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

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?

 

 

 

 

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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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How to Flush a Fountain Pen using a Monteverde Mini Converter

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The Monteverde Mini Converter is a handy little tool to have around when you want to flush out a fountain pen with water to clean it. The supplies you will need are: a glass of cool or room temperature water, a fountain pen or rollerball pen that uses standard international ink cartridge refills (the Mini Converter is compatible with most of these type of pens) and the Monteverde Mini Ink Converter.

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Attach the Mini Converter to the feed of the pen and push the black plunger down.

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Immerse the nib or tip of the pen in the water and pull the black plunger on the Mini Converter up to draw water into the converter. Push the black plunger down to expel the water back into the glass.

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Repeat the above step several times, drawing water into and then pushing it out of the converter. Replace the water with clean water as many times as it takes for the water to remain clear as you draw water in and out of the converter.

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When the water is all clear you’re done with the cleaning.

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Push the black plunger on the Mini Converter down to expel the water. Remove the converter from the pen and dry off the pen feed and nib with a soft cloth. Let the pen dry overnight if you wish. Attach a new ink cartridge to the feed of the pen, wait awhile for the ink to seep into the feed and you’re ready to write – easy!

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Fountain Pen Basics: What size of nib should I get on my first fountain pen?

(LAMY fountain pen nibs)

When choosing your first fountain pen you may notice that they are outfitted with a variety of nibs. The most common nib choices are extra-fine, fine, medium and broad. Other types of nibs include soft fine, BB, stub, italic, calligraphy, music, left-handed and more.

When you pick up a ballpoint or rollerball pen to write, not much thought is given to the way you hold the pen. Pretty much no matter which way the pen is oriented in your hand, the pen will write – assuming you are not out of ink of course! Fountain pens are different. Most of them need to be held correctly, with the nib oriented in the right direction, in order for the pen to write well. Depending on how coordinated you are this can take a little practice.

Nibs that are in the middle of the nib size spectrum are often the easiest to write with because they will usually write even if the fountain pen is not held exactly right. We would recommend a medium nib as a good choice for a beginner, or if your writing is small, a fine nib. Left-handed nibs are often medium-fine in size, so they are also a good choice for a beginner that is left-handed. However, a left-handed nib is not essential for a left-handed writer.

Something to keep in mind is that nib sizes are not standardized. For example, generally German-made nibs are broader in size than the equivalent size of Japanese-made nibs. This does not apply 100% of the time though, sometimes there are exceptions. A couple of popular brands with German-made nibs are LAMY and Pelikan. Pens with Japanese nibs include brands such as Platinum, Sailor, Nakaya, Pilot and others. Japanese extra-fine and fine nibs may seem very very small compared to the tips on the ballpoint and rollerball pens that Westerners are used to writing with.

These recommendations are based on our own personal writing experiences. If your first fountain pen does not have a medium or fine nib don’t let that hold you back from enjoying the satisfying experience of writing with a fountain pen. With a little bit of practice and experimentation you may find there is a place in your pen case for nibs of many different sizes! If you are an experienced fountain pen user, what nib size recommendations would you like to pass along to a beginner?

(Platinum President Fountain Pen nib)

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Fountain Pen Basics: What kind of bottled fountain pen ink should I buy?

(J. Herbin fountain pen ink – Bleu Nuit)

You have a fountain pen (or pens) and you are ready to move beyond ink cartridges into the world of bottled fountain pen ink. Buying bottled ink is cheaper and more environmentally friendly than using cartridges, offers a plethora of color options and special ink qualities, and in my opinion is a whole lot more fun. Some fountain pen ink bottles are practical and utilitarian, while others resemble fancy perfume bottles straight off the shelf from Nordstrom.

When purchasing your very first bottle of fountain pen ink which one should you buy? Every writer that uses a fountain pen will have their own favorites and preferences when it comes to ink. The purpose of this post is to give you some general guidelines and suggestions based on my own personal experience with using fountain pens.

Some suggestions for your first bottle of fountain pen ink:

1) Make sure the ink is for fountain pens. Do not use any other kind of ink because it can clog or ruin your pen.

2) It is not necessary to buy ink that is the same brand as your fountain pen.

3) Choose a bottle design that does not easily tip over.

4) Bottles with a wide mouth are easier to use for filling your pen.

(Pelikan 4001 fountain pen ink – Brilliant Red)

5)  Buy ink that is washable. It’s easier to remove from your hands, clothes or carpets if you have an accident.

6) It is not necessarily better to buy a “gourmet” ink. The higher price of some inks can just mean they have fancier bottles or are imported from a far away place.

7) Avoid inks with special or unique qualities at first, and wait to try those inks until you are a more experienced fountain pen user.

