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Fountain Pen Refills: Bottle vs Ink Cartridges

One of the reasons you can feel comfortable spending a fairly significant amount of money on a quality fountain pen is because even when your ink supply runs dry, the rest of the pen (nib and all) allowing you to use it for many years regardless of how much writing you do. There are a couple of different ways to add ink to an empty pen: By replacing ink cartridges or by purchasing bottled ink and adding it to the pen by way of filling an empty ink cartridge or by using an ink converter. When choosing which method to use, you should always seek to balance convenience with cost.

Fountain-Pen-Ink-Bottle-300x300When you first purchase your pen, it will come with one of a number of mechanisms for holding and dispensing the ink. Perhaps the most convenient of these, is the ink cartridge. This is a disposable reservoir in the pen that can be removed and replaced with a new cartridge, similar to the way in which a printer ink cartridge can be replaced when it runs dry.

The main benefit of the ink cartridge is its convenience. All you have to do is to purchase the replacement, install it in the pen, and continue writing. Other methods require a bit of work to get the ink into the reservoir. As a result, it serves as an appealing option for anyone for whom the act of writing is more important than the experience of using the fountain pen. Ink cartridges are also the cleanest option for refilling a fountain pen, because the ink is contained in the cartridge and is not likely to spill out.

However, ink cartridges can also cost a noticeable amount of money. While the exact cost varies depending upon the type of cartridge, they typically cost about a dollar apiece. The exact number of pages you can write with a single cartridge will vary depending upon your nib size and handwriting, but typically a standard cartridge holds enough ink for several pages of writing.  As a result, if you use your pen heavily, the money you spend on replacements can really start to add up.

Ink-Cartridges-300x300The other option for refilling the ink in your fountain pen is to use bottled ink. You may use bottled ink to refill an empty ink cartridge if your pen only takes ink cartridges or if you want to save money by not buying a converter. You may also use the bottled ink to fill a piston converter, which takes the place of an ink cartridge. The most common type of fountain pens can take either ink cartridges or the converters, allowing you to choose the method of refilling that you find most convenient.

Bottled ink is just what it sounds like: Pen ink that comes in a bottle and can be injected into the pen to refill it. The least expensive method for refilling your fountain pen with ink is to use bottled ink to refill a used ink cartridge. All you need to do is to use an ink syringe to wash out the old ink cartridge with water, then draw the ink out of the bottle and inject it directly into the cartridge. This method is relatively straightforward, speedy, and convenient. It also makes it possible for you to use bottled ink in pens that only take ink cartridges, and gives you a full ML of ink to use in your pen before you need another refill.

A slightly more expensive method of using bottled ink is to purchase a piston converter to replace the ink cartridge in your cartridge/converter pen. These converters usually cost somewhere between $5 and $15. Their advantage is that you do not need a separate ink syringe to inject the ink into the pen, and once you install the converter, you do not need to remove it to refill the pen. As a result, they offer an easier option for refilling your pen with ink. One downside to converters, however, is that they hold slightly less than a full ML of ink, meaning that you will need to refill your ink more often than you would if you use an ink cartridge.

Piston-Converter-300x225Regardless of the type of reservoir you use, bottled ink has a number of advantages. It is, first, less expensive than purchasing ink cartridges. In general, ink cartridges come with 1 ML of ink, for about a dollar. Bottled ink comes in 50 ML containers, which can cost anywhere from less than $10 to around $35, with a few varieties costing more. So, any 50 ML bottle of ink that costs less than $50 will cost you less than replacing ink. For instance, even if you spend $35 on a bottle of ink, you will save about $15 over purchasing 50 ML worth of ink cartridges.

Second, some pen owners find the experience of refilling their own ink to be very appealing and enjoyable. These people take pleasure in the process of caring for their pen and adding the ink they use, instead of focusing simply on the practicality of the pen and process.

One downside to bottled ink, however, is that it is more complicated to use than simply replacing an ink cartridge. Instead of simply purchasing and installing a new cartridge, you have to make sure you have the right supplies. You also need to set aside time to replace the ink, and make sure you understand how your ink syringe or piston converter work. Bottled ink also tends to be messier than ink cartridges. As a result, it may not be the best choice for someone who is in a hurry to continue writing.

There is no right or wrong method for refilling your ink. The best method really depends upon your own preferences. For instance, if you simply want to write with the least amount of interruption, ink cartridges might be a better choice for you, while you may decide on bottled ink if saving money is more important to you than saving time. Whichever you choose, be sure to select ink, cartridges and converters that match your pen, and enjoy having an elegant and beautiful writing instrument that you can use over and over again.

For more tips about refilling pen ink cartridges check out the video below:

Updated: October 14, 2014 — 2:54 am

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