The Burnham B48. To be or not to be?

Small lyrical thoughts write up with a Burnham 48 fountain pen.
Pen parts. A naive picture I drew re: a Faber Castell Ambition pen.

Bought this Burnham B48 fountain pen below from a charity shop. Made circa 1950s. The worse for wear it was £5. With the pen’s design having the possibility for the interchangeable choice of different nib sizes and the sections to these choices having a screw thread into the barrel, it was an easy unscrew and get at this one to attach a new ink sac. No resistance whatsoever. In the past, removing a section with a friction secured system, a hairdryer to warm the section and barrel from distance and use of plastic covered spark plug terminal pliers has been the method chosen. Gentle back and forth micro small twists to loosen whilst accompanied with whispered prayers. You can’t finish off a prayer with the F word if the pen cracks! So it also stops expletives too. It may have been in there for a fair few decades. Not the expletive! The section. So difficulty can be experienced. But, as said, this Burnham is a screw system. If it was stuck fast? Then the same gentle, at distance, warm heat and twist process still applies.

There actually was no ink sac attached. Just a caked on shellac and hardened perished rubber debris on the section mouth/nipple. A size #14 sac needed to be fitted. A quick repair to get it working. A gentle scraping off of said shellac and perished rubber with my lovely little sharp fruit knife. I have a couple of other little blades of various thickness. One thinner and more flexible than the other two. All sharp enough to cope with removing old battened down debris. Shellac though has a lovely way of giving up easily at times with chunks coming off nicely. A jewellers magnifying loupe helps see missed debris too. A fine micro mesh polish to the mouth/nipple gets it smoother still.

However. The inside of the Burnham barrel was caked with the old hardened and perished sac and took quite a bit of careful removal. Stuck within the lever system. A micro sonic bath helped remove it alongside old inherent ink too. I also used a mini bottle brush alongside some cotton buds entering the process. It looked pretty clean inside afterwards. Thing is though, the pen smelt very off putting. I wondered if it was made of casein. You shouldn’t immerse casein into water. It hasn’t bloated though. So maybe not casein. But….It had an odd manure smell! I need to get a faerie to sprinkle some aromatherapy wand magic over it.

This was a simple take apart, scrape off the debris from the section with the nib and get the sac stuck on with shellac.

Why only repair the ink sac need and not attempt to actually renovate that crack in the barrel? Well. Firstly renovation is a skill on another level and one I don’t possess. Watched many YouTube videos in the past where all sorts of techniques, filler materials and equipment is used. Also, pens are made from various materials too and require different interventions. Pen finishes and patterns also affect good results. A shiny singular coloured pen may show a repair result, to a hole or crack, to stick out like a spare thumb. As does location of damage. A crack within a screw thread for example. Complicated.

Repair is a skill I am still learning. So. Because the pen has a crack in the barrel, no finial/jewel to the top of cap and no clip. It would be nice to see how it goes. Trying to find a spare clip and cap finial could be difficult. There could be a future possibility of finding a cheap whole pen in need for repair and use it for the clip/finial spares. The barrel cracked lengthwise I have seen with repair undertaken (on a YouTube video) with superglue. Polished down with micro mesh afterwards. So may give it a go if said clip/finial are first to find their way to our letterbox.

Ink sac debris in the copper water colour palette. Spark plug terminal pliers, small tweezers, magnifying loupe, sharp knife for debris shellac/hard perished rubber removal. You tend to find little helpers as you go along.

Please tap on the individual photos to enlarge.

What was satisfying was that the ink filling lever, once freed up, has a wonderful spring action. Snaps into place smoothly and sits securely. You know? It is just nice to spend even a 15 minute intervention just to witness the pen working again. It’s been around 70 years! 3 years older than myself. I’d like to think that I could receive some small TLC intervention in 3 years time if I needed it to get me going again. Some kindly soul that brought new life into my aching bones with simple, magical therapy.

Why do this simple initial repair? And write about it? There may be others that read this who are as naive as myself in pen transformation. Transformation can be on a number of levels. Shiny and bright. Or simply bumbling along but still effective in contribution. Like my past patients ready for discharge from our care. Going to face the world either fighting fit and back to top abilities. Or changed somewhat, but always with more ability to contribute again to life’s offerings. Simply by dipping the nib into a bottle of Pelikan Violet ink to see how it performed was lovely. It showed itself to have promise. And a contribution value.

It is always a joy to find a smooth writing experience. Also, it had a very cute continuous lettering line presentation. No skipping and leaving empty spaces. With other nibs that I’ve used in the past that deliver consistent word flow in similar fashion, it’s extra nice to have another smooth uncomplicated choice experience. The opportunity to pick up a pen and get on with writing with confidence is sublime.

The Burnham? To be or not to be? That is the question. To change from an ugly duckling and into a fine swan. I should imagine that this pen will probably get further attention down the line. I do like it a lot. Oh! And the odour has flown away to faerie land too. The faerie who performed the task told me that they bottle and use the odour as a weapon against the imps. Who’d of guessed!

Please tap on the individual photos below to enlarge.

11 thoughts on “The Burnham B48. To be or not to be?”

    1. My gosh Danny! Praise indeed. Thanks. It feels grand in the hand. Never owned a Burnham before. And usually broad nibs feel cumbersome. But love this one. Went out into the local town yesterday to meet a friend and went around the coffee and charity shops. One of the lady’s who is the manageress of one of them said she’ll keep an eye open for some pens as they come in quite often. I’ve bought a few Parker’s, a Sheaffer, Platignum from there. She had a load of ballpoint Parkers and asked if I was interested. I politely said no! You interested? 😆 All the best and thanks for this thumbs up. Much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am not familar with the manufacturer, it is attractive. Ball points aren’t of interest but I do have a Waterman Hemisphere ball point I use on occasion. All the best.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. always on the lookout for something interesting. I did see a box of interchangeable nibs (choose what you want) was available. Might compliment to the Esterbrook and Osmiroid interchangeable nibs

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Sounds like a plan. The Esterbrook I am not used to. Never owned one. But those Osmiroid options can be nice finds. A Smoothline USA gold nib I have can go in an Esterbrook model. I need to look which ones. Good luck hunting.


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