Saturday, May 7, 2011

How to destroy a Noodler's piston filler fountain pen

In my review of Noodler's North African Violet ink, I promised I would tell you the story of how I managed to destroy my Noodler's piston filler fountain pen.

It is a sad story but life is sometimes like that and we can only learn from such tragedies.

The saga started when I used North African Violet in my Noodler's demonstrator. I did notice that the ink was staining the interior of the pen but I thought nothing of it.

I believe I had a hand in destroying this pen because I left the ink in it to dry. Unfortunately, I've come to realize that Noodler's fountain pens aren't very well designed. Ink either leaks if you store the pen with the nib pointing down, or it dries up if you store it in any other way.

Truth is, I just had a few drops left in it, that's why it probably dried like that. In about 2 weeks the ink was gone.

I tried cleaning the pen in the usual way, by removing the nib and feed and flushing the inside with water. That didn't work. It was clear that North African Violet likes to stain.

The next step was to disassemble the piston and dunk the piston assembly and the barrel in an ammonia solution overnight. That didn't help either. I barely managed to get a tiny bit of purple stain off.

Next, I used a q-tip with rubbing alcohol on the inside of the barrel. This helped a little but the plastic was still stained almost as bad as before.

Finally, I decided to soak the barrel and piston assembly in a more concentrated ammonia solution and I left it there for a couple of days. When I took the barrel out, not only was it still stained but it was ruined.

I immediately noticed that the plastic material of the barrel had developed some tiny bubbles and a very thin layer of plastic seemed to be peeling off. I guess the ammonia had dissolved the resin from which the pen is made. Worse, when I tried to re-assemble the piston, I couldn't. It wouldn't fit through the barrel anymore.

Noodler's stained barrel

It looked like the barrel had shrunk. Moreover, it was bent out of shape. I had placed the barrel in a small bowl filled with the ammonia solution and I suspect that it sagged in the middle while supported at each end by the sides of the bowl. I didn't know that ammonia could be so nasty.

Noodler's piston filler disassembled

So now I'm left with a useless fountain pen and I don't think there's anything left to do that can save it. You can tell from photo how badly the barrel is affected.

After all this, I'm still not sure what single factor contributed to the destruction of my Noodler's fountain pen. I admit that I'm largely to blame for letting the ink dry and then soaking it for too long in the concentrated ammonia solution but at least I will know better next time and I hope others will see this as a cautionary tale and avoid the same mistakes I made.


  1. Ah, well - at least it was not an expensive pen.

  2. True, but when my most expensive fountain pen is $40, it's still hard to swallow.

    down the drain :(

  3. Sad story but very educational. As you said we learn from such tragedies.

    Warm Hugs dear friend.

  4. I forget to tell you that I read in somewhere that explaining fountain pen cleaning with clear barrel by using a kerosene

  5. Oh yeah I heard about that too. I chose ammonia because it was easier to obtain. Although I'm sure I could fine kerosene at Walmart where I bought the ammonia.

  6. Too bad about your pen. I'm not a fan of these Noodler's pens, although I'm a fan of Noodler's in general. Please do not use kerosene ever. How much ammonia did you use? The non-soapy stuff in a 10% dilution, I think. Even so, I never use ammonia despite the recommendations. If water and repeated flushing can't clean the pen, I use a bit of Koh-I-Nor Rapido-Eze (no affiliation yadda yadda). Very nice blog. Glad to find it via the May Carnival!

  7. Dear Julie !

    All Current cleaning

    materials contains a little bit amonium. Amonium destroys acrylic or clear plastic material cells. When we need to glue two acrilyc part we use ammonium. I checked kerosene on one my eye dropper FP. Nothing happened on the surface. But FP should not wait in kerosene

  8. I happen to be very fond of both Noodler's pens and inks. I accept that they have certain parameters and I'm willing to work within them. Since I had several high-end inks rot and corrode the metal parts and nibs on three of my $150 and up pens, I now use only Nathan's ph-neutral color palette. As for the pens, although they're a little more bother than better made ones, I'm having a lot of fun finding old nibs in antique stores and swapping them out for the Noodler's nib; and by taking them with me when I'm out of the house, I never have to worry about the cost if they should get broken, lost, or stolen. I love them. They're a great inexpensive alternative.

  9. Appreciate that you have used kerosene w/out ill effect on 1 pen. That you read it "somewhere" is not good enough for moi. It is not a practice I've heard of ever before on either Pentrace or the Fountain Pen Network both places with a long standing FP user base of information. I will standby my belief this is not a good pen practice.

    Ammonia is an accepted practice and yet there are also many cautions about using the non-sudsy kind, how much to dilute it and what kinds of pens to use it.

