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Let's Reevaluate Converter Filling Fountain Pens

converter edison

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21 replies to this topic

#1 tonybelding

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Posted 25 September 2014 - 14:07

Big new article from Brian Gray on the Edison Pen Co. site:

 

http://edisonpen.com...uate-Converters

 

Most of what he's written squares well with my own experience, having used many different kinds of fillers.  I've gradually concluded that all filling methods have their pluses and minuses, and the Magical Wonder Filler has never yet been invented.  (The syringe filler in the Gate City Belmont comes pretty close, though!)  Although converters don't excite me, I understand the practical and economic reasons why they are so prevalent, and I've come to terms with them.

 

Unlike Brian Gray, I have had lots of problems with converters!  I'm sure he only deals with high quality Schmidt K5 converters on a daily basis, so he can be forgiven for not fully appreciating how many cheap, shoddy, leaky, poorly-fitting converters are out there in the world.  I've found the converters that go into better pens from major pen makers are generally good, and so is the K5.  The cheaper Schmidt converters, or Lamy Safari, to say nothing of Chinese ones, are less dependable.

 

I feel that all converters are semi-disposable items.  They are a bit dainty, and even if you get a good one to start with, you can expect it to wear out eventually.  The good news is that changing them out is quick and easy.  So. . .  Troublesome but easy-to-fix is not a bad tradeoff.

 

Another problem he neglects to mention is air lock.  Sometimes, especially with some dry inks, a converter will get an air bubble lodged in a way that prevents ink from flowing to the feed.  It doesn't happen too often, but it can be quite a nuisance when it does.  (In my experience, vac-filler pens are even more prone to this problem.)

 

Because of their relatively small capacity, and because they are insulated from the pen's barrel with an air space, converter pens deliver very consistent ink flow most of the time.  This makes it easier to design a feed, since it doesn't have to deal with irregular surges of ink. The problem there, as Brian noted, is that those readily available feeds designed for C/C pens may prove inadequate when adapted to another filler type.  Everything is connected.

 



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#2 bgray

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Posted 25 September 2014 - 14:32

 

 

Unlike Brian Gray, I have had lots of problems with converters!  I'm sure he only deals with high quality Schmidt K5 converters on a daily basis, so he can be forgiven for not fully appreciating how many cheap, shoddy, leaky, poorly-fitting converters are out there in the world.  I've found the converters that go into better pens from major pen makers are generally good, and so is the K5.  The cheaper Schmidt converters, or Lamy Safari, to say nothing of Chinese ones, are less dependable.

 

 

Another problem he neglects to mention is air lock.  Sometimes, especially with some dry inks, a converter will get an air bubble lodged in a way that prevents ink from flowing to the feed.  It doesn't happen too often, but it can be quite a nuisance when it does.  (In my experience, vac-filler pens are even more prone to this problem.)

 

 

 

Excellent points, Tony and thanks for sharing!

 

You are correct on my experience with quality converters.  I only use Schmidt K5's, as you noted.  Why any company would use a cheap converter is far beyond me.  They are not that expensive.  Why pen companies wouldn't put quality converters even in their cheap and disposable pens, I don't understand.  I'll consider editing the article to include some kind of verbiage to address this.

 

With the air lock, I only find this to be an issue with inks that are highly saturated with a really high dye load.  But also, in this case, I've experimented with taking the converter apart, and putting a small ball (such as a vacumatic pellet) inside the converter to break up the surface tension.  And I think that some manufacturers include these pellets in their converters.

 

Thanks!


Edited by bgray, 25 September 2014 - 14:32.


#3 ac12

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Posted 25 September 2014 - 19:20

I have this "air lock" issue of the ink being trapped in the back of the converter with an air bubble at the front of the converter.  This happens with different inks (Waterman (a wet ink), Sheaffer, and Cross/Pelikan (a dry ink)) and different converters (Sheaffer, Parker, Lamy, and Chinese).  The Sheaffer black ink is the only ink that might have a high dye load.  And frustratingly it is Sheaffer ink in a Sheaffer converter and I get "air lock."

And interestingly I have the same "air lock" issue with a Reform 1745 piston pen.  The Reform 1745 is a small diameter pen.  And the ink is Waterman, again a wet ink).

 

I "think" the problem has to do with the small diameter of the cylinder of a converter (and the small Reform 1745), allowing the surface tension to form and hold the ink in the back of the cylinder (converter or small diameter piston).  I think the larger piston pens and vacs are too large in diameter for the surface tension to form and hold the ink in the back of the cylinder.

 

The practical fix as Brian mentioned is a STAINLESS STEEL ball in the converter, so when the pen+converter is inverted, the SS ball will fall and break the surface tension.  Plastic balls will not work, as they do not have enough mass to fall through the surface tension.  I have a couple converters will plastic balls, and the ink gets stuck on the back like a converter without a ball.  The plastic ball does not have enough mass to fall through the surface tension.  The problem is some converters are not able to be disassembled, at least I have not been able to disassemble them.  So I cannot put a SS ball into them.


