FP101 – Filling Mechanisms

There are several filling mechanisms used in fountain pens today. Here I show you how to fill each of 4 types, as well as the pros/cons of each one:

  • Cartridge (:28)/Converter (1:20)
  • Eyedropper (2:30)
  • Piston (4:08)
  • Vacuum (5:28)

There are certainly some other filling mechanisms like bulb, lever, crescent, blow, and button fillers, but those are mainly in vintage pens and not my area of expertise. This video should cover about 95% of pens you’ll see, especially newer ones.

Check out some Wikipedia filling mechanisms here.

Check out my other FP101 video on pen maintenance here.

See how to convert a pen to an eyedropper here.

See what uses you can have for an ink syringe here.

See how to get the most ink into your pen here.

Learn about the feed saturation filling method for your piston pen here.

See my full review of the TWSBI VAC-700 here, and how to fill it to the max here.

See the other Fountain Pen 101 videos here.

Photos of common Filling Mechanisms and how they work. Showcasing Kaweco, Lamy, TWSBI, Noodler's, and Pilot.

Write On,
Brian Goulet

2017-10-11T13:45:51+00:00 June 22nd, 2012|Fountain Pen 101|13 Comments
  • Jerry R

    Believe it or not I was thinking about filler mechanisms this week so this was perfect timing Brian. All my pens are the cartridge/converter type and I either put the converter directly into the ink bottle to refill or fill the converter with a Goulet syringe (BTW, I really like). I tried refilling a pen this week by dipping the nib completely into the ink but the converter only filled up to less than a 1/4 of the way. I'm pretty sure the nib was completely under the ink. Not sure what I was or was not doing wrong? This brings up another question, what happens when the ink bottle gets down to a certain level where the ink level is too low where the nib is not below the ink level? Do you need to purchase another bottle of ink and combine the bottles?

  • Plume145

    I have a suggestion about the part where you talk about cartridges and converters. Might it perhaps be a good idea to explain how you can tell they have been fitted correctly? Specifically, how you can feel the 'click' of the cartridge seal being broken, but with the converter there isn't one (and that some converters screw into place). That way people who've never done this before know what to look for, and don't get stuck thinking their pen is faulty when the cartridge is simply not all the way in. 

    I'm trying to think like someone would who is a total newbie! It's hard because there was never a time when I *didn't* use FPs, so when I was a newbie with FPs I was a newbie at everything lol. But I think this is something that could confuse me if I was a switcher 🙂

  • This isn't too unusual for a pen inked up after cleaning (as opposed to when it still has ink in it and you're just refilling it). I have a video on how to get the most ink into your pen that should help: http://www.inknouveau.com/2010/12/getting-most-ink-into-your-fountain-pen.html

  • That's a great point. It's something I can probably mention in a more detailed cartridge/converter video (which I may do next week, not sure yet). The tough thing about this is that every pen is different, some pens click, some don't, others screw, you really get the full gammit. There's no way I can cover all pen types in one video, unless I just mention the fact that they can be different. 

    Yeah, the eyedropper conversion is totally reversible. There are some pens that are designed as eyedropper only though, so then you (obviously) would not be able to use a cartridge/converter in it. But if you have a C/C pen and convert it to eyedropper yourself, you can easily convert it back. Heck, you don't even have to take off the o-ring, all you need to do is clean the pen and then stick a cartridge or converter on it and keep on trucking!

  • Jerry R

    Thanks Brian! I'll give that a try and see how that works.

  • You're welcome, let me know how it goes!

  • Jerry R

    Sometimes it took the bubble longer to get worked out than other times. Thanks for the advice!

  • Mary Bucklew

    Any tips for crescent filler pens, like many of the Visconti’s?

  • Mary Bucklew

    Any tips for crescent filler pens, like many of the Visconti's?

  • Michael Soulier

    Hi. I’m having a problem with a new pen, which I have cleaned. It wrote fine with a cartridge, and now I’m using a converter. The converter fills fine, filling the feed, so it writes fine for a while. But, it seems as if the converter is not supplying ink to the feed so after time, the ink runs out. I can turn the piston on the converter and push more ink to the feed, but I shouldn’t have to. I’m wondering how to troubleshoot this. Thanks.

  • Michael Soulier

    Hi. I'm having a problem with a new pen, which I have cleaned. It wrote fine with a cartridge, and now I'm using a converter. The converter fills fine, filling the feed, so it writes fine for a while. But, it seems as if the converter is not supplying ink to the feed so after time, the ink runs out. I can turn the piston on the converter and push more ink to the feed, but I shouldn't have to. I'm wondering how to troubleshoot this. Thanks.

  • Katherine Stewart

    I recently got a Twsbi Eco, loving the pen but I’ve never used a piston filler before, kinda reminds me of a converter writ large, but with both systems once you’ve filled the pen is it recommended to push the plunger down as the pen empties or is it ok to just leave it? I’m about half way through my first fill of the Eco and I’ve noticed a lot of bubbles in the pen. The ink is flowing just fine I was just curious if this is something that should be done or if it’s just user preference.

    • Tom Johnson

      Katherine, I just visited this to get the URL for a friend who wants to know about fountain pens when I saw your question. This is 3-1/2 years old, and I don’t think Brian comes here looking to answer comments. You can contact him at Goulet Pens web site with questions (if you have not done that yet). Great question, and I can answer you. You do not need to run the plunger down as the reservoir fills with air or bubbles. The air space is not problem, just leave it. Now, if the pen and ink are cold, and you pick it up with a warm hand when there is a fair amount of air in the reservoir, the air expanding can often drive the ink out of the feed and nib, causing drops and blobbing. If this may be the case, you can carefully!!!! hold the pen with nib up, a paper towel or tissue handy under the nib to catch drops, and carefully run the piston down to the grip driving the air in the reservoir out of the end of the pen. You may also drive some of the ink in the grip section and feed out too as the air pushes against the ink in there. But in general, you do not need to do this. Going through all the Fountain Pen 101 videos you’ll find this and much much more answered in his wonderful videos. I love my Eco pen, just wonderful. My other TWSBI pens are great too (a Mini and two Vac-700’s), but the Eco is simpler and writes just as well, and hold an awful lot of ink.