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Journal of a Lockdown No. 46

I'm not the best person to talk about pen hygiene. I don't follow all the rules. As long as I drain enough old ink and put in the new one, I'm good. This isn't the way to go. Fountain pens, designed to last a long time, need some tender-loving care, a ritual that includes regular rinsing with water and careful and intensive removal of old ink residues during exchanges.

Whenever I get the chance to go home, I bring some pens with me so that Sean, my kid brother, who has turned into a fountain pen enthusiast a few years back, can clean them. I get the usual reprimand from him—that if I'm not too careful, the ink will clog in the piston filling mechanism; that I'm careless with things. Sean resembles my father in this fascination for working with his hands and tinkering with objects, tearing things apart and putting them together. But Sean gives my pens their holidays in the spa anyway. He is my walking fountain pen hospital.

Fountain pens are things I play with. I scribble non-sense notes, figures, and lines on random sheets of paper as I try out new inks. It's a great way to spend the time. Occasionally I clean the pens, which can be cathartic and relaxing.

Let me show you how I do it, but I'll begin with a story.

I decided to include my Kaweco 70's Soul in my pen rotation this month. I got it from Singapore, in a store called Fook Hing inside the Bras Basah Complex. I remember that I was with Fred, who was dying to buy a Sailor from another store that had closed down temporarily, much to his dismay. I had never seen him so disappointed. It was nearing closing time but we were so resolved not to get back to the hotel without buying any writing material. We ran and just arrived on time. Then I saw this thing of beauty. I had enough money with me. I loved how then pen fit in my hand.


I did not buy a converter. For this pen, I have used the disposable Parker cartridge (the size is compatible), replacing the ink using a 2-cc syringe. My mentor, Dr. Arik Strebel, whose handwriting is a beauty to behold in the charts (he uses a broad nib), also uses syringes for ink refills. This technique is less prone to mess. I like doing it because it marries my love and medicine with fountain pens.

My pen cleaning kit looks like this: a tissue paper (I reuse them because I love how the mixed colors look like paintings), a syringe, and clean, running water.


I remove the disposable cartridge, soak it in water, and remove the residual ink. I dab it with tissue paper. I aspirate 1-2 mL from the ink bottle (I'm using Diamine Oxblood, one of my favorite red inks) and introduce the amount to the empty cartridge.


I replace the cartridge back to the fountain pen. Voilá.

Kaweco, re-inked with Diamine Oxblood


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