Stapler of the Week: 1938 Ace Pilot Model 404

IMG_7031Found at a Goodwill for $2 a few weeks ago, the Ace Pilot is a simple-looking, but feature-rich stapler.  It has a unique anvil with a flip-up staple splayer rather than a two-position anvil that clicks into the two positions. It also features a ratcheted striker mechanism unique to these chrome Ace staplers, that makes it pretty much impossible to double-feed or jam the stapler. The tension spring is actually a spring steel band that retracts into the striker head like a tape measure, and thus can never be lost.  There’s no provision that allows it to be opened up and used as a tacker, though, oddly.

The last patent number stamped into the bottom (2112941) is claimed by the internet to date this specimen to 1938, but the exact same design is still produced and sold today by Ace.

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Updated: October 25, 2018 — 10:27 pm


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  1. Very nice find. It looks nearly new. I’ve always liked those although I never owned one. They look very straight-forward and ready to work without frills and only dependability for years past the life of any PC or electronic gadget (electric staplers included).

  2. I’m loving the new Stapler of the Week feature. As you know, I have a stapler fetish, myself (it’s not a collection). Here on my office desk I have an Ace trio of the Pilot, 102, and Scout. I also have the sexy, sexy Aceliner and 333, but displayed separately, so as not to diminish the older Aces’ all-silver gleam.

    1. Yep, I’ve been on the hunt for a Swingline 333 since seeing one on your Stapler Fetish page. (:

      The Ace’s are my favorite, and the ones I keep on my desk(s). Finally picked up an Aceliner last week, just need a 102 to complete the lineup of classic Ace fasteners. For some reason I see the little “Cadet” models everywhere. Must have been a popular one.

    2. Agreed. An amazing find, worthy of any heightened position on my desk. The Ace 404 is reliable, stylish, and a beast between the sheets (of my paper).

    3. This actually does come apart to be used as a tacker

  3. That’s a nice one. You do have outstanding serendipity at your thrifts.

  4. I have one like this–same model number and serial numbers as in your photos–except that the word “ACE” isn’t engraved on the front of the bottom piece. I’ve had it for 40 years (given to me, used, by a relative) and am a bit heartbroken that it seems to be broken. The top circular part is jammed. Any suggestions on how to fix it myself?

    1. Hmmn, most staplers aren’t really meant to be disassembled. Quite a lot of the bits you need to remove to get at the works are permanently riveted together.

      The Ace 404 is a little different in that it has one screw, phillips head, that sits behind the striker and if removed, looks like it might allow access to the ratchet system. I suspect that area is dirty or gummy in yours. If you can get in there, lighter fluid or other non-residue-leaving solvents might do the trick for flushing the dirt/gumminess out.

      good luck! (:

    2. I had the same issue. I accidentally put in the wrong sized staples and they were stuck deep inside the stapler head. They would not slide out. So, I had the idea I would slide them into the stapler even further and then I would hit the round top and try to break them apart or force them out. Of course, the round circular top part that you hit with your hand just jammed. What I ended up doing was getting a rubber mallet so I could strike the top even harder to break the jammed staplers. That did the trick! I had to break about 10 staples one at a time. I hit the top part with the mallet it would break one staple and then I’d slide another staple in further along the track, hit the top of the handle with the rubber mallet and break that staple and then continue. After about 10 staples, all the “wrong” sized staples were out and I was able to reload the stapler with the correct ones and now it works perfect again.

      1. hello

        My boss has a 1938 Ace Pilot Model 404 and he’s looking for staples for it. Would any of you guys be able to tell me what kind to use? Maybe an item number or size and type?

  5. I have had a 404 for 30 years, my boss back then, gave it to me to use and it has followed me. Did not realize it was how old was. Works great.

  6. I just picked one of these up for fifty cents. The arm and striker assembly can be removed from the base to be used as a tacker, although it would be a two handed process.

  7. magkano po ang isang piraso? at kung bibili po ako pwdi po bang limang piraso muna gusto kulang pong subokan muna?

  8. where can i buy this product

    1. The container store carries these. :)

  9. I have pilot 404 model In 7 grade, I am 70 ,so you see I had this long time. thanks making an excellent stapler.

  10. I wish i will have this one ace pilot staple im looking for this one.
    Please where can i get this one.thanks

    1. I found this at antique store yesterday. I was so happy and excited own this. It was $18 without tax.
      This is works like magic. Can not compare with modern staplers.
      You might look for it at antique store near you.
      Good luck.

