The Brown Marble Beauty
I got this beautifully preserved sample of the Camel pen late last year (2021). It was also one of the highlights for Redeem Pens if only because of the amount of time I spent restoring it.
It is not an exaggeration when I said that it took me months to get this pen back to its original function. But it's all worth it because this pen is just amazing. Not only it looks good, but it is also a super nice pen to sketch / write with.
Model-wise, this one does not have the ornate cap band, but it is equipped with the Camel 14K gold nib, which puts it near the top-of-the-line offering.The nib writes in a wet fine, and it is one of those vintage high-quality flex nib. It is absolutely one of those pens that I enjoy to sketch with.
The Camel Pen Company was created by Joseph Wustman in the mid-1930s in New Jersey, USA. The star of the company's products is a fountain pen that uses dry ink pellets, stored in a compartment at the end of the barrel. These pellets will mix with water and become usable ink, and they are marketed to have enough ink for a year's worth of usage.
This ad shows that you fill the pen with water instead of ink. Source of the image here (no affiliations, just giving credit where it's due). Update: Check out another ad featured at the bottom of this write up.
Fortunately, if you ran out of those pellets, the pen can still be used like a button filler. That was ... a century ago when the parts inside the pen were still in good order.
Reading through the article by Richard Binder on this brand already cautioned me for the possibility of not being able to disassemble this pen with all parts intact.
To begin with, there are several parts gingerly attached to each other, caked by decades of dried ink, plus you have to unscrew (rotate) everything *together* to get it out of the barrel. And to make it worse, internally, everything inside that barrel including the button that sticks out at the end (with the blind cap open) is connected via a thin metal brace.
Guess which part didn't make it intact upon disassembly? Yep, the brace.
I considered several ways to make this a functional pen without repairing the brace, but none are satisfactory. In the end, I bit the bullet and fashion a mini-"splint" to support the point of breakage on the brace. That's a one-liner summary of a series of trial-and-error spanning weeks.
First, I tried to create a one-sided splint using a 2-parts epoxy, but the result is not strong enough to handle the shear force when I tried to screw the whole assembly into the barrel.
Finally, the one that sticks (pun intended) is a double, front-and-back splint (see the photo), attached using CA glue which forms an acrylic bond without the added thickness, which helps because there is barely any clearance inside the barrel to begin with.
After I installed a #18 ink sac turned into an open-ended tube, the filling assembly was ready to be screwed into the barrel, which is again, as tricky or even trickier than the disassembly. One little snag when everything rotates inside the barrel -- with minimum clearance, and we're back to square one.
The Writing End
In the past months, I have used this pen for a few refills already, the splint seems to hold up splendidly.
When activating the filling system, it feels like you're squeezing the ink sac directly, thanks to the precision of the manufacturing.
The water/or ink came in and out of the ink sac with enough force that is reassuring to me as a restorer.
All in all, it is very satisfying to be able to nurse this particular pen back to its original function.
In this photo, you see the diagram that I drew to remind me of this restoration, just like for my other restorations that I want to be able to look back to in the future.