Ink is the lifeblood of any fountain pen, and it comes in two forms: a cartridge and a bottle. The cartridge is slimmer and more portable, but lacks the color selection and size of the classic glass bottle. If you want to try strange and wonderful colors like Rouge Hematite and Peacock, or just want to find the ultimate shade of black, you'll probably need a fountain pen converter.
WHAT IS A CONVERTER?
A converter is a suction tool with an ink reservoir that enables you to use any bottled ink. It can be plugged into your fountain pen just like a cartridge. However, in order to use a converter, your fountain pen:
1. Must have a cartridge-converter filling mechanism.
2. Must be compatible with the converter.
Let's unpack these two requirements. Every fountain pen has a filling mechanism, or way of drawing and storing ink. The various filling mechanisms are: cartridge, cartridge-converter, piston, eyedropper, and vacuum. Cartridge pens only take ink cartridges, piston pens have a built-in piston that transfers ink directly from the nib to the reservoir, eyedropper pens are filled using an eyedropper, and so on. Cartridge-converter fountain pens are the most common, and can use both ink cartridges and converters, depending on your preference.
Now, assuming that you have a cartridge-converter fountain pen, you must select the right converter for it. All of our converters are displayed here, and the individual converter pages list the fountain pens they're compatible with. For an example, the Lamy Z24 Converter works for all Lamy Safari, Al-Star, and Vista fountain pens. Typically, the converter has to be the same brand as the fountain pen -- you wouldn't use the Lamy Z24 Converter for a Pilot fountain pen.
HOW TO USE A PISTON CONVERTER
The guide below pertains specifically to piston converters. You can find the guide for using bladder converters here.
Supplies Needed: Fountain pen, converter, bottle of ink.
1. Push the air out of the piston converter by twisting it counterclockwise.
2. Remove the cap of the fountain pen and unscrew the nib from the barrel.
3. Push the converter into the fountain pen nib until it feels secure
4. Draw ink from the bottle by submerging the nib of the fountain pen and twisting the converter clockwise to suction up ink.
5. Twist the converter counterclockwise to force air out of the converter. This will force air bubbles out of the converter and maximize the amount of ink drawn into the fountain pen.
6. Repeat Step #4 to suction up more ink.
7. Reassemble your fountain pen with the converter inside.
If you have difficulty filling the converters using this method, you can also remove the converter from the pen, transfer ink to it with an eyedropper, and re-attach the converter to the pen when it's full.
The Lamy Z24 Converter and Lamy Z26 Converter both have a maximum capacity of about 0.6 mL, which is around half the capacity of a Lamy ink cartridge. The Z24 can be used for the Lamy Safari, Vista, Al-Star, and Joy, while the Z26 is compatible with the Lamy Logo, Studio, and CP1.
Again, there are two options: the Pilot CON-20 Converter and the Pilot CON-50 Converter. Both hold a maximum of about 1 mL and work with most Pilot fountain pens, including the Prera, Capless, Metropolitan, Penmanship, Plumix, Vanishing Point, and Lucina. The main difference between the two converters is the method of drawing ink, with the CON-20 using a bladder "squeeze" mechanism (see tutorial here) and the CON-50 using a piston "twist" system.
The converter is just one of many ways to fill a fountain pen. You can also switch back to ink cartridges, convert your fountain pen into an eyedropper pen, or buy a piston filler like the Lamy 2000. It all depends on what your priorities are, and whether you value capacity, color options, or convenience most.
Which method do you like best? Cartridges, converters, or something else?
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