Edited by ac12, 25 September 2014 - 20:03.

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#4 Randal6393

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Posted 25 September 2014 - 19:55

Eh, I have many excellent converter pens. And many excellent piston-fillers as well. I start with the nib. If a pen won't write well, what's worth? The filling system is sort of secondary, in my mind. Sure, converters may have air lock problems. Piston fillers have their own problems, starting with dry orings and hard-to-turn filling knobs. But that is secondary to how well the pen writes.

 

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#5 Lou Erickson

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Posted 25 September 2014 - 20:06

Mr. Gray's article is pretty thorough, and covers all the bases pretty well.  I'm not sure that the blanket statement that "a converter is pretty much a piston filler" is correct.  For example, Pilot makes both a squeeze converter and a button filled converter, as well as a piston converter.  Many of my older C/C pens use a squeeze converter, and I'm coming to prefer them.  I know Parker had a slide/syringe style converter, too.

 

I have to agree with his perplexity at the strong reactions some people have about converters, or their insistence on sticking to a single type of filler.  I don't get it.

 

I think it's a harmless quirk, at least as long as the person isn't being a jerk about it - which most aren't! - and it means I pick different pens than they will.  Big deal.  (As a pen maker, it may mean more to Mr. Gray than it does to me!)

 

I see several meaningful advantages to the C/C system, and am actually put off by pens with more integrated systems because I find them a lot harder to clean.  Even Noodler's Ahab, which easily breaks down into parts, is more annoying than a C/C which I can squeeze a bulb syringe through.

 

That being said, I have pens that fill many different ways; I have button fillers, and piston fillers, and lever fillers, C/C, a couple of eyedroppers (which aren't really fillers at all, really).  I don't have a crescent filler or a blow filler, but if I see a pen I like with one, it won't keep me away.

 

I care about how it writes, and how overall difficult it is to use.  The downside of the C/C is the small size of the converter, and I don't use enough ink during a normal day that it is an issue; I can refill if I need to, at home.  I understand some need more ink, and refilling is a hassle, so they might want the greater capacity of the others.  Go get yourself a Vacumatic and be happy and full of ink, if you need more ink.  My needs are met by a C/C very well, though.


Edited by Lou Erickson, 25 September 2014 - 20:07.

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#6 ethernautrix

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Posted 25 September 2014 - 23:33

I just replied in another thread about this (think it was the taboo thread).

After owning and using many different types of fillers, I definitely prefer c/c pens. The only piston-fillers I like are the ones, like Pelikan andTWSBI, where the nib screws out and makes cleaning them easier.

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#7 arcadeflow

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Posted 26 September 2014 - 00:01

I used to think piston pens were the best, but then I figured out how much easier it is to clean and fix a C/C pen, given I don't have any trustworthy pen repairer around here.



#8 Downcelot

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Posted 26 September 2014 - 03:41

You are correct on my experience with quality converters.  I only use Schmidt K5's, as you noted.  Why any company would use a cheap converter is far beyond me.  They are not that expensive.  Why pen companies wouldn't put quality converters even in their cheap and disposable pens, I don't understand.  I'll consider editing the article to include some kind of verbiage to address this.

 

With the air lock, I only find this to be an issue with inks that are highly saturated with a really high dye load.  But also, in this case, I've experimented with taking the converter apart, and putting a small ball (such as a vacumatic pellet) inside the converter to break up the surface tension.  And I think that some manufacturers include these pellets in their converters.

This is an interesting topic.

 

I think many pen manufactures do not offer quality converter is due to economic reasons. Many of them refer to converter as disposable items. In that case, why bother to make quality converters when they can produce cheap converters. First, that saves production cost. Second, these converters can be made to be unique to their pens and the customers must replace every now and then?

 

In this case, the faster those converters break are the better for the sale. Say that you can sell a whole pen for $25 and every now and then that $25 sale nets you with a converter sale for $3 dollars, you win. However, this strategy does not work with expensive pens that are sold for $$$ money because in that price range, customers give less excuse for poor performance.

 

In long term run, this hurts the whole industry because if a fountain pen newbie person spent $25 on a pen and it gives him/her trouble, what chance do you think he/she will spend $$$ on the same type of product? On the other hand, there is always that cursed BIC that costs 50 cents. They can throw it as dart, or even write love poems on toilet paper.

 

I admit I am quite bias when it comes to converter judgement. I had fair amount of bad experiences as a kid growing up with them. I was an active kid then and you could see my school bag always with stain spots everywhere because the converter would fall off and the ink leaked out. Let's face it, when a pen is designed with a converter, I always see it as a 'two units' construction. A trapped converter locks the evil thing in place and turns this two units into one. I think trapped converters do exist with a purpose.



