Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Curious Enough

I saw my friend Keith Prosser at the DC show last August. Keith still hasn’t forgiven me for talking him out of a nice Shur-Rite pencil at the Chicago Show last year (I wrote about that one at http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2013/07/these-shur-were-best-they-made.html), and now I know he won’t forgive me about this one, either:


Keith was excited to show this one to me because he’d never seen a Waterman pencil like this one, and neither had I:


I was definitely intrigued – but I wasn’t looking at this the same way Keith was. I didn’t see a heretofore-unknown Waterman pencil; what I saw was someone else’s pencil with a Waterman riveted clip on it, and I couldn’t figure out why.

Keith and I came to terms, for something a lot more than I wanted to pay for a curiosity and a lot less than he wanted to receive for an unusual piece of Watermania. There I was able to pose the newcomer next to the other pencil I was thinking of:


There’s our Waterman, next to one of the Eversharp pencils invented by John Straka that I wrote about here some time ago in a series of articles (the story started at http://leadheadpencils.blogspot.com/2013/03/im-monitoring-these-pretty-closely.html).

Note that both of these pencils are made from the same plastic, which neither looks Eversharpy nor Watermanny. The Waterman example doesn’t have one of those red caps, but caps are often missing on these and the barrel is made with same shoulder to accept one. The same patent number is found on both the Eversharp and Waterman examples, on the barrel end under the removable nose.

Did someone mess around and slap a Waterman clip on an Eversharp pencil? That’s the simplest explanation, but doing so would be anything but simple. The way these Eversharp or Monitor clips were affixed, removing one would leave two large hole in the barrel. Take a look at the clip on this Monitor in red "bumblebee" plastic from Joe Nemecek’s collection:


A closer examination of the clip structure shows that there’s a punched upper hole and a pop rivet through a lower hole – even if one of these clips were carefully drilled out, the process would leave holes too big for a Waterman clip rivet. Filling the holes securely enough for a Waterman rivet to hold? Impossible.


So I started looking more closely to see whether I have an interesting frankenpencil on my hands, and the first thing I noticed was what appeared to be a metal bushing shoved into the upper barrel, flush with the barrel end. On an Eversharp or Monitor, what I would expect to see is an eraser wrapped in a metal retainer that fits part way into the barrel, with an exposed knurled end to make it easier to grip and remove it. I needed to know what that piece of metal was, and after a bit of tense wiggling and prodding, I was able to remove it to find:


Yep. Eversharp eraser number 5. Score one point for the frankenpencil theory, although it’s strange that someone would force it down inside the barrel like that . . .

With the retainer out of the way, I was able to peer around inside the barrel, where I found no evidence that the clip was torn away or removed, nor any evidence of any holes (predrilled or otherwise) other than the ones through which the rivets pierce the barrel. I’m ruling out the frankenpencil theory - the machining that would be required to remove the one clip, repair the barrel and install a different maker’s clip simply wouldn’t have been worth the trouble. The one thing of which I am certain is that this clip was installed into a previously clipless barrel. But why?

One possibility is that a customer already had a clipless Straka Eversharp (I’ve never seen one of these in a clipless model, but it’s possible) and persuaded a Waterman repairman to fit it with a riveted clip. I’d think installing Waterman parts onto non-Waterman products would get a guy into a whole heap of trouble – maybe that explains why the eraser bushing was crammed down inside the barrel where it couldn’t be easily removed.

Maybe Waterman bought leftover stock of Eversharp Straka pencils, fitted them with Waterman clips and resold them? An interesting possibility, but given the egos of both companies, I think a "sloppy seconds" theory is out of reach.

Here’s a theory which matches the evidence: maybe Straka’s Eversharps were made by neither Eversharp nor Waterman, but were supplied by a third party vendor who courted both Waterman and Eversharp, with very little success with the former and only slightly more with the latter. That would explain why these come in plastics not found on any other Eversharp or Waterman pencils. It would explain why the mechanism found on these is different from anything either company otherwise produced. It would explain why the same pencil is found with both Eversharp and Waterman clips. It might even explain . . .


Why my Waterman-clip example is the only one I’ve ever seen with gold plated furnishing.

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