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The Aurora 88

Restoring a classic model from Aurora


This pen was designed, made and marketed to compete with the famous Parker 51. While there were many pens that were "inspired by" the 51, the Aurora 88 stands out as one of the better built ones. Even just holding the pen, you can feel that this pen was not a by-product, rather, a well designed one; made with enough material thickness that conveys the substantiality.

Originally released in 1946 by Aurora in Italy, who enlisted a famous designer Marcello Nizzoli for this model. This 88 model is the first, followed by a few other varieties, including some which are not piston fillers.

And because this pen is a piston filler, I slightly prefer it to my 51, plus the gold nib on these are sometimes flexible (in a crisp and nice way). As in the case of this particular sample.

Before we start with the restoration story, here's a bit of glossary on the parts that make up a piston filling system:
  • A dial (or knob). This is the part that you turn clockwise or anti-clockwise when you fill or empty the pen.
  • A spindle (for lack of a better term). This part is usually metal or plastic or ebonite rod with helical or sawtooth grooves engraved. These grooves engage the inside of the piston rod, pushing or pulling the rod within the barrel.
  • A mechanism that holds the spindle and dial in place as they rotate. This can be a tiny pin, or a washer. Without this part, the spindle will move instead of the piston rod.
  • A piston rod where some kind of seal is attached to. This is the part that moves up and down the barrel.
  • A piston seal attached to the piston rod which creates the vacuum where ink will be sucked into the barrel, it also has to fit the barrel snugly to prevent ink seeping into the back of the barrel.


This pen came to the Redeempens workbench with the usual issue, the piston filler is working but the seal is bad, so no water/ink can go in and out of this pen.

I have in the past been lucky to be able to find a sample of this pen where the piston rod can simply be taken out from the front end of the barrel (the section simply unscrews, which is a boon for restorers compared to the over complicated section assembly on the 51). 

But this time I am curious enough to opt for disassembling the piston mechanism from the back of the barrel.

So let's have a look, shall we?

The Dial

The first step is to remove a small round plastic cover at the butt of the piston dial blind cap. Using an exacto knife, I carefully poked and wedged the tip around the plastic cover. 

Never use a lot of force, just be patient and eventually the decades of gunk will give way and allow the knife to have enough purchase on the cover to lift it up.

You can see in the photo that the black plastic cover started to tilt outside of its hole. 

I deliberately paused and take this picture with the knife, because the next time I do this again, I'd like to remember what I use to take this tiny plastic disc out of the dial.

With the plastic cover out of the way, you can see a brass flathead screw inside.

Underneath the Dial

Taking out the flathead screw, I noticed that it actually has a spring around it. As seen in the photo, the screw secures the blind cap, and it's threaded into the top of the piston spindle. 

Surrounding the base of the spindle top is a metal collar which is secured to the spindle by a metal pin. We'll discuss this pin in the next section.

It is an important part and it is tiny, just like the black plastic disc that covers the flathead screw. 

Restoration tip: To make it easier for me to keep tiny parts around without losing them, I use a scotch tape to "trap" them by folding the tape over slightly askew (so it's easy for me to peel the tape open later) and attach the sticky part on the container that I use to put the pen parts in.

The thin metal washer ring in the photo slides beyond the metal collar around the ebonite cylinder and rest on the end of the barrel. This is what you see as the silver ring that separates the barrel from the dial blind cap.

The Pin

As mentioned above, the collar is attached to the spindle by a small pin. Together, the collar and the pin acts like an anchor that keeps the spindle in place as it rotates, which in turn causes the piston rod to go up and down the barrel.

So this is why if we want to get to the spindle and the rod, we need to take this pin out.

To facilitate this, I use one of my dental picks seen in the photo. The tip of the pick is perfect to push the pin out of the spindle and the collar. Here you see the pin partially jutting out of the collar.

