How-To: Lubricate a Pelikan Piston

Richard Binder's Pure Silicone Grease Offering

Richard Binder’s Pure Silicone Grease Offering

I find that lubricating a Pelikan piston results in confusion for a lot of neophytes to the brand and is frequently a topic of discussion on the forums. Today I will try to dispel any questions by discussing the theory behind this procedure as well as the technique.  Once you know, it is really quite a simple procedure that anyone can do in just a few minutes time.  While this operation is tried and true and incredibly simple, I must stress that any issues that arise during this operation fall squarely on the operator’s shoulders and I’ll assume no liability for any mishaps.


What You’ll Need:

  1. 100% Silicone Grease
  2. Cotton Swab or Toothpick


  1. Empty the pen of ink and dry out the reservoir as best as possible before application.
  2. Unscrew the nib from the section.  Be careful if there is dried ink or the nib does not unscrew easily.  See my FAQ for tips on removing a nib.
  3. Apply a very small amount of silicone (roughly equal in size to 1/2 of a grain of rice) to the cotton swab.
  4. With the piston retracted, run the swab along the inside of the barrel as close to the piston seal as possible. 
  5. Work the piston up and down a few times.
  6. If the mechanism is now working smoothly, replace the nib and resume regular use.


Over time, a Pelikan’s piston can become stiff and tight, even to the point that one might fear damaging the mechanism.  Depending on the ink used (heavily saturated inks have been implicated) or the frequency of flushing (especially with either dish soap or ammonia), some pens will need re-lubing more frequently than others.  In my experience, a rule of thumb with standard pen care is that many Pelikan’s will need a re-lubing on an average of once every 3 years give or take (your mileage may vary of course).  It should be noted that the above procedure is directed towards synthetic seals and not the older cork seals.  It cannot be stressed enough that 100% silicone grease should be used.  This is not the area to cut corners.  My preferred grease is that which is packaged with the TWSBI pens but good grease is available from many online specialty pen retailers as well as good dive shops.  It’s a $5 investment that will likely last you your lifetime.  If there is any concern about the purity of the silicone, don’t use it.  Silicone comes in many formulations, some of which can harm a pen’s components.  I also stress using a small amount of grease as too much grease can gum up the works and cause flow issues.  Finally, there is absolutely no need to remove a piston from the pen to re-lube it.  Doing so can damage a pen and is strongly discouraged unless carried out by a trained professional.  Feel free to leave a comment or contact me directly if you have any further questions, comments, or suggestions.

37 responses

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  4. Hi,
    In your “how to lubricate a piston” article you say to do this with the piston retracted. Please explain retracted. Thanks


  5. First time on this site. Thank you so much for all the info. Just bought a 800 from an estate sale and don’t think it has ever been used–could not “soak any ink out” Beautiful pen, I like it better than the 1000 I have. Can’t wait to give the 1000 a complete cleaning as you suggest. Also picked up a Montblock 146 which seemed to be the one being used but in perfect order. First tim to find quality pens at estate sales and think the economy kept people from paying the price ask. I did get them both on last day mark down for $300 including a Parker 21 & Sheaffer Vac both in perfect order. Any way keep up the good work Joshua.


    • Welcome to The Perch Larry. I’m glad that you have enjoyed the site and found some of the content useful. Sounds like you got a great deal on some very nice pens at that estate sale. You certainly got your money’s worth. Enjoy them!


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  7. Joshua,

    Long time reader first time poster 😀 I collect mainly 120’s and 140’s and the last couple of pens I have bought have needed extensive cleaning as ink was left in them.I have noticed the seals seem to not work as intend as air bubbles come out the back of the piston when flushing. In your honest opinion will this method of greasing help rejuvenate the seal (I am sure it won’t hurt doing it) or should they be replaced?


    • Great pens to collect. Lubricating the piston can help but it has been my experience that an incompetent seal is an incompetent seal and there is little remedy for it outside of a replacement. Sure it may hold for a while but I think its only a matter of time and I would hate for it to start leaking ink while it was in my shirt pocket. If air/water/ink is getting behind the seal and coming out around the piston knob, get the seal replaced. That’s always been my experience/philosophy on the matter.


      • Josh,

        That was my thinking also however I wanted to get a feel from someone else. Do you normally use a heavy, medium, or light? Again thanks for the info and the reply.


        • Are you referring to the silicone grease when you say heavy, medium, or light? I actually use TWSBI grease for mine. Most retailers of fountain pen accessories, like the Goulet’s for instance, sell a suitable grease. I like something that isn’t too gummy personally and the TWSBI grease fits the bill well.


  8. Hi…I am new to the site and just bought my first Pelikan via ebay. It is the M205 Classic Red which seems to date to around 2009? It was listed as new. Given it is around 9 yrs old, do you think I should probably lubricate the piston first before using? (I do not have the pen yet, it is shipping.)


    • Hello Trina. Congrats on your first Pelikan! That is one of my favorites from the M205 line. I would say to play it by ear. When the pen arrives, if the piston moves freely, which it very well may, then I wouldn’t worry about it. If it is stiff, then you should provide some lubrication to help ensure trouble free use. Not something you can really anticipate until you have it in hand though.


