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How Does Altitude Affect Ink Flow In Fountain Pens....?


tinta
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I recently flew to Calgary for a week & thought I could take my stainless Kaweco Lilliput that I usually carry with me everywhere when I am at home in Ontario.

 

This Lilliput has a 14C B nib that has been stubbed to about 0.5 mm & its Bock 060 feed adjusted to allow Pelikan's very dry 4001 blue/black ink to flow normally. This nib has never been too wet or too dry. Pendleton Brown made sure of that.

 

Now, I live 10km out of Alliston Ontario, at an elevation of 217 m above sea level.

Pendleton Brown's workshop is in Cumming GA, elevation 401 m. above sea level, I would think that when my nib was ground, its adjusted & the pen write-tested, the work was done at this same elevation.

 

Canmore Alberta sits at an elevation of 1,375 m above sea level.

Once I got to my resort, I popped a Pelikan b/b cartridge into my Lilliput, waited for a few minutes then unscrewed the cap. I usually wipe the nib first, which left a huge blob on the tissue. The bottom of the nib, with the feed was facing me. As I watched in horror, I could see ink filling much of the nib's underside, right up to the edge of the nib itself.

 

I had to wipe again, then started to write on my Rhodia pad. The Lilliput's nib was totally flooded & behaved if it was a very wet BB nib or wider. Perhaps there was something wrong with the Pelikan cart? I shook out all the extra ink out of the pen's feed, popped in a second Pelikan blue/black. The same severe flooding occurred.

 

I am not a science kind of guy, at least not the physics part. I would love to have a simple explanation as to why my pen flooded at 1,375 m while it writes beautifully at 217 m elevation (or even at 401 m).

Edited by tinta

*Sailor 1911S, Black/gold, 14k. 0.8 mm. stub(JM) *1911S blue "Colours", 14k. H-B "M" BLS (PB)

*2 Sailor 1911S Burgundy/gold: 14k. 0.6 mm. "round-nosed" CI (MM) & 14k. 1.1 mm. CI (JM)

*Sailor Pro-Gear Slim Spec. Ed. "Fire",14k. (factory) "H-B"

*Kaweco SPECIAL FP: 14k. "B",-0.6 mm BLS & 14k."M" 0.4 mm. BLS (PB)

*Kaweco Stainless Steel Lilliput, 14k. "M" -0.7 mm.BLS, (PB)

 

 

 

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I'm not a science guy either but have never had a problem with pens behaving differently at different altitudes (from sea level to 3000+m). My home altitude is almost identical to your resort (1380m) and pens behave just as they do at other elevations. I'm looking forward to hearing what actual science people have to say on the matter.

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Air pressure, measured by barometers, decreases as altitude increases. Air pressure also changes as weather systems (high and low pressure masses) move through an area. Obviously, the lower pressure at higher altitudes may affect ink flow. That said, the difference should not significantly affect your pen below ~6000 feet MSL.

Edited by ParramattaPaul
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A fountain pen should equalise with change of pressure. The feed should be designed to let air in or out as necessary, but this will only happen if the pen is nib up. If you put a new cartridge in with the nib down, then it is likely that you will get what you see. Put in a new cartridge and leave it nib up, with the cap off, for a few minutes.

 

As well, the pen will only equalise if the feed is clean. It may be that there is dried ink build-up in your feed interfering with this. I would give it a good flush and a soak, and another flush, and so on until it comes out clean, then try again.

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“Them as can do has to do for them as can’t.


And someone has to speak up for them as has no voices.”


Granny Aching

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All touching on the answer, and in simple terms air pressure is the cause. It has nothing to do with altered behavior of ink though, it is to do with expansion of ink and air.

As someone previously mentioned, air pressure decreases as altitude increases. Lower air pressure allows both the ink and the air in your pen to expand slightly. Therefore ink in the capillary system, irrespective of which way up you pen is held, is is forced out through the only exit it has, which is through the nib.

Conversely, if you inked up at high altitude then descended to a lower level, the increase in pressure compresses the ink and air, causing the ink in the capillary system to be sucked back in slightly, and therefore you can easily find that your pen won't start until you prime it.

Edited by Phil_Dart

www.beaufortink.co.uk
Top quality nibs, ink and refills, pen kits, tools and supplies for discerning pen enthusiasts and makers.
Agents for Bock nibs.
Specialist supplies for kitless pens and custom pen makers.

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A fountain pen should equalise with change of pressure. The feed should be designed to let air in or out as necessary, but this will only happen if the pen is nib up. If you put a new cartridge in with the nib down, then it is likely that you will get what you see. Put in a new cartridge and leave it nib up, with the cap off, for a few minutes.

 

As well, the pen will only equalise if the feed is clean. It may be that there is dried ink build-up in your feed interfering with this. I would give it a good flush and a soak, and another flush, and so on until it comes out clean, then try again.

