PenInHand - Musings on the Hobby

Converting the Converted

by Jim Mamoulides, November 30, 2002

Two Converted Eversharp CAs

Why Won't That Old Ballpoint Work?

If you're collecting vintage fountain pens from the 1940s, you're going to run across some early ballpoints here and there. These early designs, in many cases, were compliments to the fountain pen or were stand alone high profile models, using similar levels of trim and appointments, and were priced accordingly. If you're like me, you might think, "this would make a cool companion to the fountain pen, if I could get it to work." It won't take much effort or fiddling to figure out that the cartridges from early 1940s vintage ballpoint pens are for the most part dried out and not offered in sizes that easily fit modern replacements.

For the most part these early refills were failures and their designs were abandoned. They leaked; they smeared; they skipped; they dried out. It wasn't until the mid 1950s that ballpoints really took off, using new, improved and reliable refill designs that are the ancestors of the refills in use today.

So given that the early refills are generally not usable, can this cool converted fountain pen be converted into a modern ballpoint? With some early ballpoints this is easier than with others. Many of the early refills screwed in, as many early ballpoints were capped and were essentially converted fountain pens with ballpoint sections, much like today's rollerball compliments to modern fountain pens. An easy pen to convert is the Eversharp CA, both in the Skyline and the Fifth Avenue versions.

An Eversharp CA Fifth Avenue c1947 About To Be Converted To A BIC Stick!

A Simple Job, But Someone Has To Do It!

You have your CA out, and you're ready to start. You're going to need to open it and look at which type of refill it uses. This conversion is going to apply to CAs that were already converted to the unit refill, which looks like a long, thin metal tube extending out of the back of the section when the section is unscrewed from the barrel. If your CA looks like this, you're good to go. The early CA used a fixed ball tip that was screwed into the tip of the section and the open ended capillary refill screwed into the inside of the section. You will also need a BIC Stick ballpoint, scissors, heavy masking or clear tape, and some padded pliers or a rubber grip. A few paper towels might be useful also.

No Professional Drivers or Closed Courses Needed

The first thing you want to do is remove the old Eversharp ballpoint cartridge. This is actually reverse intuitive. The section tip is threaded so that the cartridge slides into it from the front and screws in as if mounted from the front. It's also very difficult to grip the front of the cartridge (where the ball tip is) to unscrew it, so the obvious method is to grab the long stem of the refill and twist from that end. Be careful! To unscrew, you need to turn clockwise, not counterclockwise. As you turn, you should see the ballpoint tip advance out of the section, and once free, just pull it out and save it. Reassemble the pen.

Step 1: Removing the Original 2nd Generation Refill From a CA Fifth Avenue

Now you need to make your new refill. This is what the BIC Stick is for. Hopefully you aren't too attached to it, because we're going to take it apart. Definitely find one that writes the way you like, because this is what you are going to be writing with when you are done. The refill is very tightly friction fit into the barrel, so you will probably need pliers or a good rubber grip to pull it out. Some folks will pry off the barrel end cap and push the refill out from the back. Do whatever works for you. Try not to damage the tip, as you will be seeing it on the end of the pen.

Step 2: Remove and Cut the Refill from a BIC Stick

Once you have the refill out, set it next to the metal Eversharp refill and snip it to about the same length. It's going to be much too long for the CA barrel, especially the Skyline. If you cut through ink, use a paperclip and a paper towel to clear out the end and any ink residue.

Step 3: Taped and Ready to Go!

Take a small section of heavy masking or clear tape and tape around the neck of the refill up against the tip. The new BIC refill is going to need a shim to stay in place and masking tape will supply enough width and friction grip to keep it snug in place in the end of the pen. Slide the taped refill into the tip of the section and test that the tape holds it securely. Some tape is thicker than others, so spiraling the tape may give enough extra width to make it fit. You want it to be tight, but not so tight that it is difficult to insert. It should slide in smoothly and stay put.

It's An Ever-BIC!

A Pair of Eversharp CAs, One Original and One Converted (Left to Right) and Matching Pencil

There you go! Probably the easiest conversion you can do on a vintage pen that doesn't damage the pen or impact its value. Keep the old Eversharp refill handy so you can replace it if you decide to sell or display the pen as it was originally. Now you have converted a converted pen and made it useful for everyday, and given yourself a ballpoint for those times when a fountain pen won't do, which is what the pen was for, in the first place!

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