Fountain pens have been around for centuries and continue to be a favorite among writing enthusiasts. One of the charms of using a fountain pen is the ability to refill your pen with various inks. This allows you to continue to write with your favorite instrument, is a more sustainable option than disposal pens, and allows for customization and variety in your writing.
Table of Contents
- What is a Fountain Pen Ink Cartridge?
- Ink Cartridge Sizes
- How to Choose the Right Fountain Pen Cartridge
- Anatomy of a Fountain Pen
- How to Install a Fountain Pen Cartridge
- Fountain Pen Maintenance Tips
- Advanced Fountain Pen Techniques: Refill Your Cartridge with a Syringe
- How to Refill Your Cartridge with a Syringe
However, there are various ways you can refill your fountain pen in multiple ways, either with a disposable cartridge, a refillable converter, or a built-in mechanism for adding ink. I go in-depth into all of them in my Guide to Fountain Pen Filling Systems, but today, I will cover fountain pen cartridges and how they work, how to install them, and what to do when you’ve finished it.
So, let’s get started. I will guide you through the steps of how to install a fountain pen cartridge so that you can enjoy a smooth writing experience without any hassle.
What is a Fountain Pen Ink Cartridge?
A fountain pen ink cartridge is a small disposable capsule filled with ink. The cartridge attaches to the fountain pen feed and supplies the pen with ink. When the cartridge runs out of ink, you simply swap out the cartridge for a new one.
Pros of Cartridges
- No Mess. Refilling a fountain pen can be messy. Ink cartridges are almost entirely mess-free (unless you have a severe malfunction). There are no open ink bottles or messy filling requirements.
- Convenient. Cartridges can be used on the go and packed without worrying about leakage. They’re great for travel because there’s no worry of mess or difficult, messy filling.
Cons of Cartridges
- Ink quality. Cartridges are often smaller than converters or built-in systems. They are also lower quality than some of the inks you may want to choose from. That’s not to say the ink quality is necessarily poor, but higher-quality inks are available for standard refilling.
- Variety. Cartridges have fewer color choices and ink types than bottled inks, so if you want a specific ink, you might feel limited with cartridges. Also, cartridges only fit certain pens, so if you do find an ink you like in a cartridge, there’s a possibility it won’t fit your pen.
Ink Cartridge Sizes
As I said, not all cartridges fit all pens. You’ll need to ensure your cartridges are the correct size for your pens. There are two main types of cartridges: Standard International and proprietary.
Standard International Cartridges
The Standard International cartridges are widely used in fountain pens. They come in short and long sizes. Many manufacturers such as Kaweco, Faber-Castell, and Monteverde create cartridges to this standard specification, but as long as they are labeled as “Standard International,” they can be used interchangeably in other fountain pens that also take standard international.
See our list of the best International Short Cartridges.
On the other hand, some manufacturers have created their own proprietary cartridges that will only work with their pens and may only work with a specific pen and not all of their products. LAMY, Montblanc, Parker, Pilot, and Platinum are notable brands that use proprietary sizes.
How to Choose the Right Fountain Pen Cartridge
The best thing to do when purchasing any cartridge is to consult the manufacturer’s specifications. This can be done on the informational paper that came with your pen or on their website. For a quick reference, I’ve created a Cartridge Compatibility Guide to help you.
Anatomy of a Fountain Pen
Ink cartridges have two ends, one with a sealed opening that is punctured when inserted into the pen. Before installing the cartridge, it’s important you locate the correct side to be inserted. Often, there is a cup-like rim on the correct side.
Sometimes you may see a ball in that opening. This will be pushed into the cartridge when inserted into the pen. These images show the correct ends of the cartridge.
How to Install a Fountain Pen Cartridge
Let’s get into it. Luckily, the installation process is straightforward and the same for any pen and cartridge. We’ll mention three main parts today: the barrel: the back section of the pen that covers the cartridge, the grip section where you hold the pen, which contains the nib and is where you insert the cartridge. And the cap: what covers the nib. If you need help with any pen parts or names, see our post on How Fountain Pens Work.
