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How DO you keep up with all those pens?

05/22/2009

Warning: Pen geek stuff so skip unless you’d like to know intimate details about how to bathe multiple pens together. 😛

Mike of Penagogy/LondonPenClub asked a very good question in his comment at the Seven Flavors of Aqua post.

How are you able to ink up so many pens and then clean them. Do you just fill them with a small amount of ink, dip them, keep them inked,…? Enquiring minds need to know.

Just in case you, too, were wondering how an inkophile can keep up with all those pens, here’s my reply.

Yes, I do fill my pens with a small amount of ink which usually comes to 1/3 to 1/2 of a converter full. Dipping doesn’t tell me enough about flow characteristics to write a review so that shortcut isn’t an option. Most of my writing tests are done with pens that are very easy to clean like the Lamy Safari and the Levenger True Writer. Any modern converter-fitted pen works well so even my Pilots and Sailors get into the act.

My cleaning routine is pretty simple. When there are 5-10 that need the treatment, I gather them together and head for the kitchen sink. It’s stainless steel and easy to clean. Caps and barrels get removed so only the nib and converter go for a bath.

First I fill and squirt out water through the nib until the water in the converter looks clear. Then I remove the converter and run fresh water through the nib unit alone. When that water runs clear, the nib alone goes in an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner for three minutes. Another rinse under running water and, if still inky, the nib gets a second three minute stay in the ultrasound. By spreading the nibs around so they don’t touch in the tub, I can clean four or five at one time. It takes about 20-30 minutes to handle five pens.

To get pens dry enough to refill, I reassemble them and, with the nibs pointed down, place them in a cup lined with paper towels plus a crumpled wad at the bottom. Left overnight gravity will draw out any remaining bathwater. If storing a pen rather than putting it back into my rotation, I leave it for a day until it is truly dry. Then pack it away for its next call to duty.

Some nibs come clean with simple rinsing and an overnight stay in the pen cup especially if no ink has been allowed to dry in the nib. That makes the Lamy and Levenger pens my most frequently used ink testers. Any heavily saturated ink will require an ultrasonic bath regardless of the pen, an acceptable trade-off for the fun of an intense color.

Perfection isn’t necessary. If a small amount of ink remains, it won’t be enough to taint the next fill. Besides I doodle a bit before any serious writing. If there’s a smidge left in the nib, it will be long gone before it matters.

So there you go. If you’ve got a pen cleaning tip or trick, post it below. “Enquiring minds need to know.”

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9 comments

  1. Great post! It was very interesting to read your cleaning routine. I think I will try the running water through the nib part, as usually I just flush the converter. :/ The ultrasonic cleaner is impressive.

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    • Glad you liked it. Since we’ll be living with rationed water in a few days, turning off the faucet makes loads of sense. The ultrasonic cleaner does most of the work with only two or three cups of water. Cleaning several pens at once compounds the savings. For a single pen I’d just run a little water through the nib or let it soak overnight if dried ink was an issue with a rinse in the morning. Hey, if it’s easy, I’m all for it. More time to write that way and that’s what counts. 🙂

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  2. Aren’t stainless steel sinks THE BEST for pen maintenance? Love mine. Never stains.

    AMEN on the ultrasonic cleaner. A few of my correspondents (fountain pen pen pals, that is) have them, and convinced me how great they are, and I’ve never looked back. Pen cleaning is so much easier now, and I think my u/s cleaner cost me about 30 bucks on Amazon. So, so worth it. I’m psyched about the time savings, but the water savings are excellent, too.

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    • My ultrasonic cleaner is a permanent fixture in my kitchen. If nothing else it is an interesting conversation starter. “Hey, what’s that thing?” 😉

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  3. Thanks for answering my question. You have convinced me to get an ultrasonic cleaner.
    I also see you added a link to the London Pen Club blog – I will return the favour. One of the things I hope to do is to do my future blog entries in my own handwriting so that I can demonstrate my inks better. Hopefully that will work.
    Keep up the good work – I will be tuning in!
    Mike

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    • The link in the sidebar has been there for months but this is the first time I’ve linked to your blog from a post. Happy to make the connection. 🙂

      Are you planning to put your entire blog entries in a handwritten form? If so, do add a little text for search engines to crawl. They aren’t sophisticated enough to read handwriting yet. Really, some handwriting I can’t read either, even my own!

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  4. […] author of Inkophile about how they were able to ink so many pens and keep them all clean – https://inkophile.wordpress.com/2009/05/22/how-do-you-keep-up-with-all-those-pens/#comment-632 .  The author will be happy to know that I ordered my ultra sonic cleaner after I read their […]

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  5. I am going to try to write the blog entry in hand; however, I do need to add text for search engines, links to sites referred to in the blog entry and so on as you noted. I am hoping this will give me a chance to try more and different ink and get even more use out of my pens.

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  6. […] so glad Margana described her fountain pen cleaning routine at Inkophile last week, cause it’s something I’ve been wondering about ever since I […]

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