Why Is My Fountain Pen Not Writing? Five Main Reasons and How to Fix Them
fountain pen not writing

One of the biggest benefits of a fountain pen is how smoothly it writes. But with time, the fountain pen may start malfunctioning and you’ll experience the dreaded “bad ink flow” issue. In this guide, we will cover five main reasons why your fountain pen is not writing and some easy, quick fixes.

Why Is Your Fountain Pen Not Writing?

If your fountain pen ink is flowing inconsistently, the nib feels scratchy, or the letters are too thick after only a few seconds, it’s in need of some maintenance. Fortunately, the reasons for all of these issues are similar and the fixes are easy.

Ink Is Clogged

A fountain pen needs to be cleaned often. If it isn’t, the ink will stain the nib, dry up, and get stuck on the reservoir or the feeder. All it takes is a damp towel and cold water to clean the dried ink from the nib. You should also check the ink filler because it may be damaged.

The Nib Is Scratchy

Though fountain pens don’t need to be broken in, the nib may feel scratchy on paper if the tines of the nib are misaligned or if you’re holding the pen at a wrong angle. The right nib should feel smooth and glide over the fountain pen paper.

Ink Is Too Thick

Some fountain pen nibs are too fine to work with thick inks. You may see considerable ink bleeding on the paper, feathering, and shadowing on the other side. The ink may clog up after cleaning often. The letters may become too wide or smudge even with a light smear.

The Feeder Is Nicked

The feeder is the most important part of a fountain pen and because it’s extended under the nib, it is prone to damage if not handled carefully. Check if there is a nick or a cut on the feeder. It may be leaking air into the ink cartridge, which stops the flow.

Consider the Handedness

When it comes to fountain pens, which are very technical, the hand you write with matters, as well as the angle you use to hold it. Left-handed people face considerable difficulty with ink smudging and bad quality paper.

How to Fix a Clogged Fountain Pen

Fountain pen, vintage

No matter how wet the ink is, it can dry up and clog the reservoir of the fountain pen. Luckily, the fix is easy and can be done in the comfort of your home. Here are the two best ways to clear up dried ink from the fountain pen.

Clean the Nib

First and foremost: take a compact container and fill it with cold water. Detach the nib from the barrel, swirl it in the water, and leave it to soak for a few hours. Then take a paper towel and wipe off the nib gently. This should take off any ink stuck to the nib of the fountain pen.

Change the Ink Filler

If the nib is cleared up and the fountain pen still won’t write, check the ink filler as it may be damaged. If it’s a cartridge filler, simply dispose of the current casing and replace it with a fresh casing. For a converter, simply flush out the ink. After it’s dry, draw up fresh ink from the bottle.

How to Smooth a Scratchy Fountain Pen Nib

If a fountain pen nib scratches up the paper, catches on rough paper, or does not glide well and leaves blobs of ink, these two fixes may be what your fountain pen needs:

Align the Tines

Bring the pen close to your eye level and with a side view, check if the tip is equal on each tine of the nib. Misalignment can be caused by accidental drops to the ground or simply by pressing too hard on the paper. Gently push the tine that is higher and it should become equal.

Sand the Scratch

If the tines aren’t misaligned but the nib does feel scratchy, draw a circle on paper and see where the ink feathers or the nib catches. Then, take a micromesh pad that has at least 4000 to 8000 grit or get a nail buffer with the same grit. Move the fountain pen in a circle against the pad or nail buffer and check if the nib has smoothed out. Repeat until satisfied.

How to Get the Ink to Flow in a Fountain Pen

If you’ve cleaned, sanded, and aligned the nib but the ink still won’t flow, here’s what you can do:

Dilute the Ink

Aside from being thick, the ink may be too concentrated to easily or consistently flow on the paper. Diluting the ink with some water should get it flowing. Make sure not to add too much water as the ink will start bleeding uncontrollably from the nib.

Inspect the Tines

Besides misalignment, the tines of the fountain pen nib may be pushed too close together, which may stop or interrupt the ink flow. Push the tines apart very gently and check for ink flow. The ideal distance between the tines is equal to 0.0003 inches or the width of standard copy paper.

