When we say, “ink filling mechanisms”, rest assured we don’t mean cartridges. We mean converters, plungers or pistons — mechanisms designed to draw ink from a bottle into the fountain pen, one way or another.

There is a sea of information out there on the different types of filling systems, and ours is no way an exhaustive one. It’s beyond the scope of this post to review each, but given that the original plunger-filler ever invented was for Onoto, we wanted to toss in our two cents’ worth. We have also made some new developments, so keep reading.

No 1. The Plunger Pen

If you’re into the Onoto range, you know that it’s famous for its plunger. The first-ever plunger-filler was invented by George Sweetser and manufactured by Onoto in 1905.

Fun fact, Sweetser was not only a brilliant engineer but a cross-dresser and accomplished roller-skater. But we digress.

We have since created a modern version of the original plunger using a rod stretching out from the back of the pen.

As you lower the nib into the ink and push the rod back into the pen, the vacuum sucks the ink up. Upon request, and at an extra cost, we can upgrade most Onoto pens with a plunger filler. All that’s left for you to worry about is being able to carry it off.

We’ve given The Plunger Pen the following ratings based on its captivating history, eye-catching design, and uniqueness.

No 2. The Piston Pen

Currently, in development, we have piston fountain pens. The filling mechanism of the piston works by twisting the knob at the back of the pen. As the piston moves away from the nib, it creates a vacuum and pulls the ink into the pen.

The piston forms an integral part of the pen’s chamber and can’t be removed, which requires cleaning when changing inks. But it also stores more ink and cache of respect for its owner.

Onoto pens come with a concealed piston mechanism. They don’t have transparent ink windows or exposed rods, making them more understated. It’s not a circus after all.

No 3. The Converter Pen

By far the most popular (read: ‘widely adopted’) ink filling system is one that “converts” the cartridge style pen so that it can use bottled inks of various brands.

Converters work like pistons. Except that, here you are twisting the knob on the top of the syringe, instead of the pen. They make it easy to change inks, are highly versatile and inexpensive. Perfect for those who love to have different colored inks at the ready.

For a little extra, you could buy a Rollerball Conversion Kit and use it when you want to give your precious nib a rest. It fits a modern-day lifestyle filled with travel.

For a short video on Onoto ink filling systems, head over to our Instagram highlights or Facebook page. For enthusiasts ready to learn more, we recommend diving into the forums of The Fountain Pen Network. This one, in particular, made us both shudder and chuckle. But plunge into them at your own risk, as you might never resurface.