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Fountain pens float effortlessly over the paper when everything is working as it should. That is one of the reasons why people who prefer fountain pens really like them. But they can be difficult when something is not as it should be. They can be scratchy. Ink flows poorly or not at all. And, they may put out too much ink, even in the form of a sudden blob of ink that runs over a document and onto clothing. These problems are not inherent to all fountain pens, but occur in pens needing a little tender care to keep them in sound working condition. Fortunately, all of this is much easier than a person would think.

The pen shown is from a Classic American kit sold by Woodcraft.  The pen is reminiscent of a Parker Duofold from the late 1920's and early 1930's.  The color pattern is very similar to one used on Duofold pens. 


Step 1: Making it flow if dried out

A couple of Instructables advise soaking the nib and feeder (the section) in cool water for a day or so to remove old dried ink from the ink flow path or capillary system. Actually, a good flushing of the capillary system like this is advised every month. Another good practice is to add a little moisture to ink held in the nib and feeder that may be partially evaporated after a few days of non-use. Get a drop of water on your fingertip and touch it to the slit between the nib's tines.  If the pen has been sitting unused for more than a few days, add two or three drops of water,  Let it soak in. If you do not write with the pen immediately, the water can mix with the ink under the nib more thoroughly. Do this once a week and as necessary.

In more severe cases, as when ink has been left in a pen during several weeks of non-use, cup your hand under a faucet and fill it with water. Quickly dip the whole section into the water in your hand and remove it. Cap the pen and carry it in your pocket for an hour or so before using. If the writing is light in color, touch a facial tissue to the nib and feeder a few times to remove excess water or watery ink.

Fountain pens like to be used regularly.  If you are not going to use a pen for a while, empty the ink from it and flush the pen with water until no discoloration from ink appears.

