Tale of a Vandal Pen User: Living The High Life Light

Once upon a time, my quest for a refillable highlighting pen led me to the Platinum Preppy. I bought a bottle of highlighting fluid, Noodler’s Year of the Golden Pig, which came with a Preppy highlighter pen modified for eyedropper filling. That single pen and ink worked well for a time.

Platinum Preppy inked with Noodler's Year of the Golden Pig
Platinum Preppy inked with Noodler’s Year of the Golden Pig

One had to take care, of course, not to leave the highlighter unused for a long period of time. Otherwise, the ink turned to rubbery goo.

Noodler's Year of the Golden Pig turned to unusable rubbery gunk
Noodler’s Year of the Golden Pig turned to unusable rubbery gunk

The Trouble with Preppys

The Platinum Preppy highlighter pen is an inexpensive, and deceptively elegant solution. A Preppy highlighter costs less than $3 (USA). You can buy them, along with Platinum’s own highlighter ink cartridges. You can refill those carts with an alternative highlighting ink.

Platinum highlighter blue and green ink cartridges
Platinum highlighter blue and green ink cartridges

You can also modify your Preppy to forgo the cartridge, and ink the pen eyedropper style—filling the barrel directly with ink. The eyedropper method fulfills my own desire to put less waste into the landfill or recycling bin. Yes, even those little disposable ink carts.

Since that initial Preppy, I’ve gone through many more. The problem I have with Preppys is that barrels, caps, and sections crack. Even when I’m not looking.

Okay, kidding.


Example of Platinum Preppy crack
Example of Platinum Preppy crack

I may be casual with my pens, but I’m not careless with them.

Sure duct tape can hold the barrel together, but then the pen ceases to be safe for ink poured directly into the barrel.

Duct tape holding Preppy barrel together
Duct tape holding Preppy barrel together – Platinum Highlighting Blue ink cartridge in place

Eventually, I gave up eyedroppering my cracking highlighters, and opted for the Platinum ink cartridges.

Certainly, the Platinum Preppy highlighter has its fan base. For me, the pens proved to be unreliable, and I lost my confidence in carrying Preppys in my pen roll.

Instead of keeping more stuff out of the garbage or recycling bin, I was putting more stuff in with empty ink carts, disposable tips, broken barrels and caps.

☮ → Of note: The Writer’s Bloc blog has a great post about converting a Platinum Plaisir to use the Preppy highlighter tips. I considered this inspired modification for a moment. But I wanted a complete, uh, break from the Preppy, even in the form of a more sturdy Plaisir.

Other Refillable Highlighters Exist

Zebra, Tombow, Staedtler, Pilot among others, make highlighters that you can refill, usually with their own proprietary ink systems. On the high end of the economic scale, Montblanc makes a highlighting pen that uses disposable ink cartridges.

Fountain Pen Possibilities

A few years ago, Pelikan brought a highlighting pen to market. Called the M205 Duo, the fountain pen comes in transparent yellow or green. Along with Pelikan’s famous piston filling mechanism, the pen has with a double broad steel nib to use for both highlighting and note taking.

In Japan there’s a Sailor Sapporo available, if you can find it, that comes with fluorescent yellow ink for highlighting.

Any fountain pen, however, can be employed to highlight text. Many people use fountain pens to highlight text by underlining it.

Common pens frequently used for this purpose: Sheaffer, Pilot Parallel or Plumix, Lamy Vista or Safari, Kaweco Sport. Italic nibs are also common. You’re limited by only your imagination and your wallet.

There is a highlighting style that works for each of us. Many are happy to underline text. Others, like me, prefer to ink over the words. Because of my highlighting style, I find fountain pens rather clumsy to use as highlighters.

There are also dry highlighters in the form of pencils. Kinda cool, ay? I was about to take a look at these when I came across something else I thought had been discontinued long ago.

