Carrying A Spare Fountain Pen Ink Cartridge

If you’re an ink cartridge user, here’s a neat trick for carrying around a spare one in your pen so you can easily replace it on the go. Basically, just take a small standard international cartridge (often referred to just as a standard international cartridge), flip it around, put it in the body of the pen, and then install a cartridge just like normal in the grip of the pen and assemble it. You then have a spare to carry around in your pen for when you cartridge runs out and you’re in the middle of a meeting or traveling somewhere that you don’t have ink handy. This trick works for all pens that accept a standard international cartridge/converter, as two short standard international cartridges back to back is almost exactly the length of a converter.

I doubt this will work for brands with proprietary cartridges, most of them tend to be longer and I can’t see them fitting doubled-up in a pen (think Lamy, Pilot, Platinum). But pens like Monteverde, Jinhao, Edison, J. Herbin, Delta, Pelikan, Stipula, Omas, Mont-Blanc and others could all benefit from this little trick. Just make sure you’re keeping a spare of the same ink in both cartridges, otherwise you’ll get an interesting blend!

Be sure to check out the Goulet cartridge/converter guide, it’s not exhaustive but it shows a number of popular brands and what type of cartridges they take. Popular ink brands that make standard international cartridges include Diamine, Private Reserve, Monteverde, Pelikan, Mont-Blanc, Kaweco, Montegrappa, Omas, Delta, and many others.

Write On,
Brian Goulet

2017-10-11T14:05:36+00:00 May 21st, 2014|Tips & Tricks|47 Comments
  • DBI

    This is exactly the kind of information I didn’t know I needed that keeps me coming back! I am a converter person myself but I always have a spare cartridge or two in my bag for “just in case”. This is great back-up info!!!

    • TheOriginalLiz

      I do the same thing – an empty altoid tin of emergency supplies includes an ink cartridge.

    • Great! Yeah, this kind of tip is something a lot of people already know, but it was new to me so I thought I’d share!

  • Drid

    With some pens putting the lower cartridge base down does not work due to the wider bottom on the cartridge and the tapered body or ridges inside at the bottom of the body. In this case sometimes putting the first cartridge in with the base up does the trick allowing the narrower top of the cartridge to settle in the narrowed body base.

    • me

      That is what Brian describes above when he says to flip the bottom cartridge around.

    • This is true, you’ll have to do a little trial and error to see what works.

  • Drid

    With some pens putting the lower cartridge base down does not work due to the wider bottom on the cartridge and the tapered body or ridges inside at the bottom of the body. In this case sometimes putting the first cartridge in with the base up does the trick allowing the narrower top of the cartridge to settle in the narrowed body base.

  • TheOriginalLiz

    I do the same thing – an empty altoid tin of emergency supplies includes an ink cartridge.

  • I S

    Needless to say, this does not work in the shorter pens, like Kawecos…

    • Right you are. Basically, whatever pen takes a normal Standard International converter will take 2 cartridges.

  • I S

    Needless to say, this does not work in the shorter pens, like Kawecos…

  • Julie

    I would be a bit cautious about the spare cartridge business. The average converter is as long as two standard cartridges, but not quite as wide. There are probably a lot of pens where that would work, but some pens might be a bit narrow toward the end of the barrel, and that could cause a problem. I tried that back to back cartridge trick with a Signum pen a few years ago and the first cartridge got stuck. I eventually got it out, but had a very hard time doing so, and basically had to destroy the cartridge. I am not sure how to make sure that there isn’t a narrowing inside the pen body, besides peering into it with a flashlight, but I think something like that would be a good idea.

    • TJ

      You need to drop the two cartridges in the barrel back to back first WITHOUT USING FORCE and see if they drop in and out easily. Check to see if the height of the top cartridge in the barrel is below the section end when it is screwed in. I have had brand new pens that came this way, un-inked, both cartridges were in the barrel base to base. Check for good clearance first. You are lucky you did not have to damage the pen.

      • Julie

        I did drop the first cartridge in without any special force, and yet it stuck. I didn’t harm the pen in any noticeable way, but scratched up the inside some when I was trying, and trying to get the cartridge out. My experience is probably not very common, but I wanted to let others know about it, so that they are prepared for the possibility,

        • Yikes, I’m sorry about that, Julie. This is definitely a YMMV (you mileage may vary) kind of situation.

  • Julie

    I would be a bit cautious about the spare cartridge business. The average converter is as long as two standard cartridges, but not quite as wide. There are probably a lot of pens where that would work, but some pens might be a bit narrow toward the end of the barrel, and that could cause a problem. I tried that back to back cartridge trick with a Signum pen a few years ago and the first cartridge got stuck. I eventually got it out, but had a very hard time doing so, and basically had to destroy the cartridge. I am not sure how to make sure that there isn't a narrowing inside the pen body, besides peering into it with a flashlight, but I think something like that would be a good idea.

  • David

    A standard cart for all intents holds the same amount of ink as two short carts. So just use a standard cart to begin with.

