April/May 2010

Design of Ink Bottle is Important

hich ink to use is always a ongoing topic for those who use fountain pens.

Visit any pen discussion board site on the Internet such as Pentrace or the Fountain Pen Network and there will be ongoing exchanges on individual views on the various brands of ink. Everyone has a preference and luckily there is a range of brands to choose from.

I have talked about the price of ink as well as comments on how different brands perform on the About Inks Page. But let's not forget the bottle. It is not only the ink itself that is an important consideration but the design of the bottle. The design of the bottle impacts how easy it will be to actually use the ink.

Visconti Ink BottleThe average size of ink bottle is 50 ml, about 2 ounces. Often, as the level of ink goes down, ensuring the pen nib is submerged when drawing up into the pen can be a challenge. The larger the pen and nib, the greater the challenge.

Depending on the filling mechanism of the pen, cartridge or piston, two hands will be needed to hold the pen and turn the piston or converter mechanism. Stability of the ink bottle is all the more important.

Getting to the bottom half of the ink is a real challenge for some bottle designs.

Visconti came up with an inovative design with a tall narrow neck that leads to the base. It is somewhat like a champagne glass. It certainly works in terms of providing a way to get more of a nib into the ink.

Bravo for that design as the bottle is far more useable than some of the shallow bottles that have come out by Caren d'Ache or Dupont.

One year a pen store gave me a bottle of the Christmas ink colour by Montblanc. The ink came in a beautiful round shallow bottle. While it looked great sitting on my desk, it was next to useless after the first couple of fills with a M1000!

Withu the Visconti bottle, the base of the bottom does expand out slightly to help with stabilitity but it is still a careful process to ensure that the bottle does not tip over, especially when both hands are on the pen.

Ink bottles

For stability you can't beat the relatively short bottom designs such as Montegrappa (left) which has a limited height in relation to the width of of the bottle or Private Reserve (middle) has a large base. With the Private Reserve bottle the depth of the wide bottle makes filling a pen to get the last third of bottle of ink a challenge. Noodlers Ink (right) offers a larger bottle (90 ml) in a tall slender bottle. You have to take care not to tip it over.

Omas BottleOmas and Waterman have both produced bottles that provide an slanted side to provide some stability when the bottle is tilted to be able to get the nib into the ink. The slant on the Waterman bottle provides a fairly solid base.

Montblanc offers one of the best bottles around as it has a section in the front of the bottle for ink to flows into and provide the full depth of the bottle in this special chamber for the nib to be submerged in the ink.

The bottle is short and very stable on the desk. Where the old shoe-horn style that has been around for years or the new bottle issued in 2010 which is a much more squared off in design, the Montblanc bottle is well designed and feels very stable.

So why the concern on stability. Usually in a meeting, if I have to refill a pen, conversations come to a stop. I feel people watching, and the inevitable questions comes as to if I have ever tipped over a bottle. Sadly, I have to yes, but quickly add, not often.

Filling a pen tabkes both handsFilling a pen is a two hand process. With a piston fill or a converter mechanism it means no hands are on the bottle. So stability of the bottle becomes very important.

Here, as pictured to the right, I need one hand to hold the body of the pen, and the other hand to twist the top to draw up the ink.

Some fountain pens have the piece to twist smaller than the body of the pen. While with a Pelikan section to twist is the same size as the pen, not so for some of the Visconti or Krone fountain pens which have a smaller twist mechanism requiring even more care.

So I ask the manufactures of fountain pen ink is to take into consideration with the design of the bottle they purchase for their ink. Where the manufacturer is large enough, they will set specific specifications for the bottle and have it designed for their company or the line of ink. Pennman is an example but so have other companies.

I always keep my Montblanc and Waterman ink bottles. When they are empty I use them again fill up with ink from other bottles. The good design of the bottles making filling easier and both the Montblanc and Waterman bottles nicely fit into a briefcase. While the wider-designed bottles such as Diamine, Private Reserve and Omas bottles are great when sitting on my desk they are a bit bulkier when placed in a briefcase.

Who would have thought there was so much to consider when selecting your ink! All the enjoyment of owning and using a fountain pen!


Enjoy your pens! Your pen, an expression of you.