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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Fountain Pens Need Special Care

Fountain pens (almost all of them) are comprised of the same basic components: a nib (also called a point, this is the decorative metal writing tip of the fountain pen, available in stainless steel, rhodium gold and other metals), a feed (the ribbed component attached to the back of the nib), and the ink supply (various options here include: cartridge, piston, converter, plunger, vacuum, and sac). Many people do not realize that there are certain care requirements for Fountain Pens and that if they are followed many “problems” can be resolved or never start.
Fountain pens come in many finishes and are constructed of a wide variety materials, so their care varies from material to material. Silver, sterling and plated: use a store bought polishing cloth or glove infused with silver cleaner. For hard to clean patterns and finishes such as “barley etched”, use a liquid silver polish with a soft brush to get the polish and tarnish out of the crevices.. Remember silver is a soft metal and will take on a patina and will show scratches and even small dents.
Platinum, palladium, rhodium, stainless steel and chrome: These finishes generally do not tarnish and remain “mirror like”. While they can show scratches and wear, they are much more durable than Sterling and/or silverplate. A soft cloth will remove fingerprints and dirt.
A fountain pen should be cleaned after every second filling of either ink from a bottle or cartridge. Which means, if you use the pen and you replace the cartridge, insert another and then run out, clean the fountain pen before you install the third cartridge or fill from an ink bottle.
Fountain pens should only be cleaned with clean, cool water. IMPORTANT: NEVER USE HOT WATER. Hot water can easily damage the feed. If your fountain pen is excessively dirty, a teaspoon of ammonia can be added to a cup of water, then soak the nib section overnight. You can also use a window cleaner like “Windex”, just be sure it has ammonia as this helps break up dry ink and dirt the best.
Drying After Washing. Cover the nib section with a soft dry cloth and shake it a few times to force the water out. It is best to do this right before bedtime and leave it to dry overnight. In the morning just pop in a cartridge and you are ready to write! We use a store bought toothbrush rack with a soft paper towel folded where the nib will rest. You can put the freshly cleaned pen in one of the slots and let the capillary action from the towel draw the wetness out. This is very effective and we clean our pens like this in the store. If your pens are piston fed only (only bottled ink can be used) you can soak your pens first in water then suck fresh water into the chamber and evacuate the water. Do this 3x or until the water runs clear.
Never store your fountain pen lying down. The ink will coagulate and dry in the nib section and make it difficult for the ink to flow and for the pen to write properly. Keep your pen capped with the nib pointed up in a pencil cup or other type of holder. Toothbrush holders work great at our stores. Find one that suits your pens size(s). If you are not going to use your pen for a week or more, evacuate the ink or remove the cartridge. Pen cases where the pens lie flat are great ways to store unfilled fountain pens.