Sunday, August 20, 2017

Thanks for Playing!

Several of my friends and I had some fun with this Eversharp pencil on Facebook:

I’d posted the online seller’s fuzzy pictures and asked if anyone else saw what I saw.  A spirited guessing game ensued during which David Nishimura guessed what interested me, but now that I have the pencil and some better pictures in hand, a more detailed explanation is in order.

What caused me to first zero in more closely on this one was the position of the clip.  Millions of these were manufactured, and without exception the clips were mounted higher up on the barrels.  Here’s the new addition shown next to a typical Eversharp

This side-by-side comparison shows you what had my curiosity thoroughly piqued after that first look, causing me to pause and really think about this one . . . note that extra layer of metal around the clip:

There’s no evidence of another clip which has broken off and been replaced, just an early Ever Sharp (two words) imprint, with no mention of Wahl.  This indicates production prior to 1918, after which Wahl contracted Eversharp to one word and added the Wahl name in front of it:

Also important in the analysis is that the pencil is marked sterling, a good indication that this was a valued keepsake rather than a utilitarian and disposable tool:

So what is up with that different clip?  The answer is that the clip isn’t different at all . . . what’s different is the way in which it is mounted to the barrel.

Some time ago, I posted an article concerning the anatomy of early Eversharps (see, including this photo showing the Wahl patented clip removed from the pencil:

Note that the clip has a tang which is secured by sandwiching it between the outer barrel and inner barrel.  Clips which were broken or bent so far out of shape as to become unrepairable were a common problem with early Wahl-clip Eversharps, leading the company to redesign the clips in 1924 to include a medial rib for increased stability.  I have an Eversharp repair kit from the 1917-1924 era:

It includes a detailed instruction sheet and price list for parts

Included among the kit’s supplies are a tin of “Nokorode” soldering paste and a little box with “clips” handwritten on it:

The little box includes a repairman’s notes regarding pricing of the different variations:

Inside are several different styles of the Wahl first generation clips:

. . . and a comparison to our mystery pencil confirms that someone has taken a clipless Eversharp and soldered an early Wahl clip to the outside of the barrel:

Now the question that is fun to speculate about is who would have done this, and why. Pocket clips were a major selling point for the Eversharp during the teens.  To my knowledge, no clipless models were ever cataloged (other than the shorter ringtop models, of course).  The fact that this one is sterling silver suggests that if the customer wanted a clip, he or she would more likely have bought a readily available one with the clip already installed, rather than make (or having made) such a crude alteration as this.

Of course it's possible that a customer changed his or her mind after buying a clipless model to have one added, or that someone received a gift (it does have a name engraved) that was almost exactly what he or she wanted -- which was one with a clip.  If that happened, any repairman with a Wahl repair kit would have had the necessary tools to make this modification.

But . . .

Clipless Eversharps are a rare sight, and that’s good reason to consider whether this is the sort of modification that might have been factory or factory authorized.  Consider the following:

We know that early Eversharps came in three clip configurations: the first was the Heath clip, which was held in place by a combination of soldering and tabs inserted through slots in the barrel.  Next came the spade clip, which like today’s subject had the clip soldered to the outside of the barrel.

The spade clip was a temporary solution, concocted by Charles Keeran after he hired Wahl to begin making his pencils.  George Heath & Co., which had been making the pencils prior to October, 1915, apparently would not consent to Wahl use of Heath’s patent pending clip.

The spade clip was more time-consuming to install than the Wahl clip, which needed only to be inserted through the tombstone-shaped cutout in the barrel; however, the spade clip was in turn simpler to install than a Heath clip, which required both soldering and securing them with metal tabs inserted through slots cut in the barrel.

If this is a factory modification of a clipless Eversharp, I believe it would be one which was made very shortly after the Wahl clip went into production, using up the remainder of the assembled Ever Sharps which had their inner barrels already soldered in place, waiting only for spade clips to be installed.

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