How to refill a fountain pen

Fountain pen types


When a fountain pen becomes your favourite writing companion, refilling becomes part of your regular routine. How you do it depends on the type of pen you own.

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of refilling fountain pens, you need to know what type of filling mechanism your pen contains.

Among the thousands of fountain pen models available, three refilling systems are most prevalent: cartridge, converter and piston-fill.

These names describe the method a fountain pen uses to draw and feed ink through the nib, which affects how to go about refilling a fountain pen whenever ink runs out.

Cartridge pens are by far the most common type and are the simplest to refill. Usually a cartridge pen is sold together with a starter supply of fountain pen refill cartridges. Whenever buying a cartridge pen, it is a good idea to stock up on fountain pen ink cartridges so that you are always ready to refill.

By contrast, converter pens use a refillable chamber in place of ink cartridges. They are designed for more experienced users who don’t want to replace a whole cartridge every time ink runs out.

Piston-fill pens offer a similar progressive filling mechanism but require no disassembly. The entire process of refilling can be managed by operating the internally housed mechanism. Like converter pens, piston-fill pens are refilled directly from a bottle and require no ink cartridges.





How to replace a cartridge

Instructions and steps

To replace a used fountain pen ink cartridge, begin by unscrewing the barrel of the pen from the grip section. Remove the used cartridge and insert a new one by following these steps:

  • Insert the new cartridge by placing the narrow end into the nib housing;
  • Press down on the cartridge until you hear a ‘click’. This is the sound of the writing block puncturing the cartridge’s protective seal;
  • Wait for ink to begin flowing through the nib (approximately one minute);
  • Reassemble the pen.

Once this procedure is complete, the fountain pen should begin to write almost immediately. If not, hold it vertically to allow gravity to draw ink through the nib. It may take a few minutes before writing becomes fluid.


Filling a piston pen

Filling the tank

Now that we have learned how to replace fountain pen ink cartridges and fill a converter pen, let’s take a look at piston-fill pens.

Fountain pens made with a piston mechanism have a reservoir concealed inside the barrel. Most mid-range and luxury Montegrappa fountain pens use a patented, ratchet piston-fill system. Here are the steps required to operate it:

  • Twist the blindcap anticlockwise until it stops;
  • Dip the entire nib into the ink bottle;
  • Draw ink into the pen by twisting the blindcap clockwise until it stops;
  • Remove the nib from the ink bottle;
  • Twist the blindcap half a turn anticlockwise, letting a little ink drip out to release air;
  • Clean the nib with a damp, lint-free cloth.

Filling a converter pen

Practical and fast method

For filling a converter pen with a bladder system, dip the nib into the ink bottle and follow these steps:

  • Gently depress the knob on the rear of the pen until bubbles form on the surface of the ink
  • Slowly release the knob and wait for the ink to be drawn up into the bladder.
  • Repeat the procedure until the pen is completely filled.

For pens equipped with a piston converter system, turn the knob at the top of the converter clockwise to draw ink into the barrel.


Good fountain pen maintenance

Some tips

Whenever using a fountain pen after a long period of rest, it is essential to clean it before refilling. Try to use your fountain pen regularly enough to ensure ink is completely used up at least once every six months. If your ink consumption is slower, remove any remaining ink and rinse with lukewarm water.

A good idea for infrequent users is to only half-fill the reservoir with ink, and to rinse it with warm water every 3-5 months. Never use detergents or solvents to clean your pen.





Coloured inks contain more solid residues than conventional blue ink. Users of coloured inks should clean their fountain pens more frequently.

Leaving your fountain pen uncapped can be a costly mistake. Exposure to air allows fluids to evaporate more quickly, increasing the rate at which solid residues can accumulate within the pen.

This leads to ink becoming denser and accumulating in the feed’s capillary grooves, and can cause piston-fill mechanisms to clog. Both issues can ensure your fountain pen does not write.

Even inks and fountain pen ink cartridges have their own golden rules. It is recommended to not buy excessive quantities of either, and ensure use within 12-18 months.





Caring for a Montegrappa fountain pen is critical for ensuring perfect flow every time. Fountain pen maintenance and refilling can be daunting for first-time users, but practice makes perfect. Most seasoned users consider refilling fountain pens a pleasurable ritual, another way for connoisseurs to savour their beauty and timeless technology.