In the world of consumer writing utensils, the razors and blades, and disposable business models seem to be the only choices available. Paying $3-$4 for ink refills seems outrageous when all you need is a little bit of ink. But I've discovered another way that, though not less wasteful of resources, is a lot cheaper. Get out your scalpels, kids, were going to do some surgery. Today's patients, the Cross AT Ion pen and some Staples Mini Gel Stick pens.
You will need:
1 (starving) Cross Ion Gel pen
1 Staples Mini Gel Stick pen
1 Alligator style staple remover
1 File (pick your favorite tooth configuration)
Step 1: The Problem
It always happens that in the middle of the most important note, sentence, signature, novel, assignment, love note... the pen dies. Cross AT wants you to pay $3.75 for the privilege to refill your snazzy Ion pen. I think not! Not after I saw these Staples Mini Gel Stick pens. A pack of 12 is only one quarter more and probably were birthed at the same factory in China as the Cross refills.
Step 2: Prepare the Stopper
The operating room is open for business. Crack one of these Mini Gel pens open and you'll notice that the stick itself smaller in diameter than the Cross Ion refills. We need to emulate this large base because of how the pushing mechanism at the base of the Ion forces the stick forward when the two halves of the pen are pulled apart.
Luckily, the Staples Mini Gel Stick pens have an end cap that is very similar to the one found on the Cross Ion refill (See the plastic end piece I removed from the Cross Ion refill).
*Grab your alligator style paper clip remover and pull out the stopper from the body of the Mini Gel Stick pen.
But don't go shoving this on the end of the gel stick just yet; without an air-hole, you'll just increase the pressure in the stick until it releases in a black puddle of ooze, all over you hands (trust me on this one). On the other hand, if you're gel pens are dead, this might be a good way to revive them.
*Using the tack, poke a hole through the end of the stopper.
Step 3: Obtaining the Correct Length
So far the Mini Gel stick has been an amazingly good replacement for the overpriced, Cross AT alternative. Unfortunately, the stick is just a little too long.
*Lay the file on the table, and grind down the end of the stick. We need to get rid of about 3 mm in length.
I have no idea what kind of file this is, something for woodworking (I think). Something course is preferable, but if you're strapped for tools, I imagine that sandpaper would even do the trick.
Step 4: Fix the Stick
If you followed the original version of this guide, you may have noticed that once everything was assembled, the Staples refill would stick and didn't retract properly when you closed the pen.
This cause is the shape of the Cross Ion spring. Because the Cross AT refills are fat and taper down to a ballpoint tip, the spring has the same, almost cone-like shape. The Staples refills are straight sided and don't play nicely with the original spring.
James (jameslisi) has a solution. He suggests using a second Staples end-cap to increase the width of the Staples refill.
Paraphrasing James: Take an extra end cap from the Staples pen and cut off the rounded top so that it forms an open cylinder. Put this cylinder over the Staples gel stick and bring it all the way down to the flange near the tip of the pen. You might need to use a little force when you get to the flange. So far the Staples refill with this modification has not hung up on the Ion spring.
So add this cylinder "widener," and you should be in business. Thanks James!
Step 5: Assemble
*Shove the stopper on the now shorter Gel stick
-Hopefully you followed "Fix the Stick" and broadened the Staples refill (pic soon)
*Load and lock your Cross Ion pen
Step 6: Test
Success! You've saved some money and escaped the razor and blades business model. Not to mention, your using one of the slickest pens on the planet.
Oh, and as an added benefit, you now have a greater selection of (admittedly elementary school-girly) colors.