Monday, September 17, 2012

WIth A Little Help From My Friends

A while ago (June 22) I told the story of my fruitless efforts to restore a black and pearl Craig pencil, which was missing the entire top assembly. Just a couple days later, I received a priority mail box from Dan Reppert – odd, since I hadn’t bought anything from Dan recently. Odder still was that there didn’t appear to be anything in the package other than wadded-up newspaper, but since I was convinced there must have been some reason Dan sent me a box, I sifted through all the paper and found a perfectly preserved top for a Craig.

But alas, there wasn’t any way to attach the top to what was left of my poor black and pearl. Turns out that in addition to the top piece, there was a bushing that was pressed into the barrel at one time which was also missing, and without which there wasn’t anything to hold the top onto the barrel. A few weeks and several expletives later, I found myself at the DC show looking for yet another part to finish the pencil that I was now determined was going to get finished somehow.

Which brings me to Tim Pierson, one of the really interesting guys who frequents all the same pen shows I do. Tim, perennially dressed in a Hawaiian shirt regardless of the season, arguably has more pens and pencils in his display than any other dealer. In fact, I usually tell Tim during the show that I’ll come back to see him at the end of the show, since he’s about the last one to leave and there’s just so much stuff to go through.

Good stuff, too. And since Janet and I had decided to stay the night Sunday in DC, for the first time I actually had as much time as I wanted to go through every single tray and drawer he had. I wasn’t looking for a beater Craig particularly, but this time as luck would have it, he had one that was pretty dented up and bleak looking – and an exact duplicate for the short one I wrote about in that last article. And the bushing at the top end of the barrel was intact and in great condition!

The price was right, since I was picking up a few other things from Tim as well, and so my first order of business when I got back from DC – after taking a deep breath and figuring out what to photograph first – was to attack that Craig. The bushing, as I mentioned, was press fit into the barrel, which usually involves destroying the barrel in order to remove it, but I just didn’t want to do that except as a last resort. So I took a paper clip – my most trusty tool in my tool kit – and with a pair of pliers wrapped it tightly around the bushing in the small gap between the bushing and the top end of the barrel. After 20 minutes of wiggling with a pair of pliers (the longest I’ve been able to sit and watch Project Runway with Janet, I’ll add), at last it came free.

I was assuming, since the bushing had somehow come out of mine, that I was going to have to glue this one into my black and pearl. But no, it was a very tight fit, and it was going to be every bit as difficult getting the bushing into this one as it was to get out of the other one. How in the name Craig Sheaffer, I was thinking to myself, did this #@%( thing get out of there in the first place???

Which brings me to a part of the story that you might find useful – a part I knew only because of what I did before I started collecting pencils. Back in the early 1990s, "two wives ago," as I like to say, I used to turn pens on a lathe and assemble them from pen kits you can get from woodworker’s supply houses. I’d gotten pretty good at it and bought most of the tools you need for the job, most of which were in a dusty box in the garage I haven’t opened since I moved a few years ago. One is a tool which is an absolute must in exactly these situations – the pen press . . .

NOTE:  This article is now included in the print version of The Leadhead's Pencil Blog, available anywhere you buy books, or also from The Legendary Lead Company.

To order, here's the link:  Volume 1 at Legendary Lead Company

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