Fountain Pen Guide Series, Session 3: How to Maintain Your Pens

CONTENTS
OVERVIEW  |  GENERAL MAINTENANCE  |  FLOW FIXERS  |  NIB GRINDING/SMOOTHNESS

MAINTENANCE STEPS: GENERAL

These steps are for generally maintaining your pen and require very little know-how to do. They will not permanently alter your pen. You should attempt at least one of these before tinkering with your pen, just in case these fix it.

Fountain Pen Guide Session 3 Cleaning Photo


1. Cleaning

This should be done regularly (every 6-12 months) as part of normal pen maintenance. You should also clean any new pens you receive BEFORE inking them, in order to get rid of any residue left over from manufacturing. If you are changing ink colours or even the same colour in a different brand, a quick flush is also necessary, as some inks don’t mix well.

Fountain Pen Guide Session 3 Cleaning Brush Photo

Tools Checklist

  • Clean water (room temperature, or just warm)
  • Dish detergent (any will do)
  • A soft brush (or a standard toothbrush with soft bristles)
  • A proper workspace (waterproof and stain-proof)
  • Microfibre cloth
  • Paper towel
  • Optional: Test tube brushes
  • Optional: Brass shim
  • About 10-30 minutes time

Steps

1. Lay everything out on the microfibre cloth. This will give you an absorbent surface to work on

2. Tear off a few sheets of paper towel so they’re ready

3. Mix a drop of detergent with a cup of cold or warm water

4. For normal cleaning, just fill your pen with the soapy water using the filling mechanism inside, and flush it out. Continue this until the water flushes out clear. Replace the liquid if it gets too inky.

5. Then, rinse out all of the detergent by doing the same with some clean water. You’re done! Grab some paper towel and wipe down the outside of your pen to dry it off. If you want to seriously clean your pen, read on.

6. (Serious cleaning) Take apart your pen. I can’t post a guide for every pen, but try searching the web for instructions on how to properly take your pen apart. DO NOT try to just wing it as you could break your pen!

7. Lay out every piece on the microfibre cloth. Make sure you have all the pieces, and they’re all separately properly. Don’t remove any rubber O-rings or other seals as these don’t really need cleaning and could be difficult to put back.

8. Start by cleaning each piece individually in soapy water. To clean inside pen bodies/caps, remove the nib unit and create a “point” in a piece of paper towel by twisting it. Insert the paper towel in the body/cap and twist it, as if you’re screwing the paper towel into the part. Keep twisting until it goes all the way in, and then twist it to wipe the insides. Remove the paper towel.

8a. Alternatively, you can begin by inserting a test tube brush into the part and twisting it + pulling/pushing whilst constantly running water inside it in order to really clean it out (as in the image above).

9. To clean feeds, remove it and put a drop of detergent on your soft brush. Wet the brush and clean the feed fins and the channels by gently brushing them. Rinse off the feed whilst brushing it under clean water to get rid of the detergent.

9a. Otherwise, you can also try getting the brass shim and running it down the tiny channels in the feed to get out any solid debris, as below.

Fountain Pen Guide Session 3 Flossing Photo

10. Run water through everything to get rid of paper towel bits/inky blobs and then dry each piece off with the microfibre cloth. Leave to air dry for a couple of hours if needed.

11. Reassemble the pen, and you’re good to go!


2. Changing ink

Changing your ink can sometimes alleviate problems with flow. Some pens simply don’t like certain inks, and all inks are different.

Fountain Pen Guide Session 3 Ink Photo

Tools Checklist

  • Pen (cleaned with the above guide)
  • A different ink
  • Paper towel
  • 5 minutes time (+time for cleaning)

Steps

1. Clean out the pen thoroughly to get rid of the old ink inside using the above guide.

2. Refill the pen with the new ink, making sure you fill it, empty it, and then fill it again to really get rid of any air bubbles. Wipe off any ink from the outside of the pen with some paper towel.

3. Test the pen. If it writes, you’re ok. If it doesn’t, come back in 30 minutes and try again.

4. If it still doesn’t write, the problem is not your ink!


3. Maintaining The Filling System (for pistons, converters, etc.)

If your filler isn’t working as well as it should, or if it’s leaking, then some light maintenance should do the job. Greasing up piston heads will allow them to glide along the inside walls of the pen, as well as making them extra airtight.

Fountain Pen Guide Session 3 Filler Photo

Tools Checklist

  • 100% Silicone grease
  • A toothpick or some other long, thin instrument
  • (Optional) Any spare parts (such as o-rings or piston heads, usually available from the manufacturer of your pen)
  • About 5-10 minutes time

Steps

1. Remove the nib unit from the body (or the converter if you are using one) so you can access the inside of the filling system. Alternatively you could take apart the filling mechanism and work directly with the filler.

2. Use the toothpick to get a small bead of silicone grease and wipe it along the inside walls of the filler (eg the inside of a converter). Or, apply a small amount of silicone grease to the filler head (the rubber part).

3. Draw the piston rod/converter up and down a few times so the head is lubricated well

4. Replace any parts if you need to.

5. Reassemble the pen and enjoy a silky smooth filler!


4. Fixing Alignment

This is an incredibly important step for all fountain pens. Even out of the box, a nib can be slightly out of whack. Fixing the alignment can solve so many issues, it’s something I always check whenever doing anything with my pens.

Tools Checklist

  • Pen (inked)
  • Loupe (10x-30x)
  • A pad of paper
  • 5-10 minutes time

Steps

1. Write with the pen and determine if it isn’t smooth, or if there are other problems. If the pen is OK, just leave it be.

2. Look at the nib’s tip through the loupe. DO NOT LOOK STRAIGHT DOWN THE NIB! This is not what you want to align! You MUST look diagonally down the nib tip, looking across the surface you actually touch to the paper. See this diagram for help.

3. Identify the problem. Once tine could be out of whack, as shown in the leftmost image below. The tines could be too far apart, or too close together. The aim is to get your nib looking like the middle photo.

Fountain Pen Guide Session 3 Alignment Issues Photo

4. If the tines are vertically misaligned, you need to use your finger to gently push the problem tine up/down a couple of times to move it back into alignment, allowing the tine to spring back afterwards. If they are too far apart/too close together (as in the rightmost image above), you’ll need to move onto fixing the flow, which is on the next page of this guide.

Fountain Pen Guide Session 3 Nib Alignment Photo

5. Check the alignment again as per step 2. Continue until the tines are perfectly in line with each other. Test the pen regularly and repeat steps 2-4 until everything is OK.

CONTENTS
OVERVIEW  |  GENERAL MAINTENANCE  |  FLOW FIXERS  |  NIB GRINDING/SMOOTHNESS