The Pensmith
Care of Fountain Pens

  • Unless fittings are of solid gold, they will generally be gold plated.  Over time, gold plating will wear.  For that reason, we often use a light coating of shellac to protect the plating on the clips (and sometimes the levers) of vintage pens.  Don't incessantly polish a vintage pen and particularly, do not use metal polish, methylated spirits or a petroleum based product on any part of a pen.  Polishing removes important imprints and plating and, no matter how much care is taken, eventually destroys the character and patina of a fine writing instrument. 
  • Under no circumstances should drawing inks or Indian Ink be used in pens regardless of attractive colours!  In our experience, Diamine and KWZ inks produce good results in most pens.  There is nothing wrong with Parker's "Quink" inks so long as they are manufactured in Britain, France or the USA.
  • Certain exotic inks should not be used in fountain pens at all.  Always use "mainstream brands" when choosing ink.  Two exotic brands void our warranty.
  • Iron gall inks require some special care unless used constantly in pens.  See our KWZ Inks page which explains the precautions that should be taken.
  • Generally, there is nothing wrong with using old ink so long as it is designed for fountain pens, does not have a foul smell and contains no sediment.
  • Fountain pens require little routine maintenance - just simple care and basic cleaning. Keep the cap free of ink deposits - wipe it out every week with a damp cloth and allow to dry.  But, please DO NOT store pens in plastic bags or airtight containers.  Doing so will ensure the attraction of moisture and degradation of the metal, hard rubber and celluloid parts of the pen.  See our News and Articles page for an explanation.
  • Any fountain pen requires a regular clean-out with cold water.  Under no circumstances use anything other than cold water.  At least monthly is a sensible interval to flush out a pen.
  • To properly flush out a fountain pen with water, empty it and re-fill it a number of times with cold water until the expelled water is clear and no longer carrys traces of ink.  Dry the pen by standing it nib downwards on a piece of tissue or soft cloth.  Cartridge pens require special treatment as the ink flow is always "one way".  Use an old cartridge and draw up water into the cartridge to flush out the pen.  Do this a number of times until the expelled water is clear.  Dry a cartridge pen in the same manner before re-fitting a new cartridge.
  • Vintage (and some new) hard rubber pens require special storage treatment - away from sunlight or other strong light sources.  Black hard rubber will quickly fade to brown (or worse) if exposed to sunlight or strong, artificial light for any length of time or, stored in plastic or airtight containers.
  • Pens with light coloured resin barrels which are fitted with ink sacs require special care if stored for long periods.  Black rubber sacs will discolour light barrels over a period of time.  Silicon sacs should instead be used.
  • Some English pens are made with casein rather than hard rubber, celluloid or resin.  Casein and water do not mix well.  Casein pens disintegrate when moist for any period of time.  Many Burnham and some Conway Stewart pens are casein. Casein can be found among the Conway Stewart  models, 12, 15, 28 and many older Dinkies.
  • Plunger fillers such as Onoto will often benefit from a light coating of pure silicone grease on the piston rod. Use only pure silicone grease available at pool and diving shops.
  • Please, don't post the cap on vintage pens when writing with them.  Regardless of the quality of a vintage pen, one way or another, a posted cap when writing will eventually, permanently mark the top of the barrel.  If you have other queries or questions, please contact us.

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