Waterman Pen Problems

Updated April 17, 2017

In 1883, Lewis Waterman developed the first practical fountain pen. Traditional pens, mostly plumes, required constant dipping. The Waterman pen contained a reservoir that fed ink to the nib. For the first time, writers did not have to constantly replenish their supply of ink. Still, the ink-feeding mechanism can break down. The pen can clog or crack. The external clip can come off. Occasionally, a Waterman pen does require repairs.

General Care

Pens must be cleaned regularly to prevent clogging. Ink left sitting in a Waterman pen will eventually dry out. Pens should be emptied and flushed once a month. To flush, dip the pen in tap water as if you were filling it with ink. Repeat this process a few times to completely clean the barrel. A few drops of ammonia added to the water can help to remove tough, clotted ink. Do not use hot water. Next, wash the nibs to remove any dried-on ink.

Filling Problems

Waterman pens can be filled in various ways, depending on the model. Filling involves the use of small moving parts. Levers that pull up toward the point of the pen require a single-stroke refill procedure. Those that pull up in the opposite direction require multiple strokes. Other Waterman pens use plungers, buttons, snorkels, capillaries, pistons and other devices. If any one of these filling instruments breaks, replace it with a new part from dealers such as Pendemonium and The Fountain Pen Hospital.

Cracks and Leaks

Sometimes a pen can leak. Older Waterman pens were made from a kind of hardened rubber. This was painted and decorated, even gilded and jewelled. After about 1920, most models were made of plastic. Faded colours and faux finishes can be restored. Skilled repairmen can also stop the crazing, or very fine lines, which sometimes appear in the plastic. Cracked barrels must be replaced, or the ink will leak. The ink sac that receives the ink from the filling mechanism can also develop holes, at which time it needs to be replaced.


Nibs must be in good condition to allow for proper ink flow. Bent or broken nibs will also adversely affect the quality of handwriting. Nibs are made of gold coated with iridium. The thin coating of iridium can wear away. Over time, nibs may also begin to bend. Nibs come in a variety of shapes and sizes for different styles of writing. But not all nibs will fit on all models of Waterman pens, because specific nibs may only be suited to certain ink-filling styles. Find new and antique replacement nibs at dealers, such as and

Caps and Clips

Fountain pen aficionados will want to carry their pens around without worrying about spills. Caps prevent ink from leaking out. Screw threads may wear out or break preventing the cap from being secured. Repair sites can fix faulty caps. Clips on the outside of pens permit pens to hang from a pocket. Clips can break off. Antique clips can be purchased to replace missing pieces.

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About the Author

Brian Adler has been writing articles on history, politics, religion, art, architecture and antiques since 2002. His writing has been published with Demand Studios, as well as in an online magazine. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Columbia University.