After using fountain pens for a while, you begin to put together quite a collection of bits and pieces which add to the clutter of your desk drawers, but are utterly indispensable. And if you haven’t got any of these yet, then you should seriously reconsider your position. I wouldn’t have any of the fun with my collection that I do now, without each of these. Take a look below, and for those of you in the True North, Strong and Free, then I’ve provided a link to where you can get hold of whatever it is, cheaply and easily…
In the sections below, you’ll find several mentions of cleaning and refilling fountain pens, as if you know all there is to know on the subject. You probably don’t. I didn’t even know I should clean my fountain pen, until somebody asked me when the last time I had cleaned it was… I had to admit, never. So, here are a few helpful articles from some of the other wonderful blogs out there:
Best Fountain Pen: Syringe Refill A Cartridge
Best Fountain Pen: How To Clean A Fountain Pen
Wonder Pens: How to Clean a Fountain Pen with a Converter
Wonder Pens: Fountain Pen Cleaning & Maintenance – Some General Advice
Richard Binder: Workshop Notes
This booklet has been written as a guide to nib care & maintenance by a master of fountain pens, and customisation of nibs. If you’re interested in the topic, this man is one of the foremost authorities in the world.
(1) Sailor Ink Cartridges
If you have a Sailor pen, that isn’t the Professional Gear Realo with its piston-only filling mechanism, then you’ll need cartridges as well as the converter the pen gets supplied with. Now, I know most people in the fountain pen world value the extra capacity of piston-fillers, and yes, that’s great, I value that too, and have moaned about low-capacity cartridges and converters. Fine. But, only being able to fill your pen from a bottle of ink is a pain in the backside if you take your pens away from the office. You can’t conveniently fill a pen from a bottle of ink on a plane, and it’s risky on a bus, or a train. For me, the convenience of cartridges outweighs the convenience of capacity. Sailor cartridges contain approximately 0.9ml (0.03oz) of ink per cartridge, meaning you get about 10.8ml (0.37oz) per pack of 12.
Sailor Cartridge Pen Ink (Black), pack of 12
(2) International Converter
Any pens that can take a standard international ink cartridge, will also take an international converter, so you get the chance to fill from a bottle when it’s convenient. International standard converters like the Faber-Castell converter, contain approximately 0.7ml (0.02oz) of ink.
Faber-Castell International Standard Converter
Kaweco Converter – International Standard
(3) Platinum Converters
Platinum produce a range of pens from the extremely cheap Plaisir, to the excellent value for money Balance, and Cool, to the Century 3776; and in their respective price ranges, these pens are nothing short of amazing. The Platinum converters work with all of their range. It’s also worth noting that the Plaisir, Balance, and Cool are not supplied with converters, so you have to add that price to the pen, if you want to use bottled ink with a converter, and who wouldn’t? Also, their converters come in a gold finish, and a silver finish, and in my humble opinion, the silver looks far better with the Cool’s demonstrator and transluscent blue coloring, than the gold. Platinum converters contain approximately 0.7ml (0.02oz) of ink.
Platinum Converter – Gold Trim
Platinum Converter – Silver Trim
(4) to (7) A Range of Nice Ink Colors in Cartridges for Convenient Travel
(16) & (17) Proprietary Ink Cartridges
(18) Empty Proprietary Ink Cartridges
I travel quite a bit. I’m a British ex-patriot, living in Canada, and I travel by air frequently. Piston, vacuum, or syringe-filling fountain pens from bottles of ink is not easy on a plane, train, or automobile. Cartridges are convenient, and it’s nice to carry a range. Also, the truly excellent Platinum range has an adapter (see item number 20), to allow some of my favorite pens to use standard international cartridges. The inks I have listed here are some of my favorite examples of their color, they’re pretty fast-drying, and are great on good quality, and most cheap, types of paper. Standard international cartridges, contain approximately 0.75ml (0.03oz) of ink, meaning you get about 4.5ml (0.15oz) per pack of 6.
Proprietary ink cartridges (see number 1, above), like those for the Sailor (0.9ml/0.03oz), or Platinum (1.5ml/0.05oz) cartridges, usually contain more ink than the standard international cartridges, but the choices of colors are also more limited. But that doesn’t have to be quite so, if you save the empty ink cartridges (see number 18 on picture, above), and use an ink syringe (number 11, below), to fill them up with your favorite ink, then you can use whatever bottled ink you have on hand in the proprietary cartridge. One word of warning though, once used, cartridges are not leak-proof, and shouldn’t be trusted in a bag or pocket. Also, after several re-uses, you may find the used cartridge splits. Be wary of leaky, used cartridges.
(4) Blue: J. herbin Eclat de Saphir, pack of 6
(5) Green: J. Herbin Lierre Sauvage, pack of 6
(6) Red: J. Herbin Rouge Caroubier, pack of 6
(7) Black: J. Herbin Perle Noire, pack of 6
(16) Black: Platinum Cartridges, pack of 10
(17) Blue: Platinum Cartridges, pack of 10
(8) Lint-Free Cloth and a Packet of Tissues
Always have a nice, clean cloth, for wiping nibs, or buffing pens. I like using an optical lens cloth, the sort you get to polish eye-glasses, and I keep a packet of tissues handy for cleaning up drops of ink, or wiping the excess from freshly-filled pen sections. I pick these up in small multi-packs from Amazon, or wherever I see them selling cheaply.
