Let me just start off by saying I love tools. Really. One of our family mottos is “Use the right tool for the job”. This came about after a rigorous twelve month renovation of our house, where we saw literally something being done every single day. We’re still working on the house, but after twelve months of it, it was time to give it a bit of a break. The majority was finished and the rest very functional. We couldn’t have done it without using the right tools for the job (oh, and help from our trusted friend and carpenter Joe).
Fountain pen restoration is no different. You need tools. Unless you’re going to repair only lever fillers the rest of your life, you need special tools for practically every kind of pen. Some will be generic, some will be very specialized some a combination of the two.
Some tools you will need are no longer made and are going to be very hard to find. Today we will discuss the Parker Vacumatic Fitting Block. This tool is featured quite prominently in the Parker Service Manual 5115. There is no date on this service manual, but it only features double jewel lockdown filling vacumatics. At the time, this tool was subsidized by Parker for a net cost to the dealer at $1.50. Oh, if we could buy them at that price today!
The block that I own was reported to be a very old reproduction of an original, but I have had others indicate it may very well be an original piece. Either way, it is a very useful tool to have in your arsenal. In the picture above, we can see two threaded areas for standard and oversize filling units, and on the right, two knockout holes that go the entire length of the block. These would fit any size of Vacumatic or Duofold you needed to remove the nib and feed with. The turning handle is completely removable, and the rod is hollow to fit around breather tubes.
In this view we also see a notch in the top of the block. This is a very useful tool for removing buttons from button fillers. Ever have a stuck or really hard to remove button? No longer with this tool. On the right we have three indentations for setting nibs and feeds. You put your nib and feed together (feed side down) and this tells you how far the section needs to go on. The bottom of the block is supposed to have a rubber indentation for gripping and removing clip screws (jewels) but mine does not have this feature.
If you’re like me you’re thinking, well this is all fine and well, but I have other tools to accomplish most of these same things. Certainly a standard knock out block is more versatile, and many breather tubes can be removed prior to knocking out. There are also nicely made hand vac wrenches which are easier to use, and you may have a better or different system for seeing nib/feed setting in the section is correct. You are correct, however sometimes that button on the duofold doesn’t want to come out, and this will do the job quite nicely. Ever have problems removing a 1944 or 1945 plastic Vacumatic filling unit? Sometimes no matter how hard you press using a hand vac tool, it won’t budge. With this block you can clamp down on that filling unit tighter than you could by hand, allowing you more control in getting that unit unstuck. Ask me how I know this week! After soaking and heating for three days and numerous attempts with a hand vac wrench, I screwed it into the fitting block, added a little heat and it unscrewed easily.
I hope you enjoyed this insight into a not often talked about repair tool. If you ever get the chance to buy one, I highly recommend it. You’ll never know when it will be useful, and you may have to wait a long time before you see another.