Our Guide to Fountain Pens

Our Guide to Fountain Pens

Posted by Cass Art on 2nd Oct 2019

Writing with a fountain pen is deeply satisfying. However, sometimes, if you haven't practiced for a while, you can pick up a pen and it seems broken. Chances are it isn't. It just needs a bit of know-how and some TLC. Here are some very quick trouble-shooting tips for starting up your fountain pen.

Check your connection

When working with a new pen it may take a while for the ink to flow. Check the mechanism for how the ink is getting to the pen. Are you using an ink converter/piston or cartridge system? A cartridge is a self-contained, disposable unit filled with ink. An ink converter allows the fountain pen to use bottled ink. It has an empty chamber you fill with ink. To fill the chamber, you simply place the top of the mechanism into the ink and twist the screwable section of the device until the chamber is full.

Then tip up, so the clear chamber is upright, and attach to the pen. If using a cartridge, make sure it’s connected to the pen top/nib section – simple enough but it’s often the first mistake people make. The ink cartridge’s seal must be broken to allow the ink to release into the pen. So, screw in the cartridge and listen out for a little click that means the seal will have broken. If this hasn’t happened, the ink won’t flow. With a converter, check your ink levels and that the unit has been satisfactorily attached to the top, or nib section, of your pen. Once you’ve checked the connection, try giving it a kick-start. Point your nib down and gently squeeze the ink cartridge, forcing ink through the pen. Prime an ink converter by twisting the converter screw, effectively encouraging ink through the pen.

Check your flow

Sometimes your pen nib has simply dried out and become clogged. There is a simple way of sorting this out. Some new pens contain a bit of sediment, which can be easily removed. All you need is water… First, run the tip under cold water. This should get rid of any dried-up ink clogging the tip. If this doesn’t work, run some warm water over the tip of the pen. The heat should loosen any ink. If it still doesn’t work, then soak your pen nib in some clean warm water overnight. To check that your pen nib has been thoroughly cleaned, hold it up to a light and check the condition of the nib itself. Are the tips over lapping or splaying? Could this be the problem? If all looks well, insert a new cartridge or fresh converter and check to see if that’s done the trick.

Check your materials and technique

Make sure your ink is fresh and you are not mixing different inks from various manufacturers. As a rule of thumb, you should go with the ink the pen maker recommends. When you mix your inks they are in danger of reacting with each other and becoming claggy, which clogs your pen. With that in mind, you should clean your pen nibs before you change cartridges or refill ink. Have a look at your paper too. Some surfaces take ink better than others, with some papers absorbing too much ink while others repeal it. Beginners should try an uncoated, matte or simple cartridge paper as a good starting point. Also remember to keep a scrap piece of paper so you can test the pen before you commence your work. In terms of technique, we also have a great guide on how to write with your fountain pen. This handy how-to talks you through choosing the right nib size to suit your work and what kind of writing pressure you should be using.

Check out some pens

Take a look at our range of fountain pens and ink cartridges - there is bound to be a pen that works best for you.