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Button Filler Evisceration

Tools you will need:

  • Thumbs

    Click for a full view; this Duofold is a pretty typical example of what you'll find.

    Click for a full view; this Duofold is a pretty typical example of what you’ll find.

  • Talc
  • Silicone Grease
  • Cloth or paper towel

Tools you may need:

  • Needle-nosed pliers
  • More cloth or paper towel for padding the pliers
  • Vacumatic wrench/block (Parker AF pens only)

If one is doing almost any repairs on a button filler, it is almost invariably necessary to remove and reinsert all the guts.

For most versions of this mechanism, the first step is to remove the button.  The exceptions to this are the aluminum filler which Parker introduced in the VS and which was used for some years in the mid-20th century mostly on British and European Parker products, and some very low-price models by other makers.  I’ll cover the differences in approach for this style later, but I suggest reading the whole page before actually doing anything.

This thing was to be bolted to the workbench.

The way to remove these most buttons is, if I may be crude, to yank on ‘em.  Parker offered a tool to assist with the effort, but I’ve usually found my fingers had grip and power enough to manage.  If you find you need a tool, lightly pad some needle-nosed pliers and hold the jaws rather than the handles; it’s more the sort of motion applied to a cork-screw than a pliers-style levering.  Pull as straight as possible away from the tail of the barrel, although a little wiggling shouldn’t do any harm and will make life easier.  If you are working on one of the Parkers with a suspended bar, be careful not to catch the little exposed tab while pulling.

At this point, the official next step is to pull out the pressure bar, the extremity of which should be visible in the hole the button came from.  Take it between thumb and forefinger and give it a tug.  If it comes out without any serious resistance, then by all means pull it right out.  If there is any resistance, there’s a good chance that the sac has molded itself around the bar and then petrified.  In that case, trying to do things “properly” will lead at best to frustration and at worst to a breaking of the part, so don’t just pull harder.  Switch gears to sac replacement (which is likely what was underway in any case), and return here when that’s in hand.  As the mess of dead sac is cleared out, the pressure bar is likely to just fall out.

Apart from resacking, the main reason to undertake this sort of operation is to see if the pressure bar is damaged.  If it is a little rusted, a little handling should get it off.  If it’s actually falling to bits, a replacement is the only option.  In the case of the multi-part Parker model with the little suspending tab, the only options are to find a pen on which everything but the pressure bar is wrecked or resign yourself to having an incorrect mechanism (on which I have some comments below); for less complex versions, modern replacements can be bought.  If a replacement bar is too long, it can be trimmed back with nippers and the cut smoothed on an emery board to avoid damaging the sac.  New or old, giving it a wiping down with a very little silicone grease will help to preserve it against moisture.

To replace the pressure bar is essentially a reversal of the process above.  If the section was removed, apply some talc to the sac and replace that assembly.  Then, slip the bar in through the button hole in the tail.  This order is observed to avoid tangling the sac when screwing in the section, so if the pen has a friction-fit section it is possible to insert the bar first (and in some, as I’ll soon examine, unavoidable).  Once the bar and section are home, press the button back into the hole, and all should be coepacetic.

The primary complication in this work comes from pens that don’t quite follow the pattern.  The more prominent sort are the Parker aluminum fillers, which one should most definitely not go yanking on vigourously.  The button is part of a unit which screws out of the tail of the barrel, and should never be tugged out of the threaded collar.  The unit is removed with a Vacumatic tool, if necessary, but I don’t advise it except in dire need.  While the sections on these pens unscrew, and there is a danger of tangling bar and sac together, I don’t rate this danger as much higher than that of the same happening while screwing in the button unit.  The button itself spins freely, and I have found that if one turns the barrel onto the section and keeps a good eye that the button (and thus the bar) is not turning, the danger can be avoided.

The other sort of rule-breakers are extremely inexpensive pens.  My examples come from Wearever and Eclipse, and I imagine that there are others.  In these, the shape of the button is such that it cannot be pulled through the hole in the barrel’s tail; everything has to go out the hole the section fits into.  These are, so far as I’ve found, friction-fit sections, so as long as care is taken to slide the section in straight, the tangling problem is avoided, and the only real issue is making sure that the tail-piece of the pressure bar is actually in the button.

This latter sort of breakaway gives us some hope for those Parker models with the hanging bar that lose their mechanism.  The cheap pens rely upon the fact that the bowing out of the spring takes a lot less pressure than driving out the section, and cheap or not, these pens do in fact fill.  Therefore, a suspended bar may be replaced with the simpler bottom-pushing type, so long as the section is firmly in the barrel.  If the section is not firmly in the barrel, there are things to be done about that.

If you found that useful, or entertaining, and want to cast a few pennies in my begging bowl, you need but click the button below.

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