How to Clean a Piston-Fill Fountain Pen

Here’s one simple method for cleaning a piston-fill fountain pen:

1. Now’s a good time to use room temperature water to rinse out the pen cap. There may or may not be some ink residue inside. Let the cap dry on a paper towel. (Some writers like to use distilled water instead of tap water to clean their fountain pens.)

Use room temperature water to rinse out the pen cap.
Use room temperature water to rinse out the pen cap.

2. Take apart the pen and rinse the feed under running tap water. Make sure the water is room temperature. (Not a bad idea to put some kind of strainer over the drain to keep the fountain pen feed out of your garbage disposal if you drop it.) I personally like to soak the feed in a glass of water overnight if I remember and have the time. Screw the pen back together. You can skip step number 2 entirely if you wish.

Rinse out the feed under a running tap. Use room temperature water.
Rinse out the feed under a running tap. Use room temperature water.

3. Turn the fountain pen piston knob counter-clockwise until the piston mechanism is all the way at the bottom (nearest the nib). Submerse the nib in a glass of clean room temperature water. Twist the piston clockwise (as far up as it will go) to draw water into the pen.

Submerse the nib in a glass of water. Twist the piston to draw water into the pen.
Submerse the nib in a glass of water. Twist the piston to draw water into the pen.
The ink remaining in the pen will mix with the water.
The ink remaining in the pen will mix with the water.

4. Turn the piston counter-clockwise to expel the water from the pen. Repeat step 3 and step 4 over and over again until the water from the pen runs clean and clear. You will need to dump the inky water out of the glass and refill it with clean water a few times.

Keep refilling & expelling water from the pen repeatedly until the water runs clear. Change the water in the glass a couple of times as you continue.
Keep refilling & expelling water from the pen repeatedly until the water runs clear. Change the water in the glass a couple of times as you continue.
Eventually the water inside the pen will be clear & clean.
Eventually the water inside the pen will be clear & clean.

In this picture you can see a bit of blue ink stain inside my pen. I could use a fountain pen cleaning solution to work on removing this.

Blot the nib on a paper towel to see if there is any ink remaining in the feed.
Blot the nib on a paper towel to see if there is any ink remaining in the feed.

5. Once the water coming from the pen is clear, twist the piston counter-clockwise to expel any water remaining in the pen. You can test to see if there is any ink left in the feed by blotting the nib on a paper towel. If the paper towel remains clean you’ve done a thorough job. For best results let the fountain pen dry out on a paper towel overnight before you refill it with ink.

What’s your favorite method for cleaning a piston-fill fountain pen?

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What should you do when you want to change the ink color in your fountain pen?

DIY Fountain Pen Cleaning Solution
DIY Fountain Pen Cleaning Solution

The ability to use a variety of brands of ink in a wide range of colors is one of the reasons writing with a fountain pen is appealing. What should you do when you want to change the ink color in your fountain pen? There is more than one answer to this question.

The safest thing to do when you want to change to a new ink color is to wash out the fountain pen and converter (if you’re using one), let the pen dry overnight, and then refill the pen with new ink. Usually room temperature water is all you need to wash a fountain pen, but if you’re having a hard time getting rid of dried up ink you can try a cleaning solution such as a DIY fountain pen cleaning solution.

Sometimes I like to watch one color of ink slowly transition to another color. This can be especially fun when you have an appealing color combination such as pink to orange, brown to amber, blue to green or black to blue. This is easily done with a cartridge filled pen – just pop off the empty cartridge and attach the new one. If you’re using a fountain pen with an ink converter this is also possible, however, we would recommend removing the converter from the pen and refilling it with a blunt tip needle bottle or syringe to prevent contaminating the ink in the bottle of the new color with the previous color of ink.

A note of caution: not all fountain pen inks are compatible when mixed together. Avoid mixing pigment based inks, blue-black inks, Noodler’s Baystate or Golden Pig inks. For more details read our previous blog post: Fountain Pen Ink Mixing – Combinations to Avoid.

What procedure do you like to follow when you change ink colors in your fountain pen?

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Fountain Pen Basics: Getting Started with Your New Fountain Pen

LAMY Safari Fountain Pen - Limited Edition Pink
LAMY Safari Fountain Pen – Limited Edition Pink

Congratulations! You have your first fountain pen! You’ve excitedly opened the package, what comes next?

First, take a careful look at the pen and the nib. Does everything look as it should? Is anything bent, cracked, damaged or scratched? If it seems that there is any damage to the pen, now is the time to contact the seller and arrange to return it. If the pen comes with an instruction booklet and warranty now would be a good time to read it.

