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Five Bad Things That Happen With New Pens


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#1 troglokev

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Posted 04 March 2011 - 22:15

Misaligned tines
Posted Image Through a loupe, the tipping looks like this.
The pen feels scratchy, and may skip in a particular direction.
The cure is to bring the tines into alignment (carefully!) using your fingers to (gently!) bend them.
Note that the misalignment may be due to the nib being off centre on the feed. Again, tweak the nib or feed (judiciously!) to bring it into alignment.

Poor gap set
Tines are squeezed together or too far apart. Pen has poor ink flow (too little, too much), may skip if the tines are too far apart.
The cure for too narrow a gap is to spread the tines of the nib. (see point 5 in John Mottishaw's excellent article).
Passing a thin (10 micron) brass shim between the tines can help with this problem.
Narrowing the gap requires removing the nib from the pen, squeezing the tines past each other so that they spring back to the correct position, and re-adjusting the alignment. Professional help is preferable, here.

Badly set feed
Posted Image There is a gap between nib and feed.
Pen alternately skips and floods.
Cure is to reset the feed. Feeds are made of thermoplastics or hard rubber, and become flexible with gentle heat. Use hot water to soften the feed and set it up against the nib.

Manufacturing gunk in the ink system
Pen skips or doesn't flow at all because oil in the ink channels in the feed or in the slit of the nib prevents the flow of water.
I always assume this is there, and flush a new pen with water before use. Sometimes standing the pen in ink overnight helps.

Baby bottom
Posted Image The shape of the nib keeps the ink away from the paper.
Pen is a "hard starter". It writes well, but needs a bit of a push down on the nib to get it going. May skip a bit.
The cure is to grind away some of the tipping, to get a better shape. If you are at all unsure about doing this, seek a professional. I use a nail buffer, available for a small amount of money and a large sacrifice of dignity from the health and beauty section of the pharmacist. The finest grade buffer only!

Notes:
It is best to work out what your problem is, before trying to fix it. Many of the symptoms are similar, and fixing the wrong problem may damage your pen.

A 10x loupe is sufficent to see these problems, though some prefer to use magnifications as high as 20x.

A nail buffer is not an emery board. It is a thick thing with three or four grades of grit, the finest being gray, and smooth to the touch. Women apparently use it to bring their nails to a high degree of polish.

Grinding the nib is a last, not a first resort.

Further reading
It's also worth reading John Mottishaw's excellent article, Ludwig Tan's article on grinding italic nibs, and the articles in Richard Binder's reference page.
Arthur Twydle's article describes some of the more drastic measures taken in the past. I'm not a fan of spirit lamps and the like.

Edit: Added a notes section in response to some of the questions below

Edited by troglokev, 05 March 2011 - 11:36.


#2 ethernautrix

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Posted 04 March 2011 - 22:22

Kev.! That's very helpful!

Wow. Simple and informative. Thank you!
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#3 RedSox04

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Posted 04 March 2011 - 22:34

help me too!

I've decided to take a look at some of my pens (cheaper ones at first) under a school microscope, pretty nice ones actually.

Ill be looking for these signs, but do you think that I should find something finer grit than a nail buffer, seeing that I've never done this before?
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#4 CatBookMom

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Posted 04 March 2011 - 22:41

Thank you for the helpful info; your graphics are simple but effective in showing the problems.

RedSox04, not to worry; a nail buffer has much finer grit than a nail file. Often these buffers are in 2 colors on one side with a third on the other. Nail files are usually 2 shades of brown or are metal.

#5 RedSox04

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Posted 04 March 2011 - 22:43

Interesting, I was under the impression that some crazy high grit count from Home Depot was better.
I have heard of 14,000 grit count... but a normal nail buffer will do?
To hold a pen is to be at war
-Voltaire

#6 csmorris

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Posted 04 March 2011 - 22:55

Great tips! Thank you!

#7 Mech_Pencil

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Posted 04 March 2011 - 23:11

Misaligned tines
Posted Image Through a loupe, the tipping looks like this.
Pen feels scratchy, may skip in a particular direction.
The cure is to bring the tines into alignment (carefully!)


How do u exactly align the tines?
How powerful of a loupe do you need to fix a pelikan m600?
My nib got scratchy and I still dont know how to align

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Posted Image

#8 Miranda

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Posted 04 March 2011 - 23:37

Thanks Troggi. very clear and helpful
Warm Regards, Miranda


#9 in the flow

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 00:07

Very helpful - learnt a lot from this! Is it appropriate for this one to be referred to in one of those pinned posts for people to find? I dunno, I'm a newbie, but it seems like it'd be useful to a lot of people not already in-the-know.

