Ask The Desk: Adapting Lever Fillers, Leaky Gel Pens & More

Aaron asks:

Have you ever heard of adapting an old lever bladder filling pen into a converter set up?

I had a suspicion that making this sort of adaptation was not exactly possible but I reached out to Nibgrinder and pen expert Mark Bacas to get a bigger brain in on this and here’s what he had to say:

The likelihood of that being feasible is probably very small.

The nib units that most manufacturers use today (mostly from JoWo or Bock, both German companies) have a nipple on the back side of the nib unit where the converter attaches. Most (probably all) of the older style bladder filling pens will not have this.

So, if what you are trying to preserve is a vintage nib, you are better off finding a nib unit in a comparable size and finding someone who might be able to retrofit the nib into a modern nib unit with a modern feed and converter attachment rather than trying to save the whole unit. If you are trying to preserve the whole pen and nib, then you’ll have to learn to love those rubber sacs.

Or dip fill your pen. I dip a lot of my old Esterbrooks. The nib unit will suck up a good deal of ink just from the capillary action to allow me to write or draw for a half a page or more before I have to dip again. It’s far less disruptive than a classic dip pen, even if there’s no bladder in the pen at all. Then I just dip the pen in water to clean at the end of a writing session so I can use a different ink color the next time.

Mary reports:

I have recently had 2 gel pens totally leak out from the opposite of the point end. All the clear gel leaks out with all the ink. I have a lot of gel pens, markers, ball point, color pencils, all mediums, this is the 1st time this has happened. These particular pens are stored in there own container and I noticed the clear gel in the pen tube has separated a little and it’s attached to the sides inside of the tube.i feel all these pens will eventually do the same. my other gel pens I have, do not have this happening. Could it be Heat, pressure, falling down or simply a fluke
Thank you
This brand is CaseMate so it surprises me a bit.


This is definitely a unique situation. I have not used the CaseMate brand of gel pens but it is possible that heat, pressure or some other environmental factor caused the clear gel to shift thereby causing the gel ink to run out of the end of the pen. I had a few gel pens in a suitcase that went into the bulkhead of an airplane which caused some unfortunate results.

If anyone has any suggestions for Mary, please leave a note in the comments.

Marko asked:

Can you recommend a product that could hold a 5.4″ x 7.7″vanguard flagship and maybe a couple of pens? I asked Baron Fig and they didn’t have a recommendation.

As this question was posed a while back, I am happy to say that there is now a leather cover for the Vanguard called the Guardian. While it does not hold any pens, it does cover the notebook nicely and is available in six colors.

Alternately, Galen Leather makes a cover for the Confidant that will hold a pen, phone and iPad.

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  1. I’ve had the ink and clear gel leak out of a Pilot G2 stored on it’s side. It was stored in a bedside table- so a cool dry environment and stored on its side. A very weird situation.

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