How to Use Ink Syringes

Link to YouTube for the Ink Syringe video.

If you’ve never used ink syringes or seen them used before, then you’re missing one of the essential tools in your fountain pen toolbox. They serve a multitude of uses, including:

  • Filling empty ink cartridges/converters
  • Cleaning empty ink cartridges
  • Filling/emptying ink sample vials
  • Getting the last of the ink out of a glass bottle
  • Filling an eyedropper pen
  • Measuring ink for mixing
  • Filling pens with ‘feed saturation’ (like I do in this post)
Goulet Ink Syringe Set
Goulet Ink Syringe Set – Includes two 5ml syringes and two 20ga needles
Though ink syringes can essentially be any syringe you find (unused), it’s really best if it has a blunt-tip, so you don’t hurt yourself or your ink cartridges. The ones I use in the video (and the pictures) are my own syringes I’ve sourced out specifically for the purpose of using them for fountain pens. Mine have more than a 5ml capacity, which is enough to fill even the largest of eyedropper pens. The 1.5″ long needle is long enough to reach into the deepest ink bottles, even to the bottom of a 4.5 ounce Noodler’s bottle!
Ink syringes are also ideal for refilling ink cartridges or converters. If you refill your ink cartridges, it means you don’t have to necessarily buy a converter, but you can still use bottled ink. That, and some ink cartridges hold more ink than their matching converters do.

Ink Syringe Refill Converter
Easily refill your cartridges/converters with an ink syringe

There are a few retailers out there that have their own ink syringes, and most of them should work in a very similar fashion. Though I’ve used my own syringes for the video and the details will be specific to Goulet syringes, the basic concepts are the same with any syringe. If you’re interested in the Goulet ones, you can the set of two syringes for $5 here.

Have you ever used any? What other interesting uses have you found for them?

Write on, 
Brian Goulet

2017-10-11T03:06:24+00:00 April 22nd, 2011|Tips & Tricks|41 Comments
  • Thanks for the helpful videos. I still hate you for showing how easy it was to clean a cartridge/converter pen with bulb syringe. All those years of twisting back and forth. Why couldn't you just let me suffer. 🙂

  • Haha! Sorry for making you realize how difficult your life was 😉 I'm not gonna stop though! Haha!

  • Excellent video! Another reason I love syringes: After you flush a cartridge, there's still clean water that won't drain out of the cartridge. (Surface tension issues? Sorry, it's been 30 years since I took physics.) You can use a syringe to suck that water out. It will get every last little droplet in a cartridge or converter.

  • Nathaniel

    I don't know about all M series Pelikans, but on my M215, I can unscrew the nib and feed and use the syringe to fill the barrel. I love using the samples in this pen because I have a Binder cursive italic on it. You have to be careful not to overfill it though or ink gushes out when you screw the nib and feed back in. Yes, I've done that more than once. 🙂

  • Yes indeed! I didn't go into great detail about using the syringes to clean the carts, I was trying not to make this a 30 minute video! I think it warrants a separate vid.

  • I'm not sure if all the Pelikans do this, but for the ones that do, the syringes work great. As another note, filling the eyedropper style pens are much cleaner with the controlled flow of a syringe than with an actual eyedropper!

  • I never thought of the doing the feed saturation method. Man, that and the bulb syringe method of cleaning c/c fillers have been two great tips from you Brian. Thanks!

  • Tim Guirl

    For years, I've used a syringe to fill ink cartridges and converters, and occasionally to mix inks. While the syringes can be used unlimited times, the measurement markings on the syringe barrel tend to wear off over time. What I've done is to place a piece of scotch tape over the numbers to keep them intact.

  • You're welcome! I'm working on a feed saturation video that I hope to have done this weekend. It'll be posted soon!

  • Yes! I've done this too! I completely forgot to mention that in the video!

  • Great video. I wish you had these a while back. I ended up buying a box of 100 insulin syringes which are a lot thinner and have sharp needles. The capacity doesn't matter because they can hold more ink than the average fountain pen/converter/cartridge can hold. The sharp needle doesn't matter because it is very short and is so thin that even if I prick myself I doubt I'll feel much.