#9 fpconvert

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Posted 28 September 2014 - 16:36

Big new article from Brian Gray on the Edison Pen Co. site:

 

http://edisonpen.com...uate-Converters

 

Most of what he's written squares well with my own experience, having used many different kinds of fillers.  I've gradually concluded that all filling methods have their pluses and minuses, and the Magical Wonder Filler has never yet been invented.  (The syringe filler in the Gate City Belmont comes pretty close, though!)  Although converters don't excite me, I understand the practical and economic reasons why they are so prevalent, and I've come to terms with them.

 

Unlike Brian Gray, I have had lots of problems with converters!  I'm sure he only deals with high quality Schmidt K5 converters on a daily basis, so he can be forgiven for not fully appreciating how many cheap, shoddy, leaky, poorly-fitting converters are out there in the world.  I've found the converters that go into better pens from major pen makers are generally good, and so is the K5.  The cheaper Schmidt converters, or Lamy Safari, to say nothing of Chinese ones, are less dependable.

 

I feel that all converters are semi-disposable items.  They are a bit dainty, and even if you get a good one to start with, you can expect it to wear out eventually.  The good news is that changing them out is quick and easy.  So. . .  Troublesome but easy-to-fix is not a bad tradeoff.

 

Another problem he neglects to mention is air lock.  Sometimes, especially with some dry inks, a converter will get an air bubble lodged in a way that prevents ink from flowing to the feed.  It doesn't happen too often, but it can be quite a nuisance when it does.  (In my experience, vac-filler pens are even more prone to this problem.)

 

Because of their relatively small capacity, and because they are insulated from the pen's barrel with an air space, converter pens deliver very consistent ink flow most of the time.  This makes it easier to design a feed, since it doesn't have to deal with irregular surges of ink. The problem there, as Brian noted, is that those readily available feeds designed for C/C pens may prove inadequate when adapted to another filler type.  Everything is connected.

 

FINALLY!!!! Someone with the same opinion as myself. Ive posted so many times on here and usually the answer from old seasoned fountainpen people as they have never had leakage and issues with plug in convertors. The only one in my collection that has never leaked is my cross century II with screw in convertor, and my Lamy al-star with the firmly snap in convertor. All the other manufacturers where the convertor simply connect to the nib nipple HAVE all leaked. This has been an utter waste of $$$ for me and those pens are now in the garbage heap.

 

However my new favourite pen now is my PILOT CUSTOM HERITAGE 92. The piston fill mechanism is ace and can load a high volume of ink, never has leaked and with the unique convertor body is my go to work horse. I just started collecting fountain pens a few yeas ago and purchased mainly chrome pens as that is what I like so I started collecting them. It has been the bane of my frustration dealing with nipple/convertor leaks. I cant believe they are made so poorly. The worst leaking ones are from Sheaffer and Parker.

 

final note: The original poster did not mention or include the fact and well known issue of leakage of convertors where it connects to the nipple of the nib assembly. WHY is this issue never talked about????? Its happened to every single fountain pen ive purchased that has this type of convertor with the exception of a screw in type like my cross century II and the firmly attached red convertor in my Lamy al-star???? Most of the other brands tend to loosen over time and cause leakage.


Edited by fpconvert, 28 September 2014 - 16:47.


#10 tdzieman

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Posted 02 October 2014 - 16:49

As I age and my fingers get stiffer I am having more difficult with converters



#11 ac12

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Posted 02 October 2014 - 17:08

FINALLY!!!! Someone with the same opinion as myself. Ive posted so many times on here and usually the answer from old seasoned fountainpen people as they have never had leakage and issues with plug in convertors. The only one in my collection that has never leaked is my cross century II with screw in convertor, and my Lamy al-star with the firmly snap in convertor. All the other manufacturers where the convertor simply connect to the nib nipple HAVE all leaked. This has been an utter waste of $$$ for me and those pens are now in the garbage heap.

 

. . .

 

final note: The original poster did not mention or include the fact and well known issue of leakage of convertors where it connects to the nipple of the nib assembly. WHY is this issue never talked about????? Its happened to every single fountain pen ive purchased that has this type of convertor with the exception of a screw in type like my cross century II and the firmly attached red convertor in my Lamy al-star???? Most of the other brands tend to loosen over time and cause leakage.

 

If the push on converter is loose/not tight, then the gasket/seal has deteriorated, and the converter should be replaced.

A loose converter will leak...sooner or later.


Edited by ac12, 02 October 2014 - 17:09.

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#12 ac12

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 03:39

I think I've solved the problem in some of my converters.

I just bought some 5/32" stainless steel bearing balls, and put them into a couple of converters where the ink always gets stuck in the back.  It works like a charm, the SS ball falls when tilted and so does the ink.  No more stuck ink in the back of the converter.  The only trick is getting the converter open, to put the SS ball into the converter.  I can't open some of my converters.


