Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Which Part To Use?

Oversized Autopoint pencils are a lot of fun to collect. There were a wide variety of clips, caps and configurations, and the company would let you special order any combination of features you wanted – ordering from Autopoint must have been like picking a slushee flavor at Sonic.

Here are examples of some common configurations:

Starting from the top, there’s a late 1920s example with the swirled Bakelite barrel and green gold trim that makes these very desirable to collectors. Next is a transitional example featuring the bakelite nose section to come as well as the earlier bell top and bolted clip. In the middle is an example of an Autopoint advertising utility pencil – note the slightly different clip and the Autopoint name on the top ferrule (yes, the ferrule is cracked; nearly all of these are). The bottom two examples are some typical Autopoints with straight, streamlined clips, a faceted top trim ring and a cap with triangular facets. The yellow color is pretty unusual, as is the orange color on the "executive" trimmed model at the bottom.

This article is about parts of all of these. Here’s a group of Autopoints that don’t quite fit the mold:

Don’t let the numbers fool you – these are much harder to find than any of the ones you’ll find in the first picture (especially that slim model at the top, which is the only example I’ve seen). Note how these share elements with each of the more common configurations; my favorite of these is that swirled green bakelite on the example second from the bottom.

The clips on all these are generally along the lines of the earlier pencils, but note that a couple of the chrome-plated ones have the Autopoint script logo on them:

What’s striking about these is that even though the barrels on these are faceted, the upper trim rings are not. The chrome-plated ones look like this:

And the examples with the nicer trim add the words "Gold Filled":

Here’s the kicker — matching that round trim ring on all but one of these is a rounded cap, with a little hump on the top like what you’d find on a Realpoint or some Realites. That bottom one, however, has a triangular faceted cap like you’d find on the more common straight clip versions, like the yellow and orange ones in that first picture.

Is that the right cap, or did someone stick a later cap on this one? Who knows . . . the color is a perfect match for the barrel, and since the trim rings are interchangeable there’s no sense in taking a firm position either way — unless you were there on Autopoint’s shop floor throughout the late 1930s and can assure me one was never made. Since the caps on all the others are black, I suppose if I were to replace it I’d use a black cap . . . but then again, this is also the only one along these lines that has a matching color nosepiece, as well.

And so the argument goes in my head. So far I’ve not seen fit to change anything.

I don’t feel that I have the luxury of leaving this next one alone, though. This is how it came to me from Michael McNeil of Northwest Pen Works, missing its upper trim band:

My first thought was that it was another example of my other green-swirled transitional model, but with the wrong cap on it. Michael said the pencil was as it came to him, cap and all. No worries, I thought – it’s great for parts, and I’ll find a cap for it at some point.

But then I got to thinking . . . and comparing it with some other examples:

That’s not the same clip. It’s later than the other swirled green example, and it’s the same as what’s on that utility pencil (only gold filled). Maybe, I wondered, it didn’t have a rounded trim band after all – maybe it had the faceted trim band found on the later types, like those yellow and orange ones I showed you earlier. The only problem with that theory was that all the ones I had with faceted bands had straight pressed clips, not bolted clips like the ones on this example, right?

Wrong. This one came in a box of 100 pencils I found in an online auction. It was one out of several in the bunch that I was looking at (stories to come), but it was the weird green granite color that had me interested – it wasn’t until it arrived that I was able to see that it had a different clip. Is it the same as the one on my new green swirled example? No, but it’s really, really close:

With the caps off, you can see that the green granite band is a little narrower than on the round examples. The caps interchange, but you can also see the difference between the top bushing on the green swirled examples as compared with the green granite ones. The more I look at this picture, the more I think that my new green swirl example probably had a round trim band.

However, since I have a faceted band on a broken Autopoint barrel, I decided to attempt a bandectomy:

Damn. Those things are NOT meant to come off, but the exercise taught me a couple things. First, these bands are press fit into place - too risky in my opinion for seventy or eight year old plastics, even with heat. Second, both the faceted and round trim bands were installed over a round shoulder of plastic at the top of the barrel, so either will fit. I didn’t do anything permanent to attach it, but with it temporarily in place –

Is the cap right? I’d say with that later clip, it’s even more likely right than it is on the maroon one I’ve got. Is the ring correct? I don’t think so, and I’ll replace it with a round band when I find a donor.

But does it look good? I think so.

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