Step 1: Remove the Barrel
First, unscrew the barrel from the grip section.
Step 2: Prepare The New Cartridge for Installation
If you haven’t already done so, find the opening of the cartridge.
Step 3: Insert the New Cartridge Into Your Pen’s Barrel
Make sure you insert the correct side into the opening and straight into the pen.
Step 4: Press Firmly
Push the cartridge firmly. It might feel like a lot of pressure, but you should feel the cartridge puncture. If it feels like you are forcing it without any luck, you may be at an angle or have the wrong cartridge. You shouldn’t feel like you are going to break the pen.
Step 5: Let the Pen Rest Tip Down
Leave your pen (cap on) pointing down to allow the ink to saturate the feed. This can take an hour or two, especially with brand-new pens.
Step 6: Test Your Newly Installed Ink Cartridge
After letting your pen rest, try a few scribbles on some paper. If it’s still not working, you can try to let it rest longer or add a few drops of water to the nib. If it still isn’t working, there might be a problem. See our guide on What To Do If Your Fountain Pen Won’t Write for more help.
Fountain Pen Maintenance Tips
To ensure your pen keeps writing smoothly for years to come, it’s important to take care of them properly. Here are some tips to help keep your pen happy.
- Clean your fountain pen before refilling it (especially if changing ink types), and if you know, you aren’t going to be using it for a long time.
- Store your fountain pen horizontally when possible to keep the nib from drying out while also preventing leaks. If you can’t store it horizontally, vertically with the nib down is the next best option.
- Remove the ink from your pen before traveling on a plane. While most pens today are much better about leakage than older pens, the change in pressure can often be too much for fountain pens. To save yourself the headache of a pen explosion at 30 thousand feet, remove the ink before travel.
Advanced Fountain Pen Techniques: Refill Your Cartridge with a Syringe
Though you can purchase converters for you fountain pen to enable you to fill it with any ink you want, some people choose to reuse their cartridges either to save money or to be more environmentally friendly.
Why Refill a Fountain Pen Ink Cartridge?
- Converters can be expensive.
- Cartridges hold almost twice as much ink as a similar-sized converter.
- Some pens aren’t compatible with converters.
- You want to use an ink that doesn’t come in cartridges.
How to Refill Your Cartridge with a Syringe
In order to refill your cartridge, you’ll need:
Step 1: Clean the Cartridge
Clean out any old ink by flushing the cartridge with water using a syringe. Make sure both the syringe and cartridge are completely dry before moving on.
Step 2:Fill the Syringe with Ink.
Most ink cartridges hold about 1 milliliter of ink. Once you’ve filled the syringe to 1 ml, remove the needle from the ink and pull the plunger back more to prevent leakage.
Step 3: Fill the Cartridge
Insert the needle into the cartridge and slowly fill it with ink. Going too fast might cause the ink to squirt out.
Step 4: Install the Cartridge
Keeping the cartridge upright, insert the cartridge into the fountain pen grip section. Or save the cartridge for later use. If you plan to save the cartridge, you must store them properly. You can do this by taping the end shut or using a hot glue gun to seal the opening. For more help, see our guide on how to store open cartridges.
Step 5: Clean the Syringe.
Empty any ink remaining in the syringe either back into the bottle or into another container if you don’t want to contaminate the ink bottle. Then clean the syringe with water as soon as possible to avoid clogging the needle with ink.
For more help, see our complete guide to refilling a fountain pen ink cartridge.
And there you have it. Hopefully, we’ve been able to help you to install your fountain pen ink cartridge, and you’re now off and writing away. Fountain pens are a fabulous writing tool that needs a little more maintenance than your average ballpoint pen, but I assure you, it’s worth it.
If you have any questions about fountain pens, be sure to check out our other fountain pen posts or ask us a question in the comments below, and we’ll try to help you with your fountain pen conundrums.
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