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Saturday, October 06, 2007
Care and maintenance are important to keep any pen a “good writer.” Here are a few points to remember:

1. Never leave a pen filled and unused for more than a couple days.

2. When not in use, place the pen in a nib up position or at angle where ink leaves the nib. (Do not store roller ball or gel ink pens in point up mode or be prepared to buy a new refill.)
3. If the pen is to be stored, thoroughly clean it and ensure all ink is drained from the nib and reservoir.

4. Always use first quality fountain pen ink. (Never India ink or technical fountain pen ink). Generally, the age of the stock is not a concern.

Cleaning is always a good idea and there are some proven techniques to help. Any pen left unused several weeks with ink in it is likely to become clogged, to one extent or another. A partial blockage can be indicated by gaps in ink flow to the paper. Soaking in lukewarm water will loosen the clog adequately for a flow of water to further help eliminate it. I have a small, deep bowl I’ve adopted for this purpose. A slow stream of water seems to help and also keeps the water clear so you can better see what’s going on. This approach works well for nibs that are standalone, meaning they use a cartridge or converter. For piston fillers it gets a bit more complicated. Soaking the nib should free the clog adequately to get some flow to the reservoir. During soaking you might want to use the slow stream of water to assist. If this doesn’t work, it’s a trip to the pen repair nearest you. I don’t use ammonia or other chemicals to free a clogged pen, some people do. My only venture in this area is to add a little mild soap to the water, mix thoroughly, swirl the nib around in it a little, then let it soak.

Rotring had a very nice fountain pen cleaning container out a few years ago, designed for technical fountain pens but I removed the basket to adapt it to other pens too. It works nicely if you can find one. Alternatively, a small jar or plastic container with a sealing top will serve the purpose. If you use one of these containers and want to agitate the water some it helps, but don’t get too active about it. Just a nice gentle turning motion to move the nib through the water (or vice versa).

I generally rotate my pens, keeping two or three active at one time. Remember though, I use the pens daily. When they have been cycled through, I clean them and put them in their appropriate place in the cases. The pens with sterling silver barrel and cap require more attention and polishing, but all the materials benefit from care. A jeweler’s rouge cloth works well. They are offered by some of the pen sites at a reasonable price.