Monday, September 26, 2016

The Zebra Whisperer

A couple weeks before the DC Supershow, my friend An Tran posted pictures of a few things that he’d picked up and planned to have in tow.  This one caught my eye:

Even though I had one, Conklin pencils like this lower-end All-American are something I like to pick up whenever they are reasonable, just for parts.  An warned me that this one was in pretty rough shape, and when I saw it I had to agree.  Both the nose and the cap were all banged up, and the pencil wasn’t in working order.  Even so, the barrel was good and it had a clip that can be replated, so I bought it just for the clip.

I’m so glad I did.  David Glass was also at the DC Show, and he was ready to part with his Conklin Zebra pencil.  I showed you a picture of David’s Zebra here a while back (see “Poking Around and Speculating” back in January, at  It didn’t take too much arm twisting to convince me to take a chance on whether I’d be able to transplant the clip:

Note that as discussed in the last article about the Zebra and Halloween pencils, these were made over a period of a few years, and the pencils are found with both the more streamlined clips seen on my Halloween pencil and on some of the pens, as well as the earlier style Mooney clips like you’ll find on An’s green All-American.  Since all indications are that either is correct, I decided to proceed with a transplant.

The beauty of having a heavily damaged example was that I felt free to tear into it to see what was going on inside.  A sharp tug on the cap pulled the whole top half of the mechanism out of the barrel, leaving the nose and all the other bits that were floating around inside the barrel to fall out the front end.  Here’s everything taken apart:

While I had everything apart, I decided to spend some time figuring out how the mechanism was put together – so that once I had the Zebra apart, I would have some practice.  I put the drive pin partially inside the spiral:

Then hooked the tab inside the slot of that lower drive tube:

Then threaded the spiral over the tab:

Then pushed the lower drive tube down and screwed that little bolt on the end, which keeps the rod from spiralling right out of the mechanism:

Then I pushed the upper drive tube back into place.  Those little dimples where the upper and lower halves meet suggest that the two halves weren’t meant to come apart like that, but assembled like this, the mechanism now works perfectly:

Enough practice.  Time to see if we can get that Zebra apart now.  Repeating the steps I used to take apart the All-American, I gave the bushing a slightly more gentle tug . . . this time, it was the top bushing that came off:

That bushing was all that retained the entire mechanism in place, so with that removed, everything neatly slid out the front end of the barrel intact:

Note the dimples and what looks like a spot weld holding the two halves of the drive tube together in the upper right of this picture.  Note also that, unlike the All American, the Zebra shows two tabs engaged by the spiral.

The Zebra is equipped with a two stage propel-repel-expel mechanism rather than a simple drive pin as found on the All American.  It could be that the two were differently equipped, with the Zebra having a little higher end feature . . . more likely is my All American is missing another piece.

Now to remove the clip from the All American.  I have an inner cap puller that is designed for fountain pen caps, but mine is just small enough to fit inside the barrel, where I turned the knob until it was snug:

The brass retainer that held the clip in place pulled free, and the clip slid out of the slot in the barrel:

I repeated the process with the Zebra, and I was able to remove that retainer the same way.  Note that there’s an indented groove where the tang of the clip nests:

Some clever soul filled the slot into which the clip fit with what appears to be white caulk:

A small knife and my trusty paperclip made short work of removing it, and in the process, the broken tang from the old clip was freed and fell out of the barrel:

I slipped the clip through the slot and, leaving the retaining ring clamped firmly in my cap puller, I lined up the slot with the tang inside:

I had to hold the rear end of the clip up with one hand to hold the tang flush with the barrel while I pushed the retaining bushing into place with the other (and took a picture with my third hand):

There you have it.  One freshly installed clip, ready for John Hall’s expert plating services:

The mechanism slides back in through the front end, the bushing pushes neatly back into place, and the cap goes on top of the bushing.  If the bushing is too loose, you might consider a small dab of super glue – small enough so you can remove it again if you need to, but enough so you can pull the cap off without taking the whole pencil apart again.  And there you have it:

A successful transplant.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Subbrands of Subbrands

As I continue to document and file away more “no name” pencils, I came across this one, with a cool perpetual calendar amidships.  It looks like a Quick Point, many of which share these colors, features and microscopic imprints:

I always look a little closer at these anyway, since once in a while one will turn up imprinted with “Kemper Thomas” on the clip (Kemper Thomas was headquartered in Cincinnati, which always does an Ohio boy like me proud).  This one, however, was neither Quickpoint nor Kemper Thomas:

It’s marked “Erickson Co. / Des Moines.”

And now for something . . . well, if not completely different, at least a little more obscure.  When I ran across the bottom one in this picture, I was sure it was a variant of the “Neldun.”

