Should you store fountain pens nib up or down?

The debate over how to properly store a fountain pen when it is not in use has been going on for decades in the pen community. Some swear that nib up storage prevents ink from leaking or drying out, while others argue that nib down is the way to go. With passionate advocates on both sides, determining the best storage orientation can be a challenge for fountain pen users. This comprehensive guide examines the fountain pen storage debate in detail, providing key considerations and expert recommendations to help you decide if you should be storing your pens nib up or nib down.

The Case for Nib Up Storage

The most common argument made for storing fountain pens nib up is that it helps prevent ink leaks. Here is the logic behind this view:

  • Fountain pen nibs rely on gravity to keep ink flowing down to the nib. Storing the pen nib down leaves the feed system vulnerable to undesired ink flow.
  • Air bubbles can make their way into the ink chamber with nib down storage. When the pen orientation is changed, these bubbles can push ink out through the nib.
  • Evaporation occurs more readily with the nib down, causing thickening of ink at the nib opening which can promote oozing and leaking.
  • Some nib/feed systems are more prone to what is known as “burping”, where excess ink blobs form on the nib after being stored nib down.

The nib up argument makes logical sense on the surface. Gravity acts to pull ink down to the feed rather than allowing it to move up to the nib opening. Air bubble formation is also less likely when the nib is highest in the pen. For these reasons, many pen manufacturers actually recommend nib up storage for their pens.

Potential Drawbacks of Nib Up

However, real world experience reveals that nib up storage also comes with some potential drawbacks:

  • Ink can still leak from the nib onto the grip section with some pens stored nib up.
  • Watery inks high in glycol content tend to have worse leakage problems when stored nib up.
  • A small number of pen models seem particularly prone to nib up leaks, like the Lamy Safari.
  • Drying out at the nib can occur from extended nib up storage if ambient humidity is low.

These issues seem to happen in a minority of fountain pens, but illustrate that nib up doesn’t completely prevent ink leaks or dry up in all models. This had led some to explore nib down as a storage alternative.

Arguments for Nib Down Storage

Here are some of the main arguments that fountain pen users make in favor of storing pens nib down:

  • Ink will not leak onto the section with nib down storage since gravity pulls it back into the cartridge.
  • Prevents drying out at the nib opening compared to nib up.
  • Allows for proper ink flow back into the feed channels with changes in temperature or pressure.
  • Minimizes issues with burping or blobs of ink on the nib.

Nib down storage has the advantage of using gravity to prevent excess ink from accumulating at the nib opening. The feed system functions as it is designed, pulling ink along as needed. For pens prone to nib up leaks, nib down storage solves the problem. The nib and feed stay saturated to avoid any drying issues.

When Nib Down Storage Can Cause Problems

However, nib down storage also comes with some caveats to be aware of:

  • Sediment in inks can settle down into the feed channels and potentially cause clogging.
  • Inks chemically prone to crystallization issues are worse in nib down position.
  • Air bubbles can become trapped in the ink chamber and cartridge.
  • Nib drying is more likely with quick repeated uncapping and recapping of the pen.

These reliability and performance issues associated with nib down storage are heavily dependent on the specific type of ink used. For sediment-free inks with good anti-clogging properties, none of these problems tend to occur. But nib down storage can bring out the worst in finicky ink chemistries.

Best Practices for Nib Up Storage

If you want to use nib up storage, some best practices can help minimize the risk of leaks:

  • Store pens on an absorbent surface like a towel rather than directly on hard materials.
  • Choose quick-drying inks low in glycol, like those from Pilot and Sailor.
  • Ensure caps seal tightly when posting or capping pens.
  • Store pens completely full, with minimal air space for bubbles.
  • Avoid excessive temperature fluctuations which can cause ink expansion.
  • Consider using a pen sleeve or case to keep the nib elevated.

As long as suitable inks are chosen, following these nib up storage guidelines can help yield excellent results for most fountain pen brands and models.

Best Practices for Nib Down Storage

To make nib down storage successful, some guidelines include:

  • Try to store pens in a consistent temperature environment when possible.
  • Inspect feed channels periodically for any ink crystallization.
  • Use inks optimized for fountain pens to avoid clogging issues.
  • Gently turn or roll pens periodically to move ink back into the reservoir.
  • Plan to use pens at least weekly when storing nib down.
  • Consider using a pen case or sleeve to prevent nib drying.

Following these reliable nib down storage habits allows pens to operate at prime performance while avoiding the potential pitfalls.

