January 19, 2015

The Aerometric Fillers

, and the aerometric-type fillers.

[I started an “Aerometric Fillers” thread on L&P on Nov 30, 2005 that was somehow deleted and
lost inadvertently, but on Aug 1, 2006, I wrote, “Well, ‘Wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles’, look at what I found, almost a year later.  The missing “Aerometric Fillers” thread turned up on Google, which somehow archived the thread, after all, and saved it in their cache.  And I wasn’t even looking for it.  Thank goodness for the vagaries and redundancies of the internet!”.  So, it was restored in its entirety, and here it is, again, in a distilled version of the best bits, along with an additional thread from Sept 20, 2006.]
        In my timeline and taxonomy threads, I characterized the vacumatic Parker 51 and the aerometric Parker 51 as very distant cousins in the total scheme of pens, even though they look very similar on the outside.  Now, some might take exception with my characterizations, but these two pens use two totally different types of technology on the inside.  Elsewhere, in another thread, Olle Hjort was talking about another filling system, the capillary filler, but what he said applies here, too.  Every inventor, he wrote, “also got his ideas from somewhere.  Few inventions come out of nothing.  It’s just more or less difficult to find the source”.  Well, I think the aerometric filler has its origins in the thumb filler.  In the former, the whole barrel must be removed from the pen in order squeeze the bladder, and in the latter, the barrel stays on the pen to squeeze the bladder through an opening in the barrel.  I’ve had to reappraise and revise my timeline a few times with regards to the aerometric filler after finding US patent nos. 991,520 and 798,655.  These patents help to place the aerometric, not in the 1940
s, but in the age of the thumb filler, and thus force me to throw the baby out with the bath water.  I guess the aerometric type of filler was a lot earlier than I thought it was.  It now dates to May 9, 1911 and Sept 5, 1905.  I think I may even find an earlier precursor in the 1800s.
        Sterling Picard also suggested another patent very much like the aerometric 51, US patent no. 1,247,169.  But I class this patent with the thumb fillers because the mechanism is still covered by a sleeve on the barrel, and the whole barrel is not removed to expose a section-and-filler unit.  Neither is the squeezing mechanism attached to the section.  It’s merely strapped to the bladder.
        Rob Astyk wrote, “The point that you make in distinguishing this patent from more standard thumb fillers is much like the USPTO’s Classification system.  Each taxonomist has to decide simultaneously how broadly and how narrowly he will define each category.  We can’t have every item in its own class because that is so narrow as to defeat the purposes of grouping things in classes in the first place.  Nor can we have things as different as a brush, a railroad spike, and chewing gum in the same class, either, because that broadens the group to the point of meaninglessness.  So the taxonomist selects, as objectively as he can, items that have some characteristics in common to create each Class and Sub-class”.  Earlier he had said that, “There isn’t a whole lot of difference between aerometric and thumb fillers”, and I was going to let that sleeping dog lie, but this and other posts in this thread sent me scurrying back to reread patent no. 991,520 more closely, and I found this statement in the specifications.  “My improved device for self filling fountain pens obviates the necessity of providing the barrel of the pen with an opening through which the bag compressing device may be manipulated.”  That is the definition of a thumb filler, a pen with an opening in the barrel to gain access to the bladder, and it makes this pen an aerometric-type.  That’s the crucial distinction that we talked about before, that is, that the barrel must be removed completely with an aerometric filler.  Now, the name “Aerometric” probably dates to the Parker 51 era, but the pen in patent 991,520 is most definitely an aerometric-type filler.  Large-a “Aerometric” becomes small-a “aerometric”, and the company is at the mercy of the public, and has no say in the matter.  I admit that it’s a subtle distinction, and that the two types of fillers are not-so-distant cousins.  They are, after all, two of the various types in the same, large, bladder-and-pressure-bar subgroup.  All I am saying is that the precursor to the aerometric filler now dates to at least the same era as the thumb filler.
        When two pen collectors duked it out in a thread on Pentrace regarding aerometric fillers and cartridge-convertor fillers on Sept 20, 2006, well, all I could say to myself was good luck to both of them in their beliefs.  Sometimes it’s impossible to “convert” a fountain pen believer from either camp.  Sorry for the pun, but I have to put both of them in the group of believers, and not converts, because I see nothing that resembles collegiality, or peer review in some of the flaming online arguments.
        Pen collectors can agree to disagree about their definitions of the aerometric, and perhaps that makes them all as pedantic as the next one, though I prefer to call it pen poindexterity.  But I do have to agree with those who say that the second hole in the side of the breather tube in the aerometric Parker 51, US patent no. 2,612,867, is totally unnecessary, and overly complicated.  There are many patents for aerometric-style fillers and finger-press fillers without any breather tubes at all, let alone ones with holes drilled into their sides.  Here are just two of them, the Waterman’s and the Le Boeuf finger-press fillers, and they function just fine without any breather tubes.  There are also some patents for aerometric fillers with breather tubes, but with no second breather hole drilled in their breather tubes.  There’s even one patent for an aerometric filler, 2,749,883, issued to Eversharp just one year before it was taken over by Parker, that has a breather tube without a breather hole drilled in its side, so you could almost say that even Parker later had to admit reluctantly that they were wrong.  In fact, even though the breather tube is illustrated, it isn’t given an illustration number, or even mentioned in the specifications.
        Let’s do a fountain pen thought experiment.  Take a Sheaffer “No Nonsense” pen section with a full cartridge of ink.  Hold it with the nib down, and push a pin into the end of the cartridge.  As long as the pin stays in the hole, nothing happens.  But what happens when you pull the pin out?  As quick as you can say “Dickie be damned”, the ink empties itself out of the pen.  If you want to try it on a real pen, do it over an open bottle of ink.  It doesn’t need a second hole in the side of the cartridge tube.  One hole at the bottom of the cartridge is quite sufficient to turn a closed system into an open-ended tube and to empty it of ink.  So I think the second breather hole in the aerometric Parker 51 breather tube is totally unnecessary.
        It’s possible to convert any pen into an aerometric filler, even a Parker 61 capillary filler, but it is not possible to convert any pen into a cartridge-converter filler.  For that, the pen requires a nipple, the piercing tube with a feed-tube inside it, for seating the cartridge, or converter.  That would be hard to engineer and manufacture from scratch for a pen that didn’t already have such a mechanism, but a pensmith might be able to adapt such a nipple-feed from an existing pen.  Just such a feed as can be found in the Sheaffer “Skripsert” and “No Nonsense” cartridge pens, but the older hard rubber “Skripsert” feed is better.  Glenn Craig has pioneered the use of these feeds in other pens, and adapts such feeds to fit any diameter of section bore by using pieces of large plastic “Slurpy” straws as sleeves over the feed.

George Kovalenko.