Introduction: Disposable Fountain Pen Refills

Picture of Disposable Fountain Pen Refills

Being too cheap for a real fountain pen, but prefering the feel, I ended up with a number of these cheap disposable versions that I found at various places. Problem is that with the amount of writing I do these things last about two days. Therefore I needed to find a way to refill these things cheaply.

For this project you will need a number of items.

Flame Source
Empty Fountain Pen
Fine Grain Sandpaper
Rubbing Alcohol
Vine Charcoal (charcoal without binder works best)
Aluminum Foil
Glue Gun

Small Drill Bit
Jar of Ink (only if you don't want to make your own)

Make sure that you seal the pen very well with the glue. This pen later exploded in my pocket.

Step 1: Opening the Pen

Picture of Opening the Pen

In this step we will be opening up the back of the pen so that we can empty and clean it out. The first thing to do is to pull off this dinky little end cap. A pair of pliers here work well, but make sure that you don't squeeze too hard. While you can still block off the pen, it's easiest to use the cap that's included.

Step 2: Opening the Reservoir

Picture of Opening the Reservoir

This type of pen has a sealed plastic bubble in the cylinder that contains the ink. A small drill bit would work here, but as I hadn't any on hand, a heated paper clip works as well. Make sure that the hole you punch is big enough for pouring ink into. Try not to burn you fingers on the paperclip either. You kind of need the nerves there to finish the rest.

Step 3: Cleaning the Pen

Picture of Cleaning the Pen

Unless you know how to make the dame ink color for your pen, you'll want to flush the pen out for your new ink. This is also a good time to check the size of the hole you punched. Bring the pen over to your nearest sink (I'd recommend using a stainless steel sink for this) and rinse it out. If the water doesn't flow through pretty easily you might have to widen your hole. This ink isnt' too hard to flush.

Step 4: Making Ink

Picture of Making Ink

Now that you have an empty pen, you'll need some ink to fill it with. While pountain pen ink isn't too pricy (last check about $6 a jar), it would be too easy for this instructable. In order to make this ink, you'll need some art charcoal, rubbing alcohol, fine grain sandpaper, and something to mix these things together in.

In order to get the charcoal into a powder, I used some sandpaper that I had lying around. You could also use a mortar and pestle combination, but I don't have one right now. In this project, we just want to make enough ink to fill the pen, but this can be scaled up fairly easily. Once you have the charcoal ground down, add enough alcohol to make it runny and mix it up. I used a metal chopstick for this step, but anything that isn't wood should work fine. (Make sure that you don't use too much alcohol, because it won't have enough viscosity to stay in the pen.)

Step 5: Adding the Ink

Picture of Adding the Ink

Time to add the ink. For this we'll need a funnel that I don't actually have. Instead, I used this handy piece of aluminum foil.

Wrap the foil so that it forms the basic shape of a funnel and tape it together so that you don't have to hold it. It's important to make sure that it's fairly clear inside so that the ink can flow through. Also important is to make sure that the thing fits into your pen barrel. If not, try again until it works.

The next thing to remember is to let your glue gun heat up before trying to add the ink. It should be plugged in somewhere close to the sink where you can reach it quickly. If you managed to save the cap, you can plug the hole in the end now with a drop of glue.

Once your glue gun is primed, you can pour the ink into the pen. Make sure that your pouring vessel is small enough that you can easily pour it into your funnel. Whoops.

Step 6: Done

Now that you've glued off your pen, you should have a perfectly functioning pen for use with anything you might use a pen for. Note: if the viscosity of the ink is too low, while it will write, it might splatter a bit more than before. Not too big a deal though.


Makeoscopy (author)2015-12-22

You can get Jinhaos from Amazon for a couple dollars, and they have piston converters. I want to try this anyway, despite my owning a few of them.

pingo6 (author)2013-04-16

you can just pull out the nib and feed i believe.

kctess5 (author)2011-10-15

I'm all for being frugal and all, but really, if you had saved the amount you spent on just those three in the picture (and I can guess you've had more than that over the years) you wouldn't be that far off from a Noodler's pen ($14) or a Lamy Safari ($25ish) which are both easily refillable, and the feel of it will be much nicer

ALogan97 (author)2011-09-22

Would powdered graphite work instead of charcoal?

