ball point pens

i promised myself that i would stop bothering this board with my ignorance but i have run out of options to get answers to the questions that keep me up at night.

can ball point pens (i mean the normal, mundane, cheap, plastic, disposable type)dry out if left uncapped for a period of time?

does my laziness, thoughtlessness and self-centeredness that manifests itself by my failure to replace the cap on my friend’s pens result in wasted ink and needless pen replacement costs?

My opinion is that BPPs have gotten a lot better in the past couple of decades and are much less prone to leak, glop, skip or “dry out.”

As for the “dry out” issue, if I were your defense attorney I’d submit one of those cheap thumb-clicking plastic jobs as Exhibit A. Let’s face it, when the tip retracts, it is far from “covered”; fresh air still circulates around it, yet it does not dry out if subjected to ocassional use.

Stick with me, kid, and you’ll walk. Or get Community Service at worst.


OK - get out a ball-point pen. One of the clickie ones that screws apart at the middle. You know, the kind that you can use to make a little gun with. (Note - if you don’t know how to make a little gun, if your education is so bereft of the truly useful and important things, let me know and I will expain.)

OK, got it? Go ahead and unscrew it.
Put the long piece and ink tube off to the left and focus on the top portion. Turn it upright and push the button so that all of the contents come out the bottom.
You may have to use the ink tube as a ramrod. I’ll wait.
Three pieces should have fallen out:
[li]The “cap” - the piece that you actually push on,[/li][li]The “longer piece” - the longer piece that the cap rests on and around and[/li][li]The “funny little piece I am asking about.” (Note - this is, of course, the projectile when you make the aforementioned gun).[/li][/list=1]
Got all of those pieces?

Here is my question: What is the third piece for? It seems to me that if it wasn’t there, piece #2 could be made just a tad longer to make up for the difference - woiuldn’t the pen work then? Note that if you remove piece #3 and reassemble, the pen will not work properly.

Does anyone know?


To follow up on Stuyguy’s post, I have a non-cliccable (i.e. no moving parts) Bic pen. The cap has a 1 mm hole in the top of the cap. And the round cap doesn’t make a tight seal with the hexagonal body anyway. I doubt the caps have ever been to prevent drying, and more to prevent accidental marking.

Sdimbert, I don’t have the right kind of pen on me. Does the mystery part have sort of gear teeth (maybe only two)? I think this is the part which spins 1/4 turn with each click, half the time getting stuck farther in, and half the time coming farther out.


That is the answer… it must be.

ZenBeam, you have solved a mystery that has bothered me for years.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Well, hell.

I have said cheapy ball point pen here on my desk, and after reading sdimbert’s thread I took it apart to make the gun that I had forgotten since I last made one in grade school.

…and I can’t remember how do do it :frowning:

I remember that something has to be flipped around and that the spring has something to do with it.


Any help, y’all?

So it seems that ballpoint pens don’t dry out. The obvious follow-up question is, why does it dry on paper but not in the pen? Well, inside the pen there is no oxygen to react with, but why doesn’t the ink on the tip dry solid? Does a very thin layer dry out, protecting the rest of the ink?

I’ve had ballpoint pens apparently dry out on me before. Just about a year ago, I had a pack of pens (the one-piece, clear plastic pens with the cap) that had been lying around for probably 5-10 years. They were unused, still had the caps on them. I picked up one and started writing with it, it worked fine for probably about five minutes, then stopped. Same thing for the next one I tried. Then I just went through the whole bag, scribbling with each one to see if it was any good; I probably threw away about 80% of the pens in the bag. It seemed to me that the ink had dried out, but I can’t say that with absolute certainty; maybe the ball points were malfunctioning, I dunno.

Glad to be of assistance. :slight_smile:

[li]Unscrew the pen, setting the long barrel and ink tube off to one side.[/li][li]Remove the three key pieces from the cap, using the ink tube as a ramrod if needed.[/li][li]Remove the bottom-most piece (the “funny piece” with gears on it that fits inside the long piece that fits inside the thumb-button) and set in down.[/li][li]Replace the other two pieces (as a single assembly) into their original spot in the cap.[/li][li]Remove the spring from the ink tube and drop it into the cap on top of the two-piece assembly.[/li][li]Load the gun by dropping the “funny piece” into the cap, on top of the spring, BACKWARDS (this is key). It should drop in with the larger hole facing outward.[/li][li]Using the ink tube as a ramrod, press this “funny piece” down into the cap - this piece is your projectile; by pressing it down, you are cocking the gun.[/li][li]Gently let up on the pressure to see if the projectile has caught against the ribbed inside of the firing chamber. This is the tricky part - once is has caught, your gun is loaded and cocked. Press the thumb-cap to fire.[/li][/list=1]

The gun fires with surprising power - play at your own risk.

I was upset that nobody has volunteered solutions of what to do with a pen that has dried out.

So, if your pens are running dry, there are two things that I know of which will get the ink flowing again:

  1. hold the tip of your pen over flame. You must be quick with this, or some melting will ensue (oops, I said “ensue”)

  2. Lick the tip of the pen. Although this doesn’t have the same effect as toads, and doesn’t work as often as the flame thing, it still helps.

This should reduce the number of pens being thrown away and/or violently assaulted when they run dry.

YAY!! Thanks much :slight_smile: This has been driving me nuts - thanks!