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Thread: Vac-fill: How were they made?

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    Default Vac-fill: How were they made?

    Hi folks,

    I was chatting with somebody the other day. My chattee is very familiar with Vac-Fills, and declined to answer directly when I asked how they were made. The game is afoot!

    Here's the puzzle. At the front end of a vac-fill the thread that holds the feed (Triumph) or section (open nib) in place has a smaller inside diameter than the section of the barrel just behind it (the bit that releases the vacuum). So the barrel has an ID of (say) 7 mm for 8 centimetres, then close to the nib the ID is 8mm for about a centimetre then narrows again to around 7mm for about a centimetre. This last part has internal threading for the section/feed and also sometimes external threading. (Reading this back it seems complicated!)

    I don't know how the larger internal diameter is made, and that's what I'm curious about. You could do it with an expanding tool, but that's a lot of work and person hours per pen. Anybody have any ideas?

    Of course, if I have misunderstood I'd be happy to be put right!

    Cheers,

    Ralf

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    Senior Member Jon Szanto's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vac-fill: How were they made?

    The illustrations and text explanations on Richard Binder's Anatomy of a Fountain Pen V: Sheafferís Vacuum-Fil are a very clear explanation of the internals. I think - from my best reading of your question - that you missed the fact that the washer doesn't go all the way into the section. The barrel is one diameter and then opens up just a bit right at the end.

    And I can't help myself, I don't pass up a chance to show Gerry B demoing the system!

    "When Men differ in Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Publick;
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    Senior Member Ron Z's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vac-fill: How were they made?

    Here's a cutaway view of a Sheaffer plunger filler. The thread ring on this one had corroded and fallen off, so the barrel was no longer usable in a pen.




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    Default Re: Vac-fill: How were they made?

    Thank you both. This really helps to clarify my curiosity. Looking at Ron's cutaway, the part of the barrel the washer is sitting in has a greater inside diameter than the part just to the right where the nib unit/section screws in. The barrel cannot simply be drilled and threaded, as one might expect, since the larger inside diameter is "hidden" behind a smaller diameter. My interest is simply the pragmatic question of how the factory did this?

    Best,

    Ralf

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    Senior Member Ron Z's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vac-fill: How were they made?

    In the case of this pen, they bored the barrel, and then the wider diameter in the front part of the barrel. The thread/section is a separate piece that was fused to the barrel. Its hard to see in the picture, but there is an overlapping joint between where you see the threads and the head gasket. If you look carefully, you can see where the stripes of the barrel end and the black celluloid of the section begins. The barrel itself ends where the metal threads were, so the two pieces overlap between them. In my experience, these are fused/solvent welded together.

    The sections were machined - they didn't injection mold the parts. On the lever fill versions of the pen, this piece screws into the barrel so that it can be removed to replace the sac. The packing units on these pens were also machined separately. Sheaffer used an adhesive to secure them. It is not unusual to have one come loose or leak between the barrel wall and the packing unit. They were more securely glued in after the war. Sheaffer's instructions to repair them were to drill out the old packing unit and replace it. Richard Binder and I saw a bunch of the old packing units when were in the service center. They never made it out when it was closed, so I assume were destroyed.
    Last edited by Ron Z; January 31st, 2022 at 09:42 AM.

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    Default Re: Vac-fill: How were they made?

    Brilliant, thanks Ron! I have a vac-fill balance with a screw-in section. Similar deal?

    Thank you for your time,

    Ralf

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    Senior Member Ron Z's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vac-fill: How were they made?

    Yes.

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    Default Re: Vac-fill: How were they made?

    Note the back of the barrel is plugged. Likely the pen was made from a formed tube and not made from a solid block.

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    Default Re: Vac-fill: How were they made?

    Good point Farmboy! Thanks everybody!

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    Default Re: Vac-fill: How were they made?

    Here's a schematic view of Ron's cutaway.
    Cheers,
    Gerry Berg


    After pulling the plunger rod from the end of the barrel, ink or air contained within the pen barrel is expelled as the plunger rod is pushed back to its closed position, creating a vacuum in the barrel behind the rodís piston. When the plunger reaches the limit of its movement, the pistonís flexible washer enters an enlarged portion of the barrelís bore and releases the vacuum behind it. Ink is drawn in around the periphery of the washer and into the barrel. Nearly the entire internal volume of the barrel stores ink, thus increasing the penís ink capacity over its rivals.

    See US Patents1,926,405 (Sept. 12, 1933), and 1,983,682 (Dec. 11, 1934).


    Image by Noam Berg
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    Default Re: Vac-fill: How were they made?

    Thanks Jouesdeveau, I think that illustrates my original question very well. The inside diameter of the barrel where the flexible washer is sitting is greater than either the section (where the nib and the feed are located) or the part with the plunger rod. Therefore the barrel interior cannot be just drilled in one go (unlike a Vac or 51). Ron's answer was that the barrel was made first, in two drilling actions, and then the section "glued" in (whatever they used, it's strong stuff!). This makes great sense, thank you.

    Now, I have a slender balance with the wider (and therefore thinnest walled) part of the barrel collapsed inward. How the heck do I push it back into shape?

    Ralf

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    Default Re: Vac-fill: How were they made?

    Quote Originally Posted by ralfstc View Post
    Thanks Jouesdeveau, ...Ron's answer was that the barrel was made first, in two drilling actions, and then the section "glued" in (whatever they used, it's strong stuff!). This makes great sense, thank you.

    Now, I have a slender balance with the wider (and therefore thinnest walled) part of the barrel collapsed inward. How the heck do I push it back into shape?

    Ralf
    No doubt Ron was referring to POST-Balance pens, that is those made after 1942 initially with Triumph conical nibs. BTW: he section it was probably(!) not glued in but swaged in. That's a guess.

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