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Woes Of Ballpoint Pen Refills - Your Recommendations

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#1 MYU

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Posted 07 July 2016 - 20:53

Ballpoint (and rollerball) pen refills have progressed a very long way.  They are a far cry from the older sticky, blobby, and inconsistently performing refills of decades ago.  In fact some modern ones write so well and smoothly without much pressure required, that they can easily displace the need for a firm fine nib fountain pen.

 

But all flirting with FPN heresy aside, all writing instruments have their place.  I prefer fountain pens, but ballpoints are very useful in circumstances where fountain pens just don't cut it.  Mainly, the ability to write with quick drying waterproof results, while being rugged, durable, maintenance-free and even inexpensive.

 

Well, unfortunately there is no single standard ballpoint refill design. There are a number of them (more than 5). Some makers stick with one or two refill designs, which means you cannot enjoy their ink in other pens (e.g. the Pilot G2 won't fit in any Parker refill compatible pens).

 

While many are good writers, with some being really quite superb, there is one thing I've run into that is a major pet peeve of mine:  REFILLS THAT STOP WORKING, even though they have seen very little use.

 

From what I've surmised, the main problem with traditional ballpoint refills is that the ink supply will separate over time. The result is a gap inside the channel towards the tip, which blocks the ink flow.  You may find that after waiting some time with the pen sitting tip down that flow will resume, but it will rarely remain consistent.  The "gap" doesn't close up.  It just allows a little ink to sneak past it to the tip, but will remain there. This can happen with many types of refills.  AND... as I've discovered, this will happen with some even though they are "NEW" and "UNUSED"!  I once bought a 10 pack of refills (got a very good price per refill) and after 5 years, the ENTIRE PACK was not usable (7 new refills were completely useless).

 

I tried a number of things to fix the refills:

  • Heated up the refill with a hair dryer, in hopes of increasing fluidity and perhaps causing the "gap" to float up to the back end, away from the tip.
  • Taping the refill to a string and then whipping it around very fast like a centrifuge, trying to shift the ink to the writing tip.

Both methods worked... at first.  But then after some writing, the refill would stop working again.  I do wonder if I should have tried using both methods, one after the other.

 

So my questions are as follows:

 

Q 1:  Have you run into that dreaded skipping refill problem?  If so, did you find a workable solution that lasts for a reasonable period?

 

Q2:  What refills have you found that are not prone to ink supply separation?  My favorite to date is the Pilot G2.  Also, it seems that LAMY's M16 refill is very good about continuous writing even after lying in a drawer for many months.

 

Please share your experiences and try not to slam ballpoints over fountain pens.  I'd like to keep this topic "ballpoint friendly" so we can all benefit from each other's pen wisdom.  Thanks!


Edited by MYU, 07 July 2016 - 21:01.

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#2 sciumbasci

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Posted 07 July 2016 - 23:14

IIRC fisher's pressurised refills are exempt from such phenomena, due to their construction

#3 Zookie

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Posted 07 July 2016 - 23:33

I have a few vintage ballpoints, and refills can be a real bear. I've tried a lot of different solutions to drying and skipping all to no avail. However, I've noticed that a lot of refills now have a tiny bit of wax on the tip, presumably to keep them from drying out.

If they had done that years ago, would it have increased refill shelf life? Or kept the ink fresher?

 

BTW, I have a Parker/Eversharp Big E ballpoint that I've converted to use modern Jotter refills and have yet to have a problem, even when it hasn't been used for a longer period.

 

Maybe the ink formulation makes a difference. I've had some problems with G2 refills, but not with the Energel refills, and have used them in a lot of different pens.



#4 MYU

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Posted 08 July 2016 - 03:34

IIRC fisher's pressurised refills are exempt from such phenomena, due to their construction

 

Yes, they are reputed to be excellent writers... I hadn't thought of them.  Will have to check on their compatibility.  I know they have the small bullet pens... maybe they've got a larger format as well.

 

I have a few vintage ballpoints, and refills can be a real bear. I've tried a lot of different solutions to drying and skipping all to no avail. However, I've noticed that a lot of refills now have a tiny bit of wax on the tip, presumably to keep them from drying out.

If they had done that years ago, would it have increased refill shelf life? Or kept the ink fresher?

 

BTW, I have a Parker/Eversharp Big E ballpoint that I've converted to use modern Jotter refills and have yet to have a problem, even when it hasn't been used for a longer period.

