Let's talk about cartridges...
We love to get people into fountain pens (and ink), so I have decided to come up with something that would answer some basic questions about ink cartridges.
Cartridges are fountain pen refills and contain fountain pen ink. Most of the fountain pens which we sell will come with one. There are currently around 100 different colours available from 6 manufacturers in stock. Choosing the right cartridge can be tricky...
Compatibility - do you have the right cartridge?
Not all cartridges are the same, so let's dive into the compatibility first.
There are generally 2 kinds of cartridges: International standard and proprietary.
Proprietary cartridges are made by brands (for example Lamy) and will fit only their own pens. They are incompatible with pens from other brands. If your pen is made by one of the brands listed below you will need a cartridge made by the same brand:
Aurora, Cross, Lamy, Namiki, Parker, Pilot (some) Platinum, Sailor, Sheaffer, Waterman (some).
International standard cartridges do fit a lot of fountain pen brands - the ones which we stock are: Caran d'Ache, J Herbin, Kaweco, Pilot and Viking.
Here is a fairly long list of other fountain pen brands that use International short cartridges: Bexley, Centropen, Conklin, Delta, Diplomat, DuPont, Edison, Faber-Castell, Inoxcrom, Italix, J Herbin, Kaweco, Montblanc, Montegrappa, Monteverde, Ohto, Omas, Online, Pelikan, Pilot (some), Porsche, Recife, Retro51, Rotring, Schmidt, Schneider, Sigma, Stabilo, Stipula, Super5, Tombow, Viking, Visconti, Waterman (some), Yard-O-Led.
To make this a little bit complicated International cartridges come in long or short version. As a general rule short cartridges will fit all pens which take international cartridges. There are pens which will fit one long or two short cartridges at the same time - one in use and one spare in the barrel.
We have the pen and correct cartridge. Next up - how to install one...
- Disassemble the pen by taking the cap off and unscrew the pen barrel.
- Place the cartridge on the desk, lip (the part with little ball) facing up.
- Support the cartridge in one hand and push the front piece of the pen (grip, nib facing upwards) on the cartridge until it gets pierced.
- Reassemble the pen. Nib should be pointing downwards.
- Wait for the capillary action to do the job of distributing ink. You can also gently tap the nib on paper until you see ink coming out.
- Pen is ready to write :)
Please note there are different ways of doing this (let us know in comments what works for you) - some pen bodies allow you to insert the cartridge inside and screwed the barrel back on which pops the cartridge too. You can also just push the cartridge into the front part of the pen...
We also recommend to clean your pen before installing a new cartridge - especially if you plan to use a different ink.
If it doesn't fit...
- Have a look inside the barrel. Most pens (Kaweco) come with the cartridge inside the pen.
- Some manufacturers put a blunt cartridge/spacer in the pen barrel to prevent cartridges from rattling around during shipping. These items may become stuck inside the pen if you try to install a cartridge without removing them. Check for cartridges and spacers (Lamy uses paper ring) in a new pen by unscrewing the barrel and giving it a firm tap to dislodge anything that’s inside.
Monteverde - belongs to a special category because their cartridges actually work 2 ways. It is a double sided cartridge which can fit Lamy pens (wider end) or pens which take International standard long cartridges (slimmer end). If it doesn't fit try using the other end :)
Cartridge or converter?
That is a very good question.
Converters do open the doors to the world of ink, so you can use any ink you like. There are more colour options and brands to choose from. It is also more economical and environmentally friendly. We blogged about the price of fountain pen ink price here...
Cartridges are convenient, portable, clean, easy to use. You can take a few spares with you when you travel and don't ever have to worry about them leaking. If you get a syringe and blunt needle you can even refill them (couple of times).
Cartridges have less ink capacity than other filling systems. Personally I don't mind it because I like changing colours a lot :) Anyway, here is a quick info about the capacity of cartridges. I measured what I could and researched the rest. Please bear in mind that the cartridges are not completely filled, there is a small air bubble so there is a slight variance in capacity.