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What's The Difference Between A Fountain Pen Cartridge And A Converter?

Diamine Ink Cartridges Assorted Pack of 20 by Diamine at Cult PensCartridges arrive with the ink inside them - you just push one into the pen, and the ink starts flowing.

A converter is used in place of a cartridge to let you use bottled ink. You fit it the same way as the cartridge, then fill the pen with ink using the converter - usually by winding a piston downwards, dipping the nib in ink, then winding it back up. See Fountain Pen Converters: What They Are, and How to Use Them for more.

Midori MD Fountain Pen Converter by Midori MD at Cult PensMost pens that use cartridges can also use a converter - some use a standard type, others need the right one for your brand or pen. If you’re not sure, and we sell the pen you have, look it up first, and the ‘refills and spares’ section should point you to the right converter.

In usage terms, cartridges usually either hold more ink than converters, or the pen can hold a spare cartridge in the barrel, turned the other way around, above the cartridge that’s in use. Add to this the fact that it’s way easier to stick a couple of spare cartridges in your pocket or bag, and the win for convenience definitely goes to cartridges.

But the battle isn’t over. A converter lets you use bottled ink, which bypasses a lot of little plastic cartridges, taking a win in the environmental round. And bottled ink is usually quite a bit cheaper too, helping to take the related economical round.

So is it all over for cartridges? Not quite, they still win for ease of use. Pull out empty one, push in new one, and you’re done. No need to find a steady table for your open bottle of ink.

So they’re neck and neck as they approach the finish line, in what has for some reason become a racing analogy. Not sure how that happened.

But suddenly, the converter has found thousands of different bottled inks, which you can only use with your converter! Is it all over for the cartridges?

Well, maybe. But the winner really depends on your priorities. Convenience and ease of use? Go for cartridges. Eco, either economical or ecological? Converter wins. Want to try all the inks? Converter again. Or use both - you can always fill up with bottled ink at home, but keep a spare cartridge in your bag just in case you need it when you’re out.