Fountain pens are great for everyday writing. They make you feel more like a professional writer than a regular old ballpoint pen ever could. But sometimes, even the best fountain pens can be temperamental.
They can also be challenging to start with as the fountain pen nibs need care and cleaning and may be extremely sensitive. However, you can get your fountain pen working smoothly in no time at all with some considerations in mind.
First, ensure the ink is flowing through your fountain pen properly. If it’s not, shake your fountain pen a little bit and then write with it again. You might also want to run warm water over the nib and barrel of your pen to help loosen up any dried ink or debris.
If a fountain pen stops working suddenly, the misaligned ink cartridge or pen tip is usually the culprit. This guide will show how to get a fountain pen to work again!
Five Handy Tips on How to Get a Fountain Pen to Work
Fountain pens are often preferred to ballpoint pens due to their sleek appearance, ease of use, and long lifespan. However, if your fountain pen isn’t working correctly, it’s time for some troubleshooting!
We’ve got a few tricks up our sleeves. Here’s what you can do:
1. Check the Ink Level
First thing’s first: check the ink level. If the ink reservoir is empty and you have a cartridge pen, replace the cartridge with a new one.
Insert the cartridge back into the barrel of your fountain pen, ensuring it clicks into place securely.
If it doesn’t fit easily, try twisting it gently in both directions until it fits snugly into place.
Tip: A cartridge is a pre-filled reservoir you insert into the pen and use until the ink flow stops. A converter allows you to fill your own ink from a bottle.
If your pen uses a converter cartridge, fill it with fountain pen ink by unscrewing the cartridge and dipping it into the bottle. Once you’ve added enough new ink, screw the barrel back tightly and put the cap back on so that no air gets into your pen’s ink reservoir.
A piston mechanism fountain pen works in a similar fashion to a converter cartridge, except that it has a fixed filling mechanism instead of a converter.
Next, try writing on some piece of paper and see if you have a consistent, even flow of ink. If so, great! You’re ready to use it as usual – just remember to refill its ink supply when necessary!
If not, well, check out our next steps!
2. Try the Shake and Tap Method
You want a smooth line of ink flowing from the nib to the paper, but instead, all you get is a clogged-up mess. But don’t worry! We’ve got an easy fix for that.
Lightly shake and tap your pen – any dried ink in the nib and feed will clear out. You’ll be back in business in no time!
So shake your pen gently from side to side. Please do not shake it hard, or you can damage the nib. Then, tap the pen on a flat surface several times.
The tapping will help dislodge any clogged ink and make it flow freely again. However, be careful not to hit too hard, as excessive pressure can damage your delicate nib.
Tip: Tap your fountain pen nib with gentle pressure on a paper towel or a piece of scrap paper to avoid smearing ink on anything else.
An inexperienced writer might be tempted to press down on the nib, and that can cause the ink flow to stop. Instead, gently hold the pen at a 45-degree angle and maintain this sweet spot. Next, apply a bit of pressure and let it glide over the writing surface.
Your pen should glide smoothly over your writing surface. If it feels scratchy or rough, it’s not in its sweet spot (the place where it writes best.)
In addition, shaking and taping will dislodge any air bubbles trapped in the ink reservoir. When you put your pen down for a while, air can get in there and become trapped. A light shake or tap should help free up any trapped air so you can continue your everyday writing!
3. Dip the Nib in Clean Water
If you can’t get the ink going with a couple of shakes, wet the tip with warm water. That usually does the trick.
The water will dissolve any dried ink and get it flowing again.
To clean your nib:
- Fill a small bowl with a cup of water and place it on some newspaper or paper towel.
- Take off the cap of your fountain pen and dip the tip of your nib into the water until it is fully immersed.
- Remove any excess ink from the tip of your nib before dipping it into the water. This trick will ensure that only clean water touches your nib when you are cleaning it.
If everything above fails, let’s switch our strategy and lob more ink at the funnel.
4. Force the Ink Out
Priming the pen will get ink from your reservoir to your pen’s nib.
If you use a cartridge converter-style fountain pen, unscrew the converter’s knob and gently squeeze the cartridge until the ink flows out of the nib.
If your pen is piston-fill or otherwise, press the plunger to force ink out.
5. Flush the Feed
If forcing ink through the nib doesn’t solve your issue, you must flush the feed with warm water.
Allow the water to sit for a few minutes, then rinse it thoroughly until all traces of ink are gone. Next, refill your pen with ink.
6. Send Your Fountain Pen to Repair
If you’re still having trouble with your fountain pen, it’s time to send it off for repair. Fountain pens are delicate instruments that require specialized care and maintenance, so only a professional can restore them to their optimal function.
A good pen repair shop can diagnose the problem with your pen and quote you an estimate for the repairs.
Nibmeisters are experts at getting fountain pens working flawlessly. They will ensure your nib is aligned correctly for maximum performance.
The nib can get damaged or bent if you drop your pen frequently or mishandle it while writing.
If you have an expensive pen still under warranty, you can return it to the manufacturer for repairs or replacement.
7. Buy the Right Ink
The ink is the fuel that keeps your fountain pen running. You can write smoothly and evenly with high-quality ink flowing well in your pen.
Some are self-lubricating and flow easily while others are not and can clog the feed system. If you have trouble getting your pen going, try changing the ink and see if that helps.
8. Consider the Paper
The paper you use can greatly impact how well your fountain pen works. Not all papers are the same. The smoother and more absorbent the paper, the better it will hold ink and produce a consistent line. To get the most out of your fountain pen, consider using high-quality paper that doesn’t bleed or feather.
If you’re using a fountain pen for work or school, consider using smooth paper like Rhodia or Clairefontaine. These papers will allow the ink to flow smoothly from the nib onto the page so that it doesn’t skip or blotch.
If you’re writing letters in cursive, you may want to use more textured paper like Tomoe River. This approach will help create the right resistance to ensure your nib doesn’t drag across the page as you write.
9. Apply Gentle Pressure
If you’re too aggressive with your stroke, it can cause ink flow issues that could keep your pen from working properly.
Fountain pens are unique because they work on a different principle than most pens—they use gravity to help the ink flow from the reservoir down to the pen’s nib. So if you want your pen to function properly, you’ll need to keep it upright while writing.
Fountain pens are also very sensitive to pressure—the more you apply when writing with one, the thicker your lines will be. So if your fountain pen isn’t producing as much line variation as another pen would (or if it’s creating too much variation), try applying more or less pressure when using it so that it produces consistent results.
10. Practice Writing
Finally, keep practicing! It may take some time before you feel like writing with a fountain pen is second nature, but this is true for any skill. The more you do it, the easier it gets.
Write in different ways: slowly, quickly, in cursive, and other ways. This variation will help keep your hand from getting bored with the same motions.
Writing with a fountain pen is a wonderful experience.
But sometimes, even the best of us get stuck with a pen that won’t write. There are plenty of ways to troubleshoot the problem and get your writing back in gear, whether it’s because of the ink or paper.
First, try shaking and tapping your pen over a piece of paper – that gets the ink flowing again pretty quickly. If that doesn’t work, flush out the fountain pen’s feed. Moreover, ensure the nib is clean and clear of dried ink. If it’s not, use a damp cloth to wipe away any excess ink or dirt.
If nothing above works, you should take your fountain pen to a professional for repair or replacement.
We hope this article has helped teach you how to get a fountain pen to work. Happy writing!