Enter Stage Left:  Sailor Profit Brush Pen

Sailor Profit Brush pen cap
Sailor Profit Brush pen cap

Many years ago a Sailor Profit Brush pen was recommended to me as a highlighting pen. At that time, however, the pen was near impossible to find in the USA. When I did find the pen, it cost upwards of $35 or more; a little costly for my intended purpose. In retrospect, however, I’ve spent nearly that amount in keeping a useable stable of Platinum Preppys alive, ay? Live and learn yet again.

The Sailor Profit Brush pen can be obtained from Japan retailers. Maybe it’s available in your own country. It’s not in the USA as of this writing, although you might find it in store at Kinokuniya or Maido stationery stores. Online places such as JetPens, the ‘Bay, and A-ma-zon will likely have it at various prices.

The cost today is far less than $35. The current Sailor catalog lists the pen for about $13.50. Well, the amount is listed in Japanese yen, but that’s about what the conversion to US dollars brings you as of this post.

Sailor Profit Brush pens
Sailor Profit Brush pens

Also of interest: the brush section alone can be purchased if replacements are needed.  Having only used the Sailor Profit Brush pen for a few months, I don’t know yet how long a single brush tip will hold up. So far, so good.

It Can Be Eyedroppered

The Sailor Profit Brush pen has no internal metal parts. Perfect for an eyedropper filler, ay? It’ll hold about 2.5 ml of ink in the barrel.

The pen can be also inked using a standard Sailor converter, or—if you must—Sailor (non-highlighting) ink cartridges.

Sailor Profit Brush pen
Sailor Profit Brush pen

After applying a little silicon grease to the section threads, I filled the barrel with my ink of choice. It’s not a highlighting ink, but one made for fountain pens: Sailor Yellow-Orange. The ink pops on the page, and leaves the underlying print cleanly readable.

Sailor Profit Brush inked with Sailor Yellow-Orange ink
Sailor Profit Brush inked with Sailor Yellow-Orange ink

For the second brush–oh yeah, I ended up with two–I emptied the remaining cartridges of Platinum’s green highlighting ink into it. The Platinum ink works great.

Platinum Green Highlighting ink - Sailor Profit Brush pen
Platinum Green Highlighting ink – Sailor Profit Brush pen

To identify which pen contains which highlighting ink, I stuck self-sticking paper to the caps, and then painted the paper with the corresponding ink.

Caps with ink labels
Caps with ink labels


Using the Sailor Profit Brush pen as a highlighter is quite different from using your basic chiseled highlighting pen. The Brush requires a light touch. Too much pressure will leave too much ink, and may saturate through the page.

I found using the brush much easier than using the old, familiar chisel tip. I can lightly paint a line, a square, or a section very quickly, and with control. Fantastic!

The brush method isn’t going to be for everybody. My own needs for highlighting are simple. Most commonly, I use highlighters on printouts from my laser printer, and on my Chronodex time tracker.

Chronodex page: Sailor Jentle Yellow-Orange, Platinum Highlighting Green, Platinum Highlighting Yellow
Chronodex page (Staples #20 sugar cane copy paper): Sailor Jentle Yellow-Orange, Platinum Highlighting Green. The Sailor Yellow-Orange ran out mid-week, and was temporarily replaced by Platinum Highlighting Yellow.

Like any highlighter, you have to use some cautions if highlighting your printouts and handwritten scrawl. Will it smear or not smear? That is the question, ay?

Using the Sailor Yellow-Orange and Platinum Highlighting inks on my printouts resulted in no smearing or bleed-through. This is true from printouts from both my HP laser printer, and an Epson Artisan inkjet. It’s important for your inkjet print to be dry, ay? Papers I use:  HP 32# Premium laser, Staples sugar cane 20# copy, and Domtar Earth Choice 20#.

There is significant “show through” on the Staples sugar cane. That is, for those unfamiliar with the “show through” term, the ink colors can clearly be seen when you turn the page over. Not the same as bleed-through wherein the ink literally soaks through the page to the other side. A heavier hand than mine might create some bleed-through.

☮ → BTW, the sugar cane Staples 20# paper continues to impress me. It may be “blah” looking (see Chronodex above) but it’s very ink friendly!

A plain Staples 20# multipurpose paper (not sugar cane) did bleed through quite badly to the other side, for both Sailor Yellow-Orange and Platinum Highlighting Green.

