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(This page revised July 16, 2018)
A reader asks some basic questions:
1) When a fountain pen has not been used for a while, what is the best way to clean it ( hot/warm or cold water, other substance, etc.)?
2) When a pen is in a coatpocket, hand bag, etc., how do you keep it from leaking, practical tips?
3) How does one choose an ink for a pen, brand name or other factor?
1) The first solvent choice should always be cold water. Hot water can damage a pen, sometimes with terrifying rapidity. It’s usually reasonable to soak for extended periods, although hard rubber and casein will obviously not respond well to this sort of thing. The basic treatment is soak and flush, soak and flush, until the pen works as it should. You can follow water with a 1:10 solution of clear household ammonia in water, but don't leave pens soaking in this stuff for long periods. If more aggressive measures are required, consider whether you’re skilled in disassembly, use of an ultrasonic cleaner, flossing nib slits and feed channels, etc. If not, consult your favorite repairer.
2) To keep a pen from leaking, keep it capped tightly, and carry it nib-end uppermost. This is why clips are on caps, not at the back end of the barrel. No joke, this is the only way that works. But be aware that it may not work if you take a pen flying. For flying, you should have your pen either completely filled (with as little air as you can possibly have) or completely empty.
3) You can choose ink by brand, as I do, or you can choose it by color, as I also do, or you can just buy pretty much at random and enjoy the variety. For my own use, I’ve settled on Waterman because I find that Waterman inks all flow and lubricate well, do not clog, and stain less than many other brands. And I like the colors. If you have a preference for a particular color, you can cycle through literally dozens of brands. Some will be better than others at satisfying the criteria I’ve listed. Some might turn out not to work for you at all. Some might be more subject than others to the dreaded SITB or mold. If you don’t have a preference for a particular brand or a particular color, the world could be your oyster with several hundred inks out there for you to play with. And if you find that you just don’t like any of ’em, you can start mixing your own. My favorite color — and my all-time favorite ink — is a 1:1 mixture of Waterman Violet and Waterman Florida Blue.
You may recall that I recently cited INK NIX as being useful for taking ink out of barrel threads as well as off your hands.
So where can I get this magic potion??
[Updated 2018] You can’t. The maker is out of business. However, Mike and Linda Kennedy at Indy-Pen-Dance are offering a product called InkZap! that is every bit as good as the old INK NIX.
A reader writes: I have had success using the “standard” short International cartridges in one of my C/Fs. They’re a slightly tight fit, but the do go in tight and seal OK. They are just a bit snug in the barrel. I wouldn’t recommend using these cartridges in the later C/F-style pens that have the plastic cartridge sleeve on the back of the section, but for the top-line C/Fs with the metal sleeve, this option does work.
Sonofagun, he’s right! Here’s a C/F with a short International cartridge installed. The red cartridge below is a C/F cartridge; the black one is a short International for comparison. Note that you do need to force the cartridge in very tightly; I found that the best way was to “screw” it in firmly. To remove it, screw it out in the same direction as for screwing in. If you “unscrew” it, you’re likely to unscrew the metal ferrule along with it. (Note that this International cartridge is the same as a Waterman mini cartridge except that the Waterman version is slightly necked down at the business end.)
The information in this article is as accurate as possible, but you should not take it as absolutely authoritative or complete. If you have additions or corrections to this page, please consider sharing them with us to improve the accuracy of our information.