Bottled Ink or Cartridges?

When I received my first fountain pen, it came with a single cartridge, and gift giver (Jon) included two extra cartridges. When those ran out, I began looking for other cartridges and stumbled upon bottled ink. As you know, this was a turning point in my life.

Many, if not most, fountain pen users use bottled ink to some extent, and there are several reasons for this.

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Noodler’s Ink – Dragon’s Napalm

1. It’s cheaper.
2. You get more ink colour choices.
3. More environmentally friendly.
4. No other choice – some pens only takes bottled ink.

1. While the cost of a bottle of ink is more expensive than a package of cartridges, the unit cost is generally much, much cheaper than buying cartridges. Noodler’s creator, Nathan Tardiff, actually chooses not to manufacture cartridges in part because of the unit cost difference between bottled ink and cartridges.

Noodler’s Ink (at $12.50/90 mL) is $0.14/mL.
Private Reserve Ink (at $8.80/50mL) is $0.18/mL.
Rohrer & Klingner Ink ($12.00/50mL) is $0.24/mL.
PlatinumI Bottled Ink ($6.75 for 30mL) is $0.23/mL.

Compared to cartridges:
Lamy Proprietary Cartridges ($4.75/5pcs @ 1.4mL each) is $0.68/mL.
Kaweco International Short Cartridges ($2.20/6pcs @ 0.5mL each) is $0.73/mL.
Platinum Proprietary Cartridges ($3.00/2pcs @ 1mL each) is $1.50/mL.

*These prices were as of 2013, before the CAD tanked.

The cost may not really be a big deal, especially if you’re not writing too often or too much, but over time it adds up.

2. The ink choices are abundant. Many older pen companies also make ink, but sometimes only in a few standard colours (black, blue, green, red, etc.), but there are new ink companies, like Noodler’s and Private Reserve, who manufacture what seems like hundreds of ink choices (several different shades or types of black with different properties).
You can also try various inks by filling a small amount in your converter or dipping your nib rather than committing to a whole cartridge. Once you start a cartridge, it’s pretty tough to take it out and store it for another use.

3. Of course using bottled ink is much more eco-friendly. Sending less plastic to landfills, glass bottles being more easily recycled or re-used, less packaging for a bottle of ink than a package of cartridges.
However, you can re-use your cartridges with a syringe and bottled ink. Over time, you may find that the seal between your cartridge and the pen may stretch out a bit, but that is over many, many uses.

4. Some pens only take bottled ink, including piston fillers and eyedroppers, which simply don’t have a place to insert a cartridge.

A fifth reason may be that bottled ink seems a little bit more romantic, more nostalgic, but I’m not sure how seriously this reason will be taken. I think it’s secretly why I use bottled ink.

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Lamy Proprietary Cartridges

The main reason writers choose cartridges are:
1. It’s more convenient.
2. Cartridges/converters are proprietary or converters are hard to find.

1. The convenience of using cartridges is hard to argue. When traveling, at work, the danger of spilling or breaking a glass bottle of ink can be a pretty steep price to pay. It’s easy to slip a cartridge or two into a pencil case or bag without worrying about it.

2. Some pens or pen companies only take proprietary cartridges. If the price of the converter seems too much or if it’s hard to find, it may be necessary to keep re-purchasing cartridges, or you can always refill your cartridges using a syringe.

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