Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pilot Penmanship Eyedropper Conversion

Recall, if you will, the teaser photo I posted last week and how I hinted that I would be posting something special soon. Without further ado, here it is, my guide on how to convert the Pilot Penmanship to an eyedropper-filled fountain pen.

The Pilot Penmanship is a relatively inexpensive fountain pen that comes fitted with an extra-fine nib. I have found this pen to be perfect for writing notes on cheap paper, as the extra-fine nib compensates for what would otherwise be a mess of ink bleeding in all directions from the written lines. The Pilot Penmanship uses a proprietary Pilot/Namiki cartridge, which is made of sturdy plastic and perfectly capable of being refilled. Additionally, converters can be purchased in order to use bottled ink with the Penmanship. However, if you are looking for a less expensive solution, which will allow for the use of bottled ink in greater quantities than a cartridge or converter could hold, look no further than the eyedropper conversion.

The eyedropper conversion is so named because an eyedropper and a bottle of ink may be used to fill the pen. This conversion involves storing ink in the body of the pen itself, and I think it looks fabulous inside translucent pens where the ink, regardless of its color, may be seen. Onto the steps...

 For this conversion, you will need:
  1. Pilot Penmanship (black or clear, the body is the same)
  2. Platinum Preppy O-Rings (or any O-Rings of this same size)
  3. 100% Pure Silicone Grease
  4. A bottled ink of your choice

Begin by unscrewing the section (upper half with nib) from the rest of the body (lower half). Check to make sure that the end of the body does not have a hole in it. If it does, you may need to use epoxy, super glue, or Gorilla glue to seal this.

Remove one of the O-Rings from the bag.

Stretch the O-Ring around the end of the section with the threads.

Roll the O-Ring over the threads until it is flush against the section.

Take out your Silicone Grease and put a very small amount on your finger or a Q-Tip.

Rub the Silicone Grease over all of the threads, simply coating it with a very thin layer.

Screw the body and the section back together. It is not necessary to screw it back on very tight, as the Silicone Grease and O-Ring will prevent any leaks.

Close-up of where the section joins the body.
Another close-up of where the section joins the body.

To fill the pen, unscrew the body from the section. Hold the body upright. Using an eyedropper, syringe, pipette, or other preferred method, fill the body with ink to just below where the threads begin. Carefully, screw the section back on to the body, being cautious to not overly tighten it, as this can cause cracks in the body.

Ink should begin immediately flowing through the section and to the nib.

The filled eyedropper conversion.
Congratulations, if you followed these instructions and completed your own Pilot Penmanship Eyedropper Conversion!

The section, after filling.
A shot of three eyedropper converted pens: Pilot Penmanship, extra-fine nib (top); Platinum Preppy, rollerball nib (middle); and Pilot Plumix, medium italic nib (right).

The Pilot Penmanship can be purchased here: Pilot Penmanship at JetPens.
O-Rings and Silicone Grease can be purchased here: O-Rings & Silicone Grease at the Goulet Pen Company.


  1. Thanks for the detailed article. I did basically the same thing before reading this, but found that eventually ink started leaking through the front (around the nib, not through it)! This doesn't seem to happen with a cartridge. So, I don't think this is a good pen for converting..

    1. I cannot say that I have had this problem with any of the Penmanships or Plumixes that I have converted. Does the feed and nib seem to fit a bit loosely in the grip section of your pen?

  2. I tried this and also had the ink leaking from the front end sadly.

    1. Just as I asked Anonymous, above, does the feed and nib seem to fit a bit loosely in the grip section of your pen? Mine are very tight-fitting.
      Additionally, I have found that with many eyedropper conversions a change in temperature or pressure can force ink from places that would normally be sealed.

