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The Pen Doctor XXXIV

(This page published July 1, 2020)

Reference Info Index | Glossopedia  ]

Blobs from a Freshly Filled Pen

Q:When I fill my pen with ink from a bottle, I wipe down the nib but still get blobs when I write the first few lines. Can you adjust my pen so it won’t do this?

℞x:It’s not a matter of adjusting the pen. What’s happening is that excess ink is being held by capillary action in the nooks and crannies of the feed and the space between the feed and the nib. You need to get that ink out of there so that the feed can establish proper flow control. The procedure is called swaddling, and the Glossopedia has an explanation of how to do this. I’ll reproduce that explanation here for you here:

swaddle. [T]o soak surplus ink out of the nib area of a freshly filled pen in order to prevent the pen from throwing a blot or writing with an excessively wet stroke until the surplus is exhausted. The method is to hold the pen vertically with its point downward and enclose the nib and feed as shown here in several thicknesses of a paper towel, tissue, or soft cloth rag, applying gentle pressure sufficient to bring the wrapping into contact with the feed so that it will soak surplus ink out of the feed and the space between the nib and the feed. Release after three seconds, and proceed to wipe any remaining ink from the nib and the section or hood.

Why go to this extra effort when there are several sources that recommend that you just drip two or three drops back into the bottle after filling by raising the lever a little and releasing it, or turning the piston down and back up, or whatever method your pen’s filler requires? Been there, done that. It doesn’t work.

The subject of mold seems to come up more frequently in the summer than at other times of the year, and it's especially likely to strike this year as more people are writing letters and journaling than ordinarily. Here are a couple of questions about that distasteful topic.

Moldy Pens and What to Do About Them

Q:I heard about mold/fungus in ink bottles, pens etc, saw a picture of a mold infected nib on richardspens. So, what parts of a pen can get mold/fungus? I know nib and feed. Apart from that, can the barrel of the pen get affected? If a piston pen like Pelikan M800 or TWSBI Eco gets affected by mold, where all it can grow and where not? I recently read a blog where there was fungus/mold inside a cartridge as well. Is it very common to have mold inside a new sealed cartridge?

℞x:If there is mold anywhere on a pen, every part of the pen that can come into contact with ink could be moldy. Because mold spores are too small to be seen with the naked eye, cleaning a moldy pen requires complete disassembly and treatment with a good fungicide, then mechanical cleaning to remove what was killed. Mold can grow inside everywhere. To get it all killed, even the cap should be taken apart so that the space between the cap and the inner cap can be cleaned, and the nib unit should be taken apart to make sure the spaces that are inside the threaded collar are clean.

If you are not a skilled repairer, please consider sending your pen to someone who is. Unless you know how to disassemble a pen properly, you can damage it irreparably by trying, especially if you use the wrong tools.

Mold inside a new cartridge is not common, but certain brands of ink can be susceptible to it. Over the years, Private Reserve has become notorious for mold, and I’ve heard of more than a few cases traceable to J. Herbin inks.

Identifying Mold in a Bottle or Cartridge

Q:How do I identify mold in a bottle of ink and a cartridge especially if it contains a dark ink like black? Would it be impossible to find it in a black cartridge?

℞x:In a bottle, you will usually see floating islands of fuzzy stuff, but if the ink has been shaken, then the mold will show up as bits of sludge. It’s virtually impossible to identify mold in a cartridge of ink that is effectively opaque, like black or most blues and greens. You can see bits of foreign matter in cartridges of light-colored inks: reds, oranges, yellows, and so on.

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