The nib was in the up position after the cart was popped in.

Of course now I'm back home with none of the attendant problems. As for cleanliness, I probably clean my pens more than I should. With a strictly cartridge pen (which tends to collect more residues in the feed), it is pressure cleaned with a rubber bulb.

Edited by tinta

*Sailor 1911S, Black/gold, 14k. 0.8 mm. stub(JM) *1911S blue "Colours", 14k. H-B "M" BLS (PB)

*2 Sailor 1911S Burgundy/gold: 14k. 0.6 mm. "round-nosed" CI (MM) & 14k. 1.1 mm. CI (JM)

*Sailor Pro-Gear Slim Spec. Ed. "Fire",14k. (factory) "H-B"

*Kaweco SPECIAL FP: 14k. "B",-0.6 mm BLS & 14k."M" 0.4 mm. BLS (PB)

*Kaweco Stainless Steel Lilliput, 14k. "M" -0.7 mm.BLS, (PB)

 

 

 

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All touching on the answer, and in simple terms air pressure is the cause. It has nothing to do with altered behavior of ink though, it is to do with expansion of ink and air.

 

As someone previously mentioned, air pressure decreases as altitude increases. Lower air pressure allows both the ink and the air in your pen to expand slightly. Therefore ink in the capillary system, irrespective of which way up you pen is held, is is forced out through the only exit it has, which is through the nib.

 

Conversely, if you inked up at high altitude then descended to a lower level, the increase in pressure compresses the ink and air, causing the ink in the capillary system to be sucked back in slightly, and therefore you can easily find that your pen won't start until you prime it.

I knew that air pressure had to be the culprit. I expected some change in performance, but not the dramatic firehose. When the nib customization was done, the center air channel of the Bock 060 feed was altered to provide a "normal" flow at home using the very dry Pel. b/b carts. It's possible that this deepening of the air channel may have been the culprit, at 1375 m altitude.

*Sailor 1911S, Black/gold, 14k. 0.8 mm. stub(JM) *1911S blue "Colours", 14k. H-B "M" BLS (PB)

*2 Sailor 1911S Burgundy/gold: 14k. 0.6 mm. "round-nosed" CI (MM) & 14k. 1.1 mm. CI (JM)

*Sailor Pro-Gear Slim Spec. Ed. "Fire",14k. (factory) "H-B"

*Kaweco SPECIAL FP: 14k. "B",-0.6 mm BLS & 14k."M" 0.4 mm. BLS (PB)

*Kaweco Stainless Steel Lilliput, 14k. "M" -0.7 mm.BLS, (PB)

 

 

 

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I knew that air pressure had to be the culprit. I expected some change in performance, but not the dramatic firehose. When the nib customization was done, the center air channel of the Bock 060 feed was altered to provide a "normal" flow at home using the very dry Pel. b/b carts. It's possible that this deepening of the air channel may have been the culprit, at 1375 m altitude.

 

At 1375 m (~4469 feet) above mean sea level, possibly. The decreased air pressure and thinner air at that altitude would provide less resistance to ink flow.

Edited by ParramattaPaul
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I am wondering if the amount of wood smoke in the air, from the BC/Alberta forest fires could have changed my pen into a "fire hose". (no humour intended).

For days it was like an intense fog. I can still taste it deep down in my throat. Canmore, where I stayed, is right at the edge of the first chain of the Canadian Rockies, traveling West. High mountains but not high enough to be snow capped in the summer. The smoke just poured over the peaks.

*Sailor 1911S, Black/gold, 14k. 0.8 mm. stub(JM) *1911S blue "Colours", 14k. H-B "M" BLS (PB)

*2 Sailor 1911S Burgundy/gold: 14k. 0.6 mm. "round-nosed" CI (MM) & 14k. 1.1 mm. CI (JM)

*Sailor Pro-Gear Slim Spec. Ed. "Fire",14k. (factory) "H-B"

*Kaweco SPECIAL FP: 14k. "B",-0.6 mm BLS & 14k."M" 0.4 mm. BLS (PB)

*Kaweco Stainless Steel Lilliput, 14k. "M" -0.7 mm.BLS, (PB)

 

 

 

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The change 0f pressure could have an effect on pens, but not the higher or lower pressure at all.

+1

This topic had been covered elsewhere here, though this thread has the best explanations.

 

Traveling up and down in altitude, thousands of feet daily in the car in the US Rockies, can definitely make my pens leak, particularly if the pen is only partially filled. Lamy Safaris are the only pens that Ive found to never leak in this situation, though many others often do well.

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I'm at 2,250 meters above sea level (7,300 feet?), don't see any difference compared to sea level.

"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt."

 

B. Russell

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I have no experience with FP-writing at high altitudes, but I have experienced the vomiting-pen syndrome caused by a major elevation gain. It happened only once, a few months after I'd begun collecting pens. I suppose an embarrassingly high percentage of us learned our lesson the hard way. Once is sufficient as a teaching tool.

