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. 

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.
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Katchung16 days ago
Hi Phil,

I have the following issue with my pen:

- inconsistent ink flow to the nip

- it writes very well for a little while then the ink seems to stop to flow. I have to twist the top of the converter and force the link down to the nip, then it writes beautifully again for a while until I need to twist the top of the converter again.

Thanks for you help.
Phil B (author)  Katchung16 days ago
Welcome to Instructables. I joined because I was reading a bicycling forum, and someone there had linked a simple cadence meter adapted from an inexpensive electronic cyclometer widely available. Since I have had fun sharing a bunch of things I learned through hard experience. Often others share improvements to what I did, and I have come to have friends I have never met.

One source I used says 95% of all pen problems come from improper fit or clearance between the nib and the feeder. That was the problem with the black Diplomat pen my wife gave me. Try slipping a piece of paper between the nib (metal part with the writing tip) and the feeder (black plastic or hard rubber part under the nib). There should be considerable drag on the paper. It is steps 7 through 8 in which I showed checking the fit and using very hot water to soften the feeder and hold it firmly against the nib until it has cooled. In time plastics, especially, can and do change just a little. On a pen that change can be adjusted back to a proper fit by heating and moving the plastic. Naturally, you also want to be sure you do not have dried in in the passageways. A good soak in water at room temperature is a good start, too.
Katchung Phil B14 days ago
Thank you so much Phil. I did it!! It took me a while though with a few attempts. Read though your instructions thoroughly again does help. Patience is the essence......which I need more of ?

Thanks again,
Phil B (author)  Katchung14 days ago

From your enthusiasm, I am guessing your pen works properly now.

When I was a young boy on a farm we had an old section of the house that had been moved a few yards and was used for storage. The walls were plaster with lath strips under the plaster. We ripped those wooden strips from the walls and made play swords, as well as other things. I learned patience from seeing lath swords crack and split because I tried to pound too large a nail into them rather than taking the time to find the right nail.

DonnaP92 months ago
FletchNZ3 months ago

I am having a problem with a Parker IM drying out, too. It is only a new pen a few weeks ago, but if I don't use it for a day or two it is difficult to get it to start writing again. I had never tried wetting it or anything - as I was kind of afraid to try, never having done it. I did put a drop on the nib as you explained above, and it seemed to get it to write again. The cartridge is the black Parker Quink ink. Looking under a magnifier, it did look kind of, well, sticky between the tines and around the feeder. The LAMY I also have doesn't seem to have this problem - always seems to write. And the smaller Parker Jotter fountain pen I have seems to work better as well.

When you talk about flushing, do I just run the front section with the nib under water? (with the cartridge removed, obviously). I don't think I'd be brave enough to try and remove the nib and feeder if I had to. I'm sure I'd probably damage it.

Phil B (author)  FletchNZ3 months ago

I soak the front section with nib and feeder in a small glass of water and change the water often until billows of ink stop coming out into the water. I let it soak until drops of water coming off of the tip of the nib no longer show signs of ink color when they hit the bottom of the sink.

I have a newer Parker that also dried out between relatively frequent uses. I decided the venting in the cap was too much, and rubbed some paraffin shavings into the recessed ring on the top of the cap that is also the vent. I am fairly confident the vent did not seal completely, but the paraffin reduced the air flow, That seemed to solve the problem. I hope this helps.

MandeepS33 months ago
Sir i brought new simple chinies pen hero 221 it has problem that it produce a drop of ink at nib tip how it could be treated
Phil B (author)  MandeepS33 months ago

The feeder probably does not fit tightly enough against the nib. See step 8.

MandeepS33 months ago
Another pen that is scrathy on using .some time tear the paper or not smooth in writing
MandeepS33 months ago
Another pen that is scrathy on using .some time tear the paper or not smooth in writing
m1cl3e4 months ago
Thank you, I fixed my fountain pen which I couldn't fix for months now!! That is absolutely helpful!! :)
Phil B (author)  m1cl3e4 months ago

Welcome to Instructsbles. I am glad you found what you needed. I think an Instructsble ought solve a problem a number of people experience, and try to do Instructsbles that are practical. Thank you for looking.

SteveH134 months ago

I was digging through a bunch of pens on my desk and came across my old Sheaffer cartridge pen from my grade school days. Thanks for your tips! A brief rinse under running water got it going again after decades of neglect. I'd forgotten how smooth a fountain pen can be! My grade school made us use fountain pens when we started learning cursive. Ball-points were forbidden!

Phil B (author)  SteveH134 months ago
Welcome to Instructsbles. About 1961 I paid one dollar for a clear Schaeffer cartridge fountain pen. We had already learned cursive. I simply liked the smooth writing. I am glad yours works again with just a soaking. Thanks for your comment.
AnjingL4 months ago

I just bought a fountain pen, (a simple one, nothing special) and it works fine if you use it continuously. However, if you leave the pen with the cap on for about a day without use, it starts leaking, and the black ink is rubbed all over the cap.

