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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

4 reasons you should consider a rotary tool for your next repair job

If you've just begun repairing your own pens, then this post may or may not be relevant to you. It all depends on how far you want to take that knowledge.

However, if you're serious about repairing your own pens, and you're ready to take the next step, then you'll definitely want to read on.

My rotary tool has become in indispensable part of my repair work flow. Without it, I'd often find myself straggling along at a slow pace. Thanks to this mechanical wonder, there many tasks than can be shortened, simplified, and improved in quality.

Before I go ahead and tell you all the great things that a rotary tool can do for you, it's best to give the regular safety precautions.

Yes, A rotary tool can be dangerous. A razor knife (used very often in pen repair) can be just as dangerous to the pen, and more so to the user. Follow these simple precautions to keep yourself safe, without being overly restrictive.

  • Always run it on the lowest setting possible for what you're doing. This is assuming you're using a multi-speed rotary tool. Hopefully you are (more on this to come in a later article). Running on a higher speed than what is required for the job simply puts you and the pen at risk.
  • This applies specifically to cut-off discs! Always check your disk for cracks before using it. This is a very important lesson I learned, luckily the hard way but not too hard. When using a typical cut-off/grinding disc, you must always check the integrity of the disc before going at a pen with it. These discs break extremely easy, and when they break while spinning they fly everywhere, including your eyes.
  • You may choose to wear eye protection, and it's probably for the best. I normally am wearing a set of optivisor head-magnifiers while using my rotary tool, so my eyes are well shielded. If you're a glasses wearer, then you're good to go. If not then try to find the most optically clear pair of safety glasses you can get and use those. A pair that's "foggy" will make it difficult to see what you're doing and just make everything more dangerous.
  • Be smart! If you're not sure what the outcome will be, think about it before you do it. Will this hurt the pen? Will it hurt me?
  • It's best if you have steady hands. Most operation with the rotary tool are simple, but can go very wrong with just a single twitch of the hand in the wrong direction. Example - Drilling out the pellet pocket of a Parker Vacumatic. One little movement to far to one side and you'll be grinding away your good pocket.
Now, enough with the safety prep! Let's get on with 4 reasons why you should consider a rotary tool for your next repair.

Reason #1: Parker Vacumatic Pellet Pocket Removal
This is what got me hooked on using my RT (rotary tool - I'm getting tired of typing that so many times :). I will not go into how to do this in this article (tutorial hopefully soon). I'll just say this: if you've ever struggled for 30 minutes, trying in vain to use a pin to remove a stubborn pellet from a vac-pocket, you need try the RT method. I can usually get a pellet out of a pocket in about 1-2 minutes, perfectly, cleanly, and easily. And I consider myself a bit slow and cautious about this.

Reason #2: Trimming and grinding
A bit general purposed yes, but still relevant and true. I use my RT almost daily, for little tasks such as this. A replacement lever that doesn't fit quite right. A j-bar that needs to be thinned, and many more such applications. Once you start using it, you'll wonder what you did without it.

Reason #3: Clean up, clean up, everybody...
Don't worry, I wont' sing the rest. :P

An RT is an amazing tool for cleaning, buffing, polishing, etc., with the right attachments of course. One of my favorites is the plastic brush you see pictured at the start of this article. It is immensely helpful for cleaning out the threads of pens, as well as other things. I normally polish my pens by hand, with a rag and some polishing paste. However, there is the occasional piece or "thing" that I just can't do with a rag. An RT polishing wheel comes in extremely handy for those jobs. You do have to be cautious with polishing however, as the heat from the friction of the rotary tool can melt the pen. Take it from someone who's experienced it first-hand (R.I.P. many a scrap Esterbrook body abused during practice...).

Reason #4: If you're into grinding nibs
A lot of folks love to grind their own nibs, mostly for the personalized, one of a kind feel they can achieve. While I could write (and probably should) an entire article on the subject of RT VS. hand methods for grinding, I'll keep it short and simple here: Grinding a nib with an RT is actually more accurate and precise than doing it by hand. Believe me, I know. :) Grinding nibs with an RT is not just to faster - I believe the results are much better. Much more symmetric, straight, and "squared" grinds. Again, I can't go into details on this - it'd take up an entire post  of it's own, but the general idea is this: less hand movement = a better grind.

Well, that's my little mini-roundup to convince you to at least consider a rotary tool as a future piece of equipment. I can't live without mine, and I assure you, it's well worth the investment if you'll use it enough.

That's it for now folks! Let me know what you think of the article via the comments area below. Your input is greatly appreciated! :)

Tyler Dahl

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tyler, I am Ashish from India, Just wanted to know, what kind of rotary tool and attachments you will recommend for nib grinding. Please suggest brand and specification.