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How to store vintage Montblanc piston fillers

Montblanc cork piston-filler

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#1 Idazle



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Posted 29 December 2013 - 06:11 PM

Hi all,


I would like to continue an interesting discussion we started up in FPN -but couldn't conclude- about whether MB piston fillers should be kept with water when they are not in use to prevent cork shrinkage or not.


Just to recap, while sole people follow this practice, some consider that it is not advisable to keep pens filled with water -even distilled water- during prolonged periods because this can cause damage to some undetermined parts of the pen. Besides, there are those who have reported having MB piston fillers empty during as long as one year without any cork shrinkage and that as long as the cork is conveniently treated with silicon grease there should not be any problem.


The fact is that I've found that ALL my seven MB piston fillers have experienced cork shrinkage after a few weeks out of rotation, so that the pens either would not take ink at all or take ink but rapidly loose it as a result of the pressure exerted by the air contained in the chamber beyond the cork piston.


I've managed to re-hydrate the corks by keeping some distilled water inside the pens for a couple of days and now they behave ok.


The questions that keep open are:


  1. Is there evidence that keeping an old piston filler filled with distilled water causes damage to the pen or is it just a non-tested assumption?
  2. Does the problem of cork shrinkage stem from the fact that those corks might need to be replaced or treated with silicon grease and so the solution to the problem described above is pen maintenance rather than using such recipes as keeping the pens filled with water?
  3. Could the problem be connected with the particular humidity condition in some locations, so that perhaps I have experienced the problem because my pens have been storaged under the extremely dry air of Madrid?
  4. Is it ok to keep the pens filled with water under these circumstances?
  5. Or in the contrary, is it preferable to avoid risks by keeping the pens empty and if they experience cork shrinkage to try re-hydratation just before putting them back in rotation as I have done these days?


Any ideas?





#2 Wahl



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Posted 29 December 2013 - 06:37 PM

The expert´s opinions I have heard is that once a cork has shrunk, it should be replaced and of course properly lubricated.


And that keeping a pen filled with water is not a good idea, as moisture could damage the pen.

#3 Idazle



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Posted 29 December 2013 - 06:46 PM

The expert´s opinions I have heard is that once a cork has shrunk, it should be replaced and of course properly lubricated.


And that keeping a pen filled with water is not a good idea, as moisture could damage the pen.


And doesn't the moisture from ink damage a pen which is constantly inked and in use? I just wonder  :unsure:

#4 piscov



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Posted 29 December 2013 - 06:58 PM

If a cork shrinks in just a few weeks probably is not in good condition or was not installed properly. If it is made to fit, cooked in stirine and then lubed with silicon grease it should be good for some years of use without storing it with water inside. But I find a good practice good to fill the pens with water from time to time, I do that every month and leave it full for a day or 2.

Edited by piscov, 29 December 2013 - 07:24 PM.

Best regards


Check out "Pena Lusa by Piscov". Pens added on a regular basis!

Link for Vintage Montblanc pens here

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#5 spotted and speckled

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Posted 29 December 2013 - 08:38 PM

I am no expert here, but the cork fillers I have I leave water in when not in use. I also leave them stored upright so the water touches the cork, and I change the water monthly. It's hot and humid here most of the time, so checking for mold is a must. I know other people that live a few hours from me that never fill their pens with water and they have not had any problems. 


I have a few new-to-me cork fillers out for new overhauls right now, and Joel Hamilton told me "WE can use either cork, neoprene or rubber seals. We prefer neoprene or rubber as sometimes barrels have warped and cork will not expand to the size needed to address the fluctuations in the barrel and there is not the tendency for them to shrink over time."


I gave him permission to do neoprene. I'll post a neoprene review after I get them back, probably around April. 


#6 Fawkes



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Posted 30 December 2013 - 04:01 AM

I tend to keep mine filled with water as I haven't noticed any negative side effects. But they're in an out of rotation so often the water never sits in them too long.


I think you should be fine.

#7 Orfew



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Posted 30 December 2013 - 05:02 AM

I do not keep water in mine and have not noticed any problems.

#8 Christof Z

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 02:15 PM

I think to answer this questions, we should differentiate between long time storage (years) and short time storage (weeks), user grade pens and collectors items.

For short time storage, you can do both ways, with water and without. I absolutely agree with piscov in this point. If a new cork is proper fit and correctly treated , it will not shrink in this short time. Remember that the shrunken corks we find in vintage pens are 50 years old at least, and they served for many years, if not decades.

For long time storage, I highly recommend not to fill your pens with anything. I keep my pens empty, cleanded and serviced. These are collectors items which I probably never will use.

Let me say a couple of words about cork seals. I have done about 100 cork seal replacements in the last past years, so I think this could be a reference. Cork is in my opinion one of the best materials for piston seals. If a pen is originally fitted with cork, it should be serviced by replacing a new cork seal. Cork is elastic and soft, chemically stable and if proper seald with paraffine it will not entierly soak with ink and last for a long time. Cork can be processed very easy with basic tools.


The problem I see with other materials like neoprene is, that friction between seal and barrel is much higher than with cork. If you have a delicate pen like a vintage Montblanc with striped ink window, it will only be a matter of time until the stripes will have disappeared. Same with Pelikan IBIS and others which have inside coated barrels.
Also the pressure of plastic seal to the inner diameter of the barrel is higher and hairlines may be the result.

(Sidenote: Sometimes, celluloid barrels tend to shrink and sometimes tend to shrink irregularly. The area of the ink window is prone to shrink more than the rest of the barrel. This requires elasticity of the piston seal. Sometimes, this can be repaired with a soft press cork seal. Sometimes not.... I have some nice Soennecken and other pens in my drawer which just can't be repaired because of this...)

In my opinion, there can be made an exception when it comes to synthetical piston seal replacements. Some professionals use silicone O-rings. O-rings have lesser friction area than other plastic seals and keep a nice reservoir of grease over years if installed correctly. These can be a good solution I think. I do not have that much experience with it, but have worked with somes. I also recognised that they work better in acrylic barrels than celluloid barrels. But The main problem with O-rings is to find the correct size (inner diamter, outer diameter,and thickness). If you din't have a huge stock of o-rings in all sizes, you will have some serious problems in finding the right ones. Only for a very few pen models like Pelikan 100 and Aurora 88, these can be bought on the internet.

Hope this helps to answer only some of your questions.


Edited by Christof Z, 31 December 2013 - 02:16 PM.

#9 Idazle



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Posted 31 December 2013 - 02:40 PM

Hope this helps to answer only some of your questions.



It does indeed!! A very enlightening post on cork made piston fillers Christof. A pleasure to read you ;-)


By way of conclusion, I think I'll proceed to empty the pens that I've had filled with water during a few days now and keep them dry for a couple of months or so. I will then test them again and if they don't take water will have a professional repair to fit fresh lubricated corks.


Thanks so much for your help.



Edited by Idazle, 31 December 2013 - 02:40 PM.

#10 BMG



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Posted 01 January 2014 - 10:00 AM

Thanks, Christof, for the detailed explanation – informative and interesting, as usual.


I have just a few cork-sealed pens, but when I had them restored, I had it done with new cork seals. I do not keep these pens filled with water when not in use and have never experienced any problems with the cork drying out or shrinking.

#11 Rick Propas

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 04:31 AM

For what it's worth, I (try to) keep water in cork sealed pens regardless of storage times. And thanks to Christof for his contribution. This thread may be worth pinning.
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