  9. Thanks Joshua. I noticed one of my used Pelikans’ piston nobs was pretty difficult to turn while cleaning this time around. So, I figured you had some advice. Just ordered some from Goulet as I couldn’t locate the TWSBI online anywhere. Hopefully, this will do the trick. Thanks again.


  10. Well, I just greased the piston and it’s definitely turning more smoothly and easily. I’m not inking it up for a few months probably. Hopefully, the ink flow will not be hampered. Thanks again, Joshua.


  11. Hi Josh, thanks for this great post! I just came into possession of a Pelikan 400 NN late 50s early 60s (I think) and a 30 Rolled Gold from 65 (I think). The 30 piston is moving fine, but the 400 NN is stuck. I suspect it’s a cork seal. Any suggestions?


    • Congrats on the new acquisitions. The 400NN invariably has a synthetic seal. Cork was no longer being used at the time of this model. Best bet is to soak and gently remove the nib. Then you can add some water to the ink chamber and free up some of that dried ink which is likely holding you up. Finally you should then be able to lube it with silicone and get it moving. Hope that helps and good luck.


  12. Hi,
    I managed to get a beautiful 400 with a friction fit obb nib that doesn’t screw out. The nib and feed are very tightly fitted and even after many hours of soaking I was unable to remove the nib and feed. All that I managed to achieve was to damage the ebonite feed (one fin is broken 😦 )
    My question is, since I cannot access the piston / barrel by removing the nib unit, is there any other way to lubricate the piston ? The piston is very stiff and I don’t want to damage the beautiful pen any further.
    I am in India and do not have access to vintage pen restorers . Any help will be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you


    • Hello. Sorry to hear that you’re having trouble. Are you sure that it is a friction fit assembly? I can’t imagine a friction fit collar getting so stuck. The ebonite feeds are fragile and can be easily chipped but it should not affect performance. There is no great alternative to lubrication I’m afraid. There are some “lubricating inks” that might be tried but not sure how well that will work. Does the pen draw water? I would continue attempts to soak from above and below. Old ink can be like cement and very stubborn to remove. A weak ammonia solution could be helpful as well. Good luck.


      • Thank you, Joshua,
        1. It is a friction fit nib assembly. I guess this may be one of the reasons why Pelikan stopped making these in a few months and switched over to screw fit nib units.
        2. The pen writes well and draws up and expels ink without difficulty. I got rid of the blockage by using Koh-i Noor Rapido Eze Cleaning solution. I soaked the nib section in the solution and also drew it into the pen and immediately expelled it and then rinsed it out several times. Unfortunately, I think the cleaning solution may have “eaten” away any remaining lubricant in the pen barrel. After using the cleaning solution, the piston filler has become more stiff to a point that I am afraid I might break it.
        3. Some of the suggestions that are available on the net are to (i) Apply silicon grease to the external piston threads and (ii) Soak the entire pen horizontally in water and fill and expel water several times .
        Here is the link :!!!!
        (iii) Use a lubricating ink as you suggested and hope it helps.

        I will try them out with option (ii) as the last resort.
        Thanks again for your quick response.
        Your site is very useful for someone like me who has recently been bitten by the Pelikan bug !


        • I only questioned whether it was truly friction fitted because the pen is new to you. To know that it a friction fit nib assembly, I assume that you saw the nib out of the pen at some point prior to purchase which then puzzles me as to why it would be stuck now.

          Regardless, yes, the cleaning solution may have made your lubrication problem worse. No way to improve that without gaining access to inside the barrel from the section.

          Points 1 and 2 that you mention will not help you and could damage the pen. In fact, I would disregard much of the info in the link that you provided (based on a quick, casual read). Your best bet remains to work the nib free from the section. I would again recommend a dilute ammonia solution, soaking, and time. Persistence and patience is what will pay off. Once the nib comes free, you can lubricate the piston from inside the barrel and solve all your problems.


          • I am going by what the seller told me and also because I was unable to unscrew the nib out out as I can with my other Pelikans ( M481 and M800) . Will try to see if I work the nib out without further damage.
            Thank you again.


  13. Thank you for sharing the information on how to grease the Pelikan pen. I just bought a secondhand pen but the piston mechanism feels very tight and stiff. Every movement makes me feel like the piston can just give way any time. After using your method to grease the barrel of the pen, now the piston movement is very smooth and effortless. Thank you very much for the great information. I wish the Montblanc pen can be dismantled as easy as the Pelikan….


    • I’m glad that you found the post useful and that you got your bird back into writing shape. It’s great how little work these usually take to get up and running. I don’t have much personal experience with Montblanc to comment with any authority but I’ve always felt that the ability to easily service a Pelikan gave the company a leg up.


  14. Hi Joshua, recently I just bumped into a thread on FPN that mentions Pelikan staffs recommends using Rhizinusöl (castor oil) to lubricate a pelikan fountain pen’s piston. Everywhere I read and watch online says use only pure silicone grease.

    What’s your take on this?

    Am I allowed to post a link (to that FPN’s thread) here in the comment?


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