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How (not) to restore engraved letters on pens?

First, let’s see what you came here for and if you’re interested in my ramblings they are marked with italics at each step.

WARNING: Do this at your own risk, you may damage your pen in the process.

The tools you will need:

  • White Oil Pastel (this is going to be the new paint filling)
  • Microfiber cloth (to clean off the pen)
  • Sewing needle (to remove the original paint filling from the engraving)
  • Paint brush (to clean the original paint filling as you are removing it from the engraving)
  • Jeweler’s Loupe (to actually see what you are doing – I used a Schweizer Tech-Line x10)
  • Optional: Macro photo camera (to have an even better look and to record your progress)

The too long; didn’t read version is:

  • Step 1: Identify the problem
  • Step 2: Remove the old filling
  • Step 3: Apply new filling
  • Step 4: Profit?

Step 1: Identifying the problem

Look at the engraving, decide what you don’t like.

In my case the problem was minor. When I first got this pen some of the engravings appeared faded and (ironically) the word “ink” was stained with blue ink. It’s not a huge deal but it still bugged me because I could see it with my eyes (seeing with the eyes will be important in my case later on).

As you can see from the first photo the “i” and “n” letters are stained.

Step 2: Removing the old filling

WARNING: Proceed with extreme caution, do things slowly and be patient otherwise you might end of scratching your pen.

Take the sewing needle and gently, slowly with extreme caution and little force start carving out the paint from within the engraving. Take care are as to not go outside the engraving itself as this will create micro-scratches on the pen. Check the photo to see how NOT to do it.

Use the jeweler’s loupe to check your progress and every once in a while use the paint brush to sweep away any flakes that are stuck. Remember to carve from both left and right side of the engraving and BE VERY CAREFUL!!! Use the loupe! I couldn’t see the scratches with the naked eye when I was carving the original paint out!

So there isn’t really any useful information on the internet on how to do this. I did a lot of searching around but most stuff is about laser engraving or wood etching. I couldn’t really find out what paint and how traditional engraving on pens is done (maybe I was just bad at searching?).

The only somewhat useful threads were actually on The Fountain Pen Network (FPN) forum where people were suggesting that oil pastels and acrylic paints. I never really used acrylic paints in my life so I went with oil pastels but in theory the acrylic should be longer lasting as it becomes water-resistant once it’s dry.

The problem was that these were suggestions and not really confirmed to work by the people suggesting them, so the advice while useful, wasn’t tested out in practice.

Obviously I was also too lazy to find and contact a local company who does these type of engravings, so with the amount of information I gathered, I have decided to give this a go.

In a genius moment I thought that using a sewing needle to carve out the paint would be a good idea. In theory it wasn’t that bad. Well I done goofed up because I was an idiot and scratch the body of the pen. Thankfully the micro-scratches are invisible to the naked eye so I’m not that mad about it. Then there are also the scratches from the edge of cap so one day I’ll learn how to polish a pen, do it and then never use this again. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜…

Step 3: Fill the engravings

Take the white oil pastel (the softer it is the better) and rub it over the engraving in a circular motion, counter-clockwise and then switch and do it again clockwise. You don’t need to apply much pressure.

Once you are done, take the dry micro-fiber cloth and start wiping down the oil pastel. Do this until the body is completely clean.

Step 4: Inspection

Once clean, inspect the engravings and if you are satisfied then you’re finished. If not, repeat the steps again.

As you can see the blue ink is gone. The micro-scratches are still there unfortunately and it was completely my fault and avoidable. However I went in like an idiot without thought and care so don’t be like me and take it slowly and try to do the carving with surgical precision. Use the loupe!

All in all I’m still happy with the end result because to the naked eye those micro-scratches are invisible and the pen was already scratched up by the cap anyway so it wasn’t in pristine condition to begin with. I think polishing can restore it to it’s former glory buy I’ve no idea how to polish anything so that’s going to be the next thing I need to do some searching for (and probably destroy this pen in the process πŸ€·β€β™‚οΈπŸ˜‚).

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