How To Refill A Fountain Pen Cartridge: Complete Guide

There is nothing like the feel of your favorite fountain pen in your hand. However, without ink, a fountain pen is useless. Everyone who uses these pens has their favorite type of ink to use. When your ink runs out, it will need to be refilled. This may leave new fountain pen users or those using a new type of fountain for the first time wondering how to refill a fountain pen cartridge.

Fountain pens have various filling systems. Disposable cartridges can be refilled using a blunt-end syringe. Piston converters draw ink into the cartridge with a rotating piston. Squeeze and vacuum converters use low air pressure to refill the pen. Mastering refilling your pen is essential.

The various types of fountain pen filling systems used for fountain pens all use different methods for refilling the pens with ink. How to refill your fountain pen cartridge will depend on what type of cartridge your fountain pen uses. Let’s go over the various types of fountain pen ink cartridges and how to refill them.

Fountain Pen Cartridge Filling Systems

There are various types of fountain pen filling systems, many of which are known as cartridges or converter cartridges.

The cartridge that the fountain pen uses defines the type of pen that it is and the method by which the pen can be refilled.

The five main modern types of fountain pen filling systems are:

  • Disposable Ink Cartridges.
  • Piston Converter Cartridges.
  • Squeeze Converter Cartridges.
  • Built-In Fillers such as Vacuum and Piston Fillers.
  • Eye-Dropper Ink Tanks.

Each type of fountain pen filling system has a different method for refilling it with ink. Every filling system is very simple to understand, and the filling methods are relatively simple to execute.

Disposable ink cartridges are not intended to be refilled, but it is possible to refill them if you are willing to spend the time to do it. However, this does mean that refilling disposable ink cartridges takes the most time, uses extra equipment, and can be quite messy.

Converter cartridges are very simple to refill, and the process takes very little time. These cartridges are relatively small, only a little larger than short disposable cartridges, which means that they do not hold much ink, making the process of refilling quick and easy.

Other types of cartridges hold more ink than converters or disposable cartridges, which means that the potential for making a mess while refilling is more prevalent, but these cartridges hold more ink to be used in the pen.

These types of cartridges include built-in refillable cartridges that make use of a filling system that is built directly into the pen and is not removable. These cartridges are very easy to use, hold a decent amount of ink, and are very reliable.

However, these built-in mechanisms make the fountain pens that use them the most expensive pens to buy and the most difficult to maintain.

Eye-dropper or ink tank fountain pens have no built-in filling mechanism, nor do they have a removable cartridge, but they rather have a large tank that doubles as the main barrel of the pen where the ink is stored.

This type of filling system takes more work to refill compared to most of the other types of filling systems, but these pens hold more ink than any other fountain pen.

Understanding which type of filling system your fountain pen has is crucial for understanding how to refill it. Let’s take a more in-depth look at the various fountain pen cartridges, how to prepare them for refilling, and how to refill them.

Preparation For Refilling A Fountain Pen Cartridge

Before going through the process of refilling a fountain pe ink cartridge, regardless of the type of filling system or cartridge that the pen uses, there is some vital preparation that must be done.

The first step in preparing to refill your fountain pen is to clean your fountain pen, its nib, and the cartridge that will be refilled with ink.

If you are using the same brand, type, and color of ink, the cleaning process can be less rigorous than if you are changing inks. If you are switching to a different ink, be sure to clean the pen and its components thoroughly.

Fortunately, cleaning out a fountain pen ink cartridge is a simple task, as most fountain pen inks are water-based, which means that they are water-soluble, making the ink very easy to clean out of a pen and a pen cartridge.

Begin by preparing a bowl of warm water to clean your cartridge and pen in. If the ink has dried inside the cartridge, submerge the cartridge in the warm water to soak for a few minutes before proceeding.

Once the ink is liquid enough to be cleaned out of the cartridge, gently swirl the cartridge in the warm water to dilute and loosen any ink within the cartridge.

Rinse the ink out of the cartridge using the water in the bowl, and once the cartridge is relatively clean, hold it under running warm water to completely flush out any remaining ink.

The ink should wash away fairly easily. If the ink is particularly stubborn, leave it to soak in warm water for a while longer and repeat the process.

Using an implement such as an earbud or a toothpick to clean out the cartridge is not recommended unless the cartridge is very clogged with old ink that is not dissolving well. If you have to clean the cartridge out like this, always take extreme care to not damage any part of the cartridge.

Once the cartridge is clean, it is ready to receive fresh fountain pen ink and to be reinstalled into the fountain pen.

If the pen that you are using does not have a disposable or converter cartridge, but rather an ink tank such as those in an eye-dropper fountain pen, the process is the same as for cleaning out the tank as it is for cleaning out a cartridge.

If you need to use any other tools to clean out the cartridge, such as a syringe, be sure that these tools are thoroughly cleaned before using them to refill your fountain pen cartridge.

The last step is to prepare some paper towels or a soft cloth to wipe any excess or spilled ink during the refilling process.

How To Refill The Different Types Of Fountain Pen Cartridges

The various types of fountain pen in cartridges that are available make using fountain pens far easier than ever before and makes these pens viable for everyday use.

The different types of fountain pen cartridges require different filling methods, but each type has a relatively simple refilling procedure.

Here is an overview of the filling procedure for the various main type of fountain pen cartridges:

Disposable Cartridges

Disposable fountain pen ink cartridges are the most commonly used ink system for modern fountain pens. These cartridges are convenient, but they can be tricky to refill.

To refill a disposable fountain pen ink cartridge, follow the above steps for cleaning out the cartridge before attempting to refill it.

