I got myself into a debate on the Fountain Pen Network earlier today, and I’m going to pursue my own reasoning here where it won’t stir up any further argument… or at least nothing that I don’t have the power to erase.
The foundation of the debate was an innocent question posed by someone who wants to buy a new Conway-Stewart pen, a Churchill model. It offers two options of filler, the cartridge/converter setup found in the vast majority of modern pens, and the extremely retro lever filler. The questioner is unfamiliar with the properties of the latter and sought opinions. Debate invariably erupted, as the internet will provide twelve different opinions where three are possible.
I prefer levers, of the two, but the exchance of opinions (the FPN, for all that is it subject to some of the woes of the internet, is a pretty civil joint) has prompted me to re-examine my preference. So, let’s do a bit of pro/con consideration… although even as I order my thoughts, I find I have to separate the cartridge/converter option into its separate components.
Pros: Very clean to fill as one need not wipe the point, very quick to refill, easy to carry refills around, lots of ink in pen (unless it’s an International Short pattern– those things aren’t big). Easy to check ink level.
Cons: Limited ink colours (unless you refill ’em with a syringe, which undoes all the pros out of hand), pen has to be mostly taken apart to fill, somewhat wasteful in plastics, and rather expensive compared to getting ink in bottles. Extra tools needed to clean the feed. Manufacturer might discontinue pattern (this has happened to Waterman and a few others).
Pros: Allows a cartridge pen to fill from a bottle. Depending on model, may be easy to check on ink level.
Cons: No cleaner to fill than any self-filling pen, frequently less so as one’s fingers end up closer to (or in) the bottle, very small ink capacity, and pen has to be taken apart to fill. Doesn’t clean the feed very effectively (press-bar converters excepted). If pattern of cartridge discontinued, replacement converter may be hard to find. Some converters have surface tension issues, trapping ink away from the feed.
Pros: Large capacity, quick to fill, only need to remove the cap to fill, all the colours of bottled ink are available, and cleaning is very effect as the filler creates higher pressure in the feed.
Cons: Rubber sac will (eventually) fail and need replacement. Pen needs its chin wiped after filling.
To me, the pros of the self-filler outweigh not only its own cons but tip the balance away from the other sort of filler. I’m not a chauvinist, you understand– I’ll accept a C/C pen (I’m using one today, and I’ll likely use one tomorrow, given my current inclination) but when a model offers a self-filling option, that’s where I’m putting my money. However, that’s my own opinion. Some people have a dread of tipping over an ink bottle, and they’d jump to the other side of this choice.
The important thing is that a fountain pen is being used. We may not agree on the filler, but business end of the pen is what really matters.
Today’s non-self-filling pen: Pilot Elite
Today’s ink: Skrip blue-black