Fountain Pen Converters

Converters?

Long ago, fountain pens had a hollow body to store ink, and you used an eyedropper to fill the tube up with ink from a bottle. Some still do. Many others started using various different mechanisms for filling, with levers, pistons, and even extendable tubes to dip into the bottle.

Most now take ink cartridges instead. The ink comes in a sealed plastic tube, that you just push into place in the pen, breaking the seal and allowing ink to flow. When the cartridge runs out, you pull it out, throw it in the bin, and push another one in.

Lots of people still like to use bottled ink, so along comes a device called a converter. It allows use of bottled inks in a cartridge pen. A converter is a similar shape and size to the cartridges it replaces, and fits into the pen in the same way – usually just pushing into place.

Lamy Safari with Converter

Why Use a Converter?

  • Cheaper – if you use a lot of ink, you’ll save a fair bit of money by buying bottled ink, compared to cartridges. The converter will probably pay for itself before you get through the first bottle.
  • More Choice – you can get a huge range of inks in bottles. Many more than you can get in cartridges, especially if your pen takes proprietary cartridges. My Lamy pen could only take Lamy ink before. Now, with a cheap converter, I have access to hundreds of different types of ink.
  • Ink Snobbery – few people will admit it, but there’s something kind of nice about being a bit fussy about the ink you use. By time you’ve tested a few different ones and settled on a favourite, you’ve spent a whole lot of money, and the ‘cheaper’ argument no longer applies. Cheapness or snobbery. Pick one.

Fittings

The first consideration is that you need the right sort of converter to fit your pen. Most fountain pens take a type of cartridge developed by Mont Blanc, usually referred to as an International Cartridge. If you have a cheap generic pen, it will most likely take these. If you have a Mont Blanc, Faber-Castell, Rotring, Waterman, Caran d’Ache, or Pelikan pen, it probably wlll too.

Parker, Lamy, and Sheaffer use their own shapes and sizes, so you need a converter specific to your brand, or even to your pen.

My Lamy Safari needed the right one of three different converters made by Lamy. Fortunately, they’re cheap enough (mine cost less than £3, from The Writing Desk in the UK). Sam has a fountain pen from WHSmith, which needed an International converter (same place, under £4). None of the converters they stock are more than £5, so it shouldn’t cost too much.

Types

A Parker pen I had came with a converter where you squeezed a spring-loaded strip of metal, which deflated a rubber bag. Releasing it again sucked.

A different model of Parker we have came with the more common piston type. With this one, you actually pulled and pushed the end of the piston manually, at the top of the converter.

Noodler's Ink and Converters

The two we’ve just bought (in the picture – we’ll be writing about the Noodler’s Ink soon), and most of the other models at The Writing Desk, have sections at the top that you turn, which screw the piston mechanism up and down. This does seem to work better, making for a less jerky movement, and a more gentle sucking. An improvement, I think.

Filling

There’s two different methods you can use for filling…

  • Fill the cartridge, then put it in the pen: dip the cartridge in the ink, and do what you have to do to make it suck (usually sliding the piston up). Once it’s full, put it in the pen like a cartridge, but taking care not to drip ink as you do so. This way, you don’t dip the nib in the ink, leaving the pen cleaner.
  • Fill the cartridge in the pen: put the cartridge in the pen empty, then dip the whole of the nib into the ink bottle (trying to avoid staining the pen itself). Operate the piston, so the ink is sucked up into the cartridge. Tap the pen on the edge of the bottle to shake off any drops, and clean the nib if needed.

I found out that if you try the first method after cleaning the pen through with water, the ink can come through almost unusably watered-down for a long time. I’d avoid this method at least the first time, and I think I’ll be sticking with the second from now on anyway.

Conclusion

Converters are an easy way to open up more use of a cartridge pen. If you write a lot, you can even save a bit of money. If you’re anything like me, though, you’ll just start wanting to try lots of different types of ink, and that can start to get expensive.

Sexy Guitars + Sexy Guitarists = Guitar Pr0n

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Time for a bit of shameless self-promotion…

If you’re looking for a site with expert opinions on the latest in guitar technology, expert advice on technique and in-depth information on every guitar maker on the planet, then, er… Guitar Pr0n might not be the site for you.

If, however, you enjoy looking at guitars and guitarists doing their thing, then Guitar Pr0n might just entertain you for a little while. The site is run by…

  • WomanoftheWorld – creator of the Best Dang Slash Fansite on The Interweb, WOTW enjoys the top hatted one’s fine work, but holds a bigger torch for Robert Plant. Really big.

