Nothing is more annoying than when a pen writes in skips and starts because the ink is not flowing smoothly through the nib. Various factors could be at play if a fountain pen keeps stopping while writing. Skipping is when the pen writes with partial or missing strokes.
Your fountain pen could be stopping due to the type of ink or paper that you use or because the nib has been damaged or misaligned. Dried ink can clog the feed, so the ink doesn’t flow freely. Cleaning the pen or trying a different ink can solve many problems, but you may need expert help in some cases.
The stopping problem is primarily because the feed is not supplying enough ink to the nib tip for some reason. It could be that ink residues or dried ink flakes have built up in the feed and are blocking it. However, if the tines of the nib have become misaligned because you have bumped the nib or dropped the pen, this could also be a factor. Changing to different ink brands or colors without first rinsing and flushing the pen can also cause blockages as the various chemicals in the new ink interact with those in the previous one.
Cleaning The Fountain Pen To Prevent It From Stopping
The first thing to do if a fountain pen keeps stopping is to clean the pen. To do this, unscrew or pull out the nib section and soak it for ten to fifteen minutes in room temperature water with no added chemicals or cleaning solutions. If you have not used the pen for a while, the ink may have dried on the nib.
There could also be dried ink in the feed that is blocking the flow. If the water you are using becomes filled with ink, replace it with clean water and continue to soak. If the ink has dried out, you may also need to flush the pen. Use the filling mechanism to draw in clean tap water or distilled water and then eject it through the nib. Do this until the water coming out of the pen is clear.
To stop the ink from drying out in the pen, always replace the cap after use. If the pen is allowed to sit uncapped for a long time, this can cause clogging and skipping when you write. You can buy pen flushes made specifically for cleaning out the pen’s insides, but most of the time, plain water will do the trick.
To keep the ink running smoothly, you can also try adding just a drop or two of pen flush to the ink bottle. This may make the color less intense, but it thins the ink slightly for an easier flow. If you don’t intend to use a pen for a few months, then it is best to completely empty it of ink and rinse it out with water before storing it.
Don’t store a fountain pen with ink flush or water inside it.
Check Your Fountain Pen Ink
The most obvious thing to check if your pen keeps stopping is whether there is still enough ink left in the reservoir! Many pens these days have a transparent section where you can see if the ink has run out. If you can’t see how much ink is left in the pen, try refilling it or changing the cartridge. If the pen has been lying around for some time, without much ink left in the cartridge or reservoir, it could simply have dried out.
If you have recently changed to a new type of ink, this could also be why the pen is stopping. By far, the majority of fountain pen inks are dye-based and water-based. However, certain inks are colored using pigments rather than dyes and are designed to be waterproof. While this is great for signing important documents, it can be a disaster if the ink dries out in the pen.
Pigments are particles that hang in suspension in the ink and can build up in the feed and nib over time. Examples of pigmented inks are iron-gall inks, Platinum Pigment Ink, Platinum Carbon Black, and waterproof inks. Some iron gall inks are known to be corrosive and should never be left in a pen for too long. If you use iron gall inks, you should clean the pen out once a week.
KWZ, a maker of non-corrosive iron gall inks, says they should only be used in fountain pens that are in regular use as they can dry out in a comparatively short period. If you only use the pen every few days or so, don’t use iron gall ink. Also, check the bottle before you fill the pen. If the ink has started to form deposits on the bottom or the walls of the bottle, don’t use it.
Iron Gall inks are particularly reactive when mixed with other ink types, resulting in the formation of sediments that are hard to remove. When emptying ink out of the pen to clean it or change to a different ink, don’t empty the old ink into the ink bottle. This can affect the freshness and viscosity of the ink in the bottle.
If you use iron gall ink, clean the pen only with distilled, demineralized, or boiled water that has cooled down. The minerals in tap water can interact with the ingredients of iron gall ink and have a negative effect on its stability.
Pigmented inks, or at least the pigments they contain, are not water-soluble, so you must regularly clean the pen if you use one of these. If they dry out inside the pen, it can be hard to remove them. You should always use these inks according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
When changing between different ink brands and colors, a golden rule is never to mix them inside the pen. Even dye-based inks are made with various proprietary chemical recipes. Combining these different chemicals inside the pen can lead to the formation of clots and gels within the ink that can clog up the feed.
Even if the same manufacturer makes the inks, different recipes are used for different colors and ink ranges. Noodler’s, for example, sells several ranges of fountain pen inks such as Baystate, Polar, Bulletproof, and Bernanke. You should never mix a Baystate ink with anything but another Baystate ink.
If the pen is still stopping after you have cleaned it, you may wish to rinse it out and try a different type of ink. Reputable pen manufacturers produce inks designed to work well in their particular pens, so buying the same ink brand as your pen is always a good idea.
You can also try moistening the nib with a few drops of water if you think the ink has dried on it. To do this, dip your finger in some tap water and then touch the droplet to the slit between the tines. You may have to do this a few times. Let the water soak in between the tines before trying to write.
Ideally, a fountain pen should be used regularly to keep the ink flowing. Different inks have different viscosities and may not work well with all fountain pens. Some inks with high viscosity, i.e., thicker inks, may not suit certain types of pens.
Some Noodler’s ink is designed to work on regular copy paper, for example, Noodler’s Black, while others such as Noodler’s Heart of Darkness are intended for less absorbent paper. Noodler’s X-Feather is designed for highly absorbent paper and is very slow drying. Bernanke Black is specially formulated for left-handed people and dries quickly compared to other Noodler’s inks.
