Friday, November 8, 2013

Goulet Q&A Episode 12: Troubleshooting Your Fountain Pens

This week's Q&A was actually a topic that I broke out from last week's (Using Your Fountain Pens). I ended up getting so many troubleshooting questions that I split it into a separate video, which is what I made for today. I can easily see troubleshooting as a periodically recurring topic, so it'll be interesting for me to see how you like today's video.

1) Kathie M.- Facebook (2:07):
How much ink evaporation is "normal?" When should we start looking at the integrity of the seals?

2) Helen O.- Facebook (4:54):
Yes. Kathie asked what I wondered. I put ink in my ahab pen. Then I didn't use it and picked it up about a week later; empty. Can it disappear like that- or is my memory bad?

3) Anna W.- Facebook (7:25):
Do pens leak more at high altitude? I live at 5280' and find my pens dribble into the cap fairly often. Even those that never leave my desk. It happens across the board with brands and inks.

4) Michelle B.- Facebook (9:18):
Why does this happen - I've had a couple different C/C pens completely empty the entire converter of ink into the lid/general vicinity overnight.

5) Diane- email (10:52):
In the past, I have read questions on FPN regarding cleaning the cap of a pen after changing colors.  Is it possible (or necessary) to do this for a Pilot VP? If so, how would one go about checking to see if it was needed and how would it be done?

6) Roxanne R.- Facebook (12:53):
I bought a converter with my Lamy Al-Star, my first fountain pen. It's awesomely fantastic, but I do wonder: The converter seemed to pull up so very little ink compared to the space available to fill. Is it always this way, or is there a way to coax it to fill up more completely, or did I do something totally wrong? I believe I kept the fill hole submerged.

7) Christine D.- Facebook (16:49):
I have a Pilot Metropolitan (love it!) with the squeezie converter. I've used it lots, but this last time, the pen was dripping ink every few days - just a little drip. When I went to clean it, there were drops of ink all over the inside of the barrel. Do you think there's an issue with the converter? or perhaps the ink? user error?

8) Vintage Flex Fountain Pens & Accessories- Facebook (18:42):
When using an older hard rubber eyedropper pen, sometimes there can be a slight leak where the threaded section inserts into the barrel. I have found that coating the threaded section with beeswax works well. Can you recommend a better solution?

9) Ted- Ink Nouveau (19:52):
I carry my fps in my shirt pocket (clipped, tip up) every day, but some times I leave them there without use for hours and they do not start so well--and under a rush need this is inconvenient. Other than the design feature of a Vanishing Point, and other than putting them in a pocket loose and cap down (I lean over a lot and don't want pens falling out), what can you suggest that I do?

10) Angel L.- Ink Nouveau (22:18):
How do I prevent muscle pain when using flex pens like Noodler's Ahab? Is it normal for it to hurt after a while or should I invest in a better, softer flex nib pen?

11) Blue Moon- Ink Nouveau (25:32):
3 Questions for next Q&A - all about the TWSBI.
1. I'm interested in the medium nib. What happened in the last shipment? Everything came but that one.
2. I read on FPGeeks (an October, 2013 article) that TWSBI is fixing the cracking issues - http://fpgeeks.com/2013/10/big... - Is the shipment that you just received (and the medium that I hope you'll soon get) part of the ones that are fixed or are they from the old batch?
3. What's the deal with TWSBI? What I mean by that is that people are crazy about them. If any other brand or model had issues - cracking or scratchy nib, people would avoid them like the plague, but I see comments like, "My TWSBI skips and doesn't have the best ink flow, but I LOVE IT!" and "My TWSBI cracked, but I'm still using it until I get a new one." So, what's the deal?

12) NoFuture NoHope- Ink Nouveau (33:30):
I have one more: How to use the Kaweco squeeze converter. I have a new Kaweco AC Sport Carbon with the converter, but I cannot get it full no matter how many times I squeeze it.

13) ZhanchiMan- Reddit (36:23):
I'm just gonna say right here, this is an excellent medium to get questions from as well as facebook, youtube, google plus, so on and so forth. Here's my question: If I let an ink dry up in a pen, how can I clean the pen to ensure that there isn't any dried ink left? I let mine sit for a couple of months, and though it didn't dry up completely, my pen did have a rough time trying to start writing.

14) songandrew- Reddit (42:09):
Is it normal for pens to write fatter lines the longer you use them? My 4 year old f nib is writing dangerously close to a medium now, and I can't figure out any other reason than use over time.

Be sure to check out previous Goulet Q&A videos, I'm getting a nice little catalog of them! Next week's topic will be another Open Forum, where I'll answer any questions about fountain pens, ink, or paper that you have. Just post your question in the comments below and there's a really good chance I'll answer your question in next week's video. Thanks so much for watching, and have a great week!

