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Ways to Fill a Fountain Pen

Early fountain pens had to be filled with the help of an eyedropper, which was a fiddly and cumbersome process. The turn of the 20th century brought the first mass-produced self-filling models and by 1915, most fountain pens were supplied with a soft rubber ink reservoir.

There were many different filling mechanisms on the market, but they all employed a metal plate that applied pressure on the rubber ink sac. The nib was then inserted into the ink bottle and the plate released to allow the rubber sac to fill up with fresh ink.

In 1929, Pelikan introduced a piston filler with a screw mechanism. It drew a piston up in to the barrel when a knob at the end of the pen was turned, and the ink was sucked in to the reservoir. Piston fillers are still used today.

Schaeffer’s Touchdown Filler arrived in 1949, and also remains in use to this day. You unscrew a knob at the end of the barrel and pull the plunger out to its full length. Then you immerse the nib in the ink, push the plunger and release it, and the air pressure produced will allow the reservoir to fill up.

Other fountain pen manufacturers offer their own filling systems, but they all operate on similar principles. Ink cartridges were introduced in early the 1950s, and were in widespread use by the 1960s thanks to their ease of use. Most cartridge pens can also be used with a converter, which creates a refillable ink reservoir.

Despite the convenience afforded by the cartridge, many fountain pen fans now prefer to fill their pens themselves, not least because the filling action gives the pen a good cleaning at the same time.

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