Instructables

Fountain Pen Problems

Picture of Fountain Pen Problems
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. 


 
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Step 1: Making it flow if dried out

Picture of 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.

Phil, thanks I will try that

Phil, I have a montevrde fountain with a medium tip. I use it around once a week. Sometimes I have to refill it before it will start to write. Once working, I usually have to rewrite the first letter of a word if I pause for a minute between sentences because the ink wont flow. Any ideas?

Phil B (author)  stevebrothersteve17 days ago

Whenever I experience the problems you describe, they are because I have not been using the pen enough and ink has begun to dry and clog the passageways inside the pen. Flush the pen out with water about once a month. Find excuses to write a bit with it every couple of days, if only to practice your penmanship. For a quick fix, put a drop or two of water on the slot in the nib shortly before you will be using the pen, but that will not really be necessary very often if you use the pen more regularly.

Gilgamish18 days ago

So I had the pleasure of purchasing a SIGNUM ORION with the Python skin cap in fine point. I've noticed that when I write with this particular pen ink seems to collect on the top of the nib just below the breather hole. normally this would be of no consequence however when enough ink collects it runs down in a big mess (I use NOODLERS EEL INK). What ,if anything can I do to correct this. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Phil B (author)  Gilgamish18 days ago
I am guessing the clearance between the nib and the feeder is not what it should be. See the step where I used water near the boiling point to soften the feeder and then press it against the nib until the feeder had cooled. You cannot hurt anything and it might solve your problem.

I am not familiar with your pen. Is there any other possible air leak source?
Thanks Phil,I'll give that a try.As far as air leaks I'll check that out as well. You should check out SIGNUM Pens,they're impressive.thanks again.
sp80601 month ago

After almost 10 years found my lost Waterman fountain pen. Unfortunately, can't get to disassemble the pen to change the dried ink cartridge. It seems to have got jammed and doesn't turn. Any tips?

Phil B (author)  sp80601 month ago
Try soaking it in water for a day or two. If the water turns the color of ink, replace it with fresh water. You may be able to speed the process by cutting off some of the cartridge to open it so water can get inside the pen more easily and dissolve the dried ink.
sp8060 Phil B24 days ago

Sorry Phil, didn't work. Guess I didn't make myself very clear. It's not the cartridge. I have difficulty in opening the pen to reach the cartridge. In fact, I can't turn to disassemble the pen. It's jammed. Appreciate your advice.

Phil B (author)  sp806024 days ago

Thank you for letting me know what happened. Is it possible ink leaked and got into the threads that connect the barrel to the front section? (I assume you unscrew the barrel from the front section.) If my assumptions are not faulty, dissolving dried ink with water is still the answer. If you can find an ultr-sonic cleaner large enough to submerge the pen up to where the front section meets the barrel, the high frequency vibrations in the water might really help. You could also try warming the same area with a hair dryer to see if you can break the threads loose, but you do not want to soften or melt plastic. That would ruin the pen.

Sooooo I finally found it interesting to start using my Parker fountain pen once again after some years... The problem is it has been left with a full ...... how's it called? "bottle"? of ink inside it all that time. Now it won't write a thing... Any help?

Phil B (author)  Dinos Andrew26 days ago

Others here have asked about the same problem. Soak the end of the pen in cool water and wait for the ink to dissolve. Be patient. It could be a few days. Change the water when it becomes discolored with dissolved ink.

You did not say if your pen uses cartridges or has a blatter. I expect it is a cartridge pen. When the ink has dissolved enough that you can remove the cartridge, the process will go better.

You can see in the first picture how the pen looks like. Now I'm not sure wether this is a cartridge or a battler pen, but I can take it appart as you see in the second picture. Do I have to put the part of the pen I write with into water without the ink thingy?
Picture 5.jpgPicture 6.jpg
Phil B (author)  Dinos Andrew26 days ago

the pictures are dark, but it looks like a cartridge pen and it appears you have been able to remove the cartridge. Soak the pen in cool water until you can blow through it and only clear water comes out.

Okay, the pen just started writting on it's own, out of nowhere. Thanks alot for the advice, I will post here if I have any other problems.

Phil B (author)  Dinos Andrew25 days ago
I am glad it works for you. I would encourage you to flush the pen with water and use fresh ink.

