Although a baby bottom on a modern fountain pen is quite rare, we have seen a sudden spike in the number of people reaching out and asking for advice on a fountain pen baby bottom. We have noticed a number of different questions being asked on the topic but rather than publish a dedicated article for each of them, we have decided to merge them all into this single article to try and help as many of our readers from the fountain pen enthusiast community as possible.
One thing that we do want to quickly get out of the way before we go any further without article is that a fountain pen baby bottom is probably one of the most commonly misdiagnosed problems in the community. There are a few reasons that your pen may skip or be a hard starter and thankfully, a baby bottom is probably the rarest one with the more common issues being much easier to fix.
In addition to this, depending on the price point of your pen, it can actually end up being cheaper to just purchase a replacement nib than to fix your current nib that is having issues. If you do choose to fix the baby bottom on your nib, as a minimum you will have to have some micromesh and potentially an Arkansas stone depending on how bad the issue is. As fountain pen nibs are so small and delicate, a loupe with at least ten times magnification is also highly recommended too.
If you don’t already have these available then a replacement nib will almost always be the better option for an entry-level or intermediate level fountain pen. Although it is possible for you to fix a baby bottom on your fountain pen nib yourself, if you are having the issue with a luxury fountain pen, it is often better to have it professionally fixed rather than take the risk of making the issue worse.
What Is A Baby Bottom Fountain Pen?
Although some people within the fountain pen owning communities do have slightly different definitions of their nibs ending up with a baby bottom, the general consensus is that the issue occurs when the nib of your pen is too rounded where its tines meet. These can drastically reduce or even totally prevent the capillary action that is essential for the nib to draw the required ink down to the paper when writing.
The symptoms are very similar to regular skipping but rather than having that scratchy feel that other causes of skipping can have, your fountain pen will probably feel as though it is writing extremely smoothly but due to the baby bottom, no ink will be drawn or transferred to the paper. Depending on the finish or plating of your nib, a visual inspection can be very difficult to carry out to confirm the fault without the assistance of a cheap loupe.
Thankfully, modern fountain pen nibs should rarely have this issue but with so many fountain pen enthusiasts loving the feel of the vintage fountain pens, their older nibs can, unfortunately, end up suffering from a baby bottom on a relatively regular basis. With many of the vintage fountain pens that are popular having a particularly wet nib, this does usually rule out the skipping issues occurring due to having a dry nib on your pen helping to narrow the issue down to a baby bottom.
How To Tell If Your Fountain Pen Has A Baby Bottom?
Although there is a very common belief that a fountain pen should write under its own weight, this is not actually true. We see this advice offered time and time again when it comes to trying to work out if you are suffering from a fountain pen baby bottom or not but in reality, it does not help. For example, the popular Japanese fountain pen brands usually have a particularly light barrel and cap making it much harder for the pen to write under its own weight in comparison to the western brands.
If you do have a loupe available to help magnify your view of your pen nib, you can often see the misformation of the tipping material on either side of the nib that results in the ink skipping due to restricting ink flow. As we touched on earlier in the article, a visual confirmation to the untrained eye can be difficult for some fountain pen nibs due to the machine engravings or platings sometimes getting in the way.
Although we also touched on this above, one of the easiest ways to confirm your suspicion of a fountain pen baby bottom is to simply write with the pen for a few minutes. Although some fountain pens can be hard starters, once they get going, they should be fine. If your pen skips when writing, try to focus on the feel in your writing hand and if it is scratching, the chance of the issue being a baby bottom is usually less likely than other common issues.
If your writing experience feels like you are writing on glass with a butter-smooth glide but your nib is still skipping, there is a higher chance that the problem with your fountain pen is down to a baby bottom than anything else. As there is a fair bit of crossover between the issues that may cause your nib to skip, it can be hard to come up with guarantees though.
Depending on your pen brand, model, and nib type, you can sometimes Google the problem and get some excellent insight. Unfortunately, a few modern nibs have been designed in a way where they are more susceptible to having issues with a baby bottom even though their build quality is excellent. You will often find a large number of reports of these issues for the nibs that suffer from this issue though and those reports can act as additional confirmation that your pen may be skipping due to a baby bottom.
How To Fix A Fountain Pen Baby Bottom?
Depending on the price tag of your fountain pen, it can actually be cheaper to just pick up a replacement nib than get all of the equipment that you can potentially need to fix a baby bottom on your fountain pen nib. That said, the majority baby bottom nibs can be fixed in your own home but can take time and patients to fix.
As a bare minimum you will need some form of micromesh and a cheap loupe that offers a minimum of ten times magnification will make the process so much easier that is it well worth purchasing. Next up, you will simply grind the nib against your micromesh at a slow and gentle pace while checking its performance at regular intervals to see if the issue has been fixes.
Depending on the material that your fountain pen nib is made from, this can take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour but the less serious problems can usually be corrected at home. Once the pen has started to write consistently without skipping you can do figure eights on some spare paper for a few minutes to confirm that the fault has been corrected and then bull the nib up with some brass shims if you have them handy.
More serious baby bottoms can also require an Arkansas stone but we would usually not recommend that you take on any serious jobs yourself if this is the first baby bottom that you are trying to fix. If you are using a higher price point fountain pen with a costly nib, you can usually find people who offer their services online to fix the pen or your local fountain pen store will be able to refer you to someone.
If you do decide to try and fix the issues yourself then we would highly recommend that you watch the video below in full as it acts as an excellent guide on how you should be maneuvering the nib of your fountain pen against the grinding surface for the best possible results.
Is Removing A Baby Bottom As Easy As It Seems?
In a word, no. Correctly removing a baby bottom from your fountain pen nib is definitely a challenge and this is why we always recommend that you try to find someone in your local area who has experience as well as the relevant equipment to get the job done. Grinding your nib should be your last resort, not your first resort but without the specialist equipment required to correctly fault find the delicate nib of the more expensive fountain pens, it can definitely be a challenging job.