Fountain Pen Restoration

Pelikan 120

Pelikan is one of my favorite pen manufacturers. Both vintage and new. In fact, of the very few modern pens I own, several are Pelikans. Pelikan, a German Company, has been manufacturing fountain pens and other writing instruments since 1929. It began in the mid 1800s in Germany as a paint and ink manufacturer and eventually began producing fountain pens in 1929, and still produces quality writing instruments today.

I own many, including 100Ns, 400NNs, 400s, 200s, a 140, and a 120. The 120 discussed here is the least glamorous and was produced between 1955 and 1965 as an entry level student pen.

About four years ago I came upon a Pelikan 120 at a sale and picked it up for less than ten dollars. It had the Pelikan trademark green and black colors. What separates it from most of its higher class relatives is that it has a plated nib. It is a piston filler, as are most Pelikans from 1929 to current products. When I tried to write with it, it tore the paper as I pressed down and I put it aside until this week.

Another aspect of fountain pen restoration is preservation of the nib. I have mentioned cleaning up nibs in previous posts and now will mention a little about smoothing nibs. I am not a professional nib technician who reshapes nibs, or retips them. But, I can do a simple smoothing of a nib that has been been improperly stored or nicked up. For larger projects of reshaping and retipping, advice of a professional through the links in my blogroll is recommended.

As for smoothing, I use Micro Mesh 2400 to 12,000 grade sheets, which is a very fine abrasive paper which will gently smooth out nibs to allow for smoother contact with the writing material.

Which brings me back to this successful restoration project. After gently working on the nib with a 2,400 grade sheet, I tested it periodically. After about 10 minutes, it was smooth to paper at all angles and a completely new pen. Not a glamorous 100N or 800, but very useful. A pen that had been sent to the back of the pen case, was restored to how it came out of the factory around 1960.

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If you would like to read more about Pelikan Pens, ruettinger-web is an excellent website. Additionally, a very good book on the history of Pelikan and its long line of pens is Pelikan Schreibergerate, by Jurgen Dittmer and Martin Lehmann.


December 18, 2007 - Posted by | Pelikan | ,


  1. Thanks for the interesting info on the Pelikan 120. I’ve had a 120 since the late 1960s – not elegant, but a real workhorse. The nib no longer works, and I’m wondering where I could find a 120 replacement nib? Would nibs from other Pelikan models fit the 120, and which might those be? Would appreciate any advice you can give. Many thanks!

    Comment by Susan Freeman | January 16, 2009 | Reply

    • I just restored my nib on my 120. In my case the problem was ink flow. Turns out after you unscrew the nib (and clean with water) you can stand it on the threaded end and push down on the collar, working it around and around, until the collar, the nib and the undercarriage (don’t know the technical term for this part) all come apart. You will see the ink channel on the top and you have to take a few strokes with a brass brush under running water to really clean this channel out. Now my old 120 is working just fine. In my case I have a 400 and several 800s that are my workhorse, but to have this pen working again (last I could use it was college) is a treat!


      Comment by Jerry Korten | January 16, 2010 | Reply

  2. hello susan i am from turkey. i ve got lots of vintage first variation of pelikan advice : if you may find pelikan souveran m100 or 150 pen (marked from 1989 to present) you can easily change the m100 or m 150 nibs are most suitable nibs for yours.

    Comment by burak | January 25, 2009 | Reply

    • I am from turkey and I own a 120 which the piston is broken.Could you help me for spare parts

      Comment by Arslan Erdogan | May 23, 2012 | Reply

      • Arslan, Unfortunately, I do not have any spare 120 Pelikan parts. Phil

        Comment by PKM | May 23, 2012

  3. I used a Pelikan 120 for calligraphy in the 1970’s and still have the pen, and many nibs.

    It is now soaking . . . I am told ammonia is useful in cleaning dried ink . . . it is a fine old pen.

    Comment by paralegalnm | October 5, 2009 | Reply

  4. Found some ink solvent by JustRite in my drawer that came with red ink for non-porous surfaces. It cleaned the dried ink out of the pen and opened up the nibs in no time at all. Not bad after sitting in my desk for 15 years.

    I have nine nibs, and the OM and B write smooth as silk. The plunger draws ink and seals nicely . . . a MontBlanc cloth polished up the barrel to a gleaming, rich surface.

    The 120 doesn’t have the heft of a more substantial pen, but it does a great job.

    Comment by paralegalnm | October 6, 2009 | Reply

  5. I’ve been looking around and really am impressed by the good content here. I work the nightshift at my job and it is boring. I have been coming right here for the previous couple nights and reading. I just wanted to let you know that I have been enjoying what I’ve seen and I look ahead to reading more.

    Comment by JOHNNIE ABBOTT | May 31, 2010 | Reply

  6. Hi, Folks.
    What I need to know is how to make the plunger work on an old 120. Mine just unscrews and comes out the top, but the plunger won’t plunge down. Can anyone help me?

    Comment by doug jones | August 11, 2011 | Reply

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