Fountain Pen Care is Extremely Important
We’ve put together some care instructions so you get the most out of your fountain pen.
A lot of customers have questions about fountain pens, so I have written this short guide to address common concerns regarding these pens. First, it should be noted that fountain pens not only have different parts then ballpoint pens, but that they require extra care and maintenance. Some examples are:
- The pen must be capped when not in use to prevent drying
- The tip should be cleaned after use. A simple wipe cloth will work.
- Avoid storing the pen on its side or with the point down. Storing upright will help keep excess ink from remaining in the nib and drying.
- For long term storage the ink cartridge should be removed from the pen. If the pen is not used regularly I recommend using a refillable pump reservoir rather than a cartridge to avoid wasting ink. Instructions for using an ink reservoir can be found at the end of this article.
- The nib should be flushed regularly. A monthly flush will be sufficient. Flushing is accomplished by soaking the nib in water. Use distilled water because it doesn’t contain minerals that can deposit in the nib. Let the ink leech into the water, empty and refill. Repeat until the water remains clear. This can also be done to remove dried ink.
Please note that fountain pens do not function like ball point pens. They require very little pressure when writing. It is very easy for a person unused to fountain pens to damage the tip when writing–expecting to have to press the ink off of the tip. Fountain pens are meant to glide along the paper.
Writing will become smoother as the person writes more often with a fountain pen. The tip will polish adaptively in a way that works with a person’s individual writing style.
Most PSI pen kits come with a medium tip, but some customers prefer a finer line, or even a larger one. To replace the nib, you need to understand some of the terminology in order to know what to purchase. First of all, not all nibs are the same size. The size of the nib has nothing to do with the size of the tip.
PSI sells fountain pens that come with either #6 or #5 feed. To the right are examples of each. The Majestic pen comes with a #6, the Classic comes with a #5. As can be seen they are quite different in size and are not interchangeable.
Note that a fountain pen nib is different than a dipping nib, they are not necessarily interchangeable.
Nib Anatomy and Terminology
As can be seen above, a tiny nib has many different parts. The function is as follows:
Base: This holds the nib in the pen. The size when changing the nib is very much about the base.
Shoulder: this determines how large of a hole there must be in the cap in order to fit the nib into it.
Slit: This is where the ink flows. The wider the gap, the faster the ink will flow. If the gap is too narrow, the ink will not flow smoothly; too wide and the ink will flow too fast. If it is clogged with dried ink, the pen will not work. Altering the gap is a skill that can be developed using technique and specialized tools.
Tine: The tines accept pressure and act as a conduit from the pen to the paper. Misaligned tines can lead to many ink flow problems. The tines are delicate and misalignment can result from such events as dropping, sharp tapping, and heavy writing pressure.
Tip: The tip is a separate piece permanently attached to the nib. It is usually a different metal than the rest of the pen. “Iridium” has become a blanket term for the type of metal—meaning non-corrosive and smooth-gliding. True Iridium has not been used in pen nibs for over 80 years. The tip can have several shapes and angles in addition to different sizes. All shapes, sizes, and angles affect how the pen writes and some fountain pen users have very clear preferences based on their writing styles.
Removing & Disassembling the Fountain Nib
The nib rests on top of the siphon feed and both are inside a holder which is screwed into a more decorative outer shell. The picture to the right is of the Classic nib with the holder removed from the outer shell.
The feed and nib can be removed from the inner holder by gently pulling. The holder and feed have matching profiles, so there is no question about how to line them up correctly when re-assembling.
The Feed has an angled profile. The nib rests on top of the longer side of this. Notice that the feed has a groove in the top. This is for ink flow. The nib should be aligned with this groove on the feed. Reassembly is very easy. The nib and feed are pressed into the holder and the holder is screwed back into the outer shell.
Once it is out of the holder you can measure the size of the feed (see left). The total diameter will tell you the size of the nib and help in choosing a replacement. As you can see in the picture, the #5 has a feed with a 5mm diameter, and the #6 is almost 6mm.
Finding Different Nibs
At this point you should know enough about nib terminology to be able to select replacement nibs that will fit your pen. I have searched and found some websites that sell nibs for reasonable prices including:
There can be slight differences in the curvature of the feed and nib, so it may not be a 100% match. The better the match, the better the nib will function. There are tools available for fountain pen restoration that can bend the nibs to more closely match the feed if you wish to get into it, but it is outside the scope of this guide to go over their use.
About Fountain Pen Ink
Fountain pen cartridges are an easy way to refill ink in a fountain pen. They are attached by pressing the cartridge nipple onto the feed in the back of the nib assembly (see below).
Take note of the plastic stopper ball in the nipple of the cartridge. Once the cartridge is pressed in, that ball will be pushed into the cartridge and there will no longer be a seal on the ink. If the cartridge is not used, the ink will eventually dry out.
The Ink Reservoir
Instead of the cartridge, you can also use a reservoir pump which can be refilled. The reservoir looks similar to the cartridge including the nipple and is attached the same way. How the reservoir differs is that at its back is a screw activated plunger.
To use the reservoir, advance the plunger all the way forward and dip the tip into an inkwell filled with fountain pen ink. Retract the plunger and the ink will be sucked up into the reservoir. Then simply wipe the tip and it is ready to use.
Fountain pen ink can be found at stationary stores. Please note that fountain pen ink is not the same as art ink that is used for dipping quill pens. You should never use ink that is not labeled as fountain pen ink because some inks contain acids that will eat away at the tip and ruin it.
Troubleshooting fountain pen problems is a very extensive topic. It ranges from making sure the nib is clean to re-aligning the tines and even altering the grind at the tip. Of course there is a point when an expert should be called in. Some techniques require a lot of practice and skill.
An excellent guide regarding common issues and solutions as well as when to seek a professional can be found online at here. This is a very helpful guide for determining whether a nib is malfunctioning or just needs a little TLC to get back into working order.
Want to print out these directions. Click here to download a pdf.