My email inbox gets a plethora of interesting pen related questions, and I spend a good deal of time crafting thoughtful responses to each person who writes to me. A lot of times, the questions I get are good ones that I feel are worth sharing with you! I’ll be posting highlights of some of my more interesting email questions every Mailbox Monday. These are some emails of mine from the past week or so:

Hi Brian, following Montblanc’s recent announcement about the recall/temporary discontinuation of their Lavender Purple ink, I am turning to my other favorite ink brand, Noodler’s, for a replacement. Do you have any recommendations for which Noodler’s purple ink might most closely match Montblanc Lavender Purple’s shades? Thank you!

I’ve never used or seen that ink in person, so it’s hard for me to say what will be the closest match. I did some searches but depending on the image/reviewer posting it, the color can look really different. But it looks to me to be kind of a dusty purple, so for Noodler’s inks I think Purple Heart, Purple Wampum, or Violet might be the closest. Some other ones to consider would be Diamine Damson and J. Herbin Poussiére de Lune

I saw somewhere that the Namiki Falcon can be used as an eye dropper pen, which I assume would over come low ink capacity of the Con 50 or cartridge.

Yes, it can be done, but may not be ideal. This blogger (the Peaceable Writer) writes about their experience converting it and had ink blobbing/leaking problems doing so, that seems to be a somewhat common issue with the eyedropper conversion so it probably shouldn’t be the sole factor in your decision making, but merely a perk if you happen to be able to do it without any trouble. 

I live in Los Angeles and the heat can get pretty hot, even indoors where I store it on my desk (upwards of 100.F). Could the ink be drying up in the feed and behind the nib on my Pilot Metropolitan, causing a “scab” to impede the flow to the nib tip?

The heat will most definitely be a factor. Is it also dry where you are? The relative humidity is a factor as much as the heat. Fountain pen ink is mostly water, and if it’s really hot, that water can evaporate as your pen sits there. What’s happening is that the water is drying a bit out of your nib, which then leaves it dry so it won’t start. The ink wants to flow down which is why it is gathering up on the feed, but if there’s dried ink in the way, it just won’t flow.

So there are a couple of things you can do, some of which are more practical than others. 1) Clean/ink your pen every two days. That’s kind of annoying, so you may not want to do that. 2) Use a paper towel to wipe your nib off after it’s been sitting a while. The paper towel can help to wick out the ink through your nib, which will help to get it flowing again. It’s simple, and usually works for this kind of thing. 3) You can keep a small cup of water handy and just dip your nib into it, to get it wet again. This usually works well, but your first bit of writing will be weak in color, so you may want to use this in tandem with a paper towel wicking. 4) Switch inks….it may just be that this ink isn’t suited for this pen in this weather! 

Hi Brian! I am now following your videos about care and handling of fountain pens. Yours get right to the subjects that I need to know. I am just starting out, and I need your help, please. My questions concern 4 pens that [probably] belonged to my mom: Parker USA…..plunger Sheaffer 14k…..snorkel Osmiroid italic, medium, straight, England Parker 14k, 585, England 5. Okay! I couldn’t stand the suspense so I filled them with Pelikan 4001. Problem is, all the nibs are so light and fine. I do not write with a light & fine script. Now what? What’s a pen & nib a beginner begins with? I like these pens because they are definitely WWII era. Should I replace the nib? With what? If I can use them, how much does it cost to have them looked at to see if they need cleaning or repair? Or, find a vintage pen of my own?

I’m glad you like my videos! I try to be pretty to-the-point :) The first thing you’re going to want to do if you haven’t already is clean your pens out really well. If they were left with ink in them when your mom stopped using them, then there could be old dried-up ink in them that is impeding the ink flow, which would make it write really weak. You can try just cleaning with water, but usually with older pens that have been sitting around for a while, a pen flush helps a lot to jump start them back into working order.