 

(I clicked on this thread with my glasses off. I read altitude as "attitude." Oh brother, I thought, there's no way a bad attitude causes ink-flow problems. None of my pens would ever work.)

Edited by Bookman

I love the smell of fountain pen ink in the morning.

 

 

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It is sudden or rapid changes in air pressure that can cause problems with pens suddenly burping ink since the pen may not be able to equalise the pressure as rapidly as it is changing. Parker worked hard in the 1930s to design pens that didn't leak whilst flying from the rapid pressure changes whilst climbing or descending in the typically unpressurised aircraft of the period.

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I think your cartridges were pressurized at the high altitude. You put them in and they released the pressure - in the form of ink. As someone else said - keep it nib up until the pressure releases. Nothing to do with flow.

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I think your cartridges were pressurized at the high altitude. You put them in and they released the pressure - in the form of ink. As someone else said - keep it nib up until the pressure releases. Nothing to do with flow.

Pressurized cartridges would be awesome. I wonder if any manufacturers intentionally do this. I'm not very patient so I don't like waiting for ink to make its way down after starting a new carriage.

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I do not believe that my Pelican 4001 blue-black carts are pressurized, just sealed with that characteristic plastic ball, like other internat'l carts.

My usual method for installing a cartridge is (thanks to JAR) placing the cart on a hard surface like a table so that it stands by itself (some carts have wonky bottom caps so the carts won't stand). I take the section of my pen & place it over the top of the cart until it stops, then push straight down till I hear (& feel) a click.

To help fill the feed with ink I position the capped pen horizontally. In my experience, it only takes about five minutes for the nib to be ready for use.

Edited by tinta

*Sailor 1911S, Black/gold, 14k. 0.8 mm. stub(JM) *1911S blue "Colours", 14k. H-B "M" BLS (PB)

*2 Sailor 1911S Burgundy/gold: 14k. 0.6 mm. "round-nosed" CI (MM) & 14k. 1.1 mm. CI (JM)

*Sailor Pro-Gear Slim Spec. Ed. "Fire",14k. (factory) "H-B"

*Kaweco SPECIAL FP: 14k. "B",-0.6 mm BLS & 14k."M" 0.4 mm. BLS (PB)

*Kaweco Stainless Steel Lilliput, 14k. "M" -0.7 mm.BLS, (PB)

 

 

 

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I do not believe that my Pelican 4001 blue-black carts are pressurized, just sealed with that characteristic plastic ball, like other internat'l carts.

My usual method for installing a cartridge is placing the cart on a hard surface like a table so that it stands by itself (some carts have wonky bottom caps so the carts won't stand). I take the section of my pen & place it over the top of the cart until it stops, then push straight down till I hear (& feel) a click.

To help fill the feed with ink I position the capped pen horizontally. In my experience, it only takes about five minutes for the nib to be ready for use.

 

That is similar to what I do to start a new cartridge. However, I put the pen back together, put the cap on and shake the pen to use centrifugal force to move ink into the feed.

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I do not believe that my Pelican 4001 blue-black carts are pressurized, just sealed with that characteristic plastic ball, like other internat'l carts.

 

Think of it this way: It may not be pressurized at sea level, but at 8000 feet there would be 3.7psi inside.

 

So if you take off from an airport at sea level (San Francisco, Hong Kong, etc) when the plane gets up to cruising altitude the internal pressure can be equivalent to 8000 ft and you now have pressurized cartridges. If you stayed at that altitude long enough they would equalize (plastic is slightly porus), but I don't know how long that would take (days?, weeks?).

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I do not believe that my Pelican 4001 blue-black carts are pressurized, just sealed with that characteristic plastic ball, like other internat'l carts.

My usual method for installing a cartridge is (thanks to JAR) placing the cart on a hard surface like a table so that it stands by itself (some carts have wonky bottom caps so the carts won't stand). I take the section of my pen & place it over the top of the cart until it stops, then push straight down till I hear (& feel) a click.

To help fill the feed with ink I position the capped pen horizontally. In my experience, it only takes about five minutes for the nib to be ready for use.

 

The cartridge was sealed at the factory at an altitude lower than your current altitude. Hence the pressure inside the cartridge was more than the atmospheric pressure when you inserted the cartridge into the pen. Now as soon as ypou insert the cartridge, it gets pierced and if the nib was kept up, the pressurized air would escape first to ambient to equalise without any ill effects.

 

However if I have understood correctly, you mention that the section was still capped when you inserted the cartridge. The particularly excellent sealing of the inner cap to section on your pen could have prevented pressure equalisation with ambient pressure and it could happen only once you uncapped the pen, thus venting the feeder to atmosphere, resulting in what you have observed.

In case you wish to write to me, pls use ONLY email by clicking here. I do not check PMs. Thank you.

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