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Fountain Pen Inking Systems

Here are the Fountain Pen Inking Systems available at JEB’s PENs

I’m pleased to be able to offer a variety of inking systems in my fountain pens.

While the vast majority of pens come with a standard C/C (cartridge/converter) inking system, there are several other systems that are currently available. And I’m always looking for new systems that I may be able to offer. So if you don’t see your favorite here right now, I may have it in the future.

Currently, I’m able to offer the following alternative inking systems for my fountain pens: eyedropper, button, lever, bulb, and Vacumatic. Please note: for the fans of the piston filler, unfortunately, that is no longer available.

I should also mention here that most of my fountain pen styles can be converted into rollerball or ballpoint pens as well.

In case there are any of these systems that you’re not familiar with, I have listed a little information on how each of them works below. Click the titles to drop down the page to that system information. If you have any additional questions about any of the systems, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

(Click each photo to enlarge.)

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Rollerball Nose Cone Options

Large Gold-tone
Nose Cone

Rollerball Pen Large Nose Cone Close-up

Small Gold-tone
Nose Cone

Rollerball Pen Small Nose Cone Close-up

Small Rhodium
Nose Cone

Rollerball Pen Small Rhodium Nose Cone Close-up

This system is very similar to that used in very famous Parker Vacumatic pens. It consists of a one-piece mechanism that screws into the top of the barrel (once the correct-size holes are drilled and tapped). It includesdes an oring, so as you screw it down, it will self-seal. This allows it to be easily taken apart for cleaning. Before assembly silicone grease is applied to the rubber seal and inside of the barrel. This aids sealing and avoids excessive wear on the rubber seal. So if you remove it for cleaning, just be sure to apply a liberal amount of grease around the rubber seal as well as a thin layer inside the upper end of the barrel.

The only other part used in the system is a breather tube which is attached to the back of the section housing (shown in black in the photo). The breather tube allows the air inside the barrel to be expelled as ink is drawn ink into the reservoir through a second hole in the back of the nib housing.

One of the most popular fountain pen inking systems is the button filler. The name offers a hint of how it works. To put it in the simplest terms, a button is pushed to fill the pen. While that sounds simple, there is a fairly complex system inside the barrel that allows the system to work. The three main parts of a button-filler are: the button, a pressure bar, and an ink sac.

The button is hidden under a small cap at the end of the barrel that’s called a blind-cap. The ink sac is a flexible rubber tube that stores the ink with the open end attached to the section. Between the button and ink sac is the pressure-bar. The pressure-bar is a flat metal bar that pushes down on the ink sac when you press the Button. That action collapses the sac, forcing air out and allowing ink in. So when you press the Button, air is forced out (seen as bubbles in the ink bottle). Then, when you release the button, the vacuum created once the air is expelled slowly pulls ink up into the sac.

To fill a button-filler, you first need a bottle of ink. And the ink level in the jar must be high enough to cover the nib and part of the section when submerged. So open the ink bottle, then submerge the nib and the front of the section into the ink. Then, while keeping them submerged, press the button fully. When you press the button, air is expelled and seen as bubbles in the ink. Then quickly release the Button while continuing to keep the parts submerged. Now wait several seconds (at least 10–15, as it takes a little while for the ink to draw up into the sac).

Then repeat the process a few more times until you can no longer see bubbles when you press the button. Once you no longer see bubble, the pen should be full. Remove the pen from the jar and wipe it clean. That’s all there is to it! If you want to change inks, then perform the same action, but with water first to thoroughly flush out the system until you can flush clear water.

Although a button-filler system was used in quite a few vintage pens, one of the downsides I found with it when compared with other systems is the volume of ink it will hold. The smaller the pen barrel diameter, the smaller the ink sac will be. This is because the barrel needs room inside for the pressure bar. So in a small-diameter barrel, the pressure bar can be larger than the ink sac.

The lever-filler was another popular fountain pen inking systems used in vintage pens. While a button-filler uses a button, just as the name suggests, a lever-filler uses a lever instead. The lever is mounted on the side of the barrel and uses a similar pressure bar.

The filling process for a lever-filler is also the same as a button-filler. But here, instead of compressing a Button, you’re lifting a LEVER. The Lever is hinged in the center. So as you raise one end of the lever, the other end presses against the Pressure-bar, forcing it to compress the Sac and push out the air. Then you simply flip the Lever back down to bring in ink. And just like the button-filler, you repeat the process until you no longer see any air bubbles.

Just like the other systems, the name hints at how it might work. This time, a part referred to as a BULB is what you interact with to fill the pen. The bulb is basically a large ink SAC. But instead of storing the ink you use the bulb to create the air/ink exchange.

With the exception of the eyedropper, this system uses the least amount of parts but is typically the trickiest system to get setup. To cause the movement of the air/ink exchange, a Bulb-filler requires a BREATHER-TUBE. The Breather-tube forces the air out through one area of the nib feed, allowing the ink to come in through another area of the nib feed.

To fill the pen, you press the bulb quickly and then watch for the air bubbles. Then, as with the other systems, release the bulb and wait a few seconds for the ink to work its way up into the reservoir inside the barrel. And like the button and lever systems, you have to repeat the procedure several more times. Just like the Eyedropper, you can order your Bulb-filler with an INK-VIEW as described in the Eyedropper section.

Of all the various filling systems, the EYEDROPPER is the most basic. And of all the various systems, it may be the only one to have you scratching your head at first, wondering how it might work. But the name actually hints to its method. And once you understand what the term actually represents (hint) in the application, the naming becomes quite clear.

Give up? OK. Its called an eyedropper because you use an eyedropper to fill it. You see, the Eyedropper doesn’t have ANY internal parts. You simply use an eyedropper to fill the cavity in the barrel directly with ink where the cartridge or converter would normally go.

