Monday, May 6, 2013

Tricks of the Trade -- How to Fill A Lever-Filler Pen (Completely)

fountain pens that lack a means of viewing the ink reservoir can leave you wondering about your ink supply 

Many of us have "discovered" the very affordable NOS Eversharp Symphony fountain pens (and their delightful 14k flex nibs) that have recently become available. But several questions have come up in some of the online chat rooms: how does one go about properly filling a lever-filler? How can one determine if it is full (since the pens' reservoirs lack clear inspection windows)? What is the ink capacity of the sac? And how can users carry extra ink (without making a mess) when journaling afield?

Well, not knowing the answer to any of those questions, I thought I'd try to learn the answers and share my findings with you.

Goulet Pen Company sampler ink vials

The last question (how to carry extra ink afield) was the first one answered  -- thanks to the folks at Goulet Pen Company. It turns out Goulet Pens routinely ships ink samples to their customers using self-sealing vials. These vials have an inverted cone base (which facilitates getting just about every drop out) and are calibrated in milliliters (with a 6 milliliter capacity). Goulet Pens ships these ink-filled vials in a zip-lock snack bag for added safety and I do the same when I carry one or more on sketchcrawls. However, I have yet to experience a leak of any kind from one of these vials. A pack of 10 empty sample vials (with blank stick-on labels) will cost you the princely sum of $2.95 plus shipping, or you can order a few ink samples and just rinse out the vials when they're empty.

being a visual person, I find a how-to video much more useful than step-by-step text

Maximum fill of the lever-filler was achieved through trial and error, but the method that I've found works best for me is as follows --

1. Raise the filler lever till it is perpendicular to the pen barrel.
2. Insert the nib into the ink bottle until it is completely submerged.
3. While keeping the nib completely submerged, slowly lower the filler lever back to the barrel.
4. Keep the nib submerged in the ink for a full 10-count. (This may sound like a long time to wait for filling to be completed but I actually got this time recommendation from a vintage Sheaffer instructional film.)
5. Remove the pen from the ink bottle and carefully wipe down the nib and feed with a clean, absorbent rag.
6. Holding the pen horizontally, gently shake it. (I do this over a sink, just in case.) If you feel or hear a sloshing move on to step 7. If there's no sloshing you're full.
7. Holding the pen with the nib up, SLOWLY pull the filler lever out again. You should observe air bubbles being blown out the nib's breather hole as remaining air is expelled from the sac. If ink appears around the base of the feed (where it meets the barrel/section) pause a moment and let it settle back into the sac. (My personal experience is that the Symphony's sac is only half filled by steps 1-6 and I gradually raise the filler lever back up to the full perpendicular position during step 7.)
8. Reinsert the nib into the ink bottle and repeat steps 3 through 5.
9. Your lever-filler pen is now completely full!

what you're watching for during the 2nd filling

3.5ml of ink -- enough for 5-7 days of everyday use

Sac capacity -- using the calibrations on the Goulet Pens ink vial I determined the sac capacity of my Eversharp Symphony to be a very respectable 1.5 milliliters -- about 1.5 times that of my TWSBI Mini and about three times the capacity of the average fountain pen converter unit. Not bad!

J. Herbin Bleu Pervenche on Rhodia vellum paper -- yummy! 

Cautionary note: You may wish to avoid squeezing every last drop into your pens (especially on cool days) as you may risk a situation in which the heat from your hands (or your chest if you carry your pen in a shirt pocket) causes the ink to expand and escape from the filled-to-the-brim pen.

Happy sketching!

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