When you have nothing left to lose (fixing a Rotring 400 nib)

Monday, 2 July 2012

Rotring 400 nibs and shipping tube. To unscrew the nib/feed assembly from the sleeve, you insert the nib into the red plug and twist.

Back in the 80s–or maybe the 90s–I destroyed a couple of Rotring 400 fountain pen sections by first using technical pen ink in the pens and then trying to unclog them by soaking them in technical pen cleaner. This was a really bad mistake, because corrosive substance + anodised aluminum = disaster. Fortunately, Rotring GmbH saved me from myself and replaced the sections free of charge (they weren’t under any obligation to do so), including the nibs. The damaged section sleeves had to go but the nibs had repair potential, I thought; but after much effort they remained irreparable and I put them away for close to two decades.

In 2010 I tried unsuccessfully to get the nibs working again, and although I resolved to finally get rid of them —  this time, really, honest — my pack-rat tendencies got the better of me. Back into the parts box they went, neatly labelled as FAULTY–THROW AWAY!

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My perfect writing instrument is a fountain pen

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

While tidying up part of my desk yesterday morning I found a couple of Rotring 400 (F) nibs rolling around, along with a rather battered looking cartridge converter. They’d probably been there for years and I had no idea what I’d intended to do with them in the first place, so I just had to flush, soak, clean, dry and install them in a pen and see how they worked.

One of the nibs turned out to be squeaky-clean (at least on the outside), the other had traces of Parker Quink Blue Black in it, and the converter was completely inoperable and a total write-off.

I put the first nib into the pen and installed a full converter. No ink flowed. I shook the pen. No disaster happened. Nothing.

The same thing happened with the other nib.

And then I remembered the disastrous experiment in the early ’90s I had conducted with technical pen ink, when I’d come to the conclusion that while the fountain pen was the perfect writing instrument, the inks available at the time left much to be desired because they were neither saturated nor waterproof — and while Rotring Black technical pen ink was the best thing ever, the pens it lived in were much too fragile and scratchy for daily use. So why not use the Rotring technical pen ink in the Rotring fountain pens?

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