How a retractable ballpoint pen works


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Never a miscommunication.


You can’t explain that.


Keep you paws off my Parker!


My favorite classroom distraction… Field stripping a pen to create a spring gun that shot out one of the plastic pieces.

Don’t have any good old ball point pens in my office – tried it with a Bic click-stick, but no luck.


We’d take a large needle and wrap the dull end with tape. Then you can make it like one of those OTF knives.

Now, why was I in so much trouble as a kid?


I used to drive my mother crazy disassembling pens. Until I figured out the trick of how they worked, I had some trouble getting them working properly again.


This was endless fun. I had a sizable collection of black retractable ballpoints that said U.S. Department of State on them (courtesy of my aunt), and once I learned the trick of the pen-gun, I converted dozens of them over the years. Maybe hundreds. You could still write with them, too, just couldn’t retract them.


Same mechanism, minus the rotation, in those push-on, push-off power switches.



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