    Some people, even pen repairers, think it is okay to use Windex instead of ammonia for pen cleaning. Yet that is not considered acceptable by master repairers such as Richard Binder or Ron Zorn. Just because someone says it is okay, (even my stating Rapido-Eze is ok), is not good enough. We must all use our critical thinking and sort through the info and decide what is best for our pens.

    It has become my personal pen practice not to use chemicals for pen cleaning w/the exception of Rapido-Eze (again in small quantities).The ingredients of Rapido-Eze here:'s easy to find the MSDS sheet for a complete list of Rapdio-Eze ingredients via Google. In fact easy to find all kinds of good recommendations for how to clean your pens on sites like FPN or Mr. Binder's wonderful pen site.The hard part with the clear barrels is how much cleanliness must we really have for the pen to be acceptable to our individual eye? In the original post, the Violet stained the barrel. I totally get why some more rigorous cleaning was desired. Even though the staining is not life threatening to the pen and may not even really effect the color of other inks. Once a fan of demonstrator pens... no more for moi. They seem to demand obsessive cleaning. (You cannot hear my chuckling or the smile on my face but it is there.)That's my nickel's worth on the topic. :)Very, very, VERY kind regards all around.

  10. Dear Julie!

    My aim is sharing a small info that I have tried on my fountain pen. Not to instant or to prove about something that I never tried. Later I wrote my experience.

    About this subject there is very important point to take a care as follows;

    1-Ingredients of ink, aniline, pigment, vegetable based ink and other chemicals

    2-Ink Waiting Duration in the barrel

    3-Barrel Core Material

    If I try to give an example;

    A wood barrel cant clean with Rapido-Eze or a celluloid or a semi-hard PVC or silicon mix PVC or ebonite. A single material cant be apply to all kind of surfaces. Every material ink marriage must have its own cleaning material and process

  11. My friend, we perhaps agree on one thing: the importance of the material combination.

    I mean only to offer that kerosene and even alcohol based items as "cleaners" should not be used in fountain pens. My word is not necessary to be taken. It is easy to go find the experts on the It is important, I believe, to recognize that say, for example, today we used rubbing alcohol in X pen and therefore it is okay. No, it is not good pen hygiene, the experts will tell us. We have been merely lucky.
    We have great resources in people who have cleaned and repaired and studied for many years, I ask folks who ponder these things to go to as a good place to start reading and asking questions. And in my stating that I do not use chemicals (with the 1 exception) I am merely stating my own personal preference not asserting any authority. For the rest, I'm stating what I have learned from some of the experts who freely share their knowledge.

  12. Dear Julie !

    Here is not the good place of knowledge


    A the question including the answer in it.

    Q- What is an ink

    A- A chemical.

    I stopping to comment about that. Because we are a quest in the era of Peninkcillin.

    C'est mieux comme ça.

  13. Oh, this is sad to see...that droopy pen barrel is just too disheartening! I've never done more than a couple of flushes with an ammonia solution let alone letting it soak, I'll certainly be sure NOT to do that anytime soon! I've had good luck cleaning stubborn inks like Baystate Blue with a 10% bleach/water solution, perhaps that would have worked here?

    I don't know if it was the ammonia soak (probably) that did this pen in completely, but when you wrote about rubbing alcohol that immediate ran up red flags for me. Rubbing alcohol and plastic don't play nicely together, so perhaps that got the pen started on a bad track to begin with. Now, I know these Noodler's pens are made of Vegitol, which is a natural type of plastic, so it's different than most plastics (like acrylic acetate) that I worked with back in my penmaking days. I'm no chemist, so I can't say exactly what happened here, but I'll point Nathan to your post here and see what advice he would give to prevent something like this from happening.

  14. Thanks for the appreciation Julie!

    I use the ammonia solution (I'm too comfy in bed to go and check right now) that Walmart sells. It comes in a 1 gallon jug. It's definitely not soapy. Clear like water.

    TBH I'd heard about kerosene before but I'm not sure I would use it. So far, between ammonia and rubbing alcohol, I've managed to clean almost any type of ink.

    And yes, I'm a big fan of Noodler's inks and of Nathan, big respect to him, but I'm afraid these fountain pens are so-so.

  15. I believe Windex does contain ammonia, perhaps that's why some people use it. In fact, Windex smells very similarly to the ammonia solution I use. Still, why use Windex when you can use the real thing? :)

    In retrospect I shouldn't have exaggerated with the cleaning. The pen was operational, except that I hate a demonstrator which is not crystal clear. On the other hand I do love demonstrators because you can see the beautiful ink inside.

  16. Ali you might have a point there. I'm just a beginner in regards to fountain pens/inks but that's probably a good explanation why the Noodler's pen appeared to have dissolved (and softened) after being left in that solution for such a long time.