 

Maybe the ink formulation makes a difference. I've had some problems with G2 refills, but not with the Energel refills, and have used them in a lot of different pens.

 

I do think ink formulation can make a difference, in addition to environmental conditions.  I had some Schneider refills that dried out, and while they had a protective sleeve over the tip, they weren't air tight, no wax ball over the tip (like you see on PILOT refills).  I hadn't heard of the Pentel Energel ones... looked into those and they appear to require a cap (would likely dry out with capless ballpoints).


Edited by MYU, 08 July 2016 - 03:36.

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#5 MYU

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Posted 08 July 2016 - 03:46

I found a couple of decent refill compatibility guides...

 

Refill Finder Compatibility Guide.

 

Well Appointed Desk Epic Refill Guide


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#6 Algester

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Posted 08 July 2016 - 04:16

newer gel pens have different in inks right now Pilot and Uni-ball are advertising their new gel ink lines being 1.5x more viscous than their previous gels...
you may know this with the Signo 307 and the Acro Drive as far as I'm concerned the Signo 307 is the only pen available with in the US with their newer signo gel

as for oil stick refills well I got the Air Press by Tombow... it relies on pressure difference like it's cousin the Pilot Downforce which is a modification of the already pressurized refills of the fisher space pen who has a doppelganger refill in the form of the power tank by uniball

what I think is good about what Pilot and Tombow did is that at least this way any oil stick type refill should work as long as they are cut to length

Edited by Algester, 08 July 2016 - 04:19.


#7 sciumbasci

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Posted 08 July 2016 - 10:19

Fisher refills are Parker compatible.

 

Have you tried to heat up the (if available) metal body of the refill? As the ink inside is grease based, heat should liuquify the lumps (is that the correct word?). Just be mindful of the plastic bits.



#8 rminj

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Posted 08 July 2016 - 11:05

Hey I write with ballpoints exclusively and have tried most of the refills out there.

In regards to the dry or skip problem..I've had some paste ones in drawer and they do not write after years of use..some do..it depends on the ink composition. I will say that it doesn't mean the ones that don't dry out write any better day to day.
I never had my schmidt easyflows dry out but some have skip. The last time this happened it was to several brand new ones..I sent them all to schmidt who analyzed them; it turned out to be fuzz or lint from my pocket got behind the ball and into the refill. The ink flow then becomes intermitten.. there is no fix...well except I stopped using that pen that did not retract the refill tip very far. I imagine any refill could get something behind the ball and it will affect the ink flow.

#9 Mike 59

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Posted 08 July 2016 - 11:07

I've always had the idea that ballpoint refills are made to be useable for up to a couple of years, then either run out because of sheer use, or start to dry up because of air slowly leaking in, at the writing tip.

  The current trend of several pen makers, is to make the ink much thinner, to give a very smooth writing experience, but with the 'price' to pay of the ink being used up very quickly, sometimes a matter of weeks of normal use.

   I had a gel pen about 7 or 8 years ago which wrote so well, and I could see the level dropping each day as I used it, it lasted 3 weeks until lthe ink was used up.

  So it was a tremendous writer, for 3 weeks, which makes it the worst value for money pen I have ever owned.

 Strangely(?) although I could have bought a refill for it, but was 90% of the price of a new pen.

  It's a big compromise between slow flowing, long lasting ink, as against juicy flowing ink which will not last too long.



#10 usk15

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Posted 08 July 2016 - 18:33

Hey I write with ballpoints exclusively and have tried most of the refills out there.

In regards to the dry or skip problem..I've had some paste ones in drawer and they do not write after years of use..some do..it depends on the ink composition. I will say that it doesn't mean the ones that don't dry out write any better day to day.
I never had my schmidt easyflows dry out but some have skip. The last time this happened it was to several brand new ones..I sent them all to schmidt who analyzed them; it turned out to be fuzz or lint from my pocket got behind the ball and into the refill. The ink flow then becomes intermitten.. there is no fix...well except I stopped using that pen that did not retract the refill tip very far. I imagine any refill could get something behind the ball and it will affect the ink flow.

 

HA! Very well explained, thank you!

 

As well, i have tried different ballpoint and gel refills. I came to this conclusion:

for ballpoint - Schmidt Easyfloww 9000 (Parker compatible) and Uni Jetstream (roller-ball compatible)

for gel pens - Pentel Energel and Uni Signo (roller-ball compatible) and Inoxcrom (Parker compatible).