Do not mix inks from different manufacturers.  They sometimes react with each other and form chunky, gelatinous material that clogs the ink passageways.   Use fresh ink that has been tightly capped or fresh cartridges.  Purists fill the air space in an ink bottle with an inert gas like nitrogen before putting the cap onto the bottle.  They do this to keep the ink from oxidizing.
<p>Thanks! The water worked like magic!</p>
I am glad. Thank you for the report.
<p>Hi there,</p><p>I have a Parker Sonnet fountain pen with a broadish nib. My issue is that the ink comes out too fast when I begin writing so that you cannot tell that is has thick/thin lines and very dark due to the amount of ink coming out. After a couple of minutes of writing the ink flows normally.</p><p>I do not write with it every day, but seem to go through cartidges more often than I think I should. I keep the pen nib-up in my bag or laying flat in my keyboard at work. I flush it all out every so often - the nib can be unscrewed.</p><p>I am a bit frustrated at seening very dark scripet eventually flowing into a normal style. And if I pause for a moment, the ink flows faster again.</p><p>Any ideas?</p><p>Thanks a lot,</p><p>Scott.</p>
Scott,<br><br>It sounds like a poor fit between the nib and the feed. See the text and photos of the Instructsble around step 7 on how you can use very hot water to soften and reset the feed in relation to the nib. Flushing the pen regularly as you do is a good idea.
<p>My vintage Pelikan 400NN stops writing after a while and I have to prime the feed every time it happens. Otherwise it is juicy and smooth. When I uncap it, it writes right away, then stops after a while, which is not always at the timing. I wonder if there is some permanent solution to this. </p>
First, I would flush the pen thoroughly in water at room temperature. It could soak. There may be ink dried in the passageways. Also check the nib to feed fit. Renew the fit as described in the Instructsble. Most pen problems come from a poor nib to feed fit.
My Parker victor pen won't open at all <br>What shall I do???
You probably mean Parker Vector pen. I assume you mean you cannot unscrew the front (section) from the barrel behind it. Someone probably over tightened it. Get some soft rubber pieces like are used to open stubborn jars. Grasp the two parts as firmly as possible and unscrew. You could use a pliers or two with the soft rubber, but the teeth may press through the rubber to leave scratch marks. The Vector I have can and does crack on the end of the plastic parts. Unless yours is a fancier Vector, those are not expensive and can be replaced, unless there is sentimental value.
<p>I have a somewhat similar problem with my Montblanc 146. Somehow the cap has gotten itself on too tight and I cannot get it to unscrew. I have gone as fard as loosening the top cap and removing the clip to try to get a better grip on the cap without damaging the clip, but it still won't budge. Any suggestions?</p>
<p>Do you know how it got to be too tight? Did it leak and ink dried in the threads, or did someone screw it on too tightly? If it were a nut and a bolt, you would heat the nut to make it expand on the bold and break free. You may be able to use hot water on the cap to do the same. If dried in in the threads is the problem, soaking the thread area in water may dissolve the dried ink. </p><p>There is something called a fiberboard wrench. They are used with camera lens parts. They are like a band that fits snugly around the body of the lens section. When the handle is squeezed together the grip is hefty without applying too much pressure in any one place. You might be able to improvise such a wrench custom fitted to your pen and also another for the cap. </p>
<p>Thanks. I've been soaking the entire pen in water since yesterday. However, the pen has never leaked. I usually wear it clipped along my shirt between the buttons and doing that does sometimes cause the cap to loosen. I may have accidentally overtightened it. Your idea on the wrench is a good idea. I have two of a similar iten in the garage for large items like oil filters. I may see if they will tighten down smaller to fit on the pen.</p>
<p>I found the wrenches I mentioned, but they have a different name. </p><p>http://stores.ebay.com/Micro-Tools/_i.html?_nkw=flexiclamp&amp;submit=Search&amp;_sid=3838713</p>
<p>I just received a Sailor Four Season (Spring) from a friend and I love it so much. However, I am unhappy since discolouring / oxidisation surprisingly occurred on the cap gold plated ring. Anyone have any idea? I believe my friend bought it as new but I am not sure why it happens, and I wiped it with silver polishing cloth and it only gets slightly better. Now I emptied all the ink and properly stored it in it's original box. Really want to keep it, but not happy as I can't use it often.</p>
I am not much help. Somewhere I read that silver polish works by removing a little of the metal to get down to fresh metal. That could work against what you want if the gold color plating is already thin.
<p>Thanks for all these great information though, Phil. Appreciated. I will keep all my pens in good shapes. I really love them all.</p>
<p>Hi, Phil. I have a fairly new pen from a company called Ink. It has a German made iridium nib and uses cartridges. My problem is that the ink doesn't flow consistently. Little pieces of letters aren't there and it regularly just stops working altogether and can take a line or three of writing to get it going again. I have cleaned it every time I have replaced the cartridge and it has been in constant use since I purchased it about 9 weeks ago.</p>
Your pen is skipping. It is one of the aggravating things that sometimes happens with a fountain pen. It may be the tines of the nib are too tightly positioned against one another. Sometimes a nib is purposely springy. The idea is that changes in pressure during writing makes your lines wider and narrower for more expression. I have a pen like that, but I do not write that way. I have worked at spreading them gently, not always with full success. <br><br>The other possibility is incorrect fit between the nib and the feed under it. I discussed both in the text of the Instructable. Poor nib to feed fit is reputed to cause 95% of all fountain pen problems.
