By this means the pens are sufficiently softened for the subsequent process; but as the flats are very rough and scaly from the effects of the fire, they are first cleaned by being placed in a mechanical agitator with sand, ashes, etc, and well shaken for an hour or two, which renders them remarkably clean and smooth. The makers' name having been stamped on the shank of each pen, and the apertures, if any, cut out, they are marked for the slits. This is done with a very sharp chisel, worked by a fly-press, and so exquisitely adjusted as only to cut through two-thirds of the thickness of the metal. This done, the next operation is the dishing. A. hardened steel punch, of the precise form to be given to the pen, being attached to a fly-press, a die is placed beneath to receive it; the die being concave, and the punch convex, and both being made so as to fit each other with the greatest accuracy, the fiat is forced into the cavity of the die, and retains permanently the form thus given to it. The pens being dished are next hardened, by being placed in the iron box, and heated as in the softening process, except that they are now cooled suddenly, by being thrown into a vessel of cold water or oil.
When the pens are quite cold, they are taken out of the water, and placed in a cullender to drain. When dry, they are put into the agitator with a quantity of sawdust, and shaken for a considerable time, which cleans and polishes them, giving a degree of smoothness and finish to the nibs unattainable by any other method equally economical. The agitator is an ingenious piece of mechanism, invented by Mr. Mordan; it consists of a large tin cylinder, supported horizontally by two cranked axles - one at either end, - upon a strong iron frame; another axle, mounted upon antifriction wheels, at the end of the machine, carries a winch handle and a heavy fly-wheel; upon this axle is also placed a driving wheel, a rigger-band from which puts the crank in motion, and communicates a very rapid elliptical movement to the cylinder and its contents. By this contrivance the pens are very effectually polished, and made ready for the next process - tempering. This is done by placing the pens, a few at a time, on a stove, heated to the proper temperature; so soon as a bright blue colour is obtained they are removed, this colour denoting the temper best suited to steel pens.
The last operation is that of opening the slits, or, as some call it, cracking the slits; this singular process is effected by placing about a quarter of an inch of the pen's point between a pair of small nippers, and pinching them suddenly, when the slit, which was only cut two-third3 of the way through, is completed by the giving way of the remainder of the metal. This unique process fits the pen for immediate use; some manufacturers add a coat of lacker, but this is not of much real utility.
It has often been supposed that other materials would be equally, if not more, suitable than steel, for the manufacturing of pens; those persons who have paid most attention to the subject, however, are decidedly of opinion that no kind of metal, however fine its texture may be, or whatever properties it may possess, will ever be able to compete with fine well-tempered steel.
Many of the steel pens, as now manufactured, we find of excellent quality; many hundred pages of this work have been written with one pen, in a uniform clear hand. After writing with it about forty pages, we usually renew, and even much improve the nibs of a new pen by a few touches of a dry Turkey stone, aiding the sight with a pair of magnifying spectacles, in order that the form of the extreme end may be duly perfected; this process will, however, be found difficult of accomplishment, at first, by persons unaccustomed to the pointing of delicate instruments, and, at the present low prices of the article, scarcely worth the trouble; but the ability to perform this operation at pleasure upon steel pens, renders a person very independent of the stationer's shop.
In our brief account of this novel and admirable manufacture, we are sensible of having omitted to notice a variety of excellent steel pens, but our allotted space compels us to proceed to the description of a different class.
Fountain Pens. A great number of ingenious attempts have been made to construct pens containing a reservoir of ink, which by a slight pressure on the handle, or other part, might cause a fresh supply of the fluid to flow to the nibs, and thus supersede the necessity of an ink-stand. Of this kind is the penograph of Mr. Scheffer, manufactured by Messrs. Mordan & Co., in which the pressure of the thumb on a projecting stud in the holder causes a continuous supply of ink from the reservoir to flow into the pen.
Mr. Parker's Hydraulic Pen is a more recent contrivance for the same purpose. In this machine a piston is made to work up and down in a cylindrical tube by means of a revolving nut acting upon the piston rod, which is tapped with a corresponding screw. The small orifice at the bottom of the holder being immersed in ink, the turning of the upper portion of the holder causes the piston to ascend, and the tube becomes filled with ink; on gradually turning the nut in the opposite direction, the piston descends and forces the ink down into the pen. Mr. Parker has taken out a patent for his invention; but, if we mistake not, Mr. W. Baddeley proposed an apparatus, precisely similar, a long time since; for which see the Mechanics' Magazine.
As a description of all the contrivances of this kind, however, would occupy many pages, we shall limit our account to one of a very simple and unexpensive kind, the invention of a correspondent of the Register of Arts. "The pen is made of two quills; the top one, which I shall call No. 1, and the other, No. 2. Let the end of No. 1 be made air-tight, by dropping inside, to the bottom, a small piece of cobbler's wax, and then warming it a little: fill this nearly with ink, - say about a quarter of an inch from the brim, - then take a small piece of cambric and cover the top of it, so that the ink may not drop out; join both quills together, by putting No. 1 into No. 2, and the pen is ready for use. When you want to write, take the pen in your right hand, give a gentle shock on your left hand, or on a table, and the ink will run down into the pen immediately; this must be repeated every time ink is wanted. A pen of this kind will be found very useful to reporters and to persons travelling. The pen should be put into a little case to carry it about,"