Thursday, February 21, 2013

Radical Surgery on a Skyline

In yesterday’s article, I commented that Skyline barrels, once damaged, were not designed to be repaired. However, there are time when it’s worth a shot. Take this one, for example, which I got for five bucks in a junk box at the Springfield Antique Show last summer – actually, I bought a bunch of things for five bucks, and this was just one of them:

The reason this was in a junk box was because the barrel is broken neatly in the center.

But what this particular dealer didn’t know, and I didn’t feel the need to enlighten him about, was that the absence of those ribs around the upper barrel could only mean one thing:

A plain upper barrel is a pretty sure indicator that the trim is 14k gold, and if I’d said something about that this pencil would surely have been melted down for scrap! What’s more, all of the trim on this pencil was just perfect, with no dents, so I thought if there was any way to salvage this one, it would be worth the effort. There’s no way to weld the halves of the barrel back together strong enough to last, but I did have another idea . . .

I started with an ordinary Skyline Presentation; although my 14k patient had a brown barrel, I chose a maroon Presentation pencil because . . . well, I’ve already got a brown one! The upper portion of the barrel is extremely thin, because it’s machined down so that the metal sleeve just slips over it. That means the trick is to remove the upper metal sleeve without damaging the very brittle and fragile plastic underneath.

The 1953 Eversharp repair manual makes this sound so simple: "crush" and remove the derby assembly, which is press fit into the upper barrel. Sure, the plastic end piece was easy to crush, but getting that metal press fit into the barrel out of there took about an hour and resulted in a little pile of mangled metal. I left the metal sleeve on the outside for support during this part, as additional support for the plastic:

Finally, with all of the bits of metal pulled out of the top, the metal easily slips off, and I’ve got my donor barrel:

The next step, which was equally difficult, was to remove all of the trim from my patient – without denting or deforming any of it. I started with an ordinary inner cap puller, but did I mention how brittle the plastic is on these?

Oh well, at least that got about half of it out of the way. I ended up sliding off the gold sleeve and gently chipping away all the remaining plastic from around the derby assembly, leaving me a factory-fresh clip and derby assembly, ready for re-installation.

Note that on the metal sleeves on all the Skylines, there’s a small indentation up near the top:

That’s supposed to be there. It creates a bump on the inside of the sleeve which keeps it from spinning around after the derby assembly has been pressed into place. But that also means, when you reinstall the derby, you have to make sure the clip is aligned so that it hides this little dimple.

Finally, our patient has an appointment with the pen press:

This part you want to do very slowly, making sure the whole time that the derby is pressing in squarely. If it isn’t, the barrel will crack and the thin metal will be deformed by the pressure. But after a few seconds that seemed like minutes, the derby bottomed out and, with the addition of a burgundy tip, there you have it:

Looks a lot better than a lump of molten gold, doesn’t it?

Editor’s note: The only reason I installed the 14k trim onto a burgundy barrel rather than a brown one as it was originally found was because I have seen burgundy-barreled examples of this "in the wild." Skyline pencils are historically significant to pen collectors because, given the extreme difficulty of changing pencil derbies, the pencils are a good indicator as to whether any particular pen trim configuration ever existed.

It would be wrong to mix and match parts to create trim configurations that are not known to exist.

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