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The Pen Doctor XLI

(This page published August 1, 2023)

Reference Info Index | Glossopedia  ]

Reviving Stale Ink Cartridges

Q:I have some old Cross pen ink cartridges that have been lying around for four years. It seems some of the ink has evaporated from the cartridges. What is the reason behind this? How can I restore these cartridges?

℞x:Unused ink cartridges won’t leak wet ink, but they’re not necessarily 100% vapor-tight. As the water inside evaporates, the vapor can leak away. This allows more water to evaporate, and the process can continue until all that remains is the solids that were left behind as the water evaporated.

You will need to restore the cartridges one at a time, not all at once. You will need a supply of distilled water — a gallon at the supermarket will cost you $2.00 or less and will provide enough water for more than 5,000 cartridges — and a medical syringe with a blunted needle. Here’s how to go about restoring a cartridge.

Be careful to hold the cartridge with the open end uppermost throughout the entire procedure. If you don’t, you will probably find yourself wearing some ink.
  1. When you are ready to use one of the cartridges, break the seal by installing the cartridge into the pen you want to use it in while holding the pen nib uppermost. If the remaining ink doesn’t flow to the back end (the bottom) of the cartridge, flick the cartridge gently with your finger to dislodge the ink amd make it flow to the bottom.

  2. Then carefully remove the cartridge. Use the syringe to inject distilled water into the cartridge, stopping when there is about inch (3 mm) of air space (not including the narrow neck).

  3. Reinstall the cartridge into the pen, and shake the pen gently to mix the distilled water into the ink.

Dating a Parker Duofold

Q:I acquired a Parker Duofold Jr. and I'm trying to accurately identify the date of manufacture. Based on the information on your website, I *think* the pen was manufactured 3rd quarter of 1935. However I would like your assistance in confirming my thoughts. The only marking on the pen is lengthwise along the barrel. At the end of the barrel is printed "Pat. 4-25.II" My confusion is stemming from the "II" at the end. It seems to me to be a blend of 2 date codes. I've attached a photo that will hopefully help explain what I see. Any assistance will be greatly appreciated!

Fountain Pen

℞x:The line of text you've quoted (shown below greatly enlarged from your photo) has nothing to do with when the pen was made. It reads PAT. 4·25·11, and it’s a patent date: April 25, 1911. The patent in question is U.S. Patent No 990,288, which relates to the design of the pen's feed.


Parker didn't start date coding its pens until 1932, and your pen was manufactured before then. Together, the flush cap band and the green color tell me that the pen was made in 1927. The blind cap that's on it is not the original one; if it were, it would match the curve of the barrel perfectly instead of protruding past the barrel wall as it does.

Letting a Non-User Try Out My Fountain Pen?

Q:I just got a new job, and my new co-workers want to try out my pens when they see me using them in meetings. I want to let people see how great fountain pens are, but I'm a little nervous about handing a $400 pen to somebody who might not know how to use it properly. What advice can you give me about this quandary?

℞x:Some dealers say in the FAQ on their websites that it’s fine to let others try your pens — how else can you attract new users? But dealers are in business to sell pens, and they might have little or no experience with repairing a damaged nib. I don’t sell pens, and my job is to give you the best advice I can offer. My advice is to decline politely unless you’re certain that the person who’s going to try out your pen is an experienced fountain pen user.

Sprung nibHere’s the deal. People who grew up with ballpoints are used to applying enough pressure to make a ballpoint write, and even if they’re using rollerballs or gel pens nowadays, they’re still likely to push hard enough to risk splaying the nib’s tines. Even if they only splay the tines a little, that can cause a massive increase in flow. Splay the tines a little more and they can produce a countertapered slit, which won’t write at all. A little more, and the nib will be sprung — sometimes, as shown here on a Waterman‘s Lady Patrica from the 1930s, catastrophically.

Furthermore, because ballpoints, rollerballs, and gel pens don’t care about rotation, their users typically don’t understand that fountain pens do care. A lot. And then there’s the problem of having to hold ballpoint-type pens at a higher angle above the paper to keep from scraping the edge of the tip where it’s swaged to keep the ball from falling out. Fountain pens really prefer a lower angle, and a high angle will feel pushy, rough, and possibly skippy — especially if the person is left handed — unless the pen is specifically tuned for it.

It’s better not to go down that road unless you have the time and inclination to teach your co-worker how to use a fountain pen. If you do find yourself in a position of acquiring a student, I recommend starting your student out with an inexpensive pen. Spend less than $20.00, and you can keep a handful of Jinhao 992s around to give to people free. The 992 is a great starter pen, good enough to become your student’s EDC for the first few months. I'd take the time to tune the nibs first; if this isn’t something you know how to do, there’s no better time to learn. Try using the handout for the nib smoothing workshop Richard gives at some pen shows.

The information in this article is as accurate as possible, but you should not take it as absolutely authoritative or complete. If you have additions or corrections to this page, please consider sharing them with us to improve the accuracy of our information.

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