Check the ink level
First, check the ink level. Naturally, a fountain pen not writing anymore if it's completely out of ink.. For most cartridge converter pens, you'll want to remove the section from the barrel and check the converter or cartridge to see if there is any more ink in the reservoir. If the reservoir is empty, then it's time to fill up once more. If ink is still sloshing around inside, then we need to move to step 2 and get that ink flowing again.
Shake and Tap
If there's still ink in the pen but the nib isn't writing, the nib itself might have dried out. Most likely, there's still more ink in the feed. But, it hasn't reached the tip of the nib just yet. That's when we can employ a simple technique to encourage ink flow.
Give the pen a shake over a paper towel or scrap piece of paper. Then gently give a tap tap taparoo on the paper with a figure-8 scribble to get that line going again.
One point we will advise here - Don't PRESS. An inexperienced writer might be inclined to put additional pressure on the nib when the fountain pen not writing. This technique may work for ballpoint pens but spells disaster for fountain pens. Pressing hard will most likely cause the tines to splay and for ink flow to stop completely.
Wet the nib
If the shake and tap method don't remedy the poor ink flow, wet the nib with some tap or distilled water. The water will reactivate any dried ink in the nib and should get a hard-starting pen started again.
After wetting the nib, the ink may come out a little light at first and then return to the color's full saturation. If the pen runs dry again, then let's take a more aggressive approach and flood the feed with ink.
Flood the feed
Flooding the feed forces ink from the reservoir to the nib. You would accomplish this by accessing your pen's filling mechanism. If it's a cartridge converter, open the pen and turn the converter's knob or squeeze the cartridge. If the pen is a piston-fill or otherwise, operate the filling mechanism to force ink out - just enough to become visible on the feed. For extra care and cleanliness, make sure there is a paper towel or scrap paper nearby to catch an accidental ink drop.
If the fountain pen is still not flowing after flooding the feed, then I suggest a full clean out. If you need help with cleaning your pen, watch our video on how to clean your fountain pens.
When a full clean out doesn't help and you don't have the tools or skills to adjust the nib, we recommend reaching out to the manufacturer or the retailer where you purchased the pen for additional help and service.
What if your pen is leaking?
So far, we have focused on what to do when your fountain pen won't write and you have little to no ink flow. What about the opposite? What should you do when your fountain pen is leaking ink or, in rare cases, when pens explode due to pressure changes or damage?
First, we need to find out where the excess ink is coming from. Take a paper towel and wipe the pen to see where it picks up the ink color.
Ink is on the grip section
If there is ink on the grip section, check the inside of the cap. Twist a paper towel into a point and wipe the inside of the cap. If the cloth becomes fully saturated, then we have a leaky nib. In that case, you'll want to make sure that the nib and feed are fully set into the section.
The nib and feed are usually part of a screw-out housing, if the housing is not screwed in all the way, it might lead to a leak. Make sure that housing is tightened by gripping the nib and feed and turning until it's tight.
Also, the nib and feed are friction-fit into the housing, so it would be advisable to make sure they are fully set into the housing by gripping the nib and feed and pushing them all the way into the housing.
If only a little bit of ink was found inside the cap and around the grip section, a slight jostle or bounce might have caused the pen to release a few drops of ink while being carried around. Not a big deal. It happens sometimes when carrying your pens around everywhere you go.
Ink is coming from the barrel
If ink is found at the juncture of the grip section and barrel, it might mean that there is a leak from inside the barrel. For a cartridge/converter pen, carefully check the connection of the cartridge or converter to the pen. If the connection is loose and covered with ink, that will tell you the seal is compromised. See if you can tighten the connection. If not, replace the converter or cartridge with a new one.
If ink is leaking from the barrel of a non-cartridge/converter pen, then there's a bigger problem to address. Since there are no parts to replace, you'll have to contact the brand's warranty service repair department to see if they can help fix the barrel or filling mechanism.
If there is excessive ink on the nib, that's called nib creep and really isn't a problem.
Quick tips to fix ink flow problems
Make sure to have your fountain pen capped when not in use. Leaving your pen uncapped for periods longer than a minute may cause issues with hard-starting or poor ink flow. Also, leaving an uncapped pen on a desk surface may spell certain doom if it rolls off the table.
Just like buffalo chicken wings may not agree with your digestive system, a particular fountain pen ink may not agree with your pen. If you are experiencing flow issues, change the ink to see if it improves.
Another variable to address is your paper. Toothy papers may leave fibers in the nib slit and cause trouble with skipping and poor ink flow. Change your paper and see if it improves.
We hope this guide helps you in addressing common fountain pen issues. If you are still experiencing issues with your fountain pen, we recommend contacting the manufacturer or the retailer where you purchased your pen. If that retailer happens to be us, please use our contact form to reach out.
Learn more about the how fountain pens work at Fountain Pen University.