Refilling Fountain Pen Cartridges
Fountain pens can take a variety of different ink storage formats, including cartridges, converters, literally nothing (“eyedropper”), internal pistons, vacuums… you get the point.
Ink cartridges are supposed to be one time use, but some people that I’ve talked to are asking if it’s possible to refill them. And while it’s possible, it’s not likely to be that 100% useful.
Proprietary Vs. Standard
First, let me cover something: not all companies use the same cartridges. Now there’s a standard, called… standard international, and for the resources that I have1, that includes pens from these manufactures:
- Caran d’Ache
- Faber-Castell (SI for cartridges, proprietary converters)
- Graf von Faber-Castell (Ditto)
- Karas Kustoms
- ST Dupont
- Traveler’s Company
- Waterman (SI for cartridges, proprietary converters)
This leaves the following that have proprietary cartridges:
Yes any cartridge you can physically fill back up with ink, as long as you have an ink syringe, or more generally, any syringe with a blunt tip. You don’t want to stab and inject yourself with ink. Again, to refer back to Goulet Pens (I’m not sponsored I swear, I just manage to find everything there), they actually sell some for USD$5.00, product code GP-10002. And those are a large enough bore that you can’t puncture yourself, though the markings on the side can rub off, so make sure to not rub them too much if you’re actually going to measure your ink to the milliliter.
Keeping Them Full (And Not Making a Mess)
Standard International cartridges
SI Cartridges are sealed by a little plastic ball that’s press fit in from the inside, and the pen itself pops this fully inside to unblock the flow. Now, there is no way to put this little ball back. You can put a little bit of tape over the top, but you’ll need to be careful that you don’t place your refilled cartridges somewhere with protruding edges, as it only takes one slip for that piece of tape to get poked or just ripped off, and now you don’t have an ink cartridge, you have a mess.
Essentially there’s no way, that I’ve found, to make them fully safe, so be careful — or, since this is SI, buy a bottle and an ink converter.
Now I can’t look at all the designs, but from what I’ve seen, they all have the same sort of design as SI cartridges… except Pilot.
Pilot cartridges are beautifully designed, simple, and have little protrusions on the inside that really break the ink surface tension, meaning it can almost instantly give you a reading on how much ink you have left.
They actually do not have a restricted mouth — the opening of the cartridge is as wide as the cartridge itself, there’s no “nozzle” like feature. Pilot cartridges are also sealed with a press-fit plastic disk that’s pushed out of the way by the pen, but with a small enough pair of needle nose pliers, you can indeed pull that out, refill the cartridge, and then (carefully) shove it back down, almost back like it was before. The disk is a little oversize, so it will take some force, and you’ll want something about the side of that inner diameter, since failing to apply force completely evenly will cause it to just pivot.
What that all means to say is that, pilot cartridges at least, you can refill and keep sealed, with a little patience. For the others, it’ll be a little harder keeping them shut reliably.
My main resource was the Goulet Pens Cartridge/Converter Compatibility Guide. ↩︎