Fountain pen care

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qquake

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Feb 8, 2004
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I have a Magnetic Graduate fountain pen that I made several years ago. I haven't used it in a couple of years. I just ordered some ink cartridges for it, which should be here Thursday. Is there any kind of cleaning and/or care I should do to the nib before I put more ink in it?
 

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monophoto

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Mar 13, 2010
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You probably should soak/flush the section and nib to remove any dried ink left in it.

Referring to your photo mag_grad_09.jpg, the section/nib is the black component on the right. Drop it in a small glass of warm water, and just let it soak.

Periodically, dump the water and replace it with clear, warm water. Adding a drop or two of dishwashing liquid is OK for the first couple of soak cycles, but you should end the process in plain water. Some people believe that adding a bit of household ammonia or hypochlorite bleach in the initial soak will speed the process, but you can usually accomplish the same objective by using a longer soak. The key is to go through several soaking cycles, with the last few in plain water. Usually, an hour or two of soaking in plain water is sufficient. When the soak water no longer changes color, the job is done.

Incidentally, the nib and feed may retain some evidence of the previous ink, and this can be disconcerting if you are changing ink color, but practically its not an issue. There are some inks (typically not available in cartridges) that cause persistent stain on both plastic and metal components that can be addressed by adding some ordinary hypochlorite bleach (ie, Chlorox) to the initial soak solution. Just never mix bleach and ammonia together!

After soaking the nib, shake it to remove any trapped water, insert a new cartridge, and enjoy your pen. It may take a few minutes for ink to start flowing, and it may appear a bit diluted initially because of water that remains trapped inside the feed, but that will correct itself after a few minutes of writing.
 

monophoto

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Couple of comments on Brian Goulet's video - - -

In general, it's a great guide to pen maintenance, but be aware that:
  • Early on in the video, Brian casually pulls the feed out of a pen section, and then removes the nib. That's possible on some pens, but on others it is not and attempting that maneuver could damage the pen. More importantly, it's not necessary to clean a pen. If you don't know for sure that the section can be disassembled that easily, it's best to not force the issue.
  • What Brian said about 'pigment' inks - absolutely true. Unless you are absolutely anal about frequent cleaning, they should never go in a fountain pen. And never use an ink containing shellac (eg, India ink). There are a few specialty writing inks (iron gall inks, sometimes called 'registrar's ink' and intended for ceremonial use in archival documents such as church birth and marriage records) that should be used only with great caution because they can damage fountain pens.
  • Brian mentions use of an ear syringe to force-flush water through a pen. That's fine if you have one, but in my experience, just allowing the section, feed and nib to quietly soak in a small glass of water accomplishes the same thing. It just takes a bit longer. And if you aren't a pen addict and routinely use cartridges, you probably won't be able to justify purchasing specialty tools for pen maintenance.
  • Unless you are changing the ink used in the pen, the periodic flush doesn't need to be very thorough. In fact, if your pen is in fairly constant use with one brand/color of ink, merely rinsing the nib in running water between fills may be sufficient to keep if flowing smoothly. If you are changing inks, a more thorough flush is advisable.
  • Like many turners, I keep a few boxes of Harbor Freight nitrile gloves around the house, and have a pair next to my inks that I use to prevent ink stains on my hands. Ink stains generally disappear within 24 hours with the ordinary cycle of handwashing and showers, but if I'm inking a pen in the morning, and have some social activity planned for later in the day, wearing gloves helps avoid strange looks from people who don't know how crazy I am. However, some inks do adhere permanently to some fabrics, so it's a good idea to not wear your best shirt! and if you rinse out your pen at the kitchen sink, be careful to protect anything that might get splattered. DAMHIKT
 

duncsuss

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Jun 29, 2012
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Wilmington, MA
Thanks for the info, guys. I think I'll just soak the nib and see.
I believe it's worth getting an ear syringe, they are less than $5 from places like Rite-Aid and CVS. If dried ink is clogging the capillary channels in the feed, soaking might not do the job even with a drop of bleach or ammonia in there.
 
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