Next, you’ll need to fill your pen with fountain pen ink. If you are using ink cartridges be sure to press the ink cartridge onto the pen firmly to break the seal on the cartridge and allow the ink to flow into the pen. It may take a little while for the ink to flow from the cartridge into the nib so you’ll need to be patient. If the ink seems to need a bit of coaxing you can put the cap on the pen and store it with the nib pointing down to allow gravity to help the ink along. You can also run a bit of water over the nib to help get the ink flowing. Here is a helpful article on using fountain pen ink cartridges:

If you are using an ink converter or have a piston fill (or other type of filling mechanism) fountain pen, then putting ink in your fountain pen will be different than using ink cartridges. Here are some helpful tips and instructions:

Once the pen has been filled with ink and is ready to write, you’ll need to think about the way that you hold the fountain pen. With a ballpoint or roller ball pen you can hold the pen in pretty much any direction or at any angle and it will usually write. Fountain pens are a little different and can take a bit of getting used to. The flat, top surface of the nib should be facing “up” and the pen held at about a 45 degree angle in relation to the paper. How you hold the pen can make a huge difference in the way it writes! Some fountain pens, such as the LAMY Safari, have ergonomic grips designed to help you with proper finger placement. However you personally hold a pen, it may take a bit of experimentation before you get it just right.

Hold a fountain pen at approx. a 45 degree angle to the paper - similar to this drawing which is likely a dipping pen.
Hold a fountain pen at approx. a 45 degree angle to the paper – similar to this drawing which is likely a dipping pen.

Often, this is all the information you need to get you started! If you’re having a lot of trouble getting the ink to flow smoothly or your writing skips then you may need to clean the pen. Brand new fountain pens sometimes have an oily film on the feed or the nib and cleaning the pen will fix this problem. Here is a blog post to help you with this issue:

Another thing worth mentioning if you are new to the world of fountain pens – you may have to change the type of paper you are writing on or try different types of ink before you find the combination that is ideal for your personal use and for each individual pen. If the ink seems to be an issue, try filling your pen with the same brand of ink as the pen. If the paper seems to be an issue then we would recommend trying out some paper such as Rhodia or Clairefontaine that pairs well with fountain pens.

If you continue to experience issues with your pen that can’t be fixed by holding the pen correctly, a good cleaning or by switching the brand of ink or paper you’re using, many fountain pens come with a warranty and can be returned to the manufacturer (or their distributor) for repair or replacement. They have experienced “nibmeisters” that are ready to offer help. It is a good idea to contact the manufacturer and follow carefully their instructions for sending in your fountain pen. Check out our FAQ webpage for a list of some fountain pen manufacturers USA contact info.

If you haven’t purchased your first fountain pen yet, but you have been thinking of getting one, this blog post will help:

For many, writing with a fountain pen is a deeply satisfying experience that should be enjoyed for a lifetime. How did you feel when you got your very first fountain pen? Do you have any tips or experiences you’d like to share?

Pilot Metropolitan Violet Leopard Fountain Pen
Pilot Metropolitan Violet Leopard Fountain Pen

 

 

 

 

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Fountain Pen Basics: What is a Fountain Pen Feed?

What is a fountain pen feed? Simply put, it is the part of the pen that “feeds” ink to the nib so that you can write. By means of capillary action the ink travels from the ink cartridge, converter or ink reservoir through the feed to the nib. In turn, the feed allows air to flow back into the ink reservoir. The feed is usually made of plastic or hard rubber and it can differ in design from fountain pen to fountain pen. It is what the nib is attached to or is resting on. If you have a clear demonstrator fountain pen you can see that the feed often has many small fins or ridges on it. Here are some photos of a variety of fountain pen feeds:

Delta Italiana Fountain Pen - Matte Brown, Gold Plated Trim, Medium
You can clearly see the black feed when you look at the back side of the nib on this Delta Italiana Fountain Pen.
Platinum Preppy Fountain Pens
You can see the grey feed next to the nibs through the clear barrel of these Platinum Preppy Fountain Pens.
Stipula Tuscany Dreams Peposo Fountain Pen
Front of the nib & the feed behind the nib – Stipula Tuscany Dreams Peposo Fountain Pen.

 

Pilot Metal Falcon Fountain Pen
Front of the nib and back of the nib showing the feed – Pilot Metal Falcon Fountain Pen.

 

Platinum 3776 Century Fountain Pen - Black, Extra Fine Nib
Front of the nib and back of the nib showing the feed – Platinum 3776 Century Fountain Pen.
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