Neldun pencils turn up every so often, usually with a navy blue lower barrel.  I’m showing off a little bit by comparing the flattop example with a marbled green lower barrel:

However, that flat top and paneled barrel were just a little bit off . . . as was the name on the clip.  This one’s no Neldun:

It’s an “Allbright.”

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Double Takes

I had an epiphany recently, as I tripped over a pile of pencils that I haven’t yet written about: there’s a significant number of pencils in my collection which are notable only for the name imprinted on the clip.  “No names,” pencils like these are often derisively called, but I think the title isn’t a particularly good one since the name is about all this genre has going for it.  “Also rans,” might be a bit better,

I’m not saying I don’t appreciate a good name – wordsmithing is a particular passion of mine, and whether it’s at a complicated mechanism or a fairly ordinary pencil with a name like “Sapphire,” I appreciate both.  Nevertheless, with such a the huge number of conventional nose-drive, middle joint pencils and Welsh-mechanism flattops cluttering things up around the museum, I thought it was time to invest in a few parts storage cabinets (the six-inch drawers in which are perfect for storing up to around 8 pencils each) and clear out some room on the display wall.

Before I did, though, I thought it would be fun for a few Saturdays to introduce a few names that you won’t find in The Catalogue, since I’ve stumbled upon them in the course of collecting since the book was published.   Today’s selections require double takes, since it was only my incessant need to read the name on the clip that revealed these aren’t what you think they are.  Take these three for example, all of which look like later Chicago-made Conklins:

The length of that black one had me looking a bit closer, and I learned this is no Conklin.  It’s a “Commodore”:

As for the other two, one showed up in an online auction, so the title of the listing gave it away as a “Guvnor”:

The other, though, was in a junk box at an antique show.  That wide band struck me as just different enough to have a closer look, and I was surprised to see it is a “Skylark”:

Here’s a pair of pencils in a very distinctive brown “lizard” plastic with green streaks – very indicative of a “Majestic” or “Ambassador.”

One of them is, shown for comparison to the other one, which is marked “St. Regis”:

Here’s another pair, the longer of which is a familiar later Diamond Point:

The other one, with its red marbled plastic, lured me in for a closer look, to learn it is instead marked “Commander”:

Friday, September 23, 2016

A Couple More Hickses

Here’s a couple more pencils to think about:

The gold filled example was in an online auction, in which the seller indicated that the pencil had what looked like an “H” on it - I thought perhaps he was describing a Heath hallmark, which would have been very unusual.  Heath didn’t typically mark the company’s gold filled stuff, and the pattern on this one is interesting, but not something you’d expect to find on a Heath:

On closer examination, though, the mark isn’t Heath’s.  Note the W above the crossbar and the S below it, which indicates the mark is for W.S. Hicks:

The other pencil, is in sterling, with a really cool, funky pattern of alternating convex and concave panels:

It came in a collection of things I purchased a year or so ago.  At first, I was disappointed to find no hallmark, although it still would have held a place in my “unmarked but worthy” department:

But look more closely, and you’ll see something as good as a hallmark.  Do you see what looks like a serial number scratched into the surface of the cartouche?

There’s only one maker I know of which did that.  Here’s a pencil Hicks made for the jewelry firm Black, Starr and Frost (see “Welcome to the Family” at

And another example, from “The Part I Don’t Love” (’t-love.html):

Hallmark or no, I’m comfortable attributing this one to Hicks.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Three Interesting Hicks Patents

As I sifted through the victorians I had awaiting photographing and a note or two here, three had interesting patent dates worth mentioning.  The first I’ve discussed here before (See

I’ve had this one photographed for awhile but haven’t had the chance to write about it.  The patent date is December 24, 1867:

The unique thing about these is the nose pulls out to reveal a reversible pencil section, which actually retracts into the body:

The patent refers to Ryne’s patent number 72,684, which was assigned to Hicks:

This next one was in a small collection I purchased:

Since this one was not the primary objective of my purchase, it wasn’t until later that I noticed it had something more than good looks going for it:

“Pat. May 14 72.”  This is a reference to design patent number 5,851, applied for and issued to William S. Hicks himself, for “the combination of metallic and pearl surfaces, by which a highly ornamental case is produced.”

This last one came from Jim Carpenito at the Raleigh show a few years ago:

It’s more than a little rough, but I thought it was interesting because of the hard rubber extension rod, as well as its sheer size.  Here it is next to a December 24, 1867 patent Hicks:

What clinched the sale for me was a very faint imprint still legible on the barrel:

“Hicks’ Pat. Feb. 19, 67.”  That refers to Richard H. Ryne’s patent for a version of the combination magic pencil/slider dip pen, assigned number 62,227: