Eyedropper filler

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Filling systems

The eyedropper filler, also called drop filler, is the first filling system used in fountain pens and in reality it cannot be considered even a real filling system, since in essence there is no "system".

In this case, in fact, the pen is filled by removing the nib assembly from the barrel, which is used directly as a tank. The refill operation is carried out, once the access to the tank has been obtained, with the introduction of ink to be carried out usually with a dropper, which in the original versions was supplied by the manufacturer together with the pen. Once the refill was completed, the nib assembly had to be reassembled on the barrel in order to use the pen.

Diagram of a eyedropper filler pen

Because of its simple construction, this "system" was adopted by all manufacturers from the 19th century to the dawn of the development of the fountain pen, and remained in use until the beginning of the 20th century. The system is simple, especially in terms of technical requirements for construction, and also has the advantage of allowing a large capacity of ink, greater than any other, as determined only by the size of the pen body.

However, it has many drawbacks, the first of which is undoubtedly the inconvenience of filling operations, since to refill a pen you have to disassemble the section with the nib, usually wet with ink, and store it in a separate place where it does not stain and does not risk falling. The refill operations are very uncomfortable, it is necessary to have a dropper or similar tool, and in general the operation of the transfer of ink, having to keep always well vertical the body of the pen that acts as a reservoir, is delicate and at risk of stains and spills of ink.

A second drawback arises from the fact that with wear, especially in lower quality models, having the ink in direct contact with the body of the pen can cause leaks at the junction between the barrel and nib group once it loses the seal. Moreover, having to unscrew and screw the latter, the risk of staining the hands, especially in the presence of a body that has been full of ink until then, is always quite high. The body of the pen then had to be made only of inert material that was able to resist contact with the corrosive agents present in the inks, which at the time of its introduction was only the hard rubber.

A last drawback, often very annoying, is that since in this case the ink contained directly in the body of the pen, when it is emptied, there is a considerable sensitivity to changes in pressure and temperature of the air contained within the pen barrel, which is the greater the greater the volume available. The biggest problems were then in the case of air travel, where variations in altimetric pressure invariably caused a leakage of ink.

But with these pens to cause a leak is often sufficient only the heat of the hand that holds the pen. This is transmitted to the air contained inside the barrel, causing an expansion that alters the balance of pressure between inside and outside. This makes it relatively easy to obtain a loss of ink. Although today it is back in fashion in some models, for its retro taste, it remains, however, provided that it can really be considered as such, a primitive filling system.