Caring for your Fountain Pen


The fountain pen is a classic writing instrument admired by collectors and enthusiasts. In the past 15 years, the fountain pen has been growing in popularity at an astonishing rate. Although the ballpoint pen is convenient, it does not give the writer the very personal feeling and control that a fountain pen gives. The fountain pen offers you an experience like no other writing instrument.

How a Fountain Pen Works

Fountain Pens have a nib that contains a reservoir of water-based liquid ink. Two types of ink reservoirs are available: disposable ink cartridges and refillable pumps. The ink is drawn from the reservoir through a feed to the nib. The ink is then dispensed by a thin slit. When the nib touches the paper, the ink is drawn to the paper by capillary action. In capillary action, molecules of liquid adhere to one another pulling each other along. When ink slides onto the paper, the molecular bond between the ink particles pull more ink behind keeping the flow smooth and continuous. The flexible nib is ideal for fancy writing, although it requires skill and care.

How to Hold a Fountain Pen and “Breaking In” the Nib

Writing with a fountain pen is a little different from the ballpoint experience. To begin, you should “customize” your pen’s nib. Before you put ink in the pen, hold the pen as you normally would and “write on” a brown paper bag. The purpose is to “wear” the end of the nib to conform to the angle that you normally hold your pen. You should do this for several minutes, until the “feel” is smooth and comfortable. Your fountain pen will adjust to your style of writing, so do not share your pen with others, especially someone opposite handed from you.

First Use with Cartridge

Before using, the pen must be primed with ink. Insert the ink cartridge “nipple” end onto the nib assembly and push on firmly. Scribble with the pen nib assembly to start the ink flowing. You may have to GENTLY squeeze the sides of the ink cartridge to start it flowing to the nib. Continue to “scribble”, holding the pen at the same angle you would use to write with it. The ink will start to flow, after a minute or so, don’t be impatient. When the written lines fill completely, you are ready to use your pen. At this point, you can screw the nib section (with the refill in place) back into the pen body. Your pen is ready for use when you want it.

First Use with Converter Pump

With the nib section removed from the pen, insert the open end of the pump firmly onto the nipple in the top end of the nib section of the pen. Be sure the seal is properly installed onto the nib section to prevent leaks. Turn the ribbed piston handle gently until the piston is at the bottom toward the nib. Immerse the nib (but not the body) entirely into your ink bottle and turn the piston handle clockwise to draw the ink up into the pump. Clean the nib and bottom of the feed. The pen is now primed and ready to write.

Choosing Paper

Use high quality, non-coated paper. Low quality paper tends to collect on the tip of the nib when writing causing the ink to bleed. When possible, choose quality paper with a high cotton content to get the most out of your fountain pen.

Choosing Ink

Never use India ink or similar inks in a fountain pen. These inks have a very high solids content and will clog a fountain pen; always use inks made for fountain pens.

Storing your Fountain Pen

Always store your pen with the nib in an upright position. This allows the ink to drain from the nib when not in use.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Non-Use for a few Days – If you don’t write with your pen for a few days the ink may dry at the nib tip. The symptom is that the pen will not write or skip. To remedy this, run a small warm stream of water over the tip of the nib for a second or two; the pen will now write.

Non-Use for a few Months – If you do not write with your pen for a few months, you may have to use a stronger stream of water for a longer period. It is also possible that you may have to remove the ink container and flush the ink out of the nib entirely and re-prime the pen.

Fountain Pen “Glops” Ink

Cartridge – This means the ink holder has lost vacuum. This can occur when the ink supply is very low. Thus, you need to change the cartridge before it’s completely empty.

Converter Pump – This means that the pump is bad and needs to be replaced. Occasionally a small hair or paper fiber can get caught in the nib slit. Inspect the nib with a magnifying glass and remove the hair or fiber with tweezers.

Monthly Cleaning – Most fountain pens need to be cleaned about once a month. The cleaning can be simply flushing some tap water over the tip and thru the cartridge housing. Try to keep the water off the body of the pen. It may be necessary to let the nib soak for several hours if severely clogged. Blow out excess water before installing the ink cartridge. Dry the nib and feeder with a soft, lint-free cloth. Do not use hot water or solvents as this may damage the nib and/or the finish.

Changing Ink Colors or Brands – It is especially important to clean the pen if you change ink colors or ink brands. Some inks can react with each other and create a sludge which will plug the pen.

Long-Term Storage –
If you plan to put your fountain pen away for an extended time, it is recommended to remove the cartridge and clean the tip.