Monday, February 01, 2010

How to clean your Rapidograph pens

Switching gears from digital talk, I thought I'd share some tips on cleaning a Rapidoraph pen. I have used them for 20 years and I love them.

Take the pen apart

When you take the pen apart, have a wide-mouthed shallow bowl handy, or a workspace that is safe for small messy parts so you don't lose any pieces. Line your work area with paper towels to keep tidy.

First, unscrew the colored ring on your pen casing. Then, take apart the pen tip. There is a small tool that comes with the pen. It's called a "nib key". It looks kind of like a black nut (hardware - nuts and bolts, I mean). Use this to take apart the nib tip part. It's easy to do. This nut-like piece fits onto your pen over the tip. Once it is fitted on, just unscrew the tip part apart. (If you need a visual or further explanation, click here and scroll down a bit.)

Soak the working parts
Soak just the pen-tip working parts (not the casing) in a Rapidograph cleansing solution such as this one. You may soak in either a mix of solution + water or straight solution, depending on how much cleaning power your pen needs. You can do the soaking in a very small vessel with solution to cover, or almost cover, the soaking parts. This way, you will only use just the amount of solution you need to get your pen clean, and no more. Make sure to cover it to keep it safely away from pets or spills. Depending on how tough a job your pen is, you may soak it for anywhere from a couple hours to a couple days, give or take.

You can do just these steps above and let your pen parts soak for awhile. Then, rinse by running under cold water. Test out your tip on some paper towel occasionally, until you can tell that the tip is clear of clogging and it runs cleanly.

This alone is the general method to clean your pen. There is an additional, optional step you can take. Totally not necessary, but works very well: the Rapidograph syringe.
The Rapidograph pen cleaning kit (with syringe)
You can buy a great Rapidograph pen cleaning kit from the creators of the original Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph pen. It comes with a pen cleaning solution which you would use in the first step of cleaning. The second step: you use this balloon type of gadget that you attach to the pen nib, and you get to squeeze the balloon to force all the ink out of the pen tip to help clear out your pen or water/solution in and water/solution out over and over. This uses a suctioning action to clean your pen. (The suction/balloon squeezing works like a turkey baster.)  It's a lot of fun and it is very effective! It works very well to get your pen squeaky clean. (Did I mention it's fun?) (If you do this method, mix up more solution/water just for the suction cleansing.)For more information on this, instructions do come with the kit (and it is not difficult).

General DO's and DON'T's for handling/using your Rapidograph pen

•DO Be really careful with the tip. Don't bang it or bend it. Excess tapping on the tip is a bad idea as well. They are strong enough for drawing but they are not invincible and I have killed a tip or two in my time. The pens are expensive to replace, too. So treat them with care.

•DON'T shake the pen to start ink flow. This will kill your pen. To start ink flow, hold the pen in one hand vertically (tip down). While holding pen firmly, tap the SIDE of the pen with the other index finger while continuing to hold the pen very supportively so it doesn't jostle around. The tap-tapping will help to start the flow without destroying your pen. This is a method I learned from the pen people so I know that it's safe. It works too, I've used it for years.

•DON'T use other types of inks in your pen besides india ink that is made to be compatible with Technical pens. These pens are not made for other inks that may have other properties. Your pen can get ruined quite easily by using an incompatible ink, so take heed.

Tips on materials


I've found that airbrush cleaning solution also works well to clean Rapidograph pens.


I've found the BEST BLACK ink is the Koh-I-Noor waterproof india ink that comes with your Rapidograph pen. I cannot recommend Koh-I-Noor's white or brown colored inks for Rapidograph. I've tried both and did not enjoy the results from those.I've also used Speedball waterproof india ink which works well too.


Lizzie Berman said...

Among the steps you covered above, and flushing with the syringe and Rapid-o-eez solution, I follow by putting the small parts into my sonic jewelry cleaner basket with Dawn dishsoap and water for several minutes. Rinse well. Dry and reassemble.
*You really have to disassemble and reassemble methodically, and keep an eye on those wandering small parts.

Kathy Weller said...

Love the jewelry bucket idea!! Thank you for your comment!