In practice, knocking this type of pin is also an exercise in patience. Decades of gunk, debris and probably a bit of moisture caused the pin to bond to its surrounding metals. It took me quite a while of pushing and tapping (using that tiny mallet seen in the photo) from both directions to loosen the pin.

The Rest of the Piston

Now that the pin is out, the collar can be slowly removed from the spindle. The spindle which drives the piston rod can be pushed out from the front of the barrel... in theory!

In practice, for this pen, the ebonite rings that sandwich the piston seal are quite thick and their diameter makes it very difficult to take out of the barrel from the front side because they have to go through the inner threads where the section is screwed into barrel. 

In the photo, the metal rod is the spindle, and the collar next to it, behind it, is the ebonite piston rod. The seal is sandwiched between the ebonite ring at the end of the rod, and another one that you see already detached from the rod.

What are those lose rings? Those are the old piston seal, made out of layers of fuzzy pads and vinyl-like material. The new seal will be a rubber silicone o-ring.

NOTE: When restoring vintage pens like this, it is important to consider the risk of breakage. Example, if you accidentally gouge the barrel, or chip the hole off (done that before), it's game over, you can't go to a store and order another barrel.

Replacing the Seal

While replacing the seal is trivial for this pen, it can sometimes become the most difficult part for other pens where a new seal from cork needs to be cut, drilled and sanded to size. I am experimenting with a material that I believe is superior to the natural cork, which I am not yet ready to disclose, so that's another story.

Back to the 88, the new o-ring is now sandwiched between the two ebonite rings -- added some silicon grease to keep it smooth when sliding in the barrel, and all we need to do now is to push the piston rod again through the front of the barrel.

Again, just as it was when I took them out, sliding the thick ebonite rings -- now with the o-ring in-between --  back into the barrel proved to be quite tricky. I had to heat the barrel opening to expand it a bit.

In hindsight, it would not be that difficult to use my micro-lathe to sand off the ebonite rings to lessen their diameter just a smidgen. Next time.


With the piston rod and the new seal back inside the barrel, I reattach it to the spindle, making sure that the rod can move smoothly inside the barrel.

I then pulled on the spindle and slide the metal collar. The next trick is to reinsert the pin. If you think taking out the pin is difficult, installing it back also took some time, mostly to align the two holes on the collar and on the spindle respectively.

When I finally was able to thread the pin just far enough to anchor the collar and the spindle together, I started filling the pen with water. Checking periodically for a few hours to see if there are leaks.

The next day, after I am sure there are still no leaks, I put some Tsuki-yo in the pen and sketch with it. This would tell me if I  needed to work on the nib as well.

Later I tapped the pin inside gently, put the ring washer through the spindle, and cover it with the dial blind cap. Rethreading the screw as shown in the photo. I didn't put the screw in too tightly.


I would rate this restoration as Intermediate leaning towards Advanced. There are certain parts of this restoration where not enough experience can do more harm to the pen than good.

I hold off putting in the black plastic cover at the end of the dial until I test the pen for a week or so. This is just a standard process that I do for my restorations. 

What about the section? Doesn't it need restoring? Well, there isn't anything wrong with the section or the nib. Here's a tip from a restorer whom I respect, "Don't fix pen parts that are working just fine".

One of the things that impresses me, is the fact that I didn't have to put any silicon grease or rosin on the section threads. Not saying that I won't eventually, but the pen doesn't seem to need it. Try that with a Parker Vacumatic, and most likely you'll find yourself with inky fingers in minutes.

This Aurora 88 is an excellent pen to begin with. Sketching with it, I am reminded again of how nice it feels in the hand. It feels like a top class Italian pen. I have always liked pens from Aurora, and the company's long history and tenacity in producing good quality fountain pens is admirable.

Lastly, I made a diagram of the pen parts. I usually do this for my more interesting restorations, just so I would be able to piece together the parts in my own way. I don't expect anyone to be able to use this diagram but myself.

Until next restoration. Ciao.


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