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Addressing a Loose Section

Tools you will need:

  • Thumbs
  • Shellac and applicator

Tools you may need:

  • Fine sand paper (1000 or lighter grit)
  • Section block
  • Clothes pin

Depending on what a pen is made out of, it may be that getting the section out of it is all too easy.  This is usually the result of the material of the section shrinking to a greater extent than the barrel it once fit inside, but however it comes about, it is a deeply inconvenient situation.

The solution is easy enough, but must be taken in slow stages.  First, remove the section from the barrel, and set the barrel in a place where it can sit unmolested for up to a month.  This sounds silly, but unlike most of my hyperbolic statements I mean this one literally.

Now, apply a single thin coat of shellac to the part of the section that goes inside the barrel. I want to emphasize “single” and “thin”, because Impatience will be urging otherwise.  Avoid getting any shellac on the face of this cut-back or the sac (which can stay in place for this operation), and moreso avoid getting it on the outside of the section.

Set the section aside for the shellac to dry for at least eight hours.  Leave it this long to make sure that it’s entirely set; if the shellac is still tacky when the section is refitted in the barrel, it may act as an adhesive and the next sac replacement will be unnecessarily prolonged.  Because the shellac will want to flow and settle (although not so much if it’s thinly applied), it is best if the section rests either point up or down so that any bulges are evenly distributed about the section.  This is easily done by resting the section in a section block, or if the sac is in place you can use a clothes-pin to hang it from a line.

The next day, try gently refitting the section to the barrel.  Gently, because if there are bulges in the new shellac coating, it’s best if they act as a brake and not a wedge; cracking the barrel is not a desired outcome of this exercise.  If the section is tight enough to please you, say “Hooray” and call it a day.  If it’s still still loose, repeat the process, and if possible let the section dry pointing in the opposite direction to the previous attempt– if it was pointing up, point it down– which is again aimed as distributing bulges as evenly as possible.  This may call for multiple repetitions (and thus several days), but as I mention on the page leading to this one, the pen doesn’t care how long this takes, so why should you?

Apart from avoiding bulges, the reason to go with many thin layers of shellac is to avoid extra work than comes out of over-sizing the section.  However, even with care, the section may be built up to the point that it will no longed fit easily back into the barrel.  Rather than brute force (cracked barrel bad!), the answer to this situation is to remove a little material.  Make a small belt of fine sand paper, and sand down the shellac, a very little at a time, until the section will go back in the barrel snugly but without undue force.

See?  Protracted, but easy.

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