How to fix a skipping fountain pen

Why is my fountain pen not writing smoothly?

If you’ve ever used a fountain pen, you’ll know it can make writing by hand a wonderful experience. Perfect for crafting a beautiful cursive letter to a loved one, many people love to keep a fountain pen on hand with a few cartridges of ink for their next Christmas card or love letter.

Romanian inventor Petrache Poenaru upped the pen game from the humble quill when he made the first fountain pen in 1827. Since then, these pens have come a long way, using advanced and robust materials to ensure their durability. However, these are delicate writing tools, and even the most robust fountain pens can have problems.

Elegant antique fountain pen on an old paper

What is fountain pen skipping?

One of the common fountain pen problems you might experience is skipping.

While you might picture skipping ropes, this phrase refers to the ink of a fountain pen sporadically stopping and starting while writing, and it can leave you with unformed letters that look messy.

Skipping is a typical fountain pen problem, but it’s still frustrating when it happens, often leading to writers believing their beloved pen has written its last page. Before you discard it in the back of a dark and rarely-opened draw or throw it away, let’s try to figure out the fountain pen problem and how to fix it.

Why does my fountain pen skip?

Fountain pen skipping can happen for a few reasons. You’ll need to look at how often the pen is skipping to discover the root cause.

If the fountain pen problem occurs as soon as the pen hits the paper and happens regularly, the problem is likely the fountain pen nib.

The structure of a fountain pen nib is delicate and usually where the problem happens. Take a closer look at the nib of your pen. Has it lifted away from the feed underneath? If you can see a gap between these two parts, that’s probably the problem.

The nib and the feed should be nearly touching, with the nib sitting neatly just above the feed. If not positioned correctly, the nib can’t perform as designed, leading to skipping.

Skipping can also happen if the fountain pen tines (the two points of the nib) line up. Take a look and see if one tine is higher than its twin. You might be able to gently push them back into place on the page if this happens, but it’s worth knowing how to repair a broken fountain pen properly.

How to repair a skipping fountain pen

If your fountain pen is not writing smoothly, don’t give up on it straight away. Aside from replacing parts of the pen, you might be able to fix it.

In cases where the problem isn’t immediately recognizable, your fountain pen might have dried out or have an internal ink blockage. Try cleaning the pen first to rule both of these out. If your pen has an ink cartridge, you can replace it to see if a new one works better.

If the pen has an ink converter, you can clean the pen with it still attached or unscrew the barrel. Remember to be gentle with cartridge and converter removal to prevent the ink from leaking.

Clean the ink converter and primary structure of the fountain pen by flushing it out. Start by soaking each component in water and then holding them under running water to wash away potential blockages.

If ink replacement and cleaning don’t fix the fountain pen problem, the next step is to try readjusting the nib. Where the tines are sitting too close together and preventing ink from releasing, pull a piece of paper between them to encourage them to spread evenly. This is also an excellent way to clean the nib lightly.

The next check would be if the nib has risen too high above the feed and formed too large a gap. You might be able to push the nib back down into place gently. Try turning the pen upside down and running the nib over a piece of paper on a desk. Don’t be too forceful here, as you could cause further damage. This should hopefully put things neatly back into place.

You should also check the tines are at an even level. It should be easy to see if one side is higher than the other, but you can test it by drawing lines across the page in different directions. If you feel more of a drag in one direction than in another, it’s likely they aren’t in alignment. A simple fix is to gently bend the tines back into place, being careful not to use too much force.

The final thing to check is the tipping material. A fountain pen skipping is sometimes caused by something called baby’s bottom, which is when there is too much tipping material on the point of the nib, causing it to become rounded. Should this happen, try lightly sanding the material down with micromesh – a flexible cloth-backed sandpaper perfect for gently sanding light and small materials.

Common fountain pen problems

Antique style. Hand writing letter with fountain pen. Close-up of a male hand ready to write with an elegant fountain pen

Aside from potential skipping problems, there could be several reasons why your fountain pen is not writing smoothly. They’re fragile writing tools, but they’re also wonderful to use when they work correctly. Knowing how to fix your fountain pen when it has problems can make a world of difference to your penmanship.

We mentioned before that a dry fountain pen could cause skipping. You might be able to revive it by applying a little pressure to encourage ink flow, but you may need to replace the ink entirely. If that doesn’t work, try a wetter ink.

We sometimes get a little carried away when writing in a rush, using too much pressure and damaging the nib. If you can’t fix it by following the guidance above, you might need to replace the nib entirely. Contact the manufacturer for a replacement nib or entirely new pen if your fountain pen is insured.

We’ve talked about ink not flowing well enough, but fountain pens can sometimes have excessive ink flow. Letters will be too broad and wet if the ink flows too quickly, making your writing messy. This could be because the pen has been kept somewhere to warm or there is an air leak in the cartridge. Try keeping your pen in a cool draw and carefully replace the ink cartridge for one that doesn’t have trapped air.

 

Looking for more ways to improve your handwriting and fall back in love with your penmanship? We supply a vast range of well-crafted fountain pens at The Pen Company, and all the ink cartridges and accessories to go with them. Discover trusted brands and manufacturers for when you next send a handwritten letter.

Mariah enjoys typing articles for our blog on her laptop but she'd much rather be writing them by hand with a luxury fountain pen!