If they’re clean and still writing weak, that could very well just be the ink. Pelikan 4001 inks are pretty weak in general, you may find another type of ink more appealing. I find Noodler’s, Private Reserve and Diamine to have some of the boldest and most saturated ink colors. We even carry samples so you can try out different inks that look appealing to you before buying a whole bottle.

I’m honestly not sure if you’ll be able to swap the nibs in these pens….I’m not really a vintage guy. But I’m willing to bet that if you can, it won’t be easy, and it won’t be cheap or easy to find the nibs to even swap, since I believe these are all discontinued pens. You’d need to find vintage nibs to replace them. It’ll actually be cheaper just to buy whole new pens, and just keep these ones intact. After a while, you may actually come to appreciate them for what they are.

I’m really not sure who does the cleaning up of old pens, I’ve heard of a few people but honestly no one that I know well enough to want to recommend. It may be worth posing a question on the Fountain Pen Network there are a lot of helpful folks there and they can point you in the right direction.

I’m not sure if you’re the right person to ask, but so far you’ve come up with the best answers to any of my pen related questions, so I figured it couldn’t hurt. I recently came into possession of a 1948 Parker 51 Demi. I took it to a local pen shop here and the guy couldn’t get it to write. But I pretty much expected that, I took it in mostly to identify it and figure out just exactly how it was supposed to fill. He suggested I give it a good flush. It sort of worked after that, but I still didn’t think it was working right. I’m assuming it has an EF nib on it, because it writes with a finer line than anything I’ve ever used before, but the flow just seems off and it skips a lot. So I sent it off to a guy who has repaired a couple of modern Watermans for me, He claimed to refurbish the filling system. Again it worked for like a day and then stopped.

It boils down to the fact that I know next to nothing about vintage pens. And I’m not sure if my expectations are a bit unrealistic as I’m comparing something from 1948 to my modern pens, or if there’s still something wrong with it. Do you know of any way I could try to diagnose it myself or of anyone that I could send it to to attempt to figure out if its a lost cause or not? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Also, I’m looking into stub nibs. A few years back I was working on some calligraphy for a friend and wound up with the Lamy Joy 3 piece set. I find the 1.1 and 1.9 almost impossible to write with, but the 1.5 a pleasure. I think that (based on the 1.5 and my prior experience with Lamy) something wasn’t quite right about the set I got (that came cheap, and a little beat up from a third party) and before I write them off completely I’d like to try some other stub nibs for comparison. Any suggestions between the TWSBI or the Montverte? I’m really tempted to just buy the Goulet nibs in the stub sizes, but I’m not really interested in more Noodler’s pen smell….maybe if I burned a konrad/ahab before i switched the nibs…..

Flushing a pen like that is always a good first step. You want to make sure you do it really well, because if there’s any old dried ink up in there, it can really impede your ink flow. You may even need to resort to filling the pen with flush and letting it sit in there for a day or two, to really break down the gunk in there. I’m afraid I don’t know much about vintage pens myself, and there’s nothing glaringly obvious about your pen that I can think of besides making sure it’s clean. Is it writing scratchy at all? Perhaps the nib was damaged or mishandled before it came to you. You might be able to see it if the damage is obvious, but likely you’d need to send it to a professional, sorry to say. 

For stub nibs, I don’t want you to write off 1.1 and 1.9 nibs just because of your Lamy set, especially because you got it second-hand. Lamy nibs are usually good, as are TWSBI and Monteverde. The advantage of TWSBI over Monteverde is they have a 1.1 and 1.5, whereas Monteverde only has a 1.1. They’re similar, but a little bit different in that the TWSBI nibs are just a little springy, and the MV nibs are pretty stiff. My Goulet nibs are also pretty stiff, not that it really matters in terms of writing performance, it’s really just a personal preference thing. I would say that any of these nibs would give you a good experience, so it’ll boil down more to the features of the pen and what’s important to you there that will determine what you should get. 

Thanks for taking the time to read my emails! I’d love to hear what you think in the comments. I’ll be compiling more emails into my next Mailbox Monday post!

Write On,
Brian Goulet