I’ve made my fair share of mistakes when it comes to using fountain pens. Leaky ink, splayed nibs, scratchy writing – these things can all take the pleasure out of writing with pen and ink. So, having learned from my mistakes, we’ve put together a short list of the most common fountain pen faux pas and how to avoid them.
A heavy hand
Fountain pens aren’t like ball-points. They only need the lightest touch to produce a nice flow of ink. Unlike ball-point pens and pencils, fountain pens don’t rely on pressure to work. They use capillary action to get the ink flowing freely. Applying too much pressure when writing with a fountain pen not only makes your handwriting look scratchy, but if you’re particularly heavy-handed it can also lead to splayed nibs.
Writing on shoddy paper
A fountain pen is only as good as the paper you’re writing on. You’ll find certain notebooks work better with different inks. There’s lots of room for personal preference when it comes to paper for fountain pens; but even so, there are some notebooks that really don’t cope with fountain pens. Some papers absorb too much ink, creating bleed, making the writing difficult to read and rendering the reverse page unusable. On the other hand, there are some notebooks that work particularly well with fountain pens.
Mile High Ink Explosions
If you’re planning on taking your fountain pen on a plane, take a minute to think about how to avoid leaking ink all over your luggage. The changes in cabin pressure can do strange things to a fountain pen! As you take-off the cabin pressure drops, meaning the pressure inside your pen is higher than that of the atmosphere around it. As that pressure equalises your pen releases air through the nib – and if there’s ink in the way, that comes out too! Hence the leaky pens.
The best way to avoid mile high ink explosions is to either empty and clean your pen completely before flying, or to keep the pen filled with as much ink as possible. The less air there is in the ink chamber, the less likely it will leak.
Not cleaning your pen
If your once perfect pen starts to produce scratchy, inconsistent or skipping ink flow it’s likely to be in need of a good clean. Over time, dust and flakes of dried ink build-up in the nib and feed, playing havoc with the capillary action that allows the ink to flow.
All you need to do is flush the pen out with some water every 4-6 weeks or when changing to a different ink. Avoid cleaning fountain pens with rubbing alcohol – it can completely ruin them.
Using the wrong ink
Beware of using calligraphy inks in fountain pens. Fountain pens aren’t designed to be used with inks for dip pens or calligraphy. Products like India Ink and Lawyers Ink contain ingredients that will clog your fountain pen and even corrode some of its internal mechanisms. Go for inks that are designed to be used with fountain pens – there’s plenty to choose from!
What fountain pen faux pas have you made? Let us know your tips on getting the best out of your fountain pens!