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Sheaffer Vacuum Filling System
by Jim Mamoulides 4/22/03

Sheaffer Adds A New Filler To Its Line

Sheaffer introduced the plunger fill Vacuum Filling system in 1934, initially on second brands including the "Vacuum-Fil" pen and the WASP line. This sacless filling system used a long syringe-like plunger rod tightly fitted into a cylindrical ink chamber that on the downstroke creates a vacuum inside the ink chamber that draws ink into the pen through the feed. Sheaffer adapted this filling system to the Balance line in 1935 and advertised this system side by side with the proven lever filler. This type of filler was not unique, with Conklin, Wahl Eversharp and numerous second tier manufacturers using similar plunger systems in their pens.

Sheaffer 1935 Advertisement Showing Vacuum Filler And Lever Filler Side By Side

When Sheaffer announced the Triumph line in 1942, the Vacuum Filler and the lever filling systems continued, and remained as choices until 1949 when the Touchdown filler was introduced and replaced the Vacuum Filling system.

How It Works

The Vacuum Filler is actually counterintuitive in its operation. Many people are familiar with how a syringe works. Pull out the plunger and the liquid is drawn into the chamber, push the plunger in and the liquid comes out. Simple enough. The problem is in what to do about the plunger sticking out of the end of the barrel while using the pen. It makes putting the pen in the pocket a bit cumbersome as well.

When the plunger in the Vacuum Fill pen is pushed back into the barrel, this action pushes the air inside the ink chamber out, creating a vacuum that rapidly draws ink through the feed into the ink chamber in the barrel. The vacuum is released to do this job at the end of the downstroke when the rubber plunger piston strikes a deflector at the end of the section, giving a distinct snap feeling and creating a gap for the ink to rush into. A properly working Vacuum Filler will have very smooth and low effort plunger action and will fill nearly full in a single stroke.

Getting Ready To Fill A Black c1939 Sheaffer Oversize Balance Vacuum Fill

Vacuum Fillers are very simple to use, and a restored pen will hold a huge amount of ink. Early models typically have "full length visibility" barrels, allowing for a quick assessment of the ink level in the pen. Shortly after the introduction of the Triumph line in 1942, Sheaffer stopped making windowed barrel pens, favoring Visulated sections.

How To Fill Your Vacuum Fill Pen

A properly serviced Vacuum Filler pen is a quick and easy filler. The pen needs the entire feed immersed in the ink in order to effectively use the vacuum to draw only ink into the pen. If not completely in the ink, air will rush in with the ink and the pen will not completely fill. Good working Vacuum Fillers can fill better than 80% full.

Regardless of the illustration in the instructions and Sheaffer's advertisements, I strongly recommend using two hands to downstroke the plunger. You really don't want a lap full of ink if you manage to turn the bottle over because the plunger sticks a little.

Getting Ready To Fill A Red Stripe c1945 Sheaffer Valiant Vacuum Fill

Vacuum Fillers flush very thoroughly, but care is needed to avoid damaging the pen and its seals. In a filled pen the plunger has to move through the liquid to extend. The liquid has to go somewhere, and forcing it can create pressure that will push it through the base of the filler unit and cause leaking out of the barrel end of the pen.

Use light pressure, slow pulling, and a slight rocking (up and down) motion, to pull the plunger up through the filled pen. Then gently push the plunger down, again in short back and forth strokes until all the liquid us pushed out.

Don't rapidly pull the plunger up and down.

Light pressure, slow pulling, and a slight rocking motion will allow the plunger to correctly release liquid through the section which will keep the pen operating well and without barrel end leaks.

Sheaffer Triumph Vacuum Pen Filling Instructions 1943 - Sized for Printing

Vacuum Fillers are great pens for those who want large capacity and properly restored pens are very efficient and do not deserve their finicky reputation. Restoration is a professional level job and is substantially more than most other repairs.

Comments on this article may be sent to the author, Jim Mamoulides

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