Fountain Pens

Love fountain pens? You'll like this blog devoted in full to collecting, repairing and enjoying these fabulous writing instruments. Waterman, Pelikan, Parker, Mont Blanc, Cross enthusiasts share their experience and knowledge about vintage and modern fountain pens.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Brief History of The Fountain Pen

The fountain pen was invented by Waterman in 1884. Inspired by the old tradition of the feather quill, Waterman came up with a way to use the concept without having to be seated at a desk to keep the pen inked. The fountain pen became a staple of society until the ballpoint pen was invented in 1947. This limited the sale of fountain pens in the U.S, but not in Europe. The fountain pen has recently made a resurgence in popularity mainly due to technological advances. Many people are now longing for the nostalgia of the had written note. Nothing makes you feel better than to receive the personal touch of a note that someone took the time to sit and write.

Why a Fountain Pen?

Many people wonder why they should use a fountain pen. Fountain pens offer an expression to a person's handwriting. Through a change in pressure of thepen to the paper, you can achieve a variety of lines, from thick to thin. The ballpoint and rollerball will not give you this variety of line.

Many people also believe that fountain pens improve their penmanship. The basic nature of a fountain pen forces the user to write a little more slowly, hence creating neater, more legible handwriting.

Unlike a ballpoint or rollerball pen, a fountain pen allows for more choices when it comes to ink colors and shades. With a ballpoint or rollerball, blue is blue and black is black. That is not the case with fountain pen ink.

Writing With a Fountain Pen

The proper manner to hold a fountain pen is in the triangle created by your first two fingers and your thumb. The nib of the pen should be up, so that you may see the engraving (if any) on the nib; the black portion of the nib (the feed) should be down. The fountain pen nib is a piece of metal, either steel, gold or titanium, that is split down the center. On the underside of the nib, on both pieces of the split, is a half ball of iridium. If the fountain pen is held properly, both tines of the nib should hit thepaper at the same time, allowing for a smooth feel and a consistent flow of ink.

There are two different ways to handle the cap of a fountain pen. Probably the most common manner is to post the cap on the back of the pen, aligning the clip with the nib. If the pen is held properly, the clip will be out of the way of your hand, and the cap will help with the balance of the pen in your hand. If the fountain pen feels uncomfortable in the hand, you may decide to use the cap in the "European" style, setting the cap on the desk as you write. Rather than setting the cap down, many people may decide to hold it in their nono-writing hand.

Picking a Bottled Ink

Ink Should always be chosen by color preference, not by brand. You should only use ink that is designed for fountain pens, and you should NEVER use India Ink. India ink contains a lacquer that will seize the mechanism in a fountain pen and cuase permanent and irreversible damage. If you choose to use bright colored inks, such as pinks, purples, and reds, use them in a dedicated pen. In other words, pick a pen and use that color only. Bright colored inks have the tendency to stain the barrels and converters of fountain pens.

Some ink varieties would include:

Aurora - Black or Blue
Private Reserve - Lake Placid Blue, Midnight Blues, or Fiesta Red
Waterman - Purple or South Seas Blue

These ink choices are consistently less problematic and require low maintenance.

Filling A Fountain Pen


Cartridges for fountain pens come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some brands, such as Parker, Waterman, Aurora and Lamy use full-sized cartridges, cartridges that fill the entire barrel of the pen. Most other fountain pen brands including Mont Blanc, Cross, Visconti and Delta, use mini cartridges. When using a full-sized pen that requires a mini cartridge, you should drop one cartridge, narrow side down, into the barrel, and plug the other cartridge into the nib. This piggy-back system serves two purposes: you have a spare cartridge when your pierced cartridge runs out, and it creates a snug fit for the cartridge you are using.

Converter or Piston

A pen that fills from a bottle requires a little more care than a cartridge pen; however, it is not as intimidating as most people would think. Most converters operate using a piston system. This requires a knob to be turned counter-clockwise to move the piston forward, immersing the entire nib into a bottle of ink, and then turning the knob clockwise to draw the ink. Once the converter or reservoir is filled, you should lift the nib out of the ink, turn the piston knob counter-clockwise to bleed out two or three drops, turn the pen nib up, and then turn the know clockwise again. Bleeding the pen will allow for the normal expansion of liquid that occurs with a fountain pen. when cleaning the nib after filling your fountain pen, you should always use a paper towel. You never want to use tissue or cotton clothes, as they will leave lint in your nib, and you may experience ink flow inconsistencies.

Clean Up Your Fountain Pen

Absolute Best:
Remove the Nib from the feed and section. Place all parts including cap in an ultrasonic cleaner. Then take the filling system apart and lubricate all moving parts. Brush clean the feed and then reassemble the pen taking care to set the nib square on the feed.

