There are a lot of myths and misconceptions out there regarding the use, storage, and carrying of fountain pens. Of course, most of it comes from those who had one bad experience or from those who have never owned a fountain pen in their lives.
Does a fountain pen leak in your pocket? Well, it depends on a number of factors, such as how you’re carrying it, how well you take care of your fountain pen, and how long it’s been in your pocket.
It’s not as if you purchase a $500 fountain pen (or even a $50 fountain pen, for that matter), walk out of the store with it in your pocket and it ends up drenching your pants all the way down to the knee (this is assuming that it has been filled with ink, of course).
Fountain pens are a lot of things, but unreliable, leaky cylinders of man-made disasters they are not.
Fountain Pens are not Leaky Pens
This is just one of those bizarre things that go around like some sort of dark rumor when it comes to fountain pens. They leak like sieves, dump ink all over your desk, ruin your favorite pair of jeans, and explode with inky goodness all over your luggage.
None of these things are true and the fact of the matter is, fountain pens don’t leak, period. They don’t leak in your luggage, they don’t leak when they’re laying there on your desk, they don’t leak in your purse, and they certainly don’t leak in your pocket.
If your fountain pen is leaking, then there is something wrong with it or you haven’t maintained it properly, which means that there is something wrong with it.
Capillary Action and Gravity
That may sound a bit scientific, but it’s how fountain pens function. When you have it in a writing position, gravity works to push the ink downward but it doesn’t write unless there is pressure on the nib, such as when you place the nib on paper to draw your first pen stroke.
This pressure splits the nib ever so slightly, allowing gravity to finish the job of pulling the ink down to the tip of your nib and, as a result, onto the paper. Without pressure on the nib, there shouldn’t be any leaking.
Now, the capillary action is separate from gravity. Gravity delivers the ink to the bus stop, in other words, but capillary action picks everyone up and takes them the rest of the way until they arrive at their destination.
Why Would a Fountain Pen Leak in Your Pocket?
First and foremost, unless you are in the strange and unnecessary habit of carrying an uncapped fountain pen around in your pocket, you shouldn’t experience leaking from the pen.
If your fountain pen is leaking in your pocket, it’s likely just leaking into the cap, which can turn into an interesting situation when you uncap it later on. However, it shouldn’t leak into your cap either and if it does, there’s a problem.
Temperature and Fountain Pens
Fountain pens are supposed to be stored in a cool, dry area when not in use. However, your pocket is far from a cool, dry area. The surrounding temperature is going to be around 98°F and that’s not accounting for the temperature increase that is a reaction from friction.
Fountain pen inks are very thin, watery, and smooth flowing inks, which is why it is highly advisable to keep them stored in areas where the ink stays cool. The warmer the ink, the more loosely it flows.
Gravity already assists the ink as it makes its way down to the nib, where the capillary action process takes over. If your fountain pen is in your pocket, warming up fast, and upside down so that the nib is pointing at your feet, you have a recipe for ink leakage.
Of course, the nib is supposed to be wet when you are writing, but not so much when the pen is right side up and comfortably resting in your pocket. If your nib is still finding a way to leak, then you likely have a problem with the tines on your nib.
If you look closely at your nib, you will notice that it is split down the middle, all the way to and through the point. This is what facilitates the capillary action when you press the nib to paper, slightly separating the nibs and allowing the ink to flow.
If the nib has been damaged, there is the possibility that the nib tines are no longer uniformly resting against each other, which means that the capillary action is in full effect at all times.
Pull-off caps are perfectly fine and this isn’t an argument against them, however, they can create a vacuum issue that fools you into believing that your fountain pen is leaking.
When you pull the cap off of your fountain pen, there is often a small amount of suction created inside and that suction pulls whatever ink is close to the nib out and down the nib.
If this is a problem for you, try capping it with something a little larger for an hour or so, remove the cap and see if it still pulls the ink out.
Tight Seal is a Must
Whether you are using a cartridge, cartridge converter, or piston filler system, you need to ensure that the mechanisms seats in place behind the nib as well and uniformly as possible.
If you don’t achieve a proper seal, the ink can leak out and around the nib and the front mechanism of the pen, resulting in ink in the cap when you remove it.
Fountain pens do not leak in your pocket unless they are damaged, you’ve overlooked something, or you haven’t properly maintained your fountain pen. Outside of those three things, your fountain pen should never leak, however, you should always carry it with the nib pointing up, no matter what it’s held in.