Frequently Asked Questions
Caring for my Fountain Pen
How do I clean my fountain pen?
Dirt and grease in the atmosphere and on your hands mean that your pen will become dirty over a period of time. A build up of grease on the nib and feeder may also prevent the ink from flowing properly. That’s why we recommend cleaning your fountain pen three or four times a year. To keep the ink flowing simply flush out the filler mechanism, nib and feeder system with tepid water until the liquid runs clear, then dry gently. Holding a lint free cloth against the nib slit will help draw excess water out of the feeder system. Do not use detergents, solvents or hot water as this may damage the mechanism or finish. Do not put the whole pen under water as this will damage some filler mechanisms.
Flushing and cleaning the system in this manner should be done each time you change ink colour.
Ink soiling the interior of caps can be cleaned with a piece of damp paper tissue rolled around the inside of the cap. Alternatively a damp cotton bud may be used.
The exterior acrylic finishes may be cleaned by rubbing gently with the Pen Polishing Cloth which now accompanies each pen purchased. The cleaning cloths are also available to purchase from the Accessories page. The cleaning cloth is impregnated with a cleaner and anti-tarnishing agent so it’s ideal for giving gold or silver fittings that ‘just-out-of-the-box’ sparkle!
How do I look after my fountain pen nib?
The nib of a fountain pen imparts the quality of the writing experience and over time takes on the personality of its user’s handwriting. All the fountain pens included on this website are fitted with very high quality nibs with an iridium tip. This tip protects the nib and governs the width of the pen stroke.
Most British pens are available with a choice of nibs: Fine, Medium or Broad. Customised nibs – italic, stub, oblique etc – are available to order for a small additional fee. The full range of nib availability is indicated on each product page.
The choice of nib is a very personal one but as a general guide – smaller, lighter and precise handwriting would err towards a finer nib and larger, more generous and flamboyant handwriting towards a broader nib. Most users decide that a medium nib offers the best of both worlds.
We ensure that our nibs are carefully fitted, aligned and polished during assembly of your pen to ensure a very high quality mark during use. It is good practice to place the cap onto a fountain pen in the upright position. If you drop the pen downwards into the cap ink spots can be deposited from the nib onto the interior surfaces of the cap.
How should I hold my fountain pen?
This is a very personal thing and should simply be at a comfortable angle for your writing style. Ideally the nib should receive even pressure on each half to avoid the risk of splitting the nib. Over a short period of time the malleable properties of the nib will allow it to contour to your writing style.
As the nib will be personalised by your handwriting it is best used only by one person. If you wish to gift your pen to someone we recommend you have a new nib fitted.
Is there a User Guide?
All Conway Stewart writing instruments are designed to give you a high quality writing experience for many years. Each pen is supplied with a comprehensive User Guide that explains how to look after your pen, and how to fill it with ink. If you have any further questions about your pen, please contact us.
Which inks can I use for my fountain pen?
We recommend that you use only quality inks, such as those available to purchase from our Accessories page, to ensure a quality writing experience. We recommend the use of ink that is less than a year old as residues may become a problem with inks that have been stored for lengthy periods.
What is best for left-handed writers?
Left-handed writers use so many different writing styles; overwriting and underwriting, writing uphill, writing horizontally, and writing downhill, that it’s not really possible to recommend any one nib. Experimentation on what works for you is the only answer!
Understanding Writing Modes
How do Conway Stewart line widths compare to Japanese line widths?
Special Nib Options: What are the 3 basic nib shapes or styles?
Round Nibs:A round nib is ground and polished to have roughly a circular footprint, so that its line width is fairly uniform no matter what direction the nib is moving across the paper. Here is a magnified silhouette representing the basic shape of a round nib, together with a cross illustrating the uniform stroke width that this nib produces. All of our standard nibs are Round Nibs.
Stub Nibs:A stub nib is elongated sideways, to have a footprint that is somewhat elliptical. This makes it lay down a slightly broader line when moving up and down (in relation to the nib itself) and a narrower one when moving sideways (again, in relation to the nib). The wider line is between 1.5 – 2.5 times thicker than the thinner line in our custom ground stub nib. The eccentricity of the ellipse isn’t too pronounced, and the nib is still polished to have nice rounded edges. This means that you can write with a stub just about as easily as with a standard nib. Here is a magnified silhouette representing the basic shape of a stub nib, together with a cross illustrating the slight variation in stroke width that this nib produces.
An italic nib is far more elongated. This makes the difference between its broad (up-and-down) strokes and its narrow strokes (sideways) more pronounced than with a stub.A traditional italic nib has a perceptible straight edge across the tip, and relatively less rounding to the edges than a stub nib. This results in a greater tendency to catch on corners and to skip if the nib is not held straight-on to the paper. This can make the nib feel “scratchy”. However, there is a compromise grind called cursive italic, which has more rounded edges than a traditional italic. When properly ground and finished, a cursive italic nib can produce stroke variation almost as strong as an italic nib while the writing feel is nearly as smooth as a stub of similar width. All our custom ground italic nibs are cursive italics unless otherwise requested.
See diagram here.
What is the line width of different nibs?
