A Year Later: Refilling Rollerballs with Fountain Pen Ink

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.

Tech Force Pens Achieves Goal on Kickstarter

Kickstarter is home to some of the coolest new stationery ideas. CNC pens are all the rage there and Josh Wilson is venturing into the fray with his Tech Force Pen and ruler concept. The Tech Force Pen consists of a triangular ruler with metric and imperial markings along with a pen that accepts Pilot Hi Tec C refills. When not in use, the pen stores in the ruler with a little help from pneumatic pressure.

The Tech Force Pen will be manufactured in the United States. The brushed aluminum finish is available for $50 and the black anodized finish will cost $75. Shipping within the US will be free, international shipping is $5. Each pledge will come with 3 Hi Tec C refills in different sizes: 0.4mm, 0.3mm, and .25mm. No word on what colour ink will be available. The pledges are scheduled to ship out in May 2014.

Josh has hit his funding goal, so this project is a go. There are 19 days left in the project and no word yet on the post-Kickstarter plans. The current price is very reasonable at $50, but I doubt the $50 price point will be around for long considering similar products that were also Kickstarted are now sold for $150.

Tech Force Pen

Pilot Cavalier Fountain Pen Review

The Pilot Cavalier is probably one of the most underrated fountain pens in Pilot’s line. It is almost completely ignored in favour of the Pilot Metropolitan, the offerings from TWSBI, and the Lamy Safari. I originally purchased the Cavalier after my positive experiences with the Hi Tec C Cavalier. The pens are available in a variety of colours with gold trim with prices starting at $28 USD. The nibs are unique to the Cavalier and are available in Eastern fine and medium.

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Pilot Matte Black Vanishing Point Review

A surprising fact! I actually own pens that aren’t demonstrators. Really, I do. However, black and silver bodies tend to be my staple. I’m just not really that adventurous. So, when I laid my eyes on the Pilot Matte Black Vanishing Point, it was love at first sight as the curved matte black body with the black plated nib reminded me of the famous SR-71 Blackbird.

In school, I tend to take my notes with a keyboard, but copying graphs and diagrams into a digital form is a time consuming task. It is a task best left for an analog input method. That’s where the Pilot Vanishing Point comes in. As probably the only click (is that an official term?) fountain pen in existence, the Vanishing Point deploys in a snap and tucks away as quickly as it appeared. 

The Pilot Vanishing point is a thick pen. According to my measurements, it’s 1.3 cm wide, 14 cm long and just a few mm shorter when the nib is deployed. Those who don’t use a traditional tripod pen grip may struggle with the Pilot Vanishing point as the pen clip sits on the top of the pen, providing an effect similar to the Lamy Safari’s triangle grip. The entire pen weighs in at a heft 30 g. Some have complained that the matte black body scratches easily, revealing the brass underneath. With gentle use, my body has yet to suffer such an extreme scratch, though a few faintly shiny black scratches have appeared.

Disassembling the Pilot Vanishing Point is a little different from most pens as the nib unit runs the length of almost the entire pen body. The nib unit could technically be considered a pen in its own right due to its size, though it would be next to impossible to use comfortably. To disassemble the pen, unscrew the body and slowly separate the two pieces as not to cause the nib unit to shoot out unexpectedly. Once the nib unit is removed, the cartridge/converter can be removed. The Vanishing Point is compatible with cartridges, the CON-20 converter, and the CON-50 converter. When using a cartridge, the metal cover included with the pen will need to be used to ensure the click mechanism works properly.  To reassemble the pen, simply line up the notch in the body with the protruding piece of metal in the nib unit, and screw the body back together.

Filling the pen will require disassembling the pen. The filler hole is actually located about an inch above the nib’s tip and will require a rather tall or full bottle of ink to fill the pen properly. It is pretty difficult to check the ink level in the Vanishing point as the CON-50 converter only has about a cm of exposed clear plastic near the piston to check the ink level. When using a cartridge, it is covered in by the metal cap, hiding the ink level.

Using the pen is very easy. The button is requires a long and solid press to deploy the nib. The nib then pushes open a trap door and pops out. The trap door does help slow evaporation, though I do not believe it is very air tight. I have yet to have the pen leak, even though it has been jostled around in pockets and backpacks.

One of the features of the Vanishing Point system is the ability to swap pen bodies and nib units with little hassle. The 14k gold nibs are available from Japanese EF to B with rhodium plated, black plated, and gold finishes, The bodies come in an array of colours and materials. Limited edition Vanishing Points are released each year, providing plenty of opportunity for collectors.

My nib of choice is the Japanese EF as I tend to use really cheap lined paper for most of my school note taking. Even for its fine size, the EF nib is incredibly smooth. There is no scratchiness to the nib, just the slight feedback expected from a nib so fine. The flow out of the box is nice and balanced. The line width is closer to a .4 Pilot Hi Tec C on Clairefontaine paper.

The Pilot Matte Black Vanishing Point has an MSRP of $175 USD and a street price of $140 USD. It is definitely not a cheap pen, but personally I think the unique click mechanism makes it worth it. However, I do wonder how much the price would drop if Pilot made stainless steel nib units available vs the 14k gold.

The Recap


Pilot Matte Black Vanishing Point, EF
Ink: Noodler’s Liberty’s Elysium

Paper: Clairefontaine 90g

+ Unique click mechanism
+ Fast deployment
+ Smooth nib
+ Modular design
+ Great every day carry pen

– Hard to check ink level
– Difficult to use if grip is different from traditional triangle grip


Inked Up – January Edition

Welcome to our very first edition of a new monthly segment called Inked Up. Every month, a member of the fountain pen community and I will share our current rotation that has been inked up!

Our very first guests are Jon and Liz Chen of Wonder Pens, hailing from Toronto, Canada. Wonder Pens is currently my local store and carries pens, pencils, journals, notebooks, office supplies, tons of fountain pens, and fountain pen accessories. I often plan to visit with the intention of picking up an item or two and end up leaving with a lighter wallet and bag full of ink. If you live in the Greater Toronto Area, be sure to swing by their brick and mortar shop to pet Super the store dog in training while you stock up on ink. Liz gave us a peek at her very colourful rotation.

(Be sure to click the thumbnail for the full image in all its glory!)
Continue reading “Inked Up – January Edition”