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Pen Refill Guide


​Ballpoint Pen Refill

​Ballpoint pens are the most common writing instrument used today. For ink to flow, pressure is put on the metal tip (or ballpoint). The tip rotates, coating the ball, and transfers ink to paper. Ballpoints use oil-based ink, which is thick, dries faster, and smears less.


​Ballpoint Pen Refill Types

To reload a ballpoint with ink, a refill is needed. Refills are thin metal or plastic tubes filled with ink, which are inserted into the barrel of the ballpoint pen.

Ballpoint pen refill types are standard and proprietary. Many models can often use standard refills, such as those from Monteverde and Schneider. Other ballpoint pen brands such as Caran d’Ache, Fisher Space Pen, and Ohto are proprietary. This means that they can only use the refills provided by the pen’s manufacturer.

​Fountain Pen Refill

​Fountain pens are the choice for a smooth writing experience. Through the use of gravity, capillary action allows ink to flow from a reservoir inside of the pen to the nib. Fountain pens use water-based ink, which is less-permanent than oil-based ink.

​Fountain Pen Refill Types

​There are two (2) types of fountain pen refilling systems:

Cartridges    and     Bottled Ink

Cartridges are disposable, plastic tubes pre-filled with ink. They are placed inside of the fountain pen’s barrel. Cartridges are transparent so the user to see the ink level and color. When inserted into the fountain pen, the feed pierces the cartridge, allowing ink to flow. When ink runs out, the cartridge is removed and replaced. 

Fountain pen cartridges fall into two (2) categories:

​International standard ink cartridges

Pen Refill Guide

Proprietary ink cartridges

International standard ink cartridges are available in short or long sizes. They are also called  “Standard International cartridges” or simply shortened to “International”. International standard ink cartridges are used in a variety of pen models.

  • Short international ink cartridges are 38mm long and can fit most fountain pens. They have a smaller capacity for ink and may last only a few hours of use. 
  • Long international ink cartridges are 73mm long, but do not fit all fountain pens. The diameter and shape of long international ink cartridges vary by manufacturer. Long cartridges have the ability to hold enough ink for a week or two.
Pen Refill Guide - Bottled Ink

Bottled Ink - For this method, bottled ink and a storage mechanism are used. Converters, ink bladders, and built-ins are common refilling methods when using bottled ink.

  • ​A converter is an ink reservoir with a knob or screw at the top. It attaches to the nib and grip. Unlike disposable cartridges, converters are refillable. Converters create suction to take in ink from an ink bottle through the nib and into the reservoir. To draw ink from a bottle, there are two types of converters: piston (that uses a twist action) and squeeze.
  • An ink bladder (or ink sac) is a refillable reservoir with a plastic sac that is stored inside of the pen’s barrel. A compressing and releasing action on the sac pulls bottled ink into the reservoir.
  • Built-in systems allow for refilling straight from the bottle without the use of another component. There are two types of built-in filling systems: piston and vacuum. Pistons use a twist action to pull in ink while vacuum systems use a plunger.

​Rollerball Refills

​Rollerball pens combine the superior writing experience of a fountain pen with the convenience of ballpoint pens. Ink is transferred from the reservoir to paper through a tiny ball, similar to a ballpoint pen. Thin water-based inks are used in rollerball pens. This ink is typically in liquid or gel form, and takes longer to dry.


Source: cross.com

​Rollerball Refill Types

​As with ballpoint pens, rollerball pens use a refill to replenish ink. This is a thin metal or plastic tube with a reservoir of ink that is placed in the barrel of the pen.

A majority of rollerball pens can loaded with ink using a standard refill size, such as the Private Reserve by Schmidt. Other pens are proprietary, meaning they can be refilled only with the pen brand’s refills. Lamy, Montegrappa, and Pilot rollerball pens are proprietary.

Some rollerball pens are designed to use fountain pen ink. These rollerballs can use bottled fountain pen ink or standard international short cartridges.

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