  3. Thanks for posting this. I found this two weeks after converting my Plumix. Here's what i can contribute. Keep extra O-rings handy. I lost it when I did my second refill. Sometimes they snap and fall off. I greased up the threads.... Seemed fine. However, the force of writing seems to tweak things just enough that ink leaked out through the threads. Don't forget the O-rings. What also works is teflon plumbing tape--but this is has a greater chance of cracking the barrel.
    Also, nib leak. I think dropping the pen or who knows, causes the nib assembly to loosen. Ever now and then I'll grab the nib with a couple of layers of paper towel and push it back in.
    Also my Pumix had a vent hold at the very tip of the barrel. I sealed this with a little hot glue. And it's even more important with an eyedropper pen to keep the nib end pointed up when not in use, air pressure changes, temperature as Spencer notes can push a lot of ink. Air & gases expand, water and ink do not.

    1. Thanks for the tips and for sharing your experience!

  4. Thanks for this post Spencer - I've been looking at this pen for a few months wondering whether it would make a good eyedropper. I have some middle range Pilot pens and love their fine nibs,which is pushing me towards trying the Penmanship. I have 3 Pilot 78g's with an F nib and they are very nice writers once they are 'broken in'.
    Re the ink spilling problem people are mentioning here, I have lots of Indian ebonite eyedroppers and can confirm that 'hot hands' or leaving the pen out in direct sunlight can make an eyedropper leak through the feed, as can a barrel of less than 30% ink, but, having spent a lot of mis spent youth hanging out on Indian fountain pen forums, I think your point of an ill fitting feed or nib is well made.
    This is normally the first port of call an Indian eyedropper user will point someone to if they have seepage from the front of the pen.
    Now I'm off to try and source some O rings here in the UK. And you've also got me looking at the Plumix! Thanks again Spencer for putting this together for us all.

    1. If you like the Pilot F nibs, I think you will definitely like the Pilot EF nibs. In case you want a nicer body for the EF nib, swap it into the body of a Pilot Metropolitan/Pilot MR!

      While I am not very familiar with suppliers in the UK, you might try Cult Pens (no affiliation), as I think they are UK-based.

    2. Thanks so much for your prompt reply Spencer - I have a Pilot Met with an M nib that is too wet for me, so I'm off to buy one of these beauties and on your advice do a nib swap...and believe it or not, Cultpens was the place I found to be the cheapest sellers of the Penmanship here in the UK.
      You're blog is well and truly bookmarked my friend!

    3. Excellent, Jeff! Let us know how it goes.

  5. My Pilot Penmanship is 2 weeks old and never been dropped - an it does have a seep around the nib - I am using the original cartridge that it came with. So maybe it is just to do with a quality of the pen? I am sooo in love with the nib but feeling gutted that it actually leeks for no reason. I was going to buy another, but not sure any more. Is it the case of you get what you pay for? I was so happy to get such inexpensive pen with such a lovely nib (EF).

    1. Strange that it leaks around the nib at such an early "age!" I recommend contacting the seller and telling them about it. If they will not do anything, do contact Pilot.

  6. Great post! I live in Russia and getting any special supplies like o-rings or mylar sheets or Noodler's Ink is real pain. GouletPens and other shops don't ship here so I'm pretty much stuck with eBay. That's why my only option in my Pilot Penmanship conversion was to use flashlight silicone grease, but fortunately it turned out to be essentially the same.
    O-rings is another story. Do you know the size (inner and outer radii and thickness) of the o-rings and/or where I could get them?

  7. There was a comment that was left on this post and then removed, but I feel it is worth answering.

    The comment was along the lines of acquiring the o-rings internationally and the technical specifications of the rings. To my knowledge, the o-rings are 1/16 inch thick, have an outside diameter 3/8 inch, and have an inside diameter of 1/4 inch. In the United States, I have found them at hardware stores marked as #5 o-rings.

  8. I just did the eyedropper conversion and yes, it does seep from the feed assembly, albeit very slowly, only a tiny amount and inside the barrel. That's OK for my desk but I wouldn't carry it around because of that. I think the plastic feed section is just not well constructed/sealed as it's cheap and so makes an iffy conversion.

    A shame, because it's my favorite cheap-o fountain pen, it feels great to hold, good balance and gives a great line for me, though I only like extra fine nibs. My only dislike is that blasted screwcap!

    1. Thanks for reading! I ended up very lightly greasing the threads of the screwcap, since mine stayed on my desk, too, which at least took away the squeaking plastic sound when removing the cap.