Hint: By leaving the cap on the back of the pen and cleaning it last, you can use it as a guide to reposition the nib in its original Slot or key.

Note: Most modern convertors and pistons can be dissembled with the right tools and "know how." This does not include a hammer.

In the store we use an ultrasonic machine (jewelry cleaner) with a mix of three parts water to one part
sudsy ammonia. Do not let the water get hot. Do not clean any part of the pen that is celluloid in this solution. It is advisable to rinse before and after with cool tap water. Allow all parts that will come in contact with ink to complete dry.

Hint: In a pinch Windex with Ammonia works as a cleaning solution straight out of the bottle.

Note: I have seen jewelry cleaners in stores like K-Mart or Walmart for as little as $25.00 in the Jewelry Department

Second Best:
Cleaning your Fountain Pen
There is a regular monthly maintenance procedure that you should follow with your fountain pen. It is recommended that you flush your fountain pen with cool, clear water on a monthly basis. The easiest way to flush a pen that has a converter or piston is to draw clear water as you would ink, expel the water, and repeat this until the water coming out of your pen is clear. It is a repetitive process that may take a little while, but it is necessary. You should also do the flush whenever you change ink colors or brands. You can also remove the convertor clean that part on its own by filling and emptying, Then run cool water from the tap through the back of the pen blowing through it until the ink color is gone. Remember to blow dry or air dry the nib section and convertor completely.

Hint: When you blow through the pen keep your head deep in the sink to avoid splatter.

If the water you expel from the fountain pen doesn't lose color after persistent flushing, and your pen and it is NOT made of celluloid, you may use a mix of 3:1 solution of water to sudsy ammonia Fountain pen ink is ammonia soluble and this solution will break down any dried ink that cannot be loosened with plain water. Be advised: Celluloid is also ammonia soluble, so DO NOT use this solution if you pen is celluloid. When in doubt, just use the water.

Hint: Clean out the cap of the pen too, If you don't and ink is present, it might flow down on the nib and make the pen appear to be leaking even if the ink appears to be dry on the inside of the cap. Moisture (evaporation) from the ink in the pen will hydrate the ink in the cap after filling and capping.

Best Of The Best
(I suggest you do this once a year or on extremely clogged pens)
Getting the pen back to square one option.
Let me clean, inspect, adjust the nib and lubricate the pen for $15.00 plus $6.95 shipping and insurance. I can usually get them shipped back to you via UPS in one or two days.

I am factory trained by Montblanc, Aurora, Visconti, Omas and Delta. I have a good working knowledge of Pelikan, Lamy, Stipula, Waterman, Parker and several other brands.

Hint: Send in several pens to amortize the shipping cost.

Note: If you break the pen it is your problem. If I break it, it is still your problem, but it costs you far less because I have to pay to fix it. After all, at that point I am the one who made the mistake, not you. I do not want to make it seem that stripping down a pen causes them to break, but stuff happens.

Your Hands
When it comes to getting ink on your hands, there are several options that you have to remove it. Amodex is a product available on the market that will remove fountain pen ink from skin and many fabrics. It has a lotion consistency that is gentle on your skin, and works like a dream! Soap and water is always an acceptable way to remove ink from hands. It may require some scrubbing, depending on the water resistance of the ink. In a pinch, when neither Amodex nor a sink are available, spritzing your hands with a little Windex will also help to remove the ink. As previously mentioned, fountain pen ink is ammonia soluble, and Windex has enough ammonia to remove the ink without having other solvents that would damage your hands.

Fountain Pen Storage
Filled fountain pens should always be stored nib up, as they would be in a shirt pocket. You should never store a fountain pen nib down...GRAVITY WORKS. Filled fountain pens should never be stored for an extended period of time. When you fill a pen, consider it a commitment to use it. Storing a pen that is filled with ink could cause the ink to dry in the pen, and create flow problems and possible piston damage.

If you plan on storing your fountain pen for an extended period of time, you should always empty the pen and flush it before putting it away. This will ensure that the barrel is clean and there is no ink inside that will lock the piston and create a problem that may need a professional repair.
In 1884 the fountain pen was invented by Lewis Waterman. It was designed after the feather quill pen. Waterman found a way to use the concept of the feather quill without having to constantly "re-ink" the pen. Here are some tips on how to write with a fountain pen.

Step One
Assume the position. The proper way to hold a fountain pen is to form a triangle with your index finger, middle finger and your thumb. Place the fountain pen in that grip.

