Manufacturers have developed many interesting and varied filling systems for fountain pens over the years. Some of these have been more successful and experienced greater longevity than others. My personal preference amongst pen filling mechanisms is predominantly for the self-contained piston filler. Perhaps that is why I gravitated towards Pelikan as they have implemented that type of mechanism as well as, if not better than, anyone else in the industry. Pelikan, like many other manufacturers, also have many pens available that are of the cartridge/converter type. This type of filling system has a broad appeal for many. Cartridges can be more readily carried than a flacon of ink and are easily exchanged when they run empty which can help ensure that you don’t run out of ink at a crucial moment. Converters allow for a nice compromise in that you have the option to use your own ink while giving you the flexibility to swap out for a cartridge if so desired. Certainly a converter can be more cost-effective and environmentally friendly than cartridges but both ultimately provide an easy and quick means to fill a pen so that you can enjoy the writing experience without worrying about the filling process. Brands are divided in the implementation of this though with some companies utilizing proprietary sized cartridges and converters while others have elected to use a more standard size. Most European brands, including Pelikan, utilize a standard design, making cartridges available in either long international (73mm) or short international (38mm) standards. What then could the conundrum be that the title of this post eludes to? If you have ever tried to secure a cartridge or converter to a Pelikan pen, you may have found that the fit is rather loose and discomforting. As unsettling as this is, it appears that it is actually by design.
For whatever reason (and I have to plead ignorant as to what it may be), Pelikan has gone in a different direction than most other manufacturers. Most pens that utilize a cartridge/converter have a nipple towards the back of the section onto which the cartridge/converter seats firmly. There is usually no play and the fit is secure and reassuring. That is not the case for many of Pelikan’s pens. I can only speak from my experience so I cannot say if it holds true for all of Pelikan’s cartridge pens but at a minimum it is true for the P200/205, Pelikano, Pelikano Jr, Script, Future, and Twist and I would suspect a great deal many more beyond that list. The nipple on Pelikan’s pens is smaller than many other brands and therefore does not give a tight seal. The way that Pelikan ensures a proper seal is with the back of the barrel. By replacing the barrel on the pen, contact is made with the back of the cartridge or converter such that , when the barrel is properly seated, the ink supply is secured to the nipple thereby preventing any leaks. To ensure this occurs as intended, the following combinations should be used;
- TWO short standard international cartridges placed back to back (using just one will not provide an adequate seal)
- ONE long standard international cartridge
- A converter
The comparison below helps depict what I describe above. A converter is approximately the same size as two short cartridges back to back or one long cartridge. You will notice that the Edelstein cartridge is a bit shorter but also a bit wider at the back. All of these small design nuances serve to ensure a properly seated cartridge or converter when the barrel is secured to the section.
In order to avoid issues, you should not use refilled cartridges or converters that have been used with other pens accommodating the standard international size as the differences in nipple diameters may ultimately cause problems, specifically leakage. Personally, I prefer to have one dedicated converter per fountain pen. Converters from Pelikan (C499) and Schmidt (K5) seem to work the best in my experience (they are actually the same converter with different branding) but they aren’t the only options available. To recap, a loose-fitting cartridge or converter is not an issue to be alarmed about. It is by design as the back of the barrel will hold the cartridge or converter snugly in place and prevent any leakage of ink. I hope that the above explanation has been helpful to you and serves to put your mind at ease so that you can get on with enjoying your pen.