Imperialism

A friend sent me a special pen to see if I could get it working again. It belonged to his Godmother and displays her name proudly on the barrel. Oddly enough one of her two surnames was condensed to a single initial which makes it seem like this was either a present or that the stationers who engraved it couldn’t hot stamp that many characters and took a strange shortcut.

The pen is an early Sheaffer Imperial IV with Touchdown filling. Imperials went up to VIII with each increment a slightly fancier pen. They were made as cartridge/converter fillers as well. If you want the whole scoop check out the excellent article at PenHero.com. This one’s section unit seemed pretty gummed up so I decided to take it apart for a thorough cleaning. I’ve got a similar later Imperial section that I disassembled first to make sure I was familiar with the procedure before working on the heirloom pen.

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Note markings on early and later shells. (click to see larger)

The first oddity I noticed was the difference in the markings on the nib between the two. My friend’s said “Sheaffer’S” in the style you see on older vintage pens from that manufacturer. My nib just said “Sheaffer” in the block letters I’m used to seeing on those pens from the 60’s and later. A quick web search and I found that the former company logotype was on the first Imperials and it changed over in the mid-60s it seems.

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Later shell on left is cutout. One on right is enclosed.

Even odder that the markings was the structural differences I saw. On the newer Imperial section the front of the feed is exposed through a cut-out in the shell. It was what I was used to seeing on this model. However, the older one had the feed totally encased in the section and a small ink intake hole under the point was the only opening I could see. When I took them both apart you could see a larger end on the newer feed and a smaller one to fit inside the outer cover on the other. Not too much else was different except for a shorter feed channel and no joint washer on the earlier pen.

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Old section parts on top, new on bottom. (Click to see part labels)

Still, it’s a pretty major running change for a pen and I’m not sure why they did it. It could have been due to problems noticed with ink flow or a problem flushing the older design out easily. The answer might never be known. When this pen is finished I’ll evaluate how it writes and see if it is lacking in some way.

Overall the Imperial is a great, well made pen that is often overlooked. I can’t wait till this one is up and running again.

  1. Sam
    August 20, 2009, 10:02 am

    Any way to dismantle a Sheaffer Imperial Cartridge? Thanks.

  2. TAO
    August 20, 2009, 1:02 pm

    Sam: I’ve not taken apart the forward section on a Imperial cart filler. However, at the risk of making an assumption, I’d be it would come apart in a similar manner. The nib/shell unit is probably affixed to threads like the TD model. I’m spooked by using open flames so I use near boiling water to soak it in (sometimes a couple times with a cooling period in between) and then when still hot use some grippy rubbery sheets grab the shell with one hand and the threads with my other. If all is good the shell should unscrew off the bit the cartridge goes into without a herculean effort. After that the feed etc. pops out of the shell. Oh, be carful not to lose the point gasket since it’s small and can fly off. Hope this helps. Thanks for the comment.

  3. December 18, 2009, 8:24 am

    What a great post. I love learning about these old pens and how the manufacturers make modifications and “improvements” . Thanks.

    1. TAO
      December 18, 2009, 11:42 am

      Julie: Yes, I’ve never seen another one like my friend’s yet. I’ll admit most sellers don’t take pictures of the underside of a nib. 🙂