Sailor Yellow-Orange and Platinum Highlighting Green on plain Staples multipurpose 20# paper - inks bleed through to other side
Sailor Yellow-Orange and Platinum Highlighting Green on plain Staples multipurpose 20# paper – inks bleed through to other side

I cannot emphasize enough that the lightest touch to paper is necessary with the brush pen. Even so, your own experience with bleed-through on papers may be radically different from mine.

Highlighting over handwritten inky scrawl is, generally speaking, not smear-free. That’s to be expected, I think. The Sailor Yellow-Orange will cause such fairly water resistant inks such as Sailor Blue and Pilot Blue-Black to smear a little (Pilot BB) or a lot (Sailor Blue).

Only a permanent ink in my stash, Sailor Sei-Boku, survives being washed over with the Sailor Yellow-Orange. The Platinum Highlighting Green ink smears my scrawl hardly at all.

Platinum Highlighting Yellow does smear quite a bit. See above Chronodex page photo for Platinum Yellow smear over “Lex.”

Know, too, that my pens largely have fine nibs. A scrawl from fountain pen with a broad, wet nib might smear a lot. Dunno. Don’t have any of those myself.

Highlighting scrawl - no smear from Sailor Sei-Boku
Highlighting scrawl – no real smear from Sailor Sei-Boku – click on photo for close-up view

In my “real world” use, I don’t have much call to highlight my handwriting scrawl.

The Sailor Profit Brush pen is quite lightweight. Approximate weights and lengths are:

  • Ink capacity ED style: 2.5ml
  • Weight posted or capped, inked ED style:  14g
  • Weight uncapped, inked ED style:  8g
  • Length capped/closed:  130.5mm
  • Length uncapped:  110.5mm
  • Length posted: 140.5mm
Size comparison, top to bottom: Edison Glenmont, Sailor Profit Brush, Pilot Decimo
Size comparison, top to bottom: Edison Glenmont, Sailor Profit Brush, Pilot Decimo

Highlighting Inks


Bottled highlighting inks are produced by a very small number of manufacturers.

Noodler’s has the largest variety of colors, and is widely available, particularly in the USA. These highlighting inks average $0.14 per ml.

Pelikan has two colors, yellow and green. The green can be hard to find. Pelikan highlighting inks are the most expensive at approximately $0.60 per ml.

Private Reserve also has a single highlighting ink, called Private Reserve Chartreuse. This ink averages approximately $0.16 per ml.


Not available in bottles are the Platinum highlighting inks that come in cartridge form. They are great performers, and can only be used in Platinum pens. The cost is over $0.80 per ml for these inks.

For Lamy pens, there are Lamy neon inks, and Monteverde has a line of highlighting inks, “Monteverde for Lamy.” You’re on your own figuring out the cost of these disposable carts. No Lamys in my tiny pen hoard.

More Bottles

Plain ol’ fountain pen inks may also be used. You’re limited only by your ink arsenal and imagination. I’m currently using Sailor Jentle ink, in the discontinued Yellow-Orange color. For my second brush pen, when my Platinum cartridges run out, I’ll use another Sailor color that’s in my ink stash. Any bright ink with transparency can be used. Among the popular choices for fountain pen inks are J.Herbin, Caran d’Arch, Pelikan Edelstein, and Diamine.

Experiment, if you haven’t done so already. Find your own way.

Just remember, if you dare to highlight your inky scrawl you just might wash it away.

Sailor Jentle Yellow-Orange - a discontinued ink
Sailor Jentle Yellow-Orange – a discontinued ink

More Be Revealed As I Highlight Along

Brush pens, a staple of calligraphers and artists, exhibit a range in quality, from synthetic to natural fibered nibs. But my purpose is small, just some highlighting of pages now and then. I’m hopeful the decent synthetic Sailor Profit Brush pen will fare better for my highlighting needs than the Platinum Preppy did.

I’m keeping it simple with two brush pens. Although for me, one is surely enough. The second brush pen merely provides a little vanity more color for my Chronodex. For the moment, I’ve got a good, refillable highlighting system.