How to Fix Scratches and Nicks on the Fountain Pen Feeder

If the fountain pen feeder is damaged and the return window has expired, take some clear polish (not a base coat or top coat) and paint a layer on top of the feeder to close the leak. Make sure to discharge the ink cartridge beforehand.

What to Look For in a Fountain Pen for Left-Handed People

Most languages around the world, including English, are written from left to right, which makes left-handed people prone to smearing ink all over the page. This is especially a risk with fountain pen ink as it takes a while to dry on highly absorbent paper. Here’s what to consider to get a fountain pen that is left-hand friendly.

Fine Nib

Fine nibs work well for small fonts and detailed sketches. As their surface area is small, the ink does not spread and dries quickly. This broadens the compatibility range for fountain pens that work well for left-handed people.

Material of Nib

If fine nibs do not feel comfortable to you or you’d like a larger font, look for left-handed nibs for fountain pens. They are limited in range, so if that isn’t your cup of tea, simply go for steel nibs. There is a huge variety available and they write smoothly on every type of paper.

Comfortable Hold

Besides the smooth feel on paper, fountain pens are characterized by their relaxed hold in the hand. Simply holding the fountain pen correctly, pulling it across the paper (not pushing), and keeping your wrist straight will make the grip ergonomic and get the ink flowing in no time.

Quick-Dry Ink

The best way to ensure there is no smudging is to get a bottle of fast-drying ink (preferably from the same company the fountain pen is from). It holds well on all kinds of paper and does not bleed through or feather. It is perfect for left-handed ink enthusiasts.

Choice of Paper

Fountain pens work exceptionally well on thick GSM, highly absorbent, and smooth-textured paper. But the ink tends to take a while to dry on thick paper so it smears easily. An easy (and inexpensive) way to fix this is to use standard notebook paper. It may bleed through, so keep an extra scrap sheet or two underneath.

How to Take Care of a Fountain Pen

Blue Fountain pen

A fountain pen is quite technical in nature and it takes a little while to get the hang of it but with patience and a strict care regime, the fountain pen will never be under distress of malfunction. Here are a few simple procedures to remember that will help your fountain pen last a lifetime:

Clean It Frequently

A fountain pen should be cleaned with water every time you’re finished using it and should be deep cleaned on a monthly basis. This helps keep the finish of the barrel and nib looking good as new and helps prevent rust.

Store It Upright

Contrary to popular belief, a fountain pen does need to be stored a certain way. Post the fountain pen’s nib and place it on a pen holder with the nib facing up. If you’re traveling or taking it to school, place it horizontally in a pen case.

Keep It Capped

When storing the pen or placing it down for a few minutes, make sure to place the cap on. It helps contain any ink bleeds so it doesn’t leave a mess and it comes with a liner built-in, which keeps the nib wet so ink doesn’t dry out.

Hold It Right

A fountain pen is held at a 45 to 50 degree angle, with the thumb and forefinger joined together on top of the barrel and the middle finger keeping the pen steady below. This generally works well for left-handed and right-handed people, with all nibs and on every kind of paper.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does a fountain pen nib last?

It depends on how well the fountain pen nib is made. Stainless steel nibs may last around 30 years while gold and silver nibs hold their own for a lifetime. With proper care, every fountain pen can last around 100 years.

Can a fountain pen be made wetter?

Yes, the easiest way to make a fountain pen have a greater flow of ink is to wrap a paper towel around your thumb and press the very tip of the fountain pen on the thumb in an upwards direction. Make sure to do it with extreme caution as it could damage the nib. The goal is to spread the tines a bit. Keep checking on a scrap piece of paper until desired result.

Does paper quality affect the fountain pen’s ink flow?

Yes, some fountain pen paper is too textured or “toothy” to work well and catches the nib often so there are more ink blots than written content. The combination of highly absorbent, thick and smooth coated papers with quick-drying ink works wonders for fountain pens.

Brief Summary

Knowing the reasons why a fountain pen is not writing and doing the maintenance steps regularly will help fix problems easily. Now that you have a considerable idea of the risks, you can prepare for emergencies before they even happen.

We hope this article has helped you understand why your fountain pen isn’t writing. For more reviews of the best fountain pens on the market, take a look at our other guides.


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