Tale of a Vandal Pen User: State of the Hoard

Current state of the collection

Earlier this year I drew the line at the number of pens to keep at nine. Curiosity about Platinum nibs eeked me over the line. Plus there was the second Danitrio Cumlaude that came my way. I’ve contemplated a lot about retreating to last year’s goal of twelve pens. I’m at eleven plus one Edison/Hakumin Urushi Kobo that’s been in the making since April. I’m feeling a little like the old woman living in the shoe. I know, I know, quite laughable, isn’t it? Look at all my cool pens!

I’ve learned my collection comfort level, however. Nine pens or less means all pens get used without neglect. Nine pens or more means pens get neglected and sit without use and that causes me discomfort. Weird, huh? Of course that’s my truth and I don’t expect it to be yours. The number could be five, yet that would deplete some of the fun and diversity of the collection.

Two pens in the collection are very similar:  the Danitrio Fellowship and the Danitrio Short Octagon. The base urushi is the same: tame-murasaki. Both bear the same artist signature. Of course one has gorgeous maki-e. I’ve thought about letting the Short Octagon go. I use it more often, though, than the Fellowship pen because I worry a bit over ruining the maki-e. Then again, both are urushi pens so why give one up?

The cigar box holds nine pens. How to take the eleven plus one-not-yet-here back down to nine? Each pen has its merits and it is not easy to decide. Brutally putting emotion aside, cartridge converter pens that do not convert well to eyedropper mode become the criteria.

The collective wisdom in the fountain pen community is that metal sections will corrode with prolonged exposure to ink. Four pens have metal sections: the two Platinum, the Nakaya and one of the Cumlaudes.  I seriously considered modifying these pens to accommodate eyedropper mode. The idea is to shield the metal sections by painting them with nail polish and using a cut off converter for the inside of the section. (See the FPN thread where this method is discussed.) I tested the idea on one pen, using silicon grease instead of nail polish. (I figured I could commit to nail polish later.) Although the conversion worked quite well, it seemed a lot of work to make a pen into something it is not meant to be.

And so, the two sweet Platinums and the original style Danitrio Cumlaude make the cut for pens needing new homes. The Nakaya of course was never on the chopping block. One metal section urushi fountain pen is easy to live with, eh? The Levenger True Writer has not yet received eyedropper conversion. Sometime, though, I’ll give it a go to see how it fares. All remaining pens are used predominately as an eyedropper. They can still be used with a converter if need be.

Nine pens remains the line for the collection.

Eyedropper Conversions of Modern Fountain Pens

Today there are a number of Japanese pens made specifically as eyedropper style pens. These pens have a valve to assist regulating the flow of ink to the feed. There are vintage eyedropper pens, too. I dunno nuttin’ about such things. My eyedropper pens all started life as cartridge/converter pens.

Edison Huron

Logic holds that any fountain pen with a single piece barrel that does not leak can be converted to eyedropper mode. The “how to” is essentially the same for any pen, whether a Preppy, an Edison or a Danitrio.

Collective wisdom holds that pens with metal sections or metal in the barrel should not be converted and you do so at your own risk. It’s your pen, after all.

Converting a fountain pen to be filled with ink directly into the barrel:  it’s easy. You need a little pure silicone grease for the threads. (It’s important that your silicone grease not have petroleum additives.) If you are queasy about the grease, then you can use an o-ring. If you use o-rings, keep a supply on hand because they can break over time or from over-tightening.

Issues with converting? Platinum Preppies aside, I’ve not had any issues with any converted pen in my hoard, past or present. Eyedropper filling is the method I use more frequently than not. If I don’t want to use this method, it is easy enough to insert the converter back in and fill the pen from that.

As simple as the filling method is, eyedropper conversion’s probably not for the casual pen user. My own nib points run fine. I fill only two or three pens at a time, don’t change inks often, write for hours at a time most days of the week, write my pens dry (no “leave it 1/3 filled” for moi), and know my pens very well. You cannot see how much ink is left in the barrel unless you have an ink-view window in your pen. (No ink-view windows here.)

Just because I don’t have issues, doesn’t mean you won’t. Issues some people report:  ink flow being too wet or two dry, leaking, burping of ink when ink is low, burping of ink when pen is warmed by hand, burping of ink in humidity, dripping ink into the pen cap, filling process messy. Did I mention “burping ink?” You can decide this for yourself. Read up on FPN. All you gotta do is search for eyedropper burp, eh?

One thing to be aware of: ink will likely stain the inside of your pen barrel. If your pen’s material is translucent you may not want to convert it. I did not convert a beautiful Bexley because of I didn’t want to stain the beautiful acrylic which had a lot of nice transparency.

Some of the more inexpensive ebonite pens I’ve read about seem to be prone to burping. And so I’ve avoided those pens and cannot say from first hand experience how such pens fare.

I’m keeping an eye on a recent conversion: a resin Pilot Falcon. I’m watching for inconsistencies in ink flow, too much or too little. The feed on this pen is an unusual design and is made to provide optimal ink flow for flexing or with fast writing. The nib, by the way, on this pen is a Soft Fine. So far so good with this conversion, but it still needs to bang around with me awhile to know for sure. The resin Falcon holds 3ml of ink as an eyedropper, as compared to the .7 or .8ml of a converter or the .9ml of a cartridge.

I like converting pens to eyedroppers. There are no pistons to worry about failing, levers breaking, or fancy pumps breaking down. My one concession seems to be a barrel brush for occasional cleaning.

Things do not change; we change.
from Walden, by Henry David Thoreau

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