    Apparently the capacity is 1ml, divided into 100 units. So if I want to do some ink mixing I can be very precise.

    Since I have so many of them, I can dedicate one to each of my inks.

    Funny that you mentioned the feed saturation method. I used that as a little kid though I had forgotten about it.

  • Catbookmom

    Thanks for another useful video. I've been using the same syringe for years and years. The trick of storing the needle alongside the inner section is a great tip.

    BTW, I got a baby ear syringe just in time to clean out my Pilot 78G pens when I switched them to cartridges from the wonky converters they came with; one converter in particular wouldn't suck up much more than one page worth of in. The ear syringe cleaned out those nibs in nothing flat!

    I've linked your videos to a couple of posts for my knitter/pen lover friends at Ravelry!

  • Rhea

    Another great video! I bought those syringes a few months ago & they really are great! However, my problem now is that I have so many fountain pens (well, to me 10 is a lot…) but I've forgotten which inks I have in which pens … is there an app for that???
    The plan to clean them ALL out and start all over but this time write it all down in my new journal!

  • I also use the syringes to remove ink from cartridges when I want to refill with a different ink. Some of the cartridges have those metal balls that make it hard to empty the cartridge by turning it over. The metal ball covers the opening and blocks the ink from escaping. With the syringe, I can suck the ink upward instead and save it in a sample vial.

  • Haha…yeah, there's an app for that, it's called a pen and paper! 😉 Come on, you can't tell me you'd think to do anything beyond a list on paper for keeping a record of your pens and inks! 😉 j/k….actually, an app for that would be pretty cool. I like to change inks a LOT and I have a LOTTT of different pens, I find myself needing to keep upwards of 30 pen/ink combos straight. I do most of it by memory, with some help from a physical list, but when those fail me and I can't easily distinguish the ink, that's when it's time for a cleaning 😉

  • Nice! I do this trick too….I think I'll cover this in my more thorough video on using a syringe to clean/refill ink carts. With the metal ball, you can just shake it a bunch to get the ink out, though that could get messy! The ink syringe just makes it easier to clean in general though.

  • B Abate

    I just picked these up to replace the 3cc syringes I had been using. The extra capacity is great for flushing cartridges and converters and they have a short enough throw that they can be used one handed. This is a good package. One is on my utility sink, one with my ink and they get used a lot.

  • Awesome! So glad you're liking them 😉

  • Another ab fab video! Thanks!!

  • You're welcome! Glad you like it 🙂

  • Alberto Martinez

    After seeing this video I ordered syrengies and ink samples. Now I have decided to buy Waterman standard long cartridge in order to have empty long cartridges and have more ink capacity instead of two short cartridges and one it is not of your favourite ink. Waterman does not seem to fit/lock-in very well although it works. Could you please the best long standard cartridge? Pelikan maybe? Thanks

  • The type of cartridge that works best in your pen is going to depend on your pen. What pen are you using? If it's a pen that takes Standard International cartridges, Pelikan will be your best bet. They make two kinds though….some are short and some are long (like the Waterman ones). The long will obviously hold more ink.

  • Alberto Martinez

    I have two: S.T. Dupont Olympo XL and MB Meisterstuck Silvered Classique. Both of them accept short standard international cartridges. I thought Waterman long one was standard diameter but it seems be a little broader and not click well. So, Pelikan is the unique alternative? As said the objetive is to refill them to have almost double of capacity. Thanks.

  • Yeah, Waterman carts are a little bigger diameter in the opening than the Pelikan ones. Pelikan carts are Standard International, so they should fit both of your pens.

  • Kiph

    Someone is stealing ink from my printer.  Not the cartridge, but the ink out of the cartridge-14 empty in less than a month.  No one can use my printer without getting into my computer which is impossible.   How can that be done?  Where would the hole be in Cannon cartridges be. 
    No they are not leaking-had that checked.  The cargridges are marked and I see them full one day and empty the next!

