How To Make A Fountain Pen Write Smoothly: Complete Guide

If you are using a good-quality fountain pen, it is unlikely to give trouble when writing, but it may not work well for various reasons. A new pen may not write smoothly to start with because the ink is flowing through it for the first time. An old pen that wrote well before may be clogged with dried ink.

You can make a fountain pen write smoothly by using suitable ink and paper, cleaning and flushing it out thoroughly, lightly sanding the nib tip, replacing the nib, or just using it for a bit. Don’t use too much pressure when putting it to paper, and hold it at the correct angle for best results.

Some cheap fountain pens just have nibs that are not well-made, and you may never get them to write smoothly. Nib manufacture is a fine art that may even be done by hand in the case of some of the more expensive fountain pens. However, there are many well-priced fountain pens these days that work wonderfully, and you don’t have to empty your savings to find one that writes smoothly. 

You May Need To Get Used To A New Pen

If you have just bought a pen and are trying it out for the first time, remember that everyone has a unique way of writing. It may take a bit of time for the nib to adapt to your writing style. As you write, the nib flexes slightly, and the tip is applied to the paper at a specific angle, depending on how you hold the pen.

The nib has tines with a split down the middle into which the ink flows. When writing, the pressure you use causes a broader or narrower gap between the tines as they move relative to each other. If you press too hard, this may make the writing experience scratchy as the tines are being forced too far apart.

Gold nibs will wear according to the user’s handwriting style and tend to write more smoothly with regular use. A good fountain pen becomes personalized to the user over time as they learn how best to use it. Every fountain pen is different and has a specific sweet spot.

Stainless steel nibs are very common and are even used in good-quality pens. They don’t wear in like gold nibs and are unlikely to adjust to the user’s particular writing style. However, writing with the pen for a while can improve performance because the feed gets thoroughly soaked with ink, and any residue from the manufacturing process is flushed out.

Also, as you use the pen, you become more accustomed to it and adjust your grip to find the sweet spot at which it performs the best.

The Way You Use A Fountain Pen Can Affect The Way It Writes

Unlike ballpoints, fountain pens respond best to a light touch, and the nib should not be pressed into the writing surface. The idea is that the pen drags the ink across the paper’s surface as you write, so the pen just needs to be in contact with the paper to deposit the ink.

When people first use a fountain pen, they are accustomed to using ballpoints and do not realize that you should not put pressure on the pen to write smoothly. They tend to blame the pen for not writing properly, not understanding that they are the problem.

A fountain pen should be held at an angle between forty-five and fifty-five degrees to the writing surface. The pen may not write smoothly outside of these angles, and the ink may not flow well onto the paper. This can result in a scratchy feel to the pen.

You should also not twist the pen while you write because this can damage the tines, and it also causes the nib to briefly lose contact with the paper. For the ink to flow properly, the nib must be in touch with the paper at all times. You also need to keep your hand pretty immobile.

If you are one of those people that flexes the fingers that hold the pen as you write, a fountain pen won’t respond well. Ballpoints can write from any angle because of the little round bearing in the nib. Fountain pen nibs only write at specific angles, so you have to adjust your hand to use the pen and keep the same angle all the time when writing.

Significant wrist movement is unnecessary when using a fountain pen. Your hand should be held in the same position in a relaxed manner most comfortable for you. It is not difficult to use a fountain pen, but it is a different experience from writing with a ballpoint. New users will need to find a hand position that works well and is comfortable at the same time.

The Size And Quality Of The Nib In A Fountain Pen Affects The Smoothness

Fountain pen nibs come in different widths, usually extra-fine, fine, medium, or broad. A fine or extra-fine nib may often feel more scratchy than a medium or broad one. This is because the former is sharper. You should also inspect the tines of the nib to see if they are still neatly aligned.

If you have dropped the pen on its nib or exerted too much pressure while writing, the tines may be permanently bent, and you will have no alternative but to replace the nib or the pen itself if replacement nibs aren’t available. You can use a magnifying glass to examine the tines closely.

All well-made nibs are tipped with a harder, more durable material than the nib itself. You can examine the underside of the nib to see this tipping material at the very end. If the tip is not made of good quality material or has not been adequately polished, or has been damaged, the pen will not write smoothly.

This can be a problem with the cheaper fountain pens, and there is not much that can be done about it. Some people say that you can try using fine, mildly abrasive sandpaper to smooth the tip. However, if you aren’t careful, you might put an edge on the nib, which will make the problem worse. Use wetted sandpaper and move the nib lightly across it in circular movements to smooth it.

Micromesh is a very fine-grit sanding paper that is sometimes available at fountain pen shops. It is better to use this than ordinary sanding paper. Another alternative is a smoothing stick or a small sharpening stone such as that made by Fallkniven, which comes in a neat little leather pouch. However, you tamper with the nib at your own risk.

If the nib’s tines are too close together and don’t allow for the ink to flow smoothly, you can try pressing it against your fingernail to separate them a little. If your pen was expensive, it’s probably better to send it back to the manufacturer if it’s new or buy a replacement nib if you’ve had the pen for a while.