These cartridges require the use of a syringe with a blunt-end needle to refill properly and minimize ink spillage.

Once the disposable cartridge is clean and ink-free, use the syringe and blunt-end needle to draw up some ink from your ink bottle, being very careful to not draw up too much.

Dispense the ink from the syringe into the cartridge by placing the tip of the needle to the bottom of the cartridge and depressing the plunger of the syringe slowly.

The cartridge is full once the ink reaches just below the neck of the cartridge.

Carefully remove the syringe from the cartridge.

Once full, the cartridge can be reinstalled into the fountain pen as usual, but without the “pop” of installing a new disposable cartridge, as there is no seal to be broken.

Press the cartridge firmly into the pen to prevent leaks, and reassemble the pen. Leave the pen inverted for a few minutes to allow ink to saturate the feed and nib before writing with the pen.

Piston Converter / Built-In Piston Filler

This type of converter is the most simple to use, the most robust, and the most reliable type of fountain pen converter cartridge.

The piston converter and the built-in piston filler work in the same way, and the process of filling them with ink follows the same method.

If the same link is being used in this converter, it is not necessary to flush it out before refilling unless the ink is old and has dried inside the cartridge.

To refill the cartridge or built-in filler, remove the main barrel of the fountain pen, and leave the cartridge or filler attached to the grip section and nib, and twist the piston screw at the back of the filler or converter clockwise to lower it toward the nib of the pen.

Next, place the nib of the pen down inside the bottle of ink that you intend to put into the pen. Once the nib and feed are fully submerged in the ink, twist the piston screw counter-clockwise, and this will draw ink into the pen.

Repeat the process of twisting the screw up and down until the converter or filling unit is full of ink.

Reassemble the pen, and wipe the nib and feed clean before placing the cap on the pen and leaving it inverted for the ink to flow into the nib.

Squeeze Converter

A squeeze converter cartridge is unique and very simple to use. This cartridge has a small mechanical button on its side, that when pressed, forces air out of the converter, creating a low-pressure system within the converter. This is how ink is drawn into the pen.

To refill a squeeze converter cartridge, place the fountain pen nib and feed into the ink that you will be using, and once it is fully submerged, squeeze the button on the converter. This will force air out of the chamber. Release the button, and ink will be drawn into the converter.

Repeat the refilling process until there are no visible bubbles in the ink bottle that you are drawing ink from, and the converter will be completely full of ink.

Clean the nib and feed with a paper towel, and reassemble the pen. As always, leave the pen inverted to allow ink to flow through the feed before writing with the fountain pen.

Built-In Vacuum Filler

The built-in vacuum filler is a simple yet effective filling system for fountain pens. This system does not have a removable cartridge but rather has a chamber that fills with ink by the use of a vacuum plunger.

To refill this type of fountain pen cartridge, disassemble the pen by removing the main barrel, exposing the built-in filler.

Pull the plunger at the back end of the cartridge out, and then press it back in until just before the chamber widens at the bottom. Do not allow the plunger to pass the widening of the chamber, or the mechanism will not function. The plunger creates a vacuum within the chamber of the cartridge that will draw in ink when the seal is broken.

Place the nib and feeder of the fountain pen into the bottle liquid ink that you will be using, and press the plunger completely in, past the wide section of the chamber. This will break the seal within the cartridge, and ink will be quickly drawn up into the cartridge.

This cartridge type contains a lot of ink, so one plunge of the system should fill the pen with enough ink to last for a while, but the process may be repeated to completely fill the cartridge.

Remove the pe from the ink bottle and wipe it clean before reassembling the pen for use, allowing time for the ink to flow through the feed into the nib of the pen before writing.

Eye-Dropper Tank

This type of fountain pen cartridge contains the most ink out of any fountain pen filling system, but it is one of the most challenging cartridges to use and can allow ink to leak from the pen if not sealed correctly.

This cartridge has no built-in filling system nor cartridge, but rather the main barrel of the pen is used as an ink tank that stores a large amount of ink in the pen.

To refill this cartridge, an eye-dropper, syringe, and blunt-end needle, or a pipet may be used.

Remove the main barrel tank from the fountain pen by unscrewing it. Draw some ink from the bottle into your chosen refilling implement, and place it into the tank of the fountain pen slowly, being careful to not spill any of the ink.

Repeat the refilling process until the tank is full of ink and ready to be reinstalled into the pen.

To ensure a proper seal around the threads that hold the barrel onto the rest of the pen, apply a layer of silicone grease to the threads. This will help prevent ink from leaking out of the pen.

Carefully reassemble the pen with the full ink tank, allow the ink to run through the feed into the nib by inverting it for a time, and the pen will be ready for use.


Refilling a fountain pen ink cartridge is a simple process, but each cartridge type requires a different refilling method.

Disposable cartridges are not meant o be refilled, so the process of refilling them is a bit tricky, but once they are refilled, they work well.

Converters and built-in refilling systems are the easiest cartridges to refill and reuse for almost every fountain pen. These are the type of cartridges to use for the writer who will be refilling their fountain pens, as they are much more reliable and easy to use than other cartridge types.

Eye-dropper fountain pens hold a lot of ink, but they can be messy to refill. Take your time while refilling these pens to preserve your ink and your clothes, and these pens will last you for a good while.

Whatever fountain pe cartridge you choose to use, taking the time to learn how to refill it correctly is imperative, and every fountain pen owner should know how to execute this task well!

Take your time, choose your inks wisely, develop your skill, and refilling your fountain pen cartridges will become a joy rather than a chore!

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