Whether you are new to fountain pens or have used them for years, an important question to ask is how should a fountain pen be stored correctly.
It is a small question, but a vital one to making sure you have a ready to use fountain pen in good condition.
In this article, I am going to talk about the simple task of storing fountain pens, how it should be done, why it is so necessary to do it right, and proper storage for your fountain pen inks.
Without further ado...
How To Store Fountain Pens Properly
There are three situations for storing a fountain pen.
- Storing while using intermittently
- Storing for a few days
- Storing for long periods
Store a Fountain Pen While Using Intermittently
By this I mean the moments between writing.
Say you are taking notes at your desk or jotting thoughts down through the work day. If you are actively using your pen throughout the day, you should store the fountain with the cap on, horizontally on a flat surface.
First, always recap your fountain pen when you are not actively using it.
Fountain pen ink is generally water-based and will dry out in the nib pretty quickly. If you are not actively writing with it, slip the cap back on the pen so that when you need to write again, the nib is still wet with fresh ink.
When the cap is left off and the nib is unused, the ink can partially dry in minutes. This means you will have to take a few seconds each use to get the ink flowing again.
If the nib is left off for an hour or more, you risk dried ink not just on the nib, but in the fins and section. When this happens, the entire nib housing will need to be cleaned before the pen can be used again.
Second, always store your fountain pen in the horizontal position on a desk or table.
Keeping the fountain pen on a flat surface ensures that ink stays wet and fluid in the nib, the section, and the fins of the pen. This means you can pick the pen up and write at any moment.
If the pen is stored nib point up while you are using it on and off, the liquid ink has to travel back down the fins. In other words, you will have to wait a few seconds to restart the flow of ink.
And as a rule: Never store a fountain pen nib pointing down.
It is an office habit to store our pens in a pen cup with the point down.
This comes from storing ballpoints, and honestly, that is exactly how you should store your ballpoint pen. (Point down for a ballpoint ensures the slow moving oil-based ink is drawn down by gravity so the pen is ready to write immediately.)
Unfortunately, storing a fountain pen vertically with the nib pointing down is a sure fire way to end up with a cap full of ink and a gunky nib of half-dried ink.
Fountain pens work partially because gravity draws the liquid-ink out of the reservoir to the paper. If a fountain pen is stored point down, the ink will slowly drain out of the reservoir.
It's a bummer. I have made this mistake.
Store a Fountain Pen Overnight or For a Few Days
If you only use your fountain pen on occasion or once every few days, it is very simple and easy to store. Just place the pen in your pen cup vertically with the nib pointing upwards.
Since you are not immediately using the pen, allowing the ink to drain into the ink reservoir keeps the ink wet and ready to flow back down the pen when it is time to write.
It may take a few seconds to start writing, but you will prevent any leaking ink or ink pooling in the fins and on the nib.
Storing the fountain pen horizontally for days in a row will not drain the pen like storing it point down, but it can cause ink to stay in the fins and nib and dry there.
Best case: it will get kind of gunky and will need to be wiped down with a paper towel. Worst case: it dries hard and you have to clean the whole pen.
Store a Fountain Pen For Long Periods
If you know you will not be using your fountain pen for a few weeks or more, the best thing to do is empty out your fountain pen and give it a cleaning before putting it away.
All you will need to do is drain out the ink reservoir and purge the fountain pen with clean water. Let it dry completely.
When you are ready to start using the fountain pen again, grab your ink bottle and refill the ink reservoir.
How to Store a Fountain Pen with a Cartridge
Up to this point, I have only talked about fountain pens that contain a refillable converter, but storing a cartridge pen follows pretty much the same rules.
If you are storing between intermittent use or for a few days, you will follow the same rules as a converter fountain pen - flat on the desk capped between writing and point up in a cup at the end of the day.
The only real difference is if you are putting your fountain pen away for a little while.
In this case, you will need to remove the ink cartridge which can be messy if the cartridge still has ink in it.
I recommend doing this over a sink with a paper towel handy. Just pull the cartridge off from the pen and discard. Mind any dripping ink or spurts. Then rinse the entire nib housing with cool running water until the water running through the housing turns clear to clean out any ink inside the housing.
If the ink is really dried on, soak the nib housing in water for 30 min, rinse, and repeat as needed.
When you are ready to use it again, just insert a new fountain pen cartridge and write.
- Direct sunlight is not your friend. No matter how you are using your pen, store it out of direct sunlight. (The why: sunlight the pen heats and damages the plastic of the barrel and the pigment in the pen. It also heats up the ink and can cause it to dry faster in the pen.)
- Store in a cool, dry place. For much the same reasons as storing out of sunlight, cool dry places are pretty much where you want to store anything you want to last.
- Empty your pen before traveling. The rule of thumb when flying in an airplane with fountain pens is to either empty the pen of ink completely or make sure it is completely full. A half full ink reservoir or ink cartridges means that as the air pressure changes in the plane, the pen will leak ink. It's a science thing...
Storing Fountain Pen Ink
There is nothing too complicated about storing fountain pen ink.
It should be sealed in its original bottle, tightly, and kept in a cool, dark place like a drawer or cabinet.
Storing in a Fountain Pen Case
For many fountain pen owners or those with a fountain pen collection, a fountain pen case is a must.
Some opt for display cases with a glass panel to show off the fountain pen collection. Unless you are an avid collector or own a particularly remarkable antique pen, a display case is not necessary.
A storage box for a desk can be a great option. There are some beautifully crafted wooden storage boxes that serve both as a pen and ink holder, but also as a statement piece for a writing desk.
These storage boxes often include an insert for an inkwell, slots for one or more pens, and compartments for fountain pen parts like extra nibs or ink cartridges.
The most popular pen storage is a leather fountain pen case since it can be used for at home storage and as travel bag pen storage.
Most pen cases on the market are leather pen cases. You can find anything from single pen slips, which are basically a pocket or bag protector, or leather fountain pen cases that hold 40 pens and supplies for maintaining the pen.
For moderate fountain pen owners, a leather fountain pen case is a great in between storage method that contains everything in one place, ready to go.
So the big take-away for storing fountain pens is to either keep your fountain pen horizontal on a flat surface if you are using the pen on and off through the day or to store the fountain pen vertically with the nib pointed up if you will not be using the pen for a few days.
Storing your fountain pen correctly can be the difference between keeping a fountain pen working perfectly for years or having a nuisance of a pen that constantly has to be cleaned and corrodes quickly.
What is your favorite method for storing fountain pens?
Leave a comment below!
And for more tips on using and maintain fountain pens, check out some of my other articles.