<p>Thankyou Phil. Both problems were present, the tines were very tight and there was no way I could get a piece of paper between the feed and the nib. I'm so glad I found you instructable.</p>
<p>I hope &quot;were present&quot; means both problems are cured now. Thank you for looking.</p>
<p>Hello Phil. I have a fairly new Lamy Studio fountain pen. When I write, say three full pages or more the pen acts as if the ink converter is empty. Invariably when I open the pen I always find that the converter is still half full. In order to get the ink flowing again I always need to do one of two things. One, push a little ink using the converter's piston/plunger until I see a drop of ink at the nib, or, two, I need to refill the converter completely full. I read your post using the copy paper to test the fit. I can't even begin to get the copy paper between the nib and feed. Could that be my problem? I am using Lamy ink and I diligently cleaned the pen when I first got it (about a month ago). Thank you for your feed back. </p>
If there were a problem with the slot in your nib, you would not be able to write two or three pages. Is there an airlock (a bubble) between the ink in the converter and the back of the feed where the converter attaches? You could try a cartridge and see if that works any better. Some cartridges contain a small plastic BB that breaks down surface tension by moving around when you tip the pen this way and that way, and keeps the ink flowing inside the cartridge. I have experimented with cutting a small piece from a relatively thin copper wire, like a BB, and inserted it into a cartridge. You could try that with your converter.
<p>That makes a lot of sense Phil. I am going to try a cartridge as soon as this converter is empty, or acts as if it's empty anyways. That should tell me with certainty. Thanks so much for your time and input.</p>
<p>hi Phil. I have an old Montblanc fountain pen. I'm using Montblanc ink. My problem with it is the ink always comes out of the pen even when not in use. Whenever I use the pen I need a tissue to wipe it dry. I always put the pen upside (cap is up) but still the ink comes out. Please help.</p>
I suspect the feed on your pen no longer fits the nib properly. As I mentioned in the Instructable (quoting someone else), that is the cause of 95% of all fountain pen problems. See the part of my Instructable on restoring the proper fit between the nib and the feed.
<p>Hi Phil, I recently purchased a waterman hemisphere from a shop. It writes 4 to 5 lines in the starting very nicely but then after, the ink flow becomes sporadic. The ink keeps getting lighter and lighter and after a certain time it becomes irritating. Please help me.</p>
You can try flushing the pen with water. Anything more than that may void your warranty, which means you may want to pursue warranty service or at least speak to the seller to see if he can offer any assistance. If the warranty is of no concern to you and you are willing to forfeit it, you can work your way through the procedures I explained in the Instructable. It could be oils and debris may remain in the ink passageways and the pen will work properly after a period of use. Or, it may be that the fit between the nib and the feed needs to be adjusted. It may be the tines are too close together.
<p>Hi Phil,</p><p>I am having some problems with my TWSBI 580 (Broad nib). It was very scratchy and dry. I polished the tip (now is very smooth) and opened the tins using brass shins, but the problem is that now it is too wet. I tried to close the tins just pushing them together, and tying them with a thread, but looks like the nib is too hard and also flexible so the tins are not closing. What could I do?</p><p>Thank you very much for your time.</p>
<p>Thank you for the photo. It sounds like you have a good grasp of the problem and the solution. Did you try burnishing with a round rod like I showed in step 6?</p>
<p>I will try the burnishing. Thanks a lot Phill</p>
<p>Hi Phil, I have a FC Ondoro, and using the Sailor Jentle Green ink. I haven't used it for a few weeks and inked it up yesterday, and now the colour of the ink is much darker on paper compared with before. Any ideas as to why? Thanks!</p>
Some of the water in the ink has evaporated leaving a thicker concentration of the pigments. The plastic walls of the ink cartridges appear to be very solid, but water still evaporates through them in time. I have some ink cartridges that sat unused for a very long time and, although they were never opened, they appear only half full. You might try a syringe or very thin eye dropper to introduce some water into the cartridge. Then shake or tumble the cartridge to mix the water and the ink. Some cartridges have a small solid object inside that moves when you tilt the pen to keep the ink mixed. The ink in the pen passageways is thicker, too. You might flush the working parts of the pen with water, just to keep them clear of blockages.
<p>Oh but I'm using a converter at the moment. Maybe I'll try cleaning out the nib?</p>
<p>if only a few weeks have elapsed, the ink in the system between the converter and the tip of the nib may be the only part that has lost water. Still, I have not had much success with those converters. Most have leaked on pens I have known. That means there can be an exchange of ink and air. Myself, I prefer to use a syringe or an eye dropper fitted with a very thin tube to refill cartridges. </p>
<p>Hi Phil,<br><br>I've got a lamy vista and I've been using it for a few months now with no problems. Recently however it's started to stop writing intermittently (once every few words for 1/2 - 1 letter) I've tried thoroughly cleaning the nib to no avail. Any help would be greatly appreciated. :) </p>
Are you using ink cartridges, or refilling with a converter? If you are refilling, there is always the possibility the ink is old and gelatinous or granular material in the ink gets into passageways and restricts ink flow. I mentioned I once mixed inks from two manufacturers and gelatinous material formed. You could always heat the feed until it softens and gently press it against the nib (as I described) in case something happened, but that seems odd in a fairly new pen.
