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Removal and Replacement of Point and Feed

Tools you will need:

  • Thumbs
  • Section block
  • Feed drift
  • Small mallet
  • Heat source
  • A pair of chopsticks or wooden skewers

Tools you may need:

  • Masking tape and pencil
  • Grippy rubber sheet, as for helping get a lid off a jar
  • An eyedropper and some water

If there’s not an actual reason for this, it’s generally not a good idea to do it.  Once the point and feed are in the section, they’re not really meant to come out.  Doing the process outlined here is not quite as invasive as a kidney transplant, but the principle of only doing it in case of actual need is the same.  Actual reasons include needing to do some work on the point that can’t be done effectively with it lying against the feed, like flow adjustment or tine realignment, and not always in those cases.

The following instructions apply to the vast majority of pens made before 1950 or so, but not to all of them; generic instructions always have lots of exceptions.  If the section does not look more or less like the “traditional” section shown on this page, do some more research to make sure that this is the right way to proceed.

In most modern cartridge-fed pens, the removal of the point and feed is just a matter of gripping the items firmly and pulling them free.  Often, taking a hold on the point by itself (with care to put even pressure on both tines) and gently wiggling it out will release the feed.  Some of these pens, however, have a means of gripping the feed, threads or tabs, which make removal more troublesome.  If you’re not positive, go gently, and remember that some modern pens are made with the modern notion of “If it’s broke, don’t fix it (buy another!)” in mind; it may not come apart at all.

This process starts with the section already out of the pen.  If there’s a sac on the section, it’s got to go, but chances are if you have a pen that needs the point and feed out, the sac is due for replacement anyway.  Before beginning on the actual removal, it is a very good idea to warm the whole assembly; whatever the material, a section is less likely to shatter when warm.  It is also not a bad idea, from the standpoint of easing removal, to put a couple of drops of water into the feed to act as a lubricant, or at least to break up old ink which may otherwise hold the feed in the section.  It’s also a good idea to measure and note down how far out of the section the utmost tip of the point protrudes; I’ll explain why when we get there.  The final preparatory item you might want to perform is to put a little masking tape on the section to make an alignment mark for the point’s rotation in the section, which I will also explain below.

The actual process of removal is extremely simple.  The section is put point-down into the knock-out block, in the smallest hole the point will pass through; this provides the section with maximum support against the face of the block.  A knock-out rod of a diameter smaller than the feed, but as close to its size as is possible, is applied to the back of the feed, and a small mallet is applied to the rod.  Some feeds have a breather tube or other protrusion; if this can be easily removed, do so first, and if it can’t then a hollow rod is needed; a brass or steel tube.  Many light taps rather than one mighty blow is the way to get the feed out.  If the point advances with the feed, the tapping will become much easier once it falls free, but frequently the feed will slip past an immobile point.  If the feed was moistened, this may be a rather messy effort.

Returning the point and feed to the section can be a somewhat more difficult prospect.  All materials used for sections may be described as “plastic” in the sense of being malleable, and over the decades they frequently ooze in a slow and subtle manner.  Where they were once entirely symmetrical, they are now somewhat oval in cross-section, and will only accept the point and feed in the same alignment as they held previously.  This is the reason for the bit of masking tape, and if you didn’t apply that you may have to turn the section around the point and feed, feeling for the point at which they seem to fall into place.  It is also sometimes possible to just look inside the section to see the impression of the back of the point.

In the absence of specialized tools (padded vices or pliers amongst them), the best way to return the point and feed is to pinch then against the middle joint of the index finger with the thumb, taking care that the point lies at the correct point along the feed’s length, and holding them firmly together while thrusting them into the section.  Each pen is a little different, and some go back together easily while others are complete swine about it.  Vacumatics are almost all vile brutes in this regard, and remounting their points may seem utterly impossible; I hope everyone looking at this has the sense to read before trying.  This effort is easier and less disaster-prone if the section is warm

Getting the point and feed the correct depth in the section is important.  If they are not correctly aligned with each other, ink flow may be seriously affected.  If they sink into the section too deeply, at best the pen will look funny and at worst the filling and point flexibility might be compromised.  If they stand too high in the section, the point can be seriously damaged by being mashed against the top of the cap.  This last point is why I suggested measuring the length of visible point before starting, but there is a way to check on the safety of the point without the measurement in hand.  Take a pair of thin rods (like wooden skewers), and hold them against each other.  Slip them into the cap so that one rests at the very end of the cap while the other fetches up against the shelf of the blind cap.  This distance is the maximum allowable distance the tipping can rise above the face of the section, and to prevent ink migrating from point to cap it’s best if there’s a millimeter or two of clearance.  If the point shows more length than this, it needs to be forced in a little deeper if it is to be preserved from serious damage.  Frequently, this calls for tapping out again… especially where Vacumatics are concerned, the devils.

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