There are several filling mechanisms used in fountain pens today. The main types of filling mechanisms include Cartridge, Converter, Eyedropper, Piston, Sac, and Vacuum. Each has its own method for how to fill the fountain pen with ink, as well as how to clean it out. There are pros and cons to each type of filling mechanism.
Main Types of Filling Mechanisms:
An ink cartridge is a small, disposable, sealed plastic reservoir that holds fountain pen ink. Some pen brands use their own proprietary style, though many use a standard international (short or long) size cartridge. A cartridge-style fountain pen is filled by inserting one of these prefilled ink cartridges.
A converter is a detachable, refillable ink reservoir that allows you to use bottled ink in a cartridge pen. Fountain pens that have this option are often referred to as Cartridge/Converter pens.
This type of fountain pen utilizes the entire barrel as a reservoir for ink. Ink is filled directly into the barrel, allowing for a high ink capacity. This can be done with an eyedropper or an ink syringe. Some pens are eyedropper-only, meaning they do not accept a cartridge or converter, while others allow for these methods too.
A type of filling system that uses a retracting plunger inside a sealed tube to draw ink into the pen. A piston filling mechanism can either be screw or push operated, though the screw/twist type is the most common.
Primarily found in vintage fountain pens, a sac is an ink reservoir typically made of silicone or latex. The pen is filled by first collapsing the sac to release the air, and then it fills with ink. It can be attached to the pen such as in the style of crescent-fillers or level-fillers, or as part of a converter, called aerometric.
These fountain pens have a push-style piston that uses vacuum-pressure to fill the large pen body with ink. They seal the ink chamber when closed, making it more ideal for flying (air pressure changes) without risk of the ink leaking.
How to Fill Each Type of Fountain Pen:
In this video, I'll show you how to fill the basic types of fountain pens, 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.
- How to Install a Fountain Pen Ink Cartridge
- How to Use a Vac Filler Fountain Pen
- How to Fill a Pilot Vanishing Point Fountain Pen
- How to Fill a Noodler's Ahab Flex Pen
- How to Clean a Cartridge/Converter Pen
- How to Clean a Piston-Filler Pen
- How to Eyedropper Convert a Platinum Preppy (though this method works for some other pen models too)