WurdBendur (author)2008-05-06

Note that the ink you produce this way will be somewhat acidic, and you won't want to use it on anything that needs to last a long time. In a few years you'll start to get a halo around your writing, and eventually it will eat all the way through the paper. I guess by that time you won't be worried about it.

kudzookrazy (author)WurdBendur2010-10-16

I am afraid you got it backwards. Charcoal is ALKALINE, not acidic. It will be acid-free, and this is probably why old charcoal drawings do not brown, with the iron oxides, unless the paper has acid in it. Now it may be too alkaline, absorb water, and thus rot the paper. But it is not due to the acidity of charcoal.

WurdBendur (author)kudzookrazy2011-01-22

You are correct. Charcoal is in fact alkaline. In either case, one should be aware that this is not an archival ink.

kudzookrazy (author)2010-10-16

I would recommend a filtration at this funnel step. To use a fine cotton, would take out any missed chunks of carbon.

kleewm (author)2010-04-10

instead of pulling out the nib/section assembly and risk destroying the seal, here's a method i used.

It involves using a syringe to create a vacuum in the pen so that it sucks ink into the reservoir.

thx for the description on how to make the ink. i didn't think it was possible for the fine charcoal bits to make it through the fibre feed.  :)

kanzume (author)kleewm2010-04-20

Thanks for the handy tip! This is not messy at all!!

kleewm (author)kanzume2010-04-20

u're most welcome :)

the same technique can be used to refill any disposable pen that makes use of liquid ink. i've tried it with Pilot Hitech point and a couple of other brands that has a finned section. The ink I used is Parker Quink.  I've not gotten around to making ink myself.

s.armorsmith (author)2007-06-24

Where can you get disposable fountain pens

Google is your friend. :-) Search for "Pilot Varsity" or "Pilot Vpen" and you'll find plenty of on-line sources. Staples and Office Depot used to carry them, but they no longer have them in their stores, at least where I am.

I found some the pens in this Instructable at Office Depot.

WurdBendur (author)2008-05-06

When I refilled mine, I just pulled the nib out of the front. It came right out with the help of some pliers and went back in easily enough. Though admittedly it's a little loose now.

I did one of mine the same way. Worked fine and doesn't leak as I was warned it might.

gangstabrutha (author)WurdBendur2008-06-03

is a disposable Varsity pen flexible enough to write calligraphy like Copperplate? Cuz im just starting calligraphy and want a cheap pen to start off with

Simply stated, no. For copperplate-type calligraphy you need a flexible nib and holder; fountain pen nibs of that type are expensive and hard to come by.

WurdBendur (author)gangstabrutha2008-07-03

You might be able to manage Copperplate, but I don't really have the experience with it to know if it'll be very good. I can say that you can get pretty good control of the thicks and thins if you're careful. But these pens do not have flat nibs, so I don't recommend them for most other styles.

curryhackett (author)2009-06-26

.....or you could just get a REAL fountain pen and buy the cartridges. $4 for like 5....hardly worth all this trouble. lol But varsity's are nice....

mephistocat (author)curryhackett2009-07-19

Or an actual fountain pen as opposed to a cartridge pen. -laughs- Then you'd only need to draw the ink up into the fountain! Agreed about the Varsity's, though. X3

fallenspirit123 (author)2009-05-04

are the pilot varsity pens any good ? im thinking of getting a couple to try out the fountain pens and if Me likey ill get a dragons descendant(hopefully)

Nitidus (author)fallenspirit1232009-07-03

I like them. They are slightly less picky about pen angle than Shaffer calligraphy pens and require less pressure to lay the ink.

fallenspirit123 (author)Nitidus2009-07-08

ok thats good :)

amh210 (author)2009-03-24

Ground Charcoal Ink will clog the pen feed and the nib slit. Fountain pen inks are made with dyes, not suspended "grit."

pineapplenewton (author)2008-12-06

ha step 4 you spelled fountain wrong.

