Keeping it clean

A lot of quirky pens usually calm down after a proper cleaning. I have revived my own fair share of sluggish writers and here are some things I learned:

Some are gentler than others.

Know your inks – Pigment inks from Platinum and Sailor withstand a deluge better than a Patagonia parka, but they can throw a wrench into the works if you don’t flush often enough. Leave them (or any ink for that matter) to cake in the feed and you can kiss your weekend goodbye. I have not used Noodler’s Bay State Blue but I have seen it disfigure the feeds and sections on my friends’ Lamys and Pilots. If you’re ink is particular about who it plays with, you best know beforehand.

Shifting gears between acidic and alkaline inks can also cause flow issues if your feed is not clean between fills. Flush every week (or every other converter/cartridge/tank full) and you should be golden. Go for a more thorough soak every couple of months, and you need not worry about losing your Saturday nights.

Patience and a light touch will save you grief and cash – Dismantling the pen makes it easier to get the job done but be careful in taking your pens apart. If you use force, you might be scouring eBay for a parts pen sooner than you think. Water is your friend. Soak the pen for a few days and see if things start to yield to a gentle turn. If not, you can escalate to an ammonia solution or a commercial pen cleaner like Speedball, Bombay, Rapido Eze or Platinum. Let the stuff do its work. Wait for the turning point. It will come.

These don't look like much but they work wonders for maintenance.

Converters suck at flushing pens – A nasal aspirator works a lot better and usually takes just a minute or two to drive all the gunk out of your pen’s innards. For cleaning converters, I use a syringe and needle to flush the ink chamber. This also works for Pelikan barrels once you have the nib out.

An ultrasonic cleaner is heaven-sent until you find out the hard way – These small machines can be had for cheap. However, some things should not be sonicated. Inlaid nibs are usually glued onto the section. An ultrasonic can release this bond and give you a world of pain. Parker 61s can lose their signets for the same reason. Some vintage materials like celluloid or ebonite may discolor or haze in the bath so ask around if your pen is safe for dunking.

The key is to use these sparingly and gently.

Some modern plastics may lose a bit of luster after a trip to the 40-kHz spa. Be prepared to give them a gentle (and I mean gentle) polish afterwards. You also want to make sure that the water stays cool. If it feels warm to the touch, replace the water before cleaning more pens. If you know their limits, ultrasonics make quick work out of some really tough jobs. I love them for reviving demonstrators and purging dried ink from feeds and nibs.

One more cycle should clear the faintly stained section. And yes, TWSBI wrenches work on Pelikans too.

Rinse and repeat – If one cleaning doesn’t do the trick, go for another one. I’ve had ornery pens that spent a few weeks in pen solution soaks and ultrasonic rinses before they breathed easy.

When in doubt, do your homework. The various pen boards and blogs have a wealth of information. Nibmeisters and pen repair people are an email away. The local pen posse is often a great resource if you can reach out to them. That’s how I found the FPN-P crew and as such, my spiral into the abyss began.