Traveling with fountain pens

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I was very happy to get, last week, my first fountain pen (well, first since middle school, anyway). It’s one of those clever folds-to-half-size ohto Tasche pens, and I’m enjoying it immensely.

However, this week I’ll be traveling out to Seattle, and I’m wondering if there are any travel concerns I need to be aware of due to pressurization, etc.? I’m also planning on buying some extra ink cartridges for the trip;
anything special I need to worry about for packing them?

Gray

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[Pictured: Danitrio Urushi Lacquer via Chris Miesenzahl]

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13 Responses to Traveling with fountain pens

  1. Paul Biba says:

    Unfortunately I’ve never been able to safely take a fountain pen for an airplane ride. Sometimes it works, but more often I’ve gotten a leaky mess – this is with Watermans, Mountblancs, Namikis, etc. I never do it any more. Unfortunately :-(

  2. Casanova says:

    My personal recommendation–I have made several business trips with fountain pens– is to use a converter with your pen of choice and then fill the pen with your inkwell of choice. You can also discharge unused ink back into the well and therefore have no inky mess.

  3. Rob says:

    I carry severall colours of ink in the small, tightly-sealing plastic bottles you can buy at most outdoors stores. I generally drain my pens before flight, and refill them when I hit the ground…

  4. Tom Chandler says:

    Outside of draining, the only thing I’ve found that works is to completely fill the converter. The idea is there’s little air space to expand (at higher altitudes) inside the converter and force ink out.

    That said, I’ve found that my fountain pens are pretty sensitive to even around-town travel due to body heat, shaking, etc.

  5. sergio says:

    i have done it a bunch of times..

    what i have usually done is put the pens into a ziplock bag… it will not save a mess on the pens if they leak, but it will save your stuff..

    lately, i have been blowing a little bit of air into the bag so that it air pressure fluctuations will have a lesser effect on them, but i have still not had a problem..

    i have even pulled them out and used them during the flight..

    good luck, and let us know what happens..

  6. Bob Strutton says:

    I use a Pelikan (old M400) fountain pen and have had NO ISSUES when travelling by air, this is however part of the sales pitch for Pelikan pens. I also usually use the pen in flight, crosswords, work etc without an problems.

    BOB

  7. Alice de Sturler says:

    I travel all the time with fountain pens from Pelikan and MontBlanc. I keep them full and upright in a leather case and they never leak. Keep them in your carry-on and after arrival, clear excess moisture off with a paper towel.

  8. Jacob says:

    I’ve been traveling with my Vanishing Point and having no problems. I’d heard that one should fly with the pens either totally empty or full, but just last week I had a cartridge in (less than 1/4 full) and was able to use it in flight. No leaking, no problems.

  9. Doctor K says:

    As a veteran traveller and fountain pen user, I have found ink behavior to be very unpredictable on a plane! I have tried to travel with pens full, only to find a sudden gush of ink onto the page when I tried to write during flight. Now I am careful to empty my pens, and fill them when I am back on terra firma.

  10. Wist says:

    Many good ideas here on how to travel with a foutain pen (not with a smoked salmon…), but let’s admit that if you have to do it twice a week, it will probably not be very confortable to empty/refill your pen each time, not to mention that now all liquids are to be presented to inspection in a formated platic bag.
    I had to decide that for traveling I would keep my roller-pen, and the matching FP remains at my office.
    (Both Montegrappa Myia Argento pens, I love them !)

  11. Julian says:

    I tend to pack the fountain pen in a ziploc bag as Tom advises. I have had leaks in flight and it’s not a good way to start the working day! For some reason my pens (Pilot, MB) don’t leak when in the bag, they just work straight away – even after a 12 hour flight. I only use one pen during a flight – Uniball Vision Elite – which is designed to cope with the pressure changes. You can see the ink expanding and contracting during the flight! I have had other roller balls etc leave a lovely big splodge on the page when using during the flight.

  12. Nevalti says:

    Ignore how much ink is in the pen and simply put it in a RIGID sealed tube – like a plastic test tube. You can buy them for pence/cents. The pressure inside the tube will remain exactly the same and you should get no leaks.

    The pressure inside the tube would be about 14.7psi at sea level. The pressure is unlikely to drop below 11psi in a jet air liner (8,000ft equivalent is the lowest pressure maintained in the cabin and hold). The pressure differential is therefore an absolute maximum of 3.7psi. It is more likely to be about 2.5psi.

    Now work out the area of your tube plug and multiply it by 3.7psi.

    A 1/2″ tube has an area of about 0.2 square inches, therefore the force trying to blow the plug out is only 0.2 x 3.7 = 0.74lbs. Providing you have a cap or cork that is well fitted, it will not move or leak. You can test it be estimating how much effort it takes you to remove the cork. If it does fail, all ink will be contained in the UPRIGHT tube in your HAND LUGGAGE so you are doubly safe.

    One last thought. Most of us would happily drive over a mountain pass without a thought for our pens. The pressure changes are likely to be every bit as severe as for air travel. That may well account for a few unexplained leaks. Even sudden changes in the weather can cause a leak in some pens.

  13. Winona says:

    The answer is actually pretty simple. Just keep the pen capped and standing upright during ascent and descent. That’s what I have always done with my pens, and I’ve never had a problem.

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