We spend a lot of time reviewing and promoting bottled fountain pen ink here on The Well-Appointed Desk. For as much as we love bottled ink, there is a time and a place for cartridges too. If, like me, you like to use fountain pens but work in an office environment (or maybe you are in a school environment or other “not in the comfort of your home office” situation), a fountain pen that readily takes cartridges can be a real blessing.
When I am in a meeting or on-the-go, a cartridge fountain pen can be quickly re-inked without mess, fuss or complication. I just untwist the barrel, pull out the old cartridge and pop in the new one from the barrel or from my pencil case where there are always a few floating around or stored in a container like the J. Herbin tins. This quick change means I don’t miss any part of a discussion while I dig for another pen or try re-inking from a bottle in the middle of a meeting — awkward!
I recommend a fountain pen (or heck even one of the many rollerball or felt tip pens we’ve reviewed here) that takes a standard international cartridge over pens that take proprietary cartridges. This will give you more flexibility: there are far more ink colors available and it’s easier to find cartridges in the wild should you need more.
I recommend keeping at least one fountain pen that takes the classic standard international ink cartridges on-hand and filled with cartridges. I particularly like models that can have one cartridge loaded and a spare in the barrel. Great examples of this are the Caran d’Ache 849 fountain pen and the Kaweco Special FP. There are plenty of others but these two slim pens are my official go-to office pens for ease of use and their ability to carry a spare cartridge in the barrel. Other good options are the Diplomat Esteem or Traveler.
My favorite brands for cartridges are:
- J. Herbin: the cartridges come in darling metal tins that can be saved and used to carry other cartridges later (pro tip!)
- Diamine: not only does Diamine offer lots of fan favorite color options like Ancient Copper, Oxblood and Purple Dream, they also sell a couple variety packs so you can purchase mini-collections of ink colors to try like the Elegance, Sovereign, Classic and others.
- Retro 51: They only offer black and blue cartridges but I learned at a pen show that their black is the blackest black around.
- Graf von Faber-Castell: Yes, these are pricey but not as pricey as buying a whole bottle of their ink so it you want some of the unique colors available from Faber-Castell, this is a great option.
- Kaweco: Kaweco offers a good quality and color range, including their highlighter yellow color at a reasonable price. I’m also a big fan of their cartridge holder.
- Monteverde: There are a great variety of their core colors available in cartridges and those colors have sheen and shading to boot.
- Visconti: I confess I like the Visconti ink cartridges for the beautiful containers they used to be packaged in. Sadly, Visconti has switched their packaging to paperboard boxes but you can still find a few sellers online who still have the cartridges in the original matched bakelite-style plastic canisters. It’s worth seeking at least one container of Visconti cartridges for the canister alone. Check ebay.
Do you have a go-to pen you use with cartridges? Have you ever considered keeping a pen “cartridge only” as your work/car/bag pen? Tell me in the comments!
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