Cartridge/converter fountain pens are our most common fountain pens, and include such giants as the Lamy Safari, Pilot Metropolitan, Kaweco pens, and more.


The main advantage of being able to use a cartridge or a converter is the ability to draw up from a bottle of ink with the converter when you like, along with the ease of being able to pop in a cartridge when you need to, for example if you’re traveling and don’t want to bring a bottle of ink with you. You can also keep a box of cartridges in your desk or in your bag in case you run out midway through something. (This has never happened to me because I’ve never in my life been anywhere in the world without multiple pens.)


The main disadvantage is the smaller ink capacity, as compared with a piston-filler, which holds maybe 2-5x more ink, depending on the piston.


They’re a common way to get into fountain pens, as you have a lot of flexibility. They’re also commonly used by people who switch inks a lot, as a piston-fill of ink takes much longer to write through.



Step 1: Get the right converter. Many companies use proprietary converters which means only their brand converters will fit their pens (e.g. Lamy, Pilot), whereas many others use a Standard International, which is a standard size that fits many brands (Kaweco, Faber-Castell, Leonardo).

Step 2: Insert the converter into the back of the pen, where you might otherwise put a cartridge.

Step 3: Twist the piston downwards, as though you were depressing the plunger on a syringe.

Step 4: Dip the nib directly into your pot of ink. Submerge it entirely; some ink will get onto the grip section. Have something ready to wipe it off.

Step 5: Twist back up, drawing up ink. If you have an air bubble, that’s okay. If you’d like it full full, twist back down and then draw up again.

Step 6: Wipe off.







Here is my helper and hand model. Is at being given micromanaged by his highly-strung mother? No, in fact it’s the joy of watching his mother struggle to insist on his sister staying out of the frame and to stop fooling around. Too many hands spoil the photo. I wonder often what Caleb and Naomi will remember of growing as shop kids. “My mom made me wash my hands and put on pants and then sit for 200 photos while my sister kept knocking the table and getting into trouble.”


Sure there are fun days, riding their cars around the shop, big events, crowds, egg tarts, special treats/bribery. But the day to day, the high-effort, high-concentration postcard signing, the piles of boxes not to be touched, hijacked dinner conversations about adult topics, the endless hours of packing and mopping and counting things, the time-outs on the moveable stairs by the spider webs, the shushing when mama’s talking on the phone to customer, usually to answer questions about where to find printer toner ink, the mystery of a weekend of relaxing instead of packing up and heading into the shop. The good and the bad, pros and cons.  


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May 23, 2021 — Liz Chan



Sarah said:

I think they’ll grow up with great memories! Think of all the time they get to spend with you. (As a kid I remember wishing I could spend more time with my dad but he worked long hours away from home). I think it’s awesome that your kids can be around you while you’re working :)


neri said:

i love the busy in the shop description. they will grow up with fond memories!

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