<p>Hi Phil! </p><p>I recently bought an ink pen from 'Non-Violence' foundation of Mahatma Gandhi in India. It comes with inbuilt cartridge which has to be refilled, pl. see picture, no pre-filled cartridge can be attached (I tried several). </p><p>Now the problem is that every time i refill, the pen writes only for the time the nib is wet (because of being wet during filling process). Later, the ink gets stuck in the cartridge (doesn't drops) &amp; stops writing. If I open the pen and push down the sliding button (which is meant for ink filling), only then does the ink moves down and the pen writes again but later stops because of ink getting stuck in cartridge and not moving down. I believe there is some manufacturing error because of which there is vacuum in the refile compartment and hence the ink doesn't moves down after being filled. Kindly help.</p>
Thank you for the photos. What you have is normally called a converter. Your pen accepts a cartridge, probably a Mont Blanc or universal cartridge. Or, a converter can be used in place of the cartridge. Just remember that 95% of all fountain pen problems are due to an incorrect fit between the feed and the nib. See the step in my Instructsble that deals with heating the feed and pressing it gently against the nib until it cools. Some use an alcohol flame. Water near the boiling point seems safer to me. I am fairly certain if you refit the feed to the nib your pen will work fine, and you can use cartridges or your converter. Those converters always leaked for me.
<p>I have a Pilot Nakimi retractable fountain pen that will not stay open. I had a nib assembly break and I bought the factory replacement nib assembly, but now the click to open and return does nothing. The point just floats inside the pen. Did I lose a part somewhere along the line?</p>
I have thought about your problem. I have tried to replicate what you describe with my Namiki Vanishing Point pen, but I cannot. Is the replacement nib the same length as the original?
<p>Hi Phil, this is by far the best site I have seen on fountain pens. I have a question though. I have taken over my late fathers Mont Blanc Starwalker fountain pen. The pen has been unused now for 5 years, with its ink cartridge left inside. I started by laying it in water for a few minutes, and then inserted a new ink cartridge. No ink would flow. I then tried leaving it soaking in water for 3 days, until the water was basically clear, inserted the cartridge, but still no ink would flow. The pen does write if I place a few drops of ink into the nib manually, but I cant seem to get the ink to flow from the cartridge. My problem is sending it to Mont Blanc to service costs a fortune. What should I try next to clear out the feed? </p>
How long did you wait for ink to flow after you left the front section in clean water for three days? It can take a while for the ink to get through the capillary to the tip the first time. And, the capillary will be filled with water until it moves through the pen. What happens when you press a tissue to the slot between the times? Does it become wet, and is the wetness water or is it ink? Can you blow from the back end of the feed and get droplets of water or ink to exit the nib near the tip? That is a sign there is an open passageway. If not, there is still an obstruction. More soaking may be necessary, since the last thing to happen before the pen quit working is that it was stored with a partially full cartridge. Thank you for looking.
After the three days in water, I dried the front section, then used Towling paper, the paper seemed to funnel a lot of the water out the nib. I then put the cartridge in, and started to write. The writing was basically water, with very faint hint of ink colour. After about a page of writing it dried up, and nothing more flowed out. I have left the ink cartridge in for about 4 days now, in a slightly nib down position. I tried writing again today, but no ink is flowing. <br><br>The last time I tried blowing, it did not feel like any air was moving through. <br><br>Can I safely leave the feed and nib in water for a week?<br><br>
<p>hi Phil.....I have a fountain pen and some cartridge....but the cartridge won't fit into the pen..please advice me.......???</p>
If your pen is not a Parker or Schaeffer, it probably uses a Mont Blanc (also known as a universal) cartridge. A Waterman takes a longer cartridge, but it has the same fitting a Mont Blanc uses. If the cartridges you have do not fit your pen, you probably need to buy cartridges that do fit. Many pens do use the Mont Blanc cartridges.
<p>thanks</p>
<p>I bought a mont blanc starwalker fountain pen. Though the flow of ink looks just fine, the pen refuses to write at all. Please can you help?</p>
How Are you certain the ink flow is good? If you touch a tissue to the ball at the end of the nib, does ink flow into the tissue? <br>Check the early steps of my Instructable. Are the halves of the nib properly aligned so they bring the ink to the paper, or is there an inverted &quot;V&quot; between them that keeps the ink away from the paper?
<p>I just feel dumb in saying that the ink flow is good. I just checked and the ink does not flow into the tissue when I touch the tissue to the ball of the nib. The nib seems alright to my eyes. Attaching some images - not sure if they have come clear enough. </p>
<p>Thank you for the photos. Have you tried soaking the front section in clear water at room temperature? Chances are someone did not flush the pen with water before putting it away and ink has dried out in it. Let it soak for a couple of days. When the water becomes cloudy with ink billows, pour it out and use fresh water. Test by blowing through the section from the cartridge end. Droplets of water should be clear and not colored with ink. At the worst, the nib and feed might have to be removed for more detailed cleaning, but that is not likely.</p>
<p>Thanks a lot Phil. I tried as you advised and the pen is writing fine now. Thanks again for the help!</p>

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