Is there a trick to fountain pens?

I love the way they write, but fountain pens can be a real pain on several levels, starting with the fact that the nib always dries up.

Because I’m a retard, I just lick it and tap…tap…sscribble, tap, scribble, tap, lick…AH! There it is!

What is the way normal people get their fountain pen’s ink flow starting? Is it just supposed to start if you hold the nib firmly to the paper for five minutes wile you pick your nose?

I feel like I’ve been left out of some key information meetings on the whole fountain pen issue, and I need answers!

The OP must be too young to remember Charlie Brown (from “Peanuts”) and his attempts to write to his pen pal or rather pencil pal, 'cause Charlie Brown can’t write with a pen


The ink dries on the nib. The trick is to cap the pen the instant you stop writing. If you can’t, doodle. I’ve also found it varies ink to ink how fast it dries on the nib. I used an inexpensive cartridge Shaeffer all through college and for some reason the black would dry almost instantly if you paused, whereas the blue & blue-black would not. I switched ink colors, problem solved. :slight_smile:

If you press too hard you’ll get a fiber caught in the nib, and this causes “Charlie Brown blotches” as the ink runs out onto the trapped fiber like a paintbrush & spreads around.

Now if your ink stops flowing while you are in the midst of writing you are either not holding it right or it is a very bad pen. (And I’ve owned very serviceable pens that cost $3, I am not saying it is “cheap” just bad).

You might want to try some different brands of ink. They don’t all have the same flow characteristics. I’m partial to Pelikan, Aurora and some of the colors of Private Reserve.

If you still have problems but really like the pen, you can send it out to have the nib reground or adjusted to your liking. Many modern fountain pens have terrible nibs as delivered, because apparently nobody knows the difference anymore.

Nib repairs and adjustments

Try storing your pen at an angle, such that the ink is up to the back end of the nib unit. I do this, and my nib is never dry. I also screw the plunger up to get rid of any air in the cartridge.

And some pens just write ‘wetter’ and more dependably. I have a cheap Lamy Safari that seems to never suffer from dry ink. If there’s any ink at all left in the reservoir, the thing writes instantly.

To reitterate the above about ink types. This can be critical, and some inks are known to be incompatible with some pens. In particular, Parker’s Quink is only useful in Parker pens, and won’t work properly in just about any other maker’s pen. I use Lamy ink in a Caran d’Arch pen, and it works very well, whilst I always had issues with Mont Blanc ink. Using the manufacturer’s own ink is probably a good start. But there is no doubt that there is a lot of magic in ink formulations, and you get what you pay for.

Fountain pens occasionally need servicing, especially if they have been allowed to turn into a dried up lump. I am reasonably happy working on my own pens, but it is a delicate thing in some ways. The exact pen and nib is very personal too. Ignore brand names and choose the pen and nib that works for you. A good pen shop will work with you to get it right. And, as above, don’t ignore the need to correctly adjust the nib.

I always used only Mont Blanc ink, and I had very few drying problems. I also always tapped the capped pen nib-down a couple times before I took the cap off, kind of like before you’d smoke a cigarette.

Stoid, you don’t happen to be left-handed, do you? is a great place for fountain pens and advice!

Not spamming, but “back in the day”, I used to love to give these things as gifts, and always used “Rotring” (“red ring”) calligraphy pens when I needed to write a “special” note on heavy “parchment-type” paper.

(I used to like to pretend I was one of those “illuminated manuscript” monks when I used my “calli-pens” and ALWAYS took plenty of time. :))

Anyway, I have found the Rotring ink cartidges to be very suitable and not prone to clog.



sweet jebus, the visconti alhambra is fantastic … unfortunately I cant justify buying one =(

I know, Hon!:slight_smile:

Shoulda seen the “Beethoven” one from 3 years ago!

My mouth actually watered.

But was I gonna do?

“Yeah, I own this beautiful Beethoven pen, and yes, that’s my 2001 Hyundai I’m fixin’ to drive off in!”

“Uhhhh… HUH?”:confused:

“Git outta mah face, and QUIT looking at my ‘Rolex’, Mommy-Frigger!”:):slight_smile:


The 2 just don’t “match up”.

That’s why I like my Rotring pens.

They’re “affordable”.

Parchment is, too.


I always loved fountain pens, and they always leaked, or dried out, or didn’t work correctly. But once I got a bit older and could affort more expensive pens +$100 or more, I found that they virtually always worked great. So from my experience, it’s the quality of the pen, more than the ink or other factors.

I’ve had few problems with my better pens. However, I did have one that always stopped up no matter what ink I used–I’ve liked the Private Reserve colors I’ve used; I think the cap was not sufficient to keep the ink from drying. Because this was a pen I loved otherwise, I found that a few things would start it. Holding the nib in a paper towel that didn’t shed fiber often worked if there was any flow at all. The capillary action would often clear the block. If this failed, I’d wrap it up in paper towel and swing it a bit. Worst case, I’d rinse it in water until the ink flowed and then dry it. You generally shouldn’t have to do these things. If you’re having trouble capping the pen fast enough, you might like Namiki’s retractable nib pens. This was never a favorite of mine, but I did find I could use it in situations in which a fountain pen was otherwise impractical.

Missed edit window. I’d also add that nearly every pen I had that didn’t have a gold nib regularly blocked up on me–I thing the one exception was a Lamy. My impression is that this has to do with how ink dries on gold, but it may have to do with the quality of pens that get gold nibs.

What I still wanna know is: what method do you use for re-starting? Tapping? Press and hold? Bang, shake, lick, dip in water…?

Sometimes I dab my tongue with a tissue then use that to wipe the nib. That is often enough to get it moving again.

If I’m close to a sink, a quick snap of the hand holding the pen, will usually re-start it.

Sorry I misunderstood.