How To Make A Fountain Pen Work (Detailed Guide)

how to make a fountain pen work

Fountain pens are known for their superior writing feel. But what happens when your vintage fountain pens start to feel dry and scratchy?

Having your pen fall into disrepair is every writer’s worst fear.

You may not have to worry just yet, though. We will help you salvage your treasured writing instruments.

Here’s our detailed guide on how to make a fountain pen work.

How To Get A Fountain Pen To Work

Repairing An Old Fountain Pen

Maybe you have an old family heirloom or your fountain pen has been sitting in storage for a little too long and has run dry. Either way, you don’t need to send it off for repairs just yet.

A simple cleaning might just do the trick, and there are a few easy steps you can take to clean out your old fountain pen at home to return it to its original condition.

old fountain pen

Cleaning a Cartridge Pen

Fountain pens that use an ink cartridge are a little trickier to clean. First, you need to unscrew the barrel of your pen and remove the ink storage.

If your ink cartridge is still full, you need to keep the pen vertical to avoid having ink spill out. You should keep your ink storage propped up against a sturdy surface and place a piece of paper towel or newspaper beneath it. This serves as an extra precaution against getting ink all over your counters.

If your ink cartridge has dried, you need to dispose of the old one and buy a replacement before reassembling your pen.

Dry ink may also indicate clogged fountain pen nibs. You should soak your nib in warm water to dislodge any dehydrated ink particles.

Once your nib is soaked to loosen any debris that may be clogging the tip, you need to flush it along with the feed of the pen. To do this, use a bulb syringe and a solution that’s prepared and sold specifically for flushing fountain pens.

Alternatively, you can use warm water. You should never use soap or harsh cleaners to flush fountain pens as it can cause irreversible damage to the sensitive internal mechanisms. It can also affect how the ink flows through your pen.

Once your pen is clean, you can dry it with a lint-free cloth before reassembly.

Cleaning a Converter Pen

Converter pens come with either a piston or squeeze converter. Luckily, both types are relatively simple and quick to clean.

To clean the pen properly, you first need to empty the converter of any remaining ink. Prepping your work surface with a few layers of old newspaper or emptying the pen over a sink will help to catch any excess ink.

For a squeeze converter, you can do this by applying pressure to the bladder. The bladder will empty and you can simply wipe the nib to rid it of any ink droplets that may be hanging on to the tip.

A piston pen has one of two mechanisms to expel the ink. To empty the ink reservoir, you can either push the tip of the piston mechanism in or turn the knob at the end of the pen towards the barrel.

Once you’ve emptied the pen, you can draw lukewarm water into the fountain pen by turning the knob in the opposite direction or clicking the end of the piston again. Repeat these steps until the water that leaves the pen runs clear.

Once you’ve cleaned your pen, leave it to dry before refilling it from your favorite ink bottle.

Getting Ink To Flow In A New Fountain Pen

Eager to write with a fountain pen, you excitedly unbox your new pen with the enthusiasm of a child on Christmas day. You set it up and press the nib to the paper but nothing happens. All you feel is the scratching of a dry steel nib against the paper of your journal and a twang of disappointment.

If you’re struggling to get the ink flowing in your modern fountain pen, there may be a simple solution to getting you on your way.

Flushing the Pen

Flushing a new fountain pen before you use it clears out any dust or particles leftover from the manufacturing process. These particles could potentially block the feed or nib from passing the fountain pen ink through the pen.

To avoid damaging your pen, use a bulb syringe and warm water to gently dislodge any debris.

fountain pen ink flow

Priming the Pen

To get a proper ink flow, your pen may need a little extra encouragement. With the nib facing downward and away from you, apply gentle pressure to the converter bladder or cartridge to get the ink flowing through the body of the pen and into the feed.

If you’re using a piston converter, you can push or twist the end of the mechanism to help inks move down the pen.

Another method is to simply press the nib of your pen onto a piece of scrap paper and slowly increase the pressure on the tip until the ink begins to flow. If the ink is dribbling out and there’s still no steady stream, running your nib under warm water can help to move things along.

Always prime your pen over a sink, newspaper, or paper towel to avoid too much ink staining your work surface.

Assembling the Pen

When installing your cartridge or converter, you need to ensure that it’s assembled correctly. If you’re struggling with your converter, your fountain pen manufacturer may have an installation guideline that you can follow.

Ink cartridges have seals that need to be broken to allow for the ink to flow into the feed. If the seal hasn’t broken, simply push the new ink cartridge onto the feed until it bypasses the plug.

Using the Right Ink

Most fountain pens are only compatible with certain types of cartridges or bottled ink. If you’re unsure of what ink your pen uses, you can refer to the list of acceptable inks provided by the pen makers either online or on the manual provided to you when buying the pen.

If the ink that you are using is too thick, or your nib is too fine, it can clog your pen and slow the rate at which your ink will flow.

Looking After Your Fountain Pen

Unlike a disposable ballpoint pen, a fountain pen needs special attention to keep it in working order. Your fountain pen should always be capped when not in use to avoid the ink from drying up and clogging the nib.

If you’re storing your pen for more than a month, you need to empty the ink and clean it before storage. Leaving ink in your pen for a long period can cause irreversible damage.

Modern fountain pens should also be cleaned or flushed every few months when in use to avoid a build-up of dried ink. Doing this will help you preserve the pen and keep it writing beautifully.

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