If you’ve been a fountain pen user for more than a few weeks, you know that there are many different accessories that help make the experience of using a fountain pen easier. If you’re just getting started with fountain pens, or want to learn a new trick or two, hopefully you’ll find this article useful. Let’s go over some essential fountain pen accessories.
What Are Fountain Pen Accessories?
While the term fountain pen accessories can cover a wide range of items, for this article it means items that make using a fountain pen easier and more convenient. This covers a wide range of items, ranging from cleaning supplies to storage solutions. In drawing on my years of fountain pen use, I have come up with a list that I think everyone will find useful. While none of the following items are absolutely necessary for fountain pen use, each one has a place in my kit and gets used on a regular basis. Here are my essential fountain pen accessories:
Blunt Tipped Syringe
A blunt tipped syringe is an extremely useful tool for transferring ink between containers. If you want to take ink from a bottle and fill a small vial, a syringe is the perfect tool for the job. Similarly, if you want to take ink from a bottle and refill a cartridge, I don’t know of any easier way to do it.
Syringes can also be used for cleaning purposes. If you want to squirt water inside of a cartridge or pen barrel, a syringe can get into small spaces and squirt water exactly where you want it to go.
If you ever want to give or receive ink samples, you’re going to need some small vials. The most popular size are 5ml vials with a screw-top lid. These are what all of the major pen retailers use for their ink samples, which means they get shipped all over the world and rarely leak. Still, it’s best to exercise some caution and assume the vials might leak since they occasionally do.
One of my most indispensable accessories is a baking sheet. While you’ve probably used these for making cookies, they are great for fountain pens as well! Any time I’m filling or cleaning a pen, this is my work surface, not my kitchen counter or tabletop. If anything spills, the mess is contained and is easy to clean up. I also keep all of my supplies on it, so everything is within reach. If I need to relocate for some reason, I just pick up the tray and move everything at once. The sheet doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should have slightly raised sides and be of high enough quality that it lays flat and doesn’t flex and knock everything over every time you touch it.
Squeeze Syringe (Bulb)
A squeeze bulb is an extremely useful tool for pen cleaning. You can suck a bunch of water into it and then force water through a nib, quickly washing out any ink that’s hiding inside. The small tip should fit perfectly into most pen sections, allowing all of the water to go directly through the nib and not flow out of the top. Just be careful that you hold on to the nib so it doesn’t go flying into your sink when you squeeze the bulb.
As you probably already know, cotton swabs (like Q-Tips) have many different uses around the house. It’s no different in the world of fountain pens. Most people use them for swabbing ink onto paper. This gives you a good idea of what an ink looks like without having to fill a pen with it. Cotton swabs can also be used for cleaning a pen’s exterior or ink from the inside of a cap. These are the main things that I use them for, but I’m sure there are many other uses as well. I’d suggest picking up a small travel box of cotton swabs that you can keep with your pen supplies.
I have a small jar that I use specifically for pen cleaning. It gets used as a source for filling pens with water and soaking nibs. I keep it with my pen cleaning supplies so I don’t ever have to steal any dishes from my kitchen. Every once in a while I run it through the dishwasher just to make sure it stays clean.
A small cloth is extremely useful for wiping down your nib and pen after filling from an ink bottle. While a paper towel also works just fine, it is much more convenient and sustainable to keep one cloth with your ink that you always use for this purpose. Pretty much any type of lint-free cloth works. I use a spare lens cleaning cloth that I got with a pair of sunglasses and it works great.
Essential for wiping up ink and water, as well as wiping hands so you don’t get ink on the kitchen towels, you should always have a roll of paper towels available when filling or cleaning a fountain pen.
If your pen is giving you issues and you want to make sure your nib is aligned and is not damaged, you’ll need a loupe. These allow you to closely examine a nib and see much more detail than you could ever see with your naked eye. While it is not necessary, loupes that have LED lighting make it much easier to examine your nib.
Have you ever had a box of ink that’s really hard to open? If you’re like me and don’t like tearing the cardboard, here’s a trick for you. Slide a popsicle stick under the top of the box near the front and then gently twist it. The box will open and won’t tear! This works especially well on vintage ink boxes where the cardboard is very fragile. Popsicle sticks also come in handy for suspending the chromatography paper if you do ink chromatography. Regardless of the use, I’d suggest getting some clean popsicle sticks from a craft store rather than saving a few used ones from a hot summer day.
Have you ever been writing a letter or in a journal and not been able to move to the next page because your ink is taking too long to dry? Then you need some blotting paper! Blotting paper can be used either by itself or with a rocker blotter, but it works the same either way. When placed on top of wet writing, it quickly soaks up any excess ink. To use it by itself, just keep a sheet with you when you write. When you need to use it, lay it flat on the wet ink, press for a few seconds, and then lift it off. The ink on the paper should now be dry! I keep a small piece in my journals so I don’t have to worry about turning pages or closing the cover.
Sticky tack is the stuff that can be used to hang posters on walls without using nails. In the world of fountain pens, it can also be useful! If you’ve ever tried to fill a pen from a sample vial, you know how easy they are to knock over. If you put some sticky tack on the bottom of the vial (which is on a baking sheet and not your countertop, right?), it will be much harder to knock over while filling your pen.
Another great use for it is to hold pens in place when you’re taking photos of them. If your pen keeps rolling to one side while you’re trying to photograph it, a little piece of sticky tack on the bottom should keep it steady for the photo.
Sooner or later you’re going to have an ink stain that needs cleaned up. Whether it’s on some fabric or on your skin, Amodex is my ink remover of choice. I always keep a bottle of it handy just in case I need it. Be sure to follow the directions for the best results. This means that to remove ink from skin, you want to use this before washing your hands with water.
Now that you have all of these accessories, you need somewhere to keep them all stored and organized. I found a
storage box (actually a tackle box) that works great for me. It has plenty of small compartments and dividers that keep everything nice and tidy. I would highly suggest going to look at these in person so you can decide whether or not the dividers and compartments are the right size for your accessories.
|5ml Ink Vials||Perfect for ink samples.|
|Magnifier Loupe||This is extremely useful for checking a nib for damage.|
|Bulb Syringe||Used for cleaning inside of pens and forcing water through nibs.|
|Amodex||Ink remover that works on fabric and skin.|
|Blotting Paper||Great to use if you have slow-drying ink.|
|Baking Sheet||Protects surfaces from ink spills and keeps everything together.|
|Cleaning Cloth||Very useful for wiping ink from nibs and pens after filling.|
|Tackle Box||Keeps all of your pen supplies organized in one place.|
|Sticky Tack||Great for holding ink vials in place while filling. Also useful to keep pens in place for photos.|
|Blunt-tipped Syringe||Ideal for transferring ink to sample vials. Can also be used to squirt water into pens.|
Hi, my name is John. I’m a Colorado-born professional photographer who recently moved back to Denver after spending 3 years in San Francisco. I’ve been using and collecting fountain pens for over 20 years. I got my first one in college when I got bored taking notes with ballpoints and pencils. Since then I’ve bought and sold hundreds of pens, but have consistency in my love of Esterbrooks.