AutoCare Microfiber Cleaning Cloths, pack of 8
(9) Bulb Syringe – 2 oz (60ml)
One of these can fit onto the post end of a nib unit and push clean water through the ink feed, and nib, flushing out your pen before you try a beautiful new ink. You wouldn’t want traces of the black you used last week, to come dribbling through the light green you’ve just loaded would you? Also, you can use it to draw up a large amount of ink from a bottle, and load it—slowly, and smoothly, or you’ll make a mess—into the barrel of, say, the Edison Collier, to give you a huge ink capacity.
Bulb Syringe – 2oz (60ml)
(10) Silicone Grease
This is basically the same material used by plumbers to lubricate and waterproof joints. Smear a very small amount (really, whatever you think is a small amount, less than that), on the threads of the Edison collier when you’ve filled the barrel with ink, and it’ll screw back together beautifully, and won’t leak a drop (probably). Or wipe a tiny amount around the edge of the moving parts of a converter, and it will operate smoothly and easily for a long, long time. Apply it with a plastic cocktail stick if you’re a little heavy-handed. Some people recommend cotton buds, but I don’t like getting the fuzzy mess of the cotton anywhere near my pens. Maybe that’s just me. Anyway, a small pot will last you many pens, and even more years.
Silicone Grease – 1/8 Oz (3.7ml)
(11) Ink Syringes
Ink syringes are great for re-filling used ink cartridges (see number 18, above), getting the last drop of ink from an odd-shaped bottle, or filling the barrel of a suitable pen. Whatever you need them for, they’re a must have.
Set of 2 Ink Syringes (3ml each)
(12) J. Herbin Pen Flush (15ml/0.5oz)
Some inks can be particularly stubborn, and some filling systems particualrly difficult to clean (I’m looking at you, Visconti Homo Sapiens); for those moments, you might need something a little stronger than room temperature water and a little dish soap. Enter the pen flush solution.
J. Herbin Pen Flush (15ml/0.5oz)
(13) Magnifying Lens
I have a pretty plain magnifying lens on the picture above, and it’s not very powerful. I’d recommend something better. Jennifer at Best Fountain Pen recommends an illuminated Jeweler’s Loupe, which you can pick up on Amazon for less than $20, and has up to a 60x magnification. I shall be ordering mine soon.
iKKEGOL 30x 60x Dual Lens Jewelers Eye Loupe Illuminated
(14) Spare Fountain Pen Nibs
If you depend on your fountain pens, or just value the writing experience they afford, ask yourself, “Can I be without [that pen] for any length of time?” Can you afford not to carry a spare nib or two? I’m not talking a $200 21K gold spare here, just a spare steel nib or two. And if you’re ever tempted to rub down a nib or two, you’d be crazy not to have a fall-back position if—as we Brit’s sometimes say, especially after an election—it all go’s pear-shaped.
Fountain Pen Nibs
Keep something in your kit that will let you get a hold of very small objects, gently, but firmly. E.g., getting hold of the Platinum cartridge adapters (see number 20, below), once they’ve been installed in a pen, can sometimes require deft handling.
(16) & (17) Proprietary Ink Cartridges
Never be caught without some easy to carry, easy to swap out, ink cartridges for your favorite pens.
(18) Empty Proprietary Ink Cartridges
Always useful; take those syringes at number (11), and use them to fill proprietary ink cartridges (which often hold large capacities), with your favorite inks… but be warned, carrying these around after they’ve been used and re-filled, can mean leakages and mess. Remember, you’ve broken a factory seal by using them in the first place.
(19) Silica Xerogel / Silica Gel
A granular form of silicon dioxide, in a synthetic preparation of sodium silicate (SiO2), it can be found in small packets, used to maintain a dry atmosphere in things like bottles of tablet medication (e.g., ibuprofen). If you’ve just washed out a pen and converter, and don’t plan on using that pen for a few days, then a couple of packets of silica gel can be useful to help stop mildew forming in a converter, or worse. These are always worth having around.
(20) Platinum Cartridge Adapters
Insert one of these into the section of a Platinum pen, at the base of the nib unit, and push home an international cartridge, or converter (though Platinum converters would be better), and you’re good to go. These are an excellent idea, and extremely convenient, but they can fit a little snugly… don’t forget to have number 16 on hand when you want to remove one.
Platinum Cartridge Adapter
(21) J. Herbin Blotting Paper
Almost no ink dries fast enough for me, and sometimes, you might want to dry the ink on the page, before moving your hand over the text, to add something else… so you’ll need blotting paper. It doesn’t have to J. Herbin of course, but I think it looks quite elegant, and it’s just a nice size to slip a sheet into each of my A5 journals, so that I’m not caught out without one anywhere I go.
J. Herbin Blotting Paper (10 Sheets) – White