Fountain Pen Basics

A fountain pen is a nib-tipped writing instrument that has a refillable internal reservoir of liquid ink that flows out of the pen via capillary action. The golden age of fountain pens occurred from the 1890s through the 1950s. Ballpoint pens and Rollerball pens have long since replaced fountain pens for most use. They are making a comeback with collectors and enthusiasts. Once you start using a fountain pen, the words you use to describe it don’t matter as much. You know it’s different from a ballpoint pen or a rollerball pen or a felt-tip pen, not only in how it looks but also how it writes. And that’s what makes fountain pens so special. You only have to write with a good one once to realize you don’t want to ever write with anything else again. Fountain pens are delicate writing instruments that can bring years of enjoyment when properly used and maintained.


When properly held the nib should be upright where the engraving is visible. Both tines at the tip of the nib should contact the paper at the same time. Do not apply pressure when writing, the weight of the pen is sufficient.

Use only ink designed for fountain pens. India ink and calligraphy ink can cause permanent damage to a standard fountain pen nib. Only use calligraphy ink on calligraphy nibs.

High quality ink jet paper works well with most fountain pens. Avoid coated or low quality paper as it collect on the nib causing the ink to bleed. There are also several types of high quality paper designed for fountain pen use available.

If your fountain pen will not be used for an extended time, remove an clean the nib, feeder, and converter to prevent clogging and ink evaporation. Always store your pen with the nib in an upright position. This allows the ink to drain from the nib when not in use.

Filling with Ink:

Fountain Pen Basics

Figure 1

Filling with a Converter

Twist the end of the converter until the piston is against the filling end. Press the converter onto the nib. Dip the end assembly into the ink bottle then twist the end of the converter until it stops. Twist the end of the converter back and forth completely several times to ensure the converter is filled (figure A). if the converter does not draw ink, position the nib further into the ink bottle. To prime the nib so that its ready for writing, gently twist the end of the converter until it produces a small drop of ink (figure B). Wipe away excess ink from the nib with a paper towel or lint-free cloth.

Using an Ink Cartridge

Press the ink cartridge onto the nib until firmly seated. Gently write on a scrap paper to encourage the ink to flow.


Fountain Pen Basics

Replacing and Servicing the Nib

The nib and feeder assembly should be cleaned frequently for best performance. To remove the nib and feeder assembly, place a tissue over the nib assembly and gently pull the assembly out of the end of the pen. This usually does not require much effort unless ink has dried in the assembly. To reassemble, place the nib on top of the feeder and align as shown (figure C). Align the nib assembly with the opening in the nib holder (figure D) and press into place (figure E).


Fountain pens should be cleaned at least once a month (or when clogged). Remove the ink cartridge / converter, disassemble the nib assembly and flush with tepid water. It may be necessary to let the nib and feeder soak for several hours if severely clogged. Gently brush the feeder “fins” to remove dried ink if necessary. Blow out excess water before installing the ink cartridge. Dry the nib and feeder with a soft, lint free cloth. Do Not use hot water or solvents as they may damage nib or finish.

Fountain Pen Basics