I’ve been using a Wahl Eversharp oversized Doric with an adjustable nib since I purchased one online around Christmas (actually, I bought it on Christmas Day… shopping for toys while the kids played with their new toys…)
The only problem with it was that it needed some small adjustment of the lever, which tended to be slightly raised from the barrel all the time… and, as the Whal Eversharp Service Manual from 1923 says:
“When the lever on an old style barrel is bent or hangs out … it catches in the clothing”, which is a bad thing…
So, I dove into the barrel to try and see what was going on. Initially, when looking in from the outside, it appeared that the lever was somehow pivoting on an inside sleeve made of metal, which was unusual to me, and nothing I had heard or read about.
So, I posted a question about levers in Dorics to the Fountain Pen Network – but that didn’t return much information about an interior metal sleeve (apart from the suggestion that it might be a C-ring like many other pens, which I disputed because I am stubborn, especially when I am wrong…), so I decided to have a go at finding out what was going on.
Some gentle poking, a lot of twisting to get the light to shine in there at the right angle, and a lot of patience later, I found out that the lever is, indeed, pivoting on a spring C-ring. So far so good…. So, I tried to take that out without doing so much damage that I would have to replace the spring itself. No luck there… The C-ring is rusted into place, and although it might be able to come out, I doubt that it will go back in afterwards.
So, I changed tactics and decided to have a go at removing the pressure bar. Grabbing it with a pair of needle-nosed pliers, I was able to pull it out of the barrel. What was interesting / surprising was what came with it. A small piece of metal, visible in the photo above as the two parallel lines at the bottom of the barrel.
Out of the barrel, the end piece and the pressure bar look like the photo below.
When assembled inside the barrel, these two parts look like the photo below (albeit in a different location, since the pressure bar will be resting on the ink sac – this is the position the bar will be in when it is being depressed while filling).
Frank Dubiel in his book “Fountain Pens: The Complete Guide too Repair and Restoration” (better known as “Da Book”) says:
“Wahl pens use a more complex bar with two small hooks on the bar end that fit into a metal barrel plug that is pushed into the barrel with the bar. Many repairmen are quite indifferent about replacing the metal plug — the pen functions well without it. Installation of this plug requires several attempts and somewhat salty language skills to align it verbally with the lever. No harm is done by leaving the part out. It’s your decision.”
Now, I am extremely familiar with a wide vocabulary that could be (very generously) be described as “salty”. And, I know of many current restorers who steer away from many recommendations in Da Book. However, I found this somewhat daunting. Should I leave out the plug, or have a go at expanding my kids’ vocabularies at high sound pressure levels?
I forged on, starting by cleaning up the pressure bar and plug, all the while, thinking “If I were working on a Wahl production line, back in the day, I must have had a clever way of assembling this pen… ”
By the time I had the two parts cleaned up, I had a possible solution I was willing to try…
I took a 5 mm diameter beech wood dowel and used a file to shape the end as shown in the photo below. Notice that there is a pencil mark down the length of the dowel, aligned with top of the flattened end. This comes into play later.
The thickness of the flattened end is 1.4 mm, with a height of 2 mm. This allows it to fit in the opening in the metal plug, but not bottoming out before the metal sides, as shown below.
Now comes the tricky part. I place the pressure bar on the plug as it will be inside the barrel…
… and then place that assembly onto the wooden dowel. (Notice the pressure bar lining up with the pencil mark).
The plan is to insert this whole thing into the barrel of the pen. However, the top of the plug (the part that extends over the pressure bar) cannot slide directly past the lever without damaging it. So, it has to be inserted at a slight angle, sliding down next to the lever, and then rotated to line up the pins in the lever with the pressure bar in the appropriate gap.
In order to have a decent prediction of what depth this will happen at, I lined up the dowel and assembly outside the pen and held my thumb on my right hand at the end of the barrel.
This gives me a rough guess as to when I should rotate the assembly back under the lever.
In the photo above, you can see the assembly being inserted with a slight rotation to clear the underside of the lever. My thumb is still firmly in place on the dowel and pressure bar, just outside the photo.
Once I got to the predicted depth (when my thumb hit the top of the barrel), I rotated it to put the pressure bar directly under the lever, and then lifted the lever slightly to push its pins down into the pressure bar.
Once that was seated, I continued lifting the lever slightly while pushing the dowel and pressure bar down into the barrel until it was fully seated.
The cool thing that was that this worked easily on the first try – so I took it all apart and got my son to take these photos while I did it again. It was just as easy the second time around…
The good news is that I seem to have found a nice technique for re-assembling lever fillers in a Wahl Doric – so, I’ll keep my 5 mm dowel with the flattened end – just in case I ever come across another one. I love this pen – so I won’t be able to resist another one…
The bad news is that, once everything went back together, the original problem was still there – so I still have to be very careful when putting my pen in its sleeve…
What’s going on?
Now that I’ve taken the pen apart again, I can see the problem. The pressure bar is not moving properly in the plug.
In theory, when the lever is raised to squeeze the ink sac, a cross section of the pen would look like this.
In this drawing, the grey part is the barrel of the pen, the yellow is the lever, hinged on the C-ring, the red is the pressure bar and the blue is the plug. I haven’t drawn the sac, but it would squeezed under the pressure bar, against the inside of the barrel.
In theory, when the lever is released, the sac presses the pressure bar upwards and it returns to this position.
As you can see above, the pressure bar would now be sitting level on the ink sac, and the lever pivots to be flush with the outside of the barrel.
However, what is actually happening with my pen is this:
As is shown here, the pressure bar gets caught on the plug, which causes it to pivot upwards until it can’t go further – either because the “front” of the pressure bar hits the inside of the barrel or because the lever is now trying to lengthen the pressure bar as it also pivots.
So, the next step will be to try to fix this problem. Either
- my ink sac is not large enough (which I do not think is the case) OR
- I need to help the end of the pressure bar move on the plug by smoothing out the contact points between it and the plug OR
- follow Frank Dubiel’s suggestion and remove the plug entirely.