  • I'm sorry to hear that…this blog is all about fountain pens and I'm no expert on printers 😛

  • Plume145

    You could probably do the same with a little clear nail polish (make sure it's dried throughly before dunking it though). 

    I haven't done this with syringes specifically because I don't really mix inks, but I've used the nail polish trick for other situations where a clear overlay is required to protect against water damage, and it works pretty well and is rather durable (which leads to all kinds of uncomfortable thoughts about what on earth is in the stuff, which we then put on nails, but yeah). 

  • Plume145

    Maybe you could get those tiny labels that are shaped a bit like a butterfly bandage and used as price tag in some larger jewelry stores? Like these:

    The idea would be to wrap/loop them around the clip. If they're used for jewelry, they should be totally safe for most pens, too! And yeah, it would be a little bit annoying to see it there all the time, but it could be a lot worse – plus I bet in many cases you can tuck the label part under the clip for most of the time, and just pull it out when you need to check what's inside. 

    That's what I'm planning on doing when/if I ever have too many pens inked with too-similar inks at the same time 🙂

  • Plume145

    Re: drying the syringes – couldn't you just leave them to air dry (maybe wick most of the water first, but not even that necessarily)? It's just that I've been using syringes for several years now and this is how I've always dried them – partly because I'm just lazy that way, but mostly because it eliminates the possibility of water getting trapped inside and evaporating much slower if the Whole Thing is reassembled and then stashed in a closed container than if it's out in the open. Is there a reason to stop doing that, do you think?

  • You can definitely leave them to air dry. Often I'll use a paper towel or q-tip to dry it as much as I can, then leave it out to dry. 

  • Hey, whatever works for you! I think the butterfly label would work well.

  • Really any syringe will work, I just like the blunt tip ones for ink stuff because it's safer. Inks are fine on your hands, but if you accidentally pricked yourself with a sharp syringe filled with ink, I just can't think that most fountain pen inks would be very good inside your body 😛

  • Plume145

    oops, sorry, I just realized my reply from above should have been placed in reply to Rhea – it was a suggestion to the whole 'is there an app for keeping track of inks' question 🙂

    but thanks for replying to me anyway 🙂

  • Ah, haha! I was a little confused, but that's okay 😉

  • Scubagomer

    I love the little labels that come on my Ink Drops. I am trying to figure out a way to pair a small non-stick version of those with my pen case. So far I have too much information for my label size per pen slot. I try to celebate every failure with a new pen to keep my spirits up.

  • Cary Tyler

    Syringe fill! I just replaced two of my Pilot Petit cartridges with Herbin inks and I am quite pleased. I was "concerned" I was going to have to eyedropper it, but they are working great and the ink makes me enjoy my Petit much more. I plan to get a couple Platinum Preppy's and also a new Pilot Penmanship and a 78G but use the cartridge instead of the converter (I have a converter for another one I own). GouletPens…you have a regular customer from now on!

  • Derik Berwald

    Can you store ink in a syringe if you have a cap for the needle, or will the ink dry out in the syringe?

  • Cary Tyler

    Derik, I simply take the amount I need for the syringe fill, and then go ahead and rinse out the very little remaining ink left. I worry about ruining the syringe with dried ink, and quite frankly my wife would be quite happy to not have potential ink mess around.

  • Daniel

    How can you clean an used cartridge, so you can use a different ink in it?

  • instantloan

    I have never considered using medical syringes
    for ink. It is an impressive way to save money. It also eliminates the need to
    throw out your favorite pen because it ran out of ink. If you need help
    financially to get started you should consider a payday loan

  • Jessica

    Do you have any tips for filling a pen that opens from the back? For instance, some pens are designed so that to fill them, you twist the back end until the piston is resting at the bottom of the barrel, then you insert the whole tip into ink and twist the other way to suction-fill it. So in essence you don’t actually take apart the pen at all. I have such a pen and I want to be able to fill it with a syringe (because dipping the whole tip into the bottle is messy and because I can’t get the last bit out of my sample containers! :P) Any tips?