  11. Otitis a Pilot, the staple bed and head remove easily from the base, without tools. You just haven’t figured out how to do it yet.

  12. I also have an Ace 404 stapler with all the same patent numbers and markings but also like mentioned in an above comment it does not have Ace igraved in the front. I got it at an estate auction with what must have
    ben an entire stapler collection for 16 dolllars. I have alot of odd/cool looking ones and they are all in great working order and look really good. I just started looking at the box with the staplers and had to have them, (I guess I was hooked)! Lol! Any ideas on why some dont have the Ace ingraving? I looked on their website and the new ones they sell all have the egraved Ace.

  13. Just so you know, if you want to use it as a tacker, the stapler mechanism detaches from the base.

    I actually came here looking for an answer for myself. My ace 404 doesn’t hold itself up, so if you want to put papers in it, you have to lift it up.
    I’m pretty sure I figured out the answer, and I think yours probably had the same problem.
    On the base, towards the back, I noticed yours has a nut and bolt, mine has a rivet. I figured for yours, someone took yours apart there, and had to connect it back together. I was wondering why, so while looking, I noticed the metal that rests on the metal piece (sorry hard to describe this since I don’t know any official part names) is bent up from being used a lot probably. I figured yours was taken apart to straighten this out.

  14. Found a 402V (Teak Wood base)in the dump give and take. Quite weathered. Gave it a bath in WD-40. let it set for a week. Blew it out with compressed air, wiped it down and replaced staples with new ones. My little pride and joy for stapling.

  15. Sounds like a reasonable request J.C. Thanks for taking the time and trouble to post all of this information on an obscure topic.


  16. Randall Harold Anderson

    I had quite the scare today, MY 404 started cutting staples. NOW understand I have had this for the full 42 years of my working career, so this was a tragic situation.
    I am somewhat handy, so i removed the screw and low and behold, it did come apart and i was able to correct the cutting issue and did in fact get it back together, Think of that, a repairable device, not many around anymore.

  17. I have this stapler and love it! I inherited from my Mom. I’m having an issue where the top arm doesn’t spring back after stapling. I think it may have something to do with the spring mechanism on the bottom? I’d love to fix it but am not sure how…If I take the top arm off (the part that holds the staples), the bottom pivoting piece seems very tight. Any ideas?

  18. Re: Opening up to use as a tacker. If you pull the entire top are assembly off and hold it by the button, it makes a pretty darn good tacker.

  19. I have a Pilot with the same 6 patent numbers on the bottom. Mine also has NO engraving of ACE on the front. The one difference though is mine has a model number of 402.

    Any information on the manufacturing date or age of this model?


  20. Thankfully this #402 Pilot never made it to the “White Farm” in NH where it may have ended up back in the 1970’s. I recognized it immediately while employed just how perfectly it performed unlike the newer Swingline and other new brands that were replacing the “old stuff “. I promised myself that it would not be “scrapped”. It continues to perform perfectly to this day. Made in USA , made to last !

  21. Anyone know a place to have one repaired.

  22. My first “old” office stapler was a Pilot 404, I kept it when they replaced everyone’s stapler with modern Swingline desk staplers in the 1080s. Now here’s a surprise for you.
    Actually- the 404 Pilot can be pulled from the U shaped bracket on the base and used as a tacker. It is the 402 Pilot which looks almost exactly like the 404 that is bolted through its mount to the base and cannot be used as a tacker. Check it out. The round lug in the back of the 404 mount is a pivot. Pull the stapler up and it will rotate on this pin and detach from the base. Enjoy.

    1. Nice! Thanks for the tip (:

    2. I just tried it with mine – that’s neat how it just pops out, yet stays so secure otherwise. A very well designed machine!