It writes well, and the ink cartridge was just changed.

Is there anything specific I could do to remove the leaking? Or is it just because of my pen?

Phil B (author)  AnjingL4 months ago
Take a look at the step in my Instructable dealing with poor feeder to nib fit. It is possible to have poor feeder to nib fit with even a new pen. You did not say if your pen is new or pre-owned. If it is ore-owned, heating and pressing the feeder against the nib would just be a good precaution. That is the reason for most problems like yours. You did not say if the pen is stored in the horizontal position when left with the cap on. If so, try storing it vertically. Also, some pens work better with the ink sold by the maker of the pen, but that is usually the case with more expensive pens. Still, even an expensive pen with another brand of ink does not leak as you describe.

Welcome to Instructables.

I've enjoyed reading your post, even though I don't have a fountain pen. Your obvious knowledge has gotten you quite a following of fellow enthusiasts!

Phil B (author)  buildandsewandstuff4 months ago
Thank you. A fountain pen is a nice writing tool. The nearest thing to it is a good gel pen. I am always pleasantly surprised how many people still use fountain pens.
VikramD35 months ago

Hello Phil,

I've been a fountain pen afficionado for many years now--since I was in high school. I only use fountain pens for writing, in fact. One of my favourite fountain pens, a really nice Dupont, is giving me a lot of grief when I use it. The background is: I always use two pens from my collection at a time, rotating them every six months. Before putting a pen away, I flush the ink tank with cool water until the ink discoloration is almost negligible. I dry the nib and the barrel with a soft cloth and then put it away. Now in the case of this Dupont pen, when I started using it after a few years of storage, I find that the ink flow stops dead at random moments. It is very bothersome, as you might imagine. I've tried soaking the nib end-down in water for half a day, but without results. I don't want to unscrew the nib and ink flow module and ruin the pen, but I fear there may be no alternative...

Any advise? Your thoughtful and practical guidance in all of your posts above led me to you...!

Warm regards,


Phil B (author)  VikramD35 months ago
Welcome to Instructables. I am wondering if your ink could have granular impurities in it. How old is the ink? Have you tried new, fresh ink?
VikramD3 Phil B5 months ago

Hi Phil,

Thank you for your reply. The ink is reasonably new, say about three months old. It is a bottle of Shaeffer black ink. As I said, any pen that I use gets flushed out with cool water before I fill ink in it for the first time. It could of course be the ink, but because this problem is not affecting any others in my collection, I was sort of more inclined to think it is the inkflow system of the pen...


Phil B (author)  VikramD35 months ago

Your ink should be new enough. I think I mentioned I once mixed some Schaeffer and some Parker ink. Without realizing it some gelatinous material formed in the ink and intermittently clogged the ink delivery system. That was in a cartridge pen. I looked on-line at DuPont pens. I assume the ink system uses cartridges. Is that true of your pen? Can you blow through the pen from the nib back toward the barrel and sense air moving to clear the ink pathway?

stever85 months ago

I have a Parker IM pen and if I don't use it for a day or overnight sometimes its hard to get it to write again and I have to wet the tip to get the ink to flow. It makes it not worth using if it takes 5 minutes to be able to use it. I use the factory Parker ink

Phil B (author)  stever85 months ago
Have you ever pressed down on the nib hard enough to spread the tines on the nib, even a little? What you describe happens when the tines spread a little. If that is the case, burnishing to bring them back together will be necessary. Or, the distance between the feeder and the nib may have increased for some reason. Heating the nib in very hot water and pressing the feeder against the nib may be necessary. I assume the ink ways inside the pen are clean and have no dried ink in them that needs to be dissolved.
stever8 Phil B5 months ago
No, its pretty new but I did find another post with the exact same concern and the guy said that the large breather hole in the cap allows for the ink to dry. Once he sealed up the hole it solved his issue. I have a hard time believing that this hole was not figured into the design but maybe ot covers for a design issue
SitaS7 months ago

Hi Phil , I have a Lamy fountain pen and I stopped using it for a few months. When I tried to use it again the ink was all dried up and evaporated so I soaked the nib part of the pen in water for a little while then I filled it with water and then flushed it until water flowed through the nib. I was able to put in a new ink cartridge in and the pen started working! but after not using the pen for 5 minutes it dried up again? I can't figure out what the problem is?

Phil B (author)  SitaS7 months ago
I would try soaking the nib and front section in water for a couple of days. If more ink is still in the pen, the water will turn color in a few hours and look like dilute ink. Depending on how old the ink cartridges are, water could have evaporated through the plastic walls of the cartridge and left ink that is thick or has formed granules that clog the pen. (I have some Schaeffer ink cartridges I got at a garage sale. They have never been opened, but appear only half full. I have made them work by puncturing them by installing them in a pen. Then I removed the cartridge and added water with a thin tube mounted on an eye dropper.) a new cartridge from an office supply store might be worth a try.
MoeA17 months ago

Hello Phil,

I recently found an old fountain pen that my grandfather gave me and I honestly have no idea how to make the ink flow. I have ink cartridges that have been lying around for about a year and so I used them on the pen. I'm not exactly sure if the ink is compatible with the pen (it says BRACCO but I googled it and it seems like there is no such brand). The ends of the nib is really close together and no matter what I do, ink never flows. I just tried washing the entire pen with lukewarm water and got rid of all the old ink before adding the cartridge on. I also have an old bottle of ink too and I'm not sure if I should be using that instead of the cartridges. Help! No matter what I do, the pen won't work.

