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Fountain Pens: Frequently Asked Questions

Fountain Pens: Frequently Asked Questions

Ross Adams |

Here are a few common questions we often get asked to do with fountain pens and ink. If there is something we haven't covered that you need help with don't hesitate to contact us.

1. My pen won't write. What can I do?

If it is a brand new pen make sure the cartridge or converter is pushed into the pen fully. An ink cartridge has a seal that must be broken for the ink to flow. It may take a while for the ink to get through the feed into the nib to start with. Try squeezing the ink cartridge to get some ink into the feed or screwing the converter to force some ink up into the feed.

If that is not the problem, you can try flushing the pen through with some water, using a bulb syringe to remove any dried ink or debris.

2. How do I clean my pen?

It is best to give your pen a good clean after each ink change. You can do this by taking your pen apart and flushing it out. You can use tap water or for more stubborn stains a fountain pen cleaner can be used. Fill a bulb syringe with water and insert the end where you would put the converter/cartridge and slowly expel the water until it runs clear. 

3. What is the difference between a cartridge and a converter?

A cartridge is a pre-filled ink reservoir that can be fitted into your fountain pen and are typically disposed off once they run out to be replaced by another. A converter is a re-fillable ink reservoir that sits in the same place a cartridge would. You are usually limited to your colour choices when using cartridges, however converters give you an limitless colour choice as you can refill from bottled ink and would be the eco conscious choice as well as being better for your wallet.

4. Which cartridges/converter will fit my pen?

Some pens will take an international standard type cartridge or converter and others will take their own brand specific type only. You can take a look at this handy chart to see which your pen will need. E.g. your Caran d'Ache takes an international standard type so a Pelikan international standard type will also fit.

5. Which ink is best for my pen?

Most inks are suitable for all fountain pens such as Diamine or Parker inks. If your brand of pen also has a range of inks you can't go wrong with those. Most glitter or shimmer inks are suitable with most fountain pens but may need to be cleaned out after use to avoid them clogging up your pen. There are some calligraphy inks that are very highly pigmented that are not suitable for fountain pens and can only be used with dip pens, such as those by KWZ. Baystate Blue by Noodler's is a waterproof ink and is notorious for staining pens so you may need a dedicated pen for such inks.

6. What is iron gall ink?

Traditionally made iron gall inks contain iron salts and tannic acids. It was the only ink that was used from the 5th century onwards. Due to the acidity of the ink it can wear down the pens nib more quickly than standard inks. However, modern day formulations of iron gall ink are far less corrosive and are suitable for use in fountain pens. They should however be cleaned out after use. Iron Gall ink is waterproof, making it ideal for use on official documents.

7. Can I travel with my pens?

Yes you can travel with your fountain pens but it is best to take a few precautions to ensure they don't leak. Read the full blog here on travelling with your fountain pens.

8. I am new to fountain pens, which one shall I choose?

There is a huge range of fountain pens to choose from when you are first starting out. You may want to start with a less expensive pen from the likes of Jinhao or Kaweco. Read our full blog on fountain pens for beginners to help you out with your choice.

9. Which nib width should I choose?

Extra Fine: gives you a very thin line, good for those with small handwriting. May be a little scratchy due to the small tip of the nib.

Fine: Fine or medium may come as standard in some fountain pens and is most popular. Also good for small hand writers.

Medium: the most common nib width. Will often come as standard in some fountain pens.

Broad: as the name suggests will put down a thicker stroke. It is great for seeing the sheening/shimmer qualities in your ink if it has such. You will need to use good quality fountain pen paper with a broad nib as the put down of ink will bleed through on standard copy paper.

Stub/1.1mm: ideal for signing documents or greetings cards. Gives a more varied line due to the shape of the nib. Ideal for calligraphy.

10. Which paper shall I use with my fountain pen?

In theory you can use any paper but to get the most out of your fountain pen and ink colours a feather resistant paper is best. Writing on standard copy paper will cause your ink to bleed, which means your ink will spread on the paper. Fountain pen friendly paper is usually a little thicker so your writing will sit on the page nicely getting the most of your chosen ink colour. Rhodia do a great, very affordable range of notebooks suitable for everyday writing. See a full list here.