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How to Change a Cartridge in a Fountain Pen

When you've been using fountain pens for a while, changing cartridge seems so obvious, how could anyone need to read up on how to do it? But those new to fountain pens might have some quite reasonable questions. Do you pierce the cartridge before putting it in the pen? Do you have to clean the pen out before putting a new cartridge in? Why hasn't in started flowing straight away? Are different brands interchangeable or can you use any? And even if they are, should you stick with the same ink brand as your pen? And what is a converter, and should you be using one?

Firstly, some brands use their own shape and size of cartridges, and for these, you'll usually need the cartridges from your pen's manufacturer. Lamy, Parker, Sheaffer, Pilot, Platinum and Sailor use their own - most others use standard cartridges, often called 'international'.

There are two sizes of 'international' cartridges, and most pens that use this type can use either size. Most pens that can use the longer ones can also take a short type with a spare popped into the barrel the 'wrong' way round, so you always have a spare with you. It's your choice if you want to use a longer cartridge that will last longer, or one that won't last as long, but means your spare is ready to go.

To fit a new cartridge, just pull out the old one if there's one already in there, and push the new one onto the back of the nib section of the pen. It should click into place, piercing the cartridge as it does.

It sometimes takes a bit of time for the ink to start flowing, especially if the pen is new and this is its first cartridge. Just give it a little while.

Cleaning or not cleaning the pen between cartridges is debatable. Some people do, some don't. Unless you want to, don't worry about it, especially if it's the same ink you're putting in next. If you're changing colours, the old colour will still be mixed in for quite a while, though, so you might want to clean the pen out if you want to be sure you're seeing the new colour as it should be quickly. Usually, though, we just enjoy the slow fade from one colour to the next - it's part of the fun.

As for ink brands, as long as the cartridge fits, you should be fine. Some pen manufacturers say you should only use their ink, but any fountain pen ink should be fine. There are specialist inks that are a bit more risky, but they're rarely available in cartridges anyway.

And converters? They convert a cartridge-filled pen to use bottled ink - we'll cover them separately, but you only need to consider these if you'd rather use bottled ink. There are some good reasons to do that - it's cheaper, saves on waste plastic, and gives you access to a lot more inks than cartridges. The very short version is that most cartridge-filled pens can use a converter, and most brands have their own. Fit the converter just like you would with a cartridge, then wind the piston down, dip the whole nib into ink, and wind it back up to pull the ink into the pen. Give the nib a wipe with some tissue, and you're good to go.