24.0 My pen is very scratchy - what can I do about it?
First, check the nib tines for alignment. Get a high-power loupe (magnifying
glass) of 8x or higher, so that when you look at the tip of the nib, the iridium
pellet seems to be as big as a golf ball. Now, look at the nib straight-on: point
the nib at the loupe so you're looking directly at the ball. You should see two
hemispheres, one on each tine. Do they seem to be unevenly aligned? If so, they're
out of alignment (hmmm... maybe that's why they call it "tine alignment"!)
24.1 How do I adjust the tines?
Note: Before you try any of the next techniques, go down to your
local Walgreen or CVS (or wherever fine drugs are sold) and get a disposable pen
to practice with. Both Parker and Sheaffer make fountain pens that cost less than
$10.00 each, and make good pens on which to practice your nib adjustment techniques.
Remember: practice on "junkers" before you work on your favorite pen,
ëcuz, as always, there are no guarantees.
Using your fingernails, gently (GENTLY!!!) tweak the nib near its base (or
as far down the split you can get) until the alignment seems better. Dip the pen
and try it on a piece of paper. Better?
Or, you can try "rolling" the nib into alignment. Look at the bottom
of the nib and you'll see that the nib seems to extend past the feed just a tiny
bit. Hold the pen upside down, and lay the nib flat on a flat piece of paper which
is sitting on a piece of cardboard. Begin rolling the nib back and forth gently,
applying slight pressure, and lifting the pen gently, until you see that you've
begun to lift the back of the nib off the paper (only slightly - the bottom of
the nib should be only 2 or 3 sheets of paper in the air. Continue to roll the
nib slowly back and forth. Finish rolling the pen on the side that seemed to be
out of alignment.
If you've bent the nib, you've applied too much pressure. If not, you may
find that the pen writes much better.
24.2 It is aligned, but is still scratchy. How can I "smooth"
Well, you'll need some tools. Here's the list of tools I have at my work
2000 grit paper
nib disk (5000 grit or better)
multi-speed Dremel and polishing kit, polishing cloth
.001 and.002 feeler gauges
5x, 10x, and 15x loupes of various mounting methods
lots of ink (I use Sheaffer or Waterman blue while grinding)
plenty of courage and patience....
Start with a junk nib! This sequence can *DESTROY* the tip of a nib, so get
yourself a *few* cheap "Iridium Nib - Germany"-tipped pens. They are
fine for practice purposes, even though the tip may not really be Iridium.
you start, read this entire sequence before doing anything!
First, examine the nib using the loupe and make sure the tines are properly
aligned all the way to the tip. The tip's slit should be absolutely vertical,
the bottom of the tip should be absolutely even (even the smallest offset can
be felt), and the front (have to look down at it) should be level. Along with
this, the nib should be set properly over the feed: misalignment causes ink misfeed.
Adjust the tines with your fingernail (gently!) until they're as good as you
can get 'em. Mostly, you'll adjust one tine to the other. Feel free to dip, test,
and rinse each time you adjust 'em. This sequence may just make the pen write
well enough for you.
Not good enough? Ok. Carefully -- very carefully -- gently give the nib one
stroke down the mylar sheet, holding the pen near horizontal and moving it to
vertical while you stroke it. The goal here is to get a perfectly shaped "roundness"
from the bottom of the tip to the front of the tip. A "sweet spot" is
nice if you like it... but it means that you have to hold the pen perfectly. I
go for a nicely rounded tip: no sweet spot, usable however I happen to hold it.
One stroke. Gently.
Examine the nib under the loupe again. You should see the slightest difference
in the shape of the nib. Yes, it'll be hard to see, and may be nothing more than
a "dullness" on the tip where you rubbed it on the nib disk. That's
ok - that's just what you want. Dip, test, and rinse.
Not satisfied? Do the rub and test again. And again. And again. Spend plenty
of time on this step. Each rub will cause the nib to be a bit less scratchy, but
also a bit less "buttery" on the paper. That's ok. First we'll treat
Smooth enough? Scratch mostly gone? You happy so far? Ok.
Working from the top of the nib, take the.001 feeler gauge and carefully --
carefully-- slip it between the tines at the back (bottom) of the nib and slide
it toward and through the tip. You may see a bunch of gunk cleaned out from the
tip. This is good: you're removing some of the abrasive and metal deposit left
behind from the nib disk.
Now, this takes real courage: use the.002 gauge and gently "burnish"
the gap between the tines at the tip. Don't widen the gap! To burnish, you gently
rub the feeler gauge back and forth between the tip very gently.
Dip, test, and rinse. How's it feel? It may be a bit rougher now, mainly 'cuz
you may have brought a burr from between the tines to the outside. No problem.
Try another rub on the nib disk - just one - and then clean again with the burnishing
By now, the nib should be feeling much better on the paper. Now we'll add
Something else first: Ink doesn't travel well across a perfectly smooth piece
of metal. Ink is mostly water, and will tend to "pool" in low points.
If the tip is perfectly smooth, there won't be any "tooth" for the ink
to grab onto... and make the tip tend to skip on paper. So, in the next step,
we don't want the tip too polished. Leave a bit of "tooth" on the tip
to assist in ink travel up the slit and to the tip.
Grab the Dremel. Load the polishing wheel with some compound and, using about
30% speed, gently touch the nib to the wheel so that the wheel is polishing from
the back of the tip to the top - never across. One or two rubs... then dip and
...and polish, dip, test......again and again...
Don't overdo it.
Eventually you should have a nib that feels better.