How do I care for my vintage pen?

Older pens were made to a very high standard of precision and workmanship, often using materials no longer available or widely used today. Inks appropriate for modern pens may do damage to a vintage pen. Read about ink choice here.

To prevent clogging, periodically flush your pen out, filling it with cool water and emptying it a few times. Doing this once every few months will keep dried ink from building up and interfering with ink flow. Do not use hot water, solvents, or household cleaners such as Windex or 409.

Do NOT soak any part of your pen other than the nib assembly! Pens are designed to hold liquids, not to be immersed in them. If ink gets into the inside of the cap, wipe it out with a damp cotton swab. Exposure to water, even briefly, can instantly fade the exterior of a hard rubber pen or pencil. Dunking the entire cap (or the entire barrel) into water is unnecessary and may do serious harm. If your pen is clogged with dried ink, soak it by placing it nib-down in only enough water to cover the nib and the lower part of the section, leaving the barrel dry.

When placing the cap on the end of the barrel ("posting"), set it in place gently, like putting on a hat. Older pens with thin cap lips (Sheaffer Balances and Eversharp Dorics, for example) should be handled with extra care. Many vintage pen users do not post their caps at all.

Carry your pen nib upwards and you should have no trouble with leakage. Keep your pen full of ink, since ink flow can become irregular if the ink chamber is close to empty. 95% of "leaky" pens can be cured by the above two precautions!

Avoid operating the filler mechanism (lever, button, or whatever) when the pen is fully closed, as this puts excessive strain on the sac and the filling mechanism. When the cap is screwed on, the inner cap seals around the nib, leaving no place for the air in the ink reservoir to escape. Likewise, be gentle when pulling out the knob on a plunger-filler (the downward stroke, however, should be vigorous).

Be aware that bright sunlight can cause hard rubber to fade. Protect your pens from excessive heat, such as in a parked car on a sunny day. An outside pocket is cooler than an inside pocket, and is better for both pen preservation and slowing of ink evaporation.

For further information on pen care, click the FAQ heading for Repair.