Vintage is the art of aging gracefully.
No, nobody famous or even unknown has said that quote. This line just came to mind when I was thinking of penning my thoughts on, well, fountain pens.
Somehow whenever I think of a fountain pen, I can’t help but view them as vintage accessories. Practical and useful of course, but oh so stylish as well!
I remember when I was little. My grandfather used to take out this beautiful metallic black fountain pen with ornate petals etched into the body from a tiny wooden box. Whenever he used it, I couldn’t help but stop and stare at that black beauty. Its golden glistening nib beckoning me into a world of yellowed pages and tiny ink blots.
But he stopped using it after a while. The nib bent and he couldn’t get two words out of it. Now it’s just gathering dust in his wooden box, waiting to be revived.
The bent nib of his fountain pen got me thinking if there’s a DIY way to get old pens back in action.
If the nib could be fixed at home, there’d be no reason to give up on your favorite pen right? You could pursue your passion of calligraphy or of all things aged and elegant without worrying.
Upon hours of research and weeks of practicing, I found out how to repair a fountain nib at home. And trust me, it isn’t as difficult as it seems. You just have to be careful is all.
So let me teach you the art of repairing a fountain pen nib on your own. You’ll find it quite useful, I’m sure.
DIY repair of fountain pen nib repair
Fountain pen nibs are delicate. That’s not to say they aren’t long lasting. But if your pen nose dives nib first to the floor or if you happen to put too much pressure while writing, the nib of the pen will bear the brunt of it.
You cannot go to a fountain pen hospital every time something goes wrong with the nib. The repairs are going to cost you; and for some of you, the travel might not be feasible. Or the wait to get your pen for that matter.
In such cases, going DIY is a great option. You won’t even need to visit the pen store to get a new one!
Step #1: Observe the problem
You’ll need a magnifying glass for this.
Take the magnifying glass in your hand and use it to observe the nib of the pen. Do you notice anything irregular? Perhaps a bend? Or maybe an alignment issue with the tines (the pointy part of the nib)? There could also be an issue with the balance of the nib. Protruding edges are another problem that needs fixing.
Step #2: Fix the problem
Once you’re done identifying the problem, it’s time to fix it. Most issues are easy to fix by your hands alone. No tools required.
If misalignment of the tines is an issue, apply gentle pressure on the tines with your fingers till they fall in alignment. Make sure to apply pressure on each side of the tines so you can have perfectly aligned tines.
You can perform the same remedy if the nib is not perfectly centered. A gentle pressure from your fingers should do it.
If protruding edges are the issue, you’ll need a cardboard or sandpaper to fix it. Take a piece of cardboard or sandpaper and start drawing circles or figure eights on them with your fountain pen. Drawing circles continuously will wear off the protruding edges, so you get smooth writing.
Tip: Don’t draw too many circles or figure eights. Just a few of them will do. You should stop as soon as you feel the writing become even. Drawing way too many circles will wear down your pen’s nib and damage it permanently. Also, don’t use sandpaper for expensive fountain pens and nibs. Sandpaper can damage them. Stick to construction paper or cardboard for your fancy pens.
Solving other fountain pen nib issues the DIY way
Apart from misaligned or bent nibs, you might face other problems too. Don’t worry. I’ve got solutions for them as well.
1. Poor flow of ink
How often have you shaken your fountain pen to ensure the ink flows properly? If it’s more than what you can count on your fingers, you need to fix the issue.
A wide nib slit and overlapping tines are a common cause for poor ink flow. You can fix these issues easily, but first things first, you will have to ensure the nib is clean and dry.
If the tines are overlapping
Sit on your table and press the nib of your pen down on it so that the tip is apart by 1 mm to 2 mm. Ensure your table’s surface is clean and even before you do that. Debris can break your nib so you will have to be extra careful with the cleaning bit.
Hold the nib down this way for a couple of seconds at the max and the release. Keep repeating the motion and check if the tips of the nib are touching each other.
It’ll take a bit of time for you to get the tines to fall into place via this process but it’ll work. Just remember not to press too hard though as you may end up damaging the nib permanently.
If the tines are far apart
Start by rolling the top of the nib on a hard and even surface. Place your finger on the underside of the nib and press the top of it on a hard surface as you rock it from side to side for a total of 10 seconds maximum. Repeat if necessary.
Next, tip the nib sideways and press the top of the tine against a hard surface. Hold for a minute or two. Change the side and repeat the motion. Repeat till the gap lessens.
Lastly, take the nib between your fingers and squeeze the tines. Hold firmly for around 5 to 10 seconds and repeat till the gap is filled. Place the nib on soft cloth to cushion your fingers and avoid injury.
2. Overflowing ink
Overflowing ink results in wet lines and deep blots on paper. Besides, you have to wait for the ink to dry before you can proceed with writing, turn the page or shut the notebook. In fact, in some cases you might even notice an ink leak from the nib. That’s a completely ruined writing experience.
Of the many reasons that can cause the overflow of ink, a gap in the tines is pretty common. And luckily, easy to fix as well.
Take a soft cloth in your hand and use it to squeeze the sides of the tine with your finger. Again, tines are sharp and you don’t want to hurt yourself. Ergo the cloth. Besides, having a cloth can also prevent your hands from staining.
Okay, so with the cloth in your hands and the pen’s nib nestled in it, use your fingers to grip each side of the tine. Squeeze the sides of the tines for around 5 to 10 seconds and then repeat. Once the gap is closed, your job will done, which means the ink will stop overflowing.
Clean and use your fountain pen regularly
There’s no need to visit a fountain pen hospital or get in touch with a fountain pen network every time something goes wrong with your pen. In fact, you can easily avoid most common mishaps and problems by just taking care of your pen.
Regular cleaning and use of your pen can save it from damage and issues.
Don’t know how to clean your fountain pen?
Just follow these steps-
- Disassemble your pen
Unscrew the cap of your pen and detach the grip section (the part you hold) of the pen from the barrel (the part that holds the ink). If the barrel contains a cartridge to store the ink, make sure to remove the cartridge as well.
- Rinse your pen under running water
Take the grip section of the pen and hold it upside down so that the opening faces upward. Now place the grip section under running water for 1-2 minutes to wash off ink and debris. Make sure the water is either room temperature or cold as hot water can potentially damage your pen.
- Soak it in water
Take a glass of clean, fresh water and soak the grip section nib-first in it. Some amount of ink will leak into the water. So once the water turns blue, drain it and replace it with fresh water. Keep doing that till the water becomes absolutely clear. In fact, stop only when water remains clear for an hour with the grip section dipped in it. Use distilled water if your tap water is high in minerals.
- Dry the pen
Take the grip section out of the water, place it on a soft tissue nib-down in a cup and let it dry for 12 to 24 hours.
Repeat all above steps with the barrel of the pen. Just make sure it’s empty of ink before you carry out the cleaning process.
- Reassemble it
Once the grip section dries, put the cartridge or converter back in the barrel, screw the grip section back in place and use your pen as usual.
You should clean your fountain pen every 4 to 8 weeks to ensure it works properly. Also use your pen regularly, daily if you can, and it should faithfully serve you for years to come. If you’re new to fountain pens, get lessons on how to use or write with a fountain pen first so you don’t damage your precious purchase in any way.