Yeah That's what i'm going to do as soon as the ink runs out, wich will be soon enough.

sbriscoe22 months ago
I have a left handed pelikano fountain pen that used to work fine but now it will work for a little bit then the ink will just stop flowing. The feeder is not dry but the ink is not flowing from feeder to the ball. I don't know which steps to take. Any advice would help. Also is it normal for the ball to wear a little on one side (like the left) so it's not quite symmetrical?
Phil B (author)  sbriscoe22 months ago
What are you using for ink and how fresh is it? What you describe reminds me of when I mixed some Parker ink with some Schaeffer ink. Everything was fine for a while, but the flow of the ink would slow. I would clean the passageways in the pen and the ink would flow for a while, but would stop again. Contaminants had begun to form in the ink and those blocked the flow in the pen. You may not have mixed inks, but ink can become contaminated because of other things, too. Have you tried new ink made by Pelikan (if possible)? If your ink is the problem, it would be worthwhile to discard the ink you have been using.(I checked and I realize your pen uses cartridges, but also has a filler by which you can use bottled ink, so I do not know which you are using. If you use cartridges, they can be old and actually lose water through the plastic over time, which makes the ink thicker inside the cartridge.)

The iridium ball at the end of the nib will wear to fit the unique qualities of your hand and writing style. You can try consciously rotating the barrel of the pen a little to make the wear pattern more centered.

I hope some of this helps.
I think so my sister gave me some bottles of J. Herbin a French ink it might interact with pelikan ink but I rinse out the pen between different inks. If the passages have clotted in the pen is there a way to clear it out or would it be easier to buy a new pen?
Phil B (author)  sbriscoe21 month ago

I am sure the pen is still good. I would soak the nib section in water. Blow into it from the cartridge end. Maybe soak and blow in several cycles to dissolve and dislodge any material that might be obstructing the ink passageways.

If you want to take a faster and more drastic course, look at the photo in step 9. Nibs can usually be pulled out with a little wiggling side to side while pulling. Some are more firmly stuck than others. Just try to avoid the sound of breaking plastic. If you can get the nib out and separated from the feeder, you can use the pointed end of a toothpick to push foreign matter out of the ink passageways, should that be necessary.

bmwz3224 months ago
thanks Phil, I have a Porsche telescopic pen, used 11 steps , it writes if nib is held upside down with the ball at the end of the tines not touching the paper - can you identify the problem? Pen used once - a couple of years ago empty cleaned and stored. Been writing with fountain pens since first school, just found a mint 1956 parker 61 in my Dads desk drawer - he passed away in 2011 trying to get it up a running- any tips would be welcome

Architect in the uk
bmwz322 bmwz3224 months ago
Thanks Phil for the speedy response, will purchase a lens and have a try , if not will take it to a pen shop I've located nearby, been selling pens since 1870.

Got the Parker 61 running last night

with every good wish
Architect in the UK
Phil B (author)  bmwz3224 months ago
A lens is handy for many things, even if not expensive. If you have a 35 mm wide angle lens for a camera it makes a very nice magnifier when you look through it backwards.
Phil B (author)  bmwz3224 months ago
Thank you for your inquiry. Get a 5x magnifying glass (or 10x, if you like). Look at your pen's nib straight on from the end. My guess is that the tines are closer to one another at the top than they are at the bottom where the nib normally touches the paper. When I have tried to correct this situation I insert a thin piece of metal about 0.003 inch thick in the top of the nib ball and simultaneously squeeze the bottom halves of the iridium ball closer together. The aim is to make the sides of the slot parallel.

Congratulations on the Parker 61. It is a nice remembrance of your father.
I have just registered for this site.
It looks great and I am sure that I will have a few questions for you over time.
Here is one to start off with;
Where can I get a Parker Repair Tool Cabinet No.966?
I don't think even Yoda could answer me this one!
Stuart.
Phil B (author)  Stuart McDonald8 months ago
I would talk to someone who does pen repair to make a living, or I would look for a pen show somewhere that I could attend. Do an Internet search for The Southern Scribe. He is located in Georgia and refurbished my authentic Parker Duofold pen for me. He or someone like him is likely to have more leads than I would have.

Enjoy Instructables. As my profile indicates, I like practical things similar to what you would find in Popular Mechanics Magazine a few decades ago. Some folks at Instructables seem to be more interested spitballs, slime, stink bombs, and pranks that hurt people's computers.
rjariol8 months ago
I have a question.

