Pen Doctor: Basic Pen Care, World's Best Ink Remover and Waterman CF Cartridge Update

Pen Doctor: Basic Pen Care, World’s Best Ink Remover and Waterman CF Cartridge Update

Basic Pen Care

Alan Green asks some basic questions: 1) When a fountain pen has not been used for a while, what is the best way to clean it ( hot/warm or cold water, other substance, etc.)? 2) When a pen is in a coat pocket, handbag, etc., how do you keep it from leaking, practical tips? 3) How does one choose ink for a pen, brand name, or another factor?

Rx:1) The first solvent choice should always be cold water. Hot water can damage a pen, sometimes with terrifying rapidity. It’s usually reasonable to soak for extended periods, although hard rubber and casein will obviously not respond well to this sort of thing. The basic treatment is soaking and flush, soak and flush, until the pen works as it should. You can follow the water with a 1:10 solution of clear household ammonia in water, but don’t leave pens soaking in this stuff for long periods. If more aggressive measures are required, consider whether you’re skilled in disassembly, use of an ultrasonic cleaner, flossing nib slits and feed channels, etc. If not, consult your favorite repairer.

2) To keep a pen from leaking, keep it capped tightly, and carry it nib-end uppermost. This is why clips are on caps, not at the back end of the barrel.  No joke, this is the only way that works. But be aware that it may not work if you take a pen flying. For flying, you should have your pen either completely filled (with as little air as you can possibly have) or completely empty.

3) You can choose ink by brand, as I do, or you can choose it by color, as I also do, or you can just buy pretty much at random and enjoy the variety. For my own use, I’ve settled on Waterman because I find that Waterman inks all flow and lubricate well, do not clog, and stainless than many other brands. And I like the colors. If you have a preference for a particular color, you can cycle through literally dozens of brands. Some will be better than others at satisfying the criteria I’ve listed. Some might turn out not to work for you at all. Some might be more subject than others to the dreaded SITB or mold. If you don’t have a preference for a particular brand or a particular color, the world could be your oyster with several hundred inks out there for you to play with. And if you find that you just don’t like any of ’em, you can start mixing your own. My favorite color — and my all-time favorite ink — is a 1:1 mixture of Waterman Violet and Waterman Florida Blue.

World‘s Best Ink Remover

You may recall that I recently cited World‘s Best Ink Remover as being useful for taking ink out of barrel threads as well as off your hands.

Rx:I used to see it on eBay from time to time, but John Bull told me recently that eBay had jerked all his auctions, claiming that he was keyword spamming. Try contacting John directly:

J.B. Sales & Marketing
3423 N Maryland Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53211-2904

If you can make it to a pen show that John’s also going to attend, that’s actually a better place to get the product, as shipping single jars from Milwaukee isn’t precisely free.

Waterman CF Cartridge Update

Blaine Jack writes: I have had success using the “standard” short International cartridges in one of my CFS. They’re a slightly tight fit, but they do go in tight and seal OK. They are just a bit snug in the barrel. I wouldn’t recommend using these cartridges in the later CF-style pens that have the plastic cartridge sleeve on the back of the section, but for the top-line CFs with the metal sleeve, this option does work.

Rx:Sonofagun, he’s right! Here’s a CF with a short International cartridge installed. The red cartridge below is a CF cartridge; the black one is a short International for comparison. Note that you do need to force the cartridge in very tightly; I found that the best way was to “screw” it in firmly. To remove it, screw it out in the same direction as screwing in. If you “unscrew” it, you’re likely to unscrew the metal ferrule along with it.

Pen Doctor: Adjusting flow in a Parker

Pen Doctor: Adjusting flow in a Parker

Adjusting flow in a Parker “51”

Mike Walton asks Frank Dubiel while noting that the shell of a Parker “51” must touch the nib, saying that if it contacts the nib too tightly it will restrict ink flow. Is heating the shell and either pressing the nib against the shell or the shell against the nib a reliable means of increasing or decreasing inflow in a “51”?


First off, I have to disagree that Frank. I’ve seen innumerable “51”s whose hoods were very close to, but not in contact with, the nib, and in fact, the hood on my “regular carry” pen doesn’t contact the top surface of the nib. That said, it’s certainly desirable that these parts touch, as the hood is part of the capillary system by which ink is brought to the nib tip.

Heating the hood is generally, I think, a bad idea. Most “51” hoods are acrylic, which will take a lot of heat without even hinting that they want to bend, but some are polystyrene plastic, similar to the stuff used in the 61, and these won’t take nearly that much heat without going limp. Which is which? Unless you’re very experienced with the “51”, I wish you good luck guessing.

To adjust the flow in a “51” I use three techniques, all of which require that you remove the hood. The first is adjusting the tine spacing. (Please don’t just grab the pen and force an X-acto knife or other metal-destroying object between the tines; you will damage the slit walls.) This almost always results in a need to realign the tines and smooth the tip, but it is often easy and effective. Sometimes the fit of the hood is too close to allow the tines to be adjusted, and in these cases, I use a small rat-tail file to remove a very small amount of material from the inside of the hood where it lies adjacent to the nib. The last method, which I use primarily to restore flow on pens that quit from time to time, is to heat the feed and bend it very slightly toward the nib. The bend is in the vicinity of the breather tube’s vent hole near the back of the feed. Be careful here, as later feeds are plastic, not hard rubber, and don’t like this treatment at all!

Leaking Targa Nibs

Grady Walter asks: I have two Sheaffer Targa (slimline) pens. Both have developed mysterious leaks that appear to originate around the outside edge of the inlay portion of the nibs. Is there a way to eliminate this leak? Ink appears to build up around the underside of the nib more quickly when the pen is capped.


This is an unfortunate failing of Sheaffer’s otherwise wonderful Inlaid Nib®. The first line of defense is Sheaffer’s own service department, where you may still be able to get exchanges for defective parts. Send an email to Sidney Brown to see whether she can help you. If not, a possible remedy is to disassemble the pen and flow shellac between the nib and section shell. To get the shellac to flow easily, you’ll need to dilute it with denatured alcohol. Capillary action will draw the fluid into the space, and you can then dry it by placing the part under a lighted incandescent light bulb. I’m also investigating the use of a product that is intended for sealing cracks, but I don’t yet have enough data to recommend its use.

Finding Replacement Pen Sacs

Milt Butler asks: I purchased several old ink pens that need to be refurbished. Many of the pens have ink sacs that are missing or are so hard that they break. Can you tell me where I could buy replacement ink sacs?

Rx:There are several good places to buy sacs. The two that have the best variety are the Pen Sac Company and Wood Bin Ltd, which are manufacturers; but many pen dealers also have sacs for sale. Here’s a shortlist of good sources, in alphabetical order:

Fountain Pen Hospital
10 Warren Street
New York, NY 10007-2218
Web site:

Web site:

The Pen Sac Company
P. O. Box 4470
Carlsbad, CA 92018-4470
Web site:

Wood Bin Ltd.
R.R. # 6, Simcoe
Canada N3Y 4K5
Web site:

I’ve written an article on sac replacement that you may find useful. There’s a copy of it on Pentace, but the copy on my own site is revised and improved. Click to read the article.

Yet More on Waterman CF Converters!

Rx:I reported that Fahrney’s, in Washington, D.C., ( has Waterman CF converters. (They call these parts “Lady” converters.) From Nick Sweeney comes a note that Peter Tweedle ( also has these converters. Peter is probably a better source for European collectors.