The approximate line widths produced by these nibs are as follows:
- Broad 0.85 – 1.00mm
- Medium 0.65 – 0.80mm
- Fine 0.45 – 0.60mm
- Extra Fine 0.35 – 0.40mm
These are approximations only and will be influenced by the amount of pressure exerted by the writer and the type of ink and paper being used.
Please note: the thickness of the line depends on the pressure exerted on the pen, and the type of paper so the above is guidance only.
As a rule, a Broad nib suits large handwriting and flowing signatures, Fine nibs suit smaller hand writing and figure work. Broad nibs can tend to fill in the spaces in “b”, “d”, “e” if you hand writing is small.
A Medium nib is a good compromise, and selected by the majority of fountain pen users.
Please see here for a diagram
What is a rollerball?
A rollerball is like a biro/ballpoint but has the free-flowing ink qualities of a fountain pen. Beautiful to write with, yet with the convenience of a ball-point.
What are Calligraphy nibs?
Calligraphy nibs have the same shape as italic nibs (i.e. elongated), but might be even wider, and are finished with squarer edges. This square-edged grind and the wider footprint result in a greater tendency to catch on corners and a greater tendency to skip if the nib isn’t held straight-on to the paper (i.e. when one side of the nib lifts away due to the nib’s being rocked sideways). Writing too rapidly with a calligraphy nib tends to produce scratchiness and skips. However, by writing more slowly, calligraphy nibs give a very crisp and controllable line width, and with practice, some writers become very proficient with calligraphy nibs, producing beautiful text. We can grind specialist calligraphy nibs on request.
What are Oblique nibs?
An oblique is ground so that the writing tip contacts the paper properly when the pen is rotated in the user’s hand. This suits some handwriting better. There is some confusion over what is a left oblique, and right oblique, so a good way to remember it is as follows.
Conway Stewart Related Questions
Can I see a comparison of the Conway Stewart models?
Yes, please see here.
Traditional Conway Stewart Barrel Engraving - what do the numbers mean?
Conway Stewart used 2 different formats for the numbers engraved on the barrel.
If it was a Limited Edition pen, then the number was the Edition Number ie 10/300 means this was the 10th pen made in a limited edition of 300 pens.
However, much more commonly used was the format in the below photo which shows a strange number 058/001. The first number is the colour reference of the pen and the second number was the serial number. In this example 058 = Classic Black and 001 = this is the first pen made in that colour in that range.
The full list of colour numbers and their correlating pens can be found here.
Travelling with and Storing my Pen
How should I transport my fountain pen?
When carrying your pen do so in an upright position to avoid ink leaking from the nib. This is relatively straightforward in jacket pockets and briefcases but attention needs to be paid to the pen’s position in purses and handbags. The nib should be pointing up – this will help ink flow back into the reservoir and reduce drying and clogging of ink residues at the nib.
When travelling by air your fountain pen should be fully filled or alternatively emptied and flushed clean before travel. If the pen reservoir is only partly filled the air in it may expand or contract resulting in ink seepage. Always keep a filled pen upright when travelling by air.
How do I store my pen for a long period of time?
1. Drain your Conway Stewart pens before storing them for a long period of time without use by holding the pen over a sink and turning the euro-converter knob anti-clockwise to purge the ink.
2.Dip the nib into a glass of lukewarm water and turn the knob clockwise to fill the converter with water.
3. Hold the pen above the water and turn the knob anti-clockwise to purge the converter of water.
4. Repeat the process several times to clean the nib and converter.
5. Dry the nib with a tissue and let it dry in the air for a couple of hours before screwing the cap back on.
6. When ready to re-use the pen, fill with ink in the normal way.
7. Note that if ink is left in the pen for several months without using it, the ink can evaporate and leave a sediment that can hinder the ink flow.
Shipping and Returns
How long does it take to assemble my pen once it has been purchased?
It can take up to 28 days for your new pen to be completely assembled.
How long does shipping take?
Production of the pens can take up to 28 days.
For shipping we use a variety of premium carriers to ensure our products arrive safely to you. Generally, shipping takes between 2 - 7 days.
What is your return policy?
100% Satisfaction Guarantee
If you are not 100% happy with your pen, then you can return it to us within 30 days of receipt for a full refund. Goods must be returned in their original packaging complete with all labels and instructions and in the case of fountain pens in unfilled condition.
If you are unsure about a pen at first sight, please just dip test it first using washable blue ink, just as you would do in a traditional shop. We reserve the right to reduce the amount of a refund if a pen has been mishandled.
Where I do send my returned goods?
Please contact us first and explain the issue before returning any pen or nib so we can make any necessary arrangements. Our workshop address is:
Conway Steart / Bespoke British Pens Limited
The Wren Centre
We recommend that you send all items by Signed for Delivery (for example Royal Mail Special Delivery in the UK ) or other tracked method as we cannot be held responsible for goods that don't arrive.
Please note we cannot accept returns of bottled fountain pen ink once opened. This does not affect your statutory rights.
Make sure you include a note so we know who it's from giving your name, telephone number and email address.
Still have questions? We're happy to help! Please send us a message here.