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Fountain Pen Leak Problems?


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#1 beezaur

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Posted 15 March 2007 - 22:53

Hello everyone,

I am new to fountain pens, and love them already. I got a few pens for starters: some Lamy Safaris and a Waterman Phileas. These are for my desk using various inks -- I have some Bullet Proof Noodler's on the way.

I would like to carry a fountain pen in my shirt pocket, but I am worried about leaks.

How big a deal is leaking? What causes it? What can be done (besides plastic pocket protectors) to prevent ruining a shirt?

Scott



#2 jkrewalk

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Posted 15 March 2007 - 23:19

Hello and welcome to the wonderful world of fountain pens! Neither of these pens should ever leak unless they are defective. I have many pens and carry them not only in my shirt pockets but also in the pocket of my suits. I have never had a problem

Good pens should never leak - and both Lamy and Waterman are great dependale pens. Great choice!

#3 davidmigl

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Posted 16 March 2007 - 00:17

I own both those pens, too, and no leaks. In fact, no fountain pen I have owned has ever leaked. It seems like the concept of a leaky fountain pen is a relic from a bygone era when leaking really was a problem, but the stereotype persists nevertheless.

You could use a non-waterproof ink if you were really concerned.

#4 Bogtrotter

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Posted 16 March 2007 - 00:37

I've had two pens trash my shirts. Both times it was because the cap separated (unscrewed) from the rest of the pen, which promptly fell to the bottom of the pocket. Osmosis took care of the rest. sad.gif

bt

#5 beezaur

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Posted 16 March 2007 - 00:59

If it was a problem then, why not now? Different mechanisms?

Being in western WA, I do change elevations quite a bit. My desk is at about 200 feet above sea level. I have gone to ~3000 ft and back in one day before. Not sure if that matters. . .

Scott

#6 jkrewalk

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Posted 16 March 2007 - 01:47

Yes - in the beginning days of the fountain pen leaks were common. LE Waterman (the guy whose name is on your Phileas) is credited with developing the first non leaking fountain pen. Even so, as pens became more popular, many brands would leak.

In the 20th century, modern manufacturing and the cartridge/converter airtight ink filling systems have essentially eliminated ink leaks (unless defective as I said before). I would not put one in my expensive suits everyday for work if there was any possibility of leaking and I have never had a leak yet.

#7 psfred

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Posted 16 March 2007 - 01:49

Wear cheap clothes?

Some pens are more prone to catastrophic leaks than others -- Sheaffer Vac-fills and Parker Vacumatics both can suffer from seal or diaphram failure with little or no notice, and since that seal or diaphram is in the end of the barrel, if it leaks it will dump in into your pocket the entire contents of the pen. They hold a couple milliliters.... Parker 51 Aeros and Parker 21s were made with a hole in the end of the barrel until the 1960s when it was moved to the side, so a leak in the sac means a pocketful of ink.

New pens, particulalry cartridge fillers, will only leak into the cap or barrel, not out of the pen, so you are more likely to get inky fingers than a stained shirt, although a cap fill of ink WILL leak out of the vents on the cap.

About all you can do is watch for problems -- the MOST common (and only "ink in the pocket" problem I've had yet) is a pen that separates from the cap and slips down. My Sheaffer Vac-Fill did this, so I no longer carry it in a pocket, the cap won't stay tight enough.

A "nerd pocket" will work fine -- it will also keep you from writing on your shirt with a ball point. My father had one from when they were invented until he died, they work great and who cares what anyone else thinks? He was an engineer, though.

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#8 jkrewalk

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Posted 16 March 2007 - 01:59

Although vintage pens might leak, I have never had a leak with a modern cartridge filler - ever.

#9 beezaur

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Posted 16 March 2007 - 02:06

QUOTE
He was an engineer, though.


I am an engineer. My wife bought me some pocket protectors a while back. I don' know why, since I am so very stylish . . . wink.gif

Various associates have lost shirts to pen leaks. Those were always gel or liquid pens, or something like that (no ballpoints). I went to Fisher Space ballpoints. You get the same boogery writing all the time no matter what.

So, fountain pens certainly write better than other types. There are some really impressive inks available. Evidently leaking is not really a problem. The only real drawback seems to be that they won't write on waterproof paper.

Scott

#10 johnr55

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Posted 16 March 2007 - 02:11

I've never had an FP leak. My problems have been with BP's not being secure.
It's another good thing about cartridges--if they ever did it'd go inside the screwed-on barrel. But I've never had a cartridge pen leak in 40+ years.

#11 PaulLeMay

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Posted 16 March 2007 - 02:22

The only leaks I have experienced were from "user error" putting the pen in my pocket without the cap, nib down. If you are worried keep some Ammodex handy. I have removed two ink stains quite well with it.

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#12 meanwhile

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Posted 16 March 2007 - 12:45

QUOTE (beezaur @ Mar 16 2007, 12:59 AM)
If it was a problem then, why not now? Different mechanisms?

Being in western WA, I do change elevations quite a bit. My desk is at about 200 feet above sea level. I have gone to ~3000 ft and back in one day before. Not sure if that matters. . .

