PenInHand - Musings on the Hobby

Feathering The Eagle

by Jim Mamoulides, December 31, 2002

Look What I Found For Three Bucks - An 1890s Eagle Glass Cartridge Pen!

One of my finds when I was in Maine this past summer was a very interesting little pen sitting in a cup at an antique store. I didn't know what it was at the time, and only a cursory glance told me it was some early attempt at a cartridge pen. The price was definitely right: US $3.00, so I picked it up and brought it home.

A Preview Of The Hopefully Finished Shot!

The little brass-barreled pen knocked around in my to-do pile, as other things were more pressing. Eventually I took it out and gave it a very close examination. Around the apparently gold filled "neckband" was written "Eagle Pencil Company". Now that's a name I didn't expect to find!

The Nib, Filthy As It Is, Is Marked "145"

Out with the tomes - not much. Ok - fire up the computer and do some searches on "Eagle Pencil Company" and "glass cartridge pens." A few leads turned up.

The Eagle Pencil Company patented probably the first real cartridge pen in 1890. These pens used throw away wax sealed glass cartridges. Much as with today's cartridge pens, the user would pull the section off the pen, open up their box of cartridges (provided they weren't broken from rough handling) and select one to use, break the wax seal, and shove the cartridge onto the nipple at the end of the section. In all other respects, the pen worked like an early eyedropper.

Ooops! Trade Secrets Revealed!

The pen barrel is all brass and looks like it had been painted black. A few more reference searches revealed that Eagle made these pens with round and hexagon shaped brass barrels and good examples were enameled, often in very bright colors. Many sources speculate that the nibs on these pens were brass, and this one has the cryptic marking "145", probably a part number. The feed is also interesting, being a trident shape and very delicate.

Unfortunately, the nipple on the end of the section was broken off sometime in the past. Easy enough to fix with a section of rubber tubing.

A dipped test drive reveals a fairly nice writer with a good amount of flex. The tines of the spade shaped nib spread nicely and lay down a lot of ink. This might be an amusing pen to fix up...

Out With The ... Paint?

I'll admit that painting a pen was not one of the things I ever thought I'd be doing. I also am going to say at this portion of the article - DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME! THIS IS AN AMATEUR AT WORK!

Ok, We're Painted - Now For Some Touch Up Work!

I'm not a painting professional, so your results may vary. Certainly don't use this technique to blacken those browning hard rubber pens. That's like spray-painting a bald head so it looks like it has hair!

Ready To Assemble - Need To Clean The Cartridge And The Nib

At The Hobby Store

I went to a few hardware stores furtively looking for enamel to try this project. The conversation went something like this:

"What are you going to paint?"

"Um, er, a, brass thingy."

"A brass what?"

"Ah, uhm, a brass tube!"

"What? Oh, ok, a brass, um, tube. Ok, here, try this."

And off I sped home.

Solving The Nipple Problem With A Rubber Tube - Boy That Nib Is Dirty!

Now I Actually Have To Go Through With This, Right?

So I get home with the paint and say to myself, "Self, do you know what you're doing here?" It's been a few years since I enameled anything more complicated than my gas grill. Oh, I've done a few plastic models and trains in the, um, recent past, but a pen?

Borrowing a few techniques from painting plastic models, I knew that I needed to put the pen on something long so I could easily hold it while it was getting sprayed. How about some pencils? They were almost exactly the right size for the job.

I cleaned the barrels thoroughly to remove anything loose. Outside, I put my painting skills to work. First coat. Wait an hour. Steel wool it. Second coat. Wait an hour. Steel wool it. Third coat. Not a perfect high gloss job, but respectable.

Almost There For The Completed Picture - Still Need To Work On That Nib!

Preparing to put the pen back together I noticed one seriously bad mistake. You can't paint past the section where it inserts into the barrel! Do that and it won't go back in, or it will at least scrape all the paint off. Out with the sandpaper on that one. Second, the three coats of enamel are going to need some polishing work. It's too tacky now to do that, and won't be ready for about three days.

All Put Together! And In The Holiday Spirit!

So you're looking at the slightly dull, almost finished pen. Once I get it polished up and detailed, I'll add a shot of the final product. Not too bad for almost done?

I hope to have a full story on the Eagle Pencil glass cartridge pen early in 2003. There, I'll get more in detail on this unusual pen. Look for it!

Have a GREAT new year!

Discuss / Recommend what you read on

Facebook Twitter Stumble Digg

Follow us on Twitter: PenHero

Add a link to on your blog:
(Copy & paste code)
Please only use the photo provided. Use of other photos requires permission.
The provided link photo will change as we update the site.

Comments on this article may be sent to the author, Jim Mamoulides Bibliography