My friend Eilu posted in the Fountain Pen Network-Philippines yahoogroup about a new product from CDR-King: an inexpensive ultrasonic cleaner. It’s a machine where you immerse jewelry or other small items in a vibrating water bath for a three-minute cycle. The vibration causes pressure waves to produce tiny bubbles that dislodge hard-to-remove dirt. There’s a more detailed explanation here.
I first read about using ultrasonic cleaners for ridding fountain pen nibs of stubborn ink on the Fountain Pen Network a couple of years ago. At the time the going price for an ultrasonic cleaner locally was about PhP 3,000++. I said to myself at the time: I don’t really need an ultrasonic cleaner, I flush my pens regularly. At PhP 880 the CDR-King machine was suddenly tempting.
I checked CDR-King Podium, but they had no stock. The lines in Megamall were way long. Miraculously, my friend Karlo called and said he’d found the last two units at the Starmall branch. I asked him to get me one.
CDR-King started out selling branded and generic data storage and related computer accessories, and then moved on to stocking some odd novelty items, such as mini-refrigerators that fit a single softdrink can. Many of its products are cheap and cheerful, but the quality levels tend to vary. A number of us in FPN-P thought that PhP 880 for a real ultrasonic cleaner was a good deal. “Besides, that’s only the price of two inks,” Karlo said. Couldn’t hurt to try it.
The ultrasonic cleaner is a 35-watt machine with a three-minute auto-off function. Place the items to be cleaned on the accompanying plastic basket and immerse in water. Close the transparent lid. As you connect the machine to an electrical outlet, a blue light comes on. Press the ON button. The cleaner will vibrate, making a humming noise. At the end of three minutes, the machine turns itself off. Unplug and discard the dirty water. Wipe cleaner carefully and store away from moisture.
I cleaned all my removable nib units, the Esterbrooks and Pelikans. I thought I had been cleaning my Esterbrooks as carefully as I could for the last year and a half, but then I saw little swirls of old ink coming out of the feeds as the ultrasonic cleaner vibrated. As these were vintage nibs there was the possibility that some retained dried ink when I bought them. My regular flushings weren’t enough get rid of stubborn red ink alone! I repeated cleaning with another three-minute cycle, which got rid of all the old ink. At the end of this cycle though, the water had heated up. The manual warns the user not to exceed three cycles in succession.
I cleaned some of my silver jewelry along with the nibs, but ultrasonic cleaning only removes the physical dirt, not the tarnish. You still need jewelry polish for that.
There is a caveat for fountain pen enthusiasts, however: you can’t clean your celluloid or hard rubber pens in it. You also can’t use it to clean vintage lever-fillers, as the metal parts inside the barrel may rust. (Good thing Esterbrook Renew Tips unscrew!) You can, however, clean nibs and feeds that can be manually removed and replaced. The sections of most modern pens are also safe to clean in the ultrasonic cleaner. So far I’m pleased with it. I figure I’d only be using the ultrasonic cleaner for my pens once every quarter.
Not bad for PhP 880.