  17. One more thing... I don't use the ammonia right out of the bottle. Instead, I dilute it further with water.

  18. Well, I guess you guys can agree to disagree :) I'm afraid I can't take sides here because you make sense to me.

  19. These pens do have their strengths. After all, they are the cheapest piston fillers on the market and the modularity makes them easy to play with and mod. I admit that this whole story is my own fault but at least I've learned my lesson.

    The biggest negatives with Noodler's pens that I've noticed is that they either leak or the ink dries up quickly in them. So unless you're using the pen daily and not carrying it with you all the time, it might not be a good choice.

  20. Thanks Brian! Aaah I just hope Nathan won't hate me for this! Just tell him that I love his inks and his dedication and everything he does :)

    At any rate, I'd be curious to find out what are the chemical processes involved and why this thing happened. I'm almost certain it had something to do with the veggie resin that's used in the pen.

    I almost always clean my fountain pens and empty cartridges in ammonia. So far it has worked great. Sometimes I can see with the naked eye how the ink residue is dissolved. As a rule I pour a bit of the solution in a small bowl (I believe the solution is already diluted) and then dilute it some more with water. I leave the pen parts soaking overnight.

    Haven't had the slightest problem with any of my pens so far.

    With this mishap, I did not dilute the solution with water so that might have been what caused it.

  21. Dear Peninkcillin !

    Thats the correct time that the tiger pens come to help us with the following product announcement

  22. I think I've heard of this before. Gonna look into it, see it it's worth getting.

  23. Dear PenInk, I think the most profound thing you said was that you admitted you were at fault, but you learned your lesson. That's a brave thing to do, especially in front of the whole world. Your mother will be proud. But all is not lost. You now have a bag of 'parts'. Carefully label it and stash it away for a future scenario! I have made a decision to dedicate inexpensive pens to a certain color if necessary. That way I needn't concern myself with stains. As for the Noodler's pens leaking, I'm not sure what you're referring to. I have found ink on the inside of the cap which I wipe out with a wet q-tip, but I've found the same on my higher-end pens as well. I just take it all in stride that this is part of good pen maintenance. So go the next step and get back on the horse. Get another Noodler's pen to replace this one. After all, what good is a bag of parts if you don't have a pen to use them with? ;- ) lol

  24. Dear PenInkcillin,

    I feel your pain. I have a Noodler's Nib Creaper rollerball that worked great for a period of time and then started dripping the Baystate Blue I had it loaded with all over... well, everything. I am apprehensive to load it with anything, and the pen is certainly stained. I don't see much point in cleaning it until I am confident that it can hold ink securely. "But this is a different problem, Economy Pens," you might say, "that is not what happened to me."

    While I didn't ruin my Noodler's pen with chemicals, I did try to use an alcohol-based solution on the cap of my Lamy Vista. Big. Mistake. It not only changed the appearance of the plastic, but it now has a texture reminiscent of the cotton swab I used to rub the solution on it with. It looks ugly. Lesson learned.


    a) I will be more careful using saturated inks in my demonstrators.
    b) I will be far more cautious using chemicals on my pens.
    c) I love Noodler's inks, but I feel that Nib Creaper was not worth it.

    I do also have a regular Noodler's piston filler - so far it is working well, but it does have the notorious funky smell.

    Thanks for the posting. I feel better about my Lamy Vista.

  25. Thanks Karen! I'm definitely keeping any pen parts I might have. Who knows what Frankenpen I will create in the future.

    I've mentioned this before but I found that both Noodler's pens (the piston filler and the eyedropper) will be drained of all the ink if stored with the nib pointing down. The ink will slowly transfer from the pen to the cap. I agree that more expensive pens also exhibit this issue, but I'm learning as I go along so in the end I relish the experience of discovering all these little quirks. Hey, if fountain pens were hassle free, more people would use them, right?

  26. Well I guess I should stay away from rubbing alcohol then, with so many people warning against it.

    You know, the Nib Creaper might have started spitting because it was running low on ink. I believe that's what happens with eyedroppers. As the ink gets lower, more air is trapped inside, causing it to expand and increase the pressure on the remaining ink. This, in turn, leads to leaks and very wet writing in general. (Someone please correct me if I'm wrong).

    I'm experiencing something similar with my Platinum Preppy eyedropper filled with Heart of Darkness. The ink is less than 1/4 and it writes very wet. If I keep it with the nib down for a few minutes the ink almost wants to pool at the tip. I don't want to refill it because I'm planning to use a different ink in it.

  27. I considered that the ink level may be an issue, but even when I topped it off, ink would start oozing out of the section. I will hang onto it in the even that I decide to mess with it, but I am afraid to risk seepage again.