The 7 Biggest Fountain Pen Mistakes

We're all human, and we all make mistakes. Having learned from the error of our own ways and from the vast amount of feedback and experiences we hear from customers, we've compiled a list of the biggest mistakes we see made with fountain pens. Hopefully, now that you know them, you can avoid the disastrous results!

7) Carrying Your Fountain Pen in Your Pocket With Your Keys

Scratched barrel of a blue LAMY Al-star

Did you just purchase a shiny new metal fountain pen? Throwing it in your pocket and letting it bounce around as you go about your business will inevitably damage the finish on the pen. This is especially true of LAMY AL-stars and the Black Matte Pilot Vanishing Point. If you're going for that rough and tumble look or purchased a pen specifically designed for that purpose, then no big deal. If you were intending to keep it scratch-free, probably not great. Either avoid the pen in the pocket routine or get a pen slip to avoid the scratches all together.

6) Using Calligraphy Ink in Your Fountain Pen

Plastic cup with black calligraphy ink in it

Not all ink is the same! It might be tempting to grab that pretty ink you found at the craft store for cheap and use it in you fountain pen, but don't do it! If you want to keep your fountain pen in tip top shape, do not use ink meant for dip pens or calligraphy. That includes India Ink, Lawyer's Ink, and anything specifically meant for dip pens. Most calligraphy inks are shellac-based which must be cleaned by denatured alcohol (which may damage your pen). Furthermore, these inks contain ingredients that will clog or even damage your pens by corroding some of the internal mechanisms. Stick to inks that are specifically designed for fountain pens and you should be fine.

5) Writing With Too Much Pressure

Close up of nib with splayed tines

One of the benefits of using a fountain pen as opposed to a rollerball or gel pen, is that fountain pens operate through capillary action instead of pressure. You only need to lightly touch your nib to the page to get a lovely line of ink. New users are especially prone to pressing too hard with their pens, causing the nibs to splay resulting in irreparable damage. If you are using a steel nibbed pen, you'll probably be fine. But if you are jamming a gold nib down on the page… yikes! Lighten up on your grip and you'll not only have a more pleasurable writing experience, you'll also be taking better care of your pen.

4) Not Cleaning Your Fountain Pen

Nib unit in water with blue ink coming out of it

Cleaning your pen can seem like a chore, but trust us, it's totally worth it. Hard starts, skipping issues, and a myriad of other pen complaints can be solved by simply using a little water or pen flush. If you are habitually swapping your ink, this is especially important since you can accidentally concoct a new inky recipe of unhappy chemicals right there in your pen. There are number of ways to make this chore less onerous like using a bulb syringe.  Remember- when in doubt, clean it out!

3) Cleaning Your Fountain Pen With Rubbing Alcohol or Acetone

TWSBI Classic white fountain pen melted in a baggie

Don't do it. Pretty please. While you may think this is a good idea to get your pen spic and span or remove some ink residue, rubbing alcohol can break down the plastic in your pens so it's best not to use it. We've seen some pens damaged, and others completely melted, by leaving a plastic pen in rubbing alcohol overnight. If you have a really persistent ink stain, try some pen flush first. If that doesn't work, some very diluted bleach should do the trick. Keep the rubbing alcohol in the medicine cabinet where it belongs!

2) Dropping Your Fountain Pen Nib Down

Close up of nib with tines bent inward

Oh the horror!!! This is so heartbreaking to hear about. If you're lucky, the pen you've dropped has an easily replaceable nib, like some LAMYs, Monteverdes, TWSBIs, Edisons, or Noodler's. Some other brands have proprietary nibs which are not sold through retailers, or at all. We carry a number of replacement nibs and will do our best to help you find a solution to this problem if it comes up, but there are some pens where there isn't a replacement nib available. It does break our hearts a little every time we see it.

1) Not Using Your Fountain Pen

Assortment of blue fountain pens, capped and upcapped on blue journal

These babies were made to be written with! Unfortunately, we sometimes hear about people throwing them in a drawer and forgetting about them. Maybe we're biased since we use fountain pens day in and day out, but there are so many ways to put them to use. Here are some tips if you're looking for a little inspiration:

  • Bullet Journaling
  • Urban Sketching
  • Calligraphy or Flex Writing
  • Writing Affirmations
  • Poetry
  • Thank-you notes
  • Daily Journaling
  • To-do lists
  • Writing letters

So if you've neglected your fountain pen, break it out and get to writing again!