nc527 (author)2008-11-04

GUYS! I figured out a awesome way to refill thease. so the first pen a bought was a catrridge pen that to wide a nib so i took it back but i forgot to grab the second catr that came with it, so when i opened my varsity i figured just flush the pen and then puch a hole in the end of the sheaffer skrip cartridge and insert the open end in the back of the varsity and then puch in the end thats facing u thus allowing the ink to come out. Now do not over fill the varsity as it only will hold bout 1/2 a cart. after u put the ink in, quickly cap the pen and just use glue or just tape it up and lay it flap with the cap on for atleast a day befor using it as if using it right away it will drop ink everywhere. but last night i did this to mine and using it right away ink dropped like a thunderstorm and rain when i used it. so i capped it and sat it on my dresser.well bout 10 min ago i got it and guess waht--no more splatter.Ive wrote bout a page of writing annd no drops or anything.

suepark214 (author)2008-06-04

The Pilot Varsity pen is a very nice pen. But I always found the nib to be little too thick. Thankfully, JetPens came out with the new fine point version (V fountain pen If you like thin nibs, I would suggest trying it out. Of course, these are still not refillable. But when I'm looking for cheap refillable fountain pens, I like the Pilot Petit1 pens.

kludge000 (author)2007-08-29

You might try using the syringe from an ink refill kit for pc printer to put the ink in the pen. Also the Japaneses make a very nice art ink that comes in little blocks, and is made from soot.

gangstabrutha (author)kludge0002008-05-31

Isn't it the Chinese that make the ink blocks from soot?

kludge000 (author)gangstabrutha2008-05-31

-ink stick info: In the Orient, ink is found in the traditional form of a solid stick. Liquid ink is made by rubbing the ink stick against the wet surface of a particular type of stone. Ink sticks are made by burning either vegetable oils (such as sesame oil, rapeseed oil, and paulownia oil), or pine wood and pine resin and collecting the soot, or lampblack, which is then combined with animal hide or bone glue, spices, and minerals. The mixture is compressed and dried into a stick.

gangstabrutha (author)kludge0002008-05-31

So is it the Japanese or the Chinese that invented ink sticks?....o_O

shadesofsisyphus (author)2008-01-25

You could always get a cheap fountain pen with a refill converter. I have a Lamy Safari Fountain pen with a converter. Total 29 dollars. For 12 dollars (I think it was less, but for the sake of argument...) I bought a bottle of Noodlers ink (Yes, I know, the name is funny. It actually has a catfish on it) that will likely last me the next 3 years. The pen will last forever unless I break it. So, for no effort and an average of 14 dollars a year I have a wonderful pen. That cost drops once you figure that the pen will last for decades hopefully.

hedgiehog (author)2008-01-17

mine has these cool catriges, you pop one it and go, they last a month and i got a few hundred, theyre cool

okto (author)2007-02-06

To add to what middawn said, you probably don't want to use India or other pigment-based ink, as it tends to clog up the nib. if you've ever seen a crusted-up old fountain pen at an antique store, you know what I'm talking about.

Also, a syringe is the absolute tool for re-inking a disposable (or really any other kind) of pen. Control, precision, and minimal mess potential. A 5-10cc syringe is just the right size for the quantities of ink you'll be dealing with.
Try to get a 14ga or bigger needle if you have a Luer or Luer-lock-equipped syringe and grind/sand the end dull so you don't accidentally give yourself a nice big inkjection.
If you can't get an actual hypodermic syringe, try to get one of the ones with the built-in pointy plastic nozzle like they give you after you get your wisdom teeth taken out.

Syringes can be ordered online (as long as you are 18 or older) from Andro USA Inc.

Lastly, no, I am not a junkie, my mom is a nurse.

smokehill (author)okto2007-10-01

Yes, standard syringes should make the whole operation very simple. I used to have a really nice-writing cheapie Shaeffer pen with the little plastic refills, which are outrageously expensive compared to the price of bottled ink. Since I wrote all day in my job, it was also a real pain to go out buying those little refill packs all the time. So I talked my dentist out of a used syringe, washed it out, and kept refilling my empty tubes. You can seal the little hole with a spot of glue, but since the pen sat on my desk all day I usually just refilled the same "refill" every few days. Eventually, the hole may get too large from wear, but it never actually happened. This was 20-odd years ago, but if I remember the math correctly, those refills cost me about 15 or 18 cents apiece, but I could refill around a hundred of them from a bottle of ink that was about a buck-and-a-half. Syringes without needles are available readily online, and since most people know at least one diabetic, it shouldn't be hard to get one if you explain the purpose. Now that I'm on insulin, I throw away two syringes a day .... Syringes are also useful for dispensing tiny amounts of light (sewing-machine-type) oil in tight places. And don't forget to rinse out the syringes immediately after using the ink -- or anything else -- or they'll clog. Just suck up some water and squirt it out a few times until it looks clear.

