Tinkering with the Wing Sung 601A fountain pen.

The moral of today’s tale is that things can go wrong quite quickly when you try to improve a fountain pen nib, if you are not an experienced nibmeister.

I am a fan of Chinese fountain pens. I was thrilled when I first discovered the Wing Sung 601, a pen in the classic style of the Parker 51 but with a steel nib and costing just a few pounds. Not long after that, in December 2018 I learned that there was a model 601A, similar on the outside but featuring a conical nib, in the style of some vintage Sheaffers. I simply had to try it and ordered three of these online.

A pair of Wing Sung 601A fountain pens.

Last month, I got one of these out to ink up again. Lately I have been copying the book “Meditations”, by Marcus Aurelius, with fountain pens, in a slow and laborious print style like a type face, or Times New Roman font. This was not an original idea but inspired by Kimberly, of @allthehobbies on Instagram after seeing her updates of attractive page spreads written with a different pen and ink combo each time.

Some days, it can be soothing to unwind with a fountain pen and ink and to write someone else’s words without having to think too much. And so it was in such a state of mind that I found myself late yesterday evening, using a Wing Sung 601A, inked with the lovely Graf von Faber-Castell Garnet Red.

Unfortunately, this combo with its fine nib was not the best of matches for my notebook paper and after a couple of paragraphs, I put the pen down and reached for the brass shims.

It is simple enough to floss the nib a few times with the thinnest grade and then examine it again with a loupe. I was hoping to open up the tine gap just enough to increase ink flow and lubrication and to get a slightly wider line in the process.

The steel nib proved quite stubborn to adjust. I shifted up a grade with my brass shims, poking a corner into the breather hole and drawing it down to the tip a few times. When this did not seem to be making much impression, I lowered a blade into the tine gap to wriggle gently from side to side, with a confidence born of recent success with my Aurora 88.

However, when I next examined the Wing Sung’s conical nib, the tines had separated rather too much and the pen looked unlikely to write at all. A Wing Sung is not an expensive pen but I was determined to fix it and set about trying to push the tines back together again.

“It was the best of tines, it was the worst of tines.”

This, it turns out, is harder than separating them. Even if you can push them back together, hurting your thumbs and fingers in the process, the tines simply spring back again when you let go.

By this time a fair bit of Garnet Red had transferred to my fingers and it seemed sensible to flush the pen. Also I thought that it would be easier to adjust the nib if I could detach it from the pen.

I was not sure how to disassemble the nib section on this pen. I tried pulling the nib off but instead, just the feed and breather tube came out. Then, with the feed removed, I was pleased to find that the conical nib simply unscrews from the section.

At the other end of the pen, I used the supplied Wing Sung wrench to unscrew the plunger and remove it, then unscrewed the barrel so that it could be flushed through.

With nib and feed removed. Nib is threaded.

Then with the pen cleaned and dried and in bits, I looked again at the nib with the loupe. The tines were still woefully far apart and the pen did not look usable.

I found that one way to try to narrow the tine gap, was to push one tine both upwards and across, so that there was bit more space for it to move before springing back – and then repeating with the other tine. However my finger tip efforts were not having much effect.

I then remembered SBRE Brown’s tip of bending the tines downwards against a surface. This did work better and, as the tines bent down slightly, so the gap narrowed.

Disassembled.

I then re-assembled the pen. Doing this for the first time involved a bit of trial and error. If you place the feed into the section before putting the nib on, you need to align it with the position in which the nib will be once it is screwed back on. Alternatively, it seems easier to screw the nib on first and then push the feed through the nib and into the section taking care not to break it.

Once reassembled, I tried dipping the pen in Garnet Red. It wrote! It was not the smoothest experience as the tine gap was still a bit too wide, but at least it wrote and just needed careful handling to keep to the sweet spot, with both tines in even contact with the paper.

Nib and feed re-assembled.

Having established that the pen had been brought back from the brink, I then inked it fully and finished my two page spread of Meditations in my A4 notebook. The pen holds a massive amount of ink and this Garnet Red will be with me for a while. I was pleased that the line was wetter and wider than those first two paragraphs, although I had forfeited some smoothness in the process.

I am still learning. Nib-tinkering needs a certain amount of courage and confidence and a willingness to take risks. But over confidence is dangerous and this was a timely reminder that care, caution and patience are key to success. I like to think that Marcus Aurelius would have approved of my tenacity.

