Flying with Fountain Pens

June 26, 2017 | 10 Comments

LizSteel-Flying-with-a-fountain-pen
One of the most common questions I get asked about fountain pens is “Do they leak when you take them on a plane?”

I addressed this question in my epic series of articles on Fountain Pen Sketching (click here to read) but I thought I would extract that section and also add some updated information as something unusual happened to me on my recent trip.


Q: Can you take fountain pens on a plane?

A: Yes, your pens can leak when flying but with a few precautions it isn’t such a big deal. My thoughts, Brian Goulet’s video on the topic and his practical experiment trying to get his pens to leak.

The two things I try to do are: filling up my pens beforehand and keeping pens in a vertical position.

But, honestly it has been a total non-issue for me! I am not very dilligent about keeping my pens in a vertical position and I normally sketch during takeoff which is the time that Brian recommends not to use your pen!

LizSteel-fountain-pen-Ink-leaks

If you are unsure about a certain pen, or a little nervous about leakage, wrap a tissue around the pen and then put it in a zip-lock bag. On arrival, slowly take the cap off. This photo shows the result of the most leakage I have ever had.


2017 update:

On two occasions in my recent trip, my “Beloved White Joy” leaked twice – what!?!

I am not sure why, as I has never happened before. Maybe it was because I wasn’t using it on the plane?

LizSteel-White-Joy-leakage
Anyway, this was the extent of the leakage – it was not such a big deal.

The first time I carelessly took the cap off mid-sketch while sitting on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh. I did get some ink on my hands (hardly a disaster for me as I have ink on my hand a lot!) but Eza immediately pulled out a tissue for me to use so I was back to normal sketching in no time. The second time I was home and just immediately wiped the ink off and then cleaned the inside of the cap.

The moral of the story is to take the cap off carefully after a flight and have a tissue or paper towel handy.


So, that is my take on fountain pens and flying. I would love to hear from you: have you got any questions or additional tips.

10 Comments

  • Bruce - June 26, 2017 reply

    I got a little airtight cigar humidifier and put pens in that to fly.

    • Liz Steel - June 26, 2017 reply

      Wow Bruce that is very fancy.

    • Kristy Brenner - June 26, 2017 reply

      I didn't know there was such a thing. Cool!

  • Joan Tavolott - June 27, 2017 reply

    That is so annoying when they leak, especially when you are somewhere like a plane where you can't clean up the mess easily. It has happened to me several times.

  • Deb Cannavo - June 27, 2017 reply

    Hello Liz Love every post you put up! Just a question - I have a Lamy fountain pen. It is made of clear plastic so you can see the level of ink. How do I stop the pen from clogging when using waterproof ink? Kind Regards Deb

    • Liz Steel - June 27, 2017 reply

      Hi Deb - don't use any waterproof ink in a fountain pen unless it says it is for fountain pens!!! Check out this post here (under INK in Sketching Tools section) http://www.lizsteel.com/permanent-fountain-pen-inks-for-ink-wash/

  • Richard Reyes - June 27, 2017 reply

    You must carry a bottle of ink with you when you travel. Have you had any problems, or tips for carying bottles of ink? Going to Europe in a couple weeks.

    • Bob Cochran - June 27, 2017 reply

      I can pass on my own experience. I went to London recently and carried a bottle of DeAtramentis Document Ink with me. Everything went well until 2 days before the trip ended. I needed to fill my pen. I grabbed the ink bottle and shook it. Ink splatted all over the place! As this was in a B & B room, the act of shaking the ink bottle was an expensive one for me. This same ink bottle leaked on the air trip home, too. Luckily, I had bagged it in plastic baggies. The lesson I learned: it was really way too much ink to bring on a trip. For me, bottled ink is a no-no. It is better to bring a small vial of 6 ml or so, even 2 vials is better than a bottle of ink. 12 ml would have been more than enough of that color of ink.

  • Bob Cochran - June 27, 2017 reply

    I wonder if you use your white Joy pen so much that it needs a tune up? If there is an o-ring here and there, perhaps replace them with new ones and add silicon grease. Would that will stop the leaks? Or get a new pen from the Goulet Pen folks? A spare pen might be a good idea for you. Since you travel so much I wonder what you would do if the pen breaks.

  • michael battley - June 30, 2017 reply

    I have recently flown to Menorca and back, taking a Lamy Joy and a Pelikan M200 (old style) both filled to the brim on the way out (as per guidance) and suffered no leaks! And, having used them both whilst away, brought them back with a little air space in them but again there were no leaks. Maybe I was lucky but I did have them in polythene bags just to make sure.

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