacturers who use marbled acrylics have the same problem. I can confirm that my marbled Parker Duofold Centennial doesn’t have this problem, nor do my vintage Conway Stewarts.

In the old days I know that a couple of pen turners used to be regular readers of this blog, so I would be very interested to hear any comments from turners, or from readers who have had similar problems.

Don’t worry, this is last planned post about the Ravages of Time.

1 comment:

penmuseum said...

Ugh, sorry to hear of your bespoke pencil woes there Dave. That's one drawback about getting something done bespoke, as it could end up with non-serviceable parts. You might want to contact Brian Gray of Edison Pen. He is a true artisan when it comes to creating writing instruments and he works with similar materials all the time. He might be able to do something for you at a reasonable price. That is, if the decay is bothering you too much.

This is also the pitfall of pursuing vintage mechanical pencils. In most cases, parts are no longer available. But sometimes you get lucky. For instance, I picked up a Pentel PSD5 that had a ridiculous replacement clip from some old pen/pencil. But Pentel uses the same clip design for so many of their pencils, the PSD5 using the same one from the P200 line. I had a junker P205 lying around so I just stole its clip. Anyway, when I buy a vintage mechanical pencil I try to stick with brands I know that make fantastic quality components (Pilot, Pentel, Uni, Tombow, Platinum, rOtring), so that reliability is nearly fool proof.