An extract from Book 6, paragraph 30 of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.

14 thoughts on “Tinkering with the Wing Sung 601A fountain pen.

  1. So glad you were able to rescue that nib. At least you were doing the smart thing and were working on a relatively inexpensive pen (did you say something about an Aurora 88???). I’ve done similar things to nibs while learning just how far I can go. I have gained some confidence in tuning and adjusting nibs, but I’ve learned not to even try to make big changes. I still have a hard time helping a pen write wetter without destroying the nib. I generally err on the side of caution and don’t end up making very much of a change at all. It can be frustrating.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Debi. Yes there was a happy ending this time. Ironically, the Aurora 88 was easier to adjust, as gold nibs are softer than steel. That was another story (told in the blog on 25 July 2020). I think with the Wing Sung I was pushing my luck, trying to turn a fine steel nib into a medium.

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  2. Interesting read as always, nib work can be harrowing… The nib my Leonardo Furore came with never wrote very well and the pen has had several other Bock #6s since. I’d figured out that the Leonardo nib had a pinch in the tines a few mm back from the tip so the ink wouldn’t flow past, since there was nothing to lose I got very rough with it and think I’ve got it fixed! I’ve managed to smooth a few other steel nibs but my current predicament is with a new Sailor Progear which has a scratch at one very specific angle, don’t think I’m brave enough to try smoothing out a 21k gold nib…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Martin. Well done with the Furore! Getting to the “nothing to lose” stage can be pivotal in nib work.
      I have one as well but the fine nib has not given any problems. However, I have a Momento Zero with a medium nib, which suffered from the tines knocking together and clicking every time I put pen to paper.
      Regarding the Pro Gear, their nibs are an unusual shape. My broad nib has quite a sharp edge to the tipping and the sides taper in towards the tip, so it is quite unforgiving and not best suited to my lefty overwriting.
      I think the key to nib work is seeing what the problem is, with a loupe, and then making the smallest adjustments you can and to keep testing the result, until it is fixed.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I remember reading about the unique tipping shape, mine is a fine nib. Just catches on a line going from top right to bottom left, I’m right-handed but I naturally rotate my nib slightly clockwise which actually keeps me in this particular nib’s sweet spot but it’s annoying when I do catch it. Really need to get myself a decent loupe.

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      2. With a Sailor the first task would be to identify if there is a fault or is it part of the design to produce ‘feedback’. For a good loupe, I use an Eschenbach mobilux, 7 x 28D 60. I use it nearly every day. Got it on Amazon.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I like this sort of article! Well done with your endeavours, small nibs are generally more finicky to deal with than large ones.

    I cut my teeth on old pens. These are sometimes glorious in the way that only a decades old, well run in nib can be but sometimes on examination they appear to be a basket case, a dead loss. Lots of lessons learned on old, abused nibs helps immensely when adjusting new ones.

    My biggest take ways are:
    Slow and steady wins the race, except it’s not race!
    It seems infinitesimal changes can alter the character of a nib quite significantly.
    There is no such thing as too much time spent ensuring you have correct alignment. Put down that abrasive!

    I’ve resisted the temptation to fiddle with my 601 so far. It has such a sweet nib already I don’t have the notion. I would love to have one with a sharp, fine cursive italic though. Perhaps there’s a project in there!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Feeling for you! It’s quite a learning experience. I once bought a batch of really cheap nibs to practice on. Helped a lot. Learned what I can do as well as what I’m not good at. Keep experimenting, friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A very instructive item, sensei. I have yet to find the courage to play with nibs, or any other action that may destroy a precious pen, however cheap. I bought a Lady Sheaffer from eBay recently, and was chuffed with my purchase until it arrived with the feed separated from the nib. I have put it away as a ‘project’ to attempt when I have had some proper instruction in pen maintenance. I am totally mystified about the process of ‘replacing a sac’. One day, when we can all get together again, I hope to find someone who will show me some basic skills. As I have become fixed on Sheaffer, I note the conical nib and may have to investigate another purchase. That’s the trouble with reading about other people’s pen experiences – it seems to lead to a reduced bank balance for me. Fortunately, I’ve just bought some shelves.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thankyou very much for your kind comments. I hope that your Lady Sheaffer can be fixed for you. It might not be anything too major, hopefully.
      Yes there is a danger of always chasing after the next pen, which is a common problem in the community!

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