Phil B (author)  MoeA17 months ago
It sounds like the pen had ink in it when it was put away years ago. You may need to soak it in water over several days and change the water when it turns to the color of the ink. I expect all of the ink is not yet out of the pen. Check to see if you can blow air through the front section, even a little air.

hello phil,

i have a parker fountain pen . If i write with it after some time the ink is not flowing and then i had to shake it 2 or 3 times then the ink flows again . can you please guess what is the problem and give a solution for it thankyou ,gowtham .

Phil B (author)  gowtham.seenivasagan.97 months ago
It sounds like the problem might be with your ink. Although you cannot see them, small gelatinous or granular clumps may have formed in the ink, and these are clogging the channel in which the ink is supposed to flow. This can happen if ink is stored for a long time after exposure to air. (People who are really serious about their ink expel the air at the top of the bottle and replace it with nitrogen gas.) I mentioned I made the mistake of mixing inks from two manufacturers and they reacted with one another to form gelatinous globules that clogged my pen. Flush your pen out with water and try some new ink or cartridges. (Water evaporates through the walls of the plastic cartridges over time, leaving much thicker ink inside, even though they have never been opened.)
JanetR38 months ago

Hello Phil,

I have just been given a Waterman fountain pen. The nib reads Waterman's Ideal. The nib retracts by rotating the bottom. On the bottom it reads 42 1/2 V. Around the band it reads Waterman' Fountain Pen 18KR. I cannot figure out how ink would be inserted, as I do not see a metal bar along side the pen. I am not sure if it is missing a clip (that would hook on to a shirt pocket), since it does have a small loop attached to the top of the cover. My mother in law gave it to me. She is 92 and she got it from a relative older than herself. Any information you can give me would be appreciated. I do not want to force the pen open, if it is not suppose to open. I would like to use it, and do not want to break it. Thank you, Janet

JanetR3 JanetR37 months ago

Thank you Phil for the information. Would you mind telling me whether you think it is worth fixing? Will I find someone to install the o rings on one of the websites you listed?

Thanks again,


Phil B (author)  JanetR37 months ago

It is a bit nicer than the average pen, especially with all of the fillagree. It also has considerable sentimental value because it has been passed through your family. If it were mine and I were financially able, I would have it repaired. There was a time in my life when our kids were young and money was less available that I might have put it into a drawer until some birthday money came my way. That part is a personal decision.
Someone gave me a genuine 1928 Parker Duofold that needed work. I sent it away to The Southern Scribe in Georgia. He had it quite a few months before he was able to get to it, but he does good work. The pump button had been replaced with a button assembly from another model many, many years ago. The Southern Scribe put in the correct one, replaced the rubber sack, adjuted the nib, and polished the pen and nib for about $60. It is a nice pen with a story and I am glad I had the repairs done, even though the project was a little spendy.
The Southern Scribe has a web page and specific instructions to follow before sending the pen to him.
JanetR3 Phil B7 months ago

Thanks again Phil. I will look into The Southern Scribe.

Phil B (author)  JanetR38 months ago

Congratulations on getting a nice vintage pen. I had to do some digging and learned a few things. There is good news and there is bad news.

Here are instructions on how to fill your pen.


Your pen uses two cork seals that probably leak by now and would need to be replaced with "O" rings. You can read more about that here.


Here is some general information about the pen.

SuzanneO04158 months ago
P.S. I think I do have a converter, but have no idea how to use It. And I have no bottled ink. Think I will need to get some. Know I did take nib and feeder out before and "they" said that was not good to do so am hesitant to try that route. ( had called a place in US that helped me once before) I tried the company that sent my pen to Italy saying it wouldn't work and they were less than helpful. Just happened to stumble onto your site.
Phil B (author)  SuzanneO04158 months ago

If you are careful, wiggling the feeder and nib out of the front section should not be a problem, especially since you have done it before and know what to expect. You stand a good chance of finding the problem. While out, it might not hurt to clean any oils away with some soapy water, rinse, and dry. It might be good to see if the slot in the nib is clear by holding it up to light and maybe passing some thin paper through it.

Phil B (author)  Phil B8 months ago

I am happy for you the pen is working. Perhaps it simply needed more time for the ink to make its way through a Fine point nib. I like to fill cartridges from a bottle and reuse them numerous times. I fitted a piece of the tubing in the end of an eye dropper. A used syringe works very well, if you have a nurse or doctor friend.
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