Caring for your pen
Whether you own a fine automobile, a fine musical instrument, or a fine pen, it will need occasional cleaning and maintenance. Unlike many other fine tools, the pen is a bit unique. It gets handled every day. It will be used, tossed around and tucked away on a regular basis. So, how do you keep your handmade pen in fine working order?
Pen use & abuse
A pen, through normal use, takes on a lot of wear and tear! The oils from our hands eat at the finishes on the pen body and hardware. Dirt and other abrasives come into contact with the pen, which can lightly scratch the surfaces of the pen. These fine scratches are what cause a pen to become duller over time. The dirt and oils on the pen itself causes it to become dull. Oils tend to hide fine details in the body of the pen. The good news, it isn’t hard to keep your pen looking and working like new.
But, since a handcrafted pen is a writing instrument, it should be kept out of extreme environments. Keep your pen away from extreme temperatures. Do not leave your pen in the car during the summer when it can get very hot or in the winter when it can get very cold. The single most effective step in taking care of your pen is to bring it inside when you get to the office or home. These temperature changes can cause the ink to dry out prematurely, cause the wood, acrylic, stone or other body material to expand or shrink, and potentially cause finish problems. Some woods (Pink Ivory, Ebony, Snakewood and other exotic burls) are very susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity. Keep your pen out of direct sunlight for extended periods of time. The sun has a nasty habit of dulling finishes on any surface. Treat your pen with respect and it will last a long time. It will become a part of your personality.
If you need to clean your wooden pen, mild soap and water such as a drop of diswashing liquid in a cup of water will be fine. You can also clean your pen with a mild oil or grease remover.
Wooden pens, like fine furniture, need to be nourished regularly to prevent excessive drying. The best treatment for your wooden pen is oil. Often, the oil from your hands will be enough to nourish the wood and impart a rich patina over the years. However, you may want to add to your pen’s protection by oiling it with a non-spoiling oil, such as boiled linseed oil, teak oil, or walnut oil. Linseed oil tends to yellow over time. With many woods, this is either invisible or adds a warmth to the wood. Teak oil maintains the wood’s natural color better than linseed oil. Walnut oil is best reserved for dark woods. If you use Teak oil, be sure it is not “pure” teak oil, since pure teak oil does not cure. Similarly, you want the product sold as boiled linseed oil, not pure linseed oil. Any furniture oil is also fine to use.
Wood is photo-reactive. In most cases, exposure to sunlight over time darkens the wood. Sometimes this makes the original figure or grain in the wood harder to detect. But more often, the deepening color adds beauty and depth to the pen. This reaction is normal and cannot be prevented. A few woods lighten rather than darken with sun exposure. You will be interested to see the changes in your pen due to both sun exposure and exposure to the oils in your hand.
The patina on your pen’s metal parts will likely wear over time. If your pen is made with gold plated parts, that wear will turn the parts to a bright silver color. If your pen is made with titanium, black titanium, nickle, or rhodium, it may never show signs of wear.
Pens should be used, not stored away in a drawer. Enjoy your pen. Treasure your pen. But, please use your pen. This is especially true for rollerball and fountain pens whose ink will dry out over time if not used. By using (and cleaning!) your pen regularly, you will continue to enjoy years of good quality use. Please note that fountain pens should generally not be shared with others, as the nib wears according to your personal pattern and style of writing.