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.


Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it have been easier to re-plate the clip out of the pencil?

menoeceus said...

Thanks for posting this, Jon. I have an Endura pencil ("senior" size) that needs a clip transplant, too, and I've been wondering how to go about it. How essential was the inner cap puller? Could you have used some other tool to get the brass retainer out (and back in)? I think my three pullers are too large for a pencil.

Jon Veley said...

Anonymous, my friend John Hall plates clips and trim while they are on the pencil, so it isn't necessary to have it off the pencil for plating (unless you are doing tank plating where you submerge the entire piece in solution). Besides, this was the first time I'd tried to take one of these apart and attempt the transplant - if it didn't work, I'd have a nice shiny clip on a parts pencil!

Jon Veley said...

menoeceus, there are times when you need the right tool for the job, and this was one of those times. My cap puller just barely fit inside this barrel, but without it I don't know how else to remove it - unless you chip away the barrel down to the point where the retainer is (tougher to do on the more robust Endura), and then you have the problem of pressing it into place. I bought this cap puller for its smaller size, so if you plan on doing much work on pencils, I'd recommend the investment.