Tale of a Vandal Pen Repairer: Namiki Blue Writing True

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Levenger True Writer F Nib

Levenger True Writer F Nib

Revisiting Namiki Blue ink, my Levenger True Writer was declared unusable with this great ink. Because I don’t like fussing over pens, I merely switched the True Writer to Pilot Blue-Black with acceptable results. Yet I could not stop thinking about this one recalcitrant pen unable to write with Namiki Blue—a rather moi-likable water-surviving, un-shading basic blue.

Was the problem the ink or the pen? Why does Pilot Blue-Black flow in the True Writer, and Namiki Blue does not?

Switching from Namiki Blue to Pilot Blue didn’t produce significantly different results in the True Writer’s ink flow. I thought I’d try adding a micro-tad of glycerin to the True Writer’s converter-fill of Namiki Blue. The glycerin would increase the flow of the ink perhaps resolving the TW problem.

However, thoughts about the pen itself overtook thoughts about the ink. Even after a good pen flushing, ink still lingers in the pen. I wondered about some of the high maintenance inks I’d used in this pen in the past. Hmmmmmmmmmmm…

An article I’d read, about pens that are hard starting, nagged at the back of ye old brain. I originally read this article by Richard Binder here on Pentrace. It’s also on Mr. Binder’s website. An old thread on FPN about particles in the feed restricting a pen’s flow came to mind too. Both of these links supplied in this paragraph are well worth your time to read.

I started keeping a diary of the True Writer’s hard starting, ink-stopping ways. The pen would write perfectly upon first day of inking. Always on the 2nd day, the True Writer would not start up—meaning with nib to paper, no ink would lay down. Such behavior is termed “hard starting.” Or, the pen would “skip”—meaning it would write a letter or a word or two, then no ink would flow for a letter or a word or more. Often by the 3rd day the pen would not write at all.

Papers experimented with included my inky Rhodia Webbie, Rhodia notepad paper, Staples 20# multipurpose paper, and my standard HP 32# laser printer paper. The Webbie proved the most capable of coaxing ink out of the hard starting True Writer, although along with the others failing to receive any inky words once the True Writer “quit.”

Rhodia Webbie, Namiki Blue, Levenger True Writer diary excerpt

Rhodia Webbie, Namiki Blue, Levenger True Writer diary excerpt

Namiki Blue, HP 32# Premium Laser Printer Paper, Levenger True Writer  diary excerpt

Namiki Blue, HP 32# Premium Laser Printer Paper, Levenger True Writer diary excerpt

Okay, okay, I give! A little fussing over this great fountain pen was needed. Deeper attention to the nib must be paid! The Levenger True Writer is made with a screw-in style nib—the nib unit screws into the pen section. (In fact, Levenger sells other nibs (Stub, F, M and B) for the True Writer if you are the nib swapping sort of pen user.)

I not only unscrewed the nib, I removed the nib and feed from the collar holding them in place. While the nib unit unscrews, the nib and feed are friction fit inside the collar. You pull them out, carefully, from the collar in order to separate them. These nib pieces were all flushed with water. Frankly, to my eyes, the feed looked super clean. Still I placed all the nib unit pieces into a dilution of Rapido-Eze solution.

Not all pens have nib units that unscrew from the section. Also, make sure you know how your nib was fit into your pen before you start to take it apart, ay? Take note of how the nib and feed sit in the pen section and/or the nib unit. You need to know how to put it all back together!

Note, too, that taking your nib apart is not necessary as part of a regular cleaning routine. In fact, you could crack the collar, damage your feed, or mess up the alignment, and be left wondering why your pen never writes as it should.

Pieces PartsIntermission time with a note about Rapido-Eze pen cleaner: While the stuff has been deemed safe to use on both vintage and modern fountain pens, I have found that it can dissolve some modern adhesives used in some pens. Once a modern Pelikan cap “unglued”—it came apart— after I soaked it in a high concentration of Rapido-Eze. (The cap fortunately wasn’t ruined and it was later fixed.) I stick to using Rapido-Eze to clean nibs. As standard practice, I flush my pens with water using an ear bulb. Only occasionally do I flush with a Rapido-Eze mix. The cleaner comes in a concentrate or already diluted. Some folks (which include professional pen repairers) prefer to use a 1 part ammonia to 2 parts water solution to flush their pens with. JB’s Perfect Pen Flush is another option. Platinum Pen makes a cleaner for their higher maintenance inks. All can be good, sensible options. Become informed, pick your cleaning poison, and use it as needed.

Okay, back to our tale! Taking a much closer look at the feed channel, illuminated by my desk lamp, I could see a piece of something partially blocking the channel. The feed channel is seen from the top of the feed. The top of the feed is directly under the nib, in case you need to know.

Flushing or blowing on the feed did nothing to remove this little whatever it was in the channel. Armed with a tiny .0.002″ brass shim, I flossed the channel. (See photo of a brass shim in use here.) That is, I gently moved the shim through the channel until whatever was in it disappeared. The channel took 3 flossings before it was clear. The danger, I suppose, in misusing or overusing the brass shim is that the feed could possibly be widened and thus increase the pen’s ink flow—so do be careful if you attempt this yourself for the first time.