    • dogs

      Then when it is empty you have no backup. Using gives you reserve to keep writing until you can get hold of another cartridge. You don’t have to dig in your bag or purse, riffle through drawers, etc. Brian’s first sentence says this.

      • David

        Exactly my point – what’s the point of having to change carts between TWO smalls when ONE standard holds the same amount if ink as two small carts? Unless you are packing additional carts with you somewhere else, when you are out of ink – you are out.

        • Reynard

          You get a “warning” at 50%, that’s the difference. What if your big cartridge is at 5%? You either need to carry another outside the pen or top it off with a syringe. Same thing with flashlight batteries, for that matter, except you can use your spare a little bit

          • Not only that, but most of the ink companies I know that offer short carts don’t offer long ones. Diamine, PR, J. Herbin…

          • macuaig

            I agree it’s having the warning in this case, if that appeals to you. It’s much like many motorcycle gas tanks, which feed fuel through an upright tube in the bottom of the tank. The tube has a slit near the bottom, so you actually run out of gas early – then flip a lever to open the slit, and you have another 30-40 miles to find a gas station. Nifty little alarm, which the two cartridges provide, too.

  • David

    A standard cart for all intents holds the same amount of ink as two short carts. So just use a standard cart to begin with.

  • dogs

    Then when it is empty you have no backup. Using gives you reserve to keep writing until you can get hold of another cartridge. You don't have to dig in your bag or purse, riffle through drawers, etc. Brian's first sentence says this.

  • Nicole

    I’m sorry but i can’t stop laughing!
    I started using fountain pens more then 30 years ago and we used to do this at that time so it’s as old as the path to Rome……i can’t believe no-one ever thought of that before!

    • Like a lot of my readers/viewers, I started out new in this fountain pen scene and have to learn tricks like this somewhere!

  • Nicole

    I'm sorry but i can't stop laughing!
    I started using fountain pens more then 30 years ago and we used to do this at that time so it's as old as the path to Rome……i can't believe no-one ever thought of that before!

  • Julie

    I did drop the first cartridge in without any extra force, and yet it stuck anyway. I did scratch up the inside of the barrel while I was trying, and trying, to get the cartridge out. I know that my experience is probably not common, but wanted to let people know that it can happen with some pens, so that they know to be prepared.

  • Julie

    I did drop the first cartridge in without any extra force, and yet it stuck anyway. I did scratch up the inside of the barrel while I was trying, and trying, to get the cartridge out. I know that my experience is probably not common, but wanted to let people know that it can happen with some pens, so that they know to be prepared.

  • Julie

    I did drop the first cartridge in without any special force, and yet it stuck. I didn't harm the pen in any noticeable way, but scratched up the inside some when I was trying, and trying to get the cartridge out. My experience is probably not very common, but I wanted to let others know about it, so that they are prepared for the possibility,

  • David

    Exactly my point – what's the point of having to change carts between TWO smalls when ONE standard holds the same amount if ink as two small carts? Unless you are packing additional carts with you somewhere else, when you are out of ink – you are out.

  • Anon_RD

    You get a "warning" at 50%, that's the difference. What if your big cartridge is at 5%? You either need to carry another outside the pen or top it off with a syringe. Same thing with flashlight batteries, for that matter, except you can use your spare a little bit

  • Reynard

    This is standard practice, and some pens come with two cartridges installed. If they fit, it’s a good idea not just for the spare ink, but also to have something to keep the in-use cartridge from coming loose and leaking ink. I use a cut-down empty in Kaweco sports for that purpose. Wish there was a metal weight available that was just the right size for those pens.

    • There aren’t that many pens I’ve seen that have come with two carts installed, honestly.

  • Anon_RD

    This is standard practice, and some pens come with two cartridges installed. If they fit, it's a good idea not just for the spare ink, but also to have something to keep the in-use cartridge from coming loose and leaking ink. I use a cut-down empty in Kaweco sports for that purpose. Wish there was a metal weight available that was just the right size for those pens.

  • Great! Yeah, this kind of tip is something a lot of people already know, but it was new to me so I thought I'd share!

  • nice! oh yeah, that'd work great.

  • Right you are. Basically, whatever pen takes a normal Standard International converter will take 2 cartridges.

  • This is true, you'll have to do a little trial and error to see what works.

  • Yikes, I'm sorry about that, Julie. This is definitely a YMMV (you mileage may vary) kind of situation.

  • Not only that, but most of the ink companies I know that offer short carts don't offer long ones. Diamine, PR, J. Herbin…

  • Like a lot of my readers/viewers, I started out new in this fountain pen scene and have to learn tricks like this somewhere!

  • Good point.

  • There aren't that many pens I've seen that have come with two carts installed, honestly.

  • macuaig

    I agree it's having the warning in this case, if that appeals to you. It's much like many motorcycle gas tanks, which feed fuel through an upright tube in the bottom of the tank. The tube has a slit near the bottom, so you actually run out of gas early – then flip a lever to open the slit, and you have another 30-40 miles to find a gas station. Nifty little alarm, which the two cartridges provide, too.