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Thread: Making a stained old nib shiny

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    Senior Member calamus's Avatar
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    Default Making a stained old nib shiny

    I found an old Sheaffer Balance in an antique store. It has an old, badly stained, steel semi-flex med stub nib. It looks like it would be a very smooth writer. What can I use to make the nib clean and shiny again? Is there anything I can use without removing the entire nib/feed assembly?

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    Senior Member Jon Szanto's Avatar
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    Default Re: Making a stained old nib shiny

    Simichrome polish, used very sparingly. If you must keep the nib in place, use a Q-tip. I'd highly recommend pulling the nib and feed, though: if it is that badly stained there is probably ink under the nib and possibly in the feed, too. I always try to polish the entire nib if I'm going to clean it up at all.

    PLEASE NOTE: These are the ravings of a complete amateur. Unless you can exercise reasonable caution, I would strongly consider the advicd of two respected pen restoration people that follow in this thread.
    Last edited by Jon Szanto; July 24th, 2019 at 10:29 AM.
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    Default Re: Making a stained old nib shiny

    There are probably several brands of "metal polish" that are suitable for cleaning steel, and as long as they aren't too abrasive they will make a steel nib bright and shiny again.

    However, if you don't pull the nib and separate it from the feed it's going to be so much harder to keep the polish out of the nib slit and feed, and you will only be able to clean half of the nib anyway. Even as someone who usually goes by the maxim "if it ain't broke don't fix it" I would probably remove a Sheaffer Balance nib if I really needed to clean it properly.
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    Default Re: Making a stained old nib shiny

    Gah! No no no.

    Jon, I like you lots. I'm looking forward to having a conversation or three in San Francisco in a few weeks. I owe you multiple drinks. But, I cannot disagree more strongly with your advice here.

    I don't like to touch, or recommend touching, a pen with anything chemically stronger than a jewelers cloth. They are fabulous for touching up the shine on a nib or a clip or a cap band. They are dry, so you needn't worry about splooging nasty chemical gunk into the feed or section or other creases. I cannot count have many pens I've restored in which part of my work was to clean out just such nastiness. It's awful and completely unnecessary.

    A jewelers cloth will cost you $2-$3 on Amazon. Search for Sunshine cloth. I provide one along with every restored vintage pen I sell. It'll have you nib shining in a few seconds.

    Next, if you've never knocked out a nib, don't start now. It's not worth breaking something just to have a shiny nib. Keep that nib in the pen, rub it a bit with a jewelers cloth and carry on.

    Should your pen actually need restoration - perhaps a new sac - then consider knocking out the nib. But, not until you've read and read and read some more to be absolutely certain you know what you're about. Yes, Jon is right, a proper restoration involves knocking out the nib. But, the key reason is to clean the feed, not the nib. The feed can get clogged with old, dried ink - or simichrome polish, I'm not joking - and it's often impossible to clean while in the pen. It's a simple operation that can go badly with one wrong move.

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    Senior Member Jon Szanto's Avatar
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    Default Re: Making a stained old nib shiny

    I keep things shiny (when I want to) with a jeweler's cloth. Save for a soft cotton cloth and some warm breath, it's the most benign way to go.

    I'm not a careless person and I've certainly taught myself a lot about pen work. I do own a knockout block, etc. I don't tell people to pull apart a pen without due care and consideration, specifically if they know what they are doing. But some projects require more than soapy water, rouge and a prayer. There were no photos supplied but it sounded like a pretty messed up pen.

    Take a look at these before and after photos of a late 20's Ratner & Sons pen:




    I'm sorry that I didn't capture the nib in the after shot, but it looks fairly close to when it was new, a shiny 14k point of writing. This was a case where things had to come apart, and sterner stuff needed to be utilized.

    I long ago stopped offering multiple caveats regarding care, experience, patience and everything else you need to consider before doing your own restoration work. I've read tons and watched and studied others. With ALL that said, I don't think my original comment was out of line, but if that is the viewpoint, I would offer this:

    BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR PENS IF
    YOU HAVE NEVER DONE
    A RESTORATION BEFORE.
    YOU CAN DO DAMAGE TO A PEN IF
    YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING.
    "When Men differ in Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Publick;
    and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter."

    ~ Benjamin Franklin

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    Default Re: Making a stained old nib shiny

    I agree with controlsfreak. I'm not a fan of metal polishes in nib work.
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    Deb
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    Default Re: Making a stained old nib shiny

    I use Simichrome polish.
    Last edited by jbb; July 24th, 2019 at 06:47 AM.
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    Default Re: Making a stained old nib shiny

    So when you see certain auction site sellers offering vintage pens with really good macro closeups of nibs that have not a single apparent scratch on them, are these all new old stock nibs? If not, how have they achieved the perfect scratch-free condition of these nibs?

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    Default Re: Making a stained old nib shiny

    Quote Originally Posted by WabiSabi View Post
    So when you see certain auction site sellers offering vintage pens with really good macro closeups of nibs that have not a single apparent scratch on them, are these all new old stock nibs? If not, how have they achieved the perfect scratch-free condition of these nibs?
    If they were able to remove the nib completely, it's easy to buff and polish metal, especially gold, and get out all scratches.
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    Default Re: Making a stained old nib shiny

    Turned out that the nib was no problem. Very light wiping with a rouge cloth brought back most of the color and shine (turned out it was gold plated -- or maybe gold? nahh... I think), and soaking in water got the feed clean. I was able to soak the entire section because it came off very easily, which of course made it easy to replace the sac. The biggest problem was the clip, which showed quite a bit of corrosion, but light sanding with fine sandpaper brought the clip back -- something I learned from a post Azkid made last year on the Sheaffer subforum. Of course, he went on to finer grits of various exotic substances and got his quite shiny, but I'm happy with mine for the nonce, and as I become initiated into the mysteries of gritty, exotic substances, it will no doubt become even shinier.Meanwhile, it's a great writer, and purty, so I'm happy. Here are a couple of pictures:





    Anyway, it's up and running again, and it writes wonderfully!
    Last edited by calamus; August 4th, 2019 at 01:58 PM.
    Quid rides? Mutato nomine de te fabula narratur. — Horace
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    Default Re: Making a stained old nib shiny

    Always good to hear about a happy ending, and thanks for the great "after" pictures.
    Regards, Chrissy | My Blog: inkyfountainpens

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    Default Re: Making a stained old nib shiny

    Thank you everybody!
    Quid rides? Mutato nomine de te fabula narratur. — Horace
    (What are you laughing at? Just change the name and the joke’s on you.)

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    Default Re: Making a stained old nib shiny

    I missed this post for some reason, good to know it turned out well. For polishing and cleaning up metal bits I use toothpaste, most info on it says it's safe for gold and silver as well as any other metal. There is a fine grit version of Quick-Glo, I swear by it for polishing metal in general. A basic soak in soapy water and gentle wipe with a cloth has so far cleaned up any nib, I use a cotton bud dipped in polish (toothpaste) if there's any stubborn staining; next to no pressure, light movement and letting the product do the job. I can't really add anything to what's already mention but mostly acknowledge we think along the same lines.

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