How to Fill a Fountain Pen with Ink

If you are new to fountain pens, there are a couple of things you should know before you start spending money, just to make sure you are getting what you want.

There are three main types of fountain pens.

OPTION 1: The cartridge/converter. The most common.

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Lamy Safari

Generally considered the “standard” entry-level fountain pen, the Lamy Safari is a cartridge/converter pen, which means it takes either cartridges or a converter.

People often use cartridges for ease – just pop one in and you’re good to go. If you run out, you take out the old one, and put a new one in. For traveling or for places where it’s not always convenient to take out a bottle of ink, cartridges are great.

Not all cartridges fit all fountain pens! Some companies have proprietary cartridges/converters, meaning that only their cartridges will fit their pens – and that you have to keep buying from them. Other companies make pens that fit the “international short” or “international long” cartridges.

When you put your cartridge into your pen, you may need to push a little until you hear or feel a “pop”, and that’s the seal of the cartridge opening. When using a cartridge, if your pen has been dry, it may take a few seconds for the ink to make its way through the feed into the nib.

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Lamy Safari with a cartridge – Lamy takes its own proprietary cartridge! The international short above is just for show.

Ink is typically much, much more expensive in cartridge form versus buying a whole bottle. You may also be limited to the ink colours if the cartridge is proprietary – for example, Lamy fountain pens only take Lamy cartridges (not pictured above), so if you are only using cartridges, you can only use the inks Lamy has.

You can, however, refill an empty cartridge with a syringe and ink from a bottle – but you can’t store it in the cartridge, so you’ll need to use it right away.

Life gets much more exciting when you enter in the converter.

Often you need to buy the converter separately.

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Lamy Safari with a Lamy proprietary converter

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Lamy Safari with converter inserted into the pen

You simply push the converter all the way into the pen, sometimes hearing or feeling a snug connection. You submerge the entire pen nib into a bottle of ink and draw up on the converter (like a syringe).

When using a converter, over time, if you pop it in and out of pens too often, you can wear down or stretch out the seal between the converter and the ink, meaning suction is not good and the possibility of leaks.

More detailed instructions on how to fill a converter.

When I got my first fountain pen, I only used cartridges. I soon discovered these bottles of ink in different colours and sizes, and once I got a converter for my pen, I never looked back.

OPTION 2: The piston-filler.

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Serwex 962

The Serwex 962 is a piston-filler. The piston filler fills ink directly into the body by drawing it up with an internal piston. It’s basically like a converter that’s built into the pen itself.

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Serwex 962 with piston down, prepped to draw up ink

You twist the back of the pen until the piston is all the way down. If you look very, very carefully at the picture above, you can see the piston through the clear part of the barrel. Just like with a cartridge/converter pen, you submerge the nib into the bottle of ink. You twist the top of the barrel back, drawing up the ink.

With piston-fill pens, it can sometimes be difficult to clean because you cannot remove the converter to flush it out. You are sometimes left to twist the barrel to draw up water, flush it out, draw up water, flush it out, etc. There are some piston-fill pens that you can disassemble, but most you cannot.

OPTION 3: The eyedropper (my personal favourite).

Some pens, like the Serwex 101, are made as eyedroppers, but most pens that are used as eyedroppers were designed as cartridge/converter pens and turned into eyedropper pens.

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Serwex 101

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The easily disassembled eyedropper Serwex 101

You remove the barrel of the pen from the nib and feed section, and the barrel is what will hold your ink. You can fill it with an eyedropper or syringe.

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Jon filling an eyedropper with a syringe of ink

The eyedropper is a little more dangerous in the possibility it might leak, or if you accidentally sit on your pen and crack it, the game is basically over. It’s a good idea to use a bit of pure silicone grease around the threads to help seal it and prevent leaks. You should refresh the silicone grease every time you fill.

The great advantage is that eyedroppers tend to hold a lot more ink that either the cartridge/converter or piston fill pens, and many eyedroppers are clear, so you can see the ink sloshing around in the barrel.

Many pens are famous for being “eyedropper conversions” – the Platinum Preppy and the Kaweco Sport being two.

We will soon have silicone grease and ink syringes available at the store.

As always, please email or comment if you have any questions!

15 thoughts on “How to Fill a Fountain Pen with Ink

    1. wonderpens Post author

      No, it should not be necessary. You might try emptying your pen out, flushing it completely, and filling it again and seeing if that helps – if the ink has been in the pen for a long time, water may have evaporated and the ink may be too thick to flow smoothly. Otherwise, it might be a problem with the seal on your cap?

      Reply
      1. Frederick M. Dolan

        Thank you for the speedy reply!

        I have tried that but it doesnt last very long.

        The pen is about 25 years old and was made in Spain by Inoxcrom.

        The cartridges I am using are Waterman.

        I wil give your suggestion another shot.

        With kind regards, Fred Dolan

      2. Fred Dolan

        So far so good.

        Should I store my pen vertically and, if so, which end should be at the top?

        The answer to this basic question is no doubt in your excellent blog, but it is more fun dealing with a real live human being 🙂

        Fred Dolan

      3. wonderpens Post author

        Good to hear!

        I think most people store their pens nib up. I use my pens quite a bit, and usually have them horizontal, but it also depends a little on if you have a dry pen and may want to have the nib down so the ink can flow a little bit more to the nib when you start writing with it.

        Yes – dealing with people sometimes keeps us sane 🙂

      4. Frederick M. Dolan

        In spite of my best efforts, I wasn’t able to stop by to say hello and get your advice. 

        Do you happen to have a “clone” in Montreal? 

        If not, I will try again in a couple of months. 

        All the best,

        Fred Dolan

      5. Fred Dolan

        Greetings!

        I will send my pen to you via a friend who lives in Toronto. Otherwise, I would have to wait until the summer to get your help.

        My hope is that you can identify why it is that I need to put the pen under water each day to get the ink to flow.

        This is the same problem that I ran by you sometime before Christmas.

        Rather than addressing it to Wonder Pens, could I know your name to make the delivery more personal?

        Many thanks for being there, Msgr. Fred Dolan

      6. Frederick M. Dolan

        Greetings from Montreal.

        I sent my pen to a friend in Toronto, who will soon drop by your store.

        It would be most appreciated if you could take a quick look at it and then let me know what you would do with it if it were yours.

        If you prefer to speak by phone just let me know and I will give you a call.

        Thanks again, Msgr. Fred Dolan

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