Reflections of a Left Handed Writer

Platinum Preppy Fountain Pens

Platinum Preppy Fountain Pens

The 10 year anniversary of Writer’s Bloc has got me reminiscing about my first fountain pen purchase way back in 2008. It was an inexpensive blue-black Platinum Preppy with a fine nib. At that time, as a left-handed writer who was constantly having issues with messy smeared ink, I was a little hesitant to try a fountain pen. Several years later my collection of fountain pens has grown to include a quirky variety and I’m still using that same Preppy fountain pen! Needless to say, my experiments with fountain pens were a resounding success and now I rarely ever pick up a ball point pen. I’ve come to appreciate the beauty of the classic fountain pen as a writing tool.

If you’re a lefty that’s considering whether or not to try a fountain pen, possibly you can relate to my past experiences recorded on this blog:

Lime Green LAMY Safari Fountain Pen

Lime Green LAMY Safari Fountain Pen

In 2008, the same year I purchased my first LAMY Safari fountain pen, we were helping writers learn how to swap the steel nibs on their own LAMY fountain pens. This is such a great thing to know if you like to experiment or end up damaging a nib or have a nib that you just don’t care for. It’s a lot cheaper to just replace the nib on a LAMY pen that you already own than to buy a whole new pen (although buying new pens is fun too). Here are the instructions from our first lesson:

Other experiments we were busy with in 2008 included converting cartridge fill fountain pens into eye dropper fill fountain pens. If you’re not familiar with eye dropper fill pens, their advantage is that the entire barrel of the pen becomes an ink reservoir! Kaweco Sport Classic or Ice fountain pens are ideal for this purpose. Check out our Pen Mods eye dropper fill edition and a tip from Noodler’s Ink:

Were you writing with fountain pens a decade ago? If so, what were you writing with? Over the years a good fountain pen often becomes like a good friend to those of us who love to write.

Kaweco Sport Classic Fountain Pens

Kaweco Sport Classic Fountain Pens

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What kind of fountain pen can be converted to eyedropper fill?

Noodler's Polar Blue Ink & Preppy Eyedropper Fill Fountain Pen

Noodler’s Polar Blue Ink & Preppy Eyedropper Fill Fountain Pen

If you’ve heard about the high ink capacity advantage that eyedropper fill fountain pens offer perhaps you’d like to try an eyedropper fill pen for yourself. You can buy a fountain pen that is designed to be eyedropper fill, such as the Noodler’s Ahab pen or a Stipula Bon Voyage pen, or some fountain pens that have a cartridge filling system can be converted to eyedropper fill. What qualities does a fountain pen need in order to become eyedropper fill?

1) Plastic Body. The fountain pen barrel needs to be plastic, NOT metal. Fountain pen ink can react with metal so you do not want to allow ink to come in contact with a metal barrel for an extended period of time. There is the possibility that some inks could stain a plastic pen, so I wouldn’t use any expensive or rare pens for eyedropper fill. I’ve never tried an eyedropper conversion with a wooden pen, but I would also recommend avoiding converting this kind of pen because wood is porous.

2) No Holes in the Body. Besides the end of the barrel where the section screws onto the pen, there cannot be any holes in the body. Some holes can be pretty tiny and difficult to detect, so to check for holes you can try blowing into the barrel to see if any air escapes from it. If any air escapes, this means there is a hole somewhere that ink will leak out of too.

If your fountain pen passes these two tests you’ll also need to get some silicone grease to create a good seal where your pen screws together. You don’t want any ink to leak out of your pen. A rubber o-ring is handy too, but it is optional. You will need an eyedropper, blunt tip needle bottle or syringe so that you can easily fill your pen with ink.

Before you try converting a fountain pen we recommend that you read this article: Eyedropper Fountain Pen Pros and Cons.

One example of a fountain pen that can be converted to eyedropper fill is the Platinum Preppy. It is plastic and there are no holes in the barrel for ink to leak out of. It’s also inexpensive so if some ink happens to stain it, it is no great loss. On the other hand, the Platinum Plaisir cannot be converted to eyedropper fill because it has a metal barrel.

The Kaweco Sport ICE or Classic fountain pen or ink roller can also be converted to eyedropper fill for the same reasons that a Platinum Preppy can. However, a Kaweco AL Sport fountain pen is not suitable for eyedropper conversion since the barrel is metal. Here’s a throwback to one of our old blog posts illustrating how we converted a Kaweco Classic Sport to eyedropper fill:

Pen Mods - How to Create an Eyedropper Fill Pen

Pen Mods – How to Create an Eyedropper Fill Pen

Have you tried converting any fountain pens to eyedropper fill? How was your experience? What type of fountain pen did you use?

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The Platinum Plaisir vs The Platinum Preppy Fountain Pen

The Platinum Plaisir fountain pen makes a frequent appearance in my rotation of daily writing instruments. Since it uses the exact same cartridge/converter filling system, feed section and nib as the Platinum Preppy fountain pen it gets a lot of comparison to the popular Preppy. So why spend the extra money on the Plaisir? Perhaps some of the following observations will help you make your own choice.

First of all, the body and cap of the Plaisir fountain pen are make of a light-weight yet durable anodized aluminum that lasts much longer than the recycled polycarbonate cap and body of the Preppy. The plastic Preppy pen is a great beginner fountain pen with a bargain price of less than $5.00, but it is not meant to be a forever pen. Once in a while I’ll give a Preppy to one my friends who has never tried using a fountain pen. When I ask them later how they like using it, sometimes I find that they have cracked the cap or the barrel and are no longer using the pen. If they genuinely like the experience of using a fountain pen, often I’ll give them an “upgrade” to a Plaisir and have received many positive comments on their new Plaisir pen.

I find the scratch-resistant pearlized finish on the Plaisir fountain pen very attractive. It’s very smooth and I like the way it feels in my hand. Since there are seven color choices, there is a color to suit almost everyone. One of my personal favorites is the bright sports car red, or others might call it a bright lipstick red. The pearlized colors range from a conservative black to a delicate and feminine pink. The Preppy pen has a clear body and cap with a clear but colorful clip and top on the cap. Both fountain pens have nib colors that match the pen color. The steel nib and feed section are interchangeable between pens and the nib performance is generally the same.

The cap of the Plaisir has a special design that allows you to let your fountain pen sit for a long period of time without any use, then to uncap it and begin to write smoothly without any hesitation.  This cap also reduces ink loss due to evaporation. I find that the cap on the Preppy works fairly well at keeping my ink from drying out, but eventually it cracks allowing the pen to dry out. To make the cap on my Preppy pens last longer I usually put a piece of clear tape around the bottom of the cap when it is brand new. Once the cap cracks, the tape will not help.

One advantage of the Preppy pen is that it can easily be converted into an eye dropper fill pen with some silicone grease and an optional rubber o-ring. The polycarbonate barrel of the Preppy does not react with ink (although it is possible that it could be stained by some inks) and it does not have any holes in it which makes it work well as an eye dropper fill. The metal barrel of the Plaisir may chemically react with ink so it is not suitable to be converted into an eye dropper fill pen.

Both the Plaisir and the Preppy have a cartridge/converter filling system which is typical for fountain pens in this price range. These pens must be filled with Platinum ink cartridges since universal/standard ink cartridges will not fit. It makes a lot more sense to use the converter with the Plaisir since the converter costs more than double the price of the Preppy pen. If you don’t want to spend the money on the converter or you don’t want to be limited to using Platinum ink, you can always refill empty cartridges yourself using bottled ink and something like a blunt-tip needle bottle.

So which pen will you choose? What are your thoughts on Plaisir vs Preppy fountain pens?

Plaisir Pros:

Much more durable than the Preppy
Special cap design prevents ink from drying out
Attractive pearlized finish in a choice of 7 different colors

Plaisir Cons:

More expensive than the Platinum Preppy (currently about $20.00)
Cannot be converted into eye dropper fill

Preppy Pros:

Bargain price (less than $5.00)
Can be converted into eye dropper fill

Preppy Cons:

Polycarbonate cap and body can crack over time
Limited pen color options
Converter costs about twice as much as the pen

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Eyedropper Fountain Pen Pros and Cons

The biggest advantage of converting a fountain pen into eyedropper fill is the huge reservoir of ink! No need for converters or cartridges, the whole barrel is full of ink. It’s easy to clean out the barrel when you want to change ink colors or want to store your fountain pen.  If you’ve got a transparent pen and colorful ink it’s especially fun to use!

Fountain pens can be converted to eyedropper fill as long as they do not have any holes in the body for the ink to leak out of or are not made from special materials that would be harmed by direct contact with ink or silicone grease. Some pens are better suited than others for this conversion because the design of the area where the feed and the barrel screw together can affect how well the pen seals.

However, modern fountain pens are not designed to be eyedropper fill pens, and because of this there are some problems to be aware of. Even when these pens are sealed correctly with silicone grease and/or rubber O-rings, they are still prone to leaking.

When there is heat, the air inside the pen can expand forcing ink out of the nib or from the seal creating a big mess! Due to this problem it is often necessary to refill your eyedropper pen when it gets to about 1/3 full of ink. In my case, I have hot hands and have to refill my pen when it gets to 1/2 full, otherwise beads of ink start dripping out of the nib spoiling whatever I’m writing on. If you carry the pen in your shirt pocket you could experience the same results. I’m unsure of how much hot weather is a problem because I live in Portland, Oregon where it rarely gets really hot. Does anyone have personal experience with this? If so, please share by leaving a comment!

Air travel can produce the same undesirable results as heat – as the air pressure changes in the cabin of the plane, the air inside the pen expands and can force ink to leak out of the pen. This is why I never take eyedropper fill pens with me when I’m travelling by air. In fact, I do not travel anywhere with my eyedropper pens! They sit on my desk, nibs pointing up, to be used where I can easily do a clean-up in case of ink leakage.

In my case, the possibility of having an ink leak and having to keep the pen at least 1/2 full of ink offsets the benefit of having a large ink supply in the barrel. I only have access to 1/2 a barrel of ink at a time anyway before it starts to leak. Sure, it’s easy to see the level of ink and know when you have to refill if you have a transparent pen, but what about pens that are not transparent?

With all of their disadvantages, many people still find that eyedropper pens are a nice alternative to traditional piston fill, converter or cartridge fill fountain pens. What are your thoughts and experiences with using eyedropper fill fountain pens?

Previous blog posts about eyedropper fill fountain pens:
Pen modification – convert into eyedropper fill
Should you use an O-ring to convert your fountain pen into an eyedropper?
When should you refill your eyedropper pen?
Is it safe to take a fountain pen on an airplane?

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Is it safe to take a fountain pen on an airplane?

Fountain pen users love to travel just as much as everyone else, so why not travel with your fountain pen even when you fly! There is the possibility that a fountain pen will leak in-flight when the air pressure in the plane cabin drops and the higher air pressure inside the pen forces ink out of the nib. However, there are some simple steps that can be taken to reduce or eliminate this risk.

First of all, it can help to travel with your fountain pen either completely full of ink (the air expands, not the ink) or completely empty (no ink, no leaks). Using cartridges with your pen is practical because you can travel with a new cartridge and an empty pen and insert the cartridge after you land.

It is best if you bring your fountain pens in your carry-on baggage instead of putting them inside your checked bags. For extra safety, put them inside ziploc bags and store them with the nib pointing up.

I’ve flown with both LAMY and Preppy fountain pens with varying amounts of ink in the cartridges and not had any problems other than a tiny bit of extra ink appearing on the LAMY nib. Alan has flown with a Kaweco Sport fountain pen containing a full cartridge as well as LAMY pens with only partially full cartridges and not had any leaks. The only problem Alan has encountered was with an eyedropper fill Kaweco pen that was not completely full of ink. This pen leaked small beads of ink during the flight. Do any of you have a flying with fountain pen experience that you would like to share with us?

 

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When Should You Refill Your Eyedropper Pen?

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Here’s a handy tip from Noodler’s Ink about when to refill your eyedropper pens:

Eyedropper pens "should be refilled when 2/3rds empty as more than 2/3 air in the chamber can cause expansion/excess flow from the heat of your hand."

We also found it helpful when refilling our eyedropper pens to leave the ink level in the barrel about 1/4" lower than where the end of the main part of the pen will be when it is screwed together. This will help you to avoid some of the mess when refilling.

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Should You Use an O-Ring to Convert Your Fountain Pen to an Eyedropper?

There are many opinions as to whether or not you need to use an O-ring with your fountain pen to convert it to eyedropper fill, so we thought we would share our observations with you.

The main advantage of using an O-ring is that it helps to prevent cracking of the pen barrel. When silicone grease is applied to the threads of the pen barrel to prevent ink from leaking, it is easy to use too much force when screwing the pen back together and this can lead to cracks. The O-ring cushions the barrel, but please do not tighten the pen too much or the O-ring can bulge out!

The disadvantages of O-rings are that they usually are sold in packages containing hundreds of O-rings and it can be difficult to choose the right size of O-ring for each different size of pen. Also, an O-ring alone is not enough to safely convert a fountain pen into an eyedropper fill pen.

We have found that silicone grease is essential to convert your pen into an eyedropper pen, and it will work as a good seal even without an O-ring. For over one year now we have been using one eyedropper pen with silicone grease alone and no O-ring and it has worked just fine without leaking.

The trick is that you need to refresh the silicone grease on your pen every time you refill it with ink. Be sure to coat both sets of threads (on the end of barrel and on the main section of the pen) with a generous amount of silicone grease. When tightening the barrel to the pen after you refill it with ink, avoid using too much force so that you will not break the pen. Wipe off any excess silicone grease. This is a simple, cheap method to convert a fountain pen into an eyedropper pen.

One of our favorite fountain pens that can be converted into an eyedropper fill pen is the Kaweco Sport. The threads of this pen are very close together and it has a generous smooth area below the threads to help give it a good seal when used with silicone grease. Additionally, this creates a large ink reservoir so you can write for a much longer period of time than when you use a standard universal fountain pen cartridge. Do you have any experiences with eyedropper fill pens? If so, we’d love to hear from you!

Without silicone grease, ink seeps past the threads and leaks out of the pen.
Using a generous amount of silicone grease on the threads gives a good seal to your eyedropper pen.
Don’t use too much force to put your pen back together and then wipe off excess silicone grease.
Ink does not seep past the threads or leak from the eyedropper pen sealed with silicone grease.
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Pen Modification – Convert into eyedropper fill

The Kaweco Sport fountain pen is brilliantly designed and reasonably priced. When it’s capped, it is compact enough to fit in any purse or pocket, and when it’s posted, it is the perfect size for writing. However, one downfall of the pen is that it can only be used with short standard cartridges, wasting the space of about 1/3 of the barrel. Also, it cannot be used with a converter so writers cannot use their favorite bottled inks with it. (UPDATE: The Monteverde Mini Converter will fit inside the Kaweco Sport fountain pen.) To resolve these issues I converted the Kaweco Sport fountain pen into an eyedropper fill system, where the barrel is used as the ink reservoir.  To prevent ink leakage I used 100% silicone grease (petroleum free) to seal the threads. Hopefully, this explanation will help other writers maximize their Kaweco’s potential.

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