They say that fountain pens can last a lifetime, perhaps even beyond, as pens are passed down from generation to generation. Fountain pens are, indeed, sturdy and designed to last, but that is only possible with proper care and maintenance from the user. These writing instruments are still delicately designed and are meant to be handled with care. While we’ve covered the basics of fountain pen maintenance in previous articles, there are other ways to care for your fountain pens to ensure they are properly maintained and last a lifetime.
What is fountain pen maintenance?
Fountain pen maintenance is essentially the steps a fountain pen user takes to ensure their pen is in good working condition. It mostly involves three things: cleaning, usage, and storage.
Cleaning a fountain pen is an absolutely essential part of maintaining it for many years to come. Here are a few tips we have on cleaning your pen.
Knowing when a pen needs cleaning
Knowing when a pen needs cleaning is something that can be learned through experience. Some beginners may not be too familiar with the signs of a pen that needs cleaning, so we’ve outlined them here:
- Hard starts or skips. If your pen requires a lot of pressure or frequently skips before starting, then it’s time to give it a good flush.
- Inconsistent ink flow. Your pen may start skipping or producing uneven lines as you write, possibly due to build-up or clogs in the nib and feed.
- Rough writing experience. Debris that has accumulated on the tip of your nib can cause a scratchy and unpleasant writing experience.
- Change in ink color. If the color of the ink you’re writing with has changed, it could be because of old ink residue mixing with new ink.
Keeping a maintenance schedule
Establishing a regular pen maintenance schedule is key to keeping your fountain pen working in optimal condition. How often you clean your pen depends on your usage and the ink type.
Generally, daily cleaning is not required unless you change inks or colors that often. Doing this will prevent any ink residue buildup. A weekly flushing is beneficial for writers who use their fountain pens often with different inks. And if you’re a regular fountain pen user, then a monthly deep cleaning with a cleaning solution may help keep your pen in great shape.
Cleaning different types of fountain pens
Cleaning is not a one-size-fits-all for fountain pens. This is because fountain pens have different filling systems and, therefore, have different cleaning needs. Here’s how to clean and maintain your fountain pen no matter the filling system:
Cartridge-converter pens are perhaps the easiest to clean among the different types of fountain pens. Simply remove the section from the pen's body and pull out the cartridge or converter. Using clean, room temperature water, flush the section, feed, and nib thoroughly. Rinse and dry the section, nib, feed, and then reassemble your fountain pen.
Cleaning eyedropper pens is fairly simple as well. Disassemble the pen, taking care not to spill any ink remaining in the barrel. Fill the barrel with water, cover the opening, and shake it to agitate the water and dislodge the ink remaining in the pen. Then, flush the section, feed, and nib thoroughly with water. Let each component dry completely before reassembling and reinking your pen.
Piston fillers, on the other hand, require a slightly different cleaning approach. Disassemble your pen, then flush the piston mechanism by repeatedly operating the piston. This helps to remove any ink trapped in the pen. Flush the section, feed, and nib as usual. Rinse and dry these components before reassembling your fountain pen.
Just like piston fillers, vacuum fillers can be flushed by operating the mechanism repeatedly. Be sure to remove the section first before doing this. Clean the section, feed, and nib as usual and then reassemble your pen once all the components have been rinsed and dried.
Keeping the body clean
Cleaning your pen is not just about flushing the nib, feed, fountain pen ink converter, and the inside of your pen. The outside of your pen deserves just as much attention and care. Using a lint-free cloth, wipe down your pen after every use. Make sure that, when inking your pen, no ink droplets dry on the body of the pen. Depending on the type of ink you use, this may cause permanent stains and can even damage the beautiful outer design of your pen.
Dealing with ink stains
Cleaning your fountain pen is also important when dealing with ink stains. This can happen when you have an ink that is much more pigmented, which can tend to leave residue in your fountain pen components.
Soaking. If you are dealing with persistent ink clogs or stains, then you can soak the feed and nib in water overnight. However, if you have done this, followed the regular cleaning process afterward, and ink stains persist, consider adding a mild pen flush solution to the soak.
Flushing solution. Pen flush solutions are made specifically to remove ink residue in your pens. Follow the instructions provided with your pen cleaning solution to clean your pen successfully. It is important to select a cleaning solution that is compatible with your pen as well. You can try the Kakimori cleaning solution, which is designed to remove tough stains from pigment inks.
How you use your fountain pen is also important in maintaining its performance and quality over time.
Using your fountain pen often
It is a common misconception that fountain pens are not meant to be used daily. However, these writing tools are specifically designed to keep writing. To keep your fountain pen in good condition, write with it, and do it often. Pens used sparingly are at a higher risk of clogging and drying out, which can cause more damage to the pen in the long run. While there is no set rule as to how often you should use your fountain pen, try to write with it every few days or even once a week to keep the ink flowing and your pen working.
Choosing the right fountain pen ink
Different types of fountain pen inks have different compositions and characteristics. Some inks have higher pigment or dye concentrations than others, which can cause more ink accumulation or stains. For instance, iron gall inks call for extra caution due to their corrosive nature. Choosing the best ink for your daily writing will depend on your needs. Do you prefer experimenting with plenty of colors and shimmering and sheening inks? Then dye-based inks are your best friend. However, if you want something more permanent, it’s best to look into pigment-based, bulletproof, or iron gall inks.
Storage is fairly simple, but there are some tips and tricks here that are important to fountain peen maintenance.
Short term storage
When storing fountain pens in the short term (a few days), you can be a bit more lax and keep them any way you like. Whether horizontally, vertically, or even diagonally, keeping your fountain pen in any position for a few days shouldn’t affect its performance or overall quality. We do recommend keeping it either horizontally to keep the feed saturated or storing it vertically with the nib up to avoid any leaks.
Long term storage
If you are thinking of going a long time without using your fountain pen (longer than a week or two), then clean it out completely before storing it to prevent any clogs from dried ink. This is particularly vital if using a pigment, waterproof, or iron gall ink. Store your pens horizontally or vertically, with the nib facing up. It may be good to invest in a fountain pen case, whether it’s ready-made or something you craft yourself.
For both short and long-term storage, keeping your pens away from humidity and heat is absolutely essential for their longevity.
The bottom line
When it comes down to it, caring for your pens is all about taking a few extra precautions when cleaning, using, and storing them. By maintaining your fountain pens, you’re likely to get much more use from them now and for many years to come.
Written by EndlessPens Blogger Ramona Kabigting