#10 Shangas

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 00:09


Misaligned tines
Posted Image Through a loupe, the tipping looks like this.
Pen feels scratchy, may skip in a particular direction.
The cure is to bring the tines into alignment (carefully!)


How do u exactly align the tines?
How powerful of a loupe do you need to fix a pelikan m600?
My nib got scratchy and I still dont know how to align


1. Let your fingernails grow (you need nails to do this).

2. Pinch each tine between a pair of nails and pull or pinch accordingly, until the nib has been bent into the appropriate shape. Keep in mind that your WILL get ink on your hands. Sadly this is necessary. If you don't have ink in the pen, you'll never know if it writes smoothly when you test it. I've straightened out several nibs and it's not that hard. Frustrating and messy it may be, but it's not hard.
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#11 mholve

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 00:20

Sticky! :thumbup:

#12 troglokev

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 02:57

I've added a notes section, in response to some of the comments.

The process of passing a brass shim between the tines is sometimes referred to as "flossing" the nib. I deliberately avoided using the word because people have mistakenly used dental floss in the past. Wax is hydrophobic, and has no place anywhere near your nib or feed.

Edited by troglokev, 05 March 2011 - 03:24.


#13 trhall

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 02:59

Very good information! This should be sticky or in a FAQ.

#14 clickiechick

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 04:33

+1 on sticky status. Very helpful, great illustrations.
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#15 Essensia

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 05:28

Very, very useful and helpful information. Thanks so much!

#16 Mr Ink

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 05:59

This is useful information that is explained succinctly but very clearly. The diagrams are also simple to understand and unambiguous. Thank you very much and well done. This topic should be pinned.

#17 79spitfire

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 06:05

Another vote for pinning!

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#18 troglokev

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 09:46

Interesting, I was under the impression that some crazy high grit count from Home Depot was better.
I have heard of 14,000 grit count... but a normal nail buffer will do?

The nail buffers that I'm referring to have a 12,000 grit count on the grey side.

#19 ClassicHippie

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 10:47

Very helpful!

#20 Fuddlestack

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 11:11

Well stuck!

Another common thing that misaligns tines is a nib that is off-centre on the feed. I have had this a few times. Again, the cure is shoving nib or feed with a fingernail, according to which is out of whack.

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#21 troglokev

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 11:16

Thanks for pointing that out. I'll make a change.

#22 pelman

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 13:50

Echoing others - excellent. Simple and easy to follow. Thank you.

#23 wimg

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 22:14


Misaligned tines
Posted Image Through a loupe, the tipping looks like this.
Pen feels scratchy, may skip in a particular direction.
The cure is to bring the tines into alignment (carefully!)


How do u exactly align the tines?
How powerful of a loupe do you need to fix a pelikan m600?
My nib got scratchy and I still dont know how to align

The procedure for fixing this goes by the very scientific term of "nib twanging" :D.

Check post 2 in this topic, or post 2 in this one.

You can also check here, where I also explain an alternative method to a feeler gauge for increasign ink flow, as a feeler may actually damage the nib or nib tipping relatively easily if you are not very careful.

Warm regards, Wim

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#24 wimg

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 22:27


Interesting, I was under the impression that some crazy high grit count from Home Depot was better.
I have heard of 14,000 grit count... but a normal nail buffer will do?

The nail buffers that I'm referring to have a 12,000 grit count on the grey side.

Are you really sure about that?

The finest ones I know don't have a listed grit count at all, and they seem very similar to my 3000 grit mylar, maybe slightly finer, say 4000 grit. Due to the softness of the padding it may appear they are of finer grit because they are less abrasive as a result than a sheet of mylar of the same grit.

It is very easy to check if it is (much) finer than 3000 or 4000 grit, because although 4000 grit may be fine enough to polish jet plane cockpits for maximum transparancy, it will make the tipping of a pen look grey, like dull gun metal. It has to look polished, i.e., very smooth and shiny, which means you need about 10000 grit or more.

For more information on nib smoothing, and my rather early experiences, and a bit of information on mylar and grit sizes, check this article.

You can also look here for further references: repair references.

Warm regards, Wim

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#25 wimg

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 22:49

If you don't mind too much, a few comments to parts which haven't been commented on a lot yet :D.