Step Two
Make sure the pen is in the proper position. The nib, which is the tip of the pen should be pointed in the upright position. The feed, which is the base of the nib should be down. Holding the pen "upside down" so that the tip is in the air, will naturally place the pen in the correct position.
Step Three
Place the cap on the pen. Believe it or not, the balance of the fountain pen is partially dependant on placement of the cap on the back of the pen while you write. The clip of the pen should align with the nib and face out from your grip of the pen.
Step Four
Write with your fountain pen! You are now ready to place pen to paper. Write until the ink begins to become thin. If it becomes thick, tip the nib up, wait a moment, and then replace it on the paper. If it becomes thin and dry, you might be ready for a new ink cartridge.
Tips & Warnings

* Fountain pens come in a wide variety. Some brands, such as Parker and Lamy use full-sized ink cartridges. These are cartridges that fill the entire barrel of the pen. Most other fountain pen brands including Mont Blanc and Delta, use smaller cartridges called mini-cartridges. Check your brand name to see how to properly refill your pen.
* Do not use "India Ink!" Fountain pen ink is a water based ink. Indian Ink is lacquer based and will seize the pen by clogging it.
* Don't place the pen in your pocket. While high priced fountain pens should not leak, don't take the chance. Because ink is always wet at the nib (the tip), fountain pens have been known to leak. Make sure it is carried in a case, placed upright in your pocket, or left on your desk!
Friday, September 21, 2007
Return of the Penman

When debonair, mustachioed Elisha Hudson Waterman last week became king pen of L. E. Waterman Co., the 2,000 astonished employees of this famed old fountain-pen concern could well imagine his father, Frank Dan Waterman, turning furiously in his grave. Thirteen years ago, crusty, conservative President Frank Dan kicked Elisha out of his $6,500 job in the company and banished him from the family. Last month, when bitter old Frank Dan died, he left Elisha a mere $100. Scarcely was the Waterman ink dry on the will when Elisha quietly played the trump card he had held up his sleeve for 13 poverty-stricken years as dishwasher, wine steward and hack writer. While the rest of the Waterman family sat around in speechless amazement, he not only returned but took undisputed control of the $4,500,000 (estimated) Waterman business.

After three years of war, Elisha Waterman could "only stand one year of Yale," then joined the family company to be groomed as his father's successor. But Frank Dan was dictatorial. Elisha progressive and pushing; they got along like cat and dog. In 1925. Frank Dan, just defeated by Jimmy Walker for the job of mayor of New York, went back hurt and angry to the job Elisha was all set to take over. Their row on policy was terrific; they never spoke to each other again.

To support himself, wife and baby daughter, Elisha washed dishes for $12 a week, read copy on a newspaper, for years could not afford a new suit. His only money was tied up in a $1,200 savings account his great-uncle had started in 1899. One day Elisha's wife begged her father-in-law for this puny sum. Legend has it that when he refused, she produced a horsewhip, thrashed him soundly in the lobby of his swank Manhattan office building. In 1928 she died, and Elisha sent his daughter, Audrey Bridget, to live with his parents while he gradually began to succeed as a detective story writer for pulp magazines and newspaper columnist under a pen name.

When Frank Dan died last month, he left his estate to his widow with the proviso that Audrey Bridget and Frank Dan Jr., "the good son," inherit it later. Thereupon Elisha and his second wife marched out of their small flat in Greenwich Village, reminded his relatives of the will left in 1901 by his great-uncle, Inventor-Founder Lewis Edison Waterman. None of the Waterman clan but Elisha had remembered that this sage greybeard bequeathed 60% of the fountain-pen stock to Frank Dan Waterman with the proviso that on his death it go to Elisha. Said Elisha last week as he became executive vice president and director: "It is quite clear that my great-uncle meant me to be his ultimate heir."

Sure of his destiny, Elisha kept tabs on the fountain-pen business during his exile, will now handle advertising and employee and public relations preparatory to "running things before long in cooperation with my brother." His chief ambition is to restore Waterman to the No. 1 position in the industry now held by Parker Pen Co. He hopes this will not prevent his writing a novel or two on the side. When he writes he scrupulously uses a Waterman fountain pen.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Fountain Pens in Recent History

In its heyday, the fountain pen was the principle instrument people used for written communication. During the past century, fountain pens evolved as inventors developed various mechanisms and methods for pens to hold ink and fill them. Dip pens were finally relegated to the past.

But as filling and ink-storage capacities became less of an issue, pens also became more colorful, first in hard rubber, then in plastics, offering even more decorative possibilities. Fountain pens fully developed as advertising and design became paramount in the mass production of products. Pen manufacturers competed on quality and branding, offering models ranging in cost from the inexpensive and utilitarian to the expensive and exquisite.

