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Vacuum Force Feeding -- A Universal Filling Method


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A disclaimer first: this is basically a repost of an idea mentioned by member suchan271 here,

but in a thread on rollerballs, so it's well possible that vintage pen afficionados didn't see it.
In fact, this filling method seems to work quite universally, with most types of fountain pens -- including some vintage pens whose inbuilt filling system is out of order for certain reasons (such as bad washer seals in vacuumfil pens).

All one needs is a feed that allows ink to pass, and a tank that holds ink. Plus a syringe and a piece of PVC tube.
In essence, the pen gets winded by external force, and when it gulps for air, it only finds ink to inhale.


As referenced in suchan271's post, the method was devised, or at least publicised, by Kenneth Lee -- for use on a Pilot Varsity pen. His page shows two videos, which are also available on youtube, see video1 resp. video2.

(The first of the two is more specific to the Varsity; only in the second does the connecting tube appear, and this makes the method much more widely applicable.)



Here's a text description of the procedure:

1. One needs a piece of tube (rubber, PVC, or some flexible plastic) that fits the section of the pen snugly, and a syringe (minus needle) that fits just as snugly into the tube from the other end.
2. Fill the syringe with ink, but not to the brim: the first move of the procedure will be to pull the plunger further back.
3. Plug pen and syringe into the tube, hold with nib pointing upward.
4. Pull out the syringe plunger, then push in. Repeat until the pen is filled.
5. At the end, pull the plunger back, hold pen-tube-syringe aggregate so that syringe points upward, then unplug the pen from the tube. (This avoids having surplus ink soiling your hands.)

In step 4, one creates a partial vacuum inside the pen, which then sucks the ink through the feed into the tank. Repeating the action really helps: pulling the plunger back out will remove the remaining air rather than the ink from the tank -- as long as the nib points upward.

If the tube fits tightly enough, the procedure is surprisingly clean. Filling the syringe with no more ink than the pen will hold does of course help.
An even cleaner, but slightly more fiddly, variant is shown in this video3 by Kenneth Lee. (Here the syringe merely serves as an air pump, without coming into contact with the ink.)

Personally, I find this method ingenious. It is "conceptually elegant" in the sense that it works pretty universally and doesn't require any high tech components (I cut my piece of tube from an ancient shower hose I kept on the eminently sound principle of "you never know what it might be good for").
From an aesthetic point of view, it's of course less elegant and pleasing than operating a functioning vintage vacuum filler, or a smooth Pelikan piston, or a Conid bulkfiller.

(And there is another aesthetic caveat: one has to decide beforehand whether a snugly fitting PVC tube might scratch the surface of the section. Didn't happen to me even with a fairly stiff piece of tube, but generally the softer the tube, the better.)

I used the procedure successfully to ink two defunct vacuum fillers (one Sheaffer Balance, one Eversharp Doric) that wouldn't create enough suction anymore, but I also conducted water trials on various eyedropper pens, piston fillers, c/c fillers and even a sac filler: worked each time.

My sincere thanks to suchan271 and to Kenneth Lee. I hope some of you find this useful, too.

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