Many people want to know … can my old fountain pen can be fixed? … will my vintage pen ever write properly again? … how much is my antique pen worth? … and so on. Here are my responses to some of the most frequently asked questions.
Q1: Can my antique fountain pen be fixed?
A1: Yes, in nearly every case, your old pen can be fixed. The filling mechanism can be repaired so that your pen will fill with ink. Many broken or missing parts can be replaced. Metal parts that are damaged can be welded or replated. However, in some instances, the cost of repairs may exceed the value of the pen. I always tell you if this will be the case, so that you can decide what to do before I start any repairs. Refer to my Fix Your Pen pages for details
Q2: Will my fountain pen write properly again?
A2: Yes, every pen that I repair is restored to full working order. It will fill with ink and write in the manner in which it was originally designed to write. The line width made by fountain pen nib is determined by the size of the iridium tip. Changing this width and/or flow adjustments are very limited.
Q3: How much is my vintage fountain pen worth?
A3: If you send me a general description of your pen (manufacturer, model, color, condition) I will give you a general idea of its value. In order to give you an appraisal, I will need to see the pen. I often provide appraisals for pens that I repair. Visit my Appraisals page for more details.
Q4: How can I tell if my old pen is made of solid gold?
A4: Most pens have a solid gold nib (points), as indicated by the 14K stamped on it. However, the other metal parts (caps, clips, accent bands) of most pens are made with gold filled trim, not solid gold. Gold filled means that real gold has been bonded to a base metal (usually brass) to produce a laminate that is an affordable alternative to solid gold. Gold filled is thicker, thus more resistant to wear, than typical gold plating. Solid gold pens typically have tiny insignia (hallmarks) stamped into the gold work and are stamped with the gold content (14k means 14 carat gold).
Q5: What kind of ink should I use in my vintage pen?
A5: There are many different brands of fountain pen ink that will work well in your pen. You may need to experiment with different brands of ink to see which works best in your pen. You can start with Waterman ink for your Waterman pen, but don’t be afraid to try fountain pen ink from other manufacturers. You may find that Pelikan ink works best in your old Parker pen.
Be sure to use fresh ink, not ink that has been sitting in a bottle for years. Never put india ink (the ink designed for drafting pens or sign making) in your fountain pen as it will ruin the filling system when it dries. Also, many artist’s inks are not designed for fountain pens and will clog them.
Q6: How do I fill my vintage pen?
A6: Nearly all of them work on the same principle, even if they have different filling mechanisms. First, submerge the nib (point) of the pen in ink. Second, expel the air from the ink reservoir. Third, let the vacuum created when the air is expelled pull the ink into the reservoir. Lever filling pens use the up and down action of the lever to do this. Piston filling pens use the back and forth action of the piston. Button filling pens usually need 8 to 10 strokes of the button before they are full.
The most common reasons that fountain pens do not fill properly are: the nib is not submerged in the ink, so the vacuum is pulling in air rather than ink; the channel between the nib and reservoir is clogged and needs to be cleaned; the filling mechanism no longer pulls a vacuum and needs to be restored.
Q7: How often should I change the ink in my pen?
A7: If I don’t use all the ink in my pen within 2 weeks, then I flush out the old ink, and refill it with fresh ink. If I’m not going to use a fountain pen for a while, I empty out the ink, fill it with cold tap water, empty it again, then repeat this a few times until the water runs clear when I empty the pen.
Occasionally I forget to empty the ink out of a pen before it dries. When this happens, I remove the cap and gently put the pen (nib pointing down) into a small glass of cool tap water. I let it soak overnight, so the dried ink is fully dissolved. Then, I can clean out the pen in the usual way.
Q8: What is the best way to ship my pen to you?
A8: Full instructions are at the bottom of my Repair Order Form . The short answer is to pad it; pack it in a small, sturdy cardboard box; then insure and ship it using a method that allows you to track and confirm delivery. I’ve found the US Postal Service to be as reliable and economical as any.
Q9: Can I take my vintage fountain pen on an airplane without it leaking ink?
A9: Early fountain pens were designed when the Wright Brothers were still building bicycles, not airplanes. The air pressure changes that occur during an airplane flight can cause ink leakage out the nib and into the cap. The safest way to travel with a fountain pen on an airplane is to empty the ink from the pen and refill it once you are back on the ground. Some pens do not leak when they are completely filled with ink, but it may cost you a shirt to find out if yours is one of those.
Q10: My pen has some discolored areas. Can you fix this?
A10: It depends. If the part is made of plastic, and the discoloration is due to aging of the material, then it cannot be restored. If it is simply dirty, the color can be partially or fully restored. If the material is black hard rubber, then I can restore its jet black color. Please see my page on Color Restoration for more details.