What is a Fountain Pen Converter?

(Aurora push-in style piston fountain pen converter)

Those of you that are new to using fountain pens or want to purchase your very first fountain pen may have heard of fountain pen converters but might not know what they are. Do you need one? Should you get one?

Fountain pen converters are designed to be used with fountain pens that are usually filled with ink cartridges. They “convert” these fountain pens from using ink cartridges to using bottled ink instead. The converter has a small reservoir that contains the ink.

The converter can be removed from the fountain pen, so you can still use ink cartridges if you choose. I personally feel that using bottled ink is advantageous because it is cheaper, comes in a wider variety of colors and is easier on the environment (as opposed to throwing away multiple plastic ink cartridges when they become empty). However, ink cartridges are definitely more convenient when you’re on the road.

Push-in style fountain pen converters are pushed on to the nib section of the pen, the same way an ink cartridge would be pushed on to the pen. Screw-in style converters screw on to the nib section of the pen. A previous blog post of ours How to Install a LAMY Converter provides photos and a description of how to attach a push-in style converter to a LAMY Safari fountain pen

(A standard or universal piston converter compared to LAMY and Platinum piston converters)

Many converters are brand-specific, in other words, they are specially made to fit a particular brand or model of fountain pen. Other converters are standard, or universal, and fit the many fountain pens with a standard or universal cartridge filling system. It is often easiest to figure out what kind of converter you need at the time you purchase your fountain pen.

Fountain pen converters have several different types of filling systems including piston, button, and squeeze (aerometric) fill. If you’re having trouble filling your converter with ink you may have to try filling it 2 or 3 times before you get the air bubbles out and get a good fill. How to Fill a Fountain Pen With a Piston Converter provides an example of how to fill a fountain pen using a piston style converter. If you prefer video, LAMY has a video demonstrating how to insert and refill a LAMY fountain pen converter.

Converters, as well as your fountain pen, do need to be cleaned occasionally especially when changing the ink color or brand. Usually cool water is sufficient, but if that doesn’t do the trick try this home-made fountain pen cleaning solution.

Not all fountain pens have ink cartridge filling systems, so not all fountain pens will require a converter. Fountain pens that do not require converters have a piston, aerometric, button or other filling system of their own. What kind of filling system do you like on your fountain pen?

(Pilot Prera fountain pen with a Pilot push-in style piston converter)


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5 Replies to “What is a Fountain Pen Converter?”

  1. I purchased a HERO fountain pen with a converter. The seller said that universal cartridges can be used with it. I purchased universal cartridges but can’t figure out how to use it. HELP!!!

  2. Hi Amy,
    When you use the converter with your Hero fountain pen you will need to fill it with fountain pen ink that comes in a bottle. This blog post explains how to draw ink from an ink bottle into a piston style converter: http://blog.shopwritersbloc.com/fountain_pens/how_to_fill_a_fountain_pen_con.html
    If you want to use the ink cartridges with the fountain pen you do not need to use the converter at the same time. Here’s a bit more info on how to put an ink cartridge into a fountain pen: http://blog.shopwritersbloc.com/fountain_pens/crash_course_in_fountain_pen_c.html
    We hope this helps!

  3. I have a converter, but find it a mess to fill, so I use old ink cartridge, pull up some ink in a syringe and inject it in the used cartridge, a lot cleaner, and also inexpensive.

    1. Hi Babs,
      Thanks for sharing your experience. We refill empty ink cartridges too! We’ve got some information on that here: http://reviews.shopwritersbloc.com/fountain-pens/refill-fountain-pen-ink-cartridges-with-a-blunt-tip-needle-bottle.html
      I personally find that refilling empty cartridges and using an ink converter create about the same amount of mess. The advantage of using the converter if you draw up ink through the fountain pen nib is that the feed is primed with ink and you are immediately ready to write. When you pop on a fresh ink cartridge it can take a little while before the ink seeps down into the feed and nib.

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