WES Pen Repair Classes 2020-2021

These are for WES members. Read on for some history, the objective and content and getting ready to restart now that a Covid vaccine is underway.

The first Face-to Face (F2F) WES Pen Repair Class took place as long ago as May 2009. After the first few, we settled on three venues - London (Harrow Arts Centre), Bristol (Coalpit Heath) and Leicester (Narborough) with a series at each venue.

The structure from the start was three separate, full days. The ideal was to space them a month apart so that skills could be practiced in between. This has to be adjusted to fit round hall and personal availability dates and avoiding times like Christmas and Pen Shows. Normally, F2F classes have a minimum of three participants to cover costs and a maximum of five if the tutor is to be able to give personal attention.

The series content is set up for individuals who may have no experience but do have an accumulation of pens that don’t work! The first of these three days covers basic skills of inspect, record, strip, clean, polish, rebuild and test of simple lever and button fill pens. The second day is typically Sheaffer TD/PFM, Parker Vacumatic and ‘51’s in vac and aerometric forms. The third day moves on to the rod-fills of Sheaffer and Wahl, Onotos, pistons of several varieties and finishing off with Safeties.

There is opportunity in the sessions to handle a number of the tutor’s repair tools so that student repairers can understand and experience their use to help them see whether they want to invest in them themselves. In some cases, these are professionally made but include many, like a Parker Button puller and Montblanc nib remover, that participants can make for themselves.

Alongside overhauling pens there is opportunity to learn about the range of materials, vulnerability to deterioration, safe storage with advice on hard rubber and casein and to consider repair options and their wisdom. Participants see a number of manufacturers’ manuals and understand their strengths and limitations to a repairer who will no longer have the spares holding of the original manufacturer. Advice is given on sources of spares. Of particular interest to some as collectors is a sense of the competitive history of the time.

At the end of the series, a diligent participant can expect to be able successfully to overhaul their own pens of popular makes. They should have a method of working which, when supported by the Marshall/Oldfield Pen Repair Book, allows them to face most of the more complex designs with confidence but, above all, they should have a clear idea of risk and when it is wise to stop to hand over to a specialist. They quickly understand that it is helpful to learn on low priced examples and that, if a pen breaks, it is both a learning experience to avoid damaging another and a regrettable source of ‘spare parts’.

We should point out that providing a service with responsibility for repairing other people’s pens is a large step forward from your own. The Class would start someone on the road, but a lot of experience is necessary before using skills in a professional capacity.

WES has a strong presence overseas and the Society has always wanted these members to feel included. Videoconferencing has become popular recently but the first series by webinar ran in November 2013, seven years ago when it was much more of a tool used only by large companies. Webinar participation has a minimum of three to respect the tutor’s time and less concern about a practical maximum number.

To be fair, F2F is preferable to webinar given the choice, because it is genuinely possible for the tutor to lean over and help directly but if you are overseas, webinar proves to be a very successful alternative with excellent participant feedback.

So far, 124 members have completed the F2F classes and 36 the web version. The arrival of the 2020 Covid-19 virus brought the F2F classes to a halt but the Society ran two well attended webinar series over 2020.

At the time of writing, Covid vaccines are expected to be rolled out and will make F2F events possible again. The webinars can be expected to roll on anyway. We have a list of members who have expressed interest and awaiting F2F restart and we will be in touch with them as we plan sessions for later in 2021. If you might think of joining one of these series with the prospect as the virus recedes of Face to Face sessions as well as more webinars, please contact the WES Librarian at librarian@wesonline.co.uk to get your name down.