  • LadyMercury – another Slash fan, also very, very, very fond of Brian May, Pete Townshend and legendary Jimmy Page

and last, and almost certainly least…

  • Me – and in case you haven’t been paying attention, I’m rather keen on a chap I like to call The Lovely Mr Hudson, I’m also very fond of Metallica and I’m just getting into Led Zeppelin (talk about slow on the uptake!)

We’re gibbering fangirls and darn proud of it. We talk about what guitarists float our boat, what equipment makes us drool, and we even give a bit of love to the guys on bass. What we lack in knowledge we more than make up for in squee.

Digital Camera Batteries

Time for our second guest post – this is another one written by my dad, for use when he’s teaching digital photography courses. I’ve done a bit of editing to bring it up to date, so any typos are probably my fault…


Digital cameras are totally dependant on a source of electrical power and the more facilities and functions that a camera has, the more electrical power it will require.

Web cams may contain batteries so that they can function away from the computer but are more likely to draw their power from the USB socket.

At the cheaper end of the digital camera market, many cameras take AA or AAA batteries; these can be non-rechargeable or rechargeable but check your camera’s manual as to what types are advised (rechargeable batteries deliver a slightly lower voltage and some cameras may not work with them – almost all do now, but it’s worth checking).

Non-rechargeable types are either zinc carbon (cheap but with little staying power) or alkaline batteries which will deliver a higher current, when required, and work for longer. Always carry a spare set although they are widely available provided you are close to a suitable shop.

Rechargeable batteries, of AA and AAA (and other) sizes, are available in two common types – nickel cadmium (NiCd – pronounced ‘ny cad’) and nickel metal hydride (NiMH). NiCd are a little cheaper although there is not a lot of difference.

NiMH are generally better, having a higher capacity (they can work for longer) and suffer much less from ‘memory effect’. They are also available in a range of capacities – the higher the better although they will be more expensive. NiMH capacities are measure in mAh (milliamp hours) and whereas 1000 mAh was a good AA battery a few years ago, 2400 mAh and higher are now available. Always carry a spare set since these batteries are less widely available and need charging before use. Your spare set could be alkalines.

The ‘memory effect’ occurs when rechargeable batteries are partially discharged and then recharged rather than being used until ‘flat’ and then recharging. The battery can ‘remember’ its smaller discharge-charge cycle and this then becomes the norm, reducing its usefulness. Always try to run NiCd rechargeable batteries completely down before recharging although an occasion ‘top-up’ is unlikely to cause a problem. NiMH and Li ion batteries are fine with being partially discharged and recharged regularly.

Batteries

Lithium non-rechargeable batteries are used in some, usually more expensive, cameras. They are available in special camera sizes (2CR5, CR123A etc.) and AA size from some outlets. They are expensive but do have a high capacity and are often called lithium photo batteries.

Cameras which are particularly compact or which draw a lot of electrical power are usually supplied with a lithium ion (Li ion) battery. These are rechargeable and have a very high capacity for their size. They are also widely used for video cameras. A lithium ion battery may be unique to your camera and they are quite a bit more expensive than the other types. They are also only available from specialist retailers and may need to be ordered. If you are likely to use your camera for extended periods such as many times in one day, a spare battery is well worth considering. Spare Li ion batteries are expensive but shop around and seriously consider buying an independent make rather than one by the manufacturer of your camera – they can be as much as 50% cheaper but still expect to pay £10 – £20.

Cameras that take these types of batteries are becoming more and more common now – even towards the lower end of the market, AA and AAA batteries are becoming uncommon.

Charging batteries may be done with them in the camera (sometimes inconvenient if you want to continue taking pictures) or in a separate charger (something else to take on holiday) or both options may be available.

Some cameras may also have a mains adaptor (supplied or as an option) which can be used to save battery power, and avoid the risk of the camera shutting down, when transferring your images to the computer.

If you want to know more about batteries, visit BatteryUniversity for comprehensive information and guidance.

Summary

Non-rechargeable – alkaline are best unless you can use lithium photo.

Rechargeable standard types (AA, AAA etc.) – NiMH are best.

Rechargeable non-standard types – Li ion are best.

The Photo

Examples in photo, top to bottom… Alkaline (AA), NiCd (AA), NiMH (AAA), Lithium photo (2CR5) and Li ion (Canon specific).