A year ago, I decided to try three rollerball alternatives that I could refill with fountain pen ink. Although some of my fanatical fountain pen friends were horrified by my decision, having rollerballs around for titles and underlines simply fit my notetaking style much better than having multiple fountain pens filled at the same time. I can leave rollerballs sitting around uncapped for a few hours without worrying too much about drying out, while fountain pens need to be recapped. After burning through a few stock inks and cartridges, I am finally starting to run fountain pen inks in the Mont Blanc ceramic rollerball refill and the Pilot Hi-Tecpoints.
Mont Blanc Ceramic Rollerball Refills
This was one of the first test pens that I could refill with fountain pen ink due to the smaller capacity of the refill. It was a bit hard to see how well the refill would hold up to being topped up with fountain pen ink as a faulty Big Idea Design Titanium Pen grip damaged the ball of the first refill. After Big Idea Design sent over a replacement grip, I ended up using this refill in almost constant rotation.
Refilling with fountain pen ink was a little more difficult than the YouTube video suggested. The plug on the refill would not budge using tweezers, so more drastic measures had to be taken. I ended up using a pair of pliers to pull it out. While the plastic plug has taken a bit of a beating, the plug seems to seal fine still.
The Mont Blanc unit took very well to being refilled with fountain pen ink. It’s still quite smooth, though I don’t expect the ball to last nearly as long as a fountain pen nib. I did find that the medium left a line more like a fine or a .5mm pen, especially when I used Noodler’s Park Red in it.
Pilot Hi-Tecpoint Cartridge System
These two pens took quite some time to empty compared to the Mont Blanc due to the large capacity of the Pilot cartridges. Once they were empty, I could not figure out a good way to take out and clean the wicks. I opted to live life on the edge a little and just refill the pens with fountain pen ink without any cleaning. The inks I picked did not seem to have any negative reactions to the inks Pilot initially provided; however, the inability to clean the pens did mean there was a bit of a transition period in colour.
I found the pens to be initially smooth, but I noticed the V7’s ball has already been damaged slightly from use. The V5 on the other hand is still as smooth as the day I purchased it. Both pens worked well with fountain pen ink. The pens may write the slightest bit wetter versus the ink Pilot designed for the pen, but I suspect the results may vary depending on the fountain pen ink used. One thing I did not like was the fact the Pilot Hi-Tecpoint pens tended to dry out sooner than the ceramic rollerball refills. After about two or three days capped and unused, the V5 would either completely stop writing or produce a very faint line while the V7 would usually provide a very thin, inconsistent line. Both would return to normal with a little bit of scribbling.
So now what?
Based on the success with the Mont Blanc ceramic rollerball refill, I picked up a few Schmidt branded safety ceramic and cap-less refills to see if I can have similar successes. The plugs on the Schmidt refills look like they will be more challenging to remove due to their smaller size. Worse come to worse, I can opt to follow Nathan Tardiff’s advice and rip out the rollerball for reuse in the Noodler’s rollerball pen.
I am a little more on the fence about the Hi-Tecpoint. The pens always seem a lot fussier than the rollerball, so I am hesitant to buy more. I now keep a scrap of paper near by to get the pens flowing again after being left unused for a few days. Price isn’t much of a factor as the Schmidt refills and brand new Hi-Tecpoint Cartridge Systems are about the same price on eBay. Recommending one or the other to someone will end up boiling down to whether they own a pen body that takes ceramic rollerball refills or not. Since I already made the initial investment on a pen body, it doesn’t make much sense for me to keep buying more Hi-Tecpoints as I wear out the ink balls. On the other hand, the Hi-Tecpoints make fine beater pens that I won’t cry over if they get lost on campus.