Scott

You could always get a flight safe pen - the Rotring Initial if you can stand the slippery metal section, Parker 51 aerometric fillers, Pelikan Level(?) etc.
- Jonathan

#13 jbb

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Posted 16 March 2007 - 14:20

QUOTE (beezaur @ Mar 15 2007, 04:59 PM)
Being in western WA, I do change elevations quite a bit.  My desk is at about 200 feet above sea level.  I have gone to ~3000 ft and back in one day before.  Not sure if that matters. . .

Scott

I went from 1500 feet (foothills of the Sierra Nevada) to 7000-8000 feet (Donner Pass towards Tahoe) and the two pens in my purse leaked terribly!! What a mess. So I'd be careful of steep changes in elevations. ph34r.gif

#14 MYU

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Posted 16 March 2007 - 15:00

I think most of the leaky horror stories were due to people flying without altitude tolerant pens (like an aerometric filler), fragile bladders that would tear or perforate, and basically careless people that didn't learn how to care for a fountain pen.

Before the ballpoint, the percentage of the population using fountain pens was at an all time high. Given that, the number of leak accidents was much higher. Also, over time the "ink containment" designs reached near perfection. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a leaky pen made by a name brand company after the 1940's.

I think there's a much greater chance of getting an ink stain from a rollerball. No one thinks of them as fragile, so special care isn't necessarily exercised... all it takes is the tip of a rollerball to lightly touch a sleeve and--capillary action attack! You've got a huge stain.

Edited by MYU, 16 March 2007 - 15:03.

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#15 torstar

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Posted 12 April 2010 - 15:09

How big a deal is leaking? What causes it? What can be done (besides plastic pocket protectors) to prevent ruining a shirt?

Scott
[/quote]


My rule is if the nib touches the ink to refill, it will probably leak.

Of 12 pens in rotation, all opened from the box, 10 leak constantly into the cap, at a minimum.

I just run paper towel along the inside to ensure I don't cause problems in putting the cap on the end for writing. Included are 5 MBs (with limited editions) and Waterman pens. If the pen is leaky with a converter, I pull out the converter and fill it directly and then reattach, cutting down on 98% of the problem.

I guess I'm the victim of bad luck here, I fill the pens as instructed by videos and written instruction and they leak anyways.

Only the 2 Auroras haven't caused a problem.

Edited by torstar, 12 April 2010 - 15:10.


#16 Ernst Bitterman

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Posted 12 April 2010 - 15:24

I usually figure on a big name pen made after 1940 being pretty safe. Some of the Sheaffers from the '40s and '50s have cap-thread issues and are given to dropping out of the cap, but most pockets aren't so deep than they get loose and wander. I had a small and mysterious problem with a 1985ish Waterman putting ink into its cap, and some pre-1940s models have such innocent, uncomplicated feeds that they'll do funny things sometimes, but most modern models have such a convolution of ink buffering that they're no less safe than something like a Pilot rollerball pen, which is like a fountain pen a tube of ink with a hole at one end.

The main cure for leaking through barometric change is to keep the pen point up through that change. The hole has air at both ends, that way. Just remember to keep it point up when you take the cap off.
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#17 StillLifeWithBooks

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Posted 12 April 2010 - 15:37

One of my pens (CdA Ecridor Retro) is currently out for repairs after it started leaking near the nib... It never spilled any ink out of the cap, although it did make my fingers very inky!

When I took it in for repairs, they kept asking if I'd dropped it (I hadn't). What parts of a well-made pen are so vulnerable that they'd break from being accidentally dropped? I understand that they are not built to be tossed around, etc., but if they fall off a desk or something, is this always going to cause major damage?

I figure its best I find this out now, so I can become suitable paranoid if necessary! :)


ps: Can a pen be permanently damaged by flying?

#18 Feanor

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Posted 12 April 2010 - 15:59

If it was a problem then, why not now? Different mechanisms?

Being in western WA, I do change elevations quite a bit. My desk is at about 200 feet above sea level. I have gone to ~3000 ft and back in one day before. Not sure if that matters. . .

Scott


Not enough pressure difference to matter, unless it's an almost-empty eyedropper sitting nib-down.

My only leaks have been from pens unscrewing in my shirt pocket. As long as you keep your pens nib-up, don't use metal-on-metal screw caps, and make sure your caps are tight before putting them in your pocket, you'll be fine.

#19 Feanor

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Posted 12 April 2010 - 16:06


How big a deal is leaking? What causes it? What can be done (besides plastic pocket protectors) to prevent ruining a shirt?

Scott



My rule is if the nib touches the ink to refill, it will probably leak.

Of 12 pens in rotation, all opened from the box, 10 leak constantly into the cap, at a minimum.

I just run paper towel along the inside to ensure I don't cause problems in putting the cap on the end for writing. Included are 5 MBs (with limited editions) and Waterman pens. If the pen is leaky with a converter, I pull out the converter and fill it directly and then reattach, cutting down on 98% of the problem.

I guess I'm the victim of bad luck here, I fill the pens as instructed by videos and written instruction and they leak anyways.

Only the 2 Auroras haven't caused a problem.


Do you wipe the excess ink off the nib and feed after filling? And do you store the pens nib-up? Out of my dozen+ pens, only one will leak, and that only if I leave it nib-down after sliding the cap along the nib putting it on.