In Search of the Perfect Ebonite

by Nicholas C January 12, 2019 0 Comments

Model-A German Ebonite Fountain Pen, Velvet

Ebonite has been used in the manufacture of fine pens since the early 20th century. The process to produce vulcanized rubber ebonite was invented by Charles Goodyear's brother, Nelson Goodyear, in 1851. To this day, a relatively small number of craftspeople use ebonite to produce high-end fountain pens, tobacco pipes, woodwind mouthpieces, and handles for a variety of luxury accessories. 

Today I can announce that Birmingham Pen Co. has officially thrown it's hat in the ring as a new ebonite pen manufacturer. While the fundamentals of turning ebonite are similar to other materials,  a variety of additional tooling and finishing factors exist that must be adjusted with an extraordinary attention to detail in order to produce an excellent outcome. My brother Josh is sourcing our stock from the world's finest ebonite manufacturers in Germany and Japan, both family owned and operated companies. Dad has spent an incredible amount of time learning every detail of the rod stock machining properties through a long series of test runs. Weeks of elbow grease and determination have produced a fountain pen ready for the Birmingham Pen Co. stamp of approval. 

In part of the large series of material tests, Dad discovered a machining process that produced a beautiful velvet matte like finish in the German ebonite. This particular ebonite stock is infused with carbon particles prior to extrusion to create a uniquely rich black color. The result of Dad's machining process on the carbon infused ebonite is a magnificent finish that we've never seen before in a fountain pen. We decided to name this ebonite finish "velvet" for it's matte aesthetic with subtle reflective characteristics. 

View Model-A Velvet German Ebonite Fountain Pen

We have an incredible amount of respect for the labor and craftsmanship that goes into the production of raw materials before they reach our hands. Here's a little more insight into the efforts undertaken to produce each ebonite rod. 

Images used with permission, thank you Meike & Adriaan.

 Ebonite Rubber Tree
Tapped caoutchouc trees in Sri Lanka slowly release a milky latex colloid carefully collected into bowls. 
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Ebonite Latex Drying
The material is sheeted, washed, then dried. 
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Ebonite Caoutchouc Sheet
Only the highest quality caoutchouc is selected for ebonite production. 
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Ebonite Vulcanization Sheets
The material is combined with a linseed oil and sulphur formula, then prepared on racks for vulcanization. 
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Ebonite Vulcanization Chamber
The material bakes in an autoclave pressure chamber for 24 hours.
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Vulcanized Ebonite Sheets
The vulcanization results in rigid, shiny sheets. 
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Ebonite Dust
The sheets are ground into ebonite powder. 
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Ebonite Manufacturing
The powder is mixed again with caoutchouc and linseed oil to produce a rubber receptive to extrusion. 
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Ebonite Rubber Extrusion
Soft, newly extruded rubber rods are inserted into iron tubes for a second round of vulcanization for 1-3 days. 
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Fountain Pen Ebonite
Fresh ebonite rods are ready for the labor of turning, finishing, and polishing into something beautiful! 
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See the Velvet German Ebonite Model-A





Nicholas C
Nicholas C

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