For the More Obsessive: Some Reading

Tale of a Vandal Whiteboard User – Update

My whiteboard is one of my favorite writing tools. I use the board frequently to keep track of things I don’t want to forget, or to play out story ideas. Often I take a photo of my scribblings, and stash the notes in Evernote before erasing the board to make way for new scribblings.

Noodler's Waterase Blue and Expo Vis-a-Vis Blue on my whiteboard
Noodler’s Waterase Blue and Expo Vis-a-Vis Blue on my whiteboard (very hard to photograph da board!)

Once upon a time, I migrated to Noodler’s Waterase for my whiteboard notetaking. Waterase is a wet erase ink for whiteboards; you use a damp cloth to remove it from your board. The ink is used in refillable marking pens such as a Platinum Preppy. The ink comes in two colors: black and blue. You gotta ED the Preppy to use the Waterase ink. BTW: I’ve only used the ink in a Preppy.

Freshly inked Platinum Preppys with Noodler's Waterase
Freshly inked Platinum Preppys with Noodler’s Waterase

In case you don’t know: Wet erase vs dry erase — dry erase ink wipes off your board with any dry cloth or felt eraser. Wet erase ink requires a damp cloth to wipe the ink from your board.

The reason I use wet erase ink is because IMHO dry erase pens don’t last very long, and tend to leave ink residue—”ghosting”—behind on the board. Ghosting of course can be affected by how well you maintain your whiteboard, and especially by the quality of the board in use.

My acrylic whiteboard came cut to order, seven years ago, from a local plastics company for $35. I chose acrylic for the board because it needed to be lightweight and mountable on a closet door. Wet erase markers were my chosen medium for the acrylic. I’ve never-ever used dry erase markers with this board. Could be wrong but I don’t think acrylic is a great material for the dry erase stuff.

In seven years of steady usage, I’ve not had a problem with ghosting on my acrylic board with either traditional wet erase markers or the Noodler’s Waterase inks.

The Noodler’s Waterase ink performed very well with my board. The longest time I’ve gone without erasing notes from the board was about four months. Waterase washed off without leaving marks on the board. Yay! In addition to a damp cloth, I also use some commercial plastic cleaner/polisher every few weeks to clean the acrylic board.

Waterase does what it’s meant to do:  write on the board, and wipe off easily. However, Waterase has not been troublefree in my experience. The Platinum Preppy for one is not a reliable delivery system. The tips tend to dry out. I found the Preppy pens needed always to be stored nib up. Otherwise, the Waterase would ooze into the cap. This was an annoyance to me when I’d forget from time to time and leave a pen lying horizontal on my desk.

Oh, and the pens crack no matter how careful I aim to be with them. The Preppys are more delicate than any of my fountain pens.

Platinum Preppy with Waterase Blue
Platinum Preppy with Waterase Blue

When I used the markers every day, or even every other day, the pens worked fine. If a pen was left unused for a couple of weeks, I found it could be tough getting a marker writing again. (I’ve had far better luck using the Preppy as a highlighting pen.)

Recently, I used up the last of my Waterase ink. I picked up an Expo vis-a-vis marker that hadn’t been used in some three years… it worked perfectly. That gave me pause, and I’ve decided to keep track of how long these old markers keep working.

Two empty bottles of Waterase on their way to the recycling bin
Two empty bottles of Waterase on their way to the recycling bin

For a time I loved this Waterase stuff. Later I just hung on until it was used up. Initially, Waterase made me feel prudent and environmentally happy…  until I found I was replacing the Platinum Preppy markers far more often than an Expo wet erase marker. My goal in using refillable pens is to leave a softer footprint. To me that appears to be a, uh, wash using Waterase. And so back to Expo for now. Whether it’s the ink or the pen or the combination, the experience of Waterase has been too fussy overall.

Having returned to the Expo wet erase markers, I confess the crispness of the marker tips is refreshing, as well as being able to pick colors from black, blue, green, red, and more,

And so three years and four empty bottles later, I’ve decided not to replace my supply of Waterase.

Of course, YMMV, ay?