Write On,
Brian Goulet


  1. Thanks for all the information and education you provide, both in these Q&A's and on your site. My question: While I do write with a Lamy Al-Star, I mostly use FP's to draw. I have Lamy Safari's in F and EF nibs and Platinum Cool and Plaisir, both in EF. Is there anything else you would recommend in the under $100 range? Though please not Ahab Flex as I tried it and just can't get it to work right (gave it to a fellow artist who loves them!) --KateB

  2. Brian - I love the Noodler's Eel ink (both blue and black) as they have salvaged my Waterman Laureat and Parker Duo International pens which have problems with other inks. I also really like the Clairfontaine (90g/m2) notebooks I purchased. Unfortunately while I can use these notebooks with my other pens and inks I can't use them with the Eel inks as it can take upwards of 5-10 minutes for the ink to dry!

    (Very hard to take notes when you can't turn the page for that long). The Waterman and Parker have medium nibs and I'm not really laying the ink down that thickly. I have also tried using the Eel ink with my Pilot Metropolitan pen (also with a M nib but writes similar to F) and have the same extended drying times.

    What paper/notebooks (A5 sized, lined) do you recommend for use with the Eel inks that would give short drying times and not have bleed through?

  3. Hi Brian, Regarding Pilot VP leak: Yes it happens and it basically seems to depend on 2 things. The type of ink and altitude changes. If you use an ink that is known for nib creep or a low viscosity ink, some ink might accumulate on top of the nib. When you click the nib out the ink gets wiped onto some of the pen part. When this happens enough, ink accumulates in the pen point and if enough accumulates it can actually start drawing more ink from the reservoir due to capillary action. Another side effect of this, if the leak is small, is that you might get weird colors after changing inks, even though you clean the reservoir properly. The first couple of letters will have mixed ink from the pen body and the reservoir.

    I've had it happen a few times in my VPs, but not often. My cleaning regimen starts with what you described, but I also do the following:

    Empty reservoir and place the bottom part of the pen body in a bowl of water. Then push the nib section in and out of the body to trigger the "trap door" . Sometimes I will fill the body, take it out of the bowl and then trigger the trap door, allowing the water flow to flush out risidual ink. After that I shake out as much water as possible, use an earbud as you described and then let the pen dry completely.

    I've had a VP for almost 10 years and this type of cleaning, maybe once every 4 or 5 months has not hurt it yet.

  4. Awesome, thank you Neels! This is great feedback since you've been using the pen for so long and cleaning it out. I hadn't considered nib creep and how that might contribute to ink building up inside the body, excellent point.

  5. I don't know if I'll be able to make that happen this week, I'll see what we can do though.

  6. You're welcome! Too bad the Ahab wasn't cutting it for you, I would have recommended that as one. I'll have to think about this one...there really aren't any other flex options under $100, you may be able to work a stub nib, you could easily get a Lamy 1.1 or 1.5mm nib to put on your Safari. Platinum Desk Pen has a super fine nib and works well with Platinum Carbon Black.

  7. I wanted to mention a couple of things with regard to pen materials: as far as I know ebonite and hard rubber are two different names for the same thing, also, I have been advised that you should never soak a casein pen in water as it will soften up completely and ruin the pen.
    As to the answer to Angel L.'s question about flex pens, I have tried both the Namiki Falcon and the Noodlers Ahab pen and found neither of them as flexible as a good vintage flex pen, or a flex nib from Richard Binder. Both the vintage and Binder nibs flex if you just lean on them a bit, if that, while the Falcon and the Ahab didn't flex for me while I was writing normally, but only if i bore down decidedly harder than normal, which is not what I expect from a true flex nib. I wasn't surprised to read that Angel L is having hand pain due to her Ahab use. I think that she should consider the possibility of getting a vintage pen with a flex nib if she is okay with bottle filling her pen. There might be one she can find that costs less than the $200.00+ for a Binder flex nib, and it would be 14K nib she can use without cramping up her hand. I think Waterman and Mabie Todd had flex nibs that were good, among the vintage brands. She might be able to do well with Brian's advice, but I do think a more flexible nib would work well, too.

  8. There isn't one paper that I can necessarily recommend, I know Leuchtturm1917 paper is more absorbent, as is Midori, Banditapple, and Field Notes. See which of those might work for you with all of the other features those notebooks offer.

    Eel inks are heavily lubricated, which flow great but can take forever to dry, just as you've seen. You might want to look into some samples of De Atramentis or Pilot Iroshizuku, they flow well but don't suffer the extended dry times of Noodler's Eel inks, they might be a happy medium for you.

    Another option to consider if you like the CF paper and want to keep using the Eel inks, would be to use a paper blotter. It's easy to use, and works really well for soaking up excess ink. I have a video on it here: http://www.inknouveau.com/2011/05/using-j-herbin-blotter-paper.html

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