Fountain Pen Design

Function, Development, Construction and Fabrication

7.1 Filling Systems

Today, we take it completely for granted that, when you pick up a pen of any kind, you can merely press it to a piece of paper and ink will begin to flow. However, it is only 150 or so years ago that this miracle first came true for most people. Before that, a pen, just like a paint brush, had to be dipped into a bottle of ink before starting to write. How long you could write before dipping back into the bottle was dependent on many things, ranging from a few words to an entire line of text.

When the idea appeared to incorporate the ink reservoir into the nib holder, thus feeding the nib from the back instead of the front, there was a fundamental shift not only in the convenience in the act of writing, but also in the location of the ever-present threat of spilled ink, moving from an overturned bottle on the desk to a leak in a favourite shirt.

Once this leap in technology had been accomplished, the next was to establish how, exactly, the ink should find its way from the bottle into that reservoir, and this is where there has been much innovation over the years that have followed.

At the most fundamental level, there are only three ways to get ink into a pen’s reservoir:

  1. drop it in with the help of gravity,
  2. suck it in using a vacuum, or
  3. insert a reservoir that has already been filled with ink.

These three methods describe the three basic classifications of fountain pen filling systems:

  1. Eyedropper
    • A self-filling reservoir, which can be divided into three sub-categories:
    • Flexible ink sac
    • Rigid reservoir
  2. Hybrid flexible / rigid
  3. Cartridges