Poor gap set
Tines are squeezed together or too far apart. Pen has poor ink flow (too little, too much), may skip if the tines are too far apart.
The cure for too narrow a gap is to spread the tines of the nib. (see point 5 in John Mottishaw's excellent article).
Passing a thin (10 micron) brass shim between the tines can help with this problem.
Narrowing the gap requires removing the nib from the pen, squeezing the tines past each other so that they spring back to the correct position, and re-adjusting the alignment. Professional help is preferable, here.

You can also use thin transparancy film, see here.

Badly set feed
Posted Image There is a gap between nib and feed.
Pen alternately skips and floods.
Cure is to reset the feed. Feeds are made of thermoplastics or hard rubber, and become flexible with gentle heat. Use hot water to soften the feed and set it up against the nib.

In this picture it looks as if the nib is straight, and the feed inserted skew. However, this is always the other way around, as the feed only can be seated straight and inline with the section, unless the feed is bent or the section broken. So, if you want to be precise, the nib should be lifting up from the horizontal through the length axis of the feed and section :D.

Manufacturing gunk in the ink system
Pen skips or doesn't flow at all because oil in the ink channels in the feed or in the slit of the nib prevents the flow of water.
I always assume this is there, and flush a new pen with water before use. Sometimes standing the pen in ink overnight helps.

I have written many a post on this in the post - plain water generally isn't good enough, unless the pen has been cleaned and written with in the factory, liek happens with Waterman pens, and presumably with Parkers too.
Furthermore, you may want to do what I call "priming a feed" first, with a new pen.
Both points are addressed here: flushing a pen and priming a feed, also here, a bit more extensively.
More on priming a feed, and even more here, when answering a question on an Etruria :D.

That's it from me for now :D.

Warm regards, Wim

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laugh a little, love a little, live a lot; laugh a lot, love a lot, live forever


#26 troglokev

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Posted 05 March 2011 - 23:42

Keep 'em coming Wim. It's all good information for new people.

Posted Image
is how the feed in my Rotring 600 was when I first got it (though I drew a generic open nib). It was NOS, and the feed had warped in a shop window, I suspect.

I agree that priming the feed is important (even more so with the modern plastic feeds). The surface is not very wettable straight from the factory floor, and needs to be in contact with something that will clean the surface for a while before it really gets going. I fill a pen and stand it in ink, for this, if it seems I need to. The old-style acid inks seem to work best. A bit of a sledgehammer approach, I know, but it works for me.

Can you add those references to the list in the original post for me? My edit window has expired.

Edited by troglokev, 06 March 2011 - 00:01.


#27 wimg

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Posted 06 March 2011 - 03:30

Can you maybe do a MultiQuote reply post, with all the posts from which you want to incorporate information, get rid of the quote blocks, the text you don't want , add anything else you want to add, and then post that reply? I'll copy it next to the main post for you - I don't particularly like the idea of editing a good post, and this way we'd prevent going backwards and forwards on what you'd really want in the text as well :).

To MultiQuote: select all the posts you want in one new reply post, including your topic starter (mark the tick boxes at the top right of each individual post you want included), go to the bottom of the topic, and click Add Reply underneath the topic, and then edit the post. After editing it is Add Reply again :D.

Warm regards, Wim

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#28 Lince

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Posted 06 March 2011 - 04:19

When you are seting the feed, do you do it mounted on the section with the nib, Or everything apart?

#29 wimg

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Posted 06 March 2011 - 14:55

When you are seting the feed, do you do it mounted on the section with the nib, Or everything apart?

Setting the feed should really be done with everything taken apart. Setting only the nib can be done without taking out feed and nib, provided it isn't too bad - you shouldn't apply too much force because you could wack the nib out of alignment. Personally, I most often pull nib and feed and reinsert them, once I align the nib properly on the feed.

In the case of a bent feed, like trogoklev had, you need to slightly warm it up and bend it straight again, if that is possible. Best is to replace it with a new one, however.

Warm regards, Wim

the Mad Dutchman
laugh a little, love a little, live a lot; laugh a lot, love a lot, live forever


#30 PenFan95

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Posted 06 March 2011 - 19:01

Uhh...shouldn't problems like 'Baby Bottom' that require grinding be sent to an experienced nib technician like Richard Binder, just to be safe?

Nice guide BTW. :thumbup: It helped me align my cheapo Vector's tines!
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