Related PW Reading:  Waterase


Two ellipses were used in this post. They could not be helped. The word “never” was used once and purposely.


Tale of a Vandal Whiteboard User: It Came Thru the Crack

As the day progressed and continuing to lay the pens on the shelf near my whiteboard…one of the pens began leaking again. It turns out there is a hairline crack in both pens! The silicone grease is keeping one pen from leaking but not the other.  Replacement Preppys are on their way. (Thank you, Rachel Goulet! It always pays to do business with good service oriented folks.)

Yet something else to be aware of. Jeez Louise.

Do not be deterred from Noodler’s Waterase or Platinum Preppy pens. I’m not.

Nobody not nuttin’ is poifect! Not moi. Not Preppys. Not no one!

Be a good customer and do business with good people. That’s my philosophy. Works for moi.

Updated to include:  Platinum Preppys will crack if you over-tighten!

Other Waterase posts:

Tale of a Vandal Whiteboard User: Apply a Little Grease

The modified Platinum Preppy that comes with Noodler’s Waterase is equipped with an o-ring to prevent leaking of ink at the section. Pens converted to fill as “eyedropper pens” need an o-ring and/or silicon grease applied to the section. Usually I do not add silicone grease when an o-ring is in place. You may want apply some grease to your Waterase pens.

Platinum Preppy filled with Noodler's Waterase post silicone grease application

This morning I found that my two Waterase pens were leaking at the section. I store my pens nib up in a cup. This morning I left them laying flat as I was “up and down” from my desk to the whiteboard making a ton of  notes.

Perhaps I had over-enthusiastically tightened the nib section to the barrel over-stressing the o-ring? With my non-Preppy eyedropper pens I don’t use an o-ring…only silicone grease. The Waterase modified Preppy comes with the o-ring which in theory should be enough to hold back the tide, er… ink. My highlighter eyedropper pen has never leaked with just an o-ring in place.

Anyhoo, I applied some silicone grease to the section thread and also left  o-ring in place. All is well again. No leaking. Left them laying flat, too.

Silicone grease is more readily available to fountain pen eyedropper enthusiasts than it was even a year ago. Goulet Pens, Pendemonium, Writer’s Bloc, Richards Pens among others carry it. If you are buying Waterase for the first time, it wouldn’t hurt to add $2-$3 to your order for some silicone grease!

The caution about silicone grease, for those of you unfamiliar with it:  use pure silicone grease with no additives. I found mine at Lowe’s in the plumber’s section. You can trust, however, that the fountain pen retailers listed above carry the real deal.

I will say that, uh, Waterase wiped clean off of every place it left a trail. Helps to have lots wood surfaces and no carpet! My fingers, however, need some serious InkNix-ing.

My original review Noodler’s Waterase Ink is here.

Tale of a Vandal Whiteboard User

Opportunities to reduce my supply of things that get thrown away are golden ones. My initial return to fountain pens was simply to forgo disposable pens.

Once upon a time, I used to write notes on big sheets of paper and tape them up all over my room. These notes contained snippets of information, reminders, and sometimes outlines of whatever the current project might be. While I keep a computerized note file, I like having non-computer type visuals around to jog my brain in a different way. At some point newsprint gave way to a whiteboard and dry-erase markers.

Moving into a new space without wall space for a traditional whiteboard required consideration. A visit to a plastics distributor resulted in a piece of Lucite cut per my specs to fit a closet door. The whiteboard/door sits five feet away from my desk in perfect view.

My research at the time indicated that dry-erase markers would cause ghosting on the acrylic.  “Ghosting” means the ink never comes completely off. Sometimes faint outlines of words are left behind.  Especially if you do like I do and leave notes up for days at a time. Wet-erase markers were recommended in place of dry-erase.

Dry-erase ink wipes off a board with a dry pad (usually made of felt like a chalk board eraser). Wet-erase ink wipes off with a damp pad of some kind. In my case, I use a soft microfiber type cloth. A spray bottle of water is also on-hand.

The transition was easy as the wet-erase markers were nicer and didn’t conk-out as frequently as the dry ones did. Sadly, these markers were still disposable pens.

