2015 Update: Dear Isograph user/abuser. The following article will help you unblock your pen. It's the single most popular blog post I've ever written and I'm delighted I could be of use. Before you go, however, please do me the enormous favour and look around my blog. I'm friendly. I rarely bite. I welcome feedback from real people and if that real person is also a fellow cartoonist, then I hope you'll see that this blog is for you.
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I’m writing this because people keep arriving here after asking Google how to unblock an Isograph. I’m no expert but I do use Isographs on a daily basis and I’ve had to clear blocked nibs more times than is probably good for a man’s blood pressure.
There are probably official instructions out there but this is what I do. First, a word of warning: don’t hold me responsible if you bugger up your nib. That’s really easy to do if you need to expose the core. In fact, it’s so likely that you’d ruin the pen that I’d try every alternative method including prayers to ancient goat gods before I’d remove the innards from the finer Rotring nibs.
Most of the time, I get the nib working by shaking it. This is the key with the Isographs: they work because there’s a small weighted inner core, the end of which you can usually see poking out of the tip of the nib. If you look at diagram D, that’s the exposed inner core of the nib on the left. The image shows the core from the really thick 1.00 pen so you can imagine how thin these cores get on the finer pens. Again: I’ve removed that core just to show you but don’t try it yourself on your favourite 0.25mm Rotring unless everything else fails and you’re really happy to buy a new nib!
So, start off by giving the blocked pen a good shake. I often try to get a bit of whip like action into my wrist and shake it in the direction of the barrel. Wiping the end helps as does dipping the end in some clean water. Most of the time, that’s enough to get thing going again. In fact most days this is how I begin work: by shaking the pen until I can draw a good line.
If the pen is still blocked, I move to stage 2. If I leave the Rotring unused for any length of time, I’ll have to go through Stage 2, or sometimes I’ll do it after a couple of months when it starts to become too much of a chore getting the pen going each day.
Stage 2 involves removing the barrel, taking off the ink reservoir and giving the nib a thorough clean. I bought a cheap Ultrasonic Cleaner from Maplin for this purpose. It was in the sale and cost me about £30. Unfortunately, the bloody thing stopped working after about a month and I’ll be taking it back (if I can find the bloody receipt) but it did a fantastic job on the nibs for the time it was working. So if you’re really keen about unblocking your nibs, I’d recommend an ultrasonic cleaner, though preferably one that doesn’t break after a month’s use.
With or without the ultrasonic cleaner, you need to get all the hardened and thick ink from the outside of the nib. Remove the collar (the part indicated in diagram A). If it’s stuck, you can knock out the centre of the lid and use the resulting tube to twist and remove it. However, I can usually pull it off with my fingers. Now use a damp tissue and clean all the gunk from the spiraled groove and remove any hardened ink from the top of the nip. With that done, run the whole nib under a tap and then immerse it in some warm water with a little bit of detergent for about 10 minutes or so (or give it three or four minutes in your ultrasonic cleaner). Then rinse it out, all the time giving it a good shake to get the insides rattling again. Word of warning: this is messy. I usually end up with ink all over the kitchen walls.
I can’t stress how important it is to keep shaking the nib. That’s the key with the Isograph: if it’s got a clean rattle, then it probably draws clean lines. That weighted core inside the nib needs to be loosened up before you get your pen working again.
If you still can’t get it rattling, move to stage 3 and may the Lord have mercy on your soul...
This is where you can destroy your nib and you have to be cautious. I wouldn’t advise doing this with the very fine nibs. If you look on the back side of the nib (diagram B), you’ll see a groove. You can use that to unscrew the cover from the nib (diagram C) and you then expose the end of the weighted core. Don’t take that core out unless you’re really desperate to spend money on a new nib! On the finer pens, it’s as fine as a hair and you probably won’t be able to slide it back in without bending and therefore destroying it. And you can ruin it so easily. The smallest I’ve ever removed is on my standard .35mm pen but I wouldn’t like to try it on anything finer. In fact, I did destroy a .25mm Rotring the very first time I removed a core.
Anyway, if you remove the cover, you can either rinse the insides very carefully with water, making sure not to wash out the weighted core. If you do decide to remove the core you can give everything a good clean for the absolutely best results. However, on the really fine pens, the chance of getting the core back in is so very small. Again, an ultrasonic bath gets rid of the crud really easily.
Reassemble the pen and hopefully it will be full of water. I can tell if the pen is working again by drawing on a tissue. If the pen is rattling well and you can draw with water on your piece of tissue, then you’ve successfully cleaned your pen. Reattach the ink reserve (filled with ink, of course) and try to draw something that will earn you a fortune which you can then share any kind but poor souls who took time out of their day to help you in your moment of trouble.
Good luck! And if you found this blog post useful, it has probably saved you a whole lot of time and money. If so, please consider showing your appreciation by supporting this blog with a donation. Alternatively don't. I mean, this post has been up here since 2013 and it has been read thousands upon thousands of times. And do you know how many donations I've received to say thanks? None. That's right. None! It's enough to make a man give up and join some kind of Rotring pen cult where bare chested women sit around all day blowing the ink out of blocked pen nibs... I'd do it too if I had the money, which I don't.