Several people have asked, in response to my post titled My Ideal Idea Book: What’s Yours post, what an eye-dropper pen was and how to make one. I dropped the reference into that post without realizing that I was talking to people who don’t hang out in the fountain pen world and I apologize for not providing a more complete explanation.
The typical, modern fountain pen uses an ink cartridge. These are convenient, but they do have a few drawbacks. They contain very little ink, typically half a milliliter or less. You are also limited by the colors and kinds of ink available in cartridge form. Cartridges are also the most expensive way to feed a fountain pen.
So, many people replace the cartridge with a converter that allows you to suck up ink from a bottle and so your choices improve and your costs drop considerably.
What is not solved by this approach is the amount of ink stored in the pen. But, what if you could fill up the entire barrel of the pen with ink? A $3-4 Preppy pen barrel will hold 4-4.5 milliliters, or about nine times as much ink as is contained in a cartridge.
And so the “eyedropper pen” is born, taking its name from the way you fill the barrel of the pen – with an eyedropper. Here is my editing pen. Everyone knows that editors use a lot of red ink so it’s a natural for eyedropper pen conversion.
To do the conversion you need several things:
1) A pen that has no holes in its barrel.
The popular Lamy Safari is an example of a pen that won’t work without modification as there are large holes so you can see how much ink is left in your cartridge.
2) small rubber washers
You can buy these at Home Depot but what they have available are thicker than is generally desireable. While they will work, they create an unsightly lump along the body of the pen. I bought a bunch of proper-size washers from Goulet Pens for a buck. These are very thin and don’t protrude once you close up the pen.
3) silicone grease
Some say you don’t need this. When it comes to ink I want everything I can get between it and my fingers. This grease comes from Goulet Pens as well. Might cost $1.50 for a lifetime supply of the stuff.
4) a few seconds of your time
I mention this only to emphasize how easy it is. Here’s what you do:
1) open up the pen, discarding the cartridge
2) slide a washer onto the threaded portion of the pen, seating it where the barrel and pen head come together.
3) coat the threads with a small amount of silicone grease. Less is more in this case.
4) fill the barrel with your favorite ink.
5) Put the pen down so you don’t poke yourself when you pat yourself on the back.
It’s quite likely that you’ll have to wait a bit for the ink to find its way up the feed and to the nib. If you need to write immediately you can just dip the nib into the ink bottle to get things started.