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#13 deepak23

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Posted 07 July 2015 - 14:29

I dry stapled three pins and bent them into a V. These were pushed into the convertor through the mouth. Serves the same purpose as a ball. Works beautifully on my Jin 159..

A lifelong FP user...


#14 Renfield

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Posted 10 July 2015 - 00:17

My view on converters is slightly different. 

 

I have used converters on all sorts of pens, from expensive Conway Stewarts, to cheap Chinese pens, and honestly, I have never had an issue using them. They all seem to work. 

 

I know the airlocking you are describing, and the only time it happened to me was with Noodlers Black in a Lamy Safari. But with every other ink (I have tried 100+ including other Noodlers) it has not been an issue. 

 

Mine comes down to cost. If I am going to pay £100+ for a pen, i expect a better filling system than a converter. Not that it is a bad filling system, but for the money I expect them to use a piston, or something a little more intricate than a converter.

 

For some subconscious reason, I fill I am being a little ripped off if an expensive pen has a converter. Doesn't stop me buying them, but I always feel I got more value for money with a piston filler.


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#15 Dragonmaster Lou

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Posted 10 July 2015 - 14:09

I'm a newbie, so I'm not sure I have the expertise to really chime in here. However, after reading the aforementioned article by Edison's Brian Gray, I have a new respect for converters.

 

Yes, converters don't hold as much ink as piston fillers, but there is a trade off and that trade off is ease of maintenance and repair. If your converter goes wonky for some reason, all you need to do is fork over $5-$10 for the average converter and you've got a brand new one. A piston filler would require more complicated work and even perhaps sending the pen to a repair center.

 

The ability to use cartridges can also be helpful if you travel with your pen a lot and have concerns about traveling with a bottle of ink. You can always toss a few cartridges on your bag as a backup in case your pen runs out while on the road (although, admittedly, a piston filler's larger capacity mitigates this scenario somewhat).

 

I guess I'd just rather not have to worry about my expensive pen being in the shop for significant periods of time. Of course, nothing wrong if you disagree.


Edited by Dragonmaster Lou, 10 July 2015 - 14:11.


#16 torstar

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Posted 10 July 2015 - 14:14

I have never faced a traumatic experience with a converter through about 60 pens and 30 years of FP writing.

 

Some are clearly better quality than others, it's disappointing when you expected more effort on an upper tier make and they couldn't care less about the converter.

 

Sometimes the ink gets stuck and you have to clean it out, boo hoo hoo...



#17 Namo

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Posted 10 July 2015 - 14:27

Just red the article. As always very interesting. There is one thing though that is bothering me: Mr Gray keep saying that all the filling systems concern the way to put ink into the pen, and not the way the pen put ink on paper. And this is not completely: the filling system and the "tanking" system do have an influence on how the pen put ink on paper. The reason why I don't like c/c system is because I have had my big share of flow related problems. If the standard c/c was based on the Japanese Big Three I wouldn't be so stubborn about this, even if I don't like the ink capacity, and if, "philosophical", I am not so found of the c/c. Actually, I am the person described by Mr Gray at the beginning of the article: c/c filler is an absolute deal breaker...
I am using FPs mainlay because they are the best tool for writing as far as I am concerned. I hate when my pen stops writing for whatever reason in the middle of something. And this concerns also other filling systems, including the double chamber power filler made by Visconti.

Edited by Namo, 10 July 2015 - 14:39.

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#18 torstar

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Posted 10 July 2015 - 14:38

Just red the article. As always very interesting. There is one thing though that is bothering me: Mr Gray keep saying that all the filling systems concern the way to put ink into the pen, and not the way the pen put ink on paper. And this is not quote right: the filling system and the "tanking" system does have an influence on how the pen put ink on paper. The reason why I don't like c/c system is because I have had my big share of flow related problems. If the standard c/c was based on the Japanese Big Three I wouldn't be so stubborn about this, even if I don't like the ink capacity, and if, "philosophical", I am not so found of the c/c. Actually, I am the person described by Mr Gray at the beginning of the article: c/c filler is an absolute deal breaker...

 

I find the Sailor converter to be BY FAR the worst made of top brand pens.  Interesting you would wish the whole FP world imitates the Big 3.



#19 torstar

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Posted 10 July 2015 - 14:40

When piston fillers break down it is a sum of many $$$ to repair them through your lifetime.



#20 Namo

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Posted 10 July 2015 - 14:41

I find the Sailor converter to be BY FAR the worst made of top brand pens.  Interesting you would wish the whole FP world imitates the Big 3.


Come to think of it, I don't think I have any experience with Sailor converter only with the cartridges. My point is that the mouth of the converter is bigger, and implies a better behavior toward surface tension.

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