New Noodler’s Inks
Fall of 2010: Nathan Tardiff announced his new shading ink, “Black Swan in Australian Roses.” He made a video for YouTube about it. Exploring his handful of other videos I watched one about an ink he’d made called Noodler’s Waterase Ink.

I knew I had to have some of this ink. Reusable wet-erase pens! Yes!

Contacting Mr. Tardiff via YouTube got me no answer…in my excitement I forgot he said to contact the distributor…I decided to contact the yes-if-humanly-possible-is-always-the-answer Brian Goulet of Goulet Pens. He scarfed up a few bottles. He sold them out and no one else is talking about supply.

Noodler's Waterase Ink

Noodler’s Waterase Ink
There are only two colors of Noodler’s Waterase Ink: blue and black. I got one of each. The 4.5 ounce bottles came packaged with a modified Platinum Preppy highlighting pen.

The bottles, like Noodler’s highlighting ink, have eyedroppers built in to the caps. I filled each pen, laid them aside for a few moments to let the tips saturate. I tested a small patch of whiteboard first, writing a few lines and then wiping them off with a damp cloth. Worked great.

The Preppy highlighter tips are chiseled and provide get a couple of line variations. The pens are not broadly tipped yet are thicker than the fine point disposable pens I have been using. Using the top part of the Preppy’s chisel tip gives a finer line.

Waterase Blue halo effect

The Blue Waterase is like an aquamarine color.  Using the regular part of the Preppy tip, the ink lays down with a halo effect.  I don’t know if that’s caused by the ink, the Preppy, the whiteboard, my scrawl-style or the combination thereof. As a result, blue words don’t look as crisp as the black words. Even so, the blue is bright, clear and easy to read.

The Black Waterase lays down quite nicely on the whiteboard. The black is dark like a disposable pen’s black. There is no halo effect.

Close-up Waterase Black

The true test for me is to let notes sit for a few days and to still be able to wipe them off easily. After three days, the ink wiped off without issue. No sticking of ink—no ghosting or smears left behind. I suspect even longer periods of time will also be without issue.

Again, my whiteboard is not a commercial board. It’s just a sheet of glossy acrylic which works great for a wet-erase board. [Note the poor lighting in my office, the glossy nature of the whiteboard and my lack of skill make photographing it difficult. The whiteboard appears kinda dingy in my photos. It’s not dingy at all! The board’s a bright white.]

Truly Nerdy Section About Cost
At first glance the ink was expensive at $19/bottle.  A disposable wet-erase marker can be had for $1.20. If I have to replace two disposable pens every 18 months that’s about $3.60. A 4.5 bottle contains about 44 Preppy refills assuming you fill the pen completely. (A Preppy holds 3mls or 0.1014420676767 ounces.)

Resuable and disposable side-by-side

If I did my math right, a Preppy holds $0.43 worth of Waterase ink. How much does the Preppy eyedropper cost? You can get one already modified for $6 at Swisher Pens. Or you can buy your own Preppy for around $3, some o-rings for $1 and silicon grease for $2-$3. Plus shipping. So let’s tack on $6 (as a shipping average). Approximately $12 for the eyedropper pen. (Occasionally you’ll need to replace the highlighter tips and they cost $1.50 for a pair.) Even so, over the long term the Noodler’s Waterase breaks out to a better cost than disposable pens.

No More Noodler’s Waterase Ink?
Tardiff made 70 bottles of his waterase ink. There has been so little interest in this ink he probably won’t make any more. I only have two bottles. I don’t know how long approximately 44 refills per bottle will last me. A long time, I think.

I did mention only 70 bottles were made and they are all gone, right? Why am I bothering to post about a product that can’t be had? Because I feel it should be had and made by someone even if not Mr. Tardiff. I want more re-usables in my life, not more disposables. Noodler’s Waterase Ink is a wonderful idea.

If you want this ink… if enough people demand it, maybe more will be made.

Blue and black are plenty color for me. Perhaps the lecturer or presenter types among us, though, could use red or purple or green.