Various inks react differently to different paper types. So it may be a paper problem rather than an ink problem. If you want to experiment with mixing different colors, it is best to do so in a small jar. Wait for at least twenty-four hours to see if any residues or sediments form in the ink. If they do, don’t use it.
Check Your Fountain Pen Paper
If your pen keeps stopping, it could be that you have changed to more fibrous paper that deposits tiny paper particles on the nib. Fountain pens don’t write well on rough or uneven paper, such as handmade paper or craft paper. If you write on poor-quality paper such as newsprint, fibers can become lodged inside the nib, blocking the ink flow.
The best paper for fountain pens comes in sizes A4 or A5 and is not heavily embossed or glossy. Smooth paper with nothing for the nib to get snagged on is always the better choice. This doesn’t mean you can only use expensive or unusual paper for your pen, but some paper types work particularly well with fountain pens. Examples are Midori, Tomoe River, Life, Clairefontaine, HP Premium 32, and Rhodia paper.
Ordinary office paper is usually good enough. If you think some paper fibers may have been caught in the nib, wiping it gently with paper toweling or holding the nib under running tap water for a few minutes may be enough to dislodge them. You can inspect the nib with a magnifying glass to see if any foreign particles are sticking to it. Paper fibers can look like tiny hairs.
Brass sheets or photographic film can also be used to remove paper particles from the nib. Just be careful not to scratch the nib when using a brass sheet! Thin plastic film is the safer option. You can also try using your thumbnail to pry them off gently.
Fountain pens work with most kinds of paper, but if it is of poor quality, it can cause skipping. The paper should also be free of dust, skin oils, and hand lotion. If your hands sweat a lot, the paper may get too wet to allow the ink to flow properly.
You can buy many different kinds of notebooks, pocketbooks, and loose-leaf papers that work well with fountain pens. Moleskine, Field Notes, and Doane Paper may not work that well with fountain pens, but you can try them and see for yourself. Lamy, a well-known fountain pen manufacturer, has released a series of notebooks that can be used with their pens.
To truly enjoy writing with a fountain pen, you want to ensure you use good quality paper. Photocopy paper is not the best and can leave fiber deposits on the nib. You don’t have to buy archival quality paper, but it’s worth a try if you can afford it. Whatever paper you use, remember that fountain pens require a minimal amount of pressure to write well.
If the nib is fine or extra-fine, it may cut into the paper more than a medium or broad nib. However, many fountain pen users say that they use their fountain pens every day purely for the joy of it and don’t have any problems.
Your Pressure When Writing
It is also important not to press too hard when writing with a fountain pen, as this can lead to paper fibers catching on the nib. Many beginners accustomed to ballpoints don’t realize that a fountain pen should only be used with very light pressure or none at all.
Too much pressure can damage the nib and cause the tines to splay out. This hinders the smooth flow of the ink onto the paper. Also, don’t try to write upside down with a fountain pen. The ink flows through to the nib using capillary action induced by gravity. The pen should always be held upright at a comfortable angle with the nib pointed downwards when writing.
If you have dropped or bumped the nib or used too much pressure when writing, the tines of the nib can become misaligned or bent. One tine may be higher than the other, so the gap between them is too broad to hold the ink. To correct this, place your index finger on the top surface of the nib and press the tip down firmly, but not too hard, against a smooth flat surface.
Rock the nib from one side to the other for about ten seconds. Then inspect to see if the tines have come into line. If the tines are bent upward, turn the nib over and press it down on the surface several times while holding the tip of your finger against the feed.
If it is a valuable pen and you can’t straighten the tines yourself, the supplier or manufacturer may be able to assist. A fountain pen nib is precision engineered, and they are not all the same. The proper distance between the tines can be measured with a feeler gauge. It should be around 0.003 of an inch. This is about the same thickness as a piece of copy paper.
The tines could also be too close together, leading to inconsistent ink flow. Try inserting a sheet of paper between them or press the nib against your thumbnail to separate them slightly. Don’t use excessive force, as this could spring the nib.
To test if the tines are correctly aligned, draw diagonal lines on a piece of paper in four different directions. If you detect some drag in a particular direction, one tine could be higher than the other.
It is possible to gently bend the tines back into place by pressing the nib against a flat surface and rolling it to and fro. Baby’s bottom is when the tipping material on the end of the nib is has been applied too generously, causing the tines to separate. To fix this, lightly sand the nib using micromesh or fine mylar paper.
If you have recently replaced the pen’s nib or dropped the pen, the nib may not be properly aligned with the feed section. This can inhibit ink flow and cause stoppages, but it could also cause leaking. The feed in most modern pens is made of plastic and can be reshaped in some hot water.
Boil some water, pour a few inches into a cup and hold the nib, and feed in it for a few seconds. Then remove them and gently press the feed against the nib until it cools. You may have to repeat this a few times. Just remember that you can permanently damage the feed in doing this, so if it is a valuable pen, rather take it to the experts for adjustment.
If you fiddle too much with the nib on your own, you can void the pen’s warranty. It is just not worth it if it is an expensive pen. The fixes described above should only be tried on less expensive pens that you can risk damaging.
For the ink to flow, the nib and feed must be clear of blockages, and the tines of the nib must be correctly aligned. Certain types of paper may deposit fibers on the nib that can cause the pen to skip. In other cases, a specific brand of ink may not work well with your particular fountain pen, so you should change to another one. Regular cleaning can prevent many problems and keep your pen writing smoothly.