If you use a fountain pen, you will need to buy ink at some point. The ink comes in the form of disposable cartridges or in bottles. If you want to purchase ink in a bottle, you need to make sure that your pen can suck it up. This would entail buying a converter for your pen if it didn’t come with one when you purchased it.
Most suppliers will include one or two ink cartridges with a fountain pen when you first buy it. However, they soon run out, and you will have to order more. A fountain pen goes through ink quicker than a ballpoint because the ink is water-based, so it’s best to buy a box of cartridges with your pen.
A fountain pen is very different from other types of pen because you have to buy ink for it now and then, depending on how much writing you do. Although you can buy cheap disposable fountain pens, this defeats the object of having one because you are meant to be able to perpetually refill it when it runs dry.
Fountain Pens Are Meant To Last Longer
Fountain pens are intended to be used for a very long time, much longer than a cheap ballpoint or rollerball. Many manufacturers of these pens also offer a variety of inks for them. The idea is that fountain pens are for re-use and are not disposable items. Half the joy of using one is experimenting with the vast array of inks available.
Fountain pens come from an era where things were deliberately made to last, and planned obsolescence did not feature in manufacturers’ thinking as it does today. The amount of waste people generated then was small compared to our throw-away culture that has polluted the earth and its oceans.
Americans alone discard 1.6 billion disposable pens every year. They end up in landfills and litter and break down into microplastics, polluting the water and harming life. Fountain pens are the eco-friendly alternative to ballpoint pens, particularly if you use a converter and not cartridges.
Converters, Cartridges, And Ink Bladders
Many pens use cartridges these days, but some come with an ink bladder or a piston filler. If you don’t want to use cartridges, you can install a converter where the cartridge normally goes. Most have a little piston that helps suck the ink up from a bottle when twisted in a particular direction or pushed up and down.
Some pens, like the TWSBI Eco, don’t use cartridges at all. Instead, they have large reservoirs that are filled using a piston. With those that use a latex bladder, you squeeze it before dipping the pen into the ink. When you release the pressure, the ink is drawn into the bladder due to the vacuum. Some converters also come with bladders, not pistons.
Not all ink cartridges are standard. Some manufacturers want you to use only their proprietary inks and cartridges. Only their specific cartridges will fit their pens which means that your choice of ink is limited. If you get a converter that fits your pen, then you can use any ink you like. Most manufacturers make converters for their pens.
Many fountain pens use standard international ink cartridges, which is useful because you don’t have to search for proprietary ones. This might be a factor to consider when deciding which pen to buy. Ink cartridges can be easy to carry around, easy to remove and replace, and are spillproof.
When you insert a cartridge into the pen, a little piercing mechanism makes a hole in the bottom of the cartridge to allow the ink to flow through. It looks a bit like a needle that pushes into the cartridge. It is usually necessary to firmly press the cartridge into the pen to activate this mechanism.
Cartridges are uni-directional, meaning that they can only fit into the pen one way. Usually, the narrower end of the cartridge is the one that the piercing mechanism must puncture. There is usually a plastic ring at the end that goes into the pen and guides it into place.
Fountain Pen Inks
These days filling a fountain pen is usually quick and clean, and you don’t have to get any ink on your fingers. Modern fountain pens are also far less likely to leak than the older ones. The bottled ink comes in glass containers that are more eco-friendly than plastic, and they can be re-used.
If you’re a novice, take the time to get used to writing with the pen before buying expensive bottles of ink. It is probably easier just to use ink cartridges for a while. When you are ready to expand your color palette, you can try a bottled ink or two.
Ink bottles are often beautiful in their own right, and it is worth getting a converter for your pen, even if you have cartridges for it. If you run out of cartridges, you can always attach the converter in the meantime and draw up ink from the bottle. Once the bug bites, you’re likely to have several ink bottles with different colored inks available for your writing pleasure.
Diamine and Waterman inks are some of the most popular among fountain pen users. Diamine comes in a fantastic array of colors and can be used in any pen. The inks are not usually waterproof, which means they can smudge and run if you spill water or your coffee on the paper. However, Platinum makes Carbon Ink which is entirely waterproof. Luxury inks made by Graf von Faber-Castell are also water-resistant.
If you are using bottled ink and want to change colors, you can eject the ink in your pen back into the bottle and flush it out with a bit of water before swapping to the other ink. If you use a cartridge, you will either have to use it till the ink is finished or throw it away and waste the ink in it to change colors. Once a cartridge has been pierced, it cannot be removed from the pen for use at a later stage because the remaining ink will leak out.
Some bottled inks can be more expensive than the fountain pen, so you should choose a few practical colors for everyday use before getting into the fancy inks. Bottled inks are worth it once you have settled on your favorite colors because they last for a long time.
Some inks dry faster than others, so this is a consideration when buying them. Individual inks just work better with some fountain pens than others, so it is a bit of a journey to discover which combination is best. Ink that flows generously from the nib and results in smooth, saturated writing is considered wet. Ink that flows more conservatively and does not deposit much ink on the page is deemed to be dry. The colors of wet inks on the paper are more vivid than those of dry inks.
Not many people realize that fountain pens can be used for drawing as well as writing. When you are using an ink to shade in parts of a drawing, it is better to use wet inks. They flow smoothly out of the nib, and the colors are usually brighter.
Sheen also differs from one ink to another. The beauty of using a fountain pen is that you have some control over the ink’s intensity by varying your touch in applying the nib to the paper. Bear in mind that the paper’s level of absorbency also affects how the ink is spread across the page. It is better to use slightly thicker paper to write on with a fountain pen to avoid feathering or bleeding.
Fountain pens usually come with a couple of cartridges when you buy them, but they won’t last long. You will have to buy more from time to time or purchase a converter and some bottled ink. Whether you use cartridges or bottled ink depends on your preferences and the circumstances in which you use your pen. If you are going to lectures or meetings regularly, cartridges may be a better option, but you should try bottled ink if you mostly sit at your desk.