But the key to the system working properly is to ensure you have an airtight seal. If you don’t, the ink will just bleed out. This means the section must have an airtight seal against the barrel to avoid leaks.

Theoretically, any C/C pen could be an eyedropper simply by creating that seal. So most of the time, pen enthusiasts will convert a standard C/C pen into an eyedropper by simply applying a liberal amount of silicone grease to the section threads. The grease closes up any gaps in the threads and will usually create a seal.

However, if you order your pen as an eyedropper, it will come with a special O-ring fitted to the section. The O-ring takes the place of the silicone and will create that seal. So all you’ll have to do is fill the barrel with either an eyedropper or a small syringe and screw on the section. Although there are a few exceptions, most of my pens can be set up as eyedroppers.

One advantage of using the barrel itself as the ink storage in the eyedropper is that it holds a larger volume of ink. A second is that you can add a transparent ink-view window to the barrel. And ink-view windows can be clear or colored transparent acrylic. I offer several different styles of Ink-view barrels: a) as a small clear section in the barrel; b) as just a small clear DOT; or c) as a completely clear barrel.

Unfortunately, this system is no longer available. But I thought I’d leave the information so you can read about it or compare it with the other systems.

PISTON-filler systems work by the same push-air-out and draw-ink-in principles as the other mechanical filler systems. Some use a threaded piston shaft, others use a smooth shaft. A standard converter is an example of a piston filler that uses a threaded shaft. To move the piston, you twist the knob. The vacumatic system at the top of the page is an example of a smooth shaft. That system is spring-loaded. So when you push down the shaft, the spring makes it return.

The system I was using was one piece with a threaded shaft. Turning the blind cap moves the piston up and down. It works much the same way as a standard converter, but with the advantage of storing a larger volume of ink.

I have a plunger system that I’ve been working on, but it’s not available yet. It’s one of the more traditional piston systems that you can find in many older pens, but it’s a little more challenging to pull off in a handmade pen. I’m hoping I can offer one at some point in the future.

I never thought of including these with the fountain systems, but after getting questions about whether I offered them, I thought maybe it would be a good idea to include rollerball pens here. So here they are! I can convert most of my fountain pens to rollerball or ballpoint pens. Over the years, the line between rollerball and ballpoint has kind of blurred. Many refer to both as ballpoints—even some manufacturers.

Although there are a few other subtle mechanical differences between rollerball and ballpoint refills, the main difference is in the ink. Rollerball inks have less viscosity and are typically water-based. Because of this, rollerball inks take longer to dry. And because of the difference in viscosity, another term used to define a rollerball is ‘GEL’. Parker, for example, calls their roller-ball refill a GEL ballpoint. So you can see how people could very easily mix them up.

Normally, how I approach making a roller-ball or ball-point is to use the standard fountain pen section (for the specific pen style), then add a ‘nose cone’. Most manufacturers use a plain tapered section, but I prefer keeping the original-style section. But if you prefer the tapered section, I can make those too.

Metal nose-cones: As shown in the photo’s, I offer two different metal nose-cone styles (also called ‘tips’). The large cone is only available in gold. The small cone is available in gold, rhodium, and nickel. And if you prefer, I can also make a fully acrylic nose cone.

Rollerball Refill styles: Their are several refill styles available: Parker, Schmidt, and Pilot all make them. The Pilot (G2) is the longest, so they only work in the larger/longer pens. The Parker is the most versatile because Parker makes a rollerball refill that has the exact same design and size as their ballpoint refill. They call it a ‘liquid ballpoint’, but that’s actually all a rollerball is. Rollerball’s simply uses a lower-viscosity ink than a ballpoint.

The Schmidt Rolling Righter is a rare bird. It’s a rollerball ‘front end’ that can replace a Schmidt brand fountain pen nib. It has the same shape and thread size as the nib housing. So if you’ve never heard of the Rolling Righter, you’re not alone.

Schmidt offers the Rolling-Righter as a replacement or swap-out to replace their fountain pen nibs. So unless you’re into Schmidt fountain pens, you most likely wouldn’t be familiar with them.

What makes the Rolling Righter really unique is that it uses fountain pen ink. The back end is just like a fountain pen nib housing. So if you have a Schmidt pen with a Schmidt nib, you can swap the fountain pen nib or the Rolling Righter. Then it works just like a C/C (cartridge/converter) fountain pen by installing the cartridge or converter as you normally would at the back of it, as if it were a fountain pen. Pretty Cool!

Although the Rolling Righter is a swap-out part, I can make a pen specifically for it. However, I also stock Schmidt nibs. So if you’d like a pen capable of swapping, you can get one with both. The Schmidt nibs are about the size of a #5 Jowo, so they look best in smaller pens. So if you would like to try a Rolling Righter, just let me know.

Miscellaneous items:
I also offer a variety of hand-made pen-related items. Pen Props, pen cap Buttons, Pen and Ink Trays, Cufflinks, and Button Covers. Use a Pen Props to display a pen or temporarily raise the nib. Order in a pen-matching material or a wooden style in a variety of finishes. Cap Buttons are small pieces of cap jewelry you can add to a clipless pen to keep it from rolling. Use a Pen & Ink Trays to display your favorite pen and ink. Trays are available in several styles and in your choice of natural wood. Cufflinks and Button Covers are timeless favorites that dress up a shirt. Order them in pen-matching material.

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To custom order any of the pens you see on my website for yourself or as a gift, please contact me at jeb<@>

If you need fountain pen maintenance help (cleaning, refilling, or general issues), please visit my “Fountain Pen Help Line” page. If you’re having a problem and can’t find a solution, use the contact form or send an email.

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