A Select Viewing List

Other Peaceable Writer Waterase Posts


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Tale of a Vandal Pen User: On Ink Capacity

Danitrio Eyedropper

Meditating upon the remaining pens in my little hoard, to my surprise there were only two piston filling pens remaining. Today the pen collection contains seven c/c fountain pens. Four of those c/c pens are eyedropper converted pens. “Converted” sounds so complicated, doesn’t it? All conversion takes is a little silicon grease applied to the section threads. Despite this “conversion” the pen can still be used with a cartridge or a converter when desired.

At one time the collection contained only piston-filling pens. I thought piston-filling pens provided the best ink capacity. Yet because I require lightweight pens and pens of a certain diameter, larger piston and eyedropper pens with great ink capacity are outside my writing comfort range.

The Edison Huron, as has been previously noted, opened my collection up to the idea of filling the barrel directly with ink, aka western-style eyedropper filling. Filling the barrel with ink is a very simple procedure—not as messy as some would have you believe especially if you are paying attention to what you are doing—and this style of pen does not have any parts that twist, turn, squeeze or rot. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone kindly reading Peaceable Writer that I find elegance in such simplicity.

There has been no science in my exploration of ink capacity. I have merely discovered, “Oh, that converter needs refilling two or three times or so in a day.” Or, “For God’s sake, that converter lasted hardly an hour of writing.” “Gee, that Pelikan lasted two days before refilling.” Or, “Wow, the Huron lasted four days before needing to be fed again.” Or, “the Short Octagon with its EEF nib seems to go on forever.”

Generally I keep two pens inked at a time. One for out and about note-taking and one for writing sessions. During the latter, I’m not paying too much attention to the pen and the ink. Some day I want to count how many pages or words a pen-fill writes. I am too busy (or perhaps too forgetful when in the writing zone) to track. Yet my curiosity would like me to count.  I have only a general sense of how long pens write before they need refilling.

What little I know about ink capacity is that a pen’s feed, nib-point size and how wet or dry the nib writes effects how much ink is used during a writing session. (With one exception, all my nibs are in fine-point arena.) The physical size of the nib and feed also effect how much ink is taken up. The large Bexley nib’s feed will likely hold more ink than the Levenger True Writer’s feed. The medium wet stub of the Nakaya Piccolo with its tiny Platinum converter will write out faster than I’d like for a writing session.

4ml capacity syringe; earthquake putty at bottom

Over the holiday, having a bit of time, I performed the following experiment on the pen collection. Loading up each pen with ink and making sure the feed was saturated (see Brian Goulet’s video for a good tip, btw), I then expelled the ink into a measuring tube. The tube was a syringe with some earthquake putty stuck at the bottom to prevent leaking. [I tried measuring how much ink a pen took in, which would be more accurate (it would include the saturated feed), but I could not find a satisfying measuring container in the house. Impatience lead me to the expelling-ink route with the tiny syringe.]

For the eyedropper pens, I filled each one with the measuring syringe. I was surprised to discover that the four converted pens virtually held the same amount of ink! I expected that some pens might hold more ink than others.

Below are the results of my non-empirical holiday ink capacity experiment. Remember the amounts do not take in to account the feed or ink that remains in the section, or may cling elsewhere in a converter or pen. The converter and piston numbers reflect expelled amount of ink. The western-style eyedroppers reflect barrel-filled amount of ink.

Converter pens (used for editing and note-taking)

  • Bexley Submariner – .6ml
  • Levenger True Writer – .6ml
  • Nakaya Piccolo – .6ml
  • Danitrio Cumlaude (small) – .3ml

As the Danitrio Short Octagon, Fellowship and Edison Huron use the same basic converter as the Submariner and True Writer, I would draw similar conclusions to the amount of expelled ink for those pens.

Piston Pens (used for writing sessions)

  • 1950’s Pelikan 400 – 2ml
  • Visconti Caravel – 1ml
  • Wahl-Oxford – unknown (under ink-scrutiny)

Western-style Eyedropper Pens (used for writing sessions) – all of these filled at slightly more than 3ml. No one of these converted fountain pens proved itself mightier than the others as far as ink capacity.