Once there were thousands of fountain pen repairers. Today there are only a few of us. We are continually rediscovering how tools were designed, what techniques were used, and how pens were adjusted to make them a joy to use. We take pride in that tradition and believe that if something worked well in the past, it can be made to work just as well today.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Dallas Pen is turning 60 and will be celebrating this milestone at the Dallas Pen Annual Fall Show at the end of September. The special show is being staged at the Doubletree Hotel on Valley View Lane in Dallas, Texas. The dates of the event are September 28 and 29. An anniversary party will be held immediately after the show hours on Friday evening. The annual golf tournament precedes the show on Thursday, September 27.

President & CEO Pat Melugin said, "The company is 60 years old as of this year and still growing strong. We're excited about the business and are looking forward to the changes ahead of us."

"There's no question that this is a significant milestone for Dallas Pen," said Vice President Bobbie Melugin. "Our people and our customers have given us this grand opportunity and we want to show them our gratitude by sponsoring this special event."

Dallas Pen "Shop" was founded by Lyman Short in 1947 as a retail card shop and fountain pen repair center. Lyman was a traveling salesman for both Sheaffer and Parker Pen for many years. The invention and development of the ballpoint pen led Lyman to more and more writing instruments and fewer cards and fountain pen repairs. In 1955 Lyman hired Ed Melugin as his first outside salesman. Ed called on all commercial accounts and began developing the wholesale side of the business. Soon the wholesale side of the business began to outsell the retail side.

The business was incorporated in 1967 and sold as Dallas Pen Company to Ed Melugin. Ed immediately converted the business to 100 % wholesale and sold to drug stores, office supply stores, college bookstores and specialty shops. He built a 10,000 sq ft. warehouse and relocated. Ed then began to expand the product offering to include more items that could be sold to his existing customers. This meant more office supplies. He also expanded by hiring sales people to cover Texas and Louisiana.

In 1975 Ed brought his son Pat into the business who continued to develop and expand the company. He increased the sales force to 12 and expanded the states covered. In 1986 he began to bring in school supplies. Ed Melugin retired in 1990.

In June 2004 Dallas Pen Company produced its first Big Book of Learning Materials catalog and launched its website. In 2005 additional employees were hired to help produce catalogs and flyers in house. Dallas Pen now publishes 2 Big Books a year, the Little Big Book once a year, Spring New Product Flyer, Fall Seasonal and New Product Flyer and the Inspirational flyer.

Today, Dallas Pen Company occupies a 49,000 sq ft. warehouse with 33,000 inventoried items. There are 6 full time sales people covering Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, and Kansas with an additional 8 customer service specialists.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
The Paul E. Wirt Fountain Pen Company began manufacturing fountain pens in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania in the early 1880s. They may have been the largest producers of fountain pens during the next two decades. At that time, only L. E. Waterman Pen Company reached similar production levels.

Early Wirt pens were all eyedropper fill pens in black or red & black mottled hard rubber. These early pens were overfeed models - having the feed located on top of the nib. Later, when Wirt offered a traditional under feed pen, it was fairly unique in that it did not have a breather hole in the nib. It was vented through a hole in the feed. While some people have speculated that Wirt may have fell behind in the pen race because he was slow to offer self-filling pens, this information is simply not correct as Wirt was offering self-fillers as early as 1903.

Thankfully, not all Wirt pens were to be plain black or mottled hard rubber. They also produced many pens with gold or gold-filled overlays, filigree pens, and pens covered with mother of pearl or abalone slabs. Among these higher-end pens is Wirt’s version of the "Snake" pen. Wirt also offered many unique filling systems and was one of the first companies to offer a pocket clip as an option.

Sears, Roebuck & Company were the leading retailer of Wirt Fountain Pens. For many years they purchased huge quantities of pens to sell in their catalogues. However, they did not, at any time, purchase Wirt’s entire production. In addition to Sears, Wirt sold many pens to smaller retailers and even sold single pens to individuals. Wirt had a several names he used on his pens - one of them being "Phenix". Some of these pens were labeled for use by other pen companies and some were labeled to be sold by chain stores or stationary stores. The Phenix pens were all black or mottled hard rubber.

Competition in the pen business became fierce after 1910. Other pen companies were cutting costs by purchasing ready-made parts from suppliers. However, Paul Wirt was still making all parts himself. This is when Wirt sales began to lag. Eventually he began buying many of the parts just to stay competitive.

Wirt eventually switched all production to lever fill pens, with his distinctive "W" on the lever.

By the 1920s, Paul Wirt was in his 70s and had probably lost interest in the declining company. It was at this time that he turned control of the company over to his son Karl. Karl Wirt died in 1921 & Paul sold the company in 1925.

The Wirt Company eventually switched production to plastic, but the depression really took a toll on pen companies and probably put an end to all production. The Paul E. Wirt Pen Co remained open for many years doing pen repair work and probably many pens were assembled from leftover parts. Eventually the factory was closed and the remaining inventory was sold off.