I just started using a fountain pen and i only want to have 1 but with different colors, so i have a converter with blue ink in the pen, then i want to change the converter (i have 2 converters) filled with red colored ink, what would happen if i do this? What would be the result if i write?
Phil B (author)  rjariol8 months ago
Congratulations on using a fountain pen. Learn how to keep both times in equal contact with the paper and apply as little downward pressure as possible so the pen almost floats on the paper.

In answer to your question, for your purposes changing colors on your pen is like changing paint colors with a paint sprayer. The nozzle needs to be cleaned of the old color and primed with the new color. You will need to remove the converter, flush the nib with water until clear of the old color, dry the nib of the water, insert the new converter, and wait for the new ink to begin to flow in the nib.

You can change ink color in a fountain pen, but it is a bothersome task.
horseyyay9 months ago
thx. I will do that
horseyyay9 months ago
awwwww thx. that would have been awesome. Probably for the best though because I lose everything plus i'm not convinced that someone didn't steal it. Too many fountain pens go missing in my school.
Phil B (author)  horseyyay9 months ago
It is terrible to live with the constant suspicion someone in your circle of acquaintances cannot be trusted. I have a personal saying that one cannot put his hand into the cookie jar without crumbs sticking to his sleeve. Interpreted, that is, someone doing wrong eventually gives himself away.

You might let it be known that you like fountain pens. Often there are people with an idle pen in a drawer and they would be glad to give it to you so it gets a good home. Until a year ago we lived near Boise, Idaho in the USA. An article in the paper shortly after we moved there in 1995 was about a college professor who collected vintage fountain pens. He made it a practice to tell his students about his passion for pens. Often his students brought pens to him that had been taking space in some drawer and no one had any intention of using them.
horseyyay9 months ago
It isn't a Parker because their basic pen is £15 and I don't have much money. I bought a £3 Manuscript one instead. thx for answering my question though. will give/sell the parker cartridges to a friend. (tried to reply to the answer but stupid website wouldn't let me)
Phil B (author)  horseyyay9 months ago
If you were in the USA rather than the UK, I would mail a beat up Parker Vector I am not using.
horseyyay9 months ago
i have one question because you seem to know a lot about fountain pens. I recently lost my third parker fountain pen and am fed up of buying nice pens so bought a cheap one from whsmiths. can I use my parker ink cartridges in it?? don't really want to waste them because they are very expensive
Phil B (author)  horseyyay9 months ago
Is the new pen you bought a Parker? If so, you can certainly use your Parker cartridges in the pen. Unfortunately, Parker fountain pen ink cartridges fit only Parker pens, as best I know, and you would not be able to use Parker cartridges in pens by another maker. Many fountain pens use the universal or Mont Blanc style cartridges and those cartridges can be used in many different pens. But, the little Mont Blanc cartridges do not hold much ink. If your new pen is a Parker, have you considered refilling your ink cartridges? I once did this Instructable on using a modified eye dropper or a surplus syringe to refill ink cartridges from bottled ink.
Arjayty10 months ago
I notice you say "Do not mix inks from different manufacturers. They sometimes react with each other and form chunky, gelatinous material that clogs the ink passageways".

I have a large bottle of Royal Blue Stephens Ink, which, I noticed a couple of days aho has some chunky, gelatinous lumps in it. I think my son may have, inadvertently, added ink from a different manufacturer. Is there any way to get rid of these lumps and will the ink still be usable.

I had a large bottle of Blue Black which I have almost finished after 30 years of use.
Phil B (author)  Arjayty10 months ago
I disregarded warnings about mixing inks for years and got away with it. Then I apparently mixed the two wrong inks and gelatinous clumps began to form. In answer to your question, I tried pouring off the "good" ink. I tried straining the clumps out of the ink. I found the demon seed remained in the "good" ink and new clumps formed later. I finally discarded the tainted ink, which, fortunately, was only a small part of a bottle. In a word, my answer would be, "No." Sorry.
Wisp3211 months ago
Excellent tip! I was about to give in and buy a replacement nib for my pen which I damaged one day by pressing too hard and splitting the nib. Decided to Google for repairing a split nib first. Glad I found this. The burnishing worked. You, sir, just saved me 60$.
Phil B (author)  Wisp3211 months ago
Thanks. I am grateful to know you were able to make your pen work again. That tip is something I learned from Frank DuBriel's book on Fountain Pen Repair. Thanks for commenting.

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