kearney (author)2007-02-05

because I used an alcohol base for the ink, it dries fast enough to not be a problem. the times i've tried using water tended to have more of a problem smearing than with the alcohol.

sk8er6 (author)kearney2007-04-04

say man. good work on the tut. Honestly, I only opened this for the homemade ink, and I would like to know how water proof your ink is. And as jtobako said, if it isnt, is there some kind of bonder, but more specifically, what is a bonder?

kearney (author)sk8er62007-04-04

in terms of water proof ness i don't know. these pens won't write on much other than paper, and i haven't exposed the ink to water after putting it to paper. a bonder is a compound that holds the ink together. a good example would be the waxy substance in most artist charcoal pencils. it lets the manufacturer use charcoal powder intead of solid charcoal. in terms of a pen ink this would be a substance that increases the viscosity of the ink so it isn't quite as watery. i've been thinking about it, but i don't know of a good binder to use that wouldn't clog the nib.

killerjackalope (author)kearney2007-08-20

cornflower starch in very small amounts could help or PVA glue (untested) cornflower starch works ok in my experience of this (all to do with a lucky pen) but only a small amount can be added as it could cause clumping if there's any more than necessary

killerjackalope (author)2007-08-20

actually my dad and I found the easiest way to refill any pen that uses thin ink... fountain, rollerball etc is to go to a shop with rubber stamps etc (craft shop) and get the bottle refills for stamp inkpads take the syringe from your inkjet refill kit you undoubtedly have lying about (everyone has at least one somewhere) pierce the ink cartridge with the syringe and fill or if possible pull the nib out and fill with ink. A bit of sellotape covers the hole nicely.

craftykitty (author)2007-08-15

You can also grab the nib below where it flanges with needlenose pliers (wrap with a rag to keep the finish smooth) and firmly pull the nib straight out of the pen (this can be messy.) Refill with an eyedropperfull of ink, and shove the nib back in as far as it will go. It seats firmly and does not leak. Anyone else agree that the McCormick disposable pepper/spice grinders are tops, and has worried off the grinder mechanism with a screwdriver to refill it with peppercorns?

fritolaysia (author)2007-07-15

This guyThis guy seems to have a much simpler way of refilling this pen. I love the varsity and would like to try a way to refill it. Ideally, i think it would be cool to add a converter to the pen so it would be just as good as a regular fountain pen.

kearney (author)fritolaysia2007-07-30

I think you're right about the method you've linked to. I was afraid of breaking the nib when I refilled it but now it seems these pens are also a great resource for a cheap nib to play around with.

fungus amungus (author)2007-02-05

I love my Muji fountain pen myself and they're only $18. You can refill the cartridges with a syringe or just get a converter for $5.

They'recurrently backordered, but worth checking out.

CowGuy (author)fungus amungus2007-03-21

I have the same pen too. Love it!

fungus amungus (author)CowGuy2007-03-22

Right on! I'm on my third one right now. I do too many somersaults or something. Keep losin' 'em. The new one is gonna stay zipped in a pocket when not in use. For serious.

middawn (author)2007-02-05

Thanks! I've spent a lot on fountain pens, but I've gone back to using these this last month because I hate the beating an expensive pen takes when you carry it a lot.
One suggestion, use a syringe instead of the aluminum foil to refill the ink. It is much, much easier and you can buy them at any drugstore. Mine cost about a quarter, but the druggist did ask me to sign a paper so they could track how often I bought them. No different than sudafed.
Finally, higgins ink is about $3 a jar and comes with an eyedropper in the lid that will help if you don't want to use a syringe or the funnel. Even though I will use store bought ink, I've always wanted to make my own! A note on ink: archival will ruin the pen. Non archival, waterbased ink is what you want. Archival has varnish or something in it that jams up the flow.
This will also be perfect since I love using brown ink.

jtobako (author)2007-02-05

does the ink smear when it's dry since there's no binder in your recipie?

jgodsey (author)2007-02-05

Pilot uses a gel ink which is water soluble. it does matter about the sink.

About This Instructable




More by kearney:Emergency MonopodDisposable Fountain Pen Refills
Add instructable to: