This is the eighth part in a series in which I’m learning to use fountain pens. For all the previous installments, click here.
For those interested, fountain pens can provide plenty of “DIY” opportunities. Cleaning, nib swapping, and basic restoration projects seem to be fairly commonplace, for example, but an eyedropper conversion was the one project that really peaked my interested. An “eyedropper” refers to a type of fountain pen filling system (or lack thereof) where all you need do is pour or pipette a load of bottled ink into a pen’s barrel. So an eyedropper conversion is just like it sounds, when you take a pen that doesn’t have an eyedropper filling system and modify it to have one.
There are a couple benefits to having an eyedropper fountain pen. First, with the pen’s entire barrel filled, it holds a maximum amount of ink, significantly reducing refill frequency. And second, an eyedropper is easy to manage and clean, as opposed to filling systems that are a little more complicated (I’m looking at you, Parker 51). Additionally, I’m converting a Platinum Preppy, a pen which uses proprietary ink cartridges. So rather than being forced into using Platinum’s inks, I’ll be able to use any ink I’d like in this pen. Incidentally, I’ve decided to go with the gray-ish colored “Charles Dickens” ink by DeAtramentis.
Now to get started…
The whole process is actually deceptively simple, and a good guide can be found at the JetPens Blog. The basic procedure is this: First, grab a bottle of ink and buy a Platinum Preppy – these pens are widely available for under $5. Then find a #5 O-ring and a small bit of silicone grease. Both these items can be found at most hardware stores, but I took the lazy way out by ordering a 4-pack of O-rings from Goulet Pens, and I’m using the silicone grease that came with my TWSBI Eco.
From there, you simply (1) unscrew the barrel of the Preppy, (2) get rid of the proprietary ink cartridge, (3) slip the o-ring over the threads, (4) cover the threads will the silicone grease, (5) pour or pipette ink into the barrel of the Preppy, and (6) screw the pen back together. Give it a few shakes, and you’re good to go. Maybe that sounds complicated, but the whole process really only takes about 5 minutes.
The difficult part is more psychological. Thing is, the drawback to doing this eyedropper conversion is that by getting rid of the ink cartridge, I’ve effectively removed one barrier between the outside world and the ink that’s inside the pen. A cheap, plastic barrel is the only thing preventing an inkpocalypse while writing with it. Or, if the barrel’s threading comes loose while the pen is in my pocket, my pants would basically be done for.
So, though I was slightly terrified to do so, I decided to use this pen for the day. I carried it around at work, praying the whole time that I wouldn’t accidentally drop it or crack the plastic somehow. But in the end, well, it worked great! The Preppy’s fine nib writes clean and consistently, and I love any fountain pen with a pull-off cap. Overall, it’s a bit scratchy, but it’s still very good for such an inexpensive fountain pen. And while my fear of getting ink everywhere hasn’t fully evaporated, it has been significantly diminished.
It turned out to be a fun project, and something I’d recommend to any fountain pen newbie.