A technophile lawyer rediscovers the joys of pen and paper

Friday, August 13, 2010

If it's a myth that fountain pens are messy, why are my fingers always stained with ink?

Maybe I'm doing something wrong. I don't get inky when you might expect — when changing inks. No, my problems start when I'm nowhere near the pens when, between uses, they leak into their caps.

There are two primary repeat offenders here. One inexpensive pen (Noodler's Aerometric/Eyedropper — see my review) and one rather pricey one (Cross Apogee). When other pens misbehave similarly, I tend to blame my rough handling of their storage cases. But these two are such consistent offenders (the Cross especially, which has exhibited this behavior with a range of inks), that I think there must be poorly designed, defective, or damaged nibs to blame.

I tend to forgive the Noodler's a little more, because it gets handled more roughly day to day, stored in a pencil case inside my briefcase, which gets slung around quite a bit (though that doesn't seem to bother the Lamy 2000, Pelikano, or Platinum Preppy that are also in the case). But the Cross lacks such an excuse. It is typically stored nib up inside my portable letter-writing kit, which gets handled with much greater care. I must have a tissue handy every time I open it so I can wipe it down before gripping it to write.

Am I just being too rough on my poor pens? Or is this simply physics at work, perhaps with some nib problem?



  1. When I purchased my first fountain pen, Lamy Safari, I had the same ink leakage reservations. I am currently on summer break from law school and did not want to have a pen destroy my backpack during the daily shuffle of classes. I have had the Lamy pen for a couple months now and I store the pen in the pen compartment of my backpack. We have gone on several motorcycle rides, hiking, and even to the beach. I can't ever remember there being any problems with the ink ever leaking or the nib ever having any excess ink. I wonder if you do have a nib issue?

  2. Sometimes pens, as they near empty, are apt to leak. Some pens are sensitive to how you put the cap on, and insist on being held nib upright as you cap. Others with tight slip-on caps will pull ink right out while uncapping due to the suction. I've had a pen leak with a pinpoint hole in the sac.

  3. Marco and Anonymous,

    Thanks for your input. Like Marco, I've never had this problem, with my Safari no matter how roughly is it handled. And Anonymous may be onto something regarding the style of cap. Both the Noodler's and the Cross caps slip on without any click, and they're the only pens I have like that.

  4. I have used fountain pens for over 20 years now, and I have tried just about every brand and shade of ink under the sun. I am not sure which ink you are using, but I have found that Noodler's ink just ends up seeping through every crack of every pen (even cracks I couldn't imagine were there), which is why I sadly don't use it anymore.

    All fountain pens are not created equal, and some will handle roughing better than others. I only buy Pelikan and Namiki/Pilot pens now, and I have a couple of Lamy pens in regular use. I stick to what works best for me, and keeps my hands clean.

  5. I've encountered this same problem with my Noodler's piston filler. I can't use the red one at all. I store them nibs up in a pen & pencil cup and don't take them anywhere. I also suspect that they are leaking into the barrel as the ink runs out waaaaay too fast.

  6. I have an excellent collection of pens from Namiki to S.T. Dupont and the only fountain pen of the whole bunch that I don't have the problem you are describing is with my Waterman Opera pen. I feel for you my good man.

  7. You kind of remind me of the little character in Peanuts comic named "PigPEN"..... Your office, your den and now the leaky pen. Is there no end to how far you're going with this? Back to Annapolis son!

  8. Dad,

    Rumors that I leave a dust cloud in my wake while walking remain unsubstantiated.

    My legal work product, of course, is a thing of beauty . . . and neat.

  9. Bravo don't let him push you around!