Tips for Preventing Hard Starts

One common issue that can occur with both nib up and nib down storage is hard starting. This refers to when a fountain pen requires abnormally high pressure to initiate ink flow after being left unused for some time. Here are some ways to prevent hard starts:

  • Store pens with a full ink fill rather than low fill levels.
  • Gently turn or rock the pen prior to use to slide ink into the feed.
  • When possible, plan to use pens at least weekly when not in regular rotation.
  • Avoid extreme high/low temperature storage which can thicken ink.
  • Monitor ink for evaporation and refill partially depleted cartridges.
  • Clean pen thoroughly with water flush if it becomes prone to repeat hard starts.

With proper maintenance habits, hard starts can usually be avoided regardless of nib position during storage.

Does Nib Material Impact Leaking and Drying?

One other factor to consider is whether the nib material plays any role in leaking or drying out during storage. Here is an overview of how nib materials perform:

  • Gold nibs – Excellent ink repellency. Harder tip resists drying compared to other materials.
  • Steel nibs – Prone to more nib evaporation than gold. Can exhibit minor corrosion.
  • 14k Gold nibs – Slightly better performance than lower gold content nibs.
  • 18k+ Gold nibs – Highest gold purity provides optimal ink resistance.

While all nib materials are susceptible to storage leaks and drying, gold nibs offer the best protection due to superior ink repellency. But even cheap steel nibs can yield great storage results with the right ink chemistry and storage practices.

How Does Cap Quality and Seal Impact Leaking?

Beyond nib position and ink properties, the quality of the cap also plays a significant role in preventing ink evaporation and leakage. Here are the most important cap characteristics:

  • Tight seal – Prevents air exchange that accelerates ink drying.
  • Secure posting – Loose cap posting can break the seal and expose the nib.
  • Quality materials – Durable metals and resins maintain precise fit over time.
  • Inner cap lining – Provides extra protection and moisture barrier for the nib.

A high quality cap with robust design provides an added safeguard against potential storage leaks, even for pens prone to nib up issues. Ideally, the cap completely isolates the nib and feed from air when closed.

Special Considerations for Flexible Nibs

Fountain pens with flexible nibs require some unique storage provisions. Here are tips for pens with flex nibs:

  • Store nib up to avoid any nib deformation from gravity.
  • Cap pens even if just resting for a few minutes to prevent nib drying.
  • Keep nib extended/untucked in the cap rather than retracted.
  • Use inks with good lubrication properties to prevent drying stiffnesss.
  • Gently flex the tines periodically to maintain flexibility.
  • Plan to use the pen regularly when not writing to avoid stiffening.

Following these storage practices for flex nibs prevents issues like tipping damage, reduced ink flow, and loss of flexible properties compared to firm nibs.

Impact of Storage Orientation on Ink Reservoir

Beyond the nib and section, storage orientation also influences the ink filling system and reservoir. Here is how the reservoirs perform:

  • Piston filler – Least prone to issues. Nib position has minimal impact.
  • Cartridge converter – Can trap air bubbles with nib down position.
  • Eyedropper – Prone to burping and leaks due to high ink capacity.
  • Vacuum filler – Very sensitive to orientation changes. Store nib up.

Storage orientation matters most for eyedropper and vac filler systems. For other systems, follow the nib recommendations without significant reservoir concerns.

General Storage Recommendations

Keeping your fountain pens properly stored is key to great performance. Here are some overall storage guidelines:

  • Find an orientation that works for each individual pen and ink combination.
  • Store pens horizontally rather than vertically when possible.
  • Let pens rest nib down on absorbent paper after filling before long term storage.
  • Keep pens away from direct light which can fade inks and materials.
  • A pen case or sleeve adds significant protection for valuable pens.
  • Maintain proper humidity between 40-60% in the storage space.
  • Prevent storage in unheated attics/garages with extreme temperature swings.

Proper storage conditions and practices are just as important as orientation. Take a holistic approach to keeping your pens and inks in peak condition.


The fountain pen community remains divided on nib up versus nib down storage. With compelling arguments on both sides, individual preferences tend to dictate each user’s approach. However, focus on choosing suitable inks, maintaining overall storage conditions, and developing good pen maintenance habits. With some experimentation, you can then find the ideal nib orientation for your collection.

At the end of the day, fountain pens are meant to be used! The best way to avoid long term storage issues is simply to ink up your favorite pens and write often. A well loved and regularly written pen will perform wonderfully regardless of storage position when not in use.

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