View Full Version : Piston Filler Flushing - Best Practices?

April 1st, 2010, 11:28 AM
I don't know about other FPGeeks, but I seriously dislike flushing/cleaning my piston filling pens.

I dislike the procedure for a couple of reasons:

1) It seems to take forever! I fill with clean water. I expel. I repeat and repeat and repeat. I fill, I shake, I expel. I fill. I expel. I wrap the pen in a paper towel and flip it with my wrist hoping that centrifugal force will come to my aid. I jump, I gyrate, I beg, I pray. I even do a little Ink Flushing Dance to gain favor with Tintonus, the God of Ink. Still, I fill and expel only to find that the pen has yet to surrender the last vestiges of its now unwanted ink supply.

All of the above brings me to my second problem:

2) Somewhere in the back of my mind I know that the piston mechanism has a finite number of cycles in its usable life-span. It pains me to know that I am wasting precious cycles on something as inane as my need to completely clean the pen!

So, might we all put our (geeky) heads together and share our techniques for flushing a piston filling pen? It would, in my mind, be a great boon to the Fountain Pen Community if Fountain Pen Geeks could put together the definitive White Paper (or Wiki Article) outlining the best, tried and true procedures.


=) Eric
Son of Ragnar

Kelly G
April 1st, 2010, 12:02 PM
If this is a piston filler with a threaded nib or section such as a Pelikan or Lamy 2000 and I want to clean the pen for long term storage, I will remove the nib/section after the first couple of flushes and get water into the barrel easier and faster. I'll use a cotton swab to help remove ink from the threads. This speeds up the process. If I'm merely flushing the pen or changing inks, I don't worry about getting every last trace of the old ink out.
If I want to store it and can't remove the nib/section, I flush it several times, get the returns fairly clear and then fill it with water, wrap the nib in paper toweling, and place it nib down in a juice glass and let the water wick out of the pen. Then I call it good. If you get most of the ink out you will be fine. People can do more damage to a pen by trying to return it to a pristine state than by just leaving well enough alone.

April 1st, 2010, 12:45 PM
At most I'll cycle the piston 5 or 6 times. Any more than that and it doesn't seem to make a difference. I'll also change out the water after the third out fourth flush and them continue to do so after each remaining flush until the water comes out as clear as it went in.

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April 1st, 2010, 04:37 PM
Ok, excellent information thus far. I believe I'm reading that my expectation for what is a "clean" pen should be adjusted (?) That it's not necessary to have every last trace of ink out of the pen for it to be properly flushed (?)

Can we get a consensus on that? Or perhaps a guideline?

"A piston filling pen (with non-removable nib) is considered fully flushed/clean after five full piston cycles with clean water."

Agree? Disagree?

No one wants the YouTube link to my Ink Flushing Dance?

=) Eric
Son of Ragnar

April 2nd, 2010, 09:10 AM
Generally that process seems to work for me. But of I'm going from say a purple ink to a yellow ink then I'll flush it a few more times until it definitely comes out clear so it doesn't pollute the yellow.

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April 6th, 2010, 09:41 PM
I usually remove the nib, if it screws out, and then flush it with a syringe a few times until the water runs clear. If the nib isn't easily removable, I use just a touch of ammonia in the cleaning water and suck it up into the pen. I then let the pen rest so that the solution has time to get all up in the ink chamber and then I flush it out a couple of times. These two methods usually do the trick unless, of course, a pen is filled with any of the Noodler's Baystate series of ink.

April 8th, 2010, 09:01 PM
I've never tried an ammonia solution.

Is there not some very small amount of some-sort of lubricant in a piston mechanism? And could not the ammonia remove said lubricant along with the ink?

Pen Repair Gurus, you're cue.

Son of Ragnar

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April 9th, 2010, 01:50 AM
Touchée on the piston lubricant. It never dawned on me that it would be a problem, but clearly it could be. My only piston filler is a Reform 1745, so I never put that much thought into it. Clearly, I should have.

Anyone else have thoughts on using a mild ammonia solution for piston fillers?

April 9th, 2010, 11:02 AM
I'm actually not positive about there being a lubricant in a piston mechanism. I think there probably is, but I'd like to hear that from a pen repair guru.

I love the Reform 1745. I don't have one at the moment, but they're great pens. Of course, the nib on those unscrews for easy flushing =)

Son of Ragnar

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April 9th, 2010, 03:35 PM
I'm actually not positive about there being a lubricant in a piston mechanism.


Just trying to help, though I am far from being a fountain pen guru... I know that many of the people that are currently selling the NOS Reform 1745's, because their pistons are rather stiff at first from sitting around for so long, put a very small amount of 100% Silicone Grease around the inside of the barrel to help lubricate, loosen the piston up and prevent any damage from the first few times filling the pen. Is that what you were asking?

Very Best Regards,

May 29th, 2010, 09:58 AM
At the moment I'm flushing an Aurora Archivi Storici 022 (a piston-filler) of Sailor Gentle Blue. My usual practice is to flush four or five times until the water seems to be clear, refill with water, and then let sit overnight. Almost always the next day more ink will come out. If you are pulling the pen from your rotation you might try doing this same routine over two or three days. If, however, you are just changing inks, I agree that trying to flush every last vestige of ink from the pen is kind of pointless.

Wile E Coyote
May 29th, 2010, 12:31 PM
It depends on the pen and the reason for flushing;

Case 1: Changing inks - Any color old ink/New Dark ink.

Probably just expel the old ink, flush with water 2-3 times then fill with the new ink.

Case 2: Changing inks - Old dark ink/New lighter (or substantially different color) ink.

Same thing except flush until the water runs clear. Possibly follow Case 3 or 4 instructions if new ink is very light and there's a possibility of contamination affecting the color (ie. old ink is Sailor Kiwaguro, new ink is yellow).

Case 3: Storing pen for extended period - Easily removable nib section.

Remove nib section place in ultrasonic cleaner for 5 mins. Flush pen with water using a bulb or syringe until water runs clear. Swab inside of pen with cotton swab, dry with lintless paper towel, lubricate piston with silicone if required, put directly into long term storage case/box.

Case 4: Storing pen for extended period - Non-removable or difficult/dangerous to remove nib section.

Expel old ink then flush until water is clear. Fill pen with 1:10 solution of non-sudsing ammonia/water, let sit for an hour or so, flush ammonia solutuon with flres water 2-3 times, fill with clear water and let sit over night. Next day flush with water until clear, fill one last time with distilled water, remove water and dry as well as possible with lint free paper towel. If I'm going to be storing in the original case/box I'll usually let it sit in a pen case for a week frst to let any remaining water evaporate.

If it's a pen I recieved from a sale/trade or one I left filled and forgot about, sometimes I'll put the whole pen in the ultrasonic cleaner during the ammonia/water soak period.

I also do a case 3 or 4 cleaning before selling/trading a pen. There's nothing more annoying to me than to receive a dirty pen. Or worse a pen filled with ink that leaks all over in shipping.

That's just for piston fillers but can be adapted to just about any filling system.

Kelly G
June 5th, 2010, 07:00 AM
It depends on the pen and the reason for flushing;

If it's a pen I recieved from a sale/trade or one I left filled and forgot about, sometimes I'll put the whole pen in the ultrasonic cleaner during the ammonia/water soak period.

You won't put an entire lever filler (or any other pen with parts that could corrode after being wet) in the UC, right?