  23. I bought one of these at a friend’s yard sale 15 years ago and I have never looked back. This stapler is GREAT! It is heavy so it stays put. And best of all the staples do not jam. At the time my friend wanted $2.00 for it and I gave her $5.00. One of the best purchases I have ever made. I am now hoping to buy another one and throw our the crappy Swingline that I have on my desk. At auction today with the shipping the cost is around $25.00. 1-2018

  24. Hello from the UK! I have had my beloved ACE 102 for over 50 years.
    It jammed the other day, and although I managed to removed the staple with pliers, it was still jammed. I thought I could see another staple, deep inside the mechanism, but only managed to pull out a tiny spring. Bad decision. Has anyone got any tips on how I can disassemble, reapply the spring and get this beauty working again. I know it sounds sad, but I love this stapler! My late father acquired it in the mid 60s and I’m heartbroken that it no longer works. Help would be much appreciated, VG, London

    1. urgh, if you pulled out a spring, it’s prolly toast. Were I you, I’d find another one and scuff it up to look like the original. I dunno if they’re fixable once you yank out springs.. /:

  25. I just pulled out my old stapler to attach someone’s tax forms together and the person commented what an old stapler I had. So to my surprise I looked up the first patent number which is 2033018 and it said it was a 1930’s ace. I then looked up the last patent number of the six that are on the stapler and it being 2112941 and said it was a 1938 pilot. I then came across your story which really spurred my interest and dangnabit if your picture is the identical stapler I possess and all six numbers correspond exactly with the six in the picture of your stapler. my problem is I don’t remember how I acquired the darn thing.

    1. Marco Antonio Muñoz ibarra

      Yo tengo la pilot modelo.402 ace fastener made in usa chicago mil patente
      Realmente no se su valor pero e visto que es muy solicitado este modelo
      Vivo en Tijuana BC México mi.Núm.6646320554

  26. I just carefully checked my stapler and it says model 402 above where then staples enter under the head which says pilot on it.

  27. Guess who just found one of these yesterday for his own collection?

    I quite like the feel of it, as well as the look. I also get a very odd satisfaction out of the staple loading system, and how the remaining inventory is always visible, an ever present reminder of when you should reload!

    Very nice. Wonder when mine is from, as it’s identical to yours, but as you say, Ace STILL makes these, so who knows for sure.

  28. Mine is a 402 and has ACE engraved into the lower angled front surface. It has the same patent numbers as the other pictures I have seen. I inherited this one from the former owner of my last house almost 20 years ago. I was very happy to have it, as my mother had one also, for as long as I could remember from childhood. It still works beautifully!

  29. Just need to find the rare staple that will fit the one I was just gifted. I feel like I own a treasure that I cannot use. =(

  30. Does anyone have any information on the wooden base 402v no patent numbers on it. I’d love to know when it was manufactured. It is still used on a regular basis and uses standard staples.

  31. I have a Pilot Model No. 402 with “Bank of America” engraved in the front base where others often say “ACE.” Patent No’s on it are: 2033018, 2056480, 2066157, 2103551, 2107169, 2112941. Engraving on the push knob is typical of the ACE Pilot staplers saying : “ACE Fastener Corp. Made in USA PILOT Chicago, ILL.” It still works well. I bought it because I’m a Bank of America retiree and a collector of office equipment.

  32. I have the exact same stapler with the exact same patent marking’s I got it at a yard sale and have been using it for years.

  33. Can be used as a tacker by removing top arm from base easy to do

  34. Just found a Pilot 402 at house we are remodeling. Spring is broken. Anyone know where to find spring

  35. Any idea whats the difference between pilot 404D and regular 404?

  36. I have the identical stapler. The base coating is flaking a bit; the stapler works great.

  37. Looking for staples for my 404 – Please help! I love love it!

    1. it takes standard staples, you can get them anywhere.

  38. I want by a starples PILOT model 404. Who can sold one to me. I live in Sao Paulo / Brasil

  39. My dad had an Ace Pilot stapler. He probably bought it in 1952. (We lived in Chicago.)

    In 1967, the retension spring broke. I loved the stapler because you could staple maybe 50 sheets of paper, and it never jammed nor put a staple in crooked. At a mere 20 years old, I did not know the ways of the world, so I naively wrote Ace and asked them how much a new retention spring mechanism was. Of course, I expressed my admiration for the stapler in the letter.

    Two weeks later, a new stapler arrived, sans invoice. Years later, I bought my own Pilot.

    What I didn’t even think of until now is why the Pilot failed. My dad had a day camp, and the stapler was abused by both counselors and campers.

    The dominant stapler during this entire period was Swingline, which could staple papers to a bulletin board. I hated the Swingline, though, because if you looked at it crooked, it jammed, and any more than 10 sheets was a guaranteed jam.

    In the interval, between then and now, e-documents and e-bulletin boards have all but obsoleted both staplers.

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