Troubleshooting Fountain Pens: How to Fix Skipping and Hard Starts

Hey, fountain pen aficionados! You've got your fountain pen inked up, ready to conquer the page, and then... whoops! It's playing hard to get—skipping, hard starts, and inconsistent lines. Don't get too worried, we've got your back. In this blog, we're diving deep into the nitty-gritty of your nib and how it might be messing with your pen's flow.

Prep Steps

First things first—clean your pen! Seriously, it's the magical cure for about 80% of pen issues. Clean it up and try to rule out other suspects such as a new ink, different paper, or even a fresh converter or cartridge. Sometimes it's as easy as a fiber of paper stuck in the nib, or dried ink in the feed, so start with the easiest thing first.

Picky Nib Problems

If this doesn't work then we need to crack open the mystery of hard starting. What is it? It's when your pen's all set to write but just won't lay down that ink. Skipping mid-sentence? That's the same frustration- and these two things fall into the same basic category. The nib and feed are not aligning properly so ink isn't getting from the nib to the paper. 

Close up of a silver nib with the phenomenon Baby's Bottom

This photo shows an over-polished nib with what we call "baby's bottom". Baby's bottom, a term in pen talk, is when your nib's been over-polished, leaving a gap between the nib slit and the paper. The little valley in the center is supposed to touch the page but the shape created by over-polishing means it can't hit the page. No wonder the ink's throwing a tantrum! 

What Could Go Wrong?

It's not just you or the pen; ink-feeding issues could be the sneaky culprit. If the ink's dried out or the nib's been flexed a bit too much causing the tines to spread, then the ink won't flow smoothly, no matter how hard you try.

Two nibs side by side, one with a larger space between the tinesThis photo shows a nib with too much space between its tines on the left, and the correct amount on the right. Too much space means the ink won't flow to the tip and hit the page, just like with an overpolished nib.

Hands-on Solutions

How do we fix these woes? Cleaning and re-inking your pen is always a good starting point. You can also grab a loupe and give that nib a once-over. If you spot any "baby's bottom" (rounded shape on the nib's edge) that's not good news! That nib is going to need some regrinding from a pro. That's when a nibmeister comes in since nib grinding is a special skill, where lots of training is needed to do it right. We do not recommend trying to grind nibs yourself unless you're ok with potentially ruining your nib.

Taming the Tines

Check the spacing between the tines with that loop. You should be able to tell if the tines are too tight (where you can't see any light between the slits) or too loose (where the tip of the tines doesn't touch at all). What you hope to see is a slight taper, letting light peek through the slits, but not too wide. If you find that the tines are too tight or loose, you might try some gentle nudging but tread carefully. It's easy to overdo it and risk damaging your nib. We always recommend calling in the experts when there's a nib issue like this.Close up of nib with the nib and feed misaligned

This photo shows the manipulation of tines to correct misalignment, but the same gentle pressure can be used to push some tines back together. Always push them down toward the feed, go slow, be patient, and test often.

The Nib Know-How

Now, if you're brave enough to tinker with your nib, remember: small manipulations, and frequent checks. Is one tine higher than the other? Gently bend it down a bit, test it out, and repeat. And don't forget to make the major adjustments off the feed and then fine-tune it once it's back on.

Pro Tips and Warnings

Like anything regarding tinkering, we have some cautionary tales here. Major nib manipulations might void your warranty or retailer return policy. Several brands do not sell replacement nibs so you can end up with a pen and no nib if you go too far. If you're feeling unsure, nib meisters are your fountain pen's best friend. Of course, if it's an option, a replacement nib might be the best thing you can do.

May your fountain pen journeys be smooth and unbroken!