The Type Of Paper You Use Can Affect The Way A Fountain Pen Writes

If you use a fountain pen to write on newsprint or other absorbent surfaces, such as a paper napkin, the ink will feather and blot as you write. This is not the pen’s fault but rather the capillary action that the paper exerts on the ink. Smudging is likely with paper that is not suitable for water-based ink.

Ballpoints can write on newsprint and paper napkins because the ink inside them is oil-based and does not run as freely as water-based inks. Oil-based inks are not as readily absorbed by writing surfaces, meaning they don’t spread out once deposited. The same is not true for fountain pen inks.

A fountain pen nib can also hook on highly absorbent paper or paper with a textured surface, tearing it or depositing the ink unevenly. Tiny paper fibers could build up on the nib, making it feel rough or scratchy. Because the ink is water-based, highly absorbent paper can break down slightly when exposed to it, just as it breaks down when wet.

You don’t have to buy special paper to write with a fountain pen. Fine nibs, in particular, write well on standard paper such as you would use in a printer or an office. Broad nibs tend to deposit more ink than fine nibs and are less suitable for ordinary paper, but a lot depends on the nib design and the type of ink used.

Choose paper with a smooth, less absorbent surface for best results. Just remember that a fountain pen will write with difficulty, if at all, on glossy surfaces.

An Old Pen Can Be Made To Write Smoothly By Cleaning It

Periodic maintenance of a fountain pen is the best way to keep it writing smoothly. The pen should be disassembled completely, including the nib. All parts through which the ink flows should be soaked in warm water with a small amount of vinegar added. Just don’t soak parts that are made of wood or other porous materials.

One of the most common causes of a pen not writing smoothly is that dried ink has built up inside. Soaking the parts in warm water causes the dried ink to dissolve, and it can then be rinsed out. After removing the pen parts from the water, allow them to dry out before reassembling the pen.

Hardened dried ink in the feed is usually the cause of skipping or an uneven ink flow. Fortunately, because the ink is water-soluble, the dried ink can be rinsed out. If you have not used water-soluble ink or you have used a pigmented ink in your pen, then you could be in trouble. India ink and other carbon inks leave deposits in the feed when they dry out that are almost impossible to remove.

If you don’t use the pen regularly, it is best to use water-based fountain pen inks at all times. Using other types of ink will more than likely result in you having to trash the pen as it is permanently damaged.

You may have to flush or soak a pen multiple times in water if you haven’t used it for a long time to get the dried ink out of it. It is never a good idea to use too alkaline or acidic solutions, such as acetone or alcohol, to soak a fountain pen because metal parts can corrode, and plastic or acrylic parts may warp. Sometimes just holding the fountain pen nib under running water is enough to make it write smoothly again.

If the pen does not have a built-in filling system or a converter, you need to use a syringe or pipette to flush the pen thoroughly. Fountain pen cleaning kits also come with a specialized syringe or pipette, but you need to make sure that it is compatible with your specific pen.

Platinum makes a fountain pen cleaner kit with a dropper that fits fountain pens that use the international short cartridges. It also has five packs of ink cleaner concentrate. You fix the dropper in the place where the cartridge goes and use it to squeeze water in and out through the nib. A clean cup of water is recommended.

To mix the cleaner concentrate, add 100 ml of clean lukewarm water to it and soak the nib in it for around twenty-four hours. Then you used the dropper to rinse it with clean water again before running the pen under the tap. Once the parts are dry, reassemble the pen.

You can also use a toothbrush to lightly brush the pen nib and feed and remove old ink deposits. Just don’t use toothpaste or detergents that could clog or corrode the parts. To flush the pen, suck up warm water into the reservoir and then eject it through the nib. You can also buy pen flush, which is designed specifically to clean out the pen.

Bleach is not recommended for cleaning fountain pens because it could damage some of the components. Plain water is always the safest solvent to use as it is pH neutral. Ideally, a fountain pen should be cleaned every four to eight weeks or whenever you change from one type of ink to another. Manufacturers use different recipes in their inks, so they do not all have the same ingredients.

Rubbing alcohol is a very harsh fluid that can eat into a fountain pen and ruin it. Ammonia is another cleaner to steer clear of, especially with aluminum pens. It reacts with aluminum and will irretrievably damage it. Some pen flushes contain ammonia, so it is essential to carefully read the ingredients before putting any fluid into your pen.

The Ink You Use Can Affect The Smoothness Of A Pen

A common mistake made by the uninitiated is to use calligraphy ink in a fountain pen. It is not intended for fountain pens and can clog, permanently stain or even melt them. Calligraphy ink is designed for drip pens with no reservoir or delicate feed in which they can build up.

Some inks are made with acrylics, and these should never be used in a fountain pen because they will block the feed. India ink is another one to avoid if you want your pen to last. There are so many different fountain pen inks to choose from that most people are spoiled for choice, and it is unnecessary to seek out other types of ink.


There are several reasons why a fountain pen may not be writing as smoothly as you’d like, so the best way to address the problem is to establish the cause. With a new pen, simply writing with it for a while may be enough, while for an older pen, thorough cleaning and flushing may do the trick. Changing the way you hold the pen, using the correct ink and paper, and not exerting too much pressure when you write can also make a big difference.

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