8) It may be best to steer clear of blue-black ink to begin with. Some inks of this color can react badly when mixed with other ink.

If you are experienced with using fountain pens, what would you recommend to other writers making their first purchase of bottled ink?

(LAMY T52 fountain pen ink – Black)

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Fountain Pen Basics: Simple cleaning in 60 seconds or less

One easy way to keep your fountain pen working smoothly is to give it a simple cleaning about once a month.

1) Take off the cap and unscrew the barrel of the fountain pen.

2) Remove the ink cartridge. If it still has ink in it, remember to put the cartridge somewhere safe. Perhaps open side up inside a shot glass?

3) Hold the feed and nib section of the fountain pen with the nib pointing down under cool running tap water. Continue to do this several seconds until the water runs clear.

4) Use a paper towel to blot the water off the fountain pen nib and feed. It’s okay if ink is still inside the feed and comes out of the nib onto the paper towel.

5) Insert the ink cartridge into the pen, screw the fountain pen back together and put the cap back on. That’s it – you’re done!

(Woodpecker White Oak Notebook and Waterman fountain pen)

Simple and effective for most situations.

For a more thorough cleaning, you can try this fountain pen cleaning solution.

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Fountain Pen Basics: Using a Converter and Bottled Ink

(Noodler’s Ink in the Habannero color)

You’ve purchased your very first fountain pen and discovered that you really like it! Now you’re ready to take the next step and expand your fountain-pen-related daily writing arsenal. What is the next step?

Many writers love to use bottled fountain pen ink instead of cartridges, because bottled ink comes in a huge variety of ink colors with a variety of ink qualities. For example, Noodler’s Ink is only available in bottles and there are over 100 different kinds to choose from. Besides all of the gorgeous ink colors, there are also inks that are water resistant, forgery resistant, bulletproof, fluorescent, lubricated, fast drying and freeze resistant. In addition, using bottled ink is less expensive and produces less waste than cartridges. When purchasing a bottle of ink for your pen make sure that the ink is specially made for fountain pens – this is very important! Other types of ink can clog or ruin your precious pens. For me, the excitement of trying out a new bottle of ink is one of the most enjoyable things about writing with fountain pens.

(Standard International Ink Converter by Pelikan)

If you have a fountain pen that uses ink cartridges, and you don’t already have one, you will need to get an ink converter for your pen so that you can use bottled ink. If your fountain pen uses standard international ink cartridges, then there’s a pretty good chance that a standard international converter will fit. However, if the pen is pocket-size, you may need to get a mini converter so that it fits properly inside the barrel of the pen. Other fountain pens require proprietary converters which means they need converters that are the same brand as the pen. Some brands have more than one style of converter, so you need to make sure you get the right one for your particular pen. Here’s the list of suggested beginner fountain pens from our previous blog post and their matching ink converters:

LAMY Al-StarLAMY Z24 ink converter
LAMY SafariLAMY Z24 ink converter
LAMY VistaLAMY Z24 ink converter
LAMY Joy Fountain PenLAMY Z24 ink converter
Kaweco Classic SportMonteverde mini converter
Kaweco Ice SportMonteverde mini converter
Pelikan Pelikanostandard international converter
Pelikan Pelikano Jr.standard international converter
Platinum PlaisirPlatinum converter
Platinum PreppyPlatinum converter

Once you get the ink converter, you attach it to your fountain pen the same way you would attach an ink cartridge. Here are a couple of helpful articles to read:

How to install a LAMY ink converter

What is a fountain pen converter?

(Pelikan Pelikano fountain pen with a standard international converter)

Ink converters have different types of filling systems. All of the converters mentioned in the above list, with the exception of the mini-converter, have piston filling systems that fill by twisting the top part of the converter. Here are some instructions on how to use this type of converter:

How to fill a fountain pen with ink using a piston converter

How to use a LAMY fountain pen converter (video)

When changing ink colors or brands it is a good idea to clean both your fountain pen and converter. A simple way to do this is to fill your fountain pen with cool water the same way you would fill it with ink. Once the converter is full of water, twist the knob on the top of the converter to empty the water. Repeat these steps until the water runs clear. If needed, you can use a
fountain pen cleaning solution. It is also a good idea to wait until both the converter and the fountain pen are dry before refilling with ink.

If you haven’t already tried using your fountain pen with premium writing paper now would be a good time to try it! We would suggest starting with Clairefontaine or Rhodia. Both of these brands are adored by writers who regularly use fountain pens.

If you are an experienced writer that uses fountain pens please let us know if you have any other tips you would like to share with those who are just beginning to use converters and bottled ink. What’s a great bottled ink to get as a first purchase? Any favorite inks you’d like to suggest? Happy writing!

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