  • Danitrio Cumlaude (small)
  • Danitrio Fellowship Pen
  • Danitrio Short Octagon
  • Edison Huron
  • Edison Mina (both extended & standard)
  • Platinum Preppy (used only for highlighting)
Top to bottom: Syringe, Edison Huron, Platinum Preppy, Pelikan 400, Visconti Caravel

Once I saw that the Danitrio, the Edison and the Preppy all held the same basic amount of ink, my curiosity got the best of me. I used water to measure the Nakaya and Bexley barrels. I have different reasons for not converting these two pens to eyedropper filling. The Nakaya has brass parts inside the section that I do not wish to corrode over time. The Bexley’s acrylic has some translucency that I do not want to stain. The Nakaya Piccolo held more than 3ml of ink. The Bexley Submariner held 2 1/2ml.

What I now understand is that, internal barrel size being much the same, the Danitrio Short Octagon’s longer inking power over the Edison Huron is attributable to the Danitrio’s EEF nib. The Huron’s nib is F.** Both pens, by the way, are wet writers.

It would seem with larger pens out of comfortable writing reach, such as a Danitrio Densho with a capacity of 5ml or more of ink++, my pen collection may not ever exceed 3 1/2mls of ink+* capacity for any one pen. While that capacity seems to be working for me, my little holiday experiment may change the way I look at pens in ways I don’t yet know.

Updated 2013 Jun 26:

  • ** The Huron’s nib has been re-ground by Michael Masuyama. It’s now a sweet .2mm EF nib.
  • ++ Privileged to use a Densho on loan recently, the ink capacity measured 3ml not 5ml.
  • +* My 2013 Custom Edison pen holds nearly 5ml of ink.

Updated 11/02/2011: A post on FPN about fountain pen ink capacities contains some fascinating information about vintage pens such as Sheaffer.

Updated 03/17/2011: On his Crónicas Estilográficas blog, Bruno has done a great evaluation of capacity for Sailor, Pilot and Platinum converters. Also reference his FPN post here.

Tale of a Vandal Pen User: A Highlighter Pen, Revisited

The very first post of Peaceable Writer was about my desire to keep my highlighter out of the landfill by using highlighter ink in refillable pens. Using a Noodler’s highlighting ink in an eyedropper-style Platinum Preppy pen the worst the future could hold would be to replace the tip of the pen from time to time.

Clogged Preppy Highlighting Pen

The pen served me well through several projects and then sat dormant for five months… in my pen cup on my desk where I saw it every day without thinking…

Recently I reached for the highlighter only to find the ink had solidified.  I had forgotten to empty the pen before leaving it in disuse for so long. I feared my intentions had backfired and my pen would end up in the landfill after all.

Opening the pen up and giving the ink a poke I found the ink was not hard. Merely, uh, congealed.  (I’m very glad I did not neglect a fountain pen like this!) First rinsing the nib section with water, I left it to soak in Rapido-Eze. I poured some water in the pen barrel and left that to soak, as well, overnight.

All clean again. Yellow section is actual color of the section.

The barrel easily released soft chunks of the ink and came clean. I used my pen bulb to rinse the nib section of Rapido-Eze and saw no further traces of gooey ink. The tip did not seem to need replacing which was good because there was no handy replacement standing by. (Note to self: order some tips. You can find ’em for $1.50.)

Re-inked with Noodler's Year of the Golden Pig

Putting a small amount of ink into the barrel, I let the nib soak up some ink for a few minutes before testing the pen.

Luckily enough, the pen is back to highlighting use! Someone looks out for nuns, children and vandal pen users.

Highlighting once more

Moral of the story: While obsessing about the maintenance of your fountain pens, don’t forget to clean and put away your refillable highlighter if not using it for a long time.

A Short Platinum Preppy Highlighter Reading List

My eyedropper Preppy came with the bottle of Noodler’s Year of the Pig I purchased. These modified Preppy pens are offered for sale online by several vendors. You can can try your own hand at transforming a pen into an eyedropper. It’s not really all that hard.