For good compulsive measure—aka not for any scientific reason—some of us merely do unnecessary, magical, compulsive things with our precious pens of all varieties—the feed went back into the Rapido-Eze dilution. Then the feed was flushed with plain water to remove any Rapido-Eze residue, and left to dry.

Feed Channel

Of interest at least to some of us, I took a cotton swab to the inside of the collar. The swab returned some black colored ink. Certainly black ink was used in this pen many times. The Rapido-Eze helped to remove any residual ink, yet it did not dissolve that tiny whatever it was that was in the feed channel. It was the brass shim that took care of that, ay?

Once the nib, feed and collar were dry, the nib unit was re-assembled, and the True Writer was inked up once again with Namiki Blue. Some True Writer nib re-assembly notes are in the photos below:

Notch

True Writer Collar

Levenger True Writer Nib Unit

Levenger True Writer Nib

As expected, on first inking the TW wrote without issue. The best news? 24 hours later, the pen wrote perfectly again—no hard starting, no skipping.

Even better, 72 hours later the True Writer does what it hasn’t done in some time:  it continues to flow perfectly with Namiki Blue! *happy dance*

Brass shims can be found at hobby stores (the kind that cater to model trains and the like), or maybe a hardware store. Get the .002 or .001 thickness. My brass shim came in a nib smoothing kit Mr. Binder sells. Some folks prefer to use acetate sheets instead of the brass shim. Be sure to get the proper thickness. Don’t use .003, ay? Use .001 or .002. My bottle of Rapido-Eze came from a local, brick and mortar art supply shop.

Conclusions? The problem not in the ink. The problem was in the pen. Could there have been a bit of residue in the feed from a previously used high maintenance ink? Or was there a bit of manufacturing debris/plastic in the feed all along? Honestly, I don’t know what was in the feed. What I do know is that sometimes a good desk lamp, and a little pen fussing is necessary to bring about a resolution to a recurring pen problem. *sigh* Along with a helpful, little brass shim.

Namiki Blue will not be everyone’s choice of ink. Yet, I can say that this daily blue of mine meets what has been a near impossible criterion to attain:  it flows well in every single one of my pens in my tiny hoard.

Update 02/02/2013: Have decided to purchase some J.B.’s Pen Flush for regular use between ink fillings. More to be revealed as I write along.

Related PW Posts

Resources for Fussing Over Fountain Pens

9 thoughts on “Tale of a Vandal Pen Repairer: Namiki Blue Writing True

  1. dpawson says:

    And big feeling of ‘Yeah’?
    Nice to have the satisfaction of clearing a problem, more so with a pen you like.

    • Julie says:

      You made me laugh out loud, Dave! Thanks for that, for reading through, and commenting. Indeed, it’s very satisfying to get a pen working properly again.

  2. Nice to hear it all worked out. With heavily caked ink, you sometimes need to soak the feed for days in some commercial solution. But to be rewarded with proper flow makes it all worthwhile. :)

  3. Congratulations! Big yeah, big relief, big satisfaction… However, does that mean the Levenger True Writer (LTW) was a high maintenance pen? All those issues, are the result of this particular combination –LTW plus Namiki Blue– alone?

    Still too many questions. The basic one is “how clean is clean enough?”, but there seem to be no simple answer.

    About my issues, I am now struggling to get proper flow out of a recently-purchased Platinum vintage pen with music nib. So far, I am trying with another ink, The problem with this pen is that disassembling the nib is not easy without the proper tool.

    Thanks for keeping your blog active.

    Cheers,

    BT

    • Julie says:

      Great questions! Yes, how clean IS enough?! Especially when using high maintenance inks.

      Consider that (1) I switched to Namiki Blue over a year ago, and (2) I don’t have a huge variety of inks anymore. Prior to this switch, I had no problems. So, yeah, “only Namiki Blue” had poor ink flow in this pen. If I was a variety user, no doubt more inks would have flowed poorly in the TW.

      In this particular pen, I’d been switching between a couple of bulletproof inks. Somewhere in the last year I began loading this pen with Namiki Blue, and the flow issues began.

      I’m only guessing—’cause what the heck do I know—there was particulate in the feed from the bulletproof ink ‘causing the Namiki Blue to balk.

      Perhaps Pilot Blue-Black has more surfactants than plain ol’ Blue, and that’s why it flowed better in the TW.

      My conclusion is that I didn’t clean the pen as well as I thought I had.

      BTW: I’ve used black ink less and less, and switched to Namiki Black a couple of months ago. I’ve been experimenting a little with Platinum Pigment Blue (in a different pen), and plan on using some Diamine Register’s Blue-Black in another. These, obviously, are high maintenance inks too, and care must be taken. As @leighpod tweeted to me recently, “When it doubt, clean, clean. Clean.”

      Thanks for caring that the blog keeps going, Bruno! For now, I’ll continue posting on a monthly basis.

  4. dpawson says:

    Smart … after the fact, but I do do it myself.
    Each time I put a pen away I strip it down as much as I can and wash it out
    in clean water (soap… ammonia whatever as necessary) to try and stop
    this kind of blockage. An old toothbrush / cocktail stick worked for me cleaning
    out the channels in the feed.

    HTH Dave

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