 

Now, when I'm talking about roller-ball compatible is still about to fiddle about to get set it right! Sometimes they are too long or too short...just work around!

 

Right now I'm running a water test, followed by a fade test, paper being exposed to sun. I will make a review in about 6 months. So far I like Schmidt both colors, Jetstream blue, Energel and Signo blue.

 

Inoxcrom gel refill : https://www.amazon.c...m/dp/B005DZ9PH6

Jetstream :https://www.amazon.c...etstream refill

Energel : https://www.amazon.c...=energel refill

Uni Signo : https://www.amazon.c...ni signo refill



#11 rminj

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Posted 09 July 2016 - 17:36

I need to find some blue gel inoxcroms..

#12 MYU

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Posted 14 July 2016 - 18:56

Right now I'm running a water test, followed by a fade test, paper being exposed to sun. I will make a review in about 6 months. So far I like Schmidt both colors, Jetstream blue, Energel and Signo blue.

 

Will be very interested to see your results!  It's one thing to have a refill that writes well and doesn't smear, but holding up over time is equally, if not more important.

 

Btw, would be great if you could incorporate a Pilot G2 refill in this test.  I find they last a very long time and don't dry out very easily over multiple years.


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#13 usk15

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Posted 14 July 2016 - 20:42

 

Will be very interested to see your results!  It's one thing to have a refill that writes well and doesn't smear, but holding up over time is equally, if not more important.

 

Btw, would be great if you could incorporate a Pilot G2 refill in this test.  I find they last a very long time and don't dry out very easily over multiple years.

 

Pilot G2 is on! Along with Pentel Energel and Lamy M66.



#14 pajaro

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Posted 17 July 2016 - 15:41

I have had no trouble with Montblanc and Pelikan medium and broad refills.  I don't write a lot with them, so they last for years. 


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#15 AL01

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Posted 17 July 2016 - 15:48

The fisher Parker refills are fantastic! Unfortunately the same cannot be said with the official Parker refills!

(If you can, you can find 'em for a buck each!)


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#16 usk15

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Posted 10 December 2016 - 12:27

Here you have my water and sun exposure test:

http://www.fountainp...t-refills-test/



#17 flatline

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Posted 10 December 2016 - 14:43

I just pulled out a used red Fisher space pen refill that I used for a while 5 or 6 years ago, but has been unused since. It started right up and  writes as well as it did when I first got it. It did have a small glob of ink at the tip that I had to remove first, though.

 

It's been probably 15 or 16 years since the space pen refill became the only ballpoint that I use. One of my favorite things about the space pen refill is that as the ink level gets low, it gives you lots of warning rather than suddenly stopping and leaving you pen-less. As the ink gets low, when you write, after a couple lines, the ink starts to slow down, but when you pause, the pressure in the refill pushes the remaining ink forward again so that you can write again. Once you notice this behavior, it's time to put in a fresh refill, but you can still get lots of writing done this way before the pen finally quits.

 

I wish all pens behaved this way because there is nothing more frustrating than reaching for a pen that worked perfectly well earlier, but won't write right now.

 

My EDC pen has a blue fine space pen refill in it. I seem to replace the refill every 2 or 3 years of daily, but relatively light, use. I use this pen for all my writing needs when I'm not at my desk (I use pencils and gel pens at my desk, but almost never stick one in my pocket with the space pen).

 

--flatline



#18 Studio97

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Posted 10 December 2016 - 15:13

This topic reminds me of several moleskine pens I bought on a clearance sale. None of them worked after one page of writing. So I replaced the fillers with Schmidt broad tip, Rite in the rain and space pen refills. I also bought packages of zebra Sarasa .7 pens about 144 pens total and they are great writers. I think it was $12.00 for all of it.

Edited by Studio97, 10 December 2016 - 16:16.


#19 AL01

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Posted 11 December 2016 - 20:13

TBH, I try to use ball-pens....

 

But they are NOT fountain pens, so I would recommend to find a dry pen and throw some dry ink in it.

 

BUT I do kinda sorta think that a G2 is best you will get for a 'rolling ball' pen.


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#20 Mike 59

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Posted 12 December 2016 - 14:03

I found for a reliable ballpoint, I tend to use either Uni Jetstream or Pilot Acroball.

 But very similar to them and in many more colours are the PaperMate Inkjoys, good value too.

 I've always liked the Parker Jotter design, and use either the QuinkFlow refills or the only Fisher space refill I have, which seems to have advantages if writing on 'difficult' paper, and does not seem to fade over time either.







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