I recently had a question posed to me about condensation forming on the inside of the cap of a demonstrator and how to best address it. This got me to thinking about a related issue which is ink that can get trapped between the outer and inner caps. It is not uncommon for condensation to form inside a cap and the nature of the demonstrator is to make this phenomenon quite noticeable. The science behind the formation of condensation is fundamental and depends on warm air meeting a cool surface. Pens that are kept close to the body, i.e. a shirt pocket, are warmed to body temperature and condensation forms when the outside of the cap cools faster than the air surrounding the nib. This has no effect on the pen’s performance and usually can be easily wiped away with a cotton swab or towel. More troublesome can be ink that works its way between the outer and inner caps which cannot be easily flushed away with a simple soaking.
The remedy for trapped moisture/ink can be the disassembly of the cap which allows the inner cap to be separated and removed to facilitate cleaning. While I do not recommend that this procedure be considered part of routine maintenance, it certainly can be pulled off relatively easily and without any negative consequences. I will describe the procedure below as well as leave you with some thoughts afterwards.
What You’ll Need:
- Rubber Grip (optional)
- Pencil or similar item
- Unscrew and remove the cap from the pen. Set the pen safely aside (careful that it doesn’t roll onto the floor).
- Note the orientation of the cap top logo and clip with regards to the rest of the cap to help facilitate assembly. The portion of the cap band engraving to which the clip tip points can serve as a visual reference.
- Turn the ring around the cap top COUNTER CLOCKWISE to unscrew and remove. Use a rubber grip/rubber band to help get better traction if needed.
- Remove the clip by sliding it off of the inner cap.
- Push the cap top into the cap, towards the cap band and remove it from the outer cap.
- Place the inner cap on top of the eraser portion of a pencil or some other similar implement.
- Insert the inner cap into the outer cap with your non-dominant hand, aligning the ridges and grooves, allowing the threads of the inner cap to come through the top of the cap.
- Replace the clip, ensuring that the clip is perpendicular to the logo. Secure the clip with your thumb.
- Thread the cap ring CLOCKWISE to tighten the whole assembly. Take care not to cross thread or over torque.
- Once snugged tightly, the clip should not have any significant sideways play. If this is not the case, your alignment is off and you will need to reseat the clip. Some trial and error may be necessary.
The procedure described above will work for many of Pelikan’s fountain pens that incorporate a derby or crown cap top (note that not all do). This would include essentially all pens of both the modern Classic and Souverän lines. Care should be taken to place the pen body in a secure location while cleaning the cap to avoid accidental rolls and subsequent damage. The above procedure can be performed on many of the vintage offerings from Pelikan as well since the mechanism of cap assembly has been kept very similar over the years. I would be much more cautious with older pens though as the caps are prone to shrinkage especially around metal inner caps resulting in hairline cracks. While not overly fragile, a higher level of caution should be exercised. Decades of dried ink can also cement the inner cap in place, risking damage with removal. Again, routine disassembly of the cap is not something that I would endorse.
- There are many good alternatives to getting ink out from between the inner and outer caps. I favor employing these methods before any attempt at disassembly.
- Fill the cap 3/4 full of water and hold cap top against your index finger and your thumb against the bottom opening, effectively sealing the water in the cap. Next, shake vigorously several times and then drain the water. This will often remove any ink between the caps and will leave clean water which will dry.
- Another alternative would be to use a waterpik, pipette, or syringe to force water between the two caps, effectively achieving the same result as above.
- It is important to make sure that the clip is replaced properly or else the cap ring will not fully seat and there will be a lot of sideways play of the clip which impairs functionality. There is a bump that help aligns the clip but it is not always obvious. You will know that the alignment is correct when assembling because everything will secure nicely. If that is not the case, some trial and error may be required to find the proper alignment.
- Condensation forming in a cap is normal and nothing to be concerned about. It will not affect function nor will it harm the pen. It is usually easily wiped away and should not be a cause for concern.
Disassembly of a Modern Pelikan Cap
Assembly of a Modern Pelikan Cap
*I am not a pen repair expert and make no claims to be one. If you have any concerns or doubts, it is best to not proceed and you should seek out a professional for advice/repair services. Several good ones can be found under the links heading. Anyone following the above procedure does so at their own risk and I am not liable for any damage incurred to pen or cap.