Today’s article follows my previous tutorial on making a Lamy Fude nib. If you attempted to make your own Fude nib on a Lamy pen I mentioned it may be necessary for you to adjust your feed as well because the Fude nib functions like a very wide italic nib which requires much greater ink supply than a regular nib does. The mod is applicable to pretty much all Lamy feeds that use their Z50 nibs. I promised I will show you how I did my mod so without further ado let’s just dive in.
Despite the fact that this mod does not alter your feed permanently and can be easily returned to the original condition, I’d still like to mention that if you decide to do this, or any other modification for that matter, on any of your pens, you are doing so on your own responsibility. The following is just my hack that I show for educational purposes. If it inspires you to do the same on your pen that’s all well and good, but I’m fairly certain the manufacturer would advise against it, so please do use your own judgement.
The point of this mod is to replicate the mechanics of a vintage fountain pen feed. Fortunately, Lamy feed is designed in a way that allows us to do this conversion. To understand how to proceed, we first need to understand how a fountain pen feed works. We need to understand a principle of air-ink interchange. Once we do so, we not only know what we’re doing, but we’re also going to understand how any fountain pen works. I feel the need to mention that this may seem ridiculous to some people – my explaining the basic physics of air-ink interchange that is, but I don’t think everyone is aware of the way feeds in fountain pens function.
So, what is an air-ink interchange? The name itself is pretty descriptive . It describes the way the feed inside the pen regulates the interchange of air and ink. First, let’s look at some images of the feed found inside a pen. Pretty much all feeds work on the same principle regardless of the brand or particular type of pen, provided it’s a fountain pen.
What you can see on the two images above is a Lamy feed from the Vista fountain pen. The basic feed design of modern feeds features a single (double in case of Lamy and Pelikan) ink channel on top of the feed and one channel that is on the bottom side of the feed (channels on the Lamy feed are partially covered with an additional plastic part). The top channel(s) supplies the ink onto the paper through the nib slit and the bottom channel serves as a filler hole when you fill the pen or as an air intake hole when you write.
Ebonite feeds in vintage fountain pens feature a single deep and wide top air channel with usually three fissures cut in this main channel that serve as ink channels. That way one channel accommodates both ink and air. Ink flows out of the pen through the fissures to the nib and onto the paper and air is sucked into the pen and the ink reservoir through the breather hole on top of the nib and through the large channel. So this way the one channel is accommodating both the air intake and ink release. And that’s how air-ink interchange is regulated in the pen through the feed. The point is that vacuum within the ink reservoir is preserved. In layman’s terms, for each “drop” of ink leaving the ink reservoir a “bubble” of air has to travel back into the reservoir, replacing the released ink. Regulating this vacuum chamber assures that the ink (which is basically just dyed water, hence it’s a fluid with low density) won’t leak from the pen uncontrollably all at once. I even prepared a little diagram to help you understand these mechanics.
Now modern feeds do work on the very same principle but the mechanics are slightly different. They all feature a separate filler hole/air intake channel. This channel is situated on the bottom part of the feed. The top channel therefore doesn’t usually serve as an air channel, although some modern feeds have it too. The Lamy feed does not. The point of this tutorial is, therefore, to create an intake channel at the top of the feed and plug the filler channel at the bottom. If we just opened the top channel we would then have two intakes breaking vacuum inside the reservoir. Why open it at all? Because that way we create one very large channel which allows more ink to travel to the nib, hence improving the flow capacity of the ink.
As I mentioned in the introduction, this mod does not alter your feed permanently and is easily reversible. Of course, you can make it permanent depending on the materials you use but I intentionally selected materials that doesn’t damage the feed irreversibly.
The mod is applicable to pretty much all Lamy feeds that use their Z50 nibs. If you like wet nibs like I do, you’re not restricted to use it only with wide italic nibs or modded Fude nib.
Except your pen, be it Vista, Safari, Joy, Al-Star, Studio or any other Lamy pen using this type of Lamy feed, you only need a plasticine-like substance. I personally use Pritt Multi Fix adhesive tabs, simply because that’s what’s available to me locally. I’m sure there’s a lot of other solutions available online.
We will be using these Pritt tabs for plugging the filler hole in the feed. The advantage of using these adhesive tabs is that they stick to the plastic of the feed very well, sealing the intake channel perfectly, yet are easily removable.
Now that you understand the air-ink interchange principle, you should be able to easily figure out how is this mod going to go. What we are basically going to do in this mod is to convert the Lamy feed into a vintage one, in principle. Fortunately Lamy feed lends itself to this modification very well because it has a removable tab on top of the feed which will act as our air channel. To avoid leakage, we are going to need to plug the filler hole at the bottom of the feed to retain vacuum in the reservoir, otherwise there would be nothing holding the ink inside.
As I said, it’s very simple. It’s a two-step process. First we remove the tab to open the air channel and then we plug the filler hole, keeping our air-ink interchange intact. Let me walk you through it step by step.
First step, of course is removing the feed from the section. A couple of pointers here. You first need to remove the nib. Then pull the feed out of the section, pull, do not twist, because the feed and section are shaped to fit together. You can slightly wiggle it from side to side but generally speaking if the feed doesn’t come out easily you may need to use some kind of rubbery material to improve your grip.
When you have the feed out of the pen the second step is to remove a tab that covers the ink channels. It’s easy, there is no mechanism holding it in place. It is secured simply by friction. You can use your nail and pry it up from the back side of the feed as shown on the image above.
This is how the feed looks with the tab removed and the channels exposed. We pretty much replicated the way vintage feeds were made, expect that there is still a filler hole at the bottom of the feed, which would result in disrupting the vacuum in the ink reservoir, resulting in severe leakage. Which brings me to the final step.
So we have removed the tab from the feed. Now we need to form a small ball from the Pritt Multi Fix with which we plug the filler hole. Before applying it though we need to insert the feed back into the pen. We need to seal the hole against the section so there are no cracks and the seal is perfect.
Gently put the ball on the filler hole and press on it with your finger so it forms a seal.
You don’t need to use as big a ball as I did here. I did so in order for it to show well on the photos. The point here is to plug the hole and the space around it.
The final step is reattaching the nib onto the feed which not only finishes the modification itself but is also the final step in making the feed function properly. Since Lamy nibs have breather holes, plugging the filler/air intake channel produces design similar to vintage feeds. The air now goes back into the ink reservoir through the large channel while the ink travels in the opposite direction through the two fissures within the large air channel.
There’s one last thing I want to mention. Removing the adhesive can get tricky if you leave it unattended for too long, so I recommend you to replace the seal once in a while. I found once a month or once every couple of months is enough.
The Lamy feeds are very capable in their default state. Dual ink channels are not very common in modern plastic feeds. I find that German manufacturers that were around for good number of decades like Lamy and Pelikan make really solid modern feeds. Despite this fact though, you can run into problems with very wide nibs, especially when you use the pen for drawing, which is very demanding on the ink supply. This is where this mod may come handy. And since it doesn’t alter the feed permanently, you are free to try it for yourself without any terminal consequences.
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