I consider myself a fountain pen newbie since I just started using one in May 2014. That being said, I learned a few things that help improve the ink flow of pens. I think new pen users like me can benefit from learning these basic things so that you won’t be intimidated by pens that aren’t performing as well as you expected.
1. Check the nib
Take a loupe or a magnifying lens and check if the tines of the nib are aligned. If one tine is lower or higher than the other, gently pull on it to align it with the other tine. Apply gentle but consistent pressure for a short time and don’t forget to check through the loupe once in a while to see if the tines are already aligned. Be careful not to push or pull too hard as this may bend the tines. Be careful to hold the pen firmly too, so that it doesn’t slip. Also make sure that the nib is seated properly, and that it touches the feed. If the nib is not touching the feed properly, it will hamper the ink flow severely.
2. Wash the nib
Take the nib unit out and flush it with water. If your pen is new, this may still have residual chemicals from when the nib was made so flushing it out with water can help the ink flow a lot. For used pens, some ink may have dried up from the last time it was used. Soaking it in warm water with a little bit of mild dishwashing soap and rinsing it well afterwards can help a lot. You can use tap water or distilled water. I personally use distilled water because the water from our tap comes from a deep well and may cause residual build up over time. If you have an ultrasonic cleaner, putting the nib part of the pen in it washing it a few cycles can help remove stubborn ink residue. I bought my ultrasonic cleaner from CDR King for less than P1,000.
3. Floss the nib
Some nibs’ tines can be too close to one another, making the pen a dry writer or hard starter. Take a small piece of clear plastic like a sheet of acetate and wedge it in between the tines. Floss it gently to force it apart. To easily wedge a piece of acetate plastic between the nib’s tines, push the underside of the nib with the tip of your thumb very gently until the nib tines spread a little. See the photos below for reference.
Ideally, there should be a very thin sliver of light in between the tines when you hold them up to a light source. Just be really careful when you spread the tines, you don’t want to spread it too much. Work on your nib slowly and patiently, spreading the tines a tiny bit at a time and testing it often. Check the nib through the loupe after flossing too, to make sure the tines are aligned properly. Adjust the tines as needed.
4. Change inks
Some inks work better with some nibs. I have no way of explaining it, but that’s just how it is. For example, my first Parker 51 wrote terribly with Diamine Oxblood. It skipped a lot and was just hard-starting, no matter how much I flush it with water or run it through the ultrasonic cleaner. I changed the ink to Diamine Onyx Black and it flowed so well. I discovered that some inks just don’t play well with some pens so I do my best to remember which inks work best with which pens. Of course, this is one of the easiest troubleshooting steps you can try.
5. Prime your nib
If you’re using the pen for the first time, right out of the box, it may help to prime your nib before using it. If you have a pen that uses a converter and you remove the converter to suck up the ink, prime the nib by attaching the converter to the pen and then pushing a bit of ink out through it. This makes sure that the feed has ink. Or you may dip the nib in ink and wipe off the top portion of the nib with tissue. All it does is to make sure that the feed has ink to start writing with.
These simple tips are things that I learned from fellow pen enthusiasts. Tip #3 have helped me improve ink flow on a lot of my entry-level pens. I like ink gushers because I’m in love with how fountain pens lay down ink on paper, so I have a stash of acetate sheets ready to spread the tines of pens that are stingy with ink.
Enjoy the process of learning how to improve your pen’s performance while being cautious about the process. Patience is very important here, but really, that’s one of the things that fountain pens teach us users; take it slow, savor the process, work with your hands and heart. 🙂