Tuesday, May 21, 2013

And Now, For an Intermission From My Break

You’d think, with the Blog being all quiet for a few weeks, that I’ve been sipping Pina Coladas poolside in some lush tropical resort. But while all may be quiet here, such has not been the case at Leadhead’s spread, where I’ve been so busy putting the finishing touches on my second book that "just" putting up a daily blog entry sounds downright relaxing.

That hasn’t stopped me from shopping and thinking. The 2013 Chicago Pen Show netted so many new and interesting finds that I’ve had to put them in a box in the corner of pencil central to keep them out of sight and hopefully out of mind long enough to get this manuscript finished. It’s been a challenge staying out of that box and out of George Kovalenko’s book!

However, I did feel the need to post one article during my "break." Nope, it wasn’t that I’ve gotten so fed up with editing that I needed to get back to my roots for a bit. And I haven’t quite got the manuscript done.  No, I need to write this article because if I don’t, I know I’ll be calling the publisher to say "stop the presses!!"

The trouble (ok, not the trouble, but the snag that eventually unknits the entire sweater) started when I was disassembling my Nu-Point Repeater to reshoot some pictures of the inner workings, and when I did, another piece fell out and I realized I hadn’t quite taken it all the way apart:

That second row was all stuck down in the bottom of what was actually a steel inner barrel, and as soon as I saw that piece, a tumbler clicked into place in my brain. Remember the "Hi-Speed" from"You’ll Flip Your Top For These" under Hi-Speed? What I didn’t tell you at the time was that there’s two distinct variations of the Hi-Speed species:

From the top, there’s the ringtop Hi-Speed from the previous article, a full-size metal pencil (sadly, missing the clip) shown on page 88 of The Catalogue, and a large red hard rubber flattop repeater pencil, also illustrated in The Catalogue and which I stated was "unmistakably the Samuel Kanner patented design used on the Presto."

I was more right than I knew.

Here’s the Hi-Speed next to a typical early Presto:

Note that the upper assembly and clip is identical on both pencils, as are the overall dimensions. I haven’t seen the inside of the Hi-Speed, because this is the only one I’ve seen, the pencil doesn’t want to come apart easily and I don’t want to risk destroying what may be one of only very few surviving examples.

Fast forward to the 2012 Ohio Show, where Jim Carpenito was thinking of me when he brought along a bag of stuff for me to see. In that bag were half a dozen early black Presto flattops, including a couple that were broken. I bought the lot, mostly because I wanted to dissect a couple without fear of destroying a nice example. When I tore one of the broken ones apart, I discovered two things: 

First, as I had suspected, the mechanism is identical in all important respects to the mechanism found in later Prestos, as later "borrowed" by Eversharp for use of its repeating pencils (see "My Find of the Year" under Gilfred).

But posed next to the internal workings of the Nu-Point Repeater (top) and the Selfeed (bottom) . . .

click. That’s the sound of a tumbler falling into place on a dusty combination lock that hasn’t been opened for decades:

There’s the reason my Nu-Point Repeater doesn’t work. It has a Presto mechanism, and the spring is missing (and note how similar the "Selfeed" mechanism is, too – just as close as the mechanism in the Gilfred v. Eversharp patent infringement case!).  Note also the unusual way the tops screw onto the Nu-Point and Presto mechanisms – two ears, one on each side of the mechanism, is all that secure the top in place:

There’s no question in my mind: the Nu-Point repeater is an early version of the Presto. Was this a one time licensing deal between Samuel Kanner, assignee of the Presto Patent, and Aikin Lambert, the reputed maker of the Nu-Point? No, this was no fluke. Check out a much later Nu-Point in red plastic (pictured on page 106 of The Catalogue) next to a later Presto:

See it?

Click. Click.
I’d be the first one to admit that this might be a coincidence, if I didn’t already have some evidence of a connection between Nu-Point and Presto.

But then I stumbled across something else, when I was digging out Abraham Pollak’s original patent for the Presto, which was assigned to Samuel Kanner (Kanner was only the assignee of the original Presto patent, not the actual inventor, although Kanner did patent his own improved version of the Presto as patent number 2,222,295).

I was too lazy at the moment to look up the Presto patent number from my notes, so I just searched "Abraham Pollak."

I found my Presto patent.

But that wasn’t all that I found:

  See it?

Click. Click. Click.

The flip-top feature, which shows up on Aikin Lambert, Nupoint and Hi-Speed pencils (among others), shows up in a patent drawing by the inventor of the Presto, which is practically identical to both the Nu-Point Repeater and the Hi-Speed repeater. There’s too much here to be a coincidence. There was an ongoing, long-term relationship between Samuel Kanner and Aikin Lambert.

But even though the tumblers are finally falling into place, the metaphorical door to the safe still won’t open. Was the Selfeed a separately patented invention, or was the Selfeed, like Eversharp’s early repeating pencils, a mere copy that Samuel Kanner would have considered an infringement of his patent?

And what of the "Advance," which so closely resembles a Salz "Manhattan?" It has the same clip found on other Nu-Points, and also on a metal Gold Medal (see "A Pair of Gold Medals").

That last bit of evidence that ties all of this together has to be out there somewhere – I just haven’t found it yet. Although the conclusion of this article isn’t as . . . conclusive as I’d like, it just didn’t make sense to know all this and not share it.

OK, break’s over now. Back to the pina coladas.