Heat setting an ebonite feed is a topic of much conjecture, often viewed as some deep dark secret shrouded in mystery, like the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Addressing ink flow issues is not a rare or uncommon problem for fountain pen users. The cause of flow issues can be attributed to a variety of reasons. Before jumping to costly conclusions and if you have an ebonite feed there is a quick and easy “try this first” option – heat set your nib. Heat setting is a great option when addressing the following issues:
- Consistent railroading
- Dry writing
- Hard starting
- Excessive leaking into cap
- Excessively wet writing
- Swapping nibs
Consulting the Parker Repair Manual 5115 (8th edition), the following guidance is provided. To achieve a consistent, and trouble-free ink flow, the nib must fit snuggly against the feed.
They recommend a process called “heating down” the feed. This is accomplished by lightly rotating the nib and feed through a flame. Then wet your finger in cold water, place the nib dorsal side down against a hard surface, like a table, and rub the feed in a back and forth motion. Pressing it against the nib produces a custom tight fit.
I strongly recommend that you do not use an open flame to heat down a feed. Vintage celluloid pens are highly flammable and there is a much safer alternative.
Let me introduce you to the hot-water-heat-setting method. No special skills required beyond the ability to boil water, and it works great. Using the hot water you can heat set a feed as many times as needed until the desired fit is had and the correct ink flow is achieved.
Begin by boiling water, it needs to be hot. Pour the hot water into a glass or jar, but only enough to immerse the nib up to the section. It is best if the section is not submerged. Leave the nib and feed in the hot water for 30-35 seconds then remove from the hot water. Now, place the feed on your thumb and gently squeeze or pinch the feed and nib together. Holding it for 20 seconds, allowing the ebonite to cool. Ink the pen and evaluate the results. Repeat as needed.
If you are heat-setting a vintage pen with a black ebonite barrel, I would remove the section from the barrel, eliminating any chance the barrel may come into contact with water. I had a very bad experience where my 100-year-old black ebonite pen turned green the instant the barrel got wet….
Thanks for reading, let me know if this has been helpful. It has for me. Until next time.