Hardstarting. Evaporation or gravity?

Over the last couple of months I have been much enjoying the Delike New Moon fude nib fountain pen. I am on my second, after giving the first one away.

The fine fude nib on the Delike New Moon.

The main reason why I enjoy this inexpensive pen so much, comes down to writing pleasure from the nib and the way it compliments my handwriting. The fine fude stainless steel nib, (with its upturned tip), writes very smoothly and provides some subtle line width variation in my usual style (whether underwriting or overwriting). Also it has the versatility of providing several different line widths when required, simply by changing the way I hold the pen.

Looking back over the pages of my notebooks for the past few weeks, where I often write a few lines of nonsense just for the pleasure of putting pen to paper from any of the dozen or so currently inked pens in the pen cups, I noticed that the Delike had produced a more interesting line: my handwriting seemed to look more attractive from this pen, than from many others.

My writing looking neater and more legible than usual.

Nothing is ever perfect. Recently I noticed that my Delike had taken to hardstarting: not writing immediately when I picked up the pen after an interval of a few hours. I keep my currently inked pens upright in pen cups and write something with most of them fairly frequently. But I started to notice that if the Delike was left overnight in the pen cup, it might hesitate to start the next day. The nib would be dry. I might get a word or two out of it, but some letters would be incomplete (skipping) and then the nib would run dry completely. I would hold the pen nib down and give it a few shakes. After a few bouts of shaking, ink would flow, dark and wet again, and the nib would feel super-smooth and lubricated. I would be cooking on gas and all would be forgiven and forgotten.

This was not due to ink starvation, which is sometimes caused by surface tension causing ink to remain at the back end of the cartridge or converter, when it should flow to the nib. The Delike’s converter includes a little coil of metal as an ink agitator which slides up and down to combat that.

At first I thought that the problem was one of ink evaporation. This can occur when the cap does not create an airtight seal around the nib. Some pens are brilliant at avoiding this, such as some Platinums with their slip and seal sprung inner caps, or the Esterbrook Estie which also has a sprung inner cap. My Aurora 88 and Aurora Optima both have ebonite feeds which, together with well designed caps, mean hard starts do not happen.

To see if your cap is airtight, a crude test is to place your mouth over the rim and try to blow: if air escapes it is not airtight. If your cheeks puff out and nothing happens, then it is. The Delike cap passed this test.

This led me to think that the hardstarting may not be due to ink evaporation but instead have another cause, that the ink drained away from the nib and/or feed overnight, back into the cartridge or converter. This would simply be due to gravity, whilst the pen is left upright in the pen cup. If that is the cause, then an easy solution is not to stand the pen in a pen cup but leave it horizontal.

This week I have been testing my theory on the Delike. Does this work? It is early days but I am cautiously optimistic that the problem may have been solved. I have not been very (or at all) scientific in my method. I have only one Delike New Moon pen, not a whole bunch of them to put into two groups, to leave some horizontal while another, control group stays upright. I also try only one ink at a time. Temperatures may make a big difference if evaporation is at play. However, I shall continue to monitor how this goes.

As for inks tried, I am on my seventh, having inked my first New Moon with Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuki-yo, Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz, Montlanc Toffee Brown, and Parker Quink Blue Black: my second New Moon has had Waterman Serenity Blue, Robert Oster Aqua and currently Montlanc William Shakespeare Velvet Red. A fill with the gorgeous Velvet Red is a luxury usually only afforded to my Montblanc Classique and so I hope that the pen behaves itself. So far so good.

With Montblanc William Shakespeare Velvet Red, on Semikolon journal paper.

10 thoughts on “Hardstarting. Evaporation or gravity?

  1. I keep meaning to try one of these, following your enthusiarlstic reviews. I got one and gave it away begore even dipping it though.

    I have found occasional incompatibilities cause hard starting. One, to my upset is between Sailor Jentle ink (rikyu cha and yama dori anyway) and my broad nibbed Platinum Izumo. Used daily, or even twice a week it’s fine but if left for a week or longer it seems to airlock: It will write a word or two perfectly on uncapping, then stop and resolutely not start writing again unless the nib is primed by dipping in ink or water, or the convertor is used to force ink through to the nib. Oddly neither Diamine or Herbin inks seem to cause that issue, and my other Platinum President nibs are bomb proof.

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    1. Thank you for this. I think I should start keeping a log to monitor when hard starts occur, recording intervals between use, ink used and how the pen was stored. I should then have a clearer idea of when it occurs and how to avoid it.

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  2. Good to read an article about inexpensive fountain pens has there are many cheap well built pens that don’t cost a fortune. You said you find that the pen would hard start the advice I was given was never put a fountain pen in a pen cup/ holder but to Keep them lying flat since doing this I haven’t had an issue with the pen skipping

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  3. I must admit I tend to keep my inked pens relatively horizontal as a matter of course, only standing them in a cup if they are struggling to start when a fresh cartridge is fitted, in which case they go in cap-down for a little while for gravity to work its magic.

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    1. Thanks Pamela. I have stood my inked pens in pen cups, for years now. Most have been fine at starting when required. However, it seems that keeping them horizontal may be perfectly safe too and may even be preferable.

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  4. Sorry to hear that your Delike has been causing trouble. All of my filled pens including those from China rest horizontally on my desk. Hard starts seem to be triggered in pens that are less than half full but only when not used frequently. As you noted, Platinum slip and seals are the most consistent and never balk at putting down a line. In my experience, the only other variable that might influence initial flow is temperature. We have had some days in excess of 90°F in recent weeks so perhaps that is contributing to an occasional hard start in my pens. I bought my green marble Delike fude fourteen months ago and it remains my most used pen. I hope yours stops misbehaving and returns to being an easy-keeper. In my opinion, all fountain pens should be that way. Those that aren’t, are welcome to rehome themselves any day.

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    1. Thank you Margana. I am learning from yours and other comments that many people keep their inked pens horizontal. I am a pen cup person, but am trying the horizontal method with the Delike for a bit which I hope will solve the problem.

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      1. Yes, the hardstarts have not occurred since I have been leaving the pen horizontal between uses. I may get a tiny bit of skipping occasionally, but this could just be due to wavering from the sweet spot, and only needs a slight press down on the page to prime the nib again. It is still one of my favourite pens to use at the moment.

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  5. That’s great! As a test for my review, the blue marble fude was loaded with Colorverse Crystal